• Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Painting by Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov (1848–1926) Painted in 1887 | Photo: http://lj.rossia.org/users/john_petrov/166993.html from Wikimedia Commons

Apocalyptic Riders – Part 1

Rev. Willem J.J. Glashouwer - 16 November 2022

Looking into the distant future of the end of times, the Apostle John sees in the Book of Revelation Apocalyptic horsemen riding out over the earth. The only “timetable” of end time events in the Bible that I know of  is the “Olivet Discourse” of Lord Jesus Himself in Matthew 24. And this “order of events” runs entirely in parallel with the Book of Revelation. Let us therefore “tag along” with Revelation 6.

 “I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!”” (Revelation 6:1)

There is no doubt Who – in the Book of Revelation – breaks the seals of the closed scroll that He is allowed to take from the hand of the Most High and Who opens this scroll containing the climax of this phase of world history: it is the Lamb! The scroll sealed with seven seals apparently is a kind of a ‘testament’: a ‘written deed containing the rightful ownership of the property’, a scroll declaring that the property must return to its rightful owner: the Creator of Heaven and earth! The Lamb is the only one worthy to lead the history of mankind and of this world to God’s Kingdom of peace and righteousness on planet earth. Even to the liberation of the material Universe itself. In order that God will be all in all. The Lamb breaks the seals and the “four living creatures” (better translation than “the four animals”) – who stand before the throne of God as representatives of Creation, are calling forth the four Apocalyptic Horsemen.

To understand what we have to look for when referring to the four horsemen and the breaking of the seals in general, we must therefore compare it with the “Olivet Discourse” of Lord Jesus He delivered on the Mount of Olives. We will follow mainly Matthew 24, supplemented by parallel sections from Mark 13 and Luke 17 and 21. In this sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus Christ answers the disciples’ question:  “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen (that not one stone  here will be left on another), and what will be the sign of Your Coming  – Parousia/coming in Glory – and of the end of the age – the “sunteleia” of the “aion”?” They do not ask about the end of the world but they want to know about “the end of the age.” They want to know about Jesus’ Coming in Glory to establish that long-awaited Kingdom of peace and righteousness on planet earth. They ask: When will the closing/ending of this terrible stage of this world history come? The terrible phase that mankind and world apparently have to go through, before the next “aion/era” will dawn: the era of the Kingdom of peace and justice from Jerusalem covering the entire world. How do we know that? What are the “signs” of it? What are the signs of Your Coming in Glory?

Jesus about the end of times

From the question it becomes clear that His disciples realize themselves that there must be another ‘Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ’, a Coming in Glory: His Parousia. That His triumphant entrance in Jerusalem (Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 12) will not lead to that long-awaited and expected Kingdom. Pesach is only two days away (Matthew 26:1-2), but then He will be surrendered to be crucified. Thus, this first Coming will not lead to the Coming of the final stage of His Kingdom. They had seen Him perform the ‘signs of the Kingdom’ as examples of the fantastic Kingdom on earth that one-day would be realized according to Isaiah 2:2-4. They are beginning to understand that this requires another Coming. When will that be? “How do we know?”, they ask.

Then the Lord Jesus sums up a great number of ‘signs of the times’ which must come to pass first, before He will come in Glory. Mark 13:8 calls these signs the beginning of birth pains. Painful as they may be, but ultimately leading to the birth of the new baby: the Kingdom of Peace on earth, that the angels were singing about at Bethlehem, Luke 2:13-14.

Answering the three-fold question of the disciples, sitting on Mount Sion, overlooking the City of Jerusalem and the magnificent buildings of the Temple, He then starts to speak in Matthew 23:37-39, Matthew 24:1-2 and Luke 21:20-24 about the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the City and the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD – so historically being fulfilled 40 years after He predicted this. About what will happen in the future with a restored Jerusalem He speaks in Matthew 24:15-22 – looking prophetically in the far distant future. Looking to the restored Israel and the restored City of Jerusalem in our days.

After the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and the worldwide dispersion of the Jewish people around the globe for almost 2000 years, He speaks about false christs, false prophets, hunger, (infectious) deceases, earth quakes, conflicts, wars and rumours of wars, nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, revolutions, persecutions (unto death, martyrs), hatred from the side of all nations, brothers rise up against each other, the rebellion occurs, betrayal, parents surrendered by their children, lawlessness, lovelessness, but also about the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom till the ends of the earth as a witness for all nations and the restoration of the fig tree, meaning the restoration of Israel.

