The White Horse Rider - He Rides
The disciples of Christ asked a lot of questions of Him as they were looking for answers, and specifically about His coming reign and the end of the age. Even after His resurrection, they wanted to know if He was about to restore the Kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). This writer cannot help but empathize with them on this. If He was walking the earth today on a casual visit in human form, many perhaps would ask him a lot of specific questions along the same lines.
But the disciples always got answers that would help them broaden their understanding, to help them in their faith, and expand their horizons so that they could also teach with a greater capacity. This process extends to believers today.
We have for example, “Increase our faith!” which they certainly would presume would be the fairest of questions:
And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:5-6).
That is not even the full extent of His answer which continues in verses 7 to 10 where He then teaches them how to keep accomplishments they achieve by faith in proper perspective. His answers make us actually work for understanding. What will broaden our thinking takes work, and when our thinking is being expanded and broadened, there is appreciation. Some understanding of His teachings even takes personal travail. This writer will tell you it is worth every investment–it is a work of faith.
There were a few specific questions the disciples asked of Him in Matthew 24, again asked in a manner that suggested the expectation of distinct answers. The answer again was to broaden their thinking, and also their future perception. The occurrence is also recorded in Luke 21 and Mark 13.
Before we begin with the questions and the answers in the exchange between Christ and His disciples in Matthew chapter 24, we need to back up to what prompted the questions in the first place, so we will back up to Chapter 23, and Christ’s lament over Jerusalem.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matthew 23:37-39)
This lamentation is not for show and demonstration. This is something very real coming from Christ’s heart. The dual “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem” is a sincere expression of His grief for the repeated rejection of His appeals to a rebellious nation He loved, and to be under His care and to proclaim His name to the nations. “Jerusalem” refers to the entire nation of Israel as it was the epicentre of worship. Her house, the house of Israel, has left her desolate, and He will not restore her until He returns in Glory.
Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:1-2).
It would seem through His extraordinary words Christ, knowing their inquisitive minds, is prompting them to ask questions. And indeed, they come:
Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)
There are three questions in here, and that’s important. It would be helpful to possibly interpret their questions briefly before looking at the answers.
We can paraphrase Christ’s words in Matthew 23 verse 39 in part as “You will not see me again until you’re ready to accept me, and then you will proclaim ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’” The disciples wanted to know when He would be accepted. They have also anticipated His rule, but witnessed His rejection–so when would He be accepted?
The balance of Chapter 24, and perhaps beyond, was more than what they anticipated for an answer. He could have perhaps gone just straight to what is recorded in verse 29, paraphrasing again: “There will be all these events including the stars or the heavens will be shaken, there will be earthquakes, and then I will show up.” He certainly did not go there. Instead, He took them well back in time first, and it is important for our own sakes if we are going to be good disciples to understand why, and as discussed earlier, this may take a fair bit of effort.
He neither went straight to the prophesied tribulation period or the abomination of desolation–the things that many today have focused their attention on in terms of what indications there may be of these events emerging geopolitically. He instead gave them an answer to consider that would be more helpful. His answer was something that is broader in scope and in time. A believer’s identity in Christ is also in perspective and very much in play in His response. It was given to them privately, but it has been preserved for His disciples today.
What He did express is the events and developments that, though they may not appear to be directly related initially, will lead up to and frame the culmination of events that will begin to noticeably occur. Therefore, all these things that lead up to the end of the age are also of vital importance. There may be sudden signs ahead, but the gradual progression of the less noticeable will be no less significant.
We want to gain a greater perspective as God is willing, because God’s perspective in the fulfilment of His will on earth and Heaven is a lot broader in scope than what we normally try to consider. This is understandable; however, we want to capture as much as God is willing to reveal when He is ready to reveal it. When we consider God’s perspective, the time and the manner of prophetic fulfilment may be much different than perhaps we might envisage, as often our perspective revolves around our own place in current history and our own church experiences and teaching in the process. To be helpful to others we need to often escape our own paradigms and biases. Many speculative books, articles and videos have been published to convey a vision of the end times. Prophecy magazines and internet videos have been produced on the subject of prophecy as prophecy speculations are a marketing tool for certain organizations. Extraordinary claims and counter claims centered around prophecy are very consumable teachings in many Christian circles.
