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.
THE FIFTH SEAL (Vv. 9-11)
As we read these verses, John witnesses the opening of the fifth seal. He’s already seen the opening of the first four seals. The first seal pictures Christ and His church, sent to conquer Satan’s dominion in the world. The second seal represents the results of this spiritual battle. The third seal reveals an economic collapse. And the fourth seal holds the most terrible picture so far…violent death. Now, as we come to the fifth seal, it’s introduced, not by a horseman, but by an altar.
I want you to notice that this is the first time that John has mentioned an altar. He’s described other things that you would’ve seen in the temple such as the lamp stand, the bronze laver and the mercy seat , but up to this point he’s not mentioned an altar. Usually, the altar in the temple would be for offering incense (the prayers of the saints). But here, this altar contains the souls of martyred believers gathered under it. These are the ones who had been put to death because of their witness of Christ. Listen to their prayer: (v. 10)
They are asking a question that many people ask today: Why does God allow sin to continue? Why doesn't He stop bad things from happening? The answer is found in the patience of God. Go ahead and turn with me to 2 Peter, chapter 3:
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us,[a] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
Before we start to ask questions like, “Why does a loving God allow bad things to happen to good people?” We need to remember that there are no good people. We’re all sinners who fall short of the glory of God. But when we mess up, God doesn’t strike us down with a bolt of lightning. No, He’s a patient God; He’s waiting for a time of future judgment because He doesn’t want anyone to perish.
Let me ask you a question. If God were an impatient God, what would’ve happened if He had decided to punish your sinful nature just one day before you came to know Christ? You would’ve been judged and condemned to an eternity in hell! The reason that you’re saved today is because God has been patient with you.
And the fact the were still here is because He’s still waiting for others to come to Him in faith. But He won’t wait forever. There’s coming a day when judgment will come and the Lord will return to judge those who’ve rejected His salvation. There’s coming a day when the earth with all of its wickedness will be destroyed. Listen to the next verse in 2 Peter 3:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10).
So what should our response be to this terrible vision? What effect does this teaching of God’s wrath have in our lives? I’ll tell you what it’s not for…It’s not here to satisfy our curiosity about things of the future. That’s not what prophecy is about. Prophecy is all about bringing change in our lives. Two more verses in 2 Peter and we’ll close:
Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the long suffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you (2 Peter 3:14-15).
The response to this teaching of God’s wrath is twofold. Our first response should be inward, it concerns our personal lives. Once we see God’s attitude concerning sin, it should produce an effect in our lives. We are to be spotless, blameless and free of sin. God’s wrath is motivation to personal holiness. Our second response should be upward, it concerns our view of God’s patience. When we see sin going unpunished, we shouldn’t be discouraged. Instead, we should see it as a sign of God’s patience which we’d be lost without.
Maybe you’re here tonight and you’ve suffered a wrong that has not been made right. Maybe you’ve been stepped on more times than you can count. Maybe you’re always getting the short end of the stick….You’re seeing God’s patience at work.