He then sees with His mind’s eye again Jerusalem as a city in the distant future (Matthew 24:15) and He sees an “abomination that causes desolation, standing in the ‘holy place” – meaning the Temple Mount, Mount Zion in the center of Jerusalem, upon which the Temple was built. Then He speaks of a short period of great tribulation which the earth has never seen before and after that will never experience again. When you are a Jew, flee as quick as you can. Pray that your flight will not take place on a Sabbath, because then there is no public transport in Jerusalem and it will prevent the orthodox Jews to flee further than a permitted Sabbath journey! Again false christs and false prophets with great miracles and signs. Don’t fall for it! For the sake of the chosen ones, time will be shortened or else no one would survive.

So, during the “great tribulation” an “abomination that causes desolation” is mentioned standing in the holy place, on the Temple Mount. Some expositors point to the mosques standing on that holy place, preaching hatred and destruction against the Jewish people and Israel. Immediately after that the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light anymore and the stars will fall from the sky. And then the Son of Man will come with great power and Glory and He will send His angels to gather His elect from all over the world.

Then He will judge the nations on the basis of what they did to Israel and the Jewish people, Matthew 25:31-46. When you see the fig tree come to life again (Israel) then you must know that the Kingdom of God, summer is imminent, He says in Mark 13:29. The events of the end of times apparently begin with the recovery of the Jewish people in Israel.

Generally, people do not have a clue about this. It will be like in the days of Noah, just before the Flood. Eating, drinking, marrying, et cetera, until Noah and his family entered the ark. After that there was no escape. Two are doing the same, one is taken, the other not. So, be ready, because you don’t know when it will be. And because you don’t know, you must be ready every day. That goes for every Christian, even if it is not (yet) about the Second Coming, during which He Comes to take us to Him. It can happen any day that He sends His angels to bring each and every one of us to Him. Nobody has a guarantee for the rest of his or her life.

Thus, in general terms the ‘order of events’ in the “Olivet Discourse” of Lord Jesus in the Gospels concerning the end of times and about the events that proceed His Coming in Glory look like this. My father used to say: watch the signs, but don’t do the math!

Revelation 6
You will find the same ‘order of events’ for instance in Revelation 6. It starts with the riding out of the first Apocalyptic Horseman on a white horse. In verse 2 we read: “I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.” Revelation 6:2.

Who is this horseman on the white horse? The color white in the Book of Revelation always represents something that has to do with God or Christ. Christ Himself will appear on a white horse, and the bride of the Lamb will be dressed in bright and impeccable fine white linen. The Heavenly hosts follow Him on white horses. The multitude that no one can count, wears white robes. And to the souls of the martyrs who were slaughtered for the Word of God and for the testimony they had, a white robe is given. Christ promises the overcomers a white stone and white clothes. He is seen with hair as white as wool and on a white cloud and the final judgement of God takes place before the white throne.

There are no disasters when this first horseman on his white horse appears. Who is he? Christ Himself appears only in Revelation 19:11-16. Is this horseman the antichrist then? But he appears only in Revelation 13. Who is he, this horseman on the white horse? He rides out as a conqueror (crown) and effectively hitting the mark (bow), and he is bent on conquest over the earth. He rides out first, before the others. Victoriously!

The key in my opinion lies in Mark 13:10 where it says: “And the gospel must FIRST be preached to all nations.” The horseman on the white horse is the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom worldwide. Although some think of the false christs and the false prophets because of the parallel between Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 24 and Revelation 6, this seems to be unlikely. ‘White’ represents ‘holy’ and ‘positive’, and this cannot be said about these false christs and false prophets. This good and holy and positive Gospel makes its way “forcefully” (Matthew 11:12). God’s mercy and grace is irresistible. His arrows hit human hearts to win them over forever for His Kingdom. Just like sunflowers opening their petals and turn to the warmth and bright light when the sun comes up. People think about Christ Himself, but – as we said – He appears in the Book of Revelation no sooner than in Chapter 19:11-16.

After the white horse comes a fiery red horse, a black horse and a pale (chloros = pale green) horse: death and destruction, war and starvation, massacre and even genocide, black markets and infectious deceases. After that the martyrs are mentioned and then the “shaking” of creation like a fig tree, so that he powers of nature falter, the sun becomes black and the moon like blood and the stars fall from the sky – Revelation 8-9 give more and specific details about that – and then the wrath of God and of the Lamb takes place.

Revelation 6:3-11
From Revelation 6:3 onwards the other Apocalyptic Horsemen ride out over the earth. Although the rider on the white horse continues to ride with them as well.

“When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.” Revelation 6:3-4.

The first ‘living creature’ – lion – calls the first horseman on the white horse. Because of the parallel with the Olivet Discourse of Lord Jesus in Matthew 24:14 and Mark 13:10 we therefore said: the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom till the ends of the world. Although others see false christs and false messiahs and false prophets in this (Matthew 45:4-5; 11; 23-24), the color white and the victors crown  and the victorious nature of the lion seems to go into the direction of the true, saving Gospel.

But about the following three horsemen everyone agrees: death and destruction, starvation and war, yes, even massacre, genocide, dash forward over the world. Apocalyptic riders in the sky. When the Lamb opens the second seal (because it is He Who unlocks the scroll and leads world history towards its end and towards a new beginning) then the second ‘living creature’ – an ox – calls the second horse with its rider. Fiery, red as blood, with a very big sword, to slaughter. In Greek: ‘machaira”, an enormous hangman’s sword. He is going to take away the peace from the earth (deliberately wielding his big sword with evil intent) in order that they will slaughter each other! Massacre. Genocide. Millions at the same time. Satan is the murderer from the beginning (John 8:44) and the second horseman rides the horse with the colour of the dragon, Revelation 12:3. There is no question of a righteous war of defense against an evil attacker or even an ideological war or a conflict of interest, no, conditions are created, situations and circumstances manipulated, that lead to mutual rage. The devil is also called the liar from the beginning (John 8:44). Fake arguments and fake news just as a pretext to launch total devastation. Think of Cambodia and Rwanda.

Nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom, says the Lord Jesus in Matthew 24:6-7. Think of the French Revolution that devoured her own children after causing streams of blood under the guillotine. Think of the wars of conquest by Napoleon, Bismarck, Wilhelm II, Hitler. Think of the Russian revolution and the Chinese revolution with millions of victims under Stalin and Mao Zedong. Think of Vietnam and the torture chambers of the Juntas in South America. Think of…, in short, we could go on endlessly. Has there ever been an era of real peace? And what is awaiting us when the ABC-weapons (atomic, bacteriological, chemical) will really be used? We saw a foretaste of this in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the chemical weapons in the First World War and Iraq.

How people must have trembled in the days of John when thinking of the disappearance of Pax Romana – the Peace of Rome – extending far around the Mediterranean Sea. Peace being taken away. Terrible to imagine. Or to hear and see about it in  the media. No peace, no order of law, no righteousness and therefore no future. ‘Homo homini lupus est’, the Romans said. Man basically is a wolf to man.

And thus: lawlessness. Structures collapse and justice disappears and the law will be bent to serve the purposes of the high and rich and powerful. Good will be called evil and evil will be labelled good. Man indeed becomes a wolf. Chaos and streams of blood. Auschwitz and Hiroshima. In the previous century we saw more victims fall then in all previous centuries, even combined. We saw two World Wars, wielding a large, very big sword, to maim and to kill. Mass-killings. Genocide. Including the nuclear sword. What will the reaction of the masses, of the nations and their leaders be? Will mankind repent under this threat, realizing what horrible events are threatening as a whole and the planet as well? Some will. Many will not. And what will our reaction be?

Suffering teaches people to pray, so the proverb says. But suffering can also teach people to start blaming God and Jews and Christians for all that is wrong in the world and in their personal lives, and heartfelt cursing and swearing. It all depends on whether we learn to bow down under God’s judgements and plagues, or even harden ourselves, like the Pharaoh of Egypt. At first he hardens his heart himself. But later – when it becomes clear that he, time and time again, does not want to listen nor to give in to the messages that Moses and Aaron are bringing to him on behalf of God – then finally God hardens his heart, Exodus 7:22; 8:15, 19 and 32; 9:7 and 12, 34-35; 10:20; 11:9-10.

Let’s listen to the prophet Isaiah who cries out: “My soul yearns for You in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for You. When Your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness”, says Isaiah 26:9. And Daniel 12:10 knows that many will be cleansed and purified, but that the wicked will continue to act wickedly: “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”

Your troops will be willing on Your day of battle, says Psalm 110:2-3a: “The Lord will extend Your mighty scepter from Zion; You will rule in the midst of your enemies. Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty…” But also Revelation 9:21: “…  Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.”

“When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” Revelation 6:5-6.

