Welcome today to our Wednesday message. We are in our new series called “Pondering Prophecy”
These past two Wednesdays, we introduced the first two of seven seals from the 6th Revelation of Revelation. This is the beginning of what is known as the Tribulation. It begins here in Chapter six and continues through Chapter nineteen. It is the time spoken by the prophet Daniel as the 70th week, and as the time of Jacob’s trouble. It’s called the Great Indignation by Isaiah, and the Day of the Lord by Joel and the Apostle Paul. In the Book of Revelation it is first introduced in the letter to the church of Philadelphia as the hour of testing that is to come upon the whole world. Jesus refers to it as the Tribulation and the Great Tribulation.
In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John is shown the judgements of God that come upon the entire earth and he sees a series of seven seals followed by a series of seven trumpets and then a series of seven vials or bowls. The first four of the seven seals are symbolized by a rider on a different color horse: The colors are identified with these four horsemen in the first four seals are WHITE, RED, BLACK and PALE GREEN.
We’ve seen so far the first seal and the rider on the white horse who we have identified as the antichrist. Then we read about the second seal and the rider on the red horse and we spoke of the wars, the riots, the violence. The scripture regarding this rider on the fiery red horse said that it takes peace from the earth and makes people kill each other.
We’ll continue today and we’ll see the opening of the third seal and the rider on the Black Horse. Before we read the passage however, I want to back up a little and talk about how all of these seals, and particularly these riders on horses that we see in the first four seals are all interconnected.
These first four riders are also called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and people that have never even read the Bible, never heard a sermon on the Book of Revelation, they know that these Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are connected in someway to a horrible time, the time of judgement, the time of the end.
And that thinking is not incorrect. Let’s put these initial seals that we see in the 6th chapter of the book of Revelation in context.
Jesus was in Jerusalem in the week of his triumphal entry into the city on Palm Sunday, where he rode through the gate of the city on the back of a donkey and the people greeting him with palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna, Hosanna to the King, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
By the end of the week, Jesus would be crucified and in the tomb. Jesus took time that same week talk with his disciples and he told them to their surprise that the magnificent temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed. That not one stone would be left on top of another. The Disciples were amazed. The Temple was truly one of the wonders of the world. Herod had begun work 46 years prior and was determined to be remembered forever as the builder of the greatest temple of the Jews. Over 10,000 skilled laborers had been hired according to the historian Josephus along with 1,000 Levites that were specially skilled as builders and masons. The beautiful gates, the tall white stones rose above the city on mount Moriah and the glorious temple could be seen from miles away.
What Jesus said came true just as he foretold. In 70 AD, the Roman General Titus that would someday become Emperor of Rome, sacked the city, killed hundreds of thousands of Jews and destroyed the temple. Not one stone was left on top of another.
The Apostles didn’t know when this would all happened. The thought that the destruction of the temple was likely associated with the end of time. They asked
“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.” (Matthew 24:4-8)
Many have noticed the correlation in Matthew 24 of these events and the sequence of the seal:
1) The first is many that will come saying “I am the Christ and will deceive many” We saw that with the rider on the white horse….the man of deception called the antichrist
2) Secondly, are the wars and rumors of wars represented by the second seal and the red horse
3) Third, Jesus speaks of Famines in various places and we will see today it is represented by the third seal and the Black horse, and then we’ll see finally Jesus refers to #4
4) Fourth, earthquakes and we will see when we get to the fourth seal, there will be earthquakes and all kinds of cosmic disturbances.
Just to provide further support to this correlation Jesus continues in verse 9 of Chapter 24, Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,
This correlates with the fifth seal in Chapter 6 of revelation which reads: When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.
So let’s read now the two verses in the sixth chapter of Revelation that reveals the opening of the third seal
The Third Seal: The Black Horse (6:5-6)
5 When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”
In verses 5 and 6 we see the aftermath of wars and lawlessness; this is what happens when peace is taken from the earth. The scripture says the rider on the black horse had a pair of balances, or scales in his hand.
