The following message is taken from the book of Revelation chapters 5 and 6. It concerns the breaking of the first four seals. You may remember that while John, the apostle, was seeing this vision, he saw a scroll with writing on both sides, sealed with seven seals. As he was looking, he began to weep because no one in heaven or earth was found worthy to look at the scroll or to open these seven seals.
Then, the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world comes into view. He is the One who has been found worthy to break the seals and open the book.
As the vision proceeds, Jesus the Lamb of God begins opening these seals one by one. When each of these first four seals is broken, a mysterious horseman comes riding forth to accomplish something upon the earth. Let us read together from Revelation chapter 6 about these four horsemen, beginning with verse 1.
“Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, ‘Come and see.’ And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
“When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, ‘Come and see.’ Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.
“When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come and see.’ So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard 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 the wine.’
“When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, ‘Come and see.’ So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth” (Rev 6:1-8).
This is truly a terrifying vision. In it we have portrayed for us some of the things which God says are going to be happening at the completion of this age. Since the breaking of these first four seals signals the beginning of the end of this time period, it is well worth the effort to look into their meaning.
Ever since becoming a Christian I have heard or read Bible teachers expounding on this passage. Many of today’s expositors seem to share similar interpretations. These teachings, which some of you may have heard, are that the first horseman on the white horse represents Jesus and/or the gospel. The second represents war. The third speaks of famine, and the forth horseman symbolizes death.
Somehow, none of these explanations ever really satisfied me. I never felt as if there was anything conveyed by these ideas which had any real revelation or meaning. Nothing new, different or significant was being offered.
For example, the first horseman is supposed to signify Jesus and/or the gospel. The main basis for this assertion appears to be that the horse is white and the rider has a crown. Perhaps this interpretation is adopted because later in Revelation, Jesus also appears on a white horse (Rev 19:11-16). There He is seen with “many crowns” and instead of a bow, a sword goes forth out of His mouth.
But is the simple fact that the horse is white and that the rider has a crown really revelation? How can it be that “the gospel” is going forth just at the end of the age? The gospel has been going out for almost two thousand years already. Does identifying this rider as Jesus or the “gospel” really show us something new, important, or relevant? This explanation seems to be just a repetition of ancient history. How can this really be the interpretation of such an important vision?
Next, most seem to assert that the red horse and rider signify war. What sort of revelation is this? Wars have been going on fairly constantly, in some part of the world or another, for thousands of years, both before and after the advent of Christ. Why then should the appearance of wars at the end of the age be something new or different? Is there any fresh or valuable understanding conveyed by this explanation? It seems not.
Then we come to the third seal. The popular explanations for this horseman seem especially inaccurate. As mentioned, most assert that this seal represents famine, yet the different parts of the passage do not seem to fit with this idea.
We could reason in this way: A famine is usually caused by a drought, war, or any interruption in the production of, or transportation of, food. But these things would not only cause shortages in wheat and barley mentioned in the prophecy, but also in commodities such as oil and wine, which come from olive trees and vineyards.
Nevertheless, we hear the voice saying, “...and do not harm the oil and the wine.” “Harm” means to reduce the supply of, or the production of, oil and wine. Surely a famine, or any other such cause, would do just that: harm the oil and the wine. There is no scenario which I can imagine which would reduce the supply of wheat and barley and yet the population still have a normal supply of oil and wine.
Being thus dissatisfied with the explanations which I had been given, I began to seek the face of the Lord for understanding concerning these things. What I am about to share with you is the result of prayer and diligent searching for the true meaning of these Revelation passages.
The ideas which you are about to read did not come to me in a vision or by any kind of fantastic revelation. Nevertheless, I believe that they may be from the Lord. Whether they are absolutely correct or not, this message still contains very important truth which has application to every believer's life. So let us open the Bible together, open our hearts to the Lord, and seek Him for what He is speaking to us through these things.
THE ZECHARIAH HORSES
You might remember that something very similar to these four horsemen is also pictured in the book of Zechariah; there, however, they appear in a slightly different form. In Zechariah chapter 6, verses 1-8, we read of four chariots drawn by four teams of different colored horses coming out from behind a mountain of brass. The metal brass often represents judgment in the scriptures. These horsemen are coming forth immediately before the impending great and terrible day of the Lord.
