Rev 6:1-8                  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse                       5/14/2017      ßà   

#1.      The Book With Seven Seals

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2.      The First Four Seals (Psalm 33:17, Job 39:19-25, John 12:28-30)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3.      The Four Horsemen in Action (Gen 3:17-19)

 

 

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Rev 6:1 (2X). We have seen last week in chapter 5 that Christ, the Lamb of God, took the Book out of the right hand of Him that sat on the throne. This Book is not the Bible. This Book is symbolic of the decree of God for the entire creation.

#1.      The Book With Seven Seals

Only after this Book is opened by Christ will the plan of God for all creation be implemented. And then we are seeing what was promised in Rev 1:1. God shows us “the things that must shortly come to pass”. All the rest that is contained in this Prophecy of Revelation is now revealed during the opening of the seven seals. But the seventh of the seven seals is further developed as seven trumpets. And the seventh of the seven trumpets is further developed as the seven vials of the wrath of God. Keep in mind the goal, or the main purpose, of this Prophecy of Revelation. The main purpose is to reveal unto us the coming Christ in glory, and the coming of the glorious Kingdom of God. He is the King of glory who works to establish and to perfect His Kingdom, and therefore He always appears as the great opponent of Satan and of Satan’s kingdom. And when we see these events unfolding before our eyes, when the seven seals are opened, and when the seven trumpets sound, and when the seven vials of wrath are poured, we must see them as judgment acts of Christ over a sinful and hostile world. But the overall purpose of these judgments is to bring the Kingdom of Christ to its perfect consummation.

In what mode should we interpret the opening of the seven seals? Should we look at the opening of the seven seals as events occurring in the history of this world, so that we can look around us and check how far we have advanced in God’s time table? Please remember that this type of interpretation leads to the wildest speculations with respect to the exact date of Christ’s coming in final judgment. And thus we know that this is the wrong mode of interpretation, because the Lord Jesus said that no one knows the day or the hour of His coming again. We do not need to interpret the words of Jesus in a legalistic sense, as if we cannot know the day or the hour, but we can know the month or the year of His return. We should understand that Jesus warned us that we may not engage in speculations about the timing of His coming again. From seeing the situations in this world we may sense that His return is near, but we must not engage in speculating when it will come to pass. And so we realize that the first four seals really belong together, and thus they ought to be discussed in their relation to one another.

And now, beginning in this chapter, the Lamb opened the first four seals. And here we see: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The word “Apocalypse” is derived from the Greek word that means, “Revelation”. That is also the title of our sermon today: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These do not represent four different time periods in the church. The four horsemen ride on the earth simultaneously. They supplement each other in bringing the Kingdom of Christ to fruition.

Re 6:1 ¶  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.

Re 6:2  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.

Re 6:3 ¶  And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.

Re 6:4  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.

Re 6:5  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.

Re 6:6  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.

Re 6:7-8  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.

This is awful. Only one of the four horsemen seems to have some of an appeal, but the other three are absolutely frightening. Do we realize who is doing this? The Lord Jesus Christ opened the first four seals. He is the one who loosed these four horsemen. Now, this is an aspect of Christ that we have not seen before. Have we not always learned that Christ is the good and gentle Shepherd? Have we not always learned that Christ is full of love, and that He would not hurt us in any way? Apparently that was not the full story. Here we read that Christ unleashed these four horsemen on the earth, and what they seem to bring is war, and death, and destruction, and famine, and a whole lot more terrible stuff.

But here we see clearly that the first four seals go together. First of all they are plainly distinguished by their allegorical figures: the horses each with their distinct color, and their riders with their distinct allegorical outfit. Secondly, each of these four horsemen was announced by one of the four living creatures that surround the throne of the Almighty: “Come and see”. Was this an invitation to John? But John was already in the spirit in heaven, and so he does not need an invitation to come and see. No! This is an invitation to us! God bids us to pay attention to what we will see here, and to draw our conclusions from what we see. We should not try to figure out who each of these four horsemen represents. They are not horses, but forces directed and limited by an intelligent will to a definite goal, and they do their work at the bidding of the Lamb. This then is how we should see:

#2.      The First Four Seals (Psalm 33:17, Job 39:19-25, John 12:28-30)

What is a horse for? Please turn in your Bibles to the Prophecy of Job 39:19 (2X). You find Job in the middle of your Bibles, just before Psalms. In the Bible a horse is an animal for war. For example, the Lord Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, not on a horse, because He did not come to make war but to be the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. God says in Psalm 33:17, “An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength”. Another beautiful description of a horse used in battle is given here in Job chapter 39. God says to Job in Job 39:19,

Job 39:19 ¶  Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?

