If we consider the scene depicted in my last post (https://pamecrement.com/2021/03/15/evil-unmasked/)as the first four of seven seals are opened, we are aware that Eugene Peterson believes it is the conquering Christ on the white horse who takes the field to declare battle first. Who are the foes he will battle against on the red, black, and pale horses who represent judgment on the earth when John introduces them in Revelation 6 and 7? What do they represent?
Each represents a different form of evil that Christ is calling into account and using. They have been a part of the life of mankind for so long we tend to accept them as “just how it is.” Never has it been more important to be clear on evil and its role but even more importantly, we must recognize what our role is as we face it in its various forms.
“Each of these evils is common, but each is disguised so that we culturally accept its presence as something normal, even good. War is disguised as a higher standard of living. Sickness is disguised as technology. Evil introduces, by turns, conflict, greed, and deceit into social and personal existence and undoes creation, subverting its purposes and contradicting its design of redemption. These evils present such a benign appearance in their disguises that the world unthinkingly accepts them as the forces of history, to which Christ is a lovely but essentially ineffective minority protest.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
But as John begins to see who Christ has called out to face Him and his judgment the truth of who they are and have always been is exposed, masks are torn away and disguises of no use.
The red horse represents war and the bloody cruel reality that courses throughout every war ever fought at any point on the earth. Mankind goes to war for many different reasons and sometimes to seek to defeat evidence of evil that is beyond our tolerance. Other times it happens to gain land or power, riches or resources. Though we may sometimes lift up war, it always comes at a cost leaving lives, landscapes, and lineages destroyed. Winners and losers carry the scars of battle. It is still evil and when Christ calls forward the red horse and its rider, his purpose will be to once and for all to defeat this scourge on the earth.
It reminds me of the scenes in Star Wars where Luke, Hans Solo, Obi Wan, Chewbacca, and their friends go off to save the galaxy from the Death Star and the scourge of Darth Vadar and the other enemies arrayed against them seeing domination and subjection. This scene in Revelation will be far grander than any movie scene ever filmed.
Scripture tells us the black horse and its rider carries a balance in his hand. It represents famine where the barest starvation diet will cost a full day’s wages.
“What is necessary for minimal living is unavailable while the luxuries of life, oil and wine, are abundant. Greed does it. People exploit the earth, leaving it depleted and poor, in order to get rich.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
It reminds me of what happened during the great famine we read about in Genesis. Joseph was used by God to save the people of Israel after being sold into slavery in Egypt. There was no food in the fields but there was money to try to buy food. When his family back in Canaan ran out of food Jacob sent his brothers laden with “riches” to buy grain. It is a paradox that we can mix while reading the story – money to buy food, but no food growing in the soil of the land.
It gives fresh meaning to the words of The Lord’s Prayer that reads, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
The last horse John tells us about is described as a pale horse that represents pestilence and Eugene Peterson expands what all this can include:
“The rider on the pale horse represents pestilence – epidemic disease, the sickness unto death. The incidence of disease and sickness rises exponentially while, mockingly, the size of our hospitals increases, and medical technology becomes more and more refined.
Sickness is the condition in which our bodies are weakened or impaired, so they are no longer effective as temples of holiness shaping rituals of love and witness.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
As I consider Peterson’s words it is clear that these evils that will manifest themselves as John describes them are already here in a form we view as “normal” for life on the earth despite our challenges and sometimes hatred of them. Little wonder when they are increased in judgment that life will become nearly impossible for those who have yet to worship Christ.
It can be easy to wonder how anyone can stand as the days become eviler. Revelation 6 actually poses the question, “Who can stand?” It’s clear John is telling us the world has come to an end at that point. Of course, Christ stands and scripture points to the angels that did not participate in the rebellion with Lucifer before the beginning of mankind also stand. But Paul reminds us of another group that is called to stand.
” Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (NIV)
You and I (if we are believers) are called to stand as ones sealed with a seal of Christ as God’s ownership. The message Paul wrote so long ago during a time when the young churches then were struggling still stands for us today. Christ in us by the power of his Holy Spirit calls us to stand. And if He calls us to do so, surely, He provides us with what we need to do so and would train us to use the weapons He has provided for evil’s efforts to triumph.
“Evil is a fact. The Bible spends a good deal of space insisting that certain facts are evil, and not minor blemishes on the surface of existence. But the Bible does not provide an explanation of evil – rather, it defines a context: all evil takes place in an historical arena bounded by Christ and prayer. Evil is not explained but surrounded.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder