Monday, December 8, 2014

THE FOUR HORSEMEN (Revelation Chapter 6)

Revelation 6:1-8, “Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!”  And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.  When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!”  And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.  When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand.  And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”  When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!”  And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.”

In the preceding chapter the Lamb—“the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, (who) has conquered” (Revelation 5:5)--took the scroll sealed with seven seals from the One who sits on the throne.  As a result, all of creation breaks out in praise and worship “to him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb” (Revelation 5:13).

This chapter has to do with the opening of the seals and the resulting judgments that will come upon the earth.  Some have supposed these to represent past events.  But the breadth and depth of the severity of these judgments is unprecedented.  Three sets of seven judgments—seals, trumpets, and bowls—are recorded in chapters 6-16.  These events are a part of the seven year tribulation period that will come upon the earth.  There have been plenty of wars, natural disasters, famines, etc. that mankind has experienced as the result of living in a sin-cursed planet, but the series of judgments are unique in a variety of ways.  This coming period is unlike anything that has transpired before (Cf. Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:21; Mark 13:19; Revelation 3:10).  Everything that takes place is completely under the control of God.  The Lamb initiates the events.  There is no judgment that does not ultimately work to serve God’s purpose in the consummation of things.  The phrase “It was given” (Revelation 6:2) speaks to this recurrent theme (Cf. Revelation 6:3, 4, 8, 11; 7:2; 8:3; 9:1, 3, 5; 11:1; 13:5, 7, 14-15; 16:8; 19:8).  The “wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16) which comes forth in these judgments is not merely a judgment of sin, but represents a sweeping away of the systems of man in the ushering in of the Messianic Kingdom on earth (Cf. Daniel 7:11-14).

As the Lamb opens the seals, a sequence of events are initiated which are closely parallel to those previously predicted by Christ Himself (Cf. Matthew 24; Mark 12; Luke 21).  The first four seals are set apart from the remaining three as they all have to do with a rider being sent out on a horse (what has commonly been referred to as “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”).  The four horses (Cf. Zechariah 6:1-3) are all of different colors—white (Cf. Revelation 6:2); bright red (Cf. Revelation 6:4); black (Cf. Revelation 6:5); and pale (Cf. Revelation 6:8). 

The first horse, being white, has caused some to assume its rider to be Christ Himself.  In Revelation 19:11 Christ is seen riding a while horse.  He likewise wears a crown (Cf. Revelation 6:2 & 19:12; though in 19:12 he wears many) and He overcomes (Cf. Revelation 6:2 & 5:5).  But the rider here (in Revelation 6:2) is not Jesus Christ.  It is illogical to see Him both as the opener of the seal and the rider unleashed as a result.  Furthermore, if the rider rides forth, who remains in heaven (in the vision) to open the remaining seals?  Also, this rider sets forth at the beginning of the tribulation, the rider in Revelation chapter 19 at the end.  The rider on the while horse represents the Antichrist, who will be revealed when “he who now restrains” is taken “out of the way” (Cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:2-7).  He will conquer, but not in military way (note the presence of a bow but absence of any reference to arrows; Cf. Daniel 9:27).  He will facilitate a deceptive kind of world peace that will lull the world into a false sense of security (Cf. Daniel 8:24-25).

The three subsequent seals will send forth three additional horses with riders.  The rider on the red horse will bring war to earth, the rider on the black horse, famine, and the rider on the pale horse, death “with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:7).  A fourth of the world’s population will die (the world’s current population is ~7 billion).  Troubling days lie ahead for this world.  Salvation and hope are in Christ alone (Cf. Acts 4:12; Galatians 1:4).

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