In our recent study of the book of Acts, it became evident how the apostles carried out their mandate to preach the Gospel to all nations. They proclaimed the glad tidings that the crucified and risen Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that there was salvation in His Name, and in His Name alone. They preached Him as the fulfillment of the promise that had been given to the fathers ever since the fall in paradise. To Jew and Gentile they testified of sin and judgment. They called to repentance from sin, and they assured those who repented of forgiveness through the grace and mercies of God. They spoke of Christ’s resurrection, of His glorious power in heaven and on earth, and of His coming again to establish an eternal, heavenly kingdom in the new creation. They did not shun to declare all the counsel of God. Acts 20:27. And this preaching also had its effect according to the purpose of God. As many as were ordained to eternal life believed. Many others opposed the Word and deemed themselves unworthy of eternal life. And the apostles were confident that this was also according to the determining counsel of God. Acts 4:27, 28. For the preaching of the Word was foolishness to those perishing, but the power of God unto salvation for all those who were saved. I Cor. 1:18.
We must still consider the spread of the Gospel throughout the entire new dispensation, and the manner in which God sends His Gospel to the ends of the earth. Also now we must seek our information, not from the accepted opinions of mere men, but from the Word of God. And it is certainly not difficult to find the necessary information in Scripture as to God’s evangelical approach in preaching His Gospel to all the nations even unto the end of time.
We turn our attention now to the very significant passage of Scripture recorded in Revelation 6. There we read of the Four Apocalyptic Horsemen, as they are frequently called. I shall quote the passage in its entirety.
“And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering and to conquer. And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword. 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. And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with the sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”
It may be well to remark at once, that the apostle John received these visions of Revelation on the island of Patmos as the revelation concerning Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, Who is now seated at the right hand of God to carry out the counsel of God unto the day when He will return to put all His and God’s enemies under His feet and to establish His eternal kingdom in the heavens. Therefore these visions are intended for the church of the new dispensation, for their instruction, comfort, and edification.
That applies also to the various epistles written by the apostles, as we have them recorded in the Scriptures. I have no objection whatever to call these missionepistles, as is often done, if we only remember that they are addressed to established churches, and therefore to the church, even to the church of Jesus Christ as it is gathered and preserved in the midst of an evil world throughout this dispensation. No one can escape the very specific address of each epistle. Paul addresses his letter to “all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints,” Rom. 1:7; and to “the church in Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus,” I Cor. 1:2; “to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus,” Eph. 1:1. You will find a similar address in the rest of the epistles of Paul. The apostle Peter does the same, for he writes to “the strangers scattered throughout Pontus , . . . elect according to the foreknowledge of God.” That does not mean that the preaching of the Gospel is limited entirely to the conscious believer and is not intended to reach the unbeliever. It is certainly true that God causes His Gospel to be preached far and wide, even to the ends of the earth. It is also true, that through this power of God sinners are brought to repentance, whenever the preaching is accompanied by the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the regenerated sinner. But only those who have ears to hear do hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. The apostles addressed their letters to the church, for their comfort and edification. And there fore the Book of Revelation follows the same pattern laid down in the epistles, for John addresses his revelations to the “churches,” for their comfort and instruction in the things that have been, that are, and that are still to come.
The four horsemen mentioned in Revelation 6 appear when the book with its seven seals is being opened. The opening of the book is the carrying out of the counsel of the Most High throughout this new dispensation, culminating in the coming of the Lord with the clouds of heaven. Therefore no one was found worthy to open that book except the Lamb that was slain before the foundations of the earth. He is worthy. And as He opens the seals, one after the other, the voice from heaven calls: “Come!” (Not “come and see,” as in the A.V.) In response to that call each horse with its rider appears on the scene of history, makes his journey through the world, and carries out the counsel of God according to its specific mandate.
It is particularly the first horse, the white horse, with its rider that requires our attention at this time. For the white horse represents the realization of God’s kingdom throughout this present era. And since God’s kingdom is realized through the preaching of the Word, we can say that this white horse represents the spread of the Gospel throughout all the earth until God’s elect are gathered, until the heavenly kingdom is realized, or until Christ returns to take His own unto Himself. This white horse represents Christ’s mission mandate, or, if you will, the mission endeavor that is carried out by the church of Christ with its fruits.
It is significant that each time upon the command, “Come,” a horse appears. In the Orient the ass and the camel were used for transportation. Horses were associated with war, conquest, triumph. This is also in harmony with that amazing description of the horse inJob. 39:19-25, where the horse is described as a powerful, even ferocious beast, prancing, tugging at the rein, snorting with pent up energy. Each horse carries a rider, who directs the course of the horse as it carries out its mission in the world. And each rider is equipped with the necessary means to carry out the mandate entrusted to him.
The first horse, the white horse, is properly first, for this one is by far the most important. The other three follow as the result of the work of the white horse. The fact that this horse is white may emphasize its holiness, but in this case points much more to the fact that it goes forth “conquering and to conquer.” White denotes victory, as is evident from his name, and also from the bow and the crown which the rider carries.
As this white horse goes forth, the Gospel is preached throughout the world. This may be done with all kinds of imperfection, marred by sin, as is evident from the study of the history of missions, yet weakest means fulfill the purpose of the Most High. God, after all, directs the course of the horse and its rider. The Son of God gathers, defends, and preserves His church out of all the nations of the earth. The Word of God is a power unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. And that faith is a gift of grace, “for by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Eph. 2:8. Even as Paul writes in Rom. 8:29, 30: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
We can readily trace the course of this white horse through history. From Jerusalem the church spread into Samaria and to Antioch, so that Antioch became the new center of mission endeavor after Jerusalem was destroyed. From Antioch, mainly through the labors of the apostle Paul and his helpers, the Gospel spread into Asia Minor, and churches were established there. Paul seemingly was inclined to linger in Asia Minor, where there was so much territory still to be covered; but the Holy Spirit hastened him on to Macedonia. Through the vision of the Macedonian man Paul was instructed to go to that region, because God had His people there also. From Macedonia Paul travelled on into Greece, to Athens, and to Corinth, being pressed on, as it were, by the opposition of the Jews. Later the apostle also attained his desire to preach the Gospel in Rome, even though this was done “in chains.” But with the death of the apostles the mission work did not cease. The Gospel spread across the continent of Europe, into England, and across the sea to the Americas. There has always been a church gathered in the line of continued generations. of believers, as a result of the spread of the Gospel. In some countries this line of generations dies out because the established churches depart from the truth. The dead branches are continually being broken from the vine, while new sprouts appear elsewhere. But always the white horse continues on its course until the Gospel has reached to the ends of the earth. This is fully in harmony with the promise of our Lord, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:14.
In a sense it may be said that there is a constant “confrontation” of the Gospel. One stands amazed at the persistent presence of the white horse, in spite of all the opposition of the forces of darkness. For almost two thousand years the voice of that witness has been heard, and could never be silenced. If anything, that voice becomes more powerful as the end of the ages comes upon us. Only a few centuries ago the printing press was invented, with the result that Bibles are being printed by the millions in almost every language. Modern transportation, such as the automobile and the airplane, has made it possible to reach into the jungles and into the extreme corners of the earth. And just recently the radio and television have brought the Name of Jesus into practically every home. Whether people will listen or not, they cannot escape the testimony of Jesus Christ. Even if they corrupt the Christmas season with their Santa’s, their spirit of good will, and their carnal interests, they still face the question, “What wilt thou do with Jesus, who is called the Christ?” Even though they pollute the celebration of Christ’s resurrection with a corruption of the truth, or with fashion displays, or with Easter bunnies, the witness of the resurrection is still heard.
But this white horse does more than confront people with the Gospel. He does more than offer salvation to all. He never comes with a simple statement, “God loves you,” and, “Christ died for you.” But he is the power of God conquering and to conquer. He does not rest until the elect are gathered, the world is condemned, antichrist has made its appearance and the measure of iniquity is running full.
To that aspect of the four horsemen we wish to direct our attention next time.