The Four Horsemen: The White Horse
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The Four Horsemen: The White Horse

September 4, 2019

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have challenged
the imagination of every generation since the end of the first century. Moving relentlessly across history, they wield
great destructive power over humanity. But are these ominous riders relevant
in the 21st century? With an eye on the human condition, this is Insight. In the sixth chapter of the biblical book
of Revelation, Jesus Christ opens a prophetic scroll sealed in seven places. As each seal is broken open, specific
conditions and events prophesied to affect the entire world are revealed. Galloping free from the restriction of the
first four seals are individually colored horses and their threatening riders: “And
I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was
given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2). This vision reveals specific images—symbols
of something intended to help readers understand coming events. The first rider carries a bow and wears a
crown (the original Greek says a “laurel wreath”— the ancient symbol of a conquering victor). But what does it all mean? This horseman has often been confused with
the returning Christ described in chapter 19 of the same book, because
He also rides a white horse. Many believe that the first rider pictures the gradual triumph of organized Christian religion, beginning 2,000 years ago. But Revelation 19 reveals a different individual
than chapter 6. The returning Christ is dressed in a robe
stained with blood, wearing multiple crowns; the Greek is “diadems” (diádēma), not
a laurel wreath. He is accompanied by angelic beings on white
horses, and His weapon is the sword of His mouth, not a bow. The obvious differences between the two images
suggest that the first of the four horsemen represents a counterfeit, or false, messiah. And this is exactly what we find in the explanation
that Jesus Himself gave to His disciples more than 60 years before this vision, as He told
them about the future progression of world conditions. The disciples asked: “What will be the sign
of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Jesus first warned that events seeming to indicate the end is imminent do not necessarily mean that it is. He said, “Take heed that no one deceives
you” (Matthew 24:4). Then He added the first global condition to
be aware of: “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will
deceive many” (verse 5). In a parallel account, the same deceivers
claim, “I am He” (Mark 13:6). Jesus’ warning here about not being fooled
parallels the first broken seal in the book of Revelation. He clearly identifies the white horse and its rider. People who claim to be “the anointed one”
are false messiahs— men who counterfeit the future role of the
true returning Christ. A counterfeit is not easy to spot. It’s so close that it could be the real
thing except to the trained eye. So Jesus warned against being deceived by
human beings who claim to be the Messiah— that’s to say, specially chosen and
anointed by God to rule. Such people present themselves as the only
ones who can solve all problems. Others have combined religion and politics
in their efforts to be “the anointed one.” Take the fourth-century Roman emperor Constantine. He’s the man credited with Christianizing
the Roman Empire. Yet his claims to be equal with the apostles—even
God’s agent—were not borne out by his behavior. Other, more recent examples include Napoleon,
Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler and Mao Zedong. All of them took advantage of the language
of religion and its imagery, stirring up religious fervor, and got their followers to worship
them, believing they had all the answers. Of course, all these false messiahs failed,
precisely because they were false. They also brought great destruction on the
world including their own people. In many cases millions died because of their
violent rule, their purges and their wars. For a more detailed look at these examples,
take a look at our previous episodes where we talk about false messiahs. Deceit comes in many forms, and the counterfeit
white horseman will continue to ride until he is vanquished by Christ at His coming. Almost every one of these false messiahs led
their followers into war. And that’s the same next step in the sequence
of the four riders. In the wake of false messiahs would come the scourge of war represented by the rider of the red horse. Yet even widespread war would not necessarily
mean the end was imminent: “Take heed that no one deceives you,” He said. Then Jesus added, “You will hear of wars
and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these
things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom
against kingdom” (Matthew 24:6–7). In our next installment, we’ll look at the
second horse and its rider and consider the implications for us today. If you’d like to know more, search keyword
“messiahs” at For Insight, I’m David Hulme.

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  1. If God calls upon the four horsemen during the apocalypse, doesn't that mean that fight for mankind, plus conquest is the most majestic of the four.

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