14–20 December, 2014.
For those of you following the church’s Bible reading plan, this month we read through the difficult and controversial Book of Revelation: the last book of the Bible for the end of the calendar year.
Last week we saw that in the Book of Revelation, John uses symbols and imagery to criticize those powers in society that would try to take over Jesus Christ’s divine role. In chapter 1, we saw John’s direct attack on the Roman emperor Domitian and his dead son. Now we come to chapter 6 where we find John’s description of four horsemen. Each of these four horsemen represent a different false god that we encounter in the world: a person or power that demands our obedience and loyalty instead of allowing us to be loyal and obedient to Jesus Christ.
The first is a rider on a white horse. John writes that he “held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest” (Rev. 6:2). Here we have a clear description of the rulers of our world. Today we may not see our president riding on a horse with a crown and a bow, but we do still have many people who look up to the president as a hero, as the champion of the nation. We have just lived through an election in Taiwan, as we saw so clearly the hopes and dreams people place in their political leaders. But our true leader doesn’t ride in pride on a white horse; our true leader humbly suffered and died for us on a cross.
The second rider appears on a red horse. He was given a great sword and “power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other” (Rev. 6:4). Here again we have a clear description, this time of warfare and military power. Taiwan, like so many other nations, thinks that if it can just boost its armies, buy new weapons and fighter jets, that it can secure its future; it can dominate and destroy its enemies. People worship the false god of military might and want to grab hold of the power to kill others. But Jesus Christ, our true God, is the Prince of Peace, the one who commands us to pray for our enemies, not to slaughter them.
The third rider comes on a black horse holding a pair of scales. He represents the economic system, and perhaps the greatest false god we have today. For so many people (even inside the church), the god of money and economy is the one we seek our blessings from, the one we worship the most, the one we even sacrifice our children to. It is the false god of economy that destroys us so easily, leaving so many weak and poor, and that’s why we fear and respect it so much. But our true God Jesus Christ is the one who commands us to share our money and our possessions with others, and to destroy the greedy false god of our economic system using acts of compassion, generosity and love.
The final rider comes on a pale horse and brings with him death, the power over our physical lives. There are so many ways for death to come. War is certainly one way, but the unfair judgements of human lawyers and judges is also another, especially in a country like Taiwan which still has the death penalty. In the ancient world, to be killed by wild beasts (as we read in verse 8) was one method of Roman execution that the Christians suffered far too often. But for us today, it is plague, illness and disease which frighten us the most, and lead us to worry about life. But again, our true God Jesus Christ has conquered death. He is the God of the living and the dead, the one who has emptied out hell and brings new life and new hope to all people. As John shows us here, Jesus Christ is the true ruler of the world, the one who truly gives us peace, the one who truly meets our needs, and the one who truly holds life and death in his hands. Nothing can compare with Christ, the true God.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis