If you were to lie down in bed tonight and God were to give you the same vision He gave John in Revelation 6, I guarantee you that you wouldn't look at your life the same way again. You wouldn't see the world in the same light. You wouldn't waste so much time in trivial pursuits. But the truth is God has given us this vision through Scripture. Will you let it change your life today?
Reading Tomorrow’s Headlines Today
Of all the animals on the planet that are interesting to watch, there is none more majestic to me than watching a horse at full gallop.
For several years, just beyond our back fence is a pasture where horses grazed. It was wonderful to be able to watch them. We could hear them in our breakfast room whenever they took off on a gallop, racing one another to the other end of the pasture; all it took was for one of them to start off, and in a split second all of them would take off and the thunder of hoof beats could be heard even when they were out of sight.
That land behind our house is now up for sale and in the meantime the owners are grazing cattle. Watching a cow run is not quite the same thrill.
Many of you ride horses . . . some of you own them. I know of one young lady in our church who competes in barrel racing at rodeos and competitions and is quite successful at it.
I have a great respect for horses. I personally think they somehow knew whenever I mounted one that they didn’t have to obey. I remember as a kid at camp riding a horse that turned out of the line and galloped all the way back to the barn with me hanging on to the saddle horn.
The last time I rode a horse, a couple of years ago, I was thrown. To be perfectly honest, I fell off . . . thrown sounds much more heroic. As I cantered along, the horse turned sharper than I did – that was my final ride. Now it’s a thrill to be on a riding lawnmower – that’s more my speed.
But I still love to watch a horse kick up its heels. Their strength and beauty and speed are marvelous things to watch.
And I happen to believe that the sight of a horse in full gallop will get the attention of just about anybody, anywhere in the world.
Without a doubt, the Four Horsemen that appear on the scene in Revelation chapter 6 represent the most famous horses of all time.
These thundering horses and their riders have captured the imagination of artists, politicians, skeptics, the church at large and even cult leaders for centuries.
I found it interesting that a young man named Vernon Wayne Howell, known to his followers as David Koresh, was literally obsessed with these Four Horsemen. He taught often from the Book of Revelation, claiming to be Jesus Christ, given the task by God to open the seven seals and bring about the end of the world. He and his followers prepared for Armageddon in their compound located in Waco, Texas.
His world did end, sadly, as he was killed in a standoff with officials and much of his compound was burned to the ground tragically taking his life and the lives of most of his followers.
In an ironic way, David Koresh and all those who claimed to be the Messiah before him and since him do fulfill the warning of Jesus Christ to his disciples in Matthew 24 that false messiahs would arise . . . culminating in the coming of the false Messiah, known as Antichrist.
I watched a news report just this past week where a man known as Yisrayl Hawkins has built a following of people who now await the beginning of the final battle. Semi-trucks filled with tons of food and water will allow these followers to survive the war and enter the Kingdom.
All because of their faith in Yisrayl Hawkins – in fact they’ve all changed their last name to Hawkins, believing that will help insure their entrance into the Kingdom.
I watched Mr. Hawkins say nationwide this week that the final nuclear war will begin on Thursday, June 12, 2008.
That’s this Thursday. So, if you’ve got a lot of laundry to do, you might wait until Friday . . . it won’t matter if he’s right.
Whatever war might break out on the 12th isn’t the final war, because the Book of Revelation clearly teaches that there are several events which will occur, namely in the Tribulation, before the final battle and the end of the world as we know it.
Among those events is the coming of four horsemen, who will first gallop across the earth at the command of heaven.
In Matthew 24, Jesus Christ clearly referred to consecutive events that would take place on the earth before the end of human history as we know it.
In fact, when you compare His Mount Olivet discourse to the seals in Revelation chapter 6, the timeline is clear.
Put up slide #1 here
In Matthews Gospel, the Lord responded to His disciples’ question, “Lord, tell us about the end of the age and when it will come.”
Jewish end times had predicted for centuries the coming wrath of God – the Day of the Lord – followed by a Messianic age – and age where Israel is restored to their land (Jeremiah 30:1-11).
The disciples had seen the miracles of Christ which demonstrated that He possessed the power necessary to transform the earth in the future Messianic age.
