Four Horsemen

Rev. 6:1-17

If we lived in Eden, we would no more live fully dependent on / trusting God than Adam and Eve. Compulsion since the Fall – do things our own way, even when doesn’t work so well. Holds true for Christians, too: often try own way first, eventually figure out maybe God knows best. Since God is good Father, ordained Christian life to be one of trials and tribulations –

James 1:2-4My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience [endurance].But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

1 Pet 1:6-7In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

Some of same trials God uses to produce endurance, to test genuineness of faith, also have place in lives of the lost… bring to repentance, increase condemnation, early stages of God’s righteous judgment against sin. Things described in text and following have number of facets – evil people bent on doing evil; sinful people looking out for #1 best they can; consequences of living in broken universe corrupted by sin; people of God enduring joys and sorrows of earthly existence.

Gotta remember perspective here – throne in heaven, Lion-Lamb opening seals, etc. God’s aim is never off – means God’s people not simply innocent bystanders caught in cross-fire. All things that occur are integral and purposeful part of God’s eternal sovereign purpose. Jesus spoke at length near end of his ministry time: Olivet Discourse recorded in 3 of 4 Gospels: Matt. 24ff, Mark 13, Luke 21. Intended to prepare close followers for series of events that would commence during their lifetime.

Matt. 24:15 Such a prediction was …well adapted for … animating the minds of the godly, that amidst the sorest calamities—knowing that God was looking upon them, and was taking care of their salvation—they might betake themselves to the sacred anchor, where, amidst the most dreadful heavings of the billows, their condition would be firm and secure. Calvin

What Jesus described in Gospels further elaborated on as He opened seals, as trumpets are sounded, bowls poured out during time between Ascension and Great Day of the Lord. So what has Lord Jesus told us to expect? Not in any particular order, rather recurring over and over in various parts of world – political struggle both national and international; wars and rumors of war; economic hardship; disease and death; throughout all, those who give their lives for sake of the Gospel; finally, great day of God’s wrath.

A. political struggle and conquest (white horse) v.1-2

landscape of world history littered with remains of empires and civilizations once powerful and prominent, now barely known or remembered

is rare generation that has not known some deliverer on white horse who comes into view, promising bright new day, rosy future

what receives focus, primarily talked up – things like control of territory, economic power, trading alliances… the economies of scale

certainly takes place on international level – posturing and competition in European Union, NATO, Arab League, Organization of American States to name just a few

rattles down to local level – countless decisions made every day by political appointees, bureaucrats with no personal knowledge of situation they are deciding

many, perhaps even most of those decisions influenced by political or economic concerns, people trying to carve out larger domain for themselves and their workgroup

think there are no casualties in these sorts of struggles? think again – those with unpopular ideology, in minority, with limited material resources or influence

consider revolutions: October Revolution, Russia; Cultural Revolution, China; Cuban Revolution – only one ideology tolerated, Christ’s church driven underground for decades, thousands losing lives in process

ca. 1700, Massachusetts: “Act Respecting Schools, Section i; It being one chief project of Satan to keep man from the knowledge of the Scriptures, as in former times keeping them in unknown tongues; to the end that learning may not be buried in the graves of our forefathers, in the church and commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavors; It is therefore ordered by this Court and authority thereof that every township within this jurisdiction, after the Lord has increased them to the number of fifty householders, shall then forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children, as shall resort to him, to write and read.”

could you safely read that in local classroom today? even if possible, certainly not mindset promoted there, our children are greatest casualties in that setting

B. conflict and war (red horse) v.3-4

twin brother to poliltical struggle – by no means limited to military conflict: too often the result when man does not live at peace with his neighbor

hard to spin the globe, find a place where there is not bloodshed in one form or another… and seems to be no limit to what people use for weapons

spoke few Sunday evenings ago on trend of pushing boundaries, in particular ones God has set – is true of those practicing violence

fewer external restraints, more opportunities for sinful men, women, children to act on evil desires, cause harm to self and others

to extent God has given them over to be controlled by their passions, to further corrupt their minds, evil and bloodshed will increase

kids from middle school on up, adults using words and fists and drugs and firearms and explosives to harm and kill one another

don’t forget who is frequent target – those who stand for what is good and right, iow Christians committed to living godly lives

