Keys To Understanding The Four Horseman Of The Apocalypse
Lesson Three - The Rider On The Black Horse
The first horseman (on the white horse) represents religious deception while the second horseman (on the red horse) represents war (Rev. 6:1-4). John continues with the vision: "And when he had opened the third seal. I heard the third beast say, Come and see, And I beheld, and lo a black horse and he that sit on him had a pair of balances in his hand. -And 1 heard I voice in the midst of the four beasts say. A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny: and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine" (vv. 5-6).
This haunting scenario may sound familiar. In Matthew 24. Christ gave a very similar answer to His disciples when asked when the end of the world would come. It probably was not quite what they were expecting, to hear. However, the bitter truth had to be told-even more for our benefit than theirs. "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places" (Matt. 24:7).
These accounts similar to Revelation 6 are not the vivid nightmares of an elderly apostle or the over-active imagination of the other three gospel writers. Rather, these symbols comprise both a blood-curdling history, and dire prophecy soon to unfold in our lifetime!
These brief accounts depict the four horsemen following each other in rapid succession. False religion forced itself on mankind through the terrifying instrument of war. It is difficult to conceive that this whole world is deceived (Rev. 12:9). Even more incredulous is that the large organized religious "cults" on earth today are waging the bloodiest battles ever, in the name of God. It's recorded in history for all who are willing to examine the evidence.
Without looking to the living Head of God's Church, Jesus Christ, these revelations could never be opened to our understanding. We must continue to humbly look to Him for the meanings of these most frightening, yet necessary, end-time warnings.
The third horseman, riding a black horse, symbolizes FAMINE. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Christ was speaking of general famines, set against the backdrop of war. The plural use of the word famine means the repetitive occurrences of famine down through time, rapidly accelerating immediately before His return.
Remember how quickly the first horseman, representing religious deception, was pursued by the second horseman of war? In the same fashion, the third horseman, depicting famine, follows directly behind war. Though war is a primary factor, it is not the sole cause of famine, as we shall see.
Famines of the Past
Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 list the abundant blessings ancient Israel would have received for obeying God. A primary example is the keeping of all God's commandments, including the test commandment-the Sabbath. Conversely, these chapters also portray a gut-wrenching scene of what would happen to them if they did not comply. The ultimate curse would be cannibalizing their own children!
Other passages warn of punishment coming in a variety of other means, any of which could easily produce famine. Extreme weather upsets (Deut. 28:24; Amos 4:7), crop blight (Amos 4:9), destructive insects/animals (Deut. 28:39, 42), sterile soil (Deut. 28:23), all resulting in ruined harvests (Deut. 28:17; Ezek. 5:16). Portions of Revelation 8 and 16 show the same penalties for modern nations as well as for ancient Israel. Contrary to popular belief, our God changes not (Mal. 3:6).
The Bible records numerous famines from the time of Abraham (Gen. 12:10). In fact, thirteen famines have been recorded in the pages of the Bible. We may be familiar with Abraham's great-grandson, Joseph, who helped bail out the Egyptians during their seven-year famine (Gen. 41:56). God purposed that famines be used to correct corrupt leaders or problems (11 Sam. 21: 1;11 Chron. 32). Examples of war-induced famines are recorded for us (11 Kings 25; Jer. 52; Isa. 14:30; 51:13; Jer. 16:4; 44:27). The famous Jewish historian Josephus, recorded a Roman siege on Jerusalem that produced a famine so great that the masses resorted to cannibalism in the so-called City of peace (Josephus, "Wars of the Jews").
The Middle Ages, the first several hundred years after the first millennium A.D., is also known as the Dark Ages. Entire cities experienced literal starvation followed by killer diseases. Thousands of dead bodies could not be disposed of quickly enough. Rats spread bubonic plague throughout all of Europe. War, one example being the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), was again the main culprit. Whole cities were leveled with starvation so severe that some even resorted to cannibalism! Read the many historical accounts for yourself.
Famines of the Future
But let's jump ahead to the beginning years of this 21th century. Fortunately, things have not become this bad in Ethiopia or Afghanistan-YET! We have now become daily eyewitnesses to the slow genocide of several ethnic groups.
