What’s going on? What does it all mean? It began in New York City—”Occupy Wall Street.” It was the first week of October. World magazine (October 22, 2011, p. 8) described it this way: “It started out as little more than street theatre, but throughout the first week of October the Occupy Wall Street movement grew into what The New Republic called ‘a younger, dreadlocked version of the Tea Party.’ With declared complaints against corporations that ranged from the sound (‘They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give executives exorbitant bonuses’) to the misdirected (‘They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education’), nearly 700 protesters were arrested on October 2 as they shut down a lane of traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.”
This movement soon had a ripple effect—the protests spread to many cities across our country and around the world. A Kalamazoo Gazette headline in mid-October read: “I’ve never been this angry before”—words from a nurse from Battle Creek, Michigan, one of the Occupy Kalamazoo protesters who was angry about bailouts and about corporate greed sanctioned by the government. There are many widely-varied grievances, but the vast majority of them are economic and financial concerns regarding poverty, joblessness, and wealth inequality. Some protesters openly state that they want a revolution, the overthrow of our government and the capitalistic system. Many contend that a failed system, in which only one percent of the population enjoys most of the nation’s wealth, brought them to protest.
Gerry Wize comments in an article in Christian Renewal (October 26, 2011, p. 21): “So why ‘Occupy Wall Street’? It’s a symbol of greed, but symbols don’t always match realities, certainly not in simplistic, unqualified ways. At the heart of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement is the desire to find a place for blame to land, blame for our unemployment, deep debt, and the fading of the American Dream, as though full employment, extra cash on hand, and the assurance that everything will be more than alright financially for us—regardless of how bad they may be for others—were undisputed rights.”
But solutions to the perceived problems from the Occupiers are few. Marvin Olasky comments in Worldmagazine, in an article entitled, “Reactions to Occupation” (November 5, 2011, pp. 49, 50):
From other reports it’s clear that many Occupiers travel light in any knowledge of economics and business. Many Occupiers seem clueless about the irreducible complexity of a vast market system, and how hard it is to run even a small organization, let alone a massive one. They complain about private greed for money but don’t recognize public greed for power. For example, they blame free markets for housing foreclosures when they should blame congressional pressure on businesses to make loans to those who were not credit-worthy.
Accompanying that cluelessness is an entitlement mentality: Some young Occupiers think they deserve what they desire, and are not getting it only because others are greedy. Some complain about bailouts to banks deemed too big to fail, but think they’re too cute to be unemployed. Some have often taken college courses that teach no marketable skills, including clear thought, and because of grade inflation have received A’s. One Occupy sign read, “We’re here, we’re unclear, get used to it.”
In recent weeks there have been increasing incidents of confrontation and violence between Occupiers and police. In Oakland the Occupiers faced off with police officers in a heated protest on October 25 in an attempt to reclaim as a campsite a plaza in front of City Hall. Bay area police officers launched beanbags and sprayed tear gas at protesters who tried to re-enter Frank Agawa Plaza, which was closed for sanitary cleaning. Police said they responded defensively to protesters who threw rocks, bottles, and cans of paint at them. They arrested more than 100, with one serious injury reported. Some Occupiers are turning destructive by shattering windows and starting fires. Many of their camps are starting to self-destruct through theft, rape, and filthy conditions. Over the country there have been thousands of arrests as overly-indulgent mayors finally put their foot down and sent in the police to clear out the encampments.
How are we to evaluate the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and the economic turmoil around the world? No one can dispute the economic disparity we see in our land and around the world. In many countries the economic chaos has led to open rebellion, rioting, and revolution. Men attempt to find natural causes and explanations for the problems, but in the light of Scripture, this spirit of discontent and envy and the stark contrast between rich and poor are but the clear evidence that the black horse of Revelation 6:5, 6 is running his course through the earth!
With the opening of the seals in Revelation 6 we are given the revelation of the history, the unfolding of God’s counsel with regard to this new dispensation. The first four seals are manifest as horses of different colors, with their riders—they represent strong, irresistible forces that are directed and controlled ultimately by Christ Himself. The white horse, which is first, represents the victorious progress of the gospel and the cause of Christ’s kingdom. The other horses follow him and serve him: the red horse symbolizing war with all its destruction; the pale horse symbolizing death and its power and influence. But our focus here is upon the black horse, which symbolizes economic contrast, poverty vs. prosperity, throughout the earth. We read concerning this black horse: “And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine” (Rev. 6:5, 6).
In the light of Scripture, the color black signifies scarcity, famine, and hunger (Jer. 4:24-28; Jer. 14:2;Lam. 5:10). The rider of this black horse has a pair of balances in his hand with which he does some weighing. A voice out of the midst of the four creatures cries, “A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny, and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” A penny was the average daily wage of the laborer of that day. One measure of wheat or three measures of barley (which was somewhat cheaper and less nourishing) was considered just enough food to sustain one person for one day. On the other hand, oil and wine are symbols in the Bible for luxury and plenty. These must not be hurt, damaged, or disrupted—in other words, do not touch the great prosperity that some have!
Clearly it is the black horse with its rider that maintains the contrast between the rich who live in abundance and the poor masses who often live by the day. Always the running of the black horse brings the sharp contrast between scarcity and plenty, between luxury and miserable poverty, along with all the conflicts between the “haves” and the “have nots.” The black horse is running his course through the earth, galloping also through our land! Yes, we can distinguish many factors that are involved in our present economic turmoil, but ultimately it is the result of the running of the black horse.
The black horse has a mission to fulfill under the direction of the Lord Christ. We must remember that the white horse, representing the cause of Christ as manifest in the preaching of the gospel, cannot run alone. If he did, we would see the kingdom of Antichrist reach the height of its development prematurely. To prevent that, the black horse, as directed by Christ, must maintain the tremendous contrast between rich and poor. And it is a simple fact that, no matter where you go in all the world, no matter what the form of government or the type of economic system, rich and poor remain!
Generally speaking, man strives to do all that he can to destroy this black horse. Many economic philosophies hate this horse and its rider. Today, also in our country, we see an increasingly radical ideology that denounces capitalism and the free enterprise system. Many envision a complete restructuring of government, banking, and business that would give students, workers, and consumers the dominant voice. And much of the modern-day church joins in this materialistic fray in the name of social justice and economic equality. Much of the church fails to recognize the mission of the black horse. Much of the church labors for an earthly kingdom and fails to recognize her antithetical calling to live in the expectation of the Lord from heaven.
Meanwhile, we certainly do not make light of the financial struggles that many endure. Many of God’s people too experience the stress, the frustration, the trauma due to the lingering effects of recession. But as God’s people, in the light of Scripture, we see and experience the goodness and faithfulness of our God even in the midst of these difficult times. We are assured of Father’s care. What a blessing is prayer—that we may cast also these cares upon the Lord! And in these times the communion of the saints becomes especially meaningful as we strive to bear one another’s burdens. Above all, we need the Word, and the pure preaching thereof, which direct our faith away from the earthly toward the heavenly inheritance that is ours in Christ. We need the Word, which assures us that the running of the black horse through the earth means that the time shortly comes when our Lord returns.
At the same time, we know that ultimately also this horseman shall cease to ride, and the universal peace and prosperity of the antichristian kingdom will come. That’s the future! To all the problems that contribute to the social and economic contrast, the antichristian kingdom will appear to have the answer. The economic chaos of the world will be solved as that one centralized power will be in a position to distribute energy resources, food, and wealth equitably among all peoples. But, of course, to have a share in that redistribution of wealth one will have to carry the mark of the beast. One will need this mark in order to live in that kingdom. It will be needed to buy groceries, to transact business, to ply one’s trade, to own a car or house, to travel the highways, to enter a hospital. There will be no compromise on this matter. By grace, the child of God will rather lose all his earthly goods and go hungry than be a traitor to his Lord!
But for us there is comfort! Never forget: Christ reigns! He opens the seals of the book of God’s counsel. The Antichrist has power given him for just a little while. His days are numbered and shortened for the elect’s sake. At the present time the black horse is still running. He that is wise redeems the time, and sees the running of the black horse as a sign of the return of our Lord. May the Lord grant unto us that we be faithful, if need be, unto death!