Have you heard reference of the Four Apocalyptic Horsemen before? We met them up close and personal today. Our readings in Revelation thus far have set up the beautiful scene of heaven complete with its worship and splendor. As the scroll’s seals are opened by the Lamb, we are going to unleash the vision of God’s judgment on earth. It’s not a pretty sight (although I am generally a fan of horses)!
No matter what, it’s important to remember the victory belongs to Christ. That should be our focus when we see unfairness in the world, suffering, famine, wars, etc. God didn’t intend for us to have to endure such things. Yet, it didn’t take long for sin to enter the world and corrupt the beauty of God’s creation.
John watches the Lamb open the first four seals pretty much in succession. Each time, one of the heavenly beings said, “Come!” With the invitation, John sees the horsemen, each riding a horse of a different color. You may recall in Zechariah 6:1-5, there is a vision of horses of different colors. The message was different, and here we have no chariots, only riders. Interesting use of a similar vision.
What does this signify? There may be differing opinions, but from what I can tell, the white one goes first to conquer. With the crown, I expect this is Jesus, but one of my sources would say they don’t think so. (What do you think?) Next, the red one, for bloodshed in war. Then the black one for famine and economic disaster. As I understand it, that would be a very expensive loaf of bread in those days (and even today)! And the fourth horse, a sickly green, to represent disease and the decaying bodies of death.
These are certainly not “feel good” images. But the horsemen have been released to carry these judgments to earth. People who are familiar with these signs would think we are in the end times when they see war, famine, disease, and death. If you look back in history, these same judgments have been plaguing mankind for centuries. There is more to this story.
Unlocking the fifth seal reveals the souls of all those martyred for their faith. They have been freed to wait for the end of time so that all the faithful ones can be together. But for now, they are given white robes, declared pure, and told to wait just a while longer. As followers of Christ today, we are called to stand firm. Mark 13:13 says, “And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” We can imagine these white robed saints cheering us on as we forge our way through life, staying true, so we can endure to the end.
When the Lamb broke the sixth seal, the earth itself cried out! Not only did the earth tremble, the skies went black, the moon turned red, and stars fell from the sky. I think of Chicken Little running around saying the sky is falling, the sky is falling. Surely fear would suffocate everyone, especially those who are far from God. “Then everyone—the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person—all hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains.”
Surely the people were thinking: “For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to survive?” If we left it here, we might also wonder who could possibly survive God’s wrath. This isn’t the end of the story. Remember who we trust. Remember who is victorious. Stay tuned.
Let’s pray. Lord, these visions are a bit unsettling, but as I read them I feel at peace. I know you long for us all to repent and turn to you. Yet, I also know many will choose their own way. When your judgments come on earth, Lord, I hope that I can be in the group of those deemed pure. While I don’t feel like I am persecuted for my faith in a big way, I do feel like Christ followers like me are often misunderstood and underestimated. Use me, God, to help others find you before it’s too late. In Jesus’ name. Amen.