As you’ve read through this blog, at some point you’ve probably wondered about the judgments contained in the Book of Revelation. Even if you’ve never read the Bible, chances are that you’ve heard about these judgments. They are often quoted by prophecy teachers and whether you realize it or not, they are often used in Hollywood movies (The Seventh Sign, The Reaping, etc). In the Left Behind series of books, they figure prominently in the storyline. As I’ve mentioned before, most of the time, you will be told that the judgments described in Revelation should be taken literally and that they will all take place during a seven year period of time in the future. We’ve already shown that a future 7 year period of tribulation is a myth – not supported by Scripture. Should we take the judgments literally? Will rivers and oceans turn to blood? Will a third of the earth’s vegetation burn up in an instant? The answer is that I believe we can take some of them literally (the results of the judgments), while others are certainly symbolic. The truth is that many of the judgments are present in our world today. You probably haven’t noticed because either you’ve never read Revelation or you haven’t paid much attention because you expected a secret rapture to take you away before the world experienced them. I’m about to show you that some of them are certainly here today, while others are yet to come. This discussion of the judgments of Revelation will be ongoing since I believe that many of them will be poured out on the earth at a future time (but not within a 7 year period). I also believe that we will gain additional wisdom that will allow us to correctly interpret these prophecies as we come closer to the end of this age.
Let’s start with the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Again, even if you’ve never read the Bible, chances are you’ve heard of them. They are most often described as precursors of death and destruction at some future point in history. The horsemen are described in Revelation chapter 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!” 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 6:1-2)
Many prophecy teachers today tell us that the rider on the white horse is an evil future world leader – the antichrist. As we’ve already shown, the Bible does not point to one future antichrist in the form of a man, so this interpretation cannot be correct. This rider has a crown and a bow, signifying that this rider represents kings or kingdoms with military power. This rider is a conqueror focused on power and conquest. Are these verses pointing to one person – one king or one antichrist? I believe the answer is no. I believe that these verses are describing the human quest for power and glory throughout our history. Have we been bent on conquering each other? Absolutely. Throughout human history, kingdoms have risen and kingdoms have fallen, but we continue to pursue power through conquering other nations. Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, England, France, Nazi Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union, the Illuminati – the list goes on and on. This rider is certainly present in the world today….and has been in the world for centuries.
“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)
While the rider on the white horse has political and military power and is ‘bent on conquest’, the rider of the red horse makes actual conquest possible. He takes peace from the earth and makes men kill each other. So, the first rider gives men an eye for conquering, the 2nd rider gives men the ability to actually do it – to kill their fellow man in order to conquer and gain ever more power. The first two riders go hand in hand. The more power you have, the more you want. How do you get more? Conquer (by killing) other nations. Every major power in the world throughout our history has conquered other nations or kingdoms by force. Is killing involved? Every time. We want more power (bent on conquest) and attain it by conquering other nations (take peace from the earth and ….make men slay each other). This rider is also present in the world today and has been for centuries.
“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)
Many prophecy scholars say that the rider on the black horse represents famine. The pair of scales represents both high food prices and scarcity of food. ‘do not damage the oil and the wine’ is telling us that even though famine will continue to spread throughout the world, luxuries will be readily available to the wealthy. I believe this is correctly interpreted. Even though many in the world today (and throughout history) suffer from famine and lack of food, there has always been plenty available to the world’s wealthy. If you look at the world today, billions of people around the globe suffer from lack of food and famine while many still live in luxury.
“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)
Other than the color of the horse, this rider is similar to the previous riders in that he kills by sword and famine. What is unique about this rider is that we’re told he is given power over ‘a fourth of the earth’ and has power to kill by the ‘wild beasts of the earth’. Are humans today killed by sword, famine, plague (diseases) and by the animals of the earth? Absolutely. Saying that this rider is coming only at some point in the future is pure speculation. Think about it…..if we add up all of the people on the earth today affected by wars, famine and diseases, will the total add up to a quarter of the world’s population? This rider is with us today. I believe the words ‘…and Hades was following close behind him’ is a reference to how many in the world do not know the Lord and therefore, will sit in judgment for eternity. This parallels Jesus’ comments regarding the ‘narrow path’ that we have discussed in earlier postings. Jesus tells us that many walk on the broad path that leads to eternal destruction (Mathew 7:13).
