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The Four Horsemen


The Four Horsemen

Text: Revelation 6:1-8

You must not think of Revelation as linear history, – history written in advance for us. It is unlikely that’s the case. Revelation is not a history book, it is apocalyptic literature, and it is a series of scenes, overlapping in time, moving in parallel through the church age, and out into eternity to come, each scene revealing to us something more of God’s eternal plan and purpose, and each one ending further ahead in history, until at very end of the book we have the final state, a new heaven and earth. In this lesson we shall watch as the first four of the seals are opened, a passage often referred to as ‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”…


1 The Mighty Conqueror Rides Forth. V1-2

Let’s think carefully about two possible ways of looking at this verse.

Firstly, to whom is the living creature speaking? I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see. There are two possibilities. He could be speaking to John, inviting him to come and see what God has written in his plan for history. “Come and see.” He could be speaking to the riders. The words, “and see” are not in some of the Greek texts, and so the NIV and the ESV for example, simply read, “Come.” Hendriksen points out that the living creature is calling forth the rider on the horses, Thus the Creation calls forth in a loud, commanding voice COME, and the horseman rides forth. This command only occurs when the first four seals are opened and the horsemen ride forth, – so John is NOT invited to see seals 5 and 6 being opened. The decision, as they say, is yours!

Secondly, and more importantly, we must ask… Who is riding this white horse? Again there are two possibilities and they are polar opposites!

* It’s the antichrist! Some commentators, Puritans like M Henry, even 20th century commentators like Hendriksen, believe it is Christ, yet others, believe it is the antichrist! For example, Derek Thomas argues that the devil is a subtle imitator of religion, and his ministers often pose as angels of light, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15  So, Derek Thomas believes that this horserider is a parody of Jesus, a false Christ, to deliberately lead people away from God, and asks to consider why the Lord Jesus who was introduced in this scene in chapter 5, as the Lamb, would now introduce HIMSELF again, in chapter 6? You may well choose to take that point of view. It is perfectly legitimate. Personally I’m not so sure,

* It’s Christ Himself! Let’s look at the opposite theory, the position of Hendricksen and others, that this horseman is the Lord Jesus. How might we come to that conclusion? Let’s look at the text itself in verse 2, and firstly let’s see it through the eyes of people who saw horses as weapons of war…

* There’s A White Horse. No king would ride out on a white horse, he would ride a horse that was indistinguishable from all other horses. Yet this king is on a white horse, because this rider is already assured of the victory. Jesus won the victory at the Cross. Colossians 2:14-15

* He carries a bow. His arrows are the arrows of the conviction of sin, brought to bear by the preaching of the gospel, and the declaration of God’s word; arrows which piece to the very heart of men and women, and sting the conscience. These arrows strike those whom the Lord will save. The Lord applies his word to His people, and draws them to himself. So this horseman, riding the white horse has a weapon, and it is the gospel of free grace in Christ.

* He wears a crown. He is a king. It is interesting that we are exhorted by Paul to put on the whole armour of God, including the helmet of salvation. Ephesians 6:17 But this horseman, riding forth to do battle is not wearing a helmet of protection, he is wearing a kingly crown, the emblem of government and victory.

* He rides out, conquering and to conquer. This is important as we shall see in a few minutes. Christ has conquered, is conquering, and will conquer!

Now, with all that said, would you not agree with me, and with Hendricksen and with M Henry, that this first horseman is our Lord Jesus Christ, the mighty Victor? If so, then it is a great encouragement that this seal is opened first, and not last because we will need to have this image embedded in our minds as the remainder of the seals are opened.

2 Why We Must Trust this Mighty Conqueror.

The next three seals are now opened, and they are not good news. But isn’t this a picture of some future judgement?Well yes, – and no! All of these judgments are happening throughout history. READ Mark 13:8. Like the psalmist we sometimes ask, “Why do the wicked prosper?” But God is already pouring out judgement upon the wicked. In some sense, every natural occurrence is a chastening act of God. Was it John Calvin who said, “When God wants to punish a nation, he sends them wicked rulers?” If he’s correct, then this nation, and many others in the western world, are very much under the judgment of God, for we have extremely wicked rulers indeed. But let’s see what the judgment of God looks like:-

• There Will be Conflict. V

• There Will Be Scarcities and Famine. V

• There Will Be Sickness and Death. V7

These are common to every age. But notice notice that we will all suffer from these judgments. Christians will not be exempt, as long as we are in this world we too will suffer from the effects of sin, war, famine and sickness and death. We are not exempt from the miseries and distresses of this life. But we have a Saviour who rides out for us, who has conquered, and is conquering and will conquer, and has won and will win the victory over all our enemies. That’s why is was so important that the horseman who rode out first was the mighty conqueror himself, so that we his people can know that he is with us, bringing us through times of difficulty, and giving us the victory. Here’s Paul in

Romans 8:31-39 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? … 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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