The last book of the Bible, known popularly as Revelation, is the journal of a series of visions the Apostle John had when he was a very old man. His Lord Jesus had been gone from the earth for more than sixty years, and fellow apostles Peter and Paul had died thirty years earlier. John was probably the last remaining eyewitness of the Christ Event.* The ruthless Roman Emperor Domitian was trying to stamp out the flames of faith through renewed persecution of believers, and he imprisoned the ninety-year-old John on an offshore island. But he couldn’t keep John from seeing his Savior, for God gave him is series of symbolic images of the spiritual drama that was going on behind human history and how it would all end. He reported what he could remember in the book we know as “The Revelation of St. John the Divine.”
One of his most striking visions is that of The Four Horsemen bringing judgment to a rebellious world. You can read about it in Revelation 6:1-8. It’s like a bad dream, with calamity after calamity hitting sinful humans. They come in the form of four horses bringing some of the disasters humans fear the most: a white horse bringing war, conquest and captivity; a red horse, bringing mass bloodshed; a black horse bringing judgment and condemnation; and a “pale” horse bringing famine and pestilence that wipes out one-fourth of all human life. “Pestilence” is an old way of referring to a deadly plague, or what we might call a pandemic.
Yes, this was a bad dream. All the things that scare humans the most were galloping before John’s eyes. But this was only a part of the spiritual panorama John was seeing. If you have enough courage to read the whole book, you’ll be taken on a spiritual roller coaster ride of lows and highs. There are many more examples of the harsh judgments awaiting the proud tyrants of the world, like Emperor Domitian, but there are also some unbelievably sublime images of God, secure on his lofty throne above all their futile rantings.
Here’s what turned John’s bad dream into a good dream. In the image reproduced above this article, please notice that the artist portrayed the Rider on the white horse with a crown on his head, leading in the conquest.** That’s because this horse and Rider seem to appear again toward the end of John’s Revelation:
Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its Rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God*** . . . On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:11-13, 16)
For the first-century believers who read John’s journal of his visions, it must have been a great encouragement to know that the One who seemed to be allowing them to suffer persecution would have the last word, would be the last Word, over the emperor afflicting them.**** For twenty-first century believers who are cowering before the pale-horse COVID-19 pandemic, it’s just as reassuring to learn that the Rider on the white horse, the Word of God, will still be our last word, even if we utter his name with our very last breath.
John ends his journal with this assurance from Jesus:
The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
John responds spontaneously:”Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelations 22:20)
-Pastor George Van Alstine
* The facts about John’s later years are disputed among scholars.
** The image above is one of the most famous paintings of The Four Horsemen, done in 1887, by Russian artist Victor Vasnetsov.
*** A unique way John describes Jesus Christ in his gospel: John 1:1-18.
**** Domitian was assassinated in office in AD 96, at the age of 44. Because of his irrational cruelty, the Roman Senate voted to condemn his memory. Ironically, the Apostle John seems to have outlived him by about two years.
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Church Gathering Update
Because of the extended “stay at home” guidelines announced by Los Angeles County, we will continue to meet remotely — both for Sunday morning services and other midweek meetings. This is so difficult! — we want to be in the same room with you all, but we want to ensure everyone’s continued health. However, we need to hear from you:
- How are you and your family doing?
- Are the Sunday services and other online activities blessing you? In what ways?
- What other methods could ABC minister — both to you and the community — during this pandemic?
Contact the pastors or Loren Roberts directly; we and the Deacon Board are praying for each one of you and want to know how we can be of service to you.