Keys To Understanding The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse
Lesson Four - The Rider On The Pale Horse
As predictably as the sun rises and sets, so the four horsemen of the apocalypse continue to march steadily forward unimpeded. Unless, of course, mankind should finally repent. But all indications point to the contrary. This chapter concludes the final terrifying fulfilment of prophecies uttered by Jesus Christ over 1,900 years ago, but intended most specifically for the time we are living in right now, TODAY.
We have already examined the first three horsemen: the first is religious deception, next is war, then famine, followed by the fourth horseman. These four horsemen represent the final, end time culmination of the most traumatic problems endured by a rebellious mankind. They represent one of the most OMINOUS scenarios ever. It is imperative that each and every one of us take heed while there is still time.
"And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death. and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth" (Rev. 6:7-8).
The context mentions two of the other horsemen-war- and famine. But we cannot be certain of the symbolism of the last horseman from this passage. The key word to its identity is the word pale which often makes us think of someone that is feeling sick, having an anemic-looking appearance. Pale is translated from the Greek chloros that we would normally take to mean the colour of chlorophyll, the property that gives plants their healthy green appearance. When used biblically, chloros means the sickly pale green colour of sickness and disease.
Other biblical translations describe the pale horse as an ash coloured horse, a horse sickly green, a horse sickly pale and an ashy pale horse. We have continually stressed throughout that we should look to Christ the Revelator to explain these seals and symbols. He provides us with the most correct word to unlock the true identity of this pale green horse which man's best translations cannot: "and there shall be ... PESTILENCES" (Matt. 24:7).
Look up the word pestilence in any Bible concordance and you will be amazed by the link between the second, third and fourth horsemen representing war, famine and pestilence (Jer. 21:9; 27:13; 29:17-18; 32:24; 34:17; 38:2; 42:16-17; 44:12-14; Ezek. 5:12; 6:11, 17; 12:16).
These three horsemen derive their origin directly from the first horseman of religious deception as we have already shown. Not only can we positively determine the identity of the fourth horseman, we can easily see that the combined effect of the four is much more powerful than that of each individually. The symbolism of the man on the pale horse can help us better understand the climactic, globe-encircling plagues and pandemics occurring and soon to occur far more intensely at the very end of this century and now riding on into the 21st. century.
Last but not Least
World-wide disease epidemics are mentioned in the same context with the other horsemen in Revelation 6:1-8 and in the three gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke, because they are successive. Multiple millions of people will perish just from sickness and disease if they are unfortunate enough to survive the ravaging effects of nuclear bombardment and subsequent starvation. This will put the death toll from disease and sickness at approximately one fourth of all mankind. With the world population quickly approaching seven billion people, this number could conceivably reach close to two billion!
We have repeatedly emphasized through the pages of our web site that the only reason for this type of extreme punishment is man's unabated rebellion-disobedience toward his Creator God. Despite this self-inflicted genocide, man refuses to obey God and submit to His rule, the only way that can bring true peace and happiness with joy unmeasured (John 10: 10).
The book of Daniel is an end time prophecy (Dan. 12:4, 9). It reveals more prophecy for the nations of Israel in the end time, which may be surprising to many people. "As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth" (Dan. 9:13).
Let's examine Deuteronomy 28 (part of the law of Moses) carefully and add modern day expressions to see more clearly how this warning applies to our time now. "But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee.... The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it. The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption [chronic, degenerate diseases such as AIDS], and with a fever, and with an inflammation [malaria or communicative diseases such as influenzas], and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew ... with the botch of Egypt [elephantiasis], and with the emerods [tumours, cancer, etc.], and with the scab, and with the itch [aggravated psoriasis and other nutrient deficiency diseases such as scurvy, rickets, etc.], whereof thou canst not be healed [incurable or drug-resistant diseases] ... with madness [mental illness, insanity] and blindness and astonishment of heart [emotional distresses such as depression]" (Deut. 28:15, 21-22, 27-28).
The next verse graphically depicts the utter hopelessness of mankind suffering from these and the many other innumerable scourges of our generation. Invisible bacterial microbes are outwitting the best researchers and doctors, quickly outstripping their ability to develop vaccines to keep up with newer and more drug-resistant strains.
We must NOT forget that Biological warfare laboratories, through-out the world, have produced dozens of new and modified bacteriological agents (Viruss', bacteria and genetical designed microbes) that will be released during the End-Time Wars.
Man's Best Friend?
But it gets even worse. Earlier, God shouted out the warning, "I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate" (Lev. 26:22).
