There runs to and fro across the earth a black horse. Upon this horse there sits a rider holding in his hand a pair of balances. And as this mighty steed and rider make their drive through the earth there booms a voice, “A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the wine and the oil.”
This horse and his rider are of course the black horse of Revelation i6 that issues forth with this opening of the third seal. Properly understood the drive of this horse represents the work of the exalted Christ throughout the ages to treat a rich minority and a poor majority. Down through the ages the wealth of society has found its way into the hands of a few rich, while the masses have had to struggle from day to day simply to maintain their existence. The story of the common man has been one of economic hardship. He earns a penny a day which is just enough to meet his daily needs—a measure of wheat or three measures of barley. He struggles to survive; while the rich bathe in luxury.
This in turn causes, social problems. For the poor of this world covet the wealth of the few and seek to lay their hands on that wealth so as to raise their own standard of living. The rich, however, are not willing to share their wealth. Consequently, problems arise. This age-old contrast between the greedy poor and the protective rich has been the source of countless strikes and boycotts across our land. It has been the source of many crimes committed. It also helps to account for many of the riots and revolutions and even wars that fill the pages of history. And it is all the result of the black horse that makes his drive through the earth under the control of Christ. Neither is this without its purpose.
Normally we view the drive of the black horse as being the means whereby Christ prevents the premature culmination of the antichristian kingdom. And certainly this is correct. For so long as Christ maintains the contrast between the rich and the poor, man’s dream of a universal kingdom of peace and prosperity for all can never be realized. Through the drive of the black horse Christ does not allow the Antichrist to come until the time appointed.
Nevertheless, it is true that the black horse also serves to pave the way for the Antichrist. For at Christ’s appointed time there will arise on the scene of history an individual possessing the ability to make all men rich. Whether it be through intellectual acumen, or the art of persuasion, or the advancements of technology he will have the solution to man’s poverty. He will hold the key to riches for all and peace on earth. And so he will be heralded as the savior of mankind before whom all shall willingly bow. The black horse, therefore, not only prevents the premature rise of Antichrist; strikingly he also paves the way for Antichrist.
It is into this framework of things that the rising inflation in our land certainly fits.
The January 15, 1979 issue of Time magazine carries an article entitled “Inflation: Who Is Hurt Worst?” This article informs us of that which has become a reality for all of us. Since 1967 the cost of living in the United States has doubled; it costs twice as much to live now as it did a mere 11 years ago. Thus, for example, in 1967 a pound of hamburger cost 59¢ (remember that!); whereas today that average price is $1.49. A loaf of bread has gone from 35¢ to 73¢. Gasoline has jumped from 39¢ to 77¢ a gallon. Similarly, the cost of a hospital room has increased 150%, housing 69%, dental work 200%, automobiles 86%. And these are only a few of the items mentioned. Neither does there seem to be any end in sight. WritesTime magazine, “The last decade has brought the most damaging price surge in the nation’s history, and the elusive goal of relative stability remains far away.”
On the other hand, it is true that wages have also increased considerably during this time of inflation. But in this connection. there are two things to consider. First of all, Time magazine points out that not everyone’s wages have kept pace with the rapid rate of inflation. Some have. Members of the powerful unions, for example, like the steel and auto workers enjoy “escalator clauses” in their contracts that automatically boost paychecks as inflation rises. Military personnel have also been able to keep ahead of inflation as the government seeks to recruit and keep people in the all-volunteer service. Social Security recipients have received a three-fold increase in the benefits over the last 11 years. Yet this is only one half of the story. For every wage earner who is able to stay ahead of the rapid rate of inflation there are others who are falling behind. Although they make more than they did in 1967, their buying power is less.
In the second place, Time magazine also informs us that the steepest rises in prices have come in life’s necessities: food, clothing, shelter, and transportation. This means that the lower the family income, the harder inflation hits. It is not the rich that suffer as much as it is the middle and lower income families who must spend the bulk of their earnings for the basics. This present trend of inflation, therefore, is not narrowing the gap between the rich and poor. Such would be the case were inflation to affect primarily the luxury items, leaving the basics of life untouched. But when the necessities of life are hardest hit, as they are now, then inflation widens the gap between the rich and the poor. Certainly we see here the effect of the black horse.
And this is causing its problems. Before the acceleration of inflation in the 60’s, our society anticipated a great surge forward financially and economically. The standard of living was supposed to rise to unprecedented heights. And although one can hardly say that our land totters on the brink of poverty, nevertheless the inflation of the past decade has made the dreams of the 60’s seem like a taunting fantasy. According toTime magazine, Americans everywhere share a deep sense of being threatened. The financial squeeze has caused frustration and resentment. There is even concern that many will eventually question the whole free enterprise system as we have it, if inflation is not checked in the near future.
Consequently, inflation has become the number one concern of public officials today. For politicians to ignore the inflation issue is to commit political suicide. Society is demanding a solution. Americans will not tolerate a lower standard of living. Neither are they satisfied to maintain the status quo. The desire of America is to surge forward to new heights of prosperity. And it appears that society is willing to follow anyone who will make this dream come true. As one Chicago steel worker is quoted as saying: “You really want to revolt, but what can you do? I keep waiting for a miracle—for some guy who isn’t born yet—and when he comes we’ll follow him like he was John the Baptist.”
The picture is quite clear. We live in a society that is concerned chiefly with material prosperity. Wealth, luxury, a life of ease have been made god over all. And society is willing to sacrifice almost anything to retain this god. For the sake of this god, mothers are willing to put the well-being of their families in jeopardy as they go off to work. Others are willing to forego the privilege of bearing children. The sacrifices that have been made for this idol of earthly prosperity is astounding. But for all these efforts, the American dream is still as elusive as ever. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Of late, that which makes America’s dream still a dream and not a reality is galloping inflation. And this all very clearly serves to pave the way for the coming of the Antichrist. For should there arise in the near future a leader that could solve the problems of inflation, and so bring unheralded prosperity to man, it is safe to say that our country and also the whole world would “follow him like he was John the Baptist.” Only he would not be John the Baptist; he would be the forerunner of Antichrist, if not the Beast himself.
Let us, therefore, beware.
We are perhaps as hard hit by inflation as anyone else. Historically the church has never been rich in this world’s goods. So also is it today. Most of us are either in the middle or lower income bracket, the range hardest hit by today’s inflation. Neither do I think that many of us have “escalator clauses” in our wage agreements as do the powerful labor unions so that we are able to keep ahead of inflation. Besides, we have our schools and churches to support. Inflation is no respecter of persons. Undoubtedly many of us have found that school tuition and the church budget have sky-rocketed; and this is in spite of every effort on the part of the school and church to keep costs down. Yes, I believe that inflation has taken its toll especially among the members of the church.
But then we must be aware that we do not get caught up in the spirit of our age. There is within us all a terrible inclination to seek the things here below rather than the things that are above, to be earthly-minded rather than heavenly-minded. So easily we forget about heavenly things and concern ourselves only with the earthly. How many mothers are not tempted to seek employment simply to stay on top? How many young couples are not tempted to put off bearing children simply to get ahead financially? Yet if this f is our mentality, what will we do when the Antichrist does come and offers us unheralded prosperity? Being blinded by our evil lust for earthly treasures, will we not indeed “follow him like he was John the Baptist”?
Let us, therefore, see the work of Christ in history, even as He uses the present trend of inflation to make all things ready for the end. And let us by the grace of God seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness that when the evil day of the Antichrist does come we may be able to stand and so receive the crown of life.