This ministry for the most part avoids entering the prophetic arena of endless speculations. We want to take in what we can realistically consider in light of God’s plan and character, with the caveat our thoughts may change as God corrects and reveals. By God’s wisdom it is not our time to know it fully right now. Determining future happenings in the detail that is often demanded by modern speculations and erroneous assumptions is not our calling. We live in the present, and we need to take advantage of the present time we are in, but an outlook is needed, which is the purpose of this article.
Continuing with Matthew 24 and verse 4:
And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you” (Matthew 24:4a).
I do not know anyone who wants to be deceived, and the caution to take heed suggests that no matter how much one may be in the know, deception is an on-going concern. No matter how far down the unfolding prophetic path we find ourselves, the deception can find a foothold at any time. Deception is the biggest concern throughout the discourse that follows in Chapter 24, and it should not leave our thinking. This will be revisited later in this article.
“For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:5-6).
We want to take into consideration what is being said here. Many will be deceived and many will be making a false presentation to the way of salvation in His name. It is whatever works, and whatever is perceived to be working that will be used to build congregations and followings, motivated monetarily, politically, for any sort of gain, both willfully and innocently. As with wars and threats of wars, Christ makes no suggestion that He intends to intervene with deception or war in the general sense, but will permit things to play out for purposes we may not fully yet grasp. Also of note is that He states “But the end is not yet.” The answer to their questions has begun, but His words thus far are not yet pertaining to the end itself. So far, the answer that is given to His disciples pertains to what will set the stage or frame what will be the end, yet not set apart from it.
The question that concerns this writer is how deceptive is the deception, what purpose does it serve, and what does it ultimately have to do with the end? This is the subject of this article, which takes us to the first seal–the rider on the white horse.
THE FIRST SEAL—THE FIRST HORSEMAN
Most students of the Bible have recognized the parallels of what Jesus Christ is speaking of up to verse 8 of Matthew 24 with the first four seals in the Book of Revelation in Chapter 6, commonly known as the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. This paper looks at the first horseman in the parallel perspective of Matthew 24.
Before we examine any portion of the book of Revelation, we look first to the Revelator Himself, who will again provide us answers to the future that are further intended to broaden our vision. The book is not about an exercise in identifying the players and the churches as so many have set out to do. To appreciate the book, it is going to take work to grasp its message, and some of that message may upend previously held thought, and challenge even some of our values of fairness and judgement that we may have projected on Him in the past. This could be difficult for us, but it will be a blessing. A broadened vision means letting go of certain narrow perspectives we may have on how God is working with individuals and utilizing nations, even though we may already think we are open in our thinking and experience.
The experience of the book of Revelation is set up in its first three verses, which are themselves set apart before John begins his message to the Churches. The Gospel accounts reveal Christ as a man in humiliation, but the book of Revelation reveals Him in His glory.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ to all things that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. (Revelation 1:1-3)
There are two things that should capture our attention here. The book is to communicate to His servants what must shortly take place and secondly, that the book is intended as a blessing, not a source of consternation or confusion. If we interpret and internalize (keep) the words of the book correctly, we will be blessed by its insights into the nature of how God intends to execute His will on earth and Heaven.
We all want to feel protected. We want to feel empowered or enabled to have a grasp of God’s power over the future and over human history. Yet, we also need to understand in interpreting this book that it is also our willingness to accept God’s judgements in it for, as we will find as this article progresses, the execution of His will may not initially be to our liking. The blessing comes through submission and acceptance.
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).
It is tempting to jump straight into interpreting what John is witnessing here with the first horseman and its characteristics. However, as we will see, we first need to look at the preceding events in the Throne room to obtain a proper appreciation of the seals, and the book as a whole. The One who opens the seals has as much to do with the contents of the seals themselves. The happenings in the Throne room in Chapters 4 and 5 are being reported by John in such detail for a reason, and John needed to experience it for us.
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:1-8)
John describes the creatures that were to be involved in the release of the first four seals, and likely given here in the order they are opened. Lions are strong, and oxen are like worker servants. Men have intelligence, and eagles are swift and have sharp eyes. And each animal that is listed is like the head of its species. The four forms here suggest whatever is noblest, strongest, wisest, and swiftest in nature. So there’s some symbolism there for us to respect.
Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:9-11).
Here we have emphasized again, and acknowledged repeatedly by the royal elders, that God has the authority to deal with His creation as He wishes. They remind us it is by His will they exist. He will do what He has to do in order to see His creation become acceptable to Him and to receive glory from it. It is the unnegotiable and unwavering will of God that creation will be acceptable to Him, not the other way around, that it will give Him full glory, and it is through His Son only that this reconciliation of creation to Him will happen (Ephesians 1:10).
Throughout this chapter and into Chapter 5, we see that God is perfectly holy and just, gracious and righteous, pure and omnipotent, eternal and sovereign. This we must take into consideration early as it will help us accept the coming revelation of all that He through His Son is going to do. Some of these things may be difficult to realize, but John’s witness tells us He is not to be judged by us.
And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. (Revelation 5:1-4)
John’s response here is worthy of note. “So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look at it” (Revelation 5:4). There is a lot of emotion coming out of John here because he recognized already what is in the scroll. For his future is in it, the future of mankind and the future of God’s will being executed. In John’s heart, it is as though all is lost forever–no one is found worthy anywhere, ever.
But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals”
And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne (Revelation 5:5-7).
The Lamb slain, yet stood. He remains victorious in death, and the seven Spirits are His eyes to know all that there is on the earth. All things can be known and all things can be seen by God. The lamb is innocent, but virtuous, wise and knowing. He is multifaceted in all things to execute all mercy and justice.
“Then he came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:7-8).
One can sense the tension in the throne room being released after the Lamb took the scroll. The process of finding one worthy to take the scroll we may consider to have taken a toll on all present, who are fervently vested into God’s will and identifying with God’s passion. We see this in what plays out when He takes the scroll from Him.
The bowls of incense being the prayers of the saints is significant to us. The taking of the scroll is the start of the execution of His will, and it is our part to play in it that we should take notice. Our prayers to the Father that express “Your will be done” is not insignificant to Him. Believers are putting their trust in God for Him to execute His will on earth and in heaven. And here we see these prayers matter, and are significant.
Often prayers may seem like quiet voices in a universe so vast and a world so loud, and not consequential to what is going on. Consider however that incense is like an amplifier in Biblical reckoning, and was often offered with prayers (Numbers 16:6-7, Psalm 141:2, Luke 1:10). Amplifiers in audio systems take very small and weak signals and increase them exponentially for all to hear. The incense is the portrayal of the amplified power in the prayers that you are making, and amongst all your brethren, the saints, that His will be done. We are being reminded of the place of our prayers here right at the throne. They play a role.
And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth”
They sang this on behalf of all of the saints, from every nation, not some specific select few.
And if that was not enough:
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:
“Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne. And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:11-14)
The loud voices are now making the message of the Throne room explicit to us all so we can get a sense here why no one was found worthy to take the scroll and open its seals. Who can execute the kind of judgment that is to come? Who is able to execute the kind of judgment that has allowed the world to continue in its own deception? Who can permit war and pain and starvation to happen to achieve his ultimate will of dealing with a fallen world under the sway of the devil? Who can shoulder the eternal weight of responsibility of all this? No one was found worth to take the scroll and no creature below the earth to the highest elevated creature in heaven would question His authority to execute what is to come, starting with the first seal.
As stated earlier, we did not want to examine the seals without first looking to Who has the authority to open them. Knowing the authority of the Revelator Himself actually helps us to understand what is being revealed. We may now have a better framework to interpret what follows.
Christ told His believers not to be deceived as the deception that He has in His view is powerful and persuasive. The deception we are to be most concerned with is Christians placing their security and hopes into something else that is not Jesus Christ, yet believing they are. At this juncture we will put ourselves to the test by looking at the present experience we are in.
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, NIV)
It was an authoritative voice that is coming from one of the four living creatures in the throne room hailing the first horseman .
– The horseman was being called forth from an authority at the throne.
– The horse was white, and we do not know the color of the rider.
– Horses in biblical times were instruments of warfare, such as tanks are today. They are intimidating; they are even used for crowd control today. Even when a crowd gets confused, the