Renald E. Showers, Maranatha: Our Lord Come (Friends of Israel Publishers, 1995), p. 26
In fact, the Bible refers to His miracles as “the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:5)
The prophets had long before associated birth pangs with the trouble on earth preceding the Messianic age. (Isaiah 13 & Zephaniah 1 as examples)
Isaiah speaks of the anguish of humanity; they will be, he writes, “in anguish like a woman in labor.” (Isaiah 13:8).
Further on in verse 10 of that chapter he prophecies of a time when the stars and constellations will be darkened; the sun and moon no longer provide light . . . “the world will be punished for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity.”
These birth pangs or events have not been fully and literally fulfilled and will not be until the Tribulation period is underway.
In fact, Jesus Christ divided this time of judgment – the Tribulation – into two sections which He called, the beginning of birth pangs and, secondly, the great tribulation.
He clearly spoke of these early birth pangs which would intensify in horror and terror and trouble, as the first half; then even greater and more intense trouble in the second half, which He called the great tribulation, climaxing with His return to earth and the establishment of the Messianic age.
He told His disciples in Matthew 24:30, that at the end of this time of Tribulation, the whole world would see Him coming on the clouds.
By the way, the rapture of the church is not seen by the whole world – but His second coming will be.
In the rapture, only the church will be taken up to meet Him in the clouds – taken to the Father’s house (John 14); in His second coming, Christ will come in the clouds, not for His people, but with His people, seen by all the world, and set up His reign upon the earth.
Now, when you compare what Christ told His disciples in Matthew 24 with the opening of the first Tribulation seals in Revelation 6 you discover wonderful similarities – and they are anything but coincidental!
In Matthew 24 and verse 5, the birth pangs begin with worldwide deception. Jesus Christ says, “For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.
The absence of the church will evidently open the door to an even greater rise of deceivers, included among them the Great deceiver, the Antichrist.
The first horseman in Revelation 6 is the epitome of spiritual deception, seen in the coming Antichrist.
The Lord goes on in verse 6 to talk about unparalleled war around the globe – so much so that the rumor on everyone’s lips is talk of yet another.
This also corresponds to the second seal in Revelation 6 with the opening of the second seal and the coming of the Red Horse – representing war and bloodshed.
The Lord moves to the next trauma on earth – the 3rd birth pang – which is seen in the horrors of famine. This birth pang corresponds with the Black Horse in Revelation 6 known for the onslaught of famine.
Finally, the fourth horseman appears riding a pale horse which represents worldwide pestilence and death; corresponding with Christ’s earlier promise recorded in Matthew and Luke’s Gospel which reference untold death by earthquakes and pestilence – or disease.
These are the four birth pangs in Matthew 24; the coming thunder as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse gallop onto the scene.
Some would say that all these have already happened; in fact, the lot of mankind is disease, earthquakes, war and death.
Amillennialists who don’t believe in a Rapture or Tribulation period, among other events, say that these wars prophesied by Christ took place as Rome persecuted Christians in the early centuries.
The problem with their view is the simple fact that these Horsemen are not riding against Christians, they are judgments – birth pangs – which will plague the entire world, specifically causing humanity to curse God.
Adapted from Robert L. Thomas, Revelation: Volume 1 (Moody Press, 1992), p. 425
You also need to know that Christ didn’t say that these things wouldn’t exist before the Tribulation, that there wouldn’t be any disease or war or death until the Tribulation. What He did say was that in increasing pain and suffering, like a woman in labor, these events will increase with growing intensity.
The unfolding of these horrors in all their terror and worldwide scope is yet future. Even Christ clearly allowed His disciples to understand that the desecration of the Temple was yet future.
In fact, Christ clearly said that these first birth pangs (false messiahs, global warfare; growing famine and poverty; death by natural disasters increasing) all of them would take place before the Temple was desecrated by the Antichrist. And to this day, the temple is yet to be rebuilt for that to take place and literally be fulfilled. (Matthew 24:15; Daniel chapter 9).
Consider the fact that the Apostle John, who had heard Christ deliver the Mount Olivet discourse here in Matthew 24, was the same person seeing the vision of the Four Horsemen in Revelation 6. He understood the obvious; the same Lord was prophesying the same future events using the same language; prophesying them in the same order, clearly having in mind the same period of Tribulation.
