The Four Horsemen
Before we begin tonight’s look at the book of Revelation, I think it would be helpful to give you a quick recap on everything we’ve looked at so far. In Revelation chapter one we looked at how Christ is the focal point of the book, and how He should be the focus of our lives, as well. Then we looked at words that Christ shared with seven historical churches, some of them hearing good news, some of them hearing bad news. Then we caught a glimpse of the throne room of God; filled with angels, and saints, and elders, and even four beasts. And I know you guys are getting tired of hearing me ask this question, but who can remember either of the two theories about what the four beasts represent? Yes, thank you. One theory is that they represent the word of God, with each beast representing one of the four gospels. The second theory is that they represent the four heads of creation, meaning that all of creation is worshipping God. Last week, we concluded with a magnificent song to the Lamb of God, praising Him for His worthiness. We applied it to our lives by deciding that everything we do should be about praising and honoring Jesus Christ.
Tonight, we are going to look at one of the most famous aspects of the book of Revelation. When most people think about the book of Revelation, what is one of the first images that comes to their mind? Can anybody think of what it is? Yes, it’s the four horsemen! Tonight, we are going to look at these four horsemen, and try to figure out what they represent, and what it means for us today. And our text tonight is Revelation chapter six, and we will be studying verses one through eight. So again, Revelation 6:1-8.
“And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, ‘Come and see.’ And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. And when He had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, ‘Come and see.’ And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword. And when He had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, ‘Come and see.’ And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, ‘A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.’ And when He had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, ‘Come and see.’ And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”
If we have any hope of understanding this, we had better start off with prayer.
Ok, so remember, two weeks ago we had introduced this scroll with its seven seals. If you remember, there was no one worthy to open the scroll, except for the Lamb, who is Jesus Christ. So now, Jesus is beginning to open up this scroll. And each time Christ breaks one of those little seals, something cataclysmic happens on planet earth. And as you can imagine, there are a variety of interpretations out there as to what exactly will happen, and whether the horsemen have been going out for thousands of years, or whether they will be going out in the future.
Well, this is what is so tricky about the book of Revelation. When the Old Testament prophets would tell a difficult prophecy about the coming Messiah, no doubt the Scribes and the scholars had a very difficult time trying to guess at what exactly this Messiah would look like. Well, it is easy for us to understand these prophecies, because we know the Messiah! But we have the same trouble when we try to understand the book of Revelation, because most of the events in the book haven’t happened yet. There will be a time in Heaven, when we read the book of Revelation and understand it clearly, because we will be reading about events that we have seen with our eyes. But for now, it is hard to come to a rock-hard conclusion about things we can only estimate. That being said, I think the text does give us some context clues about what is going on here. The first question we need to answer is to whether or not the four horsemen are symbolic of church history, or whether they represent something that will happen in our future. Many honest theologians have concluded over the years that the horsemen are symbolic of things that have continually happened over the years, and they are realized each time there is a war, a famine, or wide-spread death. But I cannot accept that conclusion, mostly because the pale horse is said to kill twenty-five percent of the world’s population. Any time the Bible throws out a very specific number, I think that we must interpret this number literally. So the question arises, “Has there been any time in human history when one-fourth of the world’s population has been wiped out?” And the short answer is, “No.” The bubonic plague in the 1300s came close, but even that horrible plague did not kill a fourth of the entire world population.
So, by my understanding, this means that the four horsemen have not yet come to earth; but we will definitely know it when it happens. All right, let’s begin looking at these horsemen. The first horseman is seen in verse two of our text. Verse two reads, “And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” All right, so we have already decided that this horseman will come in the future, but what sort of character are we looking for? Well, there are several things we need to notice. The first thing I want you to notice is the color white. White was a color ridden by royalty and by military leaders. The second thing to notice is that the rider was holding a bow. But have you noticed what is missing from this picture? Arrows! The rider of the white horse only has a bow, but is not carrying any arrows! The third thing I want you to notice is that the rider is wearing a crown. But in the Greek language, there are different words to describe different kinds of crowns. The kind of crown in this verse is the type of crown given to someone who has won a great victory. So, we have someone who is a political or military leader, yet they are not actually carrying a weapon, and the person is wearing a crown designed for a victor.
The identity of this rider has puzzled theologians for almost 2,000 years now. Many have said over the years that this rider represents Jesus Christ, going out to conquer the world. And the reason they think this is that the end of the book of Revelation says that Jesus will come on a white horse. But, there are two very important differences between Christ and this horseman. The first difference is that of the weapon. Who can remember what weapon Jesus carried in chapter one of Revelation? That’s right, a sword! This rider is carrying a bow. The second big difference is that Jesus is wearing a different kind of crown. In the Greek language, the Bible makes it plain that Jesus is wearing a crown designed for a king, while the rider of the white horse is wearing a crown designed for a victor.
So, who is the rider of this white horse? Is it any coincidence that the rider has some similarities to Jesus? Well, in my humble opinion, I believe that the rider of the white horse is the Antichrist. The Antichrist is a figure in the book of Revelation that comes and imitates Christ, trying to deceive as many people as possible. I believe that this is the entrance of the Antichrist into the world. But notice that he does not come swinging a sword. No, initially he comes with peace. He goes out conquering, but he does not even have a weapon. When this man comes on the scene, many people will think that he is the “Messiah” who has finally come to save the world. For the sake of time, let’s move on to the second horseman.
