The Horsemen of the Apocalypse—How Their Ride Affects You
MONDAY, April 1, 1985, was like no other day for many commuters in Toronto, Canada. Would-be bombers had threatened to blow up the city’s subway tracks. Why? To call attention to what they said was an attempt years ago to destroy the Armenian people in Turkey, something the Turkish government has repeatedly denied.
Doubtless, most of those commuters knew little or nothing about that matter of years ago. Yet they suffered some hardship and anxiety. Often we are affected by things about which we know very little.
During the second decade of the 20th century, notable events began to occur in fulfillment of the remarkable Bible prophecy found at Revelation (or, Apocalypse) 6:1-8. As revealed to the Christian apostle John, horsemen were to ride forth in the last days. And though millions do not know about it, the ride of those horsemen of the Apocalypse is affecting everyone on earth. You, too, are affected. But how? We shall see as we discuss each of the horsemen.
The Fiery-Colored Horse
One of the mounts seen by John was “a fiery-colored horse; and 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.
This horseman’s “great sword” symbolizes warfare. Accordingly, since 1914 some 69 million people died in the two world wars. What a slaughter! Truly, a huge crowd of widows and orphans attests that the rider of the fiery-colored horse, denoting international warfare, has directly affected their lives.
Moreover, continuing wars and war threats weigh heavily on the younger generation. In lands where active conflict rages, teenagers are doing much of the fighting. The effect of war on these young people is summed up in this question posed by the chairman of one human-rights agency: “How can they ever grow up as sane and balanced adults?”
Youths in various countries directly affected by war have learned to count time in hours and days instead of in months and years. They ask: “Later, who cares about later? Can you guarantee that a shell won’t come into my room tonight when I go to bed?”
What of the children living in peaceful lands? Do they feel the effects of the war horseman? Yes, the gloomy threat of nuclear warfare has had profound psychological consequences for them. Regarding the despair expressed by her students, one teacher remarked: “Over and over as I heard these comments I was just washed with a feeling of disbelief. These young children felt a level of despair that I don’t allow myself to feel.” Dr. Richard Logan of Quebec, Canada, adds: “Helplessness and powerlessness is the psychological definition of depression. That’s what we’re seeing in a great many young people.”
But what if you do not live in a war-torn country or do not feel you are emotionally affected by the problem? Still the rider of the fiery-colored horse affects your life. Every minute $1.3 million is spent for direct military purposes—some $660 thousand million a year worldwide. Who pays for all of this? You do. Wherever you live, you are affected by the rider of the fiery-colored horse.
The Black Horse
Another horse of the tableau is described by John in these words: “And I saw, and, look! a black horse; and the one seated upon it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice as if in the midst of the four living creatures say: ‘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 6:5, 6.
Are you hungry? Millions are. They are directly affected by the rider of the black horse, denoting famine. Every minute 30 children die for lack of adequate food or medicine—more than 15 million a year! Hundreds of millions of other people live in deplorable conditions. According to former World Bank President Robert McNamara, they are “so limited by illiteracy, malnutrition, disease, high infant mortality and low life expectancy as to deny them the very potential of the genes with which they are born.”
In recent months, it has been common to see pictures of starving African men, women, and children. Graphically portraying the scope of such suffering, UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar warned: “More human beings may die in sub-Saharan Africa than during the entire Second World War. Even those who survive may be impaired for the rest of their lives, either physically or mentally.” These victims are directly affected by the ride of the black horse.
You may not be hungry, but surely you have been affected by the sad pictures of the famine stricken. According to a New York Times editorial of May 20, 1985, more than a billion dollars had by then been contributed to supply aid to the famished. While you may not have contributed directly, some governments have made large contributions, using tax money. Yes, the ride of the black horse has both a direct and an indirect effect on the whole population.
The Pale Horse
The vision John saw continues with the description of another horse and its rider: “I saw, and, look! a pale horse; and the one seated upon it had the name Death. And Hades was closely following him. And 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 6:8.
Death rides the pale horse, and “deadly plague” is just one of the various ways that life is being snuffed out during this horseman’s ride. Despite the modern advances of medical science, the world still faces disease on all fronts. While we may not now face an epidemic having the scope of the so-called Spanish flu that followed World War I, still the toll taken by cancer, heart problems, and many other diseases is staggering. For instance, the World Health Organization estimates that 5.9 million new cases of cancer occur worldwide each year. River blindness, malaria, snail fever, cholera, and a host of other diseases add to the current plagues still suffered.
However, you may reason, ‘I don’t have any of these diseases.’ That may be true, but you are affected by the ride of the pale horse. Hospital and medical costs are enormous. This leads individuals to secure some form of health insurance. Many countries provide social medicine paid for through taxes. And think of the tremendous cost in loss of working time, which eventually is transmitted to you in increased prices. Yes, the ride of the pale horse affects you.
What the White Horse Brings
After considering the harmful effects as the other horsemen ride forth, it is heartening to note what John said about the white horse and its rider, which lead out ahead of the others. The apostle said: “I saw, and, look! a white horse; and the one seated upon it had a bow; and a crown was given him, and he went forth conquering and to complete his conquest.”—Revelation 6:2.
Jesus Christ rides the white horse. (Revelation 19:11) His heavenly reign began in 1914 with exciting events. War in heaven resulted in the Devil and his angels being thrown down to the earth. Thereafter, a voice from heaven declared: “Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” This marked the beginning of the ride of the horsemen.—Revelation 12:7-12.
But how does the ride of Jesus Christ affect you? In connection with his reign, Jesus foretold: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) Today, in more than 200 lands and islands of the sea, Jehovah’s Witnesses are proclaiming Christ’s established Kingdom. Have they called at your home? Then you have been affected by the ride of this horseman.
In further foretelling how people would be affected by his reign, Jesus prophesied: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.”—Matthew 25:31-33.
As a result of this separating work done during Jesus’ ride on the white horse, all mankind is identified as being either “sheep” or “goats.” Notice the outcome. The “goats” “will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones [the “sheep”] into everlasting life.” (Matthew 25:46) Thus, how you respond to the preaching of the Kingdom message will mean either life or death for you.
Even if you have not previously considered how the horsemen of the Apocalypse affect you, we urge you to respond to the good news that their ride soon will end. Thereafter, the earth will enjoy many blessings under the rule of Jesus, the rider of the white horse. The Bible prophetically described some of them this way: “In his days the righteous one will sprout, and [with the rider of the fiery-colored horse gone] the abundance of peace until the moon is no more. [Since the rider of the black horse will be absent,] there will come to be plenty of grain on the earth; on the top of the mountains there will be an overflow.”—Psalm 72:7, 16.
When Jesus Christ was on the earth, he demonstrated God-given power over such things as loathsome disease and even death. He will display such power on a far grander scale during his reign as King and will rid the earth of all plagues, famines, and wars. Thus, the rider of the white horse will bring an end to the destructive ride of the other horsemen of the Apocalypse.
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THE HORSEMEN IDENTIFIED
The January 1 issue of The Watchtower showed how the ride of the horsemen of the Apocalypse began to be fulfilled.
WHITE HORSE: Jesus Christ rides this horse as the newly crowned King in heaven. He is pictured going forth as a righteous conqueror since his enthronement in 1914.
FIERY-COLORED HORSE: The rider of this horse denotes warfare. Peace is taken from the earth, and the outbreak of world war is marked.
BLACK HORSE: The rider of this horse denotes food shortages and famine. While millions are starving, others are still able to buy luxury foods.
PALE HORSE: Death rides the pale horse. Premature death is signified. It results from pestilence and other factors.