When these chariots, with their different colored horses, are seen by the prophet Zechariah, the following explanation is given to him. The angel says: “These are the four spirits of heaven who go out from their station before the Lord of all the earth” (Zech 6:5). Here we have an important key to understanding the Revelation prophecy. These four horses almost certainly represent four spirits as the Zechariah horses and chariots do.
A spirit being possesses supernatural power. Spirits have the ability to influence the minds of men and even the course of the world. It seems that these four spirits are coming from the presence of God to influence situations and events in preparation for the end of the age.
As an example of the influence of such spirits, further on in the book of Revelation we are told of three unclean spirits like frogs which come out of the mouth of the beast, the false prophet and the dragon and go forth to gather all the nations to war against the Lamb (Rev 16:13-16). These spirits have power to influence the thoughts and actions of men and nations, causing them to come together to battle.
So we can deduce that these four horsemen in Revelation are also spirits which come forth, in this case from God, to accomplish some purpose upon the earth. This purpose, I believe, is to set the stage for the “end times.” Each one of them is accomplishing a different task to prepare the situation on the earth for what will come to pass. They are setting things up for the end.
Before we begin our examination of these verses we should realize that it is not necessary for these seals to represent judgments and/or disasters. Although most seem to assume that these seals must signify calamities, this is nowhere indicated in the scriptures. In reality, they are spirit beings which come from God to accomplish His purposes on the earth. These purposes may or may not involve catastrophes.
Another important fact to consider is that these events described in Revelation are referred to as “birth pangs” (I Thess 5:3). When labor pains begin in a pregnant woman, at first they are mild and sometimes have long periods of time between them. As the birth process goes on however, they get more frequent and stronger. This sequence continues until the pains come one almost right after the other and become unbearably intense and painful until finally the baby is born.
This is a very vivid and accurate picture of how the events of the end times will unfold. The first several events may have many years separating them, with the later ones becoming increasingly frequent and “stronger.”
THE FIRST SEAL IS BROKEN
The first seal is the horseman who goes forth “conquering and to conquer.” It is my opinion that the first seal has already been broken. This spirit probably went forth about five hundred years ago. At that time, great, unprecedented changes began to take place on the earth.
“Western” civilization as we know it today, started “going forth” from its location in Europe conquering and to conquer. There followed a period of several centuries during which this spirit of “conquering” was at a fever pitch among many of the European nations.
Explorers, “conquistadors” and adventurers of every variety set out to conquer new lands. It was almost as if some invisible force or spirit was driving them to push further and further afield in quest of adventure and riches. In a short period of time spanning only several hundred years the whole earth was colonized and “conquered,” by the European countries, notably Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Holland and England.
As an example, this “spirit” of going out and conquering worked very powerfully just within the continent of North America. Many men and women, during the westward expansion on that continent, did things which seem foolish or absurd.
Very many left homes, security, family, society and everything else to begin an extremely dangerous trek through hostile country toward a completely unknown destination. Most of them only knew about where they were going by hearsay. Such actions of men, defying logic and reason, can easily be explained by the activities of spiritual forces.
The result of this worldwide expansionism and colonization, was to spread the European civilization all over the globe. Never before in the history of the world had there been such a massive going forth and spreading out of men, except perhaps after the flood. Truly there was a tremendous, prolonged and widespread going forth “conquering and to conquer.” For some reason it seems that this was necessary for the events that are to follow. In God’s plan it was His desire to redistribute the human race in this way.
Of course I realize that there were men on these other continents when the conquerers came; nevertheless, the point is that the Europeans went out everywhere around the globe conquering and expanding their empires. This was a time of unprecedented expansion and “conquering” which had never been seen before or repeated since.
Not only did these nations extend their territories but also, more importantly, this opened the way for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be taken to the ends of the earth. The conquering and exploring which was done, became an open door for many to follow after. Soon after this “conquering” many missionaries began to follow in their steps.
This then would be the purpose of the first spirit or horseman. His job was to stir up the Europeans to go out and conquer the rest of the globe so that the gospel, which was almost completely sealed up in Europe at that time, could go forth into all the world.