The warning is repeated in Revelation 6:8: "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." Man is responsible for the extinction of hundreds, if not thousands of species of creatures, now faces a grave danger-at the jaws of wild animals. Of even greater threat than being bitten out of self-defense is being directly attacked and consumed as part of a source of dwindling food supplies.
Not only will animals attack people for food, they will also become sickly carriers of such mass killer diseases as the bubonic plague (the Black Death of the Middle Ages), rabies, etc.
For example: AIDS the modern incurable plaque, is now believed to have originated in Africa, from the Green Monkey virus, that mutated and was passed on to the human population. The AIDS virus has now killed over twenty-nine million people and has infected a further 50 million. There is no end in sight. The AIDS Plauge will have infected 100 million people by 2010. Our modern, so-called civilized Western peoples are neighbours to many potentially rabid vermin and animals such as rats, skunks, foxes, and bats. It's not an unlikely scenario that, immediately following war and famine, these infected animals could come in contact with untold millions of ordinary pets, especially cats and dogs. The human population would be greatly outnumbered and would quickly fall prey to either rabid or ravenous beasts.
An NBC television report, in early March 1995, mentioned a rabies epidemic spreading northward toward San Antonio, spread by wild coyotes. At least two people have died with 1,500 having been vaccinated after coming into contact with infected coyotes or rural pets. One million vaccine "biscuits" have been set out to try to curb this menace to the state and perhaps even the entire nation.
Fortunately, sanitary standards, medical science and certain security measures such as fencing have thus far shielded most from contact with the untamed wilderness. But how thick is this buffer zone? Is the possibility of life and death epidemics very far away? Given a break-down in protective conditions, these silent time bombs lie ready to explode. Many North Americans aren't even safe in their own back yards from Mosquito borne diseases, such as West-Nile Virus or a deer tick carrying Lyme disease! A false sense of security exists because vaccines for many childhood diseases such as mumps, measles, whooping cough, smallpox, tetanus and chicken pox are taking effect. Meanwhile, new strains and viruses are emerging (32 new diseases since the 70's) as old ones resurface.
Plenty of Past Plagues
Earlier, we examined war-induced famine in areas such as Chechnya, the breakaway republic of Russia, and the civil war torn countries of Somalia and Rwanda. War is not the only culprit. Epidemics are also a by-product of the resulting chaos. History is replete with examples of disease epidemics leading to death.
You might be surprised to learn how much effect disease has had on the course of mankind. Look at the great economic upheavals which resulted from the Black Death in Europe.
The Mainstream of Civilization 1350 to 1815 presents an interesting summary (p. 280, 1974): "The effects of economic depression, political confusion, and religious uncertainty were intensified by terrible outbursts of plague in the middle years of the fourteenth century. The Black Death [bubonic plague] first appeared in Italy in the 1340s and swept through Europe during the next two decades. The worst was over by 1360, but repeated, though less severe, outbreaks throughout the next half-century, kept the population from reaching its pre-plague numbers. Although no accurate estimate can be made of the mortality, it was especially severe in thickly populated areas. Some towns lost more than two-fifths of their inhabitants....
"The panic caused by the Black Death drove the sorely tried peoples of Western Europe into emotional instability. It is no accident that the bloodiest peasant rebellions and the most senseless civil wars took place after the plague, and that the witchcraft delusion, unknown in the early Middle Ages, then reached its height. This was a double delusion. Innocent men and women were falsely accused of practicing black magic, but there were people, including men of high position, who genuinely believed that they could gain their desires by making a compact with the devil. More than anything else, the witchcraft delusion demonstrated the state of shock in which Western Europe found itself at the end of the fourteenth century. The rationalism and confidence in the future that had been so apparent at the height of medieval civilization had vanished."
In short, all sanity had disappeared from seemingly sound minded peoples. It's easy to see why. The Black Death, spread by flea bites and rats, killed CLOSE TO ONE HALF OF EUROPE'S POPULATION-25 to 50 million people-in one three-year span ALONE (1347 to 1350)! Eventually some who became ill developed an immunity and the disease finally died out. Still, this has ominous overtones for our future. We must remember that many of the world's diseases are spread by pestilent rodents, such as mice and rats and pestilent insects such as fleas, flies and mosquitos.
