Who Are the Four Horsemen

You Asked For It Series Sermon #2
~Who Were the Four Horsemen?~
Tyson Graber, Herscher Christian Church
January 16, 2011
Revelation 6:1-21
    

There is just something special about hearing or reading a marvelous story.  Like many people I enjoy a good movie but there are few things that are more amazing than the theater of the mind when I come across a grand story.  I have found that the best stories can make a difference in our lives. 

I prefer it when stories end with a happy ending.  It might make me a little bit of a softy but I like it when there is a happy ending.  I enjoy the words and they lived happily ever after but there is a part of me that likes it even more when at the end of a good story the bad guys get what they got comin to them, if you know what I mean.
 
As a young boy, and even now, I have loved to listen to my grandparents tell stories of what it was like when they were growing up and raising their families.  I have heard stories about state champion basketball teams, stories about working all year for less than a $1000.  Stories about the fun of trying to bring up 8 boys and 8 girls in a house with four beds.  Stories about having times in their lives when it seemed all they really possessed was love and other stories of the seasons of blessings with perfect crops, but not having enough room to store all of them.

Many of the stories that I have heard from my grandparents have inspired me over the years, and helped shaped me to make me who I am.  I would guess that many of you have heard some stories that have helped shape your life.

A good story will often help prepare us for our future and they teach us about truth. The Bible is full of just such stories, that teach us about faith, love, hope, trust, death, and life.

I would challenge you to listen to all of the stories from God’s Word, but there is something extra special about the story we are about to share in today.  You see, within God’s Word there is a very special story from the Lord Himself that was recorded by His servant John.  It is called Revelation or the Revelation of Jesus Christ and it starts in this way.

READ Revelation 1:1-3

There is a very special blessing for those who are open to the truths and hope in this story.  At the same time, there is a great warning of punishment to those who handle this story and these Words lightly.

READ Revelation 22:18-21

There are heavy consequences for anyone who manipulates these words for any purpose. 

Revelation and its story is simply amazing.  It takes us from the very throne room of heaven to the very dark depths of hell,  and most places in between. 

With all of that said, it is impossible for us to fully do justice to this story of the Revelation  in one sermon.  I want you to know, I have not prepared more for a message (as far as time spent in research and reading) than I have for this one sermon in a long time because of the importance and difficult nature of this book.

This current sermon series title seemed very appropriate for me this week because there have been more than a few times when I asked myself  while studying today’s passage ..., “You actually asked for this?”

With that said,  I pray God will give us clarity about His purpose in this book today.  At the same time, I realize many of us, including myself,  will leave here today with more than a few unanswered questions.   I want you to know my purpose is to not explain all of the intricate symbols found in this book, but I am excited to share with you the truth from God concerning the end times.

Here is the bottom line from what I believe, here is one of the Capital ‘T’ truths from God that we can learn about the End Times, and that you need to know. 

Because of the sin in this fallen world, many terrible things will happen that will bring many, if not most people, great fear.  But, those who have placed their faith in Christ Jesus, and Him alone,  will have an eternal future.  And even though things will continue to become much worse in this world, Christ is coming to claim His church.

Today, the part of the story that we will focus on is found in Revelations 6 - 8.  It points to the certainty of more and more events coming that will bring great fear for this fallen world and to a clear call for us to be faithful to Christ.

Turn with me to Revelations 6

What we are about to deal with has great worth and power, but we need to slow down a little and realize what we are dealing with before we jump in over our heads.

1.  First of all, this is Prophesy writing - Biblical prophecy is the prediction of future events based on the action, function, or words of a prophet of God guided by the Holy Spirit.
  
2.  Not Chronological - The book of Revelations doesn’t all take place in a nice neat linear time fashion.  You can’t read it from start to finish and look for it to all fit into a clear order.
 
It is often the same story being told with different pictures shared through words.  Revelation  is more like a collage than a traditional novel.  It is a collage of God’s power, majesty, wrath, and love ..., not a step by step survival guide for some future catastrophic disaster.

3.  Revelation doesn’t  always have to be about something that must take place in the future either.  John says at times these things that must shortly take place.  There are some things that are written in this book that have likely already been fulfilled, so don’t see it all necessarily as futuristic.

4.  Revelation is not always meant to be understood literally.  Remember that it is God’s truth conveyed in symbolic language.  The use of these symbols or metaphors allows the truth to be shared and conveyed from different perspectives, to hide the truth from the Roman government in the first century, and still to hide it from many nonbelievers today.

For example, the Devil probably usually doesn’t present himself with seven heads and ten horns as explained in this book, but this image is symbolic of him for a fuller meaning.

Its also unlikely that the first time we actually see Jesus that He will look like a bloody lamb with many eyes and many horns.  He might but we are given many other images of Him as well.

And the woman of chapter 17 who sits on seven heads which are said to be seven hills, I don’t even want to really try to picture that.  Its not meant to be taken literally, but everything said has a purpose of sharing God’s over-all message to us to be prepared for the return of Christ as we stand through these terrible end times.

John is sharing God’s truth in the book of Revelation largely in symbolic form, so don’t try to figure it all out literally ..., it will really make your head spin.

So, if you are looking for specific answers this morning concerning all the details about this book, you are probably going to be disappointed.  But if you are hoping to see the truth of God’s word, I pray you will find hope in the message of Christ.  At the same tim,e I pray to offer a few explanations of things John is writing about in Chapter 6.
 
What is about to happen is that the Lamb, who is Christ,  is about to open a sealed scroll which is sealed with ‘seven seals’ that are holding it shut until the perfect time for Him to open it.

These seals were probably of a waxy nature and they would have signified the great importance and sacred nature of the scroll, and was meant to be opened by royalty, as  in this case, the Lamb,  Christ, the King of Kings. 

So, as each one of these seals is broken, there is a different picture or image that is seen by John and described by him for our benefit, but as much as I might try, I can’t begin to tell it better to you than how John has told it.  So, let us together go through the 6th chapter of Revelation.
 
Revelation 6:1-2 The first seal gives us the picture of conquest through a White Horseman.

Revelation 6:3-4  The second seal pictures War- The Red Horseman

Revelation 6:5-6  The Third seal pictures Famine - The Black Horseman

Revelation 6:7-8  The Forth seal pictures  Death - The Pale Horseman

Revelation 6:9-11 The Fifth seal pictures Persecution

Revelation 6:12-17  The Six seal pictures Terror

Revelation 8:1-2  The seventh seal introduces the trumpets

What do we make of all of this?

1.  First of all, know that this is a Supernatural Story

This was not something made up in the mind of John, but it is God’s message to us the church written to you to help prepare you for what is coming, and help you remain faithful to Christ during times of great fear and terror.

This Supernatural power makes it unique Story.  There is really not another story like this book, or even this chapter, in all of history; it is uniquely designed in its structure, in its message, and in its purpose.

Only God could paint a picture like this that shows so much pain, while providing a source of lasting peace and assurance for those who trust in Him.

So many who read the Revelation become panicked by looking forward to the horrible things that are ahead for this dark and sinful world, but God shared this with us to keep us focused on our future in Christ, no matter of the pain we presently face or will face.

2.  Its also a symbolic story.  For example, in the text we just read we are confronted with the four horsemen.  We read about God’s faithful, those who have been killed for their faith, being under the alter of God and we hear about a solar system that seems to be falling apart.  Each symbolic image represents  something that has taken place,  or will take place.

3.  It is a suspenseful story.  If you like a story full of excitement and suspense, it doesn’t get any better than the book of Revelation.  In fact, if Hollywood could actually make a movie that could capture half of the suspense and action of Revelation it would be a huge blockbuster. For example, as you read about the seals and the horsemen, the excitement they provide to a story is amazing. 

The First Seal, The White Horseman

The first seal brings about a White Horse with a rider who is wearing a crown.    Most agree it is not a crown of a ruler but a crown of a victor or conqueror.  This rider is sent out, not to conqueror through actual war and bloodshed, but he is sent out with the ‘hope’ of peace.  But this peace offered to the world will not last long because . . .

The Second Seal, the Red Horseman

The second seal brings about a fiery red horse with its rider given power to ‘take peace’ from this world mainly through war, but also through random blood shed of men killing men for no good, apparent reason.

Each time great war, conflict, and great killing happens it  brings suffering and pain.  This has been to a certain extent happening in every generation. 

Make no mistake, we are in the mist of war and great conflict  right now.  With countries, with terrorist, and with our own countrymen who have gone crazy...,  God said these things will happen,  continue to happen,  become worse, and more and more frequent.

It doesn’t look like it will get any better anytime soon.  I don’t see peace coming to the Middle East, or for that matter, to our own country any time soon, but don’t lose heart ..., Christ is coming. 

This conflict and killing will continue to be provided by this red horseman.  That is biblical prophesy at work, and it has never been, nor will ever be, wrong.

The Third Seal, the Black Horseman

The third seal that brings in the black horse represents broad economic hardship and suffering to greater and greater degrees.  This suffering will be felt both personally and globally.  It speaks of extreme inflation.  There will be times when basic needs of life such as wheat and barley, things needed just to survive,  will cost crazy amounts of money. 

