“In One Place After Another Pestilences”
IN THOSE words above, found at Luke 21:11, an increase of pestilences is given as one of the features of the sign of the last days. At Revelation 6:8, those pestilences are prefigured by the ride of a pale horse, the fourth horse of Revelation chapter 6. Columnist Lawrence Hall presented highlights from a new book by Andrew Nikiforuk entitled The Fourth Horseman: A Short History of Epidemics, Plagues, Famine and Other Scourges. They appeared in Hall’s column in the Newark, New Jersey, Star-Ledger, February 25, 1994. Excerpts from the column follow.
“The Fourth horseman of the Apocalypse is riding hard in these desperate times. Humankind is at risk in more ways than one—even with all the spanking, brand new technologies and advances in the medical sciences. Many antibiotics, once hailed as miracle drugs, are no match for today’s superorganisms. . . .
“‘Although . . . drugs and vaccines may create an illusion of competence, pestilence will continue to remind the masses that the youngest science is still wearing a diaper, and probably a dirty one at that’ . . . It’s not my intention to scare you, but the Fourth Horseman metaphor is quite real. Tuberculosis is on the rise once again. The AIDS virus continues to decimate thousands upon thousands annually across the globe . . . Other diseases such as typhoid, diphtheria, cholera, anthrax and malaria loom menacingly—much to the dismay of health professionals and the public at large. . . .
“Each historical period in humankind has spawned new diseases. . . . The Renaissance had syphilis, smallpox was carried to the Americas with Columbus, and AIDS now threatens us once again. . . . Still, there are new scourges and epidemics breaking out as humankind appears to be losing its battle over microbes. . . . The number of people with suppressed immune systems is increasing.” Nikiforuk also says that “‘one of the great lies of the 20th century [is] that antibiotics, vaccines and doctors have saved us from pestilence. . . .
“‘However hard we try, we can’t beat the superorganism, bribe the Horseman or ignore the immutable presence of pestilence in history.’”