The Kingdom Horseman Rides
1, 2. (a) On whom do we now focus attention, and what does he hold in his right hand? (b) Why was John told to stop weeping? (c) Who is the “Lion” of Judah, and why is he worthy to open the seals?
LET us turn to the fifth chapter of Revelation. Here we read of an inspired vision, given to the apostle John, that is directly related to the ‘coming’ of God’s kingdom. It focuses on the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, “the One seated upon the throne.” In his right hand he holds a scroll of writings, “sealed tight with seven seals.” But the apostle John gives way to a great deal of weeping. Why? Because, in all the universe, no one could be found that was worthy to unseal the scroll and make known its message. But, look! There is someone worthy! He is none other than “the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah,” the heir to David’s kingdom.—Revelation 5:1-5.
2 He is worthy because he “has conquered.” As a perfect man on earth, he showed unwavering loyalty to his Father, even to a cruel death on a torture stake. “The ruler of the world,” Satan, could not break his integrity. Jesus could say: “I have conquered the world.”—John 14:30; 16:33.
3. Why should we rejoice over the fulfillment of Revelation 5:9, 10?
3 There are others, also, who have conquered the world, and this courageous “Lion,” Christ Jesus, counts them as his spiritual “brothers.” (Matthew 25:40) By a heavenly resurrection, these are to join him in his 1,000-year Kingdom reign, and share with him in administering the benefits of his ransom sacrifice to the billions of mankind on earth. So voices in heaven are singing a new song. They are saying to this One, who was once led as an innocent lamb to the slaughter:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.” (Revelation 5:9, 10)
What a blessing, that the King and his tried and proved associate kings are about to act on behalf of oppressed humankind! But in this connection, there must first be warfare.
THE RIDER OF THE WHITE HORSE
4. (a) What are symbolized by the “white horse,” by the rider’s “bow,” and by his receiving a “crown”? (b) Who is this rider, and when did he receive kingly authority?
4 As the “Lamb” takes the scroll and opens the first seal, a voice thunders from heaven: “Come!” And what do we see? “Look! a white horse”—in symbol of righteous warfare. Its rider has a “bow.” He can destroy his enemies from afar—covering much greater distances than mere man-made intercontinental ballistic missiles. A “crown” is given him, and this points to the modern year of 1914, when Jehovah gives him kingly authority over the nations. So much more powerful than puny human lords or kings, this “Lord of lords and King of kings” is to triumph over all enemies of righteousness, along with the “called and chosen and faithful” anointed Christians who are united with him in his heavenly kingdom.—Revelation 6:1, 2; 17:14.
5. (a) What initial conquest did this rider make? (b) What has been the result to mankind, but why should we heed the warning of Mark 13:32-37?
5 This rider on the “white horse” is a mighty conqueror. What, then, could be more appropriate, as he starts his ride, than that he oust “the original serpent” Satan and his demon angels from heaven? Down to this earth he hurls them! It is no wonder that the Devil now has great anger. As we have already noted, he vents this anger on mankind, making “woe for the earth and for the sea.” The Devil knows that he has only “a short period of time,” but he is very subtle. He would like to influence us into thinking that the “last days” stretch away into the far distant future. Let none of us be lulled to sleep by such thinking!—Revelation 12:9-12; Mark 13:32-37.
A FIERY-COLORED HORSE
6. (a) According to Revelation 6:3, 4, what now bursts upon the scene? (b) How was World War I different from all preceding wars?
6 The “Lamb” opens the second seal. Out dashes “a fiery-colored horse”! “To the one seated upon it there was granted to take peace away from the earth so that they should slaughter one another; and a great sword was given him.” (Revelation 6:4) Ah, the first world war of human history bursts upon the scene. Peace is taken away, not merely from a few nations, but from “the earth,” as huge armies and navies grapple with one another, using frightful weapons of mass extermination. Whereas previous wars have been fought by professional armies, usually of just a few countries, World War I is total warfare. For the first time in history, the entire resources of many nations, including conscripted manpower, are thrown into the battle.
7-9. With regard to “slaughter,” what statistics and statements show that 1914 marked the beginning of the most murderous period of all history?
7 The prophecy mentions “slaughter,” and “slaughter” it was! In the battle of the Somme, a new and murderous invention, the machine gun, mowed down British and French troops by the hundreds of thousands, accounting, by some estimates, for 80 percent of all casualties. In nine months at Verdun, more men died than marched with Napoleon’s army into Russia. Painted with blood on a cemetery wall, a sign at Verdun read “FIVE KILOMETERS TO THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE.” In all, some 9,000,000 soldiers were slaughtered during the four years of that Great War.
