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THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE
By MARK HITCHCOCK
Multnomah Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2004 Mark Hitchcock
All right reserved.
Chapter OneRIDERS ON THE STORM
Horses and horsemen are mentioned some three hundred times in the Bible. But there aren't any that even come close to being as famous as the four horses-white, red, black, and pale-ridden by the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
These four mysterious riders have always captivated the minds of men. We are drawn to them. There's something almost magnetic about their appeal.
They attract both believers and unbelievers alike. The scholar and the sensationalist. The passionate preacher and the merely curious.
Artists have been drawn to their imagery. I can't substantiate this with any hard data, but I believe that there are more artists' renditions of the four horsemen than of any other biblical image-except, perhaps, the Crucifixion and the Nativity. One of the most famous was painted by Albrecht Durer, a German artist of the Northern renaissance. In 1498, Durer created an artistic interpretation of the book of Revelation that included eighteen engravings of the Apocalypse. The most interesting of the engravings depicts the four horsemen. It's a stunning scene. The grim riders appear with dust clouds in their wake, trampling and destroying everything in their path.
Religious cults are also drawn to the four horsemenlike bugs to a porch light. In his last days on earth, a young man named Vernon Wayne Howell, aka David Koresh, the self-proclaimed messiah, was poring over the four horsemen of the apocalypse in his Branch Davidian compound in Waco.
Together with over a hundred followers, Koresh held police and federal agents at bay outside his heavily armed compound. Koresh believed he was Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, and the only one worthy and able to open the seven seals in Revelation 6 and bring about the end of the world. He believed that the events at his compound were the beginning of the end-and he was doing all he could to make this a self-fulfilling prophecy. The image of the four horsemen played over again and again in his warped mind.
Clearly, the four horsemen command people's attention. They should grab ours as well.
But as you get into this book you might be asking, "Why is this particular image so important? Why is it so vital for me to understand its message? Why have so many people focused attention on this vision down through the centuries?"
I would like to suggest four reasons.
The first reason for the magnetism of the four horsemen is the powerful, vivid symbolism that's employed. Or, what we might call "horsepower."
In the Bible, horses often represent power, might, and awe. For the Jewish people, the horse was held in great awe and reverence. I have to be honest-I, too, hold horses in great awe. I've never had a positive experience riding horses the couple of times I've given it a try. I think they somehow sense my anxiety because they always decide to "take me for a ride." They have my utmost respect.
Job 39:19-25 contains a dramatic description of the horse from the early days of man's history.
"Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane? Do you make him leap like the locust? His majestic snorting is terrible. He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength; He goes out to meet the weapons. He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; And he does not turn back from the sword. The quiver rattles against him, The flashing spear and javelin. With shaking and rage he races over the ground, And he does not stand still at the voice of the trumpet. As often as the trumpet sounds he says, 'Aha!' And he scents the battle from afar, And the thunder of the captains and the war cry."
Horses are awesome creatures. Nothing in the world can compare with the sight and sound of a herd of horses running at full throttle over the plains. Arguably, horses are the most beautiful creatures in the world. Nothing can touch their grandeur and majesty. Movies like Seabiscuit can move us to tears as we see the power, beauty, and drive of this regal animal.
Have you ever been to a racetrack and seen and heard the horses "coming down the stretch"? The rippling muscles. The flared nostrils. The thunderous sound. It's enthralling. Exhilarating.
The four horsemen are an awesome sight.
And a sight you never, never want to see.
The Night Riders of Zechariah
Second, horses represent more than just awe and respect in the Bible. Horses in the Bible frequently represent God's activity on earth and the forces He uses to accomplish His divine purposes. We see this clearly in the four horses mentioned in Zechariah 1:7-17 and 6:1-8.
In the earlier passage, the prophet sees a night rider on a red horse with red, brown, and white horses behind him. These four horses and riders are sent forth by God as a kind of horse patrol to "check things out" on the earth.
