PHOTO: Artist, Pat Marvenko Smith, depicts the vision of endtime events as four hideous horsemen. A view of Bible prophecy makes it clear that we must be living in the generation that experiences these events.
John’s vision of the horsemen of the Apocalypse is one of the most dramatic among the prophets. Riding across the world, these four terrifying scenes will introduce the most significant time in the history of mankind. The biblical Tribulation Period approaches as they make their appearance upon the world stage. They ride under the direction of Jesus Christ, who is shown releasing them as he breaks the seals of a scroll taken from the hand of God, the Father. Through them, God unleashes His judgment upon an unbelieving world.
The four horsemen represent more than mere men upon simple steeds. They are symbolic of things far greater. Not limited to a particular geographical area, they represent world-shattering events destined to decimate the nations.
Under their command, a fourth of the earth’s population will die. Hundreds of millions more will be injured or maimed. It will be a time more horrible than history has ever witnessed.
Exiled in his latter years to the island of Patmos, John was taken into heaven and shown visions of the future. In this vision, the horsemen are symbolic of an era of conflict. They represent what would otherwise be indescribable events, presented in the simple tongue of John’s day. They allowed the prophet to use his limited language to explain a series of complex events which will come to pass just prior to the return of Christ.
As Christ breaks the first seal, John writes:
“And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow: and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer”
We shall call the rider of this first horse the Deceiver. In John’s earlier epistles, he is called the antichrist. Some day, perhaps soon, this infamous world leader will emerge. He will be honored by governments as the apparent savior of mankind – Mr. Wonderful. He will become the leader of a one-world political and economic system. I believe this world government is presently under development and am convinced we live in those momentous days just prior to the onset of the Tribulation Period.
Jews are looking forward to the coming of their long-awaited Messiah. In recent years Jewish groups have become convinced that He is about to appear. Billboards throughout Israel announce their expectation of the Messiah’s appearance. In their haste, they just might accept the antichrist. The highlight event of the tribulation concerns this false messiah and his dealings with Israel. I am inclined to believe that he will have family ties to one of the tribes of Israel – making him a pretender to the office of Messiah. However, though he may claim to be a descendent from Judah. I think he will be from the tribe of Dan.
My reason for believing this is found in Genesis 49. The dying Jacob gave prophecies concerning the last days. Among his predictions were statements about the Messiah and His enemy:
“Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days” (Genesis 49:1).
The dying Jacob looked into the far future – to the last days – and told each son what would befall his tribe. He indicated the Messiah would descend from Judah:
“Judah thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee.
“Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Genesis 49:8-10).
History attests to the fulfillment of this prophecy, Judah has been the leading tribe throughout the centuries! In fact, every Israeli today bears the name of Judah; he is commonly called a “Jew.” According to rabbinical commentaries, Shiloh refers to the Messiah. I think Jacob gives the definitive statement that He will be a member of the tribe of Judah.
Concerning the enemy, Jacob had these words to say about Dan:
“Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.
“Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward” (Genesis 49:16,17).
In these two verses, the dying Jacob prophesied that the tribe of Dan would bring judgment upon the tribes of Israel, that he would be a “serpent by the way, an adder in the path.” It is here, that we see the trail of the serpent – Satan. We learned this from the first chapters of Genesis, in which the serpent beguiled Eve. Ever since then, the serpent has been symbolic of the devil. Satan is found working in the tribe of Dan. I guess we could call Dan the black sheep of the family.
So wicked was the tribe of Dan, it was eliminated from the twelve tribes recorded in Revelation chapter 7. Those 144,000 Jews are made up of the twelve tribes of Israel, 12,000 from each tribe. They are listed in Revelation 7:5-8 as Judah, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Nephtalim, Manasses, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zabulon, Joseph, and Benjamin. Dan is not listed. Why? Because through him will come the seed of the serpent. Therefore, it is reasonable for us to consider that the antichrist could be from the tribe of Dan.
In my book GUARDIANS OF THE GRAIL, I have an entire chapter on Dan – giving a great deal more information on the subject.
Daniel also writes as if the antichrist will arise out of one of the tribes of Israel:
“Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.
“But in his estate shall he honor the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honor with gold and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things” (Daniel 11:37,38).
That statement leads me to believe that the antichrist will be an Israelite. He has no regard for the God of his fathers – the God of the rabbis.