Again, not every famine has been or is caused by war. Cyclical famines are those caused by unusual weather conditions, plagues. insect or animal infestation, or a similar interruption of "normal" patterns. [ie: World-Wide Global Warming] Third world countries have been facing more and more mouths to feed with less and less food. This is a "structural" type famine that MOST OF MANKIND IS NOW FACING With ABSOLUTELY LITTLE OR NO SOLUTION IN SIGHT!
Still making headlines are such areas as India and several African countries such as Ethiopia, The Sudan and Nigeria ( Nigeria, which had a civil war during the 1970s). We have all seen pictures of the bloated bellies of Biafran babies and young children extending a skeletal arm for a bowl of tasteless mush frequented by flies.
It logically follows that starvation, or at the very least, scarcity of food, would result from prolonged warfare. Generally, it is the populace that suffers worst. To satisfy the insatiable needs of an enemy's army (or even one of its own!) puts an inordinate demand on the crops, livestock and water supplies of an area. Often, the damage done to an ecosystem can take years and even decades to recover front, if ever. Hard to believe as it may seem, vast desert areas, such as the Sahara, used to be either lush jungle or forest land. Bear in mind that this man-made disaster was exacted on the region without the assistance of radiation contamination.
The summer of 1994 shocked us daily with equally stark images on our television screens from the aftermath of tribal genocide in Rwanda.
The February 4, 1995 Daily Oklahoman newspaper contained a story entitled, "Somalis Pillage Ex-U.N. Offices." Notice: "Hundreds of foreign civilians, who once hoped to recreate a Government and state institutions in a FAMINE-STRICKEN country, that has had no national rulers since January 1991, are hunkered down at the U.N. controlled airport and sea port with 8.000 soldiers.....". To further emphasize the direct connection between war and Famine. the article also had this to say (emphasis ours): "U.N. spokesman George Bennett said local Somali leaders had reported seeing three locust swarms, each 1.8 miles long, rolling across the bush. Locusts can consume EVERY BIT OF VEGETATION IN THEIR PATH."
The next day, the Associated Press reported that nearly 150,000 refugees fled the war in Chechnya to the breakaway Russian state neighboring Ingushetia, doubling Ingushetia's size in population. "Soon there may be a deficit of food, beds and medicine here," said Nazir Doskiyev, head of the Ingush immigration office. Then, almost as if prophesying the next horseman riding, the pale horse representing disease epidemics. he continued, "If the refugees stay until summer, there may also be an epidemic." "People in Grozny are dying under destroyed housesold women and children are dying of hunger," said Murat Gazdiyev, 59, who holed up in the besieged capital for weeks with his wife and 6-year-old son before heading to the Ingush capital of Nazran, "It's impossible to live there." he concluded.
"But it couldn't happen here!"
Do we somehow feel that this could never happen to the greatly blessed American and British peoples? Scoffers might respond, "Our God would never do anything so cruel." Contrary to such false prophets, this terrible time ill occur (Jer.14:12-18). Multiple millions will be in for a rude awakening. despite ample warnings.
As we have seen, this tragic tale of war--induced famine has repeated itself countless times down through the centuries of man's miserable and generally substandard existence. History tends to repeat itself because we usually fail to learn from it. Of necessity, it's on a larger and grander scale in order to drive the point home-especially when those in God's own Church turn away from keeping His Sabbath. They, of all people, should know better and are without excuse. This blatant act of rebellion will not go unpunished by the great God of this universe. He has consistently sent His chosen people into captivity, nationally or as a Church, when they have turned away from His annual and weekly Sabbaths (Jer. 17).
According to the U.S. Agriculture Department, even before figures for the entire year of 1994 were tallied, food exports had hit a record high of $15.4 billion. However, a Washington-based research group, or "think-tank," has warned of a potential national food shortage and its consequences by or before 2030. Add the increased occurrence of floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, drought and other un-natural disasters and it will occur much sooner than predicted. Jeremiah attempted to describe this unparalleled moment: "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it" (Jer. 30:7).