This is already happening in many places in the world.  In much of the world, people have to work all day just to have enough to buy the basics to eat and survive.  Be prepared for this to continue to spread,  but don’t lose hope ..., Christ is coming.

The Forth Seal, The Black Horseman

The forth seal brings yet another horse that is pale green in color,  the rider on it is named Death, and the Bible says that Hades or Hell is close behind.  He brings with him terrible death on a large scale.  The wrath that comes from these riders gets progressively worse because it says that they were given power over a forth of the earth, that’s 25% of everything!  They will have the power to kill by war, famine, plague and wild beasts.

If you look, if you open your eyes, you can see the start of all of these things going on back more than a few years.  With genocide, bombings, wars, disease, plagues, there is suffering and there is death constantly around us and it is getting worse not better.

Why? because we live in a fallen, sinful, broken world.  We live in a world of death, because  God’s wrath is coming against sin.

The Fifth Seal, Great Persecution

The fifth seal brings great persecution with  millions being martyred.  In Chapter 7 you see these souls under the alter are those who have died for the sake of Christ and are speaking up for Him. 

Some may think, “That doesn’t really happen any more like it did during the first century,” but you would be wrong.  In the last 100 years, more people have been killed because of their faith in Christ around the world than have died in all previous centuries combined since Christ ascended into heaven. 

Such great loss of life because of faith is no longer happening just in lands far off, but it is now starting to happen in places we once thought were safe like Mexico and even parts of the United States.  Evil is coming against the Christ follower, stronger and stronger, and we are to be prepared.

The Sixth Seal, Terror Worldwide
               ,
The Six Seal is full of Second coming language, of Jesus, and the end of everything here on earth as we now know it.

Read Revelation 6:12-17

It just looks like the end, doesn’t it?  John gives us the image of everything falling apart, but what is about to take place is amazing.  All throughout scripture we see that when these types of things take place, what is about to come is the Day of the Lord, or the return of Christ. 

In the future, when you see these things happening don’t lose hope ..., but know that Christ is coming and that you must stand firm in your faith.

But of all the seals this next one, the final one, is the one I have been drawn to the most this week.  Maybe its because I like a happy ending.

But where is it?  Where is this final seal?  Chapter 6 is over and chapter 7 seems to start a much different story.

Look with me to Revelation 8:1-2

I don’t know for sure how its all going to play out.   For that matter, only God knows exactly all the details, but He as given us these details so that we can have hope that, through faith in His Son, we can and will have a future no matter how much wrath and judgement He brings to this earth against our  great sin.

All throughout biblical writing, when an author wants to highlight something of exceptional importance they will write about it three times. 

HOLY, HOLY, HOLY
WOE, WOE, WOE
It happened in the Old Testament

And this story of great pain under  God’s wrath is repeated three times starting with the seven seals, the seven trumpets and the seven bowls of God’s wrath.

This, in my opinion, is to emphasize a pattern that there is a high price to be paid for sin against God.   When we live among this world there are going to be terrible things that will happen now, and worse things in the final days. 

There will be war, disasters, famine, suffering, and yes, even people will be killed because of Christ.  But, we have a job to be faithful and spread the hope of life through Jesus so that before the day that this world is over and Jesus returns that we do our best to share God’s love with as many people as possible so that, if possible, none would be lost. 

That’s why the Revelations and these terrible four horsemen are so important to us.  They show us how serious God is concerning sin.   God is giving those who will listen a chance to see the signs, and then to prepare.

Jesus explained it this way.  Matthew 24:4-8

My sister, Tasha just gave birth to her first child.  She has been reading the signs of pregnancy, recognizing the progressive signals of sensations and pain that the birthing was nearing right up to the delivery to know what and when to expect it.

Revelation and its story has been given to us so that we might pay attention and be aware of what is going on in our lives.  The birth pains are intensifing!  So that every moment of every day we might be ready for what God sends our way.

I will leave you with these things to think about.

1.  God’s Majesty and Power are in place.
2.  Sin will not go unpunished.
3.  Christ’s  sacrifice for our sin is more than sufficient to provide those who believe life.
4.  We have an important job to share God’s love in the midst of the great  pain.
5.  Finally, God has won the war against sin and death, and Christ is coming to claim what belongs to Him.

Read Revelation 19:11-16

That is how the Revelation tells the story of the end times.

What will your story be at the end?
1.  Make certain you are Washed by His Blood
2.  Make certain you Sealed with His Spirit
3.  Make certain you are Faithful to the Finish