The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse

Rev 6: 1-8

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!” 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. 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 people kill each other. To him was given a large sword. 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, “Two poundsof wheat for a day’s wages, and six poundsof barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” 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.

In the last 3 years, we have witnessed a global pandemic, a war that could lead to a global war and global inflation.  Many have speculated that probably the first 2 or 3 of the horsemen have already appeared.

The rider of the first white horse is given a crown. Could the crown refer to the covid-19 virus plague or pandemic for the appearance of the virus resembles a crown ? It has indeed affected all nations. (The interpretation of a plague is very plausible because the fourth horsemen seems to be given the power of each of the first three horsemen to kill by sword, famine and PLAGUE.) The rider of the second fiery red horse is given a sword to take peace from the earth and make people kill each other.  Could it refer to the on-going Russia-Ukraine war ?   The rider of the third black horse is holding a pair of scales. Two pounds of wheat cost a whole day’s wages and that sounds like runaway food inflation which we are witnessing right now for some countries like Lebanon, Laos and Sri Lanka.  And more are facing bankruptcy. The World Bank has predicted a global famine disaster from 2023 and the Horn of Africa is already facing critical famine right now.  The rider of the fourth pale horse is given power to kill by sword, famine and plague over a fourth of the earth. If the above interpretation of the first three seal judgments are plague, war and famine, it seems to me then that the last horsemen is given the power to escalate the first 3 seal judgments simultaneously. To be given the authority over a fourth of the earth to kill does not necessarily mean a fourth of the earth’s population will be killed. It is more likely that authority is given to kill over a TERRITORY covering a fourth of the earth. Scripture at times call extremely evil people as wild beasts and they join in the slaughter.

The pandemic, Russia-Ukraine war and inflation cum famine are still continuing right now. Will all these three seal judgments worsen suddenly and usher in the pale horse seal judgment ?

Eternal Security

There is always this perennial argument whether believers are really saved in the beginning when they fall away later, or they are saved initially but lose their salvation when they fall away later.  Let us take a look at the following two Scriptural passages closely.

John 2:23-25

Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name as they observed His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, because He knew all people, and because He did not need anyone to testify about mankind, for He Himself knew what was in mankind.

John 6:60-66

So then many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This statement is very unpleasant; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, aware that His disciples were complaining about this, said to them, “Is this offensive to you? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh provides no benefit; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit, and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray Him. And He was saying, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” As a result of this many of His disciples left, and would no longer walk with Him.

In John 2:23-25, Scripture said that many believed in His name but Jesus our Lord did not entrust Himself to them.  In other words, He did not believe their faith.  So did these people believe in His name initially ?  Were their faith illegitimate from the start which was why Jesus our Lord said He could not trust their faith ?

Later in John 6:64-65, Scripture said that Jesus our Lord knew from the BEGINNING who did not believe.  In John 6:66, Scripture said clearly these believers, who were His DISCIPLES, left and no longer walked with Him.  Were these believers DISCIPLES from the beginning but later fell away ?

Reading the passages of John 2:23-25 and John 6:60-66,  one can interpret that the believers can lose their salvation when they fall away for Scripture mentioned that they believed in the name of Jesus  and were disciples.  Another can interpret otherwise that they were not believers in the first place because Jesus our Lord did not trust their faith and He knew from the beginning those who did not believe even though they followed Him for some time.   

The parable of the sower gave 4 different heart responses to the gospel.  Can the rocky ground and the ground with weeds be transformed to the good soil ?   Or the condition of the heart already settles the receptivity to the gospel even though they may receive the gospel with joy initially.  Luke 8:13.

I believe a better question to ask, which we can have a definite answer from Scripture, is to ask how we can know if we have eternal life in Christ. Scripture does give us an answer to examine our faith. 

1 John 5:13

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

The apostle John said in 1 John 5:13 that he had written all these things in his epistle so that we may know we have eternal life.  So what are these things written in 1 John ?

Scripture also gives us the the right repentance leading to legitimate faith in 2 Cor 7:9-11.

Only with legitimate faith can one be born again with the new heart and new spirit.  So can it be that some believers do not have the new heart and new spirit given by the Lord when they first believed apparently ?  Perhaps these believers do not count their cost of discipleship or have the wrong repentance leading to faith in the first place which render their faith to be illegitimate all along. Zacchaeus decided there and then on the cost of following Jesus by taking appropriate action upon having the right repentance leading to faith; while the rich young ruler decided the cost was too high and walked away. Even if the young ruler decided to follow Jesus without the repentance shown by Zacchaeus, his faith would be illegitimate.