The Lamb opened the third seal. The third ‘living creature’ – with the face of a man – says: Come! The third horse appears, with its rider, holding a pair of scales in his hand. There is still something to weigh, but it is very scarce. And because of the market mechanism of demand and supply the meager means of food and other basic necessities of daily life are very expensive. A day’s wages (Matthew 20:2) for a quart of wheat or three quarts of barley. That means hunger. In the wake of war, of lawlessness and revolution, hunger always rides along. Extortionate prices of the black (!) market. Black as the color of famine.

When Jeremiah complains about the fate of Jerusalem, he says that people see ‘black’ with hunger and their skin shriveled around their bones. Ecclesiastes 4:8-10 and 5:10. Hunger or starvation is a terrible thing. It is dying slowly. The tiny bits of food prolong life, but also the suffering. People become predatory animals who steal the bare necessities form each other. Accounts from camp prisoners in concentration camps and refugee camps talk about this. Yes, even cannibalism and the eating of children happens, Ecclesiastes 4:10and Ezekiel 5:10; 2 Kings 6:24-29; Deuteronomy 28:53-57.

Starvation and everything that goes with it is considered to be a divine judgment in Israel. Now the voice from between the four ‘living creatures’ sounds, from the throne of God, that this ordeal must go over the earth. Only the (olive) oil and the (grape)vine must remain  untouched. Luxury must stay. Babylon thrives on it, Revelation 18:13. While people are starving to death, the rich continue with their ungodly lives of luxury and fun. But God’s judgment will put an end to that as well, says Revelation 18.

When Babylon finally falls – being the symbol of mankind developing a society driven by science and technology, by political and economic powers in the name of man – without God and His principles and laws – the merchants lament in Revelation 18:15-20: “The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn and cry out: ” ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet,  and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’ “Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’ They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: ” ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin! Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.’ “

The ‘oil and wine’ do not just relate to the luxury of the rich alone. It was part of the regular menu of ordinary people. See for example Deuteronomy 7:13, 11:14, 28:51; Nehemiah 5:11; Hosea 2:7-8; Joel 2:19 and Haggai 1:11. But at this stage in time it shows a world with more love for pleasure than for God, 2 Timothy 3:4 and 2 Peter 2:12-14. A world with rich countries that continue their opulent lives at the expense of the poor countries. A world ravaged by wars, famine and death. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines in various places, said the Lord Jesus in Matthew 24:7 – also see 2 Chronicles 15:3-6. A characterization of the twenty centuries human history that are behind us, but that will only intensify and increase in magnitude towards a climax in the end times.

Weighing indicates scarcity. When Ezekiel has to represent Jerusalem’s siege illusively, he is only allowed in a period of 390 days a small, weighed and measured amount of food and water, Ezekiel 4:9-12 and 16-17.

When one adopts a somewhat later date for the origin of the Book of Revelation (although a date before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD is also justifiable), then a decree by the Emperor Domitian shows this attitude by fallen man very clearly. The rich and the mighty are not interested in the sufferings of the poor. Domitian decreed in the year 92 AD that half of the soil used for the production of oil and wine should be converted into the growing of wheat. He had pity on the starvation of the poor masses. But that has never been implemented, because the decadent, rich Romans preferred their pleasures more than relieving the need of the starving people.

“When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” Revelation 6:7-8.

The Lamb opened the fourth seal, and the fourth ‘living creature’ – like a flying eagle – says: Come! Then the pale horse appears with its rider.

The colour “chloros” is also translated with “green” (Revelation 8:7, 9:4 and Mark 6:39), the colour of grass. In Leviticus 13:49 and 14:37 it is the pale colour of leprosy. And the horseman has a name: death, and Hades was following close behind him. For “Hades” see Psalm 16:10 and Acts 2:25-31.

The four horsemen ride out one after the other but also next to each other. All four finally ride together. The last of the three Apocalyptic Riders in the sky are given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, war, famine, plague, infectious deceases and by the wild beasts of the earth. War leaves a trail of destruction. Famine is the first result and after that the infectious deceases. The “wild beasts of the earth” are seen by some as bacilli, viruses,  and other living germs, the smallest of the living “wild beasts”. The Greek word “thèrion” used here is also used for ‘the beast’ coming out of the sea of nations, Revelation 13:1.

How were the people of Egypt scourged by the plagues (Exodus 7-10) of wild animals, frogs, gnats, flies, locusts, and boils. It now takes on a global significance. The wages of sin was death – Romans 6:23 – and the great dying sets in now. That, for which the Lord has warned in amongst others Leviticus 26:14-26, is now happening. The punishment of Israel is now happening on a worldscale.