Meanwhile, the U.S. turns around and sells China up to one million metric tons of wheat under its main export subsidy program. This amount is in addition to the three million tons already sold this marketing year. This decision to continue exporting food to China is so unsettling because it came despite threats of trade sanctions between the two nations over China's alleged piracy of U.S. movies, music and software over the past two years!
With food as our largest export product, the United States stands to lose the most in any trade war if any "natural" or unnatural disasters should cause us to have a bad year. National reserves for our own needs, in case of just such an emergency, are very small and would barely last long enough to get us through to the next growing season. Who would help us, the greatest humanitarian nation ever, should WE have a crisis'?
We have not even factored in the effects of nuclear war, should our economic sparring with any of our trading partners come to blows. How shortsighted it would be to bomb us in order to take our land to raise food! Our land could be so contaminated by radiation that nothing would grow for quite some time. And even if it did, would it be safe to eat? Leviticus 26:34 implies that there Will NOT BE ANYONE HERE EVEN TRYING TO FARM. From the preface of a book entitled, A World Beyond Healing,
Nicholas Wade writes (emphasis ours), "Burning cities create soot, and soot absorbs light. If enough smoke from incinerated cities were to reach high enough in the atmosphere, it might linger for months, shrouding the earth in a black pall. The likely extent of such a veil is still a matter of keen scientific debate, but an evident possibility is that sunlight would be blotted out, land and crops throughout the Northern Hemisphere chilled, and WHOLE HARVESTS DESTROYED."
Back in the summer of 1816, northern New England and Canada experienced both snow and frost. In both North America and Europe, many crops did not ripen. As a result, famine, disease and social upheaval ensued.
Climatologists were fairly certain that this "year without a summer" was the result of a cataclysmic eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia. For nearly 400 miles around, it was pitch dark for two days. An estimated 200 million metric tons of fine dust and sulfuric acid were emitted, some as high as the stratosphere. This was just a minor foretaste of disruptions in agriculture that nuclear warfare would surely produce.
Gene Williams, in Nuclear War, Nuclear Winter, wrote that 1/10 of 1% of sunlight (5% at best) would reach the ground. With night time temperatures during the day, crops would not grow and livestock would soon die. In the best of conditions, an average large city stocks only enough food and supplies to last the populace a week or less.
America exports about half the world's total tonnage of grain. The total world grain storage would only last about 40 days. The U.S. could possibly survive for a year, but that is of little comfort when you consider the bind this country would find itself in. We would need the reduced agricultural production at home, yet we would also have to sell grain abroad to earn precious income. Laurence Pringle, in Nuclear War, From Hiroshima to Nuclear Winter, points out that ICBM silos, our enemies' first targets, ARE LOCATED IN THE HEART OF OUR GRAIN AND LIVESTOCK-PRODUCING REGIONS!
Even without such an occurrence as nuclear war, food is not usually being- grown anywhere in the world where it is most needed. Proper food distribution is difficult enough without an emergency. Areas of our own country. not to mention some poor Third World countries. Would have a tough time getting their hands on much-needed food in an emergency. The northeastern U.S,, for example., derives 80% of its food from outside sources! To further complicate matters. the extra produce of the wealthier nations could not even be purchased by the poorer ones. Though worldwide food production almost keeps pace with population. the chief concern for the starving masses of the earth is the grossly? unequal distribution of food due to out-of-reach prices. The rich get fatter, and the poor get thinner.
The Most Helpless Victims
Everyone loves children, so let's try and put a human face on the hard. cold facts of starvation as it ultimately affects young people more than anyone else (Jer. 18:21). According to "Feed the Children." an international non-profit organization based in Oklahoma City. dedicated to feeding the hungry children of the world, 13 MILLION CHILDREN WORLDWIDE DIED OF MALNUTRITION AND RELATED CAUSES IN 1992! This number would obviously be higher today. The world population continues to mushroom out of control. The number of births continues to surpass deaths. To break this down even further, that is over 35,000 children, not adults. WHO DIE FROM MALNUTRITION-EVERY DAY!