Peace (Acronym 10)

In the New Testament, the Greek word for “peace” is eirene, and it means rest and tranquility.  The advent of our Lord Jesus brought peace as announced by the angels. Our Lord is called Prince of Peace.  It is through His atoning work of justification that we can have peace with God.  Peace is the fruit of the Spirit God and to set our minds on the Spirit will bring us life and peace.  Rom 8:16.  And that peace of God will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:7.

John 16:13

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.

True peace can only be found in abiding in Christ. 

The Coming Persecution

Matt 24:8-12

But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. “Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers.And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.

After the birth pains have started with more to come, the second sign of the end of age will start with persecution of the church.  The birth pains and persecution will both grow in intensity just like birth pains before the baby is born. 

In Rev 2 and 3, only 2 churches – Smyrna and Philadelphia churches – remain faithful in the end times while the other 5 will likely compromise and apostatize to avoid the persecution by the state. These 5 churches, with the exception of Ephesus church, will be so deceived by the numerous false prophets in their midst. Though the Ephesus church tries to remain doctrinally correct and continue in good works, they have lost their first love – they will compromise on accepting homosexuality and other state mandates and sever their hand of fellowship with those who do not compromise.  We are beginning to see such action now.

The Smyrna churches are outside the Babylonian or western capitalism states anyway in the Moslem and socialist states and are used to suffering.  The Philadelphia churches are the smaller fellowship churches (without power and thus less conspicuous) that will come out of the compromised institutional churches in the Babylonian states probably due to betrayal and hatred for their fortitude on obeying God’s laws, or distress caused by rampant false teaching and blasphemous practices.

Though the Lord’s exhortation to come out of Babylon (with her luxurious living and very sinful excesses removing God’s universal laws on gender, marriage and sanctity of life) may cause the Smyrna and Philadelphia churches to suffer economically, but they will remain faithful and endure till the end. Their souls will be so tormented by the rampant sin they see around them and the terrible coldness of love of many.

Private Revelation And Scripture Revelation

We must not confuse private revelation with Scripture revelation. The former concerns only MORALLY NEUTRAL events in one’s life and does not involve authority for universal faith; while the latter concerns truth necessary for universal faith and all such truth revelation is complete in scripture. Nobody can say that he or she receives new truth revelation such as the radical grace teaching of the hyper grace false gospel.

How could I explain that an inner prompting telling me to stop suddenly in the middle of the road and I avoided collision; or to be told not to go into a particular city and avoided being persecuted when nothing was amiss all along ? How could I explain the odds of being shown the vision of 911 terror attack 3 days before which I shared with all colleagues, and it happened exactly what I saw, and the continual odds of the same message for 2008 and 2015 ? I encountered so many such testimonies and I comprehend the significance of all such odds cumulatively for I was trained as an engineer. Such revelation do not nullify, subtract or add to the immutable truth of scripture. Our daily relationship with our Lord should be dynamic. It is our moral decisions that should be directed by His commands in His Word which is immutable.

In Acts 11:27-30, the prophet Agabus shared of an impending global famine which later happened. And the church in Antioch brought relief to the church in Jerusalem through Paul and Barnabas. Such private revelation was God’s mercy for the church to tide over the impending famine at that time. Why did God choose to reveal such private revelation to Agabus only and not the elders and apostles in the Jerusalem ? It is God’s sovereign will to choose to whoever He would like to reveal such an impending event which was morally neutral. We should not box the Lord into what He could or could not do. Such private revelation would not undermine the authority of the Scripture, would it ? Such private revelation would not agree or disagree with Scripture because of the fact that the famine was a morally neutral event and not about Scripture truth.

The Scripture makes it clear that we should not despise such prophecy but to test it. One way as proposed by Dr John MacArthur is to use the law of probability to test. The slimmer the odds the better it is. If I am to predict an earthquake happening in Japan, the chance of getting it right is more than half ! Such a warning with such high probability serve no purpose for the church because such earthquakes are frequent and the Japanese people already know the drills. But if the probability of the prophecy is so terribly slim and its purpose is to warn the church to avert economic hardship such as famine, I see no reason why the Lord cannot warn His people to prepare.

JI Packer explained it well in his book, The JI Packer Classic Collections, ( and also John Stott did not discount such possibility calling such private revelation as prophecy in the lesser or secondary sense unlike the Scripture Revelation which is prophecy in the primary sense. Of course there can be abuse by false teachers to mesmerize their followers which is quite rampant today. So we need to pray for wisdom to test and discern such kind of prophecy in the lesser sense. Take the prediction of a global famine or a global economic collapse. If we prepare and it does not happen, we are none the poorer. But if we do not prepare and it does happen, how badly will we be affected ? Does the person making such prophecy in the lesser sense has an ulterior motive of gain or fame ? Is the prophecy very vague or very precise when tested by the law of probability ? Does such a prophecy, out of the grace and mercy of our Lord, help the church, universal or local, to prepare to avert such disaster ?

