Are the four horsemen new?
This past Sunday we looked at the Seven Seals (Revelation 4-7). In discussion the four horsemen of the apocalypse, I argued that these four horsemen represent the various judgments of God that will continually befall the earth during the entire church age. As a reminder, the horsemen represent:
- Military conquest (White horse)
- Slaughter (Red horse)
- Famine (Black horse)
- Death (Pale horse)
In summary, these four things will characterize the world during the entire church age. But at this point an important question can be asked (and actually was asked). Haven't these things always characterized life on earth? And, if so, what's unique about these things in the context of the seven seals?
This is a great question and would challenge my interpretation. The challenge would go something like this: since these four things have always characterized life on earth, shouldn't the four horsemen represent something different? Otherwise John is just telling us what we already know.
I would answer this by saying: "Yes, but...". Yes, these four things have always characterized life on earth. But there is something new about them here. Because they occur in the context of the seven seals, John's vision is teaching us that these four things now especially serve the purposes of God in redeeming his people. In other words, the four horsemen have a big role to play in the "last days" as God carries out his plan of redemption in saving all of his people.
To put it yet another way, John is teaching us that in the church age - as the gospel goes forth - there will be no permanence and stability on the earth. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be wars, famines, and earthquakes. The world will not - and cannot! - be at peace until Jesus returns to judge and to usher in everlasting peace. For this reason we should never expect permanence, abundance, and security in the power structures of this world. This is because the four horsemen of the apocalypse have been unleashed. And they ride among us even today.