Although much of the conquering was done by Roman Catholic countries accompanied by priests, many protestant missionaries were soon to follow this far reaching conquest. Since that time, beginning more than five hundred years ago, the Christian church has also spread widely in these conquered regions. Undoubtedly, this has been essential for what will occur during the time of the end.
THE SECOND SEAL
The horseman of the second seal is perhaps slightly more recognizable. He rides on a red horse and has a great sword given to him. His power is to take peace from the earth, causing men to kill each other. Some of you readers may remember the first and second world wars. Although for thousands of years wars have existed and there have been many, many different wars upon the earth, never before had there been a time like those times – when the whole world was at war. We read: “And power was given unto him to take peace from the earth.”
Almost every nation in the world was involved in some way in these two altercations: World Wars I and II. Beyond a doubt there was a spiritual power at work in Germany and other countries in those days. Clearly, a spiritual power was at work in the life and actions of Adolf Hitler and the men who were with him. In his time, the whole German nation was stirred up in such a way that the entire world was caused to be at war. Millions were killed. “And there was given unto him a great sword.”
The end result, from a prophetic point of view, of the two world wars and the atrocities that were committed in Germany against the Jews is quite surprising. It was something completely unforeseen. This was that many Jewish people were again gathered together in their own land. The sympathy of the world and especially of those in the United States and England was aroused so much by these events that something came to pass which many Bible scholars for centuries thought impossible – the establishing of Israel again as a nation.
After being disbursed over the face of the earth for almost two thousand years, today again the Jews are residing in their own country. This fulfillment of prophecy is absolutely necessary to set the stage for the second coming. When Jesus returns this is where He will arrive, the land of Israel. His feet will stand upon the Mount of Olives (Zech 14:4). He is coming to His Old Covenant people again.
Although this is a curious and unexpected result of the two world wars, it is something which God accomplished to further His purposes and plans. It is a fact of history. It is also something essential for the completion of God’s work at the end of this age.
THE THIRD SEAL
Now the third seal is something about which I would like to speak at length. As mentioned previously, many Bible scholars have taught that this seal represents famine. However, I would like to point to a parallel passage in scripture which clearly shows something very different. As you probably already realize, one of the best ways to interpret scripture is to examine other passages which speak about the same, or similar subjects. Understanding scripture by using other scripture is one of the surest ways to arrive at the truth. Guesswork or imagination is not enough.
In Revelation we read that a measure of wheat was sold for a penny [denarius] and three measures of barley for a penny [denarius].
Now in the book of II Kings, we find a passage which is strikingly similar. In fact, the Revelation prophecy is almost a word for word quote of II Kings 6:24 7:20. Here in II Kings we read about a real famine.
At that time the city Samaria was surrounded by the Syrian army and had been besieged for quite some time. Naturally food was getting extremely scarce. We are told that an ass’s head sold for 80 pieces of silver and a “fourth part of a cab of dove’s dung” sold for five pieces of silver.
Now I don’t know how big a “cab” is, but I can imagine that if you’re paying five pieces of silver for any amount of dove’s dung that you are very, very hungry. This dear friends is a genuine, full-blown famine. This is what it means to be starving. Some have tried to sidestep the fact that these people were so hungry that they were eating dung, by insisting that they were using it for fuel for cooking. But what food could they have been cooking? No doubt this dung was not being bought only by the few who were cooking and eating their own children because of the severity of the famine (II Kings 6:28,29).
It was in these unimaginably extreme circumstances that Elisha the prophet relayed the following message: “Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria” (II Kings 7:1). This is a parallel passage to the one in Revelation. Here this man of God was prophesying plenty. He was telling them that the next day there would be an unbelievable abundance. There would be enough for everybody at a price they could afford.
The king’s personal attendant did not believe in Elisha’s prophecy. He said: “...if the Lord would make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” Elisha was speaking about such a prosperity, such an extravagant excess that this man could not conceive of it. He imagined it could only happen if windows opened up in heaven and food poured out.
You may recall the rest of the story. That evening four lepers who were sitting outside the city gate decided to defect to the camp of the Syrians. They reasoned, “If we stay here we’re just going to starve to death, but if we go over to the other army, perhaps they’ll have pity on us and feed us.”
But when they got there they found the camp deserted. The angel of the Lord had come and frightened the entire army away. So the next morning the gates of the city were opened and all the people went streaming out to collect food and buy and sell freely.
