The four horsemen of Rev. 6:1-8 are familiar, I am sure, to all of our readers. These four horsemen have been running through all of the New Testament age. We see them running not just in one part of the earth, but over the whole of the earth. We have definitely seen them running in the recent war with Iraq—but we hear of their effect in many other nations as well.
Briefly consider the four horsemen. The first rides a white horse. The rider has a bow, and a crown is given to him. The bow indicates the spiritual warfare in which he is engaged; the crown shows that victory is his. He goes forth “conquering and to conquer.” This horse with its rider represents the spread of the gospel over all of the earth. Generally, this horse and its rider have traveled from Canaan westward until today virtually all the nations of the world have heard the gospel. By means of this horse and its rider, God has been gathering His people from the whole earth. God does this through the labors of His church to send forth the Word to bring in His elect.
The second horse is red. Its rider has a great sword and is given power to take peace from the earth. This horse represents warfare as this is conducted through the ages. There is killing and destruction. The great sword shows this. The horse portrays what is obvious: throughout history there have been wars and rumors of wars (Matt. 24:6)
The third horse is black and its rider has in his hands a pair of balances. He is to measure out the barley and wheat but is instructed not to touch the oil and wine. Black portrays famine. The measure of the necessary grain for breads pictures the fact that many receive only the barest essentials. A “penny” is a day’s wages which could purchase only enough grain for one day. The “wine and oil” reminds of the luxury in which the rich revel. While the poor suffer and die of famine, the rich continue to enjoy their prosperity and abundance. This horse too can be observed as he runs through all nations and in all ages.
The final horse is “pale,” i.e. a pale green. Its rider is identified as “Death.” Hell follows after. The color of the horse is the color of death. The rider indicates also that we have set forth here the deaths which occur over all of the world and through all of time. None live forever. All must die and enter “hell” (which in this instance refers to the grave).
Concerning these four horses, let it be noted that they are part of the seven seals (followed by seven trumpets and then by seven vials) The seals (and horses) affect one fourth of the whole earth (trumpets affect one third, and the vials affect the whole). These represent the average—that destruction which is seen and heard throughout the history of the world.
One other fact ought to be noted. In each instance the horses with their riders are called forth “Come” (not “Come and see” as the KJV) One of the four beasts gives the command. That these go forth is, therefore, under the direction of God and at His command. This is true not only for the first horse, the preaching of the gospel. The other horses as well go forth at His command. There is not war, famine, death by accident—but this is under God’s Sovereign control. We must remember that when we hear of those things which take place about us today.
About a year ago, we were fascinated with the “Gulf war” that took place in Iraq. We heard of and saw the bombings—some directed with pin-point accuracy. We were amazed by the 100- hour battle in which the Iraqi positions were overrun. We could hardly understand the minimal amount of casualties that “our side” sustained.
The horses of Rev. 6 were running in Iraq. It is true that they are always running through the whole New Testament time. But we saw them run, shown in living color on television, when Iraq was defeated. We ought to have been fascinated not so much by the modern inventions used in warfare as by the fact that God’s Word was being fulfilled.
The first horse had run his course through that region many generations ago. The gospel had been proclaimed in Iraq and neighboring areas as well. There are, so we are told, churches and Christians in the land—though these consist of only a small percentage of the population.
The last three horses were (and are) running there in the service of the white horse which continues to run through the nations of the earth today.
The course of the last three horses is clearly seen in Iraq. War was carried out there with a vengeance. Hundreds of thousands, civilians and soldiers, were evidently killed. The final count has never been released. The red horse ran through Iraq.
The black horse is running there even now. We hear of reports of scarcities brought on by the war and by the oppressive regime of Iraq. There is an embargo upon trade with Iraq. The reports that come out of that land indicate that the citizens continue to suffer greatly. However, those in power live in luxury. Clearly the “wine and oil” are not hurt there. We are even told that the present embargo helps Hussein to remain in power–because the general populace is too poor and weak to rebel or object.
The pale green horse continues to run in Iraq too. Death has been seen there in all of its awfulness. There are the war deaths not only, but now those brought on by shortages of many vital materials.
One might even wonder if what is seen in Iraq does not indicate that we have an increase of all of these adversities from the fourth to the third mentioned in Rev. 8ff.
These horses are not only running in Iraq. We hear daily of their effect in Africa with its wars, famines, and drought. We hear of it in Yugoslavia and in the former U.S.S.R.
All of this tells us something. The message to the Christian is not that the U.S. is now the supreme power in the world—victor in the “cold war”. Whatever the case may be concerning this, we must recognize the realization of the counsel of our God. His Word is being fulfilled. We must not be taken by surprise by the events of our day. Rather, we are to look up and desire the return of our Lord.
There is too the call to diligence and faithfulness. When clearly the end of time approaches so rapidly, we ought to be faithful in life and walk. There ought to be the desire to search out the Word; to teach and preach that Word.
What effect are these world events having in your lives?