From the Book of History (v. 9, P. 3626), The Grolier Society, a set of history books written before World War 1, is an article by Dr. G. Archdall Reid entitled, "The Triumph of Race": "The ancient condition of the Eastern Hemisphere was reproduced in the West. Again, we read of plague and pestilence, of water and air-borne diseases coming and going in great epidemics, and of the famines that followed. Measles and cholera piled the earth with the dead. The part played by smallpox was even greater. When taken to the West Indies in 1507 whole tribes were exterminated. A few years later it quite depopulated San Domingo. In Mexico it destroyed three and a half million people. Prescott describes this first fearful epidemic as 'sweeping over the prairies, smiting down prince and peasant, and leaving its path strewn with the dead bodies of the natives, who perished in heaps like cattle stricken with murrain.' "
Unlike the short-lived Black Death, smallpox plagued Europe for centuries. At its height in the 18th century, it killed about 400,000 Europeans a year, including such heads of state as the queen of Sweden in 1741. The World Health Organization announced in 1979 that smallpox had been wiped out after a successful inoculation campaign in Asia during the same decade.
Closer to home, an influenza epidemic in 1917-18 killed about half a million North Americans. In Massachusetts alone, it claimed 15,000 lives in four months before a developed immunity saved civilization. Typhus accounted for 3 million deaths from 1918 to 1922, due to over-crowding and poor sanitary conditions in prison camps and refugee homes. Almost half a million North Americans, over the span of 1943 to 1956, were infected by the polio epidemic. Over 20,000 died from paralysis and respiratory failure. Partly due to vaccines discovered in the 50s and 60s, polio is only a problem in less advanced countries.
These are natural attention-getters. But even in our twentieth century, despite better medicine and technology, the threat to all societies looms large on the horizon. Even old diseases from world wars fought over seventy years ago are making a silent but deadly return. The New England Journal of Medicine (Feb. 16, 1995) cites several doctors both here and in France who report that trench fever, a scourge of soldiers in both world wars, has reappeared among homeless alcoholics. This illness, spread by lice, was especially common during World War I when more than one million soldiers caught it. No one knows whether it is a new affliction of cities or one that has been unnoticed all along. The disease is rare during peacetime although it has been found in AIDS patients in recent years.
Tony Snow, writing for the Creators Syndicate newspaper column, said, "In America, we spend an average of roughly $120,000 to treat each AIDS patient. The federal government sets aside at least $1.5 billion a year to study and fight the syndrome, and private pharmaceutical firms invest billions more. Scientists still have no clue what causes the body's immune system to shut down, but most of us at least understand how to avoid getting AIDS. As a result, the growth in new cases has slowed dramatically."
On March 11, 1995, NBC announced that the Centres for Disease Control is ready to lower its estimate of the number of North Americans infected with the AIDS virus by 10 percent. Officials now believe AIDS may have levelled off among homosexual men, but they caution the infection rate is still going up for women, infants and minorities.
Even though it is relatively difficult to contract, compared to smallpox, influenza and typhus, it is the first sexually-transmitted disease of pandemic proportions. ("Pandemic" describes epidemics spreading beyond the borders of one or two countries.) While syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases have had many victims, at least until the use of penicillin in the 40s, they never wiped out entire populations. Estimates put the AIDS cases in the tens of millions by the 21st century-with no sign of fading out on its own.
No one is Immune
On October 10, 1994, U.S. News & World Report carried an article detailing efforts in India to try to eradicate the first outbreak of plague in nearly 50 years. It began in September 1994 in the coastal city of Surat, killing at least 54 people. As we have explained with the other horsemen of the apocalypse, war, famine and disease can strike here almost as easily as it does abroad. A later issue of U.S. News showed that other diseases, once thought eradicated, have made a comeback. They include the hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and the invasive necrotizing fasciitis or "flesh eating" strep bacteria, etc.
Here in America, health care remains a controversial subject among lawmakers. Billions of dollars are spent annually. Yet, tens of thousands are without insurance. We have too many problems already to try to satisfactorily deal with new ones that seem to pop up without warning.
To make matters worse, it's a "small world" we live in today. Federal health officials admitted early in 1995, that some few passengers and flight crews on commercial airlines in the U.S. have been infected by tuberculosis bacteria. Though they stress the risk of catching TB on a plane is low, they advise people with active TB to take private transportation or postpone travel until they are no longer infectious.
At least half a dozen people have been exposed, tested positive for the disease, and carry a 5-10 percent lifetime risk if not treated with the recommended drug treatment. TB is spread by droplets in coughs, sneezes or breath. Fliers with airborne infectious diseases can be denied admittance onto aircraft, but the Air Transport Association admits they cannot be easily detected. The flight attendants' union wants airlines to increase the amount of fresh air in cabins to reduce contaminants, but that will not greatly eliminate the risks.
All this from "normal" peacetime circumstances. What about blatant terrorist acts to damage air, soil or water quality? What about during nuclear war? "With many people weakened from radiation, stress, and malnutrition, there could be outbreaks of infection and communicable diseases. Long-vanquished epidemic scourges like cholera, typhoid fever, tuberculosis and even bubonic plague could once again flourish if the public health barriers against them were to erode," said Nicholas Wade in A World Beyond Healing (P. 89).
