Year of our Lord, 2007, year’s end.
Looking back, not a year marked by significant events. So we might judge.
Not like 2001 and 9/11 and the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. Not like 2004 and the tsunami off the coast of Sumatra, the day after Christmas, with the resulting tidal wave breaking the set bounds of the sea, sweeping life away upwards of 200,000 souls.
Not like 2005 and the series of hurricanes that battered our coasts, culminating in Hurricane Katrina and what it did to New Orleans, that city of sin, as well as to the surrounding area.
One and all, unmistakable evidence of the running of the “Four Horsemen” of Revelation 6, reminders that the judgments of God are still running over the four corners of the earth, and running in an increasingly powerful way.
What was noteworthy about those catastrophic events was the repercussions, the seismic effect they had on seats of power, having political fallout, and having noticeable effect on Wall Street and the financial world as well.
In addition, these recent events served to underscore that there are forces out there before which man is still vulnerable and which he is powerless to control. Modern man is not comfortable with such a notion. What good are politicians and governments if they cannot save us from such uncertainties and death? Who will step forward and provide the safety and security we crave? Who will save us? The running of the horsemen make that question more and more pressing as time gallops along.
We might be inclined to say that nothing like those memorable events occurred in 2007 (at least not at the time of the writing of this article in early December). Well, maybe not any one event that stood out from all the others, but that is not to say the horsemen and the judgments of the ascended Lord Christ were not running in 2007. They were, and are, and, until Christ returns, shall be.
Just to mention a few to refresh our memories.
There is the war in Iraq and the deeply-rooted political, social tensions and violence it represents and even causes worldwide. The Red Horse is running.
But there is also plenty of evidence that the Black and Pale Horses are alive and running. There was no lack of natural disasters and calamities worldwide this past year, with resulting death on a large scale.
Perhaps we have forgotten, but there was a massive earthquake (registering over 8.0 on the Richter scale) early this spring in Northern Chile, with widespread destruction and loss of life, whole villages being buried. And that was just one of many powerful earthquakes that rumbled worldwide this past year, though not resulting in the same loss of life.
And while North America may have escaped hurricanes and flooding unscathed, that was not the story in other parts of the world. Not only did typhoons strike China and the Philippines, but a particularly powerful, destructive cyclone struck Bangladesh a few months ago with flooding and loss of life numbering in the tens of thousands. The dead were buried in massive common graves. Homeless, hungry citizens are still crying for relief.
And shall we mention Sudan and Ethiopia and the ongoing drought and famine there? Pictures of the starving are enough to make one weep. As well, the AIDS epidemic runs unchecked.
Closer to home, the fires that burned for weeks in the hills and mountains of Southern California, hundreds of square miles and thousands of homes destroyed. Just ask those in Redlands how close to home this disaster came. The smoke of the burning hung over the valley for weeks. And if anything speaks of the end of all things, it is fire and the smell of smoke.
The horsemen continue to run.
All this present suffering and death and despair—all reminders that there is no deliverance from God’s judgments and wrath and His sting of death except by faith in Christ and the covering of the blood of the Lamb.
Now add to the above calamities the growing concern and debate over the whole issue of global warning, of climate change. If anything marked the year 2007, it was that this debate began to heat up and has been thrust to the fore. Response to this issue is going to have bearing on who comes into power in coming elections, and how long they stay.
That the climate is undergoing a change at present is indisputable. To what extent man and man’s greed and abuse of nature and its resources have contributed and are contributing to the changes is an issue of no little debate, of course. And over against that position is the contention that what we are experiencing is simply one of those natural cycles through which the earth’s climate passes every few hundred years.
And, no, for all its reputation for boldness, theSB does not intend to settle this particular issue.
But no one can dispute the evidence of a present global warming trend. The difference between the winters in West Michigan in the 1960s and those of more recent vintage is not imaginary. And the breaking up of the polar icecaps and ice shelves gives evidence too plain to ignore.
But, ultimately, the debate over what is the primary source of the present climate changes (man’s excesses vs. nature’s natural cycle) is a moot point. The crucial question is not who or what is at fault. The crucial question is what such a change portends as long as it lasts.
As to the basic reason for killing floods and droughts and famines, there can be no question. It has to do with man’s rebellion, man’s fall into sin, and the resulting curse on creation, a creation that, while it sustains life, also works death. God in judgment intended it to be so.
To what extent greedy, consumer-driven man has aggravated the present climate changes we leave to the so-called experts. The reality is, there has been a change of weather patterns. Severe droughts grip areas unfamiliar with such, and excess of rain and flooding has fallen on others. To what extent this is going to affect food supply to be harvested from the good earth and from the seas remains to be seen. But if these present trends continue, such could have catastrophic effect on us and the world. There is no force on earth that will foment unrest, upheaval, and rebellion as will a shortage in food supply. Having energy in excess means nothing if the Lord determines to withhold the rain, and the ground turns to dust. Then who will save us and give us food? The politicians already are sounding the alarm bells, and declaring, “Look to me and my party. It is I. We are your last, best hope.”
Oh yes, the horsemen are running and their going determines the course of history as it goes.
But (and this is the Christian hope as we face the future) these horsemen with their judgments do not run wild, that is, arbitrarily and out of control. There is One who is directing and controlling them, namely, the One authorized to open the book of seven seals, the ascended Lord Christ (Rev. 5, 6). Awful though these judgments and calamities may be, they are serving a purpose, namely, the purpose of the One who opens the seals. And in the New Testament age that great purpose is the salvation of the church, of that people chosen from every nation and tongue and to be gathered before the world collapses like a condemned building under the judgment of God.
In that knowledge we have hope and endure many things.
But more than that, amongst the running of the horsemen, one runs supreme, the white horse and his rider. And he represents the gospel and its proclamation worldwide. That he rides forth at the breaking of the first seal (Rev. 6:2) is most significant. The other three, dreadful in their consequences on the earth, run subservient to him, which is to say, the gospel’s spread and triumphs and the church’s survival. It is the gospel that goes forth conquering and to conquer. It goes forth as a direct assault on Satan’s kingdom and power, bringing down Satan’s kingdom-rule in the hearts of a countless throng, setting them free.
In 2007, despite all kinds of opposition and threats from its haters, the gospel has continued its free and powerful course through the nations of men, demolishing Satan’s rule and deception where the Spirit has been pleased to work. The church is still being gathered, and in that we rejoice.
If nothing else, the running of the judgments of God through the earth serve to underscore the urgency of hearkening to the call of the gospel to repent and believe lest one perish in this world and the world to come.
But more than that, the running of these other three horsemen have served to prevent the premature establishment of Antichrist’s kingdom in all its power and venom, which kingdom with its malice will effectively stifle the spread of Christ’s gospel and destroy the witness of His true and faithful church.
If you doubt that, read your Reformation history, and consider why it was that Charles V, for all his malice towards the Reformation in its fledgling stage, was powerless to strangle and silence it while yet in the nest. The reason? The Red Horse. The Muslim Turks stood at the gates of Vienna and other vital cities, threatening the whole of Western Europe. Charles V was preoccupied with other matters, unable to focus fully on the ‘heretics’ of the Reformation. He needed the armed support of the very princes who were protecting these Reformers, if his Holy Roman Empire was going to survive.
This is but one instance of how the running of ‘the three’ have served the white horse and the gospel in its survival and spread.
But further, contradictory though it first may sound, the running of the horsemen, of the judgments of God as they intensify, serves at last to bring to a head the appearance of Antichrist and his kingdom. There comes a point when the reaction of modern man against all these disturbances of his comforts and threats against the security in life becomes so great that he will give up his freedoms (for a time) in exchange for promised security and that elusive peace. At that time the human race will no longer put up with any witness of the truth that declares that the calamities they have been experiencing are the judgments of God. “Repent or perish, indeed!” And then comes the great tribulation. The running of the horsemen and what their testimony is (as put into perspective by the gospel itself) will serve to foment a spirit that will seek to silence that Word with vigor. “Crucify it (and them)! We can endure these disturbers of our peace no more.”
The running of the horsemen portend that coming day too.
Looking ahead in 2008, the US political elections slated for the end of this year loom large. It is all too likely that new rulers will be chosen, politicians of a party whose animosity towards all things Christian and our right to full freedom of speech is a matter of record. Laws that will severely curtail our religious freedoms, intending to muzzle and silence the true witness of the gospel, might be coming sooner than we like to think.
2008 may well be a ‘watershed’ year in these great issues. It is what the coming elections are all about. Not the economy, not farm subsidies, not the war in Iraq, but freedom of speech, and, in particular, the faithful Christian witness and speech. One faces the year with some apprehension.
But, little flock, take heart. All of time and history is the “Year of our Lord.” That was true of 2007, and that will be true of 2008 as well. Time and history, with all of their events, are under our Lord Christ’s control. He has His own timetable. He is, according to promise, coming with all due haste. The Four Horsemen do not walk, they run! And they run with the salvation and victory of Christ’s righteous cause and church in mind.
The One who rides the White Horse always goes forth “conquering and to conquer.” And the victory is not only His, but also all those who love His appearing. Maranatha! Even so He comes.