We don’t like to talk about evil even though it was a word once more commonly used. We tend to prefer to call things that are evil something else, often by the result of evil instead of labeling it evil. Do we hesitate to use the word because we have been deceived into believing it is something else or are we in denial because we don’t know what to do with it?
How would you define evil?
The dictionary defines it this way: “profoundly immoral or wicked.” That definition might help unravel what has caused the word to seldom be used in recent years because what many in the culture label immoral or wicked has changed a great deal in recent decades. What was unthinkable on TV 20 years ago is now commonplace at all hours of the day. What we believed children should be protected from diminishes a bit more each year. When something in history points to evil, we now choose to rewrite or delete it instead of learning from it.
“History tumbles out a mass of data – wars, famines, murders, and accidents – along with sunrises and still waters, lilies of the field and green pastures. God’s people have been convinced that it is possible in prayer and praise, in listening and believing, to discern meaning in this apparent chaos and therefore to read good news in the daily life of history.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
Yes, there is meaning and good news in the midst of all these things, but it does not negate the existence of evil and how it operates in the midst of every aspect of the world and humankind. How easily we can be seduced by that one who perpetrates evil on mankind to minimize or ignore it while we only focus on one aspect of life. He would surely have us be lulled into a fantasy world because in his delusion he also hopes it will cause us to minimize God’s power and goodness, his truth and righteousness, his mercy and judgment, his grace and truth.
The source of all evil would rename it and have us believe that it is not what it seems and if perchance we believe it is that it is so powerful that not even God can conquer it. But he forgets an important truth:
“The devil is but God’s master fencer, to teach us to handle our weapons.”Samuel Rutherford
Maybe that also points to part of the problem. We want to be peacemakers and peaceable, forgetting we are at war and if we do not pick up the weapons we have been given, we will have surrendered what has been entrusted to us.
Our movies often expose us to stories (both true and fictional) that have a theme of war. Perhaps we are drawn to them less because they depict violence and more because we want to see evil defeated. They may well be part of the popularity of The Lord of the Rings series.
If we want to see evil for what it is and see what its defeat will look like, Revelation 6 and 7 gives us a vivid clarification and reminds us what the end of the story truly will be. In these chapters we see four horses, each with a different role. Have you considered why horses are used to describe what will happen?
“The horse is the animal for battle: oxen for farming, donkeys for transportation, horses for battle. The basic nature of history is warfare. Persons who live by faith live in conflict. History is a long sequence of battles – the forces of good and evil in pitched conflict. Sensitive persons know this. Artists know this. Students of history bare the documenting sources. People of prayer are in the middle of it even when the guns are silent. The battle rages within the soul; it is fought out in family circles; it is contested between nations. War is the human condition. To be human is to be at war.
God may be in heaven but the devil runs history.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
About now you may think this doesn’t sound very encouraging, but if you look closely at the passages in Revelation that are the theme of this post, do you see which horse appears first? It is a white horse and most of us know a white horse portends a hero sits upon it. He is here to do battle with the forces of evil represented by the other 3 horses. (Remember the great scenes of Shadowfax that Gandalf rides in The Lord of the Rings?) This white horse has on it a rider with a bow and crown who goes out to conquer and is all about conquering. It can belong to only Christ who is in history ruling and conquering the forces of death, darkness, and evil as Eugene Peterson describes in Reversed Thunder. We so often think of Him in other roles that seem meeker or gentler than one who is riding into battle. We can fall prey to sentimentalizing Christ.
The enemy loves that when we do, but if we do, we will miss a crucial understanding about how the story ends, who wins and why. You will miss there is a hero who cannot be defeated. He was not defeated on the cross and his return will bring us to the final battle against evil. We who believe will be with Him, and this depiction in the passage is the hero we will want to lead us on that day.
“The world is in conflict; our Christ is the first on the field of battle. High issues are decided every day. Christ is not only worshipped each Sunday, he is triumphant each week day. That, of course, is not the way the newspapers report it; that is not the way our own emotions respond to it; but that is what the preached revelation proclaims.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder