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The Apocalypse 3. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Apocalypse Week 3

The Four horsemen of the Apocalypse

Key Text: Rev 6

The “end of days” is a topic of great discussion. Through many years’ great men with great minds have debated exactly the event and process of the so called “end of days”

Theories of the end have come and gone.

I want to ask why all the speculation? Why the fascination? Would it be a comfort or a curse to know exactly when your time is up?

I believe it would be a curse, and that is why Jesus tells us to not speculate, not even the Son knows the day or hour. Rather be prepared, you will see things and know that the time is soon.

The more I study eschatology (which is the study of the end) the more I see that it is directed to how we should live now. What we believe is going to happen directly affect the way we live our lives now.

If we believe that the end is an escape, we will live our lives that way. If we believe the end is a victory, we will live that way. If we believe the end is not real, we will live for the now with no hope in the end.

I believe the Bible gives us a clear understanding of a hopeful end that is a result of immense trial.

And our passage this evening is a revealing of that our passage is Rev 6.

We are reading the passage on what has been called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Ironically that is only a portion of what is discussed in this passage. But it is a vivid image that invokes all sorts of imageries in our minds. I believe that is why John chose to use it and that is why I chose to use it as my title for this message.

In fact, this passage is more about the seals that the horsemen, but they do make up a great image of this portion of Scripture.

Let’s read…

Revelation 6New International Version (NIV)

The Seals

6 I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.

5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds[a] of wheat for a day’s wages,[b] and six pounds[c] of barley for a day’s wages,[d] and do not damage the oil and the wine!”

7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters,[e] were killed just as they had been.

12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red,13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us[f]from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their[g] wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”

Now before we move on, Let’s just recap on a few things to guide how we are to understand this.

1. Understanding the Old Testament is key to understanding Revelation

2. We have to take into account when the book was written

3. We have to understand that the book describes the end of days which describes the time that the letter was written as well as the time we live in now.

4. We have to interpret prophecy as biblical prophecy and not as predictions.

With this in mind, let’s look at this passage of Scripture.

We are going to break up this passage into the two major themes found here. Firstly the judgements, secondly the saints.

So let’s look at

1. The Judgments

It must be said that Revelation does not have a concept of time like we do. John jumps without explanation into a time clearly describing end cataclysmic events and then jump to the birth of Christ.

We must be careful to not impose a chronological structure to the book where there is not one.

Why do I say this, well some have described this passage as the mini apocalypse, or the first end; saying that this is the start of the end. This cannot be if we read the end of verse 17 it says “…their great day of wrath has come who can stand?” this is the judgement, not a small one!

This is John’s image of God’s judgement the overriding image of this passage is God’s Judgement poured out upon men. It is what the Old Testament describes as the great day of the Lord. This day is described in Amos 5

Zephaniah 1

Isaiah 2

Isaiah13

Isaiah34

Joel 2

We must ask who is at the centre of this Judgement, who initiates this great Day of the Lord? The Lamb who is Jesus Christ!

This day of the Lord always is about God’s wrath against His enemies and His salvation for His people. It was locked up in the coming of the Messiah. So in one way the great day of the Lord has come. For in Christ we have been rescued and those who reject God are under His wrath. However, Biblical prophecy has the final fulfilment or the great judgement to come.

So what does this judgement entail? Well firstly it entails the four horsemen each one connected to a particular judgement of God.

a. The White Horse

What must be seen is that it is the Lamb that opens the scroll, so it is Christ who is calling down this judgment.

Many believe that this rider is Christ because the rider is white. That is an over simplistic view of the image. It cannot be Christ, for each horseman is a judgement a wrath and this one is described as a conqueror. We will see how each horse signifies the coming catastrophes coming to men because of God’s judgement. The first is tyranny, or rule by conquer. Which we have seen over and over in the history of man.

In John’s time it was the Romans, later we saw Nopolian, Germany, Russia to name a few. Men and Nations bent on conquest; reaping devastation. It is a judgement for men from their own sin. Why men chose tyrants to rule over them is beyond me, but is a direct result of men refusing to be led by God and so God giving them over to their own desires.

b. The Red Horse

The next judgement is that of the red horse. This is not an actual man to look out for nor even group it is a judgement an image of the wrath of God upon men.

