The Book of Revelation, Chapter 13, The Four Horsemen

Nor is it difficult to see that the same general truth is applicable to the influence of the last three horses. Also these have a two-fold effect according as they meet with different objects. What is evil to the world is by no means evil to the children of God. The same adversity causes the one to rise in rebellion and curse God, the other to humble himself and be patient. The same affliction hardens the one, and brings the other to repentance and sanctifies him. The same tribulation that brings despair to the one causes the other to glorify his God. And therefore, we may be comforted as people of God from the outset. All these horses come into contact with all men, without discrimination. But they all will be beneficent in their influence and effect upon the people of God, while they are harmful to the children of evil. And thus we can already in a general way discern how they must ultimately bring the kingdom of Jesus Christ while at the same time they will lead to the defeat of the power of Satan and Antichrist in the world. All things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose. 

What then is the effect of the first horse and its rider in the world? In general we may answer that it causes separation. This is not difficult to understand. If there never had been any operation of the power of grace in the hearts of men, if there never had been any influence of the Word and of the Spirit, is it evident that never a separation would have been accomplished between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. It has been alleged sometimes that sin is the factor that causes separation between man and man. And in a certain sense this is, of course, true. But we should never forget that without the power of grace operating in the world there would be no fundamental separation, would be no split in the ranks of humanity after all. Grace is the wedge that in this sinful world makes separation and divides all men into two principally different and opposing camps. This, then, is the general effect of the work of this first rider upon the world of men. On the one hand, a people of God is called into conscious existence in the midst of the world. The Spirit of God regenerates, so that the inmost being of man is placed in a new relationship to God and to the entire world. The Christian is a new man. Principally he has become a friend of God, and belongs to His party in the midst of the world. The Word calls and brings that new map to consciousness of his new life, of his new relationship to God and to the world so that he begins to live and manifest himself as a subject of the kingdom of God and a member of His covenant. The people that are thus formed in the midst of the world acknowledge again the highest sovereignty of the God of heaven and earth, and that too, in every sphere of life. They begin by recognizing the righteousness and holiness of God. They are conscious of their sins and transgressions, and confess them before the countenance of Him that sitteth upon the throne. And they acknowledge Jesus Christ as the representative of the righteousness of God, but also as their Savior and Redeemer in His atoning power. Hence, they stand in an entirely new relation to God and also to the world. Formerly they stood over against Him in rebellion, hating Him with all their heart and mind and soul and strength. Now they humbly bow before His throne, asking, “Lord, what wilt Thou have us do?” Formerly they imagined in the wickedness of their corrupt nature that all things existed for them, for man. And man, to them, was god. Now they realize that all things exist for the glory of God, and that the Lord of heaven and earth is God alone. Formerly they emphasized that all things should exist and be arranged according to their own evil imagination, and they did not ask for the ordinances of the Most High. Now they insist that all things must be based on the principles of God’s Word, and that Christ is King. The result is that they come to the world with a principally different life-view and with a new demand. All things must be made subservient to the glory of God and His kingdom, and in every sphere of life the, precepts of their King must be maintained. For all of life they have their own demands: The state, according to them, is an institution of God, established for the maintenance of justice and righteousness in the world for the punishment of evil-doers and for the protection of the good, in order that God’s people may have room to develop in the midst of a sin-cursed world. The church is essentially the body of Christ, and, as instituted, it exists for the upbuilding of the saints, a witness of God in the world to the extension and establishment of His kingdom. It must needs remain separate from the state. The two differ in character. They differ in purpose. And they must never amalgamate: The church is universal; the state is national. The church is eternal; the state is temporal. The church stands for the eternal and absolute righteousness of God in the world; the state maintains, or rather, is called to maintain, the righteousness of God in the present dispensation. The state fights with the sword; the church never does. Surely, her members in this dispensation are citizens of a certain country, and they are subject to authority. Neither do they refuse as such to go out and meet the enemy in battle. But the church as such does not fight the battles of the world. She has- a spiritual warfare to accomplish: The church as such sings no national songs but she sings of the country beyond, of the city that hath foundations. The church as such has no national emblem, but unfurls the banner of the cross. And thus the people of God have their own life-view with regard to every sphere of life and every institution of the world. The home is an institution existing primarily for the perpetuation of God’s covenant in the world. The school is an institution for the purpose of instructing the covenant children according to the principles of Holy Writ for every sphere of life. Society, with business and industry, art and science, and all things that exist, must, according to them, be controlled by the principles of the Word of God, and be made subservient to the idea of God’s kingdom in the world. In a word, they have a new life-view. They are members of God’s covenant, His friends in the world, subjects of His kingdom. And in principle at least, they want to live the life of that kingdom also in the present world. 

But this is not all. This, in fact, is only one side of the influence of the white horse and its rider in the midst of the world. And that white horse also has influence upon the ungodly and the reprobate. Upon the enemies of the kingdom it inevitably has this effect, that it enlightens them with regard to the idea of the kingdom, but at the same time it accentuates their hostility and embitters them all the more. They also learn to taste the powers of the age to come and to see the beauty of the kingdom of God. That this is true will be evident the moment you compare the Christian world in general with the world of heathendom. The Word of God has a general enlightening influence. There is what might be called even a civilizing influence of the Word and Spirit. Intellectually the children of evil understand the truth. But the principle of enmity against God remains unchanged. They do not come to repentance. They refuse to acknowledge the righteousness of God. They refuse to bow before Him as their Sovereign. They deny Christ, not indeed perhaps as a good man, but certainly as the representative of God’s righteousness. They deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. They remain antichristian in their deepest principle. And thus they naturally come to this, that they also will establish a kingdom, in form like the kingdom of God, whose beauty they have learned to see. But it is a kingdom without Christ arid without His atoning sacrifice. Instead of God, man is absolute sovereign in this kingdom. In that kingdom it is emphasized that the powers of this world must be brought to complete development and that man must have dominion over all things. Progress in business and industry and commerce, in art and science, is characteristic of this kingdom,—all without God and without His Christ. Still more: also in this kingdom they speak of righteousness and brotherly love, and only clean men and women can enter into it. They demand outward righteousness and they insist upon brotherly love. They strive to realize the universal brotherhood of man. They struggle to arrive at the realization of a great international confederacy. And they want to establish universal peace. They want to abolish the effects of sin, and bring universal bliss to the world. In a word, they aim at nothing less than the consummation of what they call the kingdom of God in the world. For they are enlightened, and have come into external contact with the while horse and its rider. But the principal trouble with them is that they deny that Jesus is the Christ. The old enmity, instilled in the hearts of men by the serpent in paradise, constitutes the principal motive of all their aspirations. They are not regenerated. They are children of evil. They do not stand in a new relation to God. And the result is that their so-called kingdom is after all no kingdom of God, but a kingdom of man, by man, and for man. The state must legislate men into this kingdom, and by force of law they are made to practice temperance and to manifest their love to the brother. The state, in combination with other states, will enforce universal peace. All the nations must unite: A great world-power must soon be established, controlled by a central committee, in order that war may be abolished and the kingdom of peace may presently be ushered in. For the establishment of this kingdom the cooperation of the church is also invited. The church must preach a social gospel. The old message of sin and guilt, of total depravity, of righteousness and holiness, of the necessity of atonement through blood and of regeneration by the Spirit of Christ has become antiquated, is no more adapted to the needs of the present time. Instead, a new gospel has come to the forefront—the gospel of love and peace for all men, without Christ. Not that man is spiritually impotent, but rather that he is divine; not that he is guilty and condemned, but rather that he is by nature good and a child of God, must be emphasized with a view to the new era we are about to enter upon. And the church must also allow herself to become a powerful agency for the establishment of this universal kingdom of peace and righteousness. The School must serve the same purpose. It must not 6e separate. It must not be sectarian. It may not teach a definite religion. For that would not be in harmony with the idea of the universal brotherhood. But it must be general in its instruction, and inculcate the general principles of love to humanity. Society must be transformed according to the same principles. Differences must be removed. Competition must cease. The socialistic state of things must be established, to cover up the sore spots of covetousness and greed. And in as far as family life would obstruct the development and the ultimate realization of this idea, it also must be transformed. Free love will perhaps never be advocated on a large scale. And the form of the family will remain unchanged. But if the murder of children or the destruction of seed is advantageous to the establishment of this kingdom, its practice must be encouraged. Thus is the tendency of the present age. You may verify it with your own observation. The great aim is to establish a kingdom that it is outward form like the kingdom of God as it is pictured in Holy Writ. But the principal motive is enmity against God and against His Christ. In a word, under the influence of the same white horse that calls to life the covenant people of God in the world also the kingdom of Antichrist teaches its development and consummation. 

But if the case is thus, you will have no difficulty to understand that this white horse cannot run alone with its rider through the world of men. Just ask the question: what would be the result if this first horse were not followed by the red and the black and the pale, in other words, if there were no war, no social struggle, no death in all its forms? The answer is evidently: the result would be that the kingdom of Antichrist would reach the height of its development prematurely. The sinful World, striving to establish a world kingdom, would soon succeed to organize into an international federation of nations, and thus constitute the formidable world-power that is pictured in the thirteenth chapter of this book of Revelation. Peace and happiness would reign supreme, and no more bloody wars would be fought. All things would be under the control of this world-power. It would employ by main force the powers of church and state, of home and school, of business and industry and commerce, and establish the antichristian, order of things. Social contrast would cease to appear. All would enjoy equally much, or at least approximately so, all the products of the earth; and all competition, strife, and revolution would have an end. But this tremendous world-power, with all things under its own control in the most complete sense of the word, would naturally leave no standing room for the true church of God on earth. It would persecute and, if possible, destroy the kingdom of God in the world. 

But this may not be. At least not yet. The time will come, indeed, when Christ will allow a partial realization of this antichristian world-power to maintain itself for a time. And that time will be most terrible for the children of the kingdom. These latter shall, according to Scripture, be able to buy or sell no more, that is, they will be social outcasts. And so terrible will be those latter days, that even the elect would not persevere were it not that those days were shortened. But as yet this order of things may not be realized. For these events the time is not yet ripe. The days may not yet be shortened. And, therefore, the formation of this tremendous world-power must be checked, must be prevented for the time being. And, therefore, Christ who possesses all power in heaven and on earth and who opens the book with its seven seals, sends war, sends the red horse into all the earth. Not as if Christ were the sinful cause of war. No, thus we never conceive of the matter. But the principle of sin exists and reigns in the heart of the world. This principle of sin must manifest itself in some way. And Christ so controls the sinful passions of individuals and nations that war ensues. He does this thru historical factors. If you peruse the pages of history you may observe that never any great and powerful nation was allowed to exist for any length of time as sole lord of the universe. No sooner has one nation ascended to the zenith of its power and apparently become undisputed lord of all the world, but another nation develops and becomes its competitor for world-power.