Look at what verse four says. “And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.” Ok, so now we have a second horseman going out. This second horse is red, which normally signifies rage and fury. Looking at this verse, what do you think the second horse represents? Yes, war! And as far as the scope of this war, the only clue is that the horseman takes away peace from the earth. Now, you know as well as I do that we are currently involved in several operations overseas, but there is still a large amount of peace on the earth. My interpretation of this verse is that sometime in the future, there is going to be a global war that makes World War Two look like a skirmish. It’s impossible to tell how the Antichrist will relate to this global war, but we do know that he will emerge from the war the victor. So while he initially came in peace, it looks as if things quickly turned to war. And not just any war, but the biggest war the world has ever seen. Let’s look at the third horse now.
Verse five reads, “And when He had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, ‘Come and see.’ And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.” In the Bible, black normally has connotations of mourning, just like we still wear black to funerals. And this idea is furthered when you see that the horseman is carrying a pair of balances. In the ancient world, balances were commonly used during times of famine when each person would be given a set amount of food, normally much less food than they would normally have. So, if we assume that the black horse comes after the red horse, then it makes logical sense to think that this famine will follow after this global war. This makes sense, because very often famine follows war, because so many of the crops are destroyed in the fighting. If you are familiar with the history of our own Civil War, then you know how General Sherman purposely burned field after field of Confederate crops on his march toward Atlanta. So there will be a time in our future when there will be a horrible famine on the earth.
But look at what happens in verse six. “And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, ‘A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.’” Okay, there are several things to notice about this verse. The first thing is that the voice coming from the midst of the beasts must either be Jesus Christ or God the Father, because those are the two who are in the middle of the beasts. And the second thing to notice is that you can get a measure of wheat for a penny, or three measures of barley for a penny. Sounds pretty good for a famine, right? Well, not exactly. We have to interpret this verse in the same way John would have interpreted it in his day. The Greek word for “penny” is denarius, and a denarius was one day’s wages for an average worker. Normally, one day’s wages would buy eight to ten measures of wheat, and even more barley, because barley was cheaper. So before, a worker could buy food for his family, and then have enough money left over to buy other stuff. Now, God says that there will be just enough money for each man to buy food for himself, and have nothing left over. Which really, this is a judgment of mercy, because God is not allowing the famine to get so bad that no one can survive. It will get bad, but God will provide a way for people to have enough money to eat, even if there is no money left for other stuff. The last thing I want to point out about this verse is that God says not to touch the oil or the wine. Oil and wine in John’s day were two luxury items that only the rich could afford. So I take this to mean that there will still be some rich people that will not lose everything in these days. In our own day and time, we are seeing the middle class rapidly disappear, and it is being replaced by a large poor class, and a tiny upper class with all of the money. In my understanding of Revelation, that dilemma is only going to get worse, with most people barely making enough to survive, and a few people still having their luxuries.
Look now at the final horse in verse eight. “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” Now we see the final horse come out, and the name of the rider is Death. This rider is given the terrifying power to kill one out of every four people. He will kill them by the sword, by hunger, with plagues, and by wild beasts. While I could be wrong, I believe that this figure of one out of four will be the number killed in the global war, and those that die afterward from hunger, plagues, and beast attacks.
So to try to wrap all of this up into something we can remember, I believe that the four horsemen are God’s way of getting the Antichrist into power. And you might say, “What! You mean that God is putting the Antichrist on the throne?” Well, if you have any doubts, then just notice Who it is that is opening the seals that send out the horsemen. It is Christ! So the four horsemen tell a story of how the Antichrist will come promising peace, but he will soon start a global war that will directly and indirectly kill twenty-five percent of the world’s population. And somehow, he will emerge on the other side the victor, and he will be a global dictator of unimaginable power.
And the question that remains in my mind is, “Why would Christ allow such a thing?” Well, just like we talked about Sunday, it is all in His master plan. God has absolutely everything under control, even the Antichrist. Remember how verse eight says that the rider’s name is Death, and Hell follows after him? Are we going to hell when we die? If we know Christ, we aren’t! So I take that to mean that only non-Christians will die in this massive global war. And while God is extremely patient with non-Christians, there will come a time when He will judge them for their sins, and He will use this monster known as the Antichrist to do so. So will the Antichrist do everything in his power to defeat Christians? Yes, he will. But, while the Antichrist will not know it, God will be in complete control, and nothing will happen without His approval. Doesn’t that give you peace tonight? Isn’t it nice to know that whatever storms come our way, our God is in control of the situation, and it is all a part of His master plan?
That is the main application that I want you to take away from this discussion. God is in complete control, even when it seems like the world is spinning out of control. But on another note, out of all of the things we’ve read in Revelation so far, the presence of the four horsemen will be the first thing that we will be able to recognize. And while there are differing opinions, I believe that Christians will go through the seven-year period of time known as the Tribulation. So if I’m right, that means that one of the next events in global prophecy will be the rise of a man of evil called the Antichrist. But he won’t look like evil. No, he will come promising peace. But in the end, he will bring war. I do not know if these things will happen in my lifetime, or if they will happen in 5,000 more years, but the key is for us in the church to be ready. Be ready by always staying close to God; and also, help others to be ready. There are some rough days ahead for planet earth, and I pray that we at First Free Will Baptist Church are doing everything in our power to help prepare a world that has no idea what’s coming.
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