Mr. Wade later adds that "radiation from nuclear weapons does not cause new types of cancer but increases the incidence of those that occur anyway." Cancer, leukaemia, diabetes, heart disease, the list goes on and on of woes afflicting our societies in peacetime, let alone in a nuclear holocaust.
Could medical doctors save the day? "The earth would be seared, the skies would be heavy with lethal concentrations of radioactive particles, and no response to medical needs should be expected from medicine" (1981 lst Congress of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War).
A Necessary Evil
"Do we get it?" There is no hope for mankind collectively, so we'd better turn to God individually. After the complete breakdown and analysis of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, we should be left with no other conclusion. But mankind refuses to admit he is wrong.
The great, loving Creator and Sustainer of this universe takes not delight in seeing His future children suffer. It grieves Him to know the horrific loss of life soon to be visited upon earth. God promised ancient Israel in Exodus 15:26 that if they obeyed Him, they would never have to suffer any diseases, but would instead enjoy super-abundant health. In Deuteronomy 7:15, God said He wouldn't punish them with the same diseases as Egypt. But later, He vowed to inflict them with worse plagues. Why? For not obeying!
Deuteronomy 29:22-25 describes a yet future time when nations will ask why these diseases had to infect mankind. The answer is quite simple-because the people rebelled and served other gods. Ezekiel 38:22 describes ways in which God will plead with Israel and how He'll inevitably become known to the billions who either ignorantly or willingly trampled on His laws.
Even after the pestilence, on top of everything else that has already transpired and that which is yet to occur, the majority of people still won't repent!
The masses will not, but a minority will. God promises, in Psalm 91:3, 6, to protect us from pestilence if we trust in Him. Some prophets of old were thrown into treacherous dungeons for sounding this seemingly pessimistic warning (Jer. 38:2). Jeremiah still sounded the trumpet because he knew very well what worse fate would befall him if he should fail to prophesy. We share the same concern about our fate if we fail to warn this world about what will soon afflict it.
A Way Out
Millions have died, or will die needlessly, because they either failed or will fail to heed these and other warnings to turn to God with the type of contrite attitude necessary to please Him (Isa. 66:2). Unfortunately, it appears that many see the "signs of the times" and could escape, but they don't act. Naively, most are like cattle heading for the slaughter, completely oblivious to what lies immediately ahead of them. Many others will recognize the four horsemen of religious deception, war, famine and pestilence, but will not know where to turn for escape if they refuse the only source of permanent escape-GOD!
God wants true repentance-a turning away from the carnal "human nature" that we possess to the spiritual nature God originally intended us to develop. Instead, man takes the law into his own hands and builds bomb shelters, paramilitary compounds or even flees to remote locations in a futile attempt to save his own physical life.
"And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" (Matt. 24:22). The protected elect will comprise those who hold fast to His revealed truths and obey all of His laws (Rev. 3:10; 12:14). This very small cadre of future leaders will be preserved in the ultimate place of safety to receive final training before being given the authority 3 1/2 years later at the final return of Jesus Christ. There can be no greater concern than striving to comply with God's standards of character in order to survive the punishment symbolized by the four horsemen of the apocalypse. This vision will soon be a "virtual reality" for those who adamantly refuse to submit to God.
A few million, thanks to God cutting events short for the elect's sake, will not have to die though they certainly may wish they had! They will have to endure the worst time of human suffering ever (Jer. 30). Malachi's Message [Malichi chapt. 1-4] explains how the Laodicean Christians are to lose their physical lives during the Tribulation period, half of them forfeiting their eternal lives. We are continually providing hope for those willing to yield their naturally stubborn natures to the will of God. Doomsayers only tell how bad things will get, but without the hope of how much better it will soon be. THE GOOD NEWS is Jesus Christ is soon returning to this earth to bring it all the joy and happiness man has continually sought after!
God will mercifully end the deadly sweep of the four horsemen just before they eradicate mankind from off the earth. Finally, man will have the sweet, child-like attitude that God can work with in the coming Kingdom of God on earth. (Matt. 18:1-6). Are we each working out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12) so we can be a part of God's great master plan for humanity?
Let Us Pray Together--
PRAY: "God be merciful to me a sinner. Receive me now for Christ's sake. Cleanse me from my sin by your precious blood, shed on the cross for me; lead me to be Baptized and fill me with your Holy Spirit. Teach me to pray each day; to read Your will for my life from your word, the Bible; and help me to worship and serve You in the fellowship of your church. I thank you Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN!
This is the end of this lesson series.