When we speak of the signs of the times we are immediately reminded of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse as recorded in the sixth chapter of the book of Revelation. It is not our intention, in these articles, to call attention to this passage in any detail. We understand, I believe, that these horsemen ride their horses throughout the New Dispensation. They do not refer to successive periods of history in a chronological order. Neither do they refer to a future period which still lies before us. If the latter were true, then this passage of the Word of God would not speak particularly to us. It is surely true that these horsemen ride their horses simultaneously throughout the ages of the New Dispensation, although it is true that these phenomena become more intense as history goes on.
The horse, according to the Word of God, is preeminently an animal of war. Scriptural passages, such as Ps. 33:17, Job 39:19-25 (what an amazing passage this is!) and Zechariah 1:8 ff. and Zechariah 6:1 ff., clearly indicate this. As these horses go forth into the earth, they are irresistible, cannot be checked or frustrated; as they leap forth out of the counsel and decree of the living God, nothing can stop their progress; they will certainly accomplish their mission. And we do well to bear in mind that these horsemen are controlled directly by our Lord Jesus Christ.
We must also bear in mind that, as far as these horsemen of Rev. 6 are concerned, the personal identity of each rider is not important. Each rider, of course, is not to be identified with the Christ. To be sure, these horses are certainly directed and controlled by the Christ. He is the Lamb Who appears in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts—seeRev. 5:6. It is the Lamb (Rev. 6:1) Who opens the seals; it is He, therefore, Who sends and directs these horses forth into and upon the earth. Yet, it ought to be plain that these riders must not be identified with the Christ, as far as this vision of Rev. 6 is concerned. The apostle sees the Lamb as He opens the first four seals and, therefore, causes these four horses to dash forth out of God’s decree. These horses have riders. These riders cannot be identified with the Christ Who sends them. So, the important question is not: who are these riders? The question, however, is important: what is signified by these riders? We must not separate these horses from their riders. We must interpret them together. There can be no doubt as to the significance of these riders. Rev. 6 emphasizes that these horses do not run wildly, at random. They are directed and controlled. They run toward, accomplish a definite goal. The Lamb of God directs them. And that they have riders means that they are directed intelligently; these irresistible and irrepressible forces, strong and vehement in battle, do not run wildly; they are constantly controlled by the Lamb of God Who appears as having been slain and is now risen and glorified.
In this article we call attention to the black horse: We do this not because this horseman is the most important of these horses. The most important of the horsemen is undoubtedly the white horse. This horseman is first, must be first, and the other three horsemen follow him and serve him. Besides, all these horses are running today. They are all of the greatest importance and practical significance. It is surely worthwhile to understand every one of these four horsemen. The reason why we call attention to the black horse in this article is because of the peculiar significance of this horseman. It is the social aspect of our present day and age which we would emphasize.
Indeed, how true is the Word of God! How applicable it is to all the ages! The scriptures are surely not time-bound, true only of the day and age when they were written but not necessarily true today. This black horse is held before us in Rev. 6:5-6. We read: “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.”
The color of this horse is black. The rider is a merchant man; he carries a pair of balances in his hand, and we should notice what he cries. From this we may establish his identity. Black is the color of scarcity and want. This appears from Jer. 14:2 and Lam. 5:10. Black is naturally the color of want; white is the implication of all colors, whereas black is the absence of color; it represents physical want. In harmony with this are the other details. On the one hand, he has a pair of balances in his hand, and he cries: “A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny.” But he also cries: “See thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” This means that this black horse symbolizes the ever present contrast between the rich who live in abundance and the masses of poor who live by the day.
How Socialism and Communism hate this horseman! They theorize that all men have an equal right to all the goods and possessions of this world. They oppose all class distinctions, would wipe out all differences between the various classes of people. The rich must share their wealth with the poor; the poor have as much right to the wealth of this world as the rich; people must live together on an equal basis. Of course, today one may also witness wide disrespect for all law and authority; students demand, a voice in the determination of what they are to study; the laborer must determine working conditions with the employer. This philosophy, so prevalent today, is, we must understand, dead wrong. Inequality is not necessarily injustice. Of course, there is inequality. All men are not equal. Some are rich whereas many more are poor. And we maintain that inequality is not necessarily injustice. Socialism violates the Word of God in two respects. First, it is not true that all men have an equal right to all the goods and possessions of this world. All men would then have an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Fact is, however, man has the right to nothing. That I have less than my neighbor is not injustice; and this for the simple reason that I have no right to anything. I am a sinner under divine condemnation; the only thing to which I am entitled and which I deserve is the suffering of the wrath of God, temporally and eternally in hell. Secondly, socialism also violates the scriptural truth that all men simply are not created equal. The only equality among men as set forth in the Word of God is that all men are sinners, under divine condemnation. Otherwise, however, some are born rich and others poor; besides, and this is potent, the Lord did not give to all men equal powers of body and soul, of mind and will. We can, therefore, readily understand that socialism and communism hate this black horse.
Now we must notice that Christ, through this black horse with its rider, maintains the distinction between the few rich and the masses of the poor. Our present day and age is characterized by the class struggle. We have the constant struggle between those who have and them that have not. How the capitalist and laborer are constantly at each other’s throat! The rich would maintain his riches and increase them; the poor seeks and would acquire them. All men are at heart capitalists. How different conditions are today than not too many years ago! The economic spiral is climbing day by day. All are afraid today of the danger of inflation. Salaries and wages are constantly on the increase. Yet, this increase is also accompanied by a constant rise in the costs of consumer goods. People earn more and more; but the cost of life’s necessities and also of life’s luxuries climb day by day.
How vividly this condition of today is set before in this Word of God! On the one hand, we read of a measure of wheat for a penny and three measures of barley for a penny. A penny was a day’s wage. One measure of wheat for a penny and three measures of barley. for a penny constituted a day’s sustenance: Yet, the same is also true today. A small percentage of the ,world’s wealth (not more than 25%) is shared by the, masses of the people. It is true that the laboring man of today makes more than a penny a day, but his income today is matched by the rising cost of living. And, if and when a depression sets in, it does not take very long before these masses of people are compelled to go on relief. The point is that his wage is always swallowed up by what he needs. On the other hand, “do not hurt the oil and the wine.” Governments and various agencies may combine their efforts and talents to fight poverty and destroy this class distinction. But the Word of God declares: do not hurt the oil and the wine. These represent the rich. The distinction between the few rich and the poor masses of the populace must continue. This is taught by this Word of God.
Do we understand this Word of God. Indeed, let us be comforted by this particular scripture. Let us understand that the crucified and risen and glorified Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, sends forth this black horse with its rider to maintain the distinction between the few rich and the many, many more poor. On the one hand, we may witness the riotous living of some, their reveling in wealth and abundance, in feasting and merriment. On the other hand, we also have among us a continuous cause for rebellion and dissatisfaction, for the continuous rising up of the many against the few. Always the black horse runs triumphantly through the earth, maintaining this distinction between the rich and the poor, being sent out by the Lamb Who appears as having been slain; How important it is to know and to believe that all these things are controlled directly by Him Who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, our Lord Jesus Christ. He, Who loves His church, died for that church, is even now in supreme control of all things.
Why is this? The church of God’s elect must be gathered throughout the ages, even until the end of the world. All must be saved, the entire wheat harvest must be harvested and gathered in. Class struggle must continue, also wars and rumors of wars. The development of sin must be gradual. Matters may not reach their climax before the time appointed by the living God. This explains the social disturbances of our present day and age. The day is coming when this class struggle, these wars and rumors of wars, will come to an end. This will mark the kingdom of the antichrist. Then all will be peace and prosperity throughout the world. The only exception to this era of prosperity and peace will be the people of God, the faithful followers of the Lamb. Not having the mark of the beast upon their foreheads they will not be able to buy or sell. They will be subjected to a terrible persecution, so great that the days will be shortened for the sake of the elect. However, the Lamb of God stands upon the mount Sion. Then our redemption will be at hand. Let us attend to this sign of the coming of our Lord. May the Lord grant unto His. people that they may be faithful, if need be unto death. May they keep their garments unspotted in the midst of the world. God will save us even until the end.