This judgement is unrest and terror. Destruction and war. The Old Testament alludes to this often; we see God’s instruction to remove peace from an area as a judgement upon them (Joshua’s invasion of Palestine is one example). To add to this the sword is used as an eschatological judgment of God in Isaiah 21:1; 34:5; 44:6 and Ezekiel 21:3.

Once again God gives men over to their own destruction, however, our destruction is not in the hands of men, but rather God. The rider is commanded and given power by Christ. Therefore, he can only cause as much destruction as God allows.

The fears of Nuclear war, or terrorists etc. is not our concern, God the righteous Judge is the one who will control all and he will be the one who finally calls this world to its final end. You and I who believe are safe in His hands and the destruction that he brings is nothing to be feared by us.

c. The Black Horse

The next judgement is poured out, is the black horseman. This rider symbolises famine and scarcity, we see this because of what he brings in the form of scales and measuring out of the meanest of portions.

Famine has been a curse of man since the fall, the generalised sin of mankind has destroyed the earths ability to provide. However, on top of that there is mans greed that further exacerbates the problem.

It was Ghandi who said that “there is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.” This black horse symbolises that rampant cost of survival. That people will suffer just to survive.

However, once again in the judgement there is God’s control the rider is commanded not to harm the wine or the olive oil, food was also available even though it was not cheap. God’s hand of grace is still in His judgments.

d. The Pale Horse

The last rider is the Pale rider this is the only rider who is given a name, his name is Death and he is followed closely by Hades. These two symbolically ride out and have power over ¼ of the earth. But even deaths power is limited. He can only harm what he is allowed to harm.

Jesus remains sovereign over the symbolic rider.

In all these judgements we see Christ’s control. Even in the most intense of punishments, it is not rampant and explosive as we human can be with our punishment. It is controlled and ultimately Christ has the final say.

These are the restrained wrath of God against the unbelief of man. All this changes when the 6th seal is opened!

At the 6th seal the earth and sky seams to rupture, chaos ensues as God pours out His wrath on what can only be compared to the terrible day of the Lord described in the Old Testament.

This is the symbolism of the great power of the ultimate anger of God.

It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of God’s wrath!

We see from this terrifying picture that God’s wrath does not fall upon men discriminately. He does not only Judge the rich but poor as well. Kings were not safe, strong, slaver nor free were protected from God’s wrath.

And we learn that God’s wrath comes to all who do not believe. What do men hide from?

We read in verse 16

16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us[f]from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!

One man once said to me, that it is hell itself for the unrepentant heart to see Christ in all His glory.

This is what we see in Revelation. Christ is revealed without His grace in all his splendour, and men cannot bare to look at Him!

If we are terrified of God now don’t be if you are a believer, for although God in all His glory will judge men in their Sin and unbelief. He has not abandoned us. He has not abandoned mankind!

God has made a way. In His grace God provided a plan that men might behold His true glory and rather than run in terror be marvelled by love.

For God has called out of this world a people that are His own, and they will be saved!

The constant message of the Old Testament Day of the Lord and even in Revelations’ message here is that Grace exists for those who listen and believe.

This is my second point;

2. The Saints

We read in verse 9-11

9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters,[e] were killed just as they had been.

The cry of those who were killed for the sake of the gospel was justice. Lord how long!

I believe this is where the hope of this passage is.

We need to take ourselves back to the immense suffering that the churches who received the original letter from John, were going through.

There was for the early church and still is for us a great hope in all this.

The hope is that we need not fear death. Unlike those who will look in terror on the judgements of God, the people of God look forward to salvation. Even if in this life the saints are killed for what they believe they go to be with their God.

This was the reality of that early church; friends and loved ones were being martyred for the faith. They question must have been what becomes of those who have died. God gives them hope they are before God’s throne. Clothed in white with salvation theirs.

What a great hope to this early church that all their suffering and struggle was not in vein that in fact they share in the salvation that was promised. However, those who remain alive must realise that there is a warning in this hope.

Although salvation awaits those who die for the sake of the Gospel there will still be opposition. Other will still die for the sake of the Gospel. But those too will be taken to the throne of their God and will be with Him and He will comfort them.

We take comfort in the fact that our God is for us. But we should also take action for those people that we interact with on a daily basis who do not know God, who have no idea. They do not look forward to rescue.

They look forward to only God’s wrath!

The simple and clear application of this verse. Is do not fear persecution, judgement will come to those who are against you. But go, do the work of the gospel!

The people of the world need us to be there inviting them to God’s grace so that they too will be a part of His saints sharing in His glory one day!

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