Adapted from Kendall H. Easley, Holman NT Commentary: Revelation (Holman, 1998), p. 105
No wonder authors have referred to Matthew 24 as the Little Revelation – the Condensed Apocalypse and the Book of Revelation the Expanded Apocalypse.
Thomas, p. 416
By the way, the word Apocalypse simply means, Revelation.
Now, let’s review:
- The first birth pang is a proliferation of false Messiahs, corresponding to the White Horse.
- Global wars corresponds next to the Red Horse.
- Famine and poverty correspond to the Black Horse.
- And widespread death corresponds to the Pale Horse.
- So the first birth pangs correspond with the Four – Horsemen.
Alright, enough of an introduction . . . turn to Revelation chapter 6 and verse 1.
1. Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come! 2. And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering and to conquer.
This is the opening seal – and the thundering of the first horseman to planet earth on a white horse.
Although John saw a white horse and a mute horseman riding him, this horseman represents the culmination of counterfeit messiahs.
If you want three words to identify the coming of this horseman, these three words will sum up his initial rise to power.
Peace – Partnership – Protection
He doesn’t come to begin war, because according the events that Daniel prophesied and John sees, the Tribulation begins with a peace accord – a peaceful time.
There’s no peace today . . . and the world would love to have peace today – where? – geographically one place more than any other place occupies the thinking and growing frustration of the civilized world – peace in the Middle East.
This rider will come and actually broker peace.
We’re reading tomorrow’s headlines today . . . here in this text. The world clamors for peace and suddenly, someone will arrive who can deliver!
No wonder millions will hail him as the Great Leader. Everyone else has failed – he will succeed.
And the world is waiting and watching!
The Shiite branch of Islam believes in the existence of a final Imam – a 12th Imam who will come and usher in peace in the Middle East if not the whole world.
The President of Iran recently prayed openly at the convening of the United Nations for the soon appearing of this Imam – which is the title for a religious leader in Islam.
While Americans can’t pray anywhere publicly in the name of Jesus, at least not out loud, the President of a growing world power unapologetically prays for the coming of His spiritual leader. He opened his speech at the United Nations on September 25, 2007 by praying, “Oh, God, hasten the arrival of Imam al-Mahdi and grant him good health and victory and make us his followers...”
Can you imagine George Bush opening his speech at the United Nations by praying, “Oh, God, hasten the arrival of Jesus Christ and make us his followers.”
He would be publicly denounced and probably have to issue an apology.
There’s more to it than an opening prayer, but the way.
Followers of the Shiite Branch of Islam follow men they believe to be the descendants of Mohammed. These Imams are the guardians of the Koran and have the right as spiritual leader over the world.
They believe that in the 10th century, the 12th and last Imam disappeared, actually taken by God and hidden away – kept alive and well – until the end of history to lead an era of Islamic justice and peace.
The current president of Iran is overseeing the building of a mosque, specifically for the use of this 12th Imam whom is supposed to appear from God at any time.
The rider of the white horse will fit the profile of a man of peace – with divine powers and tremendous intellect – claiming Divine authority; capable of brokering a peace that will settle the Jerusalem question, even allowing the Temple to be rebuilt.
Israel will finally have peace
That’s what leads some to suggest that this rider has to represent the gospel . . . or Jesus Christ Himself. Only the gospel, or the Son of God can pull off that kind of peace and partnership and protection for all the people in the Middle East.
There are similarities.
In Revelation chapter 19, Christ is seen riding a white horse and He comes to conquer. When He comes He will certainly bring peace to the world.
But there are several textual reasons I don’t believe this is Christ. Many more, in fact than I’ll take time to mention in our study.
First, their weapons are different.
The horseman of Revelation 6 comes, carrying a bow where Christ comes in chapter 19 with a sword smiting his enemies.
In fact, the rider of the White Horse carries no arrows – just a bow.
This symbolizes the rise of antichrist in a series of bloodless victories – political victories as he assumes leadership of the revived Roman empire. The bow certainly indicates the threat of war, one author wrote, but in this first seal, war isn’t the result, peace is the result.
Mark Hitchcock, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Multnomah, 2004), p. 46
The Antichrist will deceive the world into believing he is a man of peace – “I’ve got a gun, but look, it’s not even loaded!” And the world will fall into the devil’s trap.
Secondly, not only are their weapons different, but their crowns are different as well.
The text reads in verse 2b, “and a crown was given to him…”
This rider on the white horse in chapter 6 is wearing a stephanos (stefanoV) – a victors crown made of leaves which withers and eventually dries up and away.
In fact, the verb edothe (edoqh) – “was given” – a crown was given to him – is a verb used often in Revelation to speak of divine permission for evil powers to carry out their wicked mission. It’s a temporary crown.
And mark this point – he is given his temporary position by God. This rider will ultimately fulfill the purposes of God.
He might be riding a white stallion, but his horse is on a leash. And the other end of that leash is in the hand of our sovereign Lord.
The crown Christ wears in chapter 19 is a diadema – the crown of royalty and of Kings.
Thirdly, the length of their influence is different.
The rider of the White Horse will gallop in and bring 3 ½ years of peace. What wonderful relief.
But it’s a false peace . . . peace before the coming storm – and the storm will come. But people won’t care for now . . . they won’t heed the warning signs. They will accept peace at any price.
The appeasement of Adolph Hitler is now clearly chronicled in History, revealing the amazing ability of mankind to blind themselves to the truth in an effort to have peace – even peace promised to them by the demonically inspired Hitler.
In the Biography of Winston Churchill, I read of Neville Chamberlain’s naïve attempts to keep Hitler from advancing in his global conquest. This Prime Minister traveled to Germany at least on two occasions to placate Hitler and try to get assurance of peace for Great Britain.
On his second visit, while the western world was holding it’s breath, Hitler actually signed a pledge promising in effect, not to harm England. When Chamberlain returned to England he was a hero, streets were lined with cheering crowds . . . he said to his countrymen, “Peace for our time” and everyone sang his praises, except for one man – Winston Churchill – who said that Hitler was a snake preparing to strike.
Later when Churchill rose to speak to Parliament, decrying the pledge as nothing more than a sham he was actually shouted down.
A few years later, Great Britain would be brought to the brink of annihilation by the bombers of Germany; the pledge of peace was an empty promise from a man who never meant to keep it.
Adapted from William Manchester, The Last Lion: Alone; 1932-1940 (Little, Brown & Co., 1988), p. 360
But the world desperately wanted peace.
There is no doubt that there will be doubts and wondering about the true character of this Horseman . . . but blinders will be put on and cheering crowds will hail the man who promises peace to Israel and he seems to be the first man ever who can broker peace in the Middle East.
In a matter of a few years, Israel will see this demonically empowered man violate his pledge and unleash suffering and death they have never experienced in any prior holocaust.
This is not Christ . . . this is a false Christ – antichrist.
When Jesus Christ – the True Messiah rides onto the scene in Revelation chapter 19, he ushers in 1,000 years of peace – known as the Millennial reign.
A kingdom that will then command worldwide victory at the final battle and usher in the New Heavens and a new earth.
The first rider promises peace – and it lasts around 42 months.
The second rider brings peace – and it lasts 1,000 years.
There’s another distinct difference between these two riders on white horses: fourth, they are referred to differently in the text.
John observes this mute rider in chapter 6 who thunders from the sky on a White Horse with nostrils flaring and hooves flashing and refers to him simply as “a rider”.
In chapter 19, we read that this White Horse rider who comes thundering onto the world scene is none other than the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
Finally, what they commence in their coming is totally and drastically different.
- The first rider comes to commence the Tribulation.
- The second rider comes to commence the Millennial Kingdom.
- The false messiah rides in as the birth pangs begin . . . triggering the chaotic time of labor pains and great tribulation for seven years.
- The true Messiah rides in as the tribulation ends, bringing in the Messianic age and 1,000 years of majesty upon the throne of David, with His saints overseeing the Kingdom with Him.
The only permanent peace – the true Prince of Peace has yet to arrive on His white stallion, leading the saints with Him to the glory of His Kingdom which shall usher in amazing conditions on planet earth that we can hardly imagine. We can only anticipate it and it is coming.
The next horseman to arrive, which we’ll look at in our next discussion, rides a red horse.
Red is a fitting color because blood will flow in the path of its galloping hooves.
Before we say farewell to the White Horseman, let’s draw some needed warnings for today . . . observe and learn from the arrival of this skilled deceiver.
First, deception works because it models as much of the truth as possible.
