Summary: A summary of seals 2 through 5.
A PICTURE OF HISTORY (PART 2)
THE RIDER OF THE RED HORSE (Vv. 3-4)
Here we see the second seal being opened and a second horse coming into view. And just like the first horse, this one also had a mission. It’s mission is “to take peace from the earth.” John lived in the day of “Pax Romana.” This was a time when many believed that warfare had been banished from the civilized world. But John now realizes that this is a false dream. As long as men rule the earth, there will be no peace. I once heard someone describe peace as that brief moment when everyone stops to reload.
From John’s day to today, there hasn’t been peace on the earth. And there won’t be peace on the earth until Jesus comes again and rules over us. What this means is that God is actually in control of war. He wasn’t surprised by the armies of Napoleon. He didn’t start biting His nails with the coming of Hitler and his Nazi regime. Because of this fact, we don’t have to be afraid armies, powers, governments or men. The God of the universe is stronger than all the powers on earth combined.
THE RIDER OF THE BLACK HORSE (Vv. 5-6)
This third horse is a black horse, and it represents conditions on earth just like the others.
1. A Symbol of Economy: “he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand” (v. 5).
Scales were to the ancient world what a cash register is to the modern world. Therefore, this third horseman is going to deal with the economic condition of the world.
2. A Symbol of Financial Difficulties: "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius" (v. 6).
A denarius was considered to be a fair day’s wage for a Roman soldier. Remember in the parable that Jesus told of the landowner who hired the workers, he paid them a denarius for their day of work (Mt. 20:2).
A quart of wheat was considered to be enough food to last for the day. So in other words, this is describing a situation in which a person has to work for an entire day just to feed himself. That being the case, this person wouldn't be able to adequately feed his family. However, this living creature declares that three quarts of barley can be bought for a denarius. Now barley wasn’t as good as wheat, but it was edible.
This is all about economic hardship cause by inflation. Maybe you’re thinking, “Now wait a minute, things aren’t that bad. I’m not suffering any real hardship." It be that you fall into the next category.
3. A Symbol of Prosperity: "and do not harm the oil and wine" (v. 6).
Oil and wine symbolize the comforts of life. When most people are experiencing economic hardships, there are still some who enjoy an abundance of food as well as the luxuries of life. Jesus said that we will always have the poor among us. But there’s another side to that coin…we will always have the rich among us as well. No matter how bad things get, there will still be those who are rich. And no matter how good things get, there will still be those who are poor.
THE RIDER OF THE PALE HORSE (Vv. 7-8)
We don’t have to wonder who this last horseman is because the text tells us who he is. His name is Death and he has a companion…Hades. Have you ever considered the statistics concerning death? One out of every one person dies. Death is no respecter of persons, but this horseman’s authority is only able to reach a portion of mankind and his dominion is limited to hunger and violence.
Now back to our original question from last week…What does God want for us to understand from these four horsemen? Are they a sign of things to come? I don’t think so…I believe that they’re part of God’s plan from the moment of John’s vision until now. Every generation has witnessed the activity of these four horsemen.
We’ve seen the preaching of the gospel and the conquest of Christianity. We’ve seen wars and rumors of wars. We’ve seen major changes in the economic scene. We still have the poor and the rich with us, and we continue to be surrounded by violent death in our society. These aren’t just visions of the future, they’re visions of the past and visions of the present also.
This is a very bleak picture that John has painted for us to say the least. While we rejoice at the gospel of Christ, we shudder at the thought of war, economic collapse, and violent death. But we need to remember that God’s the One sitting on the throne and He’s in control.