This reading leads us to rethink the passage in Revelation concerning the rider of the black horse. Since it is so similar to the II Kings verses – in fact so “parallel” as to be almost an exact repetition of Elisha’s prophecy – it would seem that famine or shortage is not indicated at all. In fact, it would instead seem to represent a time of plenty.
Lending support to this interpretation is the phrase we mentioned earlier which says, “...and do not harm the oil and the wine” (Rev 6:6). Oil and wine in those days were things which people had and enjoyed in times of prosperity. To have enough of these items was part of the blessing of the Lord upon His obedient people (see Deut 7:13). So it would be easy to conclude that, instead of famine, this passage is actually predicting plenty. It is foretelling a time of prosperity.
While many insist that these seals must represent catastrophes, nothing in the passage demands such an interpretation. Perhaps it is time then to rethink our ideas concerning these things.
Although some will argue that a “denarius” was a day’s wage and a quart of wheat would only feed a man for a day, we must take into account several things. First, the prophecy says you can get three quarts of barley for the same amount. This, although a less attractive grain, would be three times the needs of one man, if indeed this calculation is accurate, which it may not be.
Second, in New Testament times, simply having enough to eat every day would have been considered being prosperous. In those days, something so simple as a change of clothes or enough food to eat was an enormous blessing. Many people, perhaps most of the population, did not have enough to eat to really satisfy them every day. Obesity was a problem only with the very rich.
Third, an uninterrupted supply of or an abundance of oil and wine could only happen in times of prosperity. Fourth, this prophecy is almost an exact parallel of the other in the Old Testament which is clearly predicting prosperity.
I believe that we are living in the time of the third seal today. It too has already been broken. Abundance – the influence of the third horseman – has been upon us for quite some time, and may very soon be drawing to a close. We live in a period of unprecedented prosperity and plenty. Never, ever before in history have so many in this world had so much.
Many parts of the world are enjoying a time of tremendous affluence. A good percentage of the world’s inhabitants have cars, televisions, electricity, plenty of clothes and an abundance of food. One simple proof of this is how much of a problem obesity is becoming in many nations.
In this generation, much of the world lives at a level of comfort and abundance that previously only kings enjoyed. In fact, many of the ancient kings did not have a small fraction of the material things and comforts which we take for granted every day. Things like running hot and cold water, central heating and cooling, access to every kind of imaginable variety of meat, fruit, vegetable, drink and thousands of other items which to us seems “normal,” as recently as one hundred years ago was unthinkable, even for the most wealthy.
Although there are certainly pockets of poverty and misery in today’s world, the fact is that a large proportion of the world’s inhabitants enjoy a prosperity and ease which was, until very recently, unknown. Many live at a level of affluence which has never been seen on the earth before.
While this condition no doubt seems “normal” to those who were raised in it and have only known this prosperous state, it is in fact a huge anomaly in the history of this world. It is abnormal compared to the past 6,000 years.
Many in today’s world live in luxury and excess. They don’t see it that way since they have become accustomed to it, but yet it is true. In some countries people can control the temperature of their home, either cooling or heating it to the exact degree they desire, with the touch of a button.
Their cars too are temperature controlled, luxurious, and comfortable. When they shop at the grocery store, the options of food and drink are almost staggering. Their furniture, including the sofas and chairs, are cushioned and soft. The list of comforts and conveniences which we have could go on and on.
They travel in airplanes, cars, and cruise ships in comfort and style and arrive at their destinations often within hours. These same trips, as little as 100 years ago, would have taken months of uncomfortable dangerous travel (a word related to “travail”).
They talk to families and friends whenever they choose, by telephone. They, anytime it suits them, choose from thousands of options of entertainments to amuse themselves. Restaurants of every imaginable variety are available to satisfy their whims and desires for food and drink.
Yet we so easily forget this is all new. This is all recent. The world has never before been like this! As recently as one hundred and fifty years ago, no one had a car, a telephone, a computer, flew in airplanes, or had access to any of the thousands of luxuries which today we take for granted.
It is extremely hard for today’s pampered populations to imagine sleeping on the ground, going hungry most of the time, having almost no changes of clothing, travelling by foot or by horse, not having hot water in abundance or even clean water to drink or any of the other thousands of inconveniences of a more primitive lifestyle.