Today, we don’t often see these types of scales or balances. However, for thousands of years they were used in commerce, it was the way that things were weighed. The scriptures use this language of scales and balances often. It speaks of justice, fairness, and impartiality. Proverbs 11: 1 says Diverse weights are an abomination to the Lord, And dishonest scales are not good.
If you recall the account recorded in the book of Daniel where King Belshazzar is having a feast and decides to use the articles from the temple in Jerusalem. A hand suddenly appears and begins to write the words. Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin. The prophet Daniel interpreted this word from the lord as God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; (there is that picture of a scale that doesn’t ‘measure up’ as we commonly say)
In more contemporary language and culture, Lady Justice is a common sight on courthouses and legal institutions. This woman garbed in a tunic, has a pair of scales in her hand and typically wears a blindfold. She represents fairness, justice and is blinded as there is to be no partiality, the poor and lowly are to be provided the same justice as the rich and powerful.
Now we look again at the scripture for today and what do we see? The pair of scales and we now understand the symbol and the scripture continues: And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius…
In the wage scale of the time that John hears this voice, it was common for a person to receive one denarius for an entire day’s work. And the scripture says that this denarius would be the value of a measure of wheat and three measures of barley
The literal explanation would mean that at this time, it would take an entire day’s wages to buy a measure of wheat. A measure of wheat is one ‘dry quart’ according to my conversion chart and makes 1 ½ to 2 loafs of bread, enough for one good meal. Barley is not as nutritious nor desired and you could buy three meals of barley.
You can see why people often call this third seal, this rider on the Black Horse as bringing FAMINE. And I agree with that as well…the question that remains, is why famine and how widespread?
At any given time, there is a balance between supply and demand. Food is produced…not only wheat and barley but milk, bread, eggs, cheese, flour, chicken, beef, pork, can goods, paper products, gasoline, building materials, medicines and durable goods.
War and Civil unrest disrupts that balance. Actually, we don’t even need to have the real thing, just the rumors of war, the rumors of a coming disruption. Here in Florida we know that during hurricane season, at any time we can find the shelves of our stores empty….all the water, bread, batteries, rope….all kinds of things surprisingly gone. And often, the hurricane doesn’t even get that close. Who would have thought that this COVID-19 crisis would have immediately emptied the store shelves of toilet paper?
And this is the picture that the scripture is painting. It is also painting a picture of inflation…raising prices. You see it isn’t that there is no wheat, no barley, no food and necessary supplies. If you want to buy it….it will be scarce enough at least in various places, that the price will be sky high.
We have seen that recently. When there was no toilet paper on the shelves of the local grocery store, you could go online at Amazon and buy it from third-party sources for 10, 20 and 100 times the normal price. Gasoline when it is in short supply doubles and triples in price overnight.
This happens for two main reasons. The first is actual shortages of supply. An early frost up north will send prices on fruits and vegetables sky high. The Russia was the world’s second largest producer of wheat (second only to the United States) but poor management combined with uncooperative weather created such shortages that people stood in line for hours to buy a loaf of bread.
Let’s stick with Russia for a minute…in particular communist Russia, the Soviet Socialist Republic and talk about fairness and food distribution.
Even when people had to stand in line for hours, there was a black market that had the same things, the same products, but at a high price….as much as an average workers daily wage to buy food on the black market for himself and his family.
At the same time, those in power, the rich, the political leaders always had plenty.
Notice the scripture also has these words, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”
For some reason, the voice says that the oil and the wine would be left alone. I’ve read some commentaries and one explanation is that there would be no money left to buy the oil and wine, considered essentials at the time of the Apostle John.
While that is a possible and a simple explanation, I return back to the words of Jesus in the 24th chapter of Matthew. He said that just before his coming in various places there will be famines.
The various places that Jesus refers to may indicate that while the famines, these disruptions in the supply of goods and services, will be widespread, they will not be universal. I keep going back to what we see in communist countries, these Marxists don’t believe in free enterprise, they don’t believe in allowing people to choose to invest in the means of production and supply. They don’t believe in capitalism; they believe that the government owns the means of production and the government can do a better job managing the whole thing centrally.