The Abomination of Desolation
According to Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians, a future Jewish sanctuary will be desecrated by the antichrist:
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.
Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (II Thessalonians 2:3,4).
The Bible tells us that when the Holy Spirit, “He who now lets
His policy of peace is described in I Thessalonians 5. In this verse we are told that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night:
“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them…” (I Thessalonians 5:3).
The message of the antichrist may be “peace” but war will be the result. Millions will die.
Today when Jewish couples recite their marriage vows, the groom places a glass on the floor and crushed the vessel with his heel. This reminds them of the past destruction of the Jewish Temple in A.D. 70 and the prophecy of its future restoration. When that Temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem, the antichrist can be revealed. His appearance was predicted by Daniel: “And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honor of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries” (Daniel 11:21).
According to this verse, he will not be elected president of the world government; he will not be given “the honor of the kingdom.” However, he will have control of it – perhaps from behind-the-scenes.
As the Tribulation Period progresses the antichrist will attempt to control all communication and transportation. By the middle of the Tribulation Period, he will introduce an image of this beastly New World Order – in which he will control the world’s monetary system. He will require a mark in the hand or forehead of every person in the world.
It will be necessary for people to accept his mark to participate in the marketplace.
He will take over the reigns of world government and establish Jerusalem as his capital. When he arrives in the holy city, he will proceed to the Temple Mount, enter the Jewish sanctuary, stop the sacrifices, and proclaim himself to be God.
The World Confederation of nations may have other thoughts about that. Making himself deity may not set too well with the rest of the world. This could be the reason for the resulting battle of Armageddon.
By this time it will appear to the world that they have been enslaved by this dictator. They will likely blame him and Israel. Anti-Semitism will be at its worst.
All nations will send their armies to converge upon Israel for a proposed genocide of the Jews. The last three and one-half years of the seven are referred to as the “Great Tribulation.” This time will be filled with natural disasters – earthquakes, wild weather, floods, and drought. This is the story of the Deceiver, who is introduced in Revelation 6.
As Christ breaks the second seal, John describes the next horseman:
“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” (Revelation 6:4).
The second horse of the apocalypse is red. I call its rider the Destroyer. Never before has mankind experienced a more devastating and terrible conflict than this prophetic view of war. Its distinctive color could not be more fitting for the twentieth century. The rise of Soviet communism in 1917 may well have set the stage for the fulfillment of this second seal.
In the twentieth century, mankind has witnessed more bloodshed than any other generation in history. In World War I, there were eight million casualties. In World War II, some 78 million people were killed. More have died in Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Kuwait, Somalia, and other countries around the world. Among all of the previous wars of history, there were a total of 200 million casualties. The casualties of this century alone constitute over 60% of all deaths in all recorded wars. Politicians cry, “Peace, peace,” but there is no peace. That elusive utopia can only be realized when the Prince of Peace arrives.
Over the past 6,000 years of record keeping, there have been less than 268 years of peace. History is littered with the bodies of the slain. However, during the conflict introduced by the red horse, a fourth of the population of the world will die. Over a billion people will be slaughtered. The coming war will be more devastating than all the wars in the annals of history combined. According to the descriptions of the prophets, the next world war could be a nuclear war.
Jesus spoke of “Wars and rumors of wars…nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24:6,7). His warning appears to coincide with the description of this Second Horseman of the Apocalypse. There are two things about this horseman we should notice-his purpose and his program.
First of all, his purpose is to take peace from the earth. What a picture of our world today! There is no true peace. Until recently, Russian communism, whose symbolic color just happens to be red, had attempted to take over the world. The states of the former Soviet Union still continue to build armaments and prepare for aggression. Communist leaders in China have said they are willing to lose 700 million of their population in order to rule the world. These groups are still responsible for taking peace from the earth.
Coupled with communism is militant Islam. Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Syris, continue to train and finance terrorism around the world. Once supported by the Soviet Union, they are more militant than ever.
In view of the Islamic threat to world peace, we should take note that the symbol of Islam is a sword. Coincidentally, the program of the rider on the red horse involves a sword. Could this be the sword of Islam? The Bible says, “There was given unto him a great sword” (Revelation 6:4). While men are looking for peace, they are arming for war.