Job 39:20  Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible.

Job 39:21  He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men.

Job 39:22  He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword.

Job 39:23  The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield.

Job 39:24-25  He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet.                 He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.

And so, we clearly see that the four horsemen are riding out to battle. However, these four horses cannot run at random on the earth. They are not blind powers or independent forces, but they are directed by Christ who has the infinite wisdom of God. And Christ will make sure that these four horses and their riders remain under His control, and that the events on this earth are definitely and intelligently directed by His Spirit towards the completion and perfection of the Kingdom of God. Please turn in your Bibles to Psalm 45:2 (2X). When the Lamb opened the first seal John heard the noise of thunder. This was not the voice of one of the living creatures, it was the voice of God, like He was heard on Mount Sinai, warning us to pay attention. When Jesus was selected as the Lamb on the 10th day of the first month, in AD 33, the voice of God thundered from heaven. You can read that in John 12:28-30. And so, when the Lamb opened the first seal and the voice of God thundered we see:

The first horse is white, which is symbolic of victory. Those who are faithful and have overcome shall ultimately appear in white robes. We read, for example, in this same chapter in verse 11 that the souls under the altar in heaven were given white robes. And in chapter 19:11 the Lord Jesus appears as the victor riding upon a white horse, in all the glory of His power and victory. Does the rider on the white horse here in Rev 6:2 represent the Lord Jesus Christ? He could be, but not necessarily so. If we begin to see Christ in the first rider, then we have to see Satan in all the following three riders, and that tilts the picture of power rather heavily in the favor of Satan. I don’t think we should go in that direction. The white horse is simply a symbol of the power of the Gospel that will be victorious wherever Christ will send His ambassadors. In harmony with the color of this horse are the other features of this rider. First of all, this rider has a bow, which is symbolic of righteous and victorious warfare. We see this typified in Psalm 45, which is a messianic Psalm. Starting in verse 2 we read about a rider with a bow:

Ps 45:2  Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.

Ps 45:3  Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty.

Ps 45:4  And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.

Ps 45:5  Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.

Ps 45:6  Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.

Ps 45:7  Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

This King is typical of Christ. That is why this is a Messianic Psalm. This King is fairer than the children of men. This King has a bow and arrows that pierce the hearts of His enemies, convicting them of sin, so that His enemies may receive a new heart and be turned into new creatures in Christ. This King is God Himself, the second Person of the triune Godhead, who came to earth to conquer for Himself a Kingdom by dying on a cross and raising from the dead on the third day. Please turn again to the Prophecy of Revelation, Rev 6:2 (2X). This rider on the white horse is victorious because he receives a crown. This is not a crown that kings have on their heads when they sit in their auditorium, but the Greek word indicates that this is a garland, the wreath of victory. It is the symbol on the head of those who have won the first prize in an Olympic game, or of a general who was victorious in battle. Moreover, this rider went forth “conquering and to conquer”, which by its repetition also indicates the certainty of being victorious. And thus we can conclude that we have in the first seal the picture of an armed warrior, going forth in righteous battle, whose victory is assured him beforehand. Then we see:

Re 6:3 ¶  And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.

Re 6:4  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.

The color of this horse was red. But the Greek text says that it is a color “glowing like fire”. It is a color of wrath and anger, of heated passion and violent emotion such as causes a man’s blood to rush to his face; it is a color of lust and gain, of envy and revenge, of blood and of war. Remember, this rider too was a warrior. Please turn in your Bibles to the Prophecy of Isaiah, Isa 63:1 (2X). When the Lord is described in all the holy zeal of His anger, He is pictured as a consuming fire. Speaking about godly fear we read in Heb 12:29, “For our God is a consuming fire”. He is not a consuming fire for those who are His children, but for those who are going to Hell. There they will endure His consuming fire forever and ever, a never ceasing death sentence, because when God warned Adam not to eat from the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” God said, “For in the day that thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die” (Gen 2:17). And again the glowing anger of the Lord is seen when we read His words in Isa 63:1-3

Isa 63:1  Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.

Isa 63:2-3  Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?               I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.