War Of Gog And Magog

Is the Gog and Magog war mentioned in Ezek 38 and 39 the same as the War of Armageddon at the end of the Great Tribulation, or the Final Rebellion at the end of the millennium ?

Although Gog and Magog is mentioned in Ezek 38/39 and also in Rev 20, I believe both passages are not referring to the same people or the same event. The latter is probably used to refer to the same rebellious nature of the people and the extent of the destruction as in the former.  In Ezek 38/39, Israel is at peace and has laid down her defenses. It is not possible as long as she has constant threats from neighboring countries.  The only time she has real peace is when a peace treaty is signed with the Antichrist so it is likely to happen in the first 3 and ½ years of the Great Tribulation.  In Ezek 38/39, only a few nations are mentioned to be involved in the Gog and Magog war and not all the nations as in the other wars.

Differences Gog and Magog War War of Armageddon Final Rebellion
Purpose of God God wants to bring back Israel. Ezek 39:21-29   Israel is faithful throughout the Millennium
Armies involved Few nations from the north.  Ezek 38:6,15; 39:2 Many nations All nations. Rev 20:7-9
Who led ? Gog Ezek 38:3 3 demonic spirits of the unholy trinity  Rev 16:12-16 Satan.  Rev 20:7
Israel At peace  Ezek 38:11 In the midst of Tribulation  
Place of war Mountains of Israel Between Megiddo and Bozrah  
How are the armies destroyed ? Sulphur, fire, torrential rains, hailstones, wild beasts, etc, sent by God. Ezek 38:22;39:4 Christ’s sword  Rev 19:11-20 Fire from heaven Rev 20:9

Imprecatory Psalms

Can we pray imprecatory prayers like in the imprecatory psalms ?    

Psalms 58 NLT

Justice—do you rulers know the meaning of the word?
    Do you judge the people fairly?
No! You plot injustice in your hearts.
    You spread violence throughout the land.
These wicked people are born sinners;
    even from birth they have lied and gone their own way.
They spit venom like deadly snakes;
    they are like cobras that refuse to listen,
ignoring the tunes of the snake charmers,
    no matter how skillfully they play.

Break off their fangs, O God!
    Smash the jaws of these lions, O Lord!
May they disappear like water into thirsty ground.
    Make their weapons useless in their hands.[c]
May they be like snails that dissolve into slime,
    like a stillborn child who will never see the sun.
God will sweep them away, both young and old,
    faster than a pot heats over burning thorns.

10 The godly will rejoice when they see injustice avenged.
    They will wash their feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 Then at last everyone will say,
    “There truly is a reward for those who live for God;
    surely there is a God who judges justly here on earth.”

King David prayed the most such psalms and there was apparently no rebuke from the Lord.  I believe the Lord will prefer us to be honest with our feelings before Him than to feel bitter and harbour wrong thoughts. King David prayed against God’s enemies and it is surely right to hate sin and oppression.  In Revelation, we do notice that the martyred saints plead for God’s quick vengeance.  Each time, we pray for our Lord to return quickly, we are actually praying for Him to come quickly to judge and establish retributive justice.

On the other hand, our Lord Jesus exhorted us to love and pray for our enemies. Scripture has exhorted us not to gloat over the misfortune of anyone and that will include enemies.  We are exhorted to pray and submit to the governing authorities too.  And we must not take revenge into our own hands against anyone for vengeance belongs to the Lord.  Will we then be violating the law of Christ by praying imprecation against God’s enemies ?

Since Scripture is inerrant and infallible, we must believe all exhortation to be true.  If so, there is an instance for loving and praying for our enemies and also another to pray for God’s intervention by praying imprecation, just like we are exhorted not to judge as in fault finding (Matt 7:1) but we are also exhorted to judge serious sins in the church. (1 Cor 5:9-13).  The Lord hates oppression of the people, especially His people.  Even the manifesto of our Lord Jesus in Luke 4:18 includes relieving the oppressed.  I believe we can pray for the repentance of the oppressive rulers first and if there is no repentance, we can pray for the Lord’s intervention to remove the oppression. But we need to examine our motives first.  Are we praying due to personal grudge or are we distressed by the gross injustice and oppression of the people ? 