The “Air Force Journal of Logistics” (Winter, 1991), describes an advanced concept of ground support for the United States Air Force operations. It is based on the idea of “RED HORSE” units. We quote a portion of the item:
“RED HORSE units are self-sufficient and independent engineering organizations for large-scale heavy projects. These units gained prominence during the Vietnam War with the construction of Tuy Hoa and Phu Cat air bases.
“Base closures overseas have signaled a departure from a forward defense posture to one of rapid force projection. Accordingly, [Air Force headquarters] is reviewing proposals to transition RED HORSE units to smaller, more deployable entities capable of executing war-fighting and nation-building missions of the future.”
You will note from this description that the RED HORSE concept arises from a change of philosophy in the way our military power is deployed in foreign strategic areas. Since World War II, we have relied upon our forward air bases in foreign countries for the control of such areas. Apparently, the old system is becoming impossible to support. For financial and political reason, forward air bases are closing. Military planners are now faced with the necessity of speeding military units to trouble areas.
These compact, rapidly moving units seem well named. They remind us of the biblical picture of war in the latter days. Here is another candidate for the “red horse” of war, moving with great speed across the earth. This horse may soon be ready to move.
On the hills of the Destroyer comes the third horseman thundering across the world stage:
“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” (Revelation 6:5,6).
I call the third horseman Drought – one of the major causes of famine. In certain areas of the world, many people go to bed each night with very little to ear. They are starving by the millions. The 28 countries that comprise the earth’s equatorial belt are turning into dust bowls.
According to a special report in Newsweek magazine, November 11, 1974, that year, “at least 460 million people” were threatened with starvation. The article reported, “Ten million will probably die…most of them children under five years old.” In 1961, the United States had 170 million tons of grain reserves – enough to feed the entire world for 95 days. By 1974, the supply had fallen to “a buffer of 22 days.”
In 1976, the Club of Rome issued a report on the subject in a book entitled MANKIND AT THE TURNING POINT. The book suggested, “By the year 2000 the demand for food in Southeast Asia will be about 30% more than the supply, an alarming, but conceivably manageable gap. With advanced planning the gap could be reduced to as low as 10%. However, if the same projections are extended another 25 years, the deficit rises to over 100%, clearly a catastrophic disparity.”
With emphasis, the statement is made that the analysis in the book extends over a period of 50 years:
“If, during the coming half-century, a viable world system emerges, an organic growth pattern will have been established for mankind to follow thereafter. If a viable system does not develop, projections for the decade thereafter may be academic.”
The most precious of all resources is food. According to a UNESCO report, it has been calculated that the availability of food per capita worldwide has not increased since 1936. Actually, it has decreased over the past decade.
Ten years ago, world stockpiles of food for emergency relief amounted to an 80-day supply. Today those reserves are sufficient for only 30 days consumption. Before World War II, the world was about evenly divided into regions that imported food and regions capable of exporting food. Since the war, some regions – most significantly Latin American and Eastern Europe – that were exporters, have become importers. According to present estimates, only the United States and Australia can be considered as major potential sources of food supply.
According to the Club of Rome, America is the hope of the world, but what would happen if our food supply was curtailed – if the United States was not able to supply the world? According to the 1976 report, a catastrophe will peak around the year 2010. The normal death rate would double due to food shortage. After that, the death rate would decline, but only because the earlier deaths reduced the birthrate for a later generation, or to put it more simply but cruelly, the people who would be having babies died when they were babies. The number of people under 15 years of age who will die of starvation by the year 2025 is estimated to be 500 million.
In John’s generation, a penny was considered a day’s wages, and a measure of wheat was considered one day’s food supply for one person. What an incredible picture of our world in the years ahead! Some day, it will take a full day’s wages to buy food for that day.
The prophecy of famine first came from the lips of our Savior, Himself. During His Olivet Discourse, He mentioned famine as one of the major signs of the end time:
“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences and earthquakes, in divers places” (Matthew 24:7).
Another cause of famine has been the astounding increase in population. There are more people alive today than have died throughout history. There is not enough food to feed the starving millions. A report on population growth in the Sunday Oklahoman, May 16, 1993, entitled “World’s Population Booming,” should give us cause for alarm. It dealt with certain demographic features published as part of an annual survey by the Washington-based World Population Reference Bureau.