First the question is asked: “Who is this that cometh from Bozrah, the capital city of Edom, the land of Esau?” The answer comes back: “I am mighty to save”, which means it is Christ, because He is the only one who is called “Savior”. The next question asked is: “Wherefore art Thou red in thy apparel?” The answer comes back: “I have trodden the winepress of the wrath of God alone, and their blood is sprinkled on My garments”. This is not His blood, but it is our blood that is sprinkled on His garments. The color red is here identified with the wrath of God on our sins. Clearly God is angry with our sins, and God will by no means clear the guilty. It is only by His mercy that His wrath is diverted from His elect children and turned to Christ who became the bearer of the guilt of the sins of all the elect of God. Please turn again to the Prophecy of Revelation, Rev 6:4 (2X). The second horse bears the color of a glowing fire, which is symbolic of heated passion, and revenge, and bloodshed, and war. The other details in the outfit of the rider on this horse are all enforcing the same idea. He received a great sword, which is symbolic of war, and death, and destruction. He received power to take peace from the earth. And this too is the fruit of anger, and fighting, and enmity, and revenge. And thus we can conclude that we have in the second seal the picture of an armed warrior, going forth to battle for the sake of heated passion and wrath, and he is going forth to do its work in the earth. When the 3rd seal is opened we s,

Re 6:5  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.

Re 6:6  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.

The color of this horse was black, which in this passage symbolizes scarcity and famine. Some examples of black being the symbol for scarcity and famine can be found in Jeremiah. Please turn to the Prophecy of Jeremiah, Jer 4:27 (2X). You find the Prophecy of Jeremiah in the middle of your Bibles, right after the Prophecy of Isaiah. God warned the nation of Judah, if they do not repent and mend their ways God will send the Babylonian armies to take away all that they have, and they shall devastate the land. The result will be great scarcity and famine. And thus we read in Jer 4:27-28  “For thus hath the LORD said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end. For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black (2X): because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it”. And then please turn to Jer 8:20 (2X). In this chapter God addresses spiritual scarcity and famine, which means a famine of the Word of God. Jer 8:20-21 “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black (2X); astonishment hath taken hold on me”. And now please turn to Jer 14:1 (2X). In this chapter we read about the physical scarcity and famine because God has withheld the dew and the rain. Jer 14:1-2 “The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the dearth.    Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black (2X) unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up”. Since after all these warnings from God the nation of Judah still persisted in their idolatries, and in their worship of the Queen of Heaven, God finally send the king of Babylon with an army to take away the entire nation of Judah. And when Jerusalem was destroyed we read in Lam 5:10 (2X), the lamentations of Jeremiah, La 5:10  “Our skin was black (2X) like an oven because of the terrible famine”. Please turn again now to the Prophecy of Revelation, Rev 6:5 (2X). The remainder of the description for the rider on the black horse is in harmony with the idea that this rider represents scarcity and famine. The rider holds a balance as if he does some careful weighing. And as he weighs a voice is heard saying, “A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny”. A penny in those days is just about a day’s wages for a common laborer. And what can they buy for their labors of one day? Only one measure of wheat, which is the equivalent of one man’s subsistence for one day. If he has a wife and children he is not even able to provide for them. The same is true for three measures of barley. And so, this rider on the black horse does not represent downright famine, but only scarcity and dearth. The wages of the common people are just sufficient to keep them alive, but not much more. And then we hear the contrast. The voice continues and says, “and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine”. In a country where there is scarcity and dearth, oil and wine are symbols of plenty and luxury and feasting. These may not be hurt, but must continue to exist. And thus we can conclude that we have in the third horse and its rider the symbols of contrast: a contrast between poverty and riches, between bare subsistence and luxurious living. When the 4th seal is opened we see

Re 6:7-8  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 (Hades) 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.

The color of this horse is pale green, like the color of death. The horse represents the color of a corpse, of death itself. In harmony with the color of the animal is the name of its rider, which is Death, and Hades, or the grave, follows him, ready to receive the victims killed by this terrible horseman. And then we hear that this horseman receives the definite commission to kill one fourth part of the earth’s inhabitants with the sword, with hunger, with the beasts of the earth, and with death in general. And thus the symbol of the 4th horse and its rider makes us think of death in all its various forms.

Now that we understand the symbolism of these four horsemen, can we actually see their respective works according to Scripture? Can we see what they have accomplished?

#3.      The Four Horsemen in Action (Gen 3:17-19)

Let us begin with the first of the four horsemen. The white horse stands for the triumphant progress of the cause of Christ in the NT time period. As you know, in the OT time there were only the nations of Judah and Israel where the Word of God could be found, and even in those nations the fraction of truly saved individuals was very small. So small in fact that all the kings of the Northern kingdom of Israel were absolutely wicked. So small was the fraction of truly saved people that almost all the prophets in Judah and in Israel died a violent death. And when Christ came on the scene the situation was not much better. The Lord Jesus Christ, the most perfect preacher that ever existed, preached for three and a half years, and after so much preaching and doing good all that were gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem after His ascension were only 120 people. But then on Pentecost Peter preached one sermon, and about 3000 people were saved on that day. Now we can see the white horseman at work. We can see the triumphant progress of the cause of Christ, because God the Holy Spirit was actively participating in evangelizing the world. The world lies in spiritual darkness; it is the dominion of the prince of darkness, and it opposes the Kingdom of Christ which is to come. And thus, if that world is to be transformed into the Kingdom of Christ it is not sufficient that the people of Satan be destroyed, but spiritual victories must be won. The power of the new Kingdom must go forth in this world and make subjects for the Kingdom of Heaven. To this end Christ sends forth His Spirit and His Word to regenerate, and to call, and to bring to a conscious faith, and to cause men to fall down before the great King and worship Him instead of the Devil. The combined effort of the Word and the Spirit and all their follow up work is portrayed under the symbolism of the white horse and its rider. Clearly, he did not ride at random over all the earth, but he had his course mapped out. First he started in Jerusalem, then he drove to Antioch in Syria, and from there to various cities in Asia Minor. From there he crossed over into Europe, scoring victories in Macedonia and in Greece. Then he struck at the very heart of the mighty Roman Empire, and from there he drove over the mountains and plains of Europe, and crossed over into the Western Hemisphere when the time was ripe. And today he also rides in other parts of the world, such as in Asia and in Africa. But there is a distinct difference between his earlier work and his later work. In his earlier work in Europe and in America his victories were so pronounced that entire nations were Christianized, whereas in his later work, like today, his drive is only noticeable in the conversion of individuals. And thus we see the definite plan of God to gradually reduce the number of saved people until at the return of Christ there will be only a few saints left. And then the days will be like the days of Noah, when only eight people out of a few million were saved.

The second horse and its rider together are the symbol of war. It is because of the drive of this horse that passions of men and of nations are aroused and the result is that nation rises against nation all through history. Christ is the one who opened the seals and thus it is Christ who sends these horses and their riders on a definite course through the earth. First it was Rome against Greece, then the powerful movement of nations throughout Europe against the declining Roman Empire, then the various nations of Europe warring against each other and against the nations of the New World. And as time progresses we see that wars have increased rather than decreased. And so we can clearly see that a universal peace in a sinful world is just a pipe dream. Riding upon the glowing passions of lust and greed, of power and conquest, of hatred and revenge and jealousy, this second horse and its rider go forth through the world to slay individuals and conquer nations. It is fiercer and redder than ever as it is driving over the world today. But we may rest assured that this rider also will perform his part for the bringing of the Kingdom of God to its completion.

The third horseman on the black horse has the sphere of social life assigned to him, and there he maintains the tremendous contrast between scarcity and plenty. He is always among us, and continually he does his work. This horse causes all our social problems, because through his work the contrast is maintained between rich and poor, between plenty and scarcity, between wealth and miserable poverty. Always the masses live by the day. Always their wages are sufficient for a bare subsistence. Always the oil and the wine remain untouched and the few live in wealth and splendor, in distinction from the masses. I have seen it in Europe and in Asia, but in this country it is developing rapidly. Always the black horse and its rider maintain this contrast in the social world, a contrast that is the cause of many world  events. On the one hand it is the cause of feasting and riotous living, and on the other hand it is the cause of misery, rebellion, revolution and bloodshed. But we may rest assured that the rider on the black horse will also perform his part to bring the Kingdom of God to its completion.

The fourth horse and its terrifying rider present death in all its various forms. It is a merciless monster. He sneaks into our homes and kills young and old through disease or through accidents. He sneaks through the streets of our cities and violently kills with knifes and guns. He rides on the battlefield to reap his greatest harvest. He kills by homicide and by suicide, in wars and in revolutions, in pestilence and in epidemics, by storms and by floods, and by nasty microbes and viruses. And thus he will maintain the equilibrium among the peoples of the world according to the divine plan. This fourth horse and its rider were already announced to Adam after he sinned. God said in Gen 3:17-19, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”.

We see then that these horses and their riders were unleashed by Christ when He opened the first four seals of the Book. These four horses and their riders cover all the different phases of human life. And they are under the absolute control of Christ, who is the Lamb that was slain. It is He who controls the progress of His Kingdom, as symbolized by the white horse. It is He who controls the history when nations rise against nations. It is He who determines wages and prices, and who maintains the social contrasts between poverty and riches. It is He who sends death into all the world to mow down the proper persons at the proper time. To Him is given all the power in heaven and on earth, and He executes the will of Him who sitteth upon the throne. But having said all this, we still would like to know what the reason is for these four horsemen operating at the same time, and how this might be of benefit to Christ in the bringing to completion of the Kingdom of God. For this we will have to spend another hour or so to study His Word. This we will do if God permits.                                                                                                                   AMEN.

Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.