Again in Zechariah 6:1-8, the prophet sees four chariots, each drawn by different colored horses-red, black, white, and dappled. The four chariots come from between two bronze mountains. Bronze, in Scripture, often symbolizes judgment of sin. The four chariots are sent out to the north and the south to bring judgment on the nations who oppressed His people.
The imagery of the four horses in Revelation is undoubtedly connected to Zechariah's vision of different colored horses. From this obvious parallel, we know that the four horsemen in Revelation 6:1-8 are telling us something about God's coming judgment on the earth in the end times. This alone ought to grab our attention.
A third reason we are fascinated by these horsemen is their mystery. In each instance, when one of the angels cries "erkou" ("come"), a rider and horse gallop across the stage of history, summoned to thunder upon the earth. The imagery is striking, yet simple.
As the summons is issued to each horse and rider, one by one they hurtle across our world. And all it takes to describe these four riders is eight verses-two apiece. The brevity of each account leaves us wanting more. And most mysterious of all, none of the horsemen says a single word. They are mute. Each rides forth in complete silence. In another sense, however, they speak loudly to a world in desperate need of answers.
Scene One of the End Times
Fourth, the four horsemen are important and captivating because they introduce the dreaded seven-year Tribulation. They represent scene one of the drama of the ages.
Revelation 6-19 is the fourteen-chapter heart of the book of Revelation. These chapters contain twenty-one judgments that will be unleashed on the world during the coming seven-year Tribulation period, leading up to the glorious appearing of Christ in Revelation 19. The twenty-one judgments are divided into three groups of seven.
Seven seals. Seven trumpets. Seven bowls.
The severity and scope of these judgments boggles the mind.
But before the seven trumpets and seven bowls are poured out on the earth, there are seven seal judgments. And the first of these four seal judgments is the four horses and riders in Revelation 6:1-8. So as you can see, the four horsemen will get it all started. The real action of Revelation, of the seven-year Tribulation, is introduced with these four horsemen. Through these symbols, God depicts the unleashing of the first four great judgments of the Tribulation period.
For this reason, if we want to know what could be right around the corner for our planet, Revelation 6:1-8 is the place to begin. There's no more relevant passage for today in all of Bible prophecy.
The Calm Before the Storm
I'm excited, as I hope you are, to jump right in and identify these four horsemen. But before we look at each individually, we need (as always) to gain a basic understanding of the setting and context for this great prophecy. And the introduction to the four horsemen is found in the heavenly scene in Revelation 4-5.
Ironically, it will take a quick trip to heaven to show us what on earth is going to happen in the future.
Seven Trumpet Judgments of Revelation 8-11
First Trumpet (8:7) Bloody Hail and Fire: One-Third of Vegetation Destroyed
Second Trumpet (8:8-9) Fireball from Heaven: One-Third of Oceans Polluted
Third Trumpet (8:10-11) Falling Star: One-Third of Fresh Water Polluted
Fourth Trumpet (8:12) Darkness: One-Third of Sun, Moon, and Stars Darkened
Fifth Trumpet (9:1-12) Demonic Invasion: Torment
Sixth Trumpet (9:13-21) Demonic Army: One-Third of Mankind Killed
Seventh Trumpet (11:15-19) The Kingdom: The Announcement of Christ's Reign
Seven Bowl Judgments of Revelation 16
First Bowl (v. 2) Upon the earth: Sores on the Worshipers of the Antichrist
Second Bowl (v. 3) Upon the Seas: Turned to Blood
Third Bowl (vv. 4-7) Upon the Fresh Water: Turned to Blood
Fourth Bowl (vv. 8-9) Upon the Sun: Intense, Scorching Heat
Fifth Bowl (vv. 10-11) Upon the Antichrist's Kingdom: Darkness and Pain
Sixth Bowl (vv. 12-16) Upon the River Euphrates: Armageddon
Seventh Bowl (vv. 17-21) Upon the Air: Earthquakes and Hail
Excerpted from THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE by MARK HITCHCOCK Copyright © 2004 by Mark Hitchcock. Excerpted by permission.
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