The survey predicted that the world population would reach “5.5 billion by mid-1993, 40 percent of it in China and India. The bureau said population is growing each year by 90 million.” The fastest-growing areas of population are those that can least afford growth. As stated in the report, “We are at a point where, except for the United States, population growth is essentially a Third World phenomenon.” One of those who worked on the study said, “The world population took 15 years to increase by one billion to its four billion total in 1975, 12 years to increase to five billion in 1987 and is expected to take only 10 years to rise to six billion in 1997.”
The U.S. population growth continues relatively high because so many from the Third World are clamoring to enter our country. Our net immigration is presently about 900,000 per year. Europe, on the other hand is currently showing a stagnation in population growth, and may actually show a population decline by the end of the century. The poorest area on the globe has the fastest-growing population: sub-Saharan Africa, with a population growth rate of 3 percent per year. At that rate, their population will double in only 20 years. It is in this region that we see many dying of starvation at the present time. Latin America runs a close second at 1.9 percent each year. This compares with the U.S. rate of 0.8 percent, and Europe’s 0.2 percent.
With billions of new mouths to feed, it is only a matter of time until starvation spreads. The famine that is now seen only in India, Africa and Latin America will creep inexorably across the globe, finally reaching virtually every spot on earth. Hunger always gives rise to social unrest-even revolution.
By the time of the Great Tribulation, famine will be fully manifested. At the opening of the “third seal,” in Revelation 6:6, basic food stables are being metered out in small amounts and sold at rates that make possible only a bare subsistence. This is the fate of the common man. Note that the wealthy still have success to their “oil and …wine.” As always, during hard times, the division between rich and poor grows wider. Not only the Bible, but the population figures themselves point to a future global famine.
As the earth reels from the first three horsemen, John describes the rider on the fourth horse:
“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 sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:8).
The Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse is Death. The word “pale” refers to a green ghoulish color – the color of a corpse or the color of leprosy. This horseman tells a gruesome story – a fourth of the population of earth will die. Over one billion people! As stated previously, in all of the wars of history some 200 million died, but five times that many will die in the introductory years of the horsemen of the apocalypse.
The Matthew account of our Savior’s Olivet Discourse reminds us that accompanying war will be famine, pestilences (diseases), and earthquakes. Given enough time, any one of these could completely rid the planet of all life. Jesus emphasized this fact:
“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
“And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:21,22).
Diseases have always been the enemy of man, but the most deadly happens to be the most recent as well. It is called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Originally, it was called Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease (GRID). An embarrassed homosexual community successfully lobbied to change its name. The news media was quick to warn fundamentalist Christians not to blame the gay movement with bringing about some kind of a “judgment from God.” Nevertheless, according to one New York resident, “Everywhere one goes in Harlem you hear about the wrath of God!” New York and San Francisco are noted for 44 percent of all cases in the United States.
It must be considered as a venting of God’s anger upon the sin of sodomy. No nation can violate God’s laws and get away with it. The news media blasts morality and Christianity, while at the same time they 0praise Rock Hudson and Liberace as heroes in their own time. Evidently, God is not impressed. The playboy lifestyle has fallen under the judgment of an offended God. There is no other way to explain it.
Some say by the end of the decade, or shortly thereafter, every spare hospital bed in America will be filled with an AIDS patient. According to Gene Antonio, author of THE AIDS COVER-UP, there are 6,915 hospitals in the United States. Of these, 5,863 are short-term facilities. There are a total of 1,360,000 beds available in these hospitals. On the average, 76 percent of these beds stay occupied. This leaves 326,000 beds empty at any given time. Eventually they will be filled with AIDS patients. Most hospitals are short-term facilities and AIDS patients will need prolonged care for several months at a time. Also, many hospitals are not equipped to handle heavy demands on a long-term basis. Their staff and resources will be taxed to the limit. It is not difficult to understand why hospital officials see the whole hospital system collapsing under the load.
The disease is presently growing on an exponential curve, doubling in some areas every six months, in Europe every nine months, and in other areas once a year. Even at the most conservative estimates, the next decade will be a very bleak year for hospitals. According to U.N. projections, “some forty million people will become infected with HIV, which causes AIDS, by 2000.”
For every AIDS victim reported, there are a hundred more not counted. Present estimates are staggering. In the United States there are over three million people infected – across the world an additional twenty million. Some estimate that within 50 years the entire population of the planet could be dead from AIDS. It has become the most feared of all diseases. Antonio warned that AIDS is destined to be a worse epidemic than the Bubonic plague of medieval Europe.