8 Was 1914 the year when the rider of the “fiery-colored horse” took peace away from the earth? Many historians support that view. For example, almost 50 years afterward, the editor of the historical magazine American Heritage wrote: “In the summer of 1914 the nations were at peace and the future seemed serene. Then the guns spoke, and things would never again be the same. . . . The year 1914 was one of the most fateful years in human history . . . In that year there came one of those profound turning points that occur no more than once or twice in a millennium. Probably it will be a long time before we fully understand what 1914 got us into, but we can at least begin to see what it wrenched us out of.” Truly, the rider of the “fiery-colored horse” wrenched peace from the earth, and 1914 was the year.
9 The horseman has continued his murderous ride through a second world war, in which 16,000,000 soldiers died in battle. As we move on in the 1980’s, a Hungarian professor calculates that in three decades following the end of World War II, another 25,000,000 soldiers died in battle. He states that during the 33 years that followed the close of World War II, there were only 26 days in which there was no war somewhere in the world.
10. How has this horseman used “a great sword”?
10 The prophecy tells us that “a great sword” was given to this horseman. And, indeed, lethal weaponry has played a big part in the slaughter of the wars of this 20th century. In World War I, poison gas, automatic weapons, army tanks, airplanes and submarines made their first full-scale debut. In World War II, aerial warfare literally wiped out cities, most of the casualties being innocent women, children and old folk. In one night the city of Coventry, England, was devastated, and later an air attack by the Allies snuffed out 135,000 lives in Dresden, Germany. There followed the mass extermination by atomic bombs of at least 92,000 persons in Hiroshima and 40,000 in Nagasaki, Japan, again mostly civilians. What the “great sword” might accomplish today if nuclear warfare erupted beggars the imagination!
“LOOK! A BLACK HORSE”
11, 12. (a) How has the rider of the “black horse” shown himself to be a companion to the second horseman? (b) What shows that his ride has continued until our day?
11 As the “Lamb” opens the third seal, “a black horse” charges forth. “And the one seated upon it had a pair of scales in his hand.” (Revelation 6:5) Ah, here is a companion rider to the horseman of total warfare! This is the horseman that brings famine. During both the world wars, famine conditions plagued many countries. Food rationing, as represented by the “pair of scales,” became the norm for the citizens of the warring nations. And in the wake of World War I came the greatest famine of all history. The Nation of June 7, 1919, reported that 32,000,000 people in India were “on the verge of starvation.” World’s Work of March 1921 stated that in northern China alone 15,000 people were dying every day from hunger. The New York Times publication Current History Magazine of October 1921 quoted a British report that in Russia “no fewer than 35,000,000 people are stalked by the grim spectre of famine and pestilence.” Similar famine conditions prevailed following World War II, when Look magazine of June 11, 1946, reported: “A fourth of the world is starving today.”
12 Even without total war, a crop failure in our modern world often brings news headlines such as this one in 1974: “India under the third horseman’s shadow.” In 1976: “An Ever-Hungrier World Faces Major Food Crisis.” And in 1979: “450 million people are starving.” As the world population multiplies, the food situation in underdeveloped and war-torn countries becomes ever more desperate. The Atlas World Press Review, in the New Scientist of May 1975, stated: “The world faces a double-headed specter. Famine is only one of its aspects: the other is chronic malnutrition. FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] estimates that 61 out of 97 developing nations produced or imported substantially less food in 1970 than was necessary to feed their populations. On a conservative estimate, FAO reckons 460 million people suffer from malnutrition; a more liberal interpretation might put the figure at 1 billion.” Now, in the 1980’s, the situation is far worse.
13. What modern-day conditions and fears are foreshadowed at Revelation 6:6?
13 As the third horseman continues his ride, a voice from the heavens cries: “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the olive oil and the wine.” (Revelation 6:6) With a denarius representing a day’s wage, a workman would indeed be incensed at this highly inflated price. And does not inflation continue to make inroads into the income of ordinary people today? But what of those items such as the “oil” and the “wine”? Greedy profiteers and other wealthy persons would like to protect their affluent way of life. But will they succeed? We shall see, as the “black horse” charges to and fro throughout the earth.