Like that man in the news today who had his Bible open, turned to the Book of Revelation – announcing the coming of terrible war.
He’s right – war is coming, the likes of which we’ve never seen.
Then he said it will be a nuclear war. Maybe . . . maybe not.
Then he said it will start on June 12, 2008 . . . that’s this coming Thursday. No it won’t. Not the war he mentioned in Revelation.
Because Four Horses must gallop in first; the Middle East must enjoy security and temporary peace first . . . and so much more.
And unless that starts to happen tomorrow, there’s not enough time for the final war to commence on Thursday.
He’s right on one count – war is coming.
He’s wrong on assuming the weapons used.
And he’s wrong on declaring the date. He said, “June 12th is in the hidden codes”. That brief statement gives us a little clue on where he’s getting his information. It’s in the hidden codes. He said, I expect this nuclear launch to begin on June 12th.”
What’s amazing to me is that this man already announced that nuclear war would begin twice before. Why don’t people read the resume’s of prophets.
He’s also facing a trial in Texas for bigamy; he’s charged with having multiple wives – marrying or at least begin sexually involved with perhaps as many as 30 women in his following.
From what I researched about this false teacher, there were hundreds of people in Kenya who believed him in his last prophecy that nuclear war would begin September 12, 2006. They sold their land, their pets, their homes – they moved into in basement bunkers, armed with gas masks and barrels of grain – the end didn’t come and they returned home humiliated and their faith in the Bible considered a disgrace.
Well, right now ladies and gentlemen, there are dozens of semi tractor trailers parked on this man’s compound, stocked with food and water, where all his followers await the beginning of the end of the world.
Seeds of truth . . . but bushels of deception that leads to distraction; the loss of focus and integrity; even immorality as blinded people ignore the cover up of delusion and greed; and worse yet, a public disgrace on Bible believers everywhere who claim to believe in this Book.
Deception works because it uses biblical terminology . . . biblical concepts . . . and pride and immorality and greed can cover up the true motives of those deceiving and those . . . deceived.
Not only does deception model as much of the truth as it can; secondly, deception has always been a choice weapon of Satan.
Remember, it was his first weapon of choice, centuries past in the Garden of Eden.
Maybe you’d be the last person on the planet to fall for some guy who says nuclear war is coming – you’d never buy supplies from him and hide out with him on the ranch. You’re wary of deception like that . . . you’d never cave in to that nonsense.
Maybe for you it’s a different kind of deception; a deception just as distracting, if not deadly to your testimony and integrity and passion in life.
We’re all too prone to this kind of deception because of the willing accomplices of our fallen flesh and wayward minds.
Here’s one of his favorites:
- The grass is greener over there . . . no, over there . . . no, no . . . over there!
Here’s another popular one among church goers even:
- God wants you happy first and foremost . . . do what makes you happy. All that stuff about holiness and discipline . . . man that kind of talk will only hold you down.
Or . . .
- Believe in yourself . . . all the answers you need are inside you.
Or . . .
- Whatever you want, you should have . . . just speak it . . . go for it . . . and don’t hang around people who rain on your parade by saying maybe you shouldn’t have it.
One more . . .
- Don’t get so hung up on guilt and sin . . . you’re only human . . . um, I know I told you earlier that you were divine – never mind that, when it comes to sin, you’re only human! That’s it, you’re only human.
Listen, deception is so powerful in turning our eyes on others, or on ourselves . . . ultimately away from Christ.
That’s why it’s critical to daily surrender to the authority and word and will of God.
Maybe you’re wondering, “Where will I stand in these future days?” That’s not the question to ask. The question is, “Where are you standing today?”
Charles Kettering once wrote, “I am interested in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.”
John F. Walvoord, Armageddon, Oil and Terror (Tyndale, 2007 revised edition), p. 1
Where are you going to spend the rest of your life? Even more importantly, where are you going to spend eternity?
Don’t follow just any white horseman . . . he may be leading you away from Christ.
It is the word of God which announces this assurance, “These things I have written unto you that you might know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)
Do you know?
Well, how do you know? John wrote earlier, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life and this life is in His Son – whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12)
Listen don’t hitch your wagon to the wrong horse!
One white horseman leads to everlasting death . . . the Son of God – the coming Horseman on His white stallion, leads to everlasting life.