5:11Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12singing with full voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
13Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,
“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might
forever and ever!"
14And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
6:1Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures call out, as with a voice of thunder, “Come!” 2I looked, and there was a white horse! Its rider had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering and to conquer. 3When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature call out, “Come!” 4And out came another horse, bright red; its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another; and he was given a great sword.
5When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature call out, “Come!” I looked, and there was a black horse! Its rider held a pair of scales in his hand, 6and I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s pay, and three quarts of barley for a day’s pay, but do not damage the olive oil and the wine!”
7When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature call out, “Come!” 8I looked and there was a pale green horse! Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth.
9When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given; 10they cried out with a loud voice, “Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” 11They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Ominous, Baleful, Foreboding, Menacing. (Not their names)
Their names: Conquest, War, Famine, Death.
What are they? They are evil spiritual forces. Who is letting them roam? Christ Jesus. Why? To refine the faith of believers and to punish unbelievers. When? Throughout the church age -- past, present, and future. From Nero's cruel persecution after the fire of Rome in 64 A.D., to wars and famines around the world, to the unknown future before the coming of Christ.
These terrible events are not relegated to the past nor are they just about the future. Different interpretations on the Book of Revelation have different takes on the time of these events. The best interpretation given by the overall text of Revelation is that many events described in the text cover the whole spectrum of earth's time.
The big theological question is, Who is in charge of these events associated with the four horsemen? The textual/biblical answer is, God and Christ are in ultimate control of the evil horsemen. If this is true, isn't Christ compromised if He is directly linked to the ultimate cause of these satanic and destructive events?
The answer to the last question lies in the ultimate purpose of the woes, to purify believers and to punish unbelievers. The text bears this out. It is hard to "soften" Christ's role of ultimate control, according to what is said in the text.
Apostle John had spoken earlier that Christ is already reigning over earthly kings (1:5; 2:6-27). In this section, 6:1-8, Christ's reign even extends over situations of suffering of believers. An apparently chaotic world in which there is suffering is not the ultimate result of chance or evil governments. It is Christ who is greater than chance or evil governments. The Lordship of Christ is the theological answer to the theological question of suffering and terrible events.
Seeing that Christ is ultimately in charge does not mean believers are to be passive however. That would be fatalism. "Whatever happens is God's will" in the mode of passive acceptance is not biblical. We are called to intercede. We are called to stand up against injustice and religious persecution. We are called to peace. We called to provide food for those who suffer from famine.
We are called to do our part. The ultimate control of Christ -- the Lordship of Christ over all events -- gives us unshakable peace. It removes the false belief that Satan is more powerful than God. It removes the illusion that evil governments are stronger than Christ. It removes our wrong-headed thinking that some natural system or man-made system is the final deciding factor for the fate of the earth. It is the Lamb of God who is Ultimate. Therefore, while we find comfort in the ultimate control of world events under Christ's Lordship, we are at the same time doing our part as Christ's ambassadors and agents doing good in His name in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let's pray: Lord Christ, we confess your sovereignty over earthly kings and earthly events. You have no competing power who will overtake you. You have no true enemy that threatens you. In this we find our security and peace. While we find comfort in your ultimate control, we pray that you would help us to do our part in furthering your Kingdom, sharing the good news with others, and praying for your redemption for all. In your name, amen.