You are currently viewing The four horsemen

The four horsemen

When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, ‘A kilogram of wheat for a day’s wages, and three kilograms of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!’

It was back in October 2019 when we read Revelation 6 in church.  This famous passage describes four horsemen, representing four sets of calamities in the world.  A white horse, representing military conquest; a red one, representing war; a black one, representing food scarcity (as in the inflation mentioned in the verses above); a pale one, representing death, including by plague.
It was all interesting stuff, but in 2019 did it lack a certain immediacy? Didn’t this part of the Bible belong to a bygone age, rendered irrelevant by science and democracy?
Not any more.  March 2020 brought the pandemic.  Two years later, just as we emerged from Covid, Russia invaded Ukraine.  Thousands more deaths followed, and, in addition, for the first time in a generation, food prices rose alarmingly.  From poorer nations, we began to see pictures of starvation.  In just two years, the four horsemen began to seem far more relevant.
In which case, the obvious question is: what is their message?  Horsemen are often messengers, and so they are here.
In Revelation 6, there is a crescendo of events, signified by the opening of six seals on a scroll.  The first four opened seals release the four horsemen; a fifth seal is opened so that we hear the martyrs’ cry for justice; then a sixth seal is opened, bringing in God’s devastating final judgment.  The horsemen are precursors for the final judgment, and in some sense messengers of it.
They show us why God needs to judge the world.  Much of the suffering envisaged is the result of human sinfulness.  The current devastating plague in Somalia is related not only to climate change but to civil war there, and the rising prices of grain due to the invasion of Ukraine.  Isn’t this a world that cries out for God’s justice?
But the horsemen also show that God will act in judgment.  He allows these things to happen so that we will grasp that all is not well between our God and the world, even though, tragically, many don’t get the message (see Revelation 9:20).
However, some do.  The final seal in the sequence is not in fact the final judgment but a picture of a vast multitude from every nation, who have found forgiveness in Jesus, through His shed blood.  The horsemen are there to drive us to the cross.
Our message – of real danger and real hope – has never been more relevant.