I think sometimes we tend to overanalyze what the Lord’s Word tells us. Many like to envision that the four horsemen of the apocalypse are somehow involved with a future 7 year tribulation period – that these horsemen start God’s judgment during this period of time. As we’ve seen, the Bible never mentions a 7 year period of tribulation or that the judgments in Revelation will be poured out during this specific timeframe. It’s as if we’ve created our own story of how end time events play out, instead of studying and praying and seeking the truth from our Creator – who knows how things are going to happen – no speculation needed. I’ve seen many interpretations of these horsemen, but I believe that the simplest answer in this case is the correct one – the Lord is telling us that we will have to endure all of these things while we live in this fallen world.
Let’s take a look at other judgments in Revelation. Keep in mind that it’s easy for us to say that because there is a 1st seal and a 2nd seal, that the 1st seal judgment must come before the 2nd seal or the seal judgments must come before the trumpet judgments because that’s how they read chronologically in the Bible. I’m not going to let the order they’re listed in the Bible influence whether I believe they are present in the world. Let’s take an objective look at the world and compare it to each judgment to determine whether we believe it is present in the world.
“The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.” (Revelation 8:7)
This judgment begins with mention of weather (hail) and fire. What is the effect on the earth? A third of the earth’s vegetation is burned up. Most prophecy scholars I have read attribute this to some future war or supernatural event that instantaneously burns up a third of the earth. I don’t believe this is a correct interpretation. Think about the world today. Thousands of fires exist throughout the forests, pastures and rainforests of the earth. Most are a result of us (clear-cutting), but many have also started due to lightning, war, etc. (wildfires). Also remember that as our cities have grown, we have replaced the earth’s vegetation with concrete and buildings. In effect, we are replacing the earth’s carbon dioxide filters with man-made structures that attribute to warming the earth. Keep these things in mind as we look at other judgments. Personally, I believe that some judgments set the stage for others….and this is certainly one that will contribute to others. What is happening to the earth as we continue to lose vegetation? Coupled with the burning of fossil fuels, the earth is rapidly getting warmer. Think about the chain-reaction this is causing – heat waves, climate change (possibly causing future famines), possible new disease outbreaks (as parasites are able to survive longer and further north), extinction of animal species (frogs, birds – millions of honey bees around the world are disappearing – threatening food pollination, etc). Do other judgments in Revelation speak to these things? Yes. Keep in mind that many want to believe that all of these things will happen suddenly by apparent supernatural means. As we’re told throughout the Bible, true wisdom comes from God, so those close to Him will be able to correctly interpret what is happening. Those without faith will find all kinds of worldly reasons why these things are happening. Don’t rely on your own understanding, but trust our Creator for He has told us these things ahead of time.
“The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” (Revelation 8:10-11)
As we interpret these judgments, I believe it is important to focus on the results of the judgments, not how they happen. We should look at the world and see if the results of the judgment are present and not focus on the description of how they are brought into the world. The important thing to remember is that these things are coming from God and are described from a heavenly perspective. So, we may not completely understand how God has brought them into the world (being described from heaven), but we can certainly see if the results are present in the world. The third trumpet judgment is a good example. In our physical world, could one star (comet, meteor, etc) fall to the earth and cause a third of the fresh water throughout the world to become poison? I believe the answer is no. If we were to view this literally, could a comet hit the United States and poison the water in Chile? I believe that this is simply a symbolic, heavenly description of how God is bringing this judgment to the world. We should also consider that this description of a star (or millstone) falling to earth causing judgment is used multiple times in Revelation. Are we going to be repeatedly hit by comets? If this were true, water purity would be the least of our worries.
Let’s take a look at the results of this trumpet judgment. A third of the fresh water in the world turns bitter (poisonous) and many people die because they continue to drink the water even though it is polluted. Is this going on in the world today? Certainly. I recently watched a story on ‘60 Minutes’ that talked about how many animal species throughout the world are dying or developing strange cancers because there are so many man-made chemicals present now in fresh water. Pollution from chemical plants and manufacturing, farm chemical runoff, raw sewage, etc. has been polluting our fresh water at unprecedented rates in recent years. Inadequate fresh water supplies the world over are causing disease and death as people continue to drink polluted water because they have no alternative. There’s a reason we all buy so much bottled water – we don’t trust what is coming out of our taps. We are beginning to hear that future wars will be fought over fresh water as the world’s population increases and the availability of clean water declines. This judgment is certainly present in the world today.
“The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.” (Revelation 8:12)
We’ve already discussed this judgment in a previous posting. I believe that this judgment is describing a future period of time when our atmosphere will become polluted after a global war – causing our view of the sun, moon and stars to be obstructed. This is also mentioned in other verses throughout the Bible and Jesus Himself even mentions this period of time, “Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” (Mathew 24:29).
We’ll continue with this discussion in future postings as more is revealed to us.