In the 1970’s, heart disease was the number one killer of Americans. Cancer was second on the list. Other major causes of death included stroke, accidents, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, and cirrhosis of the liver. However, all that is rapidly changing. In New York City, men between the ages of twenty-five and forty-four are more likely to die of AIDS than any other disease. Diagnosed for the first time in 1981, the disease has become the number one killer of men in New York City.
Newsweek Magazine (April 29, 1985) reported, “AIDS has become one of the most sinister infectious diseases of this or any other century threatening the world’s general population and assuming the proportions of what epidemiologists call a ‘pandemic’.” Dr. James Curran, of the Disease Control Center in Atlanta said, “AIDS is now recognized as a worldwide problem, with cases diagnosed on almost every continent.”
Dr. John Seale of London has been studying the outbreak of AIDS in tropical areas, particularly Africa “where it is reported tens of millions have been infected by AIDS and large numbers have already died of the disease.” Dr. Seale said, “If my hypothesis is correct, and we wait perhaps 20 years before we take drastic preventive action, half the population of the Western world will be wiped out.”
According to Dr. Harold Jaffee at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, 73 percent of those who have AIDS are homosexuals and 17 percent are drug users. AIDS can only be determined as judgment meted out by an offended Deity.
At this point, the Center for Disease Control has cautioned Americans not to panic. Yet the epidemic continues to spread at a fantastic rate. In some parts of Africa, over half of the population is infected. It is feared that this contagious disease could be propagated by mosquitoes, thus endangering every person on earth.
Insurance companies are now asking for blood test results before accepting new policyholders. The United States armed forces are testing all military personnel for the disease. The average medical cost for a person with AIDS has soared to nearly 150,000. Somehow, every citizen in the United States will have to bear that cost – either through increased insurance premiums or through tax supported medical care.
The virus grows a thousand times faster than any other disease known to mankind. It is absolutely fatal. The number of victims are doubling every six months. The Atlanta Center for Disease Control has isolated the virus in both tears and saliva. It is a highly contagious disease. Eventually, AIDS victims will have to be quarantined – isolated from others. In the next few years, everyone will know someone with AIDS.
The biblical injunctions against sodomy and homosexuality can no longer be scoffed at, and we are reminded that Jesus described the last days as being like the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah:
“Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did ear, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded.
“But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
“Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed” (Luke 17:28-30).
In like manner, the sins of Sodom are rampant today. Let it be known, God will not allow the world to get away with it. His judgment has already begun and will continue to increase at an exponential curve throughout the coming years. If unchecked, AIDS could annihilate life on earth during the next century. The epidemic increases with the passing of every month. Of this one thing we can be certain – the Bible predicts a raging epidemic during the days before the Second Coming of Christ.
Death and Hell
It is at this point that the Bible describes a companion, which travels with death – one who conquers.
The Bible says, “Hell followed with him.” People who die during the Tribulation Period will be unbelievers. They will be cast into hell without hope for eternity. In fact, Isaiah 5:14 reports that hell will enlarge itself because of the millions who will die.
We can readily see that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are ready to fide. They will introduce the predicted seven-year Tribulation Period. However, that is not the end of the story. There are actually FIVE horsemen! In Revelation 6, we are shown the Deceiver, Destroyer, Drought, and Death. This is a terrible picture of events introducing the Tribulation Period, but there is a Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse – the Deliverer. Revelation 19 describes Him for us:
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
“His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written that no man knew, but he himself.
“And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God”
(Revelation 19: 11-13).
The Lord Jesus Christ is coming back to this earth. This is not just the sweet Baby in the manger. This is not the kind Lord Jesus Christ Who lifted children into His lap. Oh, this is the same Jesus, but this time He comes not in peace, but in war. He will come, not as the Giver of eternal life to mankind, but as its Judge
The first time He came, He hung upon a cross and wore a crown of thorns; the second time He comes, He will sit upon a throne and wear a golden crown – a royal diadem.
The first time He came, He stood before Pilate; the second time He comes, Pilate will stand before Him.
Christ is described here as the great Deliverer, for He will conquer the armies of this world. He will put down Satan and his followers. He will lay hold upon the antichrist and throw him into hell. The Lord Jesus Christ will establish the kingdom of heaven on earth and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords!
From the archives of J.R. Church – Published September 1996 PITN Magazine