C. famine and economic hardship (black horse) v.5-6

things sure lead to things, don’t they! once conflict begins in any area, quickly spreads to other areas of life

economic instability / hardship often result of unrest, conflict, disaster – economy always takes a hit at times of fear and uncertainty

then evil selfish people make problem worse – more than enough food in world to feed everyone… well; problem is how food supply is managed or manipulated

catastrophic earthquake January 2010 in Haiti – supplies stuck in seaport for months, food rotted before was delivered to starving Haitians; similar issues with medical supplies and equipment

ones most directly affected are most vulnerable – minimum wage workers living hand to mouth, prices skyrocket out of reach

and of course, is those committed to honest dealings in all things who often get hit hardest during famine – refuse to steal to survive, will not take advantage of others’ misfortune

can work other way, though – those basking in ill-gotten gains lose it all: stock market crash, currency devaluation, investments unexpectedly gone wrong

D. death (pale horse) v.7-8

this one no respecter of persons – violence can take out anyone, regardless of social or any other kind of status

police and public trading bullets; Paris and Brussels and San Bernardino mass tragedies; bracing for famine in Somalia, N Korea

then there’s disease, especially contagious ones – AIDS, Ebola, Zika, cancer to name just a few, casualties of all diseases and disasters numbered in millions; and think about who early responders are: often Christians who put life at risk to help others in desperate need

now, 21st century persecution of Christians worldwide shows no signs of lessening; 70% of world pop. live in religiously intolerant environment; each day Christians somewhere in world lose lives because of their faith

all that is represented by 4 horsemen falls like rain on just and unjust alike – shows just how broken by sin our world really is

E. martyrs v.9-11

according to our text, trend will not change for better – martyrs ask “How long?”, answer is “are more yet who will give their lives”

so are their lives worthless, meaningless, lived and given in vain? even if justice is served eventually, little hope for significance… from earth’s perspective

“To the world it looked as if the martyrs had died in vain. Their God was powerless to save them. The forces of evil had conquered. The prayer of the martyrs is that God will reverse the judgment of the world so that the purpose of their dying, as well as the sovereignty of God, might be revealed.

what looked to world to be meaningless waste of life has much different look to God – see where martyrs are: under the altar

from heavenly perspective, suffering and deaths of martyrs were meaningful sacrifices offered to God and accepted by him: rewarded with robes of perfect righteousness and rest from their labors

keep in mind the big picture: what is being described is God’s Redemptive Plan rolled out / revealed by Christ himself – actions (and consequences of them) of mankind played out on world stage under oversight and direction of God

is God’s desire as these evils unfold that people experiencing hardship would turn to Him, seek deliverance from God – thank God many do just that, sadly many more do not

F. final judgment v.12-17

a mixed message – good news and bad news… depending on who has your loyalty: all of evil signified here part of God’s plan, yes, but he will not overlook or tolerate it indefinitely

Day coming, everyone without exception will recognize for what it is – good day for believers, awful day for lost

good day because perfect justice will be completely served – saints vindicated, God’s glory revealed, all things set to right

bad day for sinners who refuse to repent, remain hardened in sin – will face terrifying wrath of God, not just the Father but God Father Son Spirit displaying his righteous wrath against his enemies

just as we lack words to describe God’s glory, full extent of his love, lack words to fully describe his wrath against evildoers

the better we understand God’s wrath toward sinners, more motivated we should be to warn them as Evangelist warned Christian – “Flee from the wrath to come.”

How shall we do that? Answer is closely connected with answer to final question of our text: “For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” The one who has run to Christ, who has turned from sin, sin that was nailed to the Cross that we might bear it no more, the one who has been given white robe of Christ’s righteousness will be able to stand in that day. Be sure your confidence is in Christ and him alone, point all who will listen to Lord Jesus who stands ready and waiting to receive all who come to him by faith.

 

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