The August 10, 1992 Fortune magazine reported that of the 65 million Americans under age 18, 20% live in poverty. The Children's Defense Fund, based in Washington D.C., confirms that 14.3 million-one out of every five in this nation-fall in this category. with about 42% living in city centers. They also estimate that 100.000 American children awake homeless-every day! At the same time. 2,685 babies are born into poverty-daily! This translates into one impoverished baby every 32 seconds'.
From Global Child Health News & Review, (vol. 1, 1994): "People in the developing countries spend 43% of their income on food, while those in industrialized countries spend 15%." Despite this, "about 36%, or 193 million. of children under five in the developing world are moderately or severely underweight. Almost one third, or 69 million, of them are severely malnourished."
Tragically, more deaths, about ten times as many, can be attributed to some form of malnutrition (the wrong foods) as opposed to starvation (lack of food).
Jesus Christ accurately foretold these doomsday-style statistics when He first delivered the Olivette prophecy, recorded in the gospel accounts and by John in Revelation 6. But He had something much worse in mind when He said, "And there shall be famines."
The "Mother of all Famines"
As with the two previous horsemen of the apocalypse, this third horseman of famine will have a specific fulfillment. It is ready to gallop into our immediate future with an impact far beyond the historic and present-day occurrences of so-called "localized" famines.
Immediately following, and as a direct result of worldwide religious deception and World War 111, the first and second horsemen respectively, a great famine, like none before it or ever again, will strike this earth with frightening force and fury. This time, instead of only affecting war-torn regions or the Third World "have-nots," it will affect the First World nations-the blessed birthright peoples of the lost ten tribes of Israel. Not a respecter of persons, this calamity will reduce the wealthy nations to the same level as the poorest. It is almost unfathomable to those of us who have been spoiled in the land of plenty, to imagine experiencing such stark starvation ourselves!
Previously, we read in Ezekiel 5:12, that one third of the United States and the British Commonwealth, including countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and others, will be killed in the opening volleys of war. From this verse, we also see that many of these people will die from the combined destructiveness of the third and fourth horsemen-famine and pestilence. Verse 10 describes our citizenry's last, desperate act of survival-cannibalism! These prophecies MUST WAKE US UP! How can anyone fail to carefully examine his religious views after reading such frightening prophecies?!
We're not discussing some dusty old prophecies here! Rather, are discussing dramatic dire prophecies that lie directly in front of us! The proud, haughty look will melt from the faces of our people and reduce those still barely clinging to life to scrounging through maggot-infested garbage heaps and strewn rubble for their next meal. No nation will escape this great famine which will eventually spread to every corner of the earth until mankind repents in unconditional surrender to God (Phil. 2: 10).
An End of Famines
The future appears very bleak indeed. But there is a way of escape (Rev. 12:13-17). God will hear and forgive anyone, if we will only repent. The only ones promised divine protection are those few who have yielded to God and His way of life. Christ will be forced to intervene at His Second Corning in order to save man from his self-imposed extinction (Matt. 24:22). Only this group will be fed spiritually during an equally severe spiritual "famine of the word" (Amos 8:11-12). Not even earthquakes and famines can separate them from God (Rom. 8:35). The fate of the Laodiceans (sleeping Christians) and the great false religions of the world (Rev. 18:8-10; Isa. 5:12-13) represent a sharp contrast to the reward given to God's people.
Our loving Father must allow man to go through such terrible conditions in order for him to finally learn obedience. It's not as if God brought it about. Mankind has caused his own misery by choosing not to obey God. This has led to war because each person worships God in his own false way. For the sake of His rebellious children, God must force man to learn that sin does not bring happiness. It only brings much pain and suffering ultimately DEATH (Rom. 6:23).
When humanity finally realizes that only God's grace way really does work, God can bless them more abundantly than ever (Mic. 4:4; Isa. 32:15; Amos 9:13-14). Then, righteous men, women and children will mock the thought of famine (Job 5:22). Yet today, this is a very brutal reality and not a laughing matter. But before we are finally rid of this curse in the not-too-distant coming Kingdom of God. the fourth horseman of disease and pestilence must complete its rendezvous with destiny.
Proceed to lesson four: The Rider On The Pale Horse