Saturday, 26 November 2016 17:18

41. Opening the fourth seal: Who is the one riding the pale horse? * Revelation 6:7-8

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7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, Come and see.

8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on it was Death, and Hades 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 living creatures of the earth.

(Version: King James 2000)

 

*** The fourth living creature ***: Very likely, the living creature in the fourth seal is the one who looks like an eagle. In Deuteronomy 28:48-51, we read, as part of the covenant curses, that God would send a strange nation from afar, that would be swift like an eagle. This nation would take everything Israel had. Devastation would come, they would have thirst, famine, and nothing would be left. Unlike what we saw in the third seal, where the wine and the oil would be spared, in the covenant curse sign in Deuteronomy 28:51, not even the wine and the oil would remain. Complete destruction was certain.

*** The color pale ***: The Greek word used for ‘pale’ is chlōros, which means green. It was used to describe vegetation, but also used to describe the yellow-green color of a person who was sick, or even the color of a dead person. The previous three horses had a bold and vibrant color. But this one is different. It has the indefinite, hard-to-describe color of disease and death.

*** The horseman had a name ***: Of the four, this is the only rider that had his name revealed to us. His name was Death. Hades is actually following behind. We saw in study #10 that Hades is the Greek word hadēs, meaning ‘grave’. It is sometimes translated as Hell. But based on the teachings of the Bible, Hades is the place that holds the dead, and so we can understand that ‘grave’ is the appropriate translation. The Bible tells us that Jesus descended to Hades when He died (Acts 2:29-33), but that He did not stay dead. He resurrected to life, and now He holds the keys to Death and Hades (Revelation 1:18). In other words, Revelation 6:8 is saying that Death was riding on a deathly looking horse, and that they were leaving behind a trail of graves. This image portrays the idea of the eagle described in Deuteronomy, which would overcome the people of God, leaving behind a land of desolation.

*** The fourth part of the Earth ***: The first four seals are four horsemen who go out to the world with a mission to bring people back to God. These horsemen received authority from God to execute their mission. They had control over the Earth in order to complete their assignment. The symbology of the dividing of the Earth in four parts is seen in Revelation 7:1, where four angels are holding the four winds of the Earth. These four angels have a global control of the planet, more precisely of the events that are not to be unleashed yet. The idea of such control goes even further, and the expression ‘four winds’ referring to all corners of the world or of Heaven is present throughout the Old Testament (Jeremiah 49:36; Zachariah 2:6; Zachariah 6:5; Ezekiel 17:21; Ezekiel 37:9; Daniel 7:2; Daniel 8:8; Daniel 11:4). Jesus, talking about His Second Coming said: “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:31; also see Mark 13:27). The fourth of the Earth is the target of the judgments brought by the fourth horseman. And the fourth of the Earth refers to the people of God who went through the spiritual famine (third seal), and are now (fourth seal) on the verge of becoming spiritually dead.

*** Sword, hunger, death, and living creatures of the earth ***: This is a clear reference to the covenant curses we saw in Deuteronomy 28, summarized in Ezekiel 14:21 as war, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts. As we saw in study #37, the covenant curses were directed at the Israelites when they rejected God’s commandments. God was the one in control of the curses. He used these plagues to discipline His people, more specifically those who had been unfaithful to His Word, and bring them back to Him. One interesting thing about this passage, is that it mentions one aspect of the previous 2 horsemen: the sword of the second horseman, and hunger brought by the third horseman. The order in which these four elements are stated in the verse imply an intensification of the problem, and it serves as a warning. The sword will divide people, and those who refuse to hear the Word will suffer spiritual hunger, and will eventually die if they continue on the path of rejection. Whatever is left after death is consumed by the wild beasts of the Earth.

*** Symbolic and prophetic application ***: As we saw in the study of the Seven Churches, false teachings started to come in the church, and people started to replace the pure teachings of the Bible with tradition. We saw this period of major division with the church in Thyatira, which prophetically represented the church in the Middle Ages (study #19, #20, and #21), and lead to a dead church, as portrayed by the church in Sardis (study #22 and #23). But as with the previous 3 seals, the events brought forth by this horse and its rider are not limited to this period. The activities of all horsemen are ongoing, to the end.

*** Overview ***: The warning brought forth by the fourth horseman can be frightening. The idea of sword, famine, death and vultures is scary. But that is exactly why God is giving His people this warning ahead of time. The purpose of any warning is prevention. God is here stating the natural consequences of breaking the teachings of His Word. When a parent tells their children: “don’t play with fire, or you could get burned”, they are not willing that the children will disobey their command. Its not the intention of the parent to burn their chidren either. The point is exactly to keep the children safe, and away from danger. If the children decide not to hear the parent, and end up burning themselves, they will suffer the consequences of their disobedience. They will have pain, suffering, they could even die. That is why God is warning His people. He does not wish for anyone to suffer, or die. But if people insist on disobeying Him, they could end up with serious injuries, or worse, spiritually dead. All the horsemen so far were sent from Heaven to work with God’s children. The fourth horseman is no different. Jesus is the fourth rider carrying this important message from God, a message of death and consequent grave. But, more importantly, He is reminding us, though the language used in the text, of who He said holds the key to Death and Hades: Jesus Himself (Revelation 1:18). This means there is hope. If Jesus is in control, we can rest assured that those who repent and return to the path of the one who overcomes, will not have to face the wild beasts of eternal death. Jesus has the power to throw Death and Hades in the lake of fire, so they have a definite end (Revelation 20:14). Jesus on the other hand, will reign forever. Salvation is in Christ alone, and if we hold firmly on to His Word, we have nothing to fear.

   
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