Moses said on behalf of God: “If you reject My decrees and abhor My laws and fail to carry out all My commands and so violate My Covenant, then I will do this to you: I will bring upon you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain away your life. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it. I will set My face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you. ” ‘If after all this you will not listen to Me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of the land yield their fruit. ” ‘If you remain hostile toward Me and refuse to listen to Me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve. I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted. ” ‘If in spite of these things you do not accept My correction but continue to be hostile toward Me, I myself will be hostile toward you and will afflict you for your sins seven times over.”

The sorrows of the wicked shall abound in number. Enough is enough, there is just no stopping anymore. “I Myself will withdraw My favor; I will not look on you with pity or spare you”, He says in Ezekiel 5:11.

And yet: in the opening of the scroll sealed by the seven seals during the previous centuries and heading for a climax in our days, there is still a  deep meaning of love. The Gospel still rides along, even in the forefront, worldwide, as the first rider on the first, white horse. The calling voice still sounds: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29. The trials and tribulations, the plagues and the judgments in war, famine, plague and death are still intended to turn mankind around, to repent and convert. They are urging to go to the Only One who can really save them. To Jesus Christ and Him crucified, 1 Corinthians 2:2. To sink down as a weary sinner at the foot of the cross. Like the composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883) at the end of his life, to the great dismay of his friend the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). Wagner converted from a blatant exuberant paganism to a deeply felt inner “mystical” Christian faith. The philosopher Nietzsche (admired by Adolf Hitler among others)  taught the “Übermensch” where the Bible teaches that this peak of mankind will be the beast: the anti-Christ. Christ was as the least among you all (Luke 9:48); Phillippians2:5-11), but He became the Savior and Redeemer and the coming King, the true Ruler, King of kings and Lord of lords..

The horrific consequences of the philosophy about the “Űbermensch”, the Arian super race, were finally and consequently developed in the Third Reich of the Nazis in Germany. Ultimately the ideas of evolution – everything continuously is moving forward and upwards, the survival of the fittest at the expense of the weakest links who have to be removed because they hinder the progress and the climbing upwards of the human race as a whole – were in the German universities tied to racial thinking, with “Untermenschen” and “Übermenschen” and led to the extermination of the “rats” of human society: the Jews. Also the mentally handicapped, homosexuals, Bible-believing Christians, et cetera, had to suffer. The Aryan race was destined to rule as supreme beings over all the other races – over mankind as a whole, they believed and practiced.

Genetic experiences were performed. For instance in Paderborn these ‘scientists’ by crossbreeding tried to develop blond-haired and blue-eyed perfect specimens of this superior race were bred. Because didn’t the evolution theory teach the “survival of the fittest”? So, the subspecies had to be destroyed to enable the strongest and the best ones to push the evolution process forwards and upwards. Man acting as if he were god. Even better than God. Horrible.

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of God and the testimony they had maintained.” Revelation 6:9.

This goes hand in hand, all the time. Throughout the ages. Man wanting to be like God, taking the law into their own hands, trying to establish his own empire in the name of man with unbridled violence: Babylon, the city of man. In all kinds of shapes and forms. Driven by all kinds of philosophies and religions. By the powers of natural man, not realizing themselves and forgetting that man has become a fallen being, driven by his own lust for power, and also by the demonic forces who control the invisible world. The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This inevitably will lead to the persecution and oppression of those who do not expect it from themselves, but who humbly and longingly look up to Him to make all things forever new. People who look up to the Creator of heaven and earth, and not to the blind forces of evolution. People who know about sin and redemption. Who follow their Lord Jesus Christ Who rose from the dead and Who will be coming back in Glory to establish His Kingdom of Peace and Righteousness from Jerusalem all over the world.

How did not already in the past clash the Greek spirit of Hellenism with the Jewish piety in the battles under the Maccabees. Antiochus Epiphanes (naming himself after the Greek chief god Zeus Epiphanes), wanted to force the Greek civilization upon Israel. Greek humanism, Hellenism, versus the God of Israel and His Laws. On the big burnt offering altar in the Temple in Jerusalem in 167 BC an altar for Zeus is erected. Every month, on the twenty-fifth day, an offering is brought to Zeus, but because that twenty-fifth day was the birthday of Antioch himself, those offerings were also meant for him personally. Man as god.