Well, what we have found in places like Russia and Cuba and North Korea and Venezuela and Bolivia and Sri Lanka In these places, the common people are faced with poverty, hunger, starvation and many other inequities where the people in power have everything they need and more.
It’s interesting, in the 80’s and 90’s it looked for a while if Marxism–Leninism–Maoism, this political and economic ideology that has failed literally in every place it has been tried was going-going-gone. The Soviet Union broke up, East Germany was absorbed into the West and even African tribalism was turning more and more towards free markets, democracy and capitalism.
But how things have changed. Here in the United States students coming out of college are told and believe that Capitalism is the root of all evil. Politicians are openly calling themselves socialists and calling for the end of some of the long-held values of our republic.
And yet, everywhere Marxism is embraced, violence, riots, food shortages, economic collapse and totalitarian regimes impose their will on the common people.
The scripture today speaks of the third seal, the third rider on the black horse and this third seal, the third rider follows the second who follows the first. This is a progressive unveiling of what happens when the antichrist is revealed.
Jesus said that in the last days, beware you are not deceived for many will come and deceive the nations. In 1st timothy, the Apostle Paul speaks about the same topic, the end times and the rise of the antichrist and he says, But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.
This is deception that is coming directly from hell. Paul says they are doctrines of demons. Seducing spirits that are allowed to bring about what ultimately brings forth this Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These riders on different colored horses: White, Fiery Red, Black and Pale Green.
For centuries, well intentioned teachers, Bible scholars and pastors have looked at these words of Jesus and the prophecy connected with the end-times and found it too fantastic, too horrible, too dreadful to embrace.
First of all, the center of all of these end-times prophecy was Israel and Jersualem. Israel was no longer in the land. It was a wasteland, mostly arid and desert-like. The Jewish people had been scattered after 70 AD in what was called the Great Diapsora and quite frankly were not welcomed anywhere. The Jews were persecuted by the Romans, by the French, the Greeks and primarily by the Christians. The Papal Inquisitions that began in the 12th centuries were infamous for the torture and persecution of Jews and Muslims. While the worst was in Spain where for more than 200 years Jews were routinely tortured and killed. For centuries, throughout much of Europe, Jews were discriminated against and hated.
It was because of this that it became impossible for most Christian scholars to overcome their bias and look at the Bible and see that God still loved the Jewish people, that there would still be a time of restoration, that when we read the word ISRAEL in the Bible it means ISRAEL, when we read about armies surrounding Jerusalem, it means Jerusalem, not Rome or London or some European capital.
Of course, the only reason that many if not most of the scholars today see that these prophetic scriptures refer to Israel and Jerusalem and the Jewish people is because we see Israel back in the land, a nation restored in a day, May 14, 1948.
Jesus said, do not be deceived, do not depart from sound doctrine. When we see these signs, any of these signs that remind us of the end times, we need to be careful, prayerful and always allow scripture to interpret scripture.
I’ve heard some say that Covid-19 is the black horse, causing economic disruption, a hording of food, scarcity, and inflation. While Covid-19 certainly caused shortages of toilet paper and certainly is a deadly virus, it is still not ‘tribulation worthy’ I used that term last week in speaking of the wars spoken of in the 2nd seal and the rider on the fiery red horse.
Tribulation worthy means that is has to be on the scale of what is spoken of in the Bible. Jesus spoke of these end times in Matthew 24verse 21 & 22: “For at that time there will be great tribulation, unmatched from the beginning of the world until now, and never to be seen again. 22If those days had not been cut short, nobody would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, those days will be cut short.…”
My friends, Jesus said he is coming back. The Bible makes that clear and we believe it will be fulfilled.
Jesus also said in Luke 21:36 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
To be counted worthy simply means to know, t believe and to trust that it is Jesus that is worthy. It is Jesus that paid the penalty for the sin of the world. You sin, my sin.
The Bible makes it clear that if we believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord and confess with our lips that God has raised him from the dead, we will be saved. For it is with your heart you believe and are justified, and with your mouth you confess and are saved.…
Saved in this world, saved in the next and saved from the coming tribulation, the coming judgement on the earth.