Last time we saw that in Revelation 6 the four Apocalyptic Horsemen, are sent out to carry out the counsel of God unto the consummation of the ages. The white horse which went forth “conquering and to conquer” is the triumph of the kingdom of heaven throughout the new dispensation. This triumph of the kingdom of heaven is attained through the preaching of the Gospel unto the uttermost ends of the earth. The white horse carried out the mandate of Christ to His church, “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Matt. 28:19.
This can only mean that the kingdom of heaven is realized through the condemnation and destruction of all the forces of darkness that oppose God and His cause upon the earth. The Gospel always has an antithetical power, since it is a savor of life unto life for those who are saved by it, but it is at the same time a savor of death unto death for all those who oppose it. As our Lord states in Mark 16:15, 16, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
The contention is being made that the Gospel contains no glad tidings unless we can say to every individual who hears the Gospel that God loves him and that Christ died for him. It is said that there is no addressability, no real message for the individual, unless we say to each and every person that God loves him and that Christ died for him. Therefore all preaching must fail to produce the desired results unless we speak of a universal love and a universal atonement.
Thus, for example, James Daane writes in theReformed Journal of December, 1964, “I have read many accounts of how the gospel should be preached without saying, or appearing to say to each hearer that God loves him and that Christ died for him. We have been told that the gospel must be preached to all as a group, yet its content is only for the elect; or, in a way that differs only in words, that it must be preached to all men as a generality, while its special message is only for particular elect men. Yet these explanations are always slippery and evasive; none of them is satisfactory, unless one is satisfied by mere verbalism. We may be thankful that Jesus taught that the gospel can be preached not only to “all nations,” but also to “every creature.” This means that whatever the act of preaching is, it can be done to the single individual as well as to a group. This consideration rules out an elusive, slippery definition of preaching which plays out its definitions between dialectics of the “one and the many.” The gospel announces its message and calls men to decision and the message that is object of decision is the same for all.”
Although I would hate to be responsible for the kind of preaching that is described in this criticism and realize that I am setting myself wide open for the accusation of giving another “slippery and evasive” explanation of the preaching of the Gospel that does not proclaim a universal love of God and a universal atonement of the cross, I nevertheless want to make a few remarks in answer to this charge.
I wonder whether the defenders of a “God-loves-you and Christ-died-for-you” gospel have ever asked themselves why this all-important statement does not appear in the prophets of old, in the ministry of Jesus, and in the preaching of the apostles. Was their preaching also lacking in a proper personal approach? Is the message of God’s dear Son, without any human admixture, ever in danger of being lacking in a personal approach? The truth demands a decision. But the truth also brings about a decision, so that no individual ever comes in contact with the Word of God without personally taking a position for or against it. That Word never returns void.
That is very obvious from the fact, that the Gospel is always specific, distinctive, and personal. No other “gospel” carries the power of the distinctive Word of our God. Take, for example, the familiar words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus is speaking to very definite individuals, or “creatures.” He is speaking to those who “labor and are heavy laden.” Every one who hears that Gospel message must and will decide for himself whether or not this applies to him. Just as other passages of Scripture place him before the question whether he knows the true sorrow for sin that works repentance, whether he thirsts after the living God, whether he hungers after Christ Who is the Only true Bread of life, whether he is wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked in his sins, so also the call to the sinner who labors under the burden of sin and is being crushed by his guilt before God distinguishes the regenerated sinner from one who hates God and loves unrighteousness. The regenerated sinner will say: “What must I do to be saved?”, and will hear the voice of Jesus saying, “Come unto me.” But the unregenerate, who is still dead in trespasses and sins will say: “Am I blind?” John 10:40. “No, on the contrary, I am rich and enriched, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” Rev. 3:18.
Those who believe the Word are the regenerate who are brought to repentance by the work of the Spirit in their hearts. They hear because they are Christ’s sheep. John 10:27. They are assured that salvation is by faith, and by faith alone. As Paul assures the Philippian jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Since the Word continues to work its power in the hearts of the regenerate, faith is brought to consciousness, so that the repentant sinner confesses, “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.” He experiences in his own heart the truth of the Gospel, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”Eph. 2:8.
But, on the other hand, the unrepentant sinner also “makes a decision.” He has no need of that specific Rest that is given to those who are laboring and heavy laden. He despises the “Water of life.” He rejects the “Bread of life,” just as determinedly as the Jews of Capernaum when Jesus refused the earthly crown. John 6:64, 66. And the reason for this is not because Jesus failed to tell him of God’s universal love and Christ’s universal atonement, but because he was not drawn by the Father. John 6:65. He believes not because he is not of Christ’s sheep. John 10:26. In the great day of days Christ says to him, “I know you not.” Matt. 25:12. “The wrath of God abideth (notice: abideth; not: cometh; but was and remains) on him.” John 3:36.
Therefore the white horse of Revelation 6 is followed by three other horses which must also fill their mandate throughout the history of the new dispensation. The second seal is opened, and the second beast says, “Come.” “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.”Rev. 6:5.
This second horse has the appearance of fire, “fire-red,” which is the symbol of war and bloodshed and destruction. The fact that the rider carries a great sword only confirms the idea of bloodshed and destruction. Besides, we are told that the rider, who directs the course of this red horse throughout this dispensation, has been given power to take peace from the earth. He carries out the counsel of God, even as to Christ is given all power in heaven and on earth.
The thoughts of many hearts are revealed. Those who hate God and His Christ manifest that hatred also against the neighbor. The bold defiance against God causes the nations to rage and the peoples to imagine vain things. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” Ps. 2:1-3. In wicked pride the inhabitants of the earth strive to be as God and seek to have dominion over all things and subdue’ all things to their proud and carnal purposes. Glowing with pride and greed they burn in hatred and jealousy against each other, determined to brush aside all opposition and set up a world empire that will give glory and honor and carnal satisfaction to the creature. “And ye shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation must rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, . . . . . All these are the beginning of sorrows (birth pangs).” Matt. 24:6-8.
This has been the plain course of history. Especially in those countries where the Gospel has been preached and the church has been established there appeared over against the church a “form of godliness,” a “Christianization,” even a development of “culture.” And with it there arose the bitterness and hatred of the one nation against the other as they strove for supremacy. All the efforts that are made toward a universal peace among men must always fail. As long as greed for power in defiance of God and striving for supremacy in opposition to Christ continue to exist in this world one war is pregnant with new wars. The peace conferences that settle the differences of one war become the seed bed for new dissensions and conflicts. The war to end war results in worse wars, through a long and bitter conflict as the second horse carries out its mandate upon the earth. Even the reign of antichrist must be concluded with the great final battle of Armageddon and the return of our Lord Himself with the clouds of the heavens. For the nations of the earth must serve for the return of Christ.
Therefore there is the third seal that is broken and the third voice that commands: “Come.” 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.
Black is the symbol of scarcity and want. This is especially true in the light of the fact that the rider carries in his hand a balance, which signifies that he has control over the economic affairs of mankind. A measure of wheat sold for a penny is the bare existence for the common working man, while the fact that the wine and the oil are left untouched points to the abundance of the rich. As this third horse is sped on its way the sinful greed of humanity reveals itself in industry and commerce, in business and corporations. The rich grow richer at the expense of the poor, and the poor find it increasingly difficult to survive under the oppression of the rich. No mere outward reforms, no labor organization, no legislation or dreams of a “Great Society” can ever change that situation. For sinful pride and greed are never cured except by regeneration and conversion. For this is also the judgment of the living God against those who despise God’s Name and reject His Christ. The wonder of it is, that the church in the meantime, usually consisting of the poor and oppressed, lives contentedly by receiving her bread from the hand of her heavenly Father, even as Elijah did, or as Israel was fed in the wilderness. Enduring with patience the present trials of her faith she confesses: “I shall not want.”
Finally the fourth horse is sent on its way. “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.” vs. 8. This livid, pale horse follows the course of the first three and takes its toll. The grim reaper never tarries. Death and grave wait for no man. Their hunger is never sated. The daily papers tell of the hundreds of victims by accident, suicide, murder, floods, famines, sicknesses and diseases. The statistics pile up, and the end is not yet. But in a world of sin and death the child of God sees the fulfillment of the counsel of God, and therefore knows that God rules over all unto the day when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ forever.