Dionysus (the wine god) feasts were following. The sacrifices of pigs (for Jews the most unclean animal) on the altar of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Sabbath is abolished. The circumcision of the Jewish boys on the eighth day after birth is prohibited, because the Greek consider this to be a mutilation of the beautiful male body. Exercising sport was done by men, naked, because of the magnificent male body. The love between men was considered to be of a higher order by the Greeks than the love between men and women. The latter only served for the reproduction the human race. In the end all Jewish religious practices were forbidden on the penalty of death. Then finally deeply religious Jewish people took to their arms to fight this cruel oppressor. And ultimately they won!

The noble Greek spirit, Greek humanism, the Hellenism lives by what man himself is capable of doing and which is at odds with Jewish man who lives by God’s revelation and His commandments and who knows about blood as reconciliation of human sins and debt. As do Bible-believing Christians who for that reason will be persecuted also.

Streams of blood have flown in the battle of the Jews for their freedom of religion and against the desecration of the Temple. They are irreconcilable: the naturally good, humanistic man and the man who knows he is a sinner and dependently knows of God’s mercy and His commandments as the guideline for life.

Thus that spiritual battle is continuing even later, when in the Roman Hellenist world, that lives by the same Greek philosophies, a new Jewish sect emerges. The Christians. Not the Emperor is God, not human reasoning and human intellect are the end of all wisdom, but God is Lord and Jesus is King, and the Word of God, the revelation alone is authoritative, with all due respect for earthly governments. Streams of blood of Christians are the result of this clash. And this continues for centuries. With the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom in the world, the streams of martyrs is growing as well.

Under the Romans, under Islam, under the Roman Inquisition, under communism, under National Socialism, under dictatorships of leftwing and rightwing philosophies victims are falling. Christians often together with their “elderly family members”: the Jews. A fourth part of mankind fall under the hooves of the fiery red, the black and the pale green (corpse colour) horse, but a special group are the innocently slaughtered ones, the martyrs.

They were no object of God’s wrath or the wrath of the Lamb. They are slaughtered for the Word of God (the Scriptures, and the incarnate Word Jesus Christ, John 1:14) and for the testimony of Jesus that they had(Revelation 1:2). The parallel with the Olivet Discourse of Lord Jesus is clear again: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of Me.” Matthew 24:9 and Matthew 10:22. “But not a hair of your head will perish; By standing firm you will gain life!” Luke 21:16-19 and  Mark 13:9-13. Earthly life in this dispensation will only last for a moment, but life in the age to come will last forever. See Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; Ephesians 1:21 and Hebrews 2:5 compare 6:5.

The breaking of the fifth seal makes it clear that the Kingdom of God will not come gradually, will not slowly but surely conquer the entire world! A cultural optimism based on Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) way of Christian thinking says that everything will be brought under the kingship of Christ by means of Christian politics, Christian education, Christian organizations, et cetera. This is not based on Scripture, notwithstanding the blessing it emanated on a small scale in the last century. The Lord Jesus says when speaking about His Coming in Glory in Luke 18:8 “… when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Apparently ‘religion’ galore, but true faith based on the true Word of God? Apparently He is not coming back as the capstone of a totally Christianized world!

Not the Roman Catholic line of political power-thinking, equally present in the protestant World Council of Churches and in the Russian Orthodoxy will ultimately bring in the Kingdom of Peace and Righteousness. Signs of that Kingdom on earth given by God will be made visible. The Gospel of the Kingdom is spreading around the world, with all its blessings, but the devil remains controlling this world of darkness, Ephesians 6:12. He is the prince of this world, says Lord Jesus in John 12:31 and 42, and 14:30 and 16:10. During the temptation of Christ the desert, the devil offers Him the kingdoms of this world, Luke 4:1-13, verse 5-6: “The devil led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, “I will give You all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.”  But Jesus sees right through this temptation and resisted this temptation by pointing to the Word of God. He doesn’t succumb like Adam did in the Garden of Eden, but clings to God and His Word and with that He becomes the Lamb that will be slaughtered but also the Prince of Life of Easter and the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords who will come to make all things for ever new.

And one-day – in the near future, because the Jews are coming home to Israel and Jerusalem – the true Kingdom will come upon the earth. As the angels shout and sing in Revelation 11:15 “”The kingdoms (KJV) of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever.” Beautifully expressed in the chorals of the  Oratorio ‘Messiah’ of Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759), composed in 1741!

I hope to discuss the continuation of Revelation 6 in part 2 of this article.

Bible verses are from the NIV Bible 1984

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