posted on Apr, 24 2010 @ 08:18 AM
I want to offer some thoughts on the subject of Revelation ch6 vv1-8.
This is the sequel to my "4 Horsemen- Why?", where I was asking why God would send them. I came to the conclusion that he was responding to the
oppression of his people.
My question this time round is; what exactly is John trying to describe? What are these events supposed to look like?
So taking them, firstly, one by one...
In terms of getting an agreed view, the first horseman seems to be the hardest one to pin down.
Matthew Henry and others identify him with the Christ-figure of ch19. Well, they're both riding white horses, true, but they're also carrying
different weapons. That one has a sword, this one has a bow. Anyway, if they're supposed to be the expression of God's wrath upon the world,
anything benign, like "the spread of the gospel" would seem to be out of place.
"Conquest"? "Conflict"? But what, then, would be the difference between that and "taking peace from the earth", which is supposed to be the job
of the next horseman?
"The coming of the Antichrist"? In my reading of the book, this is much too early to be looking for the Beast. I suggested in my "Silence in
Heaven" thread (q.v.) that the Beast belongs to the time when the world is trying to recover from the 4 Horsemen.
Popular culture labelled the first horseman as "Plague" or "Pestilence". I'm still not convinced that popular culture got it wrong.
In Psalm 91 vv5-6, the incoming arrow is one of the symbols of pestilence;
"You will not fear the terror of the night,
Nor the arrow that flies by day,
Nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Nor the destruction that wastes at noonday."
We get the same image at the beginning of Homer's Iliad, where the flying arrows of the angry god Apollo are wreaking havoc in the Greek camp.
This seems to be an association of ideas which the ancient world would have recognised.
So I'm opting for "Pestilence" as my label for the first horseman, while grudgingly admitting that other interpretations are available.
The second horseman is being permitted to "take peace from the earth" (which might cover any kind of conflict, including civil wars and rioting).
Then the third one comes along with instructions to set prices (very high ones, apparently) for wheat and barley. Tradition has labelled them "War"
and "Famine", which seems reasonable.
There's a question which needs to be addressed before we go much further.
Should we understand these "horsemen" as four distinct events, coming at intervals, or should we see them coming together?
Certainly, it's nearly impossible to see them as events in the past, as some people like to do, unless we see them as four distinct events. Then they
can be matched up, one by one, with various points in time. The drawback is that any sceptic can question the choice by pointing out, quite rightly,
that wars, famines, and epidemics have been happening all through human history.
There's also, in my opinion, something rather odd about the place of "Death" in that kind of scheme. "Death" comes as the last horseman in the
series, and only as the last in the series. Yet "Death" is following on from "Famine" and from "War" (and, according to certain obstinate
historians, from "Pestilence"), which are causes of death in their own right. If these were all coming one by one, you would expect them, surely, to
be accompanied by "Death" one by one?
So, I'm convinced that John's expecting us to see a completely different picture. These horsemen are coming in quick succession, and, once they get
going, they're running together. The three causes of death fan out across the world, their paths crossing and criss-crossing, while "Death"
itself follows on close behind them to pick up all the corpses. In other words, these are not meant to be four distinct disasters, but the different
components of one major, devastating disaster.
Death is accompanied, in v8, by further bouts of war, famine, and pestilence (and by wild beasts). Apart from being a quotation from Ezekiel (but
that's a subject for another time), this list might hint at a possible "feedback" effect- that is, as these disasters are developing and merging
into one another, they might be helping to aggravate one another.
For example, pestilence and war would disrupt the growing of food and the transportation of food, which would aggravate shortages. Shortages would
aggravate the loss of peace, with fighting at all levels of society from supermarkets to international frontiers. Any epidemic which was drastic
enough to break down social structures would also help to "take peace from the earth". Finally, any combination of death and social breakdown which
left bodies lying around unburied would aggravate the problem of disease.
John says that his "Death" would impact on a quarter of the earth. Does he mean a quarter of the land-surface, or a quarter of the world's
population? The second one would be a more convincing expression of God's anger towards the world at large.
If John is really describing something on that kind of scale, then clearly the world hasn't seen it yet. I'm not offering to predict when the world
might see it, because I'm not that kind of interpreter.
On the one hand, we can all see- and ATS never stops talking about- the possibility that current events might develop into some kind of
Speculation about pestilence, in the form of mutant flu viruses (or fungal spores in Oregon, getting really up to date)
Speculation about war.
Speculation about economic collapse.
And if these things all came together?
So it seems plausible (I refuse to put it more strongly than that) that an event of the kind John was describing might be on the horizon.
On the other hand- if I was right in calling the 4 Horsemen God's response to the oppression of his people-
Then we should not really be expecting them until God's people are genuinely being oppressed.