It never enters many of today’s people’s minds to consider what life was like as little as one hundred years ago. We can’t imagine enduring any of the “hardships” which the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants experienced daily, without interruption, for almost 6,000 years.
One result of this worldwide prosperity is that the world has become addicted. We have become addicted to ease and prosperity. We have come to believe that it is our right to live at this level of affluence which we enjoy today. It is something which is taken for granted and expected. No one imagines that anything could suddenly change.
In the 1930’s the United States experienced a financial depression. Suddenly many people were out of work, with no chance of an income or any way for them to support their families.
Some committed suicide. But most rolled up their sleeves and made out the best they could. They sold apples or pencils on the street. They took lowly, menial jobs. They worked hard to overcome the financial tragedy which had overtaken them.
But today, a financial collapse would have an entirely different result. Much of the world is pampered, spoiled, and addicted to leisure, ease, and plenty. They love their prosperity. If some sort of financial collapse happened today people would have an entirely different reaction. They would riot, even resorting to looting, robbery, and setting things on fire. They would scream and shout. There would be public protest and marches. They would demand that their government do whatever would be necessary to restore their ease and pleasure. The sooner, the better.
You see an addict does not behave like a normal person. Their dependence upon that to which they are addicted is so strong that they will do things which others people would not do. Today, the addiction of much of the world to prosperity and pleasure is acute. Be warned, when this is threatened or removed, people will do anything necessary to get it back.
Now this brings us to an interesting point. There is one substance upon which all this prosperity depends. There is one single product which enables all this luxury to continue – oil. Without oil, all this modern wealth and ease which so many enjoy would suddenly disappear. We depend upon oil to plant, to reap, to transport, to work, to travel and in fact to do almost anything which modern man does.
Modern man has become addicted to prosperity and simultaneously to the substance which makes this possible: oil. The world economy today and all the luxury and ease that goes with it, is completely dependent upon this “black gold.” Never before in history has the world been so completely dependent on one single product.
THE COMING BEAST
We have studied in the previous book in this series, Antichrist, about how the coming Beast will have his empire in the Middle East. He will unite ten nations in that region.
No doubt most, if not all of them, will be oil producing countries. Although he will not control all the world’s oil, it appears that he will control a very significant percentage of it. This then will put him in the driver’s seat. He will have the power to control the world financial situation.
Anyone who had power over a substantial part of the earth’s oil, could bring the nations to their financial knees in just a few days. Even the mere threat to cut off, let us say, 30% of the world’s oil, would spell economic disaster for all the “developed” nations.
The price of gasoline and diesel fuel would soar. Transportation and travel would stall. The price of all goods and services would shoot up beyond imagination. Everyone would be profoundly affected.
One hundred years ago, such an act would have had almost no impact whatsoever on the world economy. Oil was not an essential commodity. But today, the world is addicted. It has to have an uninterrupted supply of oil to fuel its prosperity and keep its citizens content. This too is part of the plan of God.
So we see that this spirit of prosperity which has come forth from God is an essential of the end-times scenario. It is necessary that the world arrive at this point for a Middle East dictator to be able to make his demands and have them met.
The world’s addiction to prosperity and, consequently to oil, is an essential element for the plans of God to be fulfilled. So, this spirit of plenty, prosperity, and abundance has come out from Him to prepare the earth for the end.
When and if this supply of oil and therefore prosperity is threatened or cut off, many governments and their people will quickly agree to anything to restore the “flow” that they need to maintain their addiction to the world and the things which are in it.
In the case of the coming man of sin, what he will demand from the nations to continue as usual will be things regarding his religion. All that will be necessary to continue to buy and sell as before will be to accept all or part of his religion. This conversion does not need to be heartfelt or deep. Any superficial sign of acceptance will suffice.
The nations needing to continue to receive the flow of oil/prosperity will only need to change a few small things. They will merely be required to pressure their own populations to receive the “mark” of conversion and then they can return to their self-indulgent lifestyles unhindered.
While you might imagine that it would be difficult to convert the whole world so quickly, you underestimate the power of addiction. Perhaps you have not understood how much power money has. When and if someone else suddenly controls all their money, many, if not most people will do almost anything to get it back. Those who have little, if any, moral commitment to God or others will be easily swayed. Very few are prepared to lose everything, including food, shelter, and even their lives, to remain faithful to Jesus.
WHEN THE FOURTH SEAL IS BROKEN
The breaking of this seal is extremely frightening. This horseman is called “death” and we are told that “hades” or “hell” follows him. He is given authority over a fourth part of the earth to kill. This killing is accomplished in four different and important ways. People are slain with: 1. the sword, 2. with hunger, 3. with death, and 4. with the wild beasts of the earth (Rev 6:7,8).
When this seal is broken, the time of relative peace and prosperity suddenly will end. Just when men were saying “peace and safety,” devastation breaks forth upon them. This, of course, is just the beginning of many great plagues and sorrows which will come upon mankind. When the fourth seal is broken, the comfortable situation in which we now live will end!
Please pay careful attention to this. Today’s situation of ease, comfort and prosperity will not last. It is not eternal. According to the word of God, it is going to end suddenly, painfully and dramatically. Once the fourth seal is broken, a series of increasingly frequent and devastatingly terrible events begin to come upon this earth. Don’t be caught unawares and unprepared!
Now let us consider this passage a little more carefully. What could happen to cause twenty-five percent of the earth to perish? It is not clear if “a fourth of the earth” is speaking about a quarter of the land area or a fourth of the population.
If this “fourth” means one quarter of the people, then we are looking at the deaths of well over one billion human beings. For that many people to die, something very large scale and tragic has to happen. If the “fourth” means land area, we are still speaking about the tremendous destruction of human life.
When we look at the causes of these deaths here, we can find some possible clues as to what this event might be. When people are being killed by wild animals in large numbers, for example, we must deduce that something extraordinary has happened.
Normally, wild creatures are afraid of humans. Although lions, large bears, and a few other animals can and do kill people from time to time, for this to impact millions or even billions of people is not normal. Perhaps we can learn something from this.
Large scale attacks by wild animals indicates that those who are being killed are in a very weakened state. It must be that due to disease, hunger or some other factor, they cannot defend themselves. Something has happened to greatly weaken these people physically.
Another thing which we can surmise is that these people are without shelter. Even a sick, weak person who is safe within their home will not be attacked by wild animals.
There are not many beasts in the world which are capable of attacking and killing a healthy man. But if men and women are outside without shelter and greatly debilitated from sickness, hunger, etc., there are many carnivores which might eat them.
This could be bears, dogs, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, ravens, buzzards, ants or any other number of different animals. Even house pets who are starving because they have lost their food supply will turn and eat their owners who cannot defend themselves.
Another clue we have as to what this horseman might signify is that hunger or famine is part of his arsenal. Famine must be caused by drought or some other interruption of the food supply. Although it is possible, it is difficult to imagine a drought which would impact twenty five percent of the world with the rest of the world unable to do anything to help. It seems logical therefore to suppose that this famine might be a result of the interruption of transportation and/or the food supply.
The method of killing which is called “the sword” seems easy enough to understand. This clue must indicate some kind of war.
Next, it seems interesting that some are killed with something called “death.” Since all dead people have died, this appears somewhat redundant to mention the word “death” here. Why does the Bible say that they are killed by “death?” Perhaps this is suggesting a kind of death which was unknown in those days. Possibly there is a cause of “death” being indicated here which is not caused by sickness, war, or famine.
Bringing all these clues together, one idea springs immediately to mind. All these things could easily be the result of nuclear explosions. Some kind of nuclear attack could produce all these effects.
To begin, many people would be killed immediately from such a blast or blasts. But many more “survivors” would suffer other effects. Among these effects would be “death” from radiation – a slow, painful kind of death which has been unknown until recently. Also, many would be weakened physically to the extent that they would be vulnerable to wild animals which seem to be more resistant to radiation.
Adding to this problem would be the lack of shelter and food. No doubt the food supply would be interrupted, since no one would be willing to come near the area where these explosions have occurred for fear of the radiation. This of course would cause the famine.
So here we have a possible explanation for the effects of the fourth horseman. A nuclear bombardment or attack and the resulting contamination by radiation would produce: the “sword,” “famine,” “death” and make people vulnerable to wild beasts. This horseman really deserves his names: “death” and hell or “hades.”
(Of course the above mentioned scenario is only an educated guess and should not be considered as the only possible explanation of such a disaster.)
Although it is impossible to predict the future without some direct revelation from God, there are a couple scenarios which might precipitate the detonation of a number of nuclear weapons. The most obvious one would be a war between nations who now possess such weapons. Any kind of larger scale nuclear exchange would produce all the results mentioned above.
Another possibility which is becoming ever more real in our present world is nuclear terrorism. As time goes on, the likelihood becomes ever more real that some group of terrorists could get possession of nuclear weapons and the means to use them.
The country of Iran, which is accused of supporting terrorism, is developing such weapons, including missiles. According to some recent news articles, they are also putting some of their missiles in cargo ships. Another development is that they are deploying very many mini submarines as attack vehicles.
Pakistan, which already has 50 to 100 nuclear bombs and the missiles to deliver them, is in a very precarious political state. As time goes on, it is not very difficult to imagine that some terrorist faction could gain control of and use such weapons.
From the book of Revelation, we can conclude that there will be a spirit who will be behind this death and destruction of one fourth of the world. This spirit is sent from God to do something which will prepare the world for the end. Certainly there is a spirit propelling the rise of terrorism in recent times. Also, such a spirit could certainly stir up some of the world’s superpowers to attack each other.
Whatever the cause behind the use of nuclear arsenals might be, the results would be the same. Any large scale attack or exchange of nuclear devices which would annhilate twenty-five percent of the earth’s population, would alter the power structure of the world. The balance of power would shift.
This would be especially true if the nations affected by this war were part of the “first world.” It is possible that nations which are powerful and influential today would be greatly reduced in population and military/political power.
Only a “large scale” attack would be able to annihilate one quarter of the world’s inhabitants or impact one forth of the world, therefore we must presume that this will be something widespread and drastic.
There is no doubt that if twenty-five percent of the world suffered such a catastrophe, this would have a significant impact on the nations who lost many of their citizens. This loss would include not only people but possibly also devastating effects on the infrastructure, including communications, energy, transportation, etc.
A NEW WORLD ORDER
Since becoming a believer over 40 years ago, I have frequently heard Christians worrying about “a new world order.” Linked with this fear are various theories that there exist one or several conspiracies involving powerful and wealthy men who are (or are trying to) control the world.
Names like the Bilderbergs, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Illuminati, the Skull and Bones Club, the Club of Rome and many more are bandied about. Many believe in these things blindly and religiously. They are completely convinced that these men are in league with the devil and that they are the ones who will eventually bring in the coming man of sin.
Here in the book of Revelation we see that indeed there will soon be a new world order. But it is not the new order which many are expecting and preaching about. Whether or not there exist such powerful groups trying to control the world or not will not make any difference. God Himself is soon going to send forth a spirit which has power to influence and change the world according to His plan. It is this spirit that will bring about “a new world order” which God has ordained.
Rich and powerful men will have no way to stop or even impede this spirit. It is very possible that the events of the fourth seal will remove their wealth, their power base and even their lives. If, as some insist, they are plotting and planning to control the world, this will come to nothing. There is no reason for any believer to waste time being concerned about them or “investigating” them.
It is possible that this coming destruction of twenty-five percent of the earth will involve countries which are called the “first world,” that is the wealthy and proud nations of the “west.” If this is so, then this would certainly cause a great realignment among the powers and nations of this world, especially if this impacted the “first world” very significantly.
Those who suffered much damage would obviously be in decline. Those who did not and still had many resources would certainly rise up. This will produce God’s “new world order.” It will set the stage for His plan for the last days.
One biblical clue we have that the nations devastated by the breaking of the fourth seal may be “western” ones is that the “kings from the east” (probably India and China) are not destroyed. Their armies are still intact much later on. We can know this by looking at Revelation 16:12, which may possibly be related to the armies and events of Revelation 9:16.
How then would this affect the “end times” which we have been studying? My guess is that it would prepare the way for the rise of the coming Beast. Perhaps nations which would have strongly opposed his rise to power would be weakened or eliminated by these events. The sudden power vacuum which would be created by catastrophic destruction in the “west” would open the door for many unexpected things to happen.