King David prayed for the counsel of a certain person for his son Absalom, who had rebelled against him, to be turned into foolishness.  (2 Sam 15:31)  For a start, we can surely pray for the wicked plans, platform, credibility of evil and oppressive governing authorities to fail, or even to lose the approval and trust of the people, and eventually their removal from power rather than their demise through the Lord’s intervention.   

Why Is The Gospel Good News To The Poor ?

In first century Judaism era, the RICH were the Jewish high-priestly families who oppressed the lower clergy, landowners who abused the tenants and hired laborers, the merchants who controlled the economy, and those who aligned with the political authorities with much economic privileges.  The POOR were small landowners whose livelihood depended on the small harvest, tenant farmers, hired laborers, fishermen, carpenters, slaves and beggars. The poor were further oppressed by various tithes and exorbitant taxes.  We could classify the poor then as those who were economic poor and had low and insignificant social status.

Our Lord’s manifesto was to share the gospel to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19.

We can easily see why the gospel was Good News to the poor then.  Judaism preached salvation through works of the law in which the poor were so oppressed by the numerous religious laws, while the gospel preached salvation by faith alone in Christ Jesus.  All, rich and poor, would be brothers in the Kingdom of God and should take care of one another. There was no longer lowly or insignificant social status but the most prestigious and precious status of the sons and daughters of God the Almighty.

But to the rich then, it was not exactly Good News.  They would have to deny themselves and give up the hold of possessions. Luke 14:26,27,33.  Though it was difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, it was not impossible. Mark 10:25, 27.  The deceitfulness of wealth and the love of money only made it so much more difficult for the rich.  Matt 13:22.  The Scripture gave us two contrasting examples of two rich persons deliberating over their decision to follow Jesus. Luke 18:16-22; 19:1-10.  Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, responded with faith in Christ Jesus and make light of his possessions instantly, while the rich young ruler was reluctant to give up his possessions to follow Jesus.

Sadly in most of Christendom today, the decision to follow Jesus for the wealthy does not include deliberating over the cost of discipleship and making the resolve to accept the terms.  Luke 14:26,27,33.  The poor has little resistance to accept the discipleship terms because they do not have the social status and possessions in the first place to give up in order to follow Jesus.

How Do We React To God’s Calamitous Judgment ?

The book of Habakkuk gave us the answer.   Habakkuk complained twice and the Lord answered him twice.  He complained initially on why God had allowed sin to be so rampant in Judah and did not act.  Later when God answered him that he would judge very soon and he complained again on why God would send the Chaldeans, a god-less people who was the epitome of all who opposed Him, to deliver the judgment of Judah.  God answered again that He would also judge the Chaldeans.

Despite all these judgments, God assured Habakkuk that the just would be justified and preserved by faith; and that He will be in complete control.

When Habakkuk caught a glimpse of God’s holiness,  his subsequent godly responses gave us a paradigm on how believers should respond when bad things happen to them.

An article by Irv Busenitz summarized the response well.

  1. Relate the matter to God.
  2. Recognize our own weakness.
  3. Review the greatness of God.
  4. Reaffirm our faith in God.
  5. Rest in the strength of God.

Habakkuk’s prayer in Hab 3 is the most appropriate response towards calamitous judgment such as the current pandemic.  One striking part of the prayer is that Habakkuk would still rejoice even if severe famine hit.

“I have heard all about you, Lord. I am filled with awe by your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger, remember your mercy… PESTILENCE marches before him; PLAGUE follows close behind. When he stops, the earth shakes. When he looks, the nations tremble. He shatters the everlasting mountains and levels the eternal hills. He is the Eternal One!.. You marched across the land in anger and trampled the nations in your fury. You went out to rescue your chosen people, to save your anointed ones. You crushed the heads of the wicked and stripped their bones from head to toe.  Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord!  I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.”

Truly Finding Life

Mark 8:34-38

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

John Stott paraphrased verse 35 this way :

“If you insist on holding on to yourself and living for yourself and refusing to let yourself go, you will lose yourself. But if you are prepared to lose yourself, to give yourself away in love for God and your fellow human beings, then in that moment of complete abandon, when you think have lost everything, the miracle takes place and you find yourself.

That miracle is the BORN AGAIN experience. A new heart and a new spirit have been born. And the Spirit given by the Lord God has begun the good work in conforming one to be like Christ to love God and fellow men perfectly. That is the turning point of repentance. That is the point reached in realizing one’s spiritual bankruptcy and turn to the Lord for salvation or freedom from the penalty, power and presence of sin in the crucified, living and coming Savior. That is the point of resolve to be a disciple of Christ in denying oneself, taking up the cross and following Him.