‘A PALE HORSE, WITH DEATH’
14. How do the rider of the fourth horse and his companion aptly tie in with events since 1914?
14 The fourth seal is opened, and “a pale horse” joins the galloping steeds. The rider is Death. Closely following comes Hades—whether on another horse or not, the record does not say. But they have a gruesome commission: “Authority was given them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with a long sword and with food shortage and with deadly plague and by the wild beasts of the earth.” (Revelation 6:7, 8) Since that fateful year 1914, the presence of Death and Hades has indeed spread to the four corners of the earth.
15, 16. (a) What striking fulfillment did this prophecy have in 1918-1919? (b) What shows that this horse has been galloping continuously since 1914?
15 “Deadly plague”! They called it the 1918-1919 pandemic, or the Spanish flu. In a few weeks, its victims were double the number that had died on the battlefields of World War I—a staggering total of at least 21,000,000. In the United States the official figure for flu deaths was 548,452, more than 10 times the number of American soldiers killed in the war. For the most part its victims were the young and virile. In India, more than 12,000,000 died. It spared no continent or island—with the one exception of the island of St. Helena. Entire villages among the Eskimos and in Central Africa were wiped out. In Tahiti, funeral pyres were used to dispose of the bodies of 4,500 persons who died in just 15 days, and in Western Samoa 7,500 out of a population of 38,000 perished from the plague.
16 However, the Spanish flu has not been the only death-dealing disease brought forth by the rider of the “pale horse.” The New York Times reported that in 1915, in the battle for Gallipoli, dysentery killed more soldiers than did bullets. From 1914 to 1923 cholera killed 3,250,000 in India. In 1915 “from two and one-half to three million deaths” in Russia were attributed to typhus. And as the rider gallops on into more recent times, heart disease and cancer have become leading killers, syphilis “the No. 2 Killer Among Communicable Diseases” and hepatitis “a Worldwide Explosion of Disease.”
RELIEF AT HAND!
17, 18. (a) What did one statesman say, indicating the link between the second, third and fourth horsemen? (b) But whom do the world’s leaders ignore? (c) Why can we be joyful about what the glorious King will do?
17 Now for more than 60 years, the “fiery-colored horse,” the “black horse” and the “pale horse” have been riding neck and neck, with Hades closely following. Indeed, Hades has reaped a bumper crop of casualties, running into the hundreds of millions. It is of interest that a former president of the United States, Herbert Hoover, linked together these three horsemen, saying in 1941: “The consequences of great wars are always famine and pestilence . . . The World War of twenty-five years ago brought hunger to 300,000,000 people. . . . After a year and a half of the present war [World War II] nearly 100,000,000 more people are short of food than after three years of the last war.” What disaster a third world war would mean for mankind!
18 The world’s leaders are fully aware of the havoc created by the riders of the “fiery-colored,” the “black” and the “pale” horses. However, they ignore the Rider of the “white horse.” The joyful day approaches for this glorious King to take action in reversing the order of things! Instead of war, he will bring in peace. In place of famine, he will provide plenty. In lieu of disease, he will restore mankind to perfect health, and even Hades will deliver up the dead. A parallel passage in the Psalms describes this rider on the “white horse” in these words:
“Gird your sword upon your thigh, O mighty one, with your dignity and your splendor. And in your splendor go on to success; ride in the cause of truth and humility and righteousness, and your right hand will instruct you in fear-inspiring things.” (Psalm 45:3, 4)
The Kingdom Horseman’s triumph draws near!
19. (a) In view of the fulfillment of Revelation 6:2-8, should we be perturbed? (b) What example is cited to encourage us to be strong in faith?
19 Let us not be unduly perturbed, therefore, by the worsening situation on earth today. Rather, may our viewpoint be similar to that of one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who, because of her beliefs, spent 20 of the years 1956 to 1978 in prison in a socialistic country. At one stage she was under sentence of death, and to this day she carries torture marks on her arms. How did she keep strong in faith? It was by meditating on the many Scripture passages that she remembered from her previous diligent study of the Bible. She says that one of these was Revelation 6:2. She was firmly convinced that the Rider of the “white horse,” the King Jesus Christ, had been enthroned in the heavens in 1914, and she was determined to endure until he should “complete his conquest.” May all others who pray for God’s kingdom to “come” remain faithful until the King is completely victorious!
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THE BLACK HORSE CONTINUES ITS GALLOP
“The World Bank estimates 780 million people around the world are living in absolute poverty, a condition that is ‘beneath any reasonable definition of human decency.’”—Detroit “Free Press,” September 1, 1980