I started this enquiry in response to the question, could God be behind coronavirus? Could coronavirus be some form of judgement from God or a sign of ‘End Times’? To answer that in relation to ‘End Times’ we want to know what ‘End Times’ will look like. A decision we make at this point will have a strong bearing on our view of ‘End Times.’
In my previous Reflection I looked at the first of the four horsemen in Revelation 6 – the rider of the white horse – and thought about who he is. I thought the evidence pointed towards him being Jesus, but there are certainly other possibilities and I want to be open to them. Today I’m going to consider another possibility. It’s one that we can make a strong case for. It is that the rider of the white horse is a kind of spirit of conquest.
There is, without any question, a close correspondence between Jesus’ teaching on ‘End Times’ in Matthew 24 and the actions of the four riders in Revelation 6.
Jesus speaks of wars and rumours of wars and Revelation speaks of conquest (the white horse). Jesus speaks of strife (‘nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom’ etc) and Revelation speaks of strife (the red horse, takes away peace). Jesus speaks of famines and Revelation describes a famine (the black horse). Jesus speaks of tribulation and death, and Revelation speaks of death (the pale green horse). Although there is no mention of persecution of believers in connection with the pale green horse, it’s clear from the following verses in Revelation 6 that there has been martyrdom.
So, there is certainly a close correspondence between Matthew 24 and Revelation 6. However, if we choose to directly match these accounts up, there is a consequence! Jesus tells us (24:6 ) ‘And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, BUT THE END IS NOT YET.’ These wars and rumours of wars that Jesus is speaking of are not part of ‘End Times’! Jesus says, ‘there will be famines and earthquakes in various places … All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.’ Early labour. No reason to get too alarmed.
If we align the four horsemen with Jesus’ statements, then the rider on the white horse corresponds to the wars and rumours of wars Jesus has spoken about – which are not part of ‘End Times’ at all. Similarly, the famine that comes with the black horse corresponds to famines which Jesus says will happen in various places. Is he referring to famines and earthquakes in general? These famines are only the beginning of birth pains. So they are not really part of ‘End Times’ either.
Is that how we see these horsemen? Have they been with us for 2000 years or so in the form of conquest, strife, famine and death? Perhaps we have been in ‘End Times’ all this time! Or should we expect ‘End Times’ to be marked by a dramatic change?
Let me first note that we don’t have to align Revelation 6 with Matthew 24. Just because the two passages speak about similar events doesn’t mean that they are the same! Sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence are ‘standard’ ways God acts in judgement (see Ezekiel 14:21). Just because the Big Mac I eat at one McDonald’s is similar to the Big Mac I ate at another doesn’t mean it’s the same one!
Second, I think we should expect a dramatic change. In Revelation 4, the heavenly court sat. In Revelation 5, there’s a scroll. The court has decided. Jesus takes the scroll. In Revelation 6, he starts to open its seals. Given what happens, it’s clearly a judgement. The four horsemen are sent out following this act of judgement by God. Although there has been terrible war, strife and famine over the past 2000 years, the period we have been in doesn’t feel like a time of judgement by God. It feels like what Jesus described in Matthew 24 when he spoke about ‘wars and rumours of wars’ [which] ‘must take place, but the end is not yet.’
Also, what do we make of Revelation 6:8? The four riders ‘were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth.’ Does that mean that they actually kill a quarter of the earth?! The verse doesn’t say this. However, if the verse means this, then it certainly doesn’t apply to the past.
So, I’m continuing to take the four riders as being in the future – but I’m stepping forward cautiously.
Have a good day!