There is no doubt that this drastic change in the world situation will play into the hands of the devil and the man who will be his pawn in the end game, which will be played out at the close of this age.
So we may consider the possibility that the fourth horsemen/spirit comes forth near the conclusion of this age to cause a great, catastrophic event leading to the restructuring of the world powers. This then could facilitate the rise to power or the consolidation of power of the coming man of sin.
PEACE AND SAFETY
Brothers and sisters, whether or not my interpretation of these seals is correct, still the facts remain – we live in a time of great peace and prosperity, and someday, probably very soon, we know that this will be taken away. The second coming of the Lord will be preceded by a time of great persecution, destruction, and tribulation and it is for these things we must be getting ready.
This situation corresponds very closely to what the scripture says the situation at the end of the age will be. I Thessalonians 5:3 states: “When they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them... And they shall not escape.” Please note that this future destruction is both “sudden” and inescapable.
This passage reveals that when things begin to get bad, the event or events which precipitate this will be completely unexpected. The word “sudden” here is very important. This shows that the world situation will not slowly get worse and worse but something dramatic and very rapid will occur which is called “destruction.” An almost instantaneous change in the world picture will occur which will be the result of very great destruction.
There will be no warning. No notices will be sent out, beyond the few prophets whom God is using today. Those who are not walking in intimacy with the Lord will not have the foresight and foreknowledge to make preparations to avoid or survive this event.
There will be no recovery from this destruction. From that point on, things will only get worse and worse. The breaking of the fourth seal will just be the beginning of the judgments which will take place at the end of the age. What will follow will only get increasingly terrifying. The “birth pangs” will only get more severe and closer together.
HOW ARE WE LIVING TODAY?
Today many have almost everything they could desire. They are enriched in every way. Food, clothing, and the material things of life, are available to many in great abundance. Yet we are rapidly approaching the time of the fourth seal. And it is when this seal is broken, that the earth will suddenly begin to experience tremendous upheaval and destruction.
Let us therefore not allow ourselves to be lulled to sleep by our current ease and comfort. The day of the Lord is coming swiftly and we have been charged to make ourselves ready.
Anyone who is clinging to earthly things for security and spending his time being involved in the affairs of this life is going to be caught unaware. If we are spending our hours in leisure and self-gratification, we will not be prepared when these things begin to happen.
Today we have a great opportunity to use our present situation to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. Since our Lord has seen fit to provide us with so much should we not be using it to serve Him? What great spiritual needs there are in our world! How are we employing what He has given us to meet them?
This is probably the last great opportunity that Christianity will ever see to serve Jesus with so few restrictions. Dear readers, I challenge you before God to take advantage of today’s relatively comfortable environment and use it for all it’s worth to promote God’s kingdom before it is too late. Some time, perhaps very soon, “...the night [will come] when no man can work” (Jn 9:4). Once the judgments begin, serving the Lord will become limited to your immediate surroundings.
No doubt it is easy to suppose that the way things are today is the way things will always be. It seems as if nothing will ever change. But the Bible tells us clearly that this is not so. Someday, suddenly, all this will be dramatically changed. At that time many will be faced with important choices which they should have already made.
They will be forced to decide whether to follow Jesus or to do whatever they can to keep their security. They will be called upon to decide whether to receive the mark of the beast in order to keep the many material pleasures to which they’ve grown accustomed, or whether to trust God to supply them with everything. At this time very many will even have to die for the sake of Jesus’ testimony.
I’m afraid that due to the comfort of the hour many Christians have fallen asleep spiritually. They have become unaware of the urgency of the need, both in their own lives and in the lives of those around the world, for a complete submission to Jesus. The times which are coming upon us are going to be awful, terrible times. It is imperative that we spend our time right now getting ready.
Let us therefore disentangle ourselves from the affairs of this life. Let us not spend our hours or moments in ease and pleasure, but let us rather seek the face of God while He may be found, learn to live by Him, to trust Him, and to spend our time serving Him, so that when destruction begins to happen on every side, we will be ready.
"Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself, alone. But if it dies, it produces much fruit!
He who loves his soul life, will have it destroyed. But he who has a deep aversion to his soul life in this world, will have it preserved [through transformation] into the eternal life of God. John 12:24-25