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.” 2 And I looked, and behold, a white horse ... 3 When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come and see.” 4 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; … 5 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. … 7 When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see.” 8 So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, Revelation 6:1-8 (NKJV)
The 6th chapter of the book of Revelation tells about four horsemen. These four represent the great enemies of mankind, and have been called “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Historically, they have been interpreted as plague, war, famine, and death. Events of the past few weeks make these prophetic images seem far more than symbolic – they are in the news.
The outbreak of the Ebola virus in Africa demands our attention. In case you don't know, Ebola is what is referred to as a hemorrhagic fever. That means it causes hemorrhaging in its victims. They literally bleed out as the virus attacks the vascular system. Death can come rapidly. It has a 90% death rate for infection! One day a slight headache; that night fever; then bleeding; sometimes within 24 hours the victim is dead.
The World Health Organization tells us that the Ebola outbreak in the West African nations of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia is “out of control.” Time will only tell how far the disease will spread and how many lives will be lost. This past week, Dr. Kent Brantly was flown out of Africa to Atlanta to be treated at Emory University Hospital under the care of the Centers for Disease Control. Dr. Brantly is a Christian missionary doctor who had been treating Ebola victims and has now contracted the disease. He is the first infected individual to arrive in America. P.S. please pray for Dr. Brantly, for his recovery and for his family.
As Christians, we see prophecy being fulfilled before our eyes. Plague and epidemic are scattered through the pages of history. The Black Death of the 14th Century took as many as 200 million souls. The influenza pandemic of 1918 killed between 75 and 100 million. Experts tell us Ebola could be as bad.
The fragility of life always points us toward God. In a moment’s time, the world as we know it could be radically altered. Revelation 9:18 says that by these apocalyptic plagues “a third of mankind was killed.” I am not saying Ebola is the fulfillment of this horrific prophecy. I am saying that such an epidemic lies ahead in world history.
What we are witnessing in West Africa reminds us of what’s truly important – our upward relationship with God through Jesus. In an unsafe world, He is our security and our hope.
Another horseman is showing himself. The dual situations of Israel and Ukraine put us on the brink of serious conflict.
I am by no means an international expert, so my words here are nothing but the observations of a concerned individual.
It seems that the spirit of Adolf Hitler has resurrected in the person of Vladimir Putin. No longer German, instead it is Russian nationalism and supposed superiority at work. It seems that President Putin is dead-set on Russian “manifest destiny.” He wants to re-gather the old Soviet Union and perhaps more. This was the course of Hitler in the 30’s to restore Germany’s pre-WWI lebensraum (“living space”). My prayer is that calm and deliberate intervention will prevent Mr. Putin from following through on his grandiose goals.
Alongside the Russian/Ukrainian debacle is the distressing developments between Israel and Hamas – the Gaza conflict. It is tragic in that civilians are dying. But the upshot could be massive criticism and isolation of Israel. AMERICA MUST NOT MOVE AWAY FROM ISRAEL.
The prophetic implications are huge. Once again, I do not know if the current conflict will escalate. I pray it will not. But, the destiny of Israel lies in the balance. Echoes of Armageddon may be in the air.
DEATH and FAMINE
Genocide hit new depths during the 20th century. It is almost unthinkable. The most widely known is the 6 million Jews of the Holocaust, but actually there is a bigger story around Hitler’s atrocities. The 6 million does not include the Gypsies, the Soviets, the Polish, the disabled, the mentally deficient, and others. Totals reach as high as 17 million.
Stalin’s Russia of the 1930’s killed upwards of 7 million. The worst was Mao Ze-Dong’s China from 1949-1969: 50 million! Add to these the Killing Fields of Pol Pot’s Cambodia – the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo – the list goes on. The Horseman of Death has gone out into the world.
The fourth horseman is famine. There is absolutely no reason why tens of thousands die from malnutrition – whether it be China, Somalia, Ethiopia, or India. It is an evidence not of crop failure, but of human failure. The depravity of man – the greed of leaders – has produced frequent images of frail bodies dying of hunger. One of the worst was the Irish famine of 1849-50. Underneath this and other such tragedies was politics.
THE PURPOSE OF PROPHECY
The purpose of all these prophetic events is not to frighten us. Rather it is to confirm us about what is truly important. While the world rocks on its axis, Christians have the responsibility of reminding the world of the only One who does not shake, does not waver, does not fail.
The purpose of prophecy is to keep us from being shaken while everything around us falls apart. As our world hurtles toward its ultimate destruction, we serve a God who prevails, who wins, whose Kingdom is forever.
There is one other Horseman in the Book of Revelation. We find Him in Chapter 19:11-16. When He comes riding on His horse, all the pretenders will be dismounted and defeated. This is the promise of Scripture. This is the reality underlying human history. This is what holds us steady while famine, plague, war, and death seem so powerful. We are riding with a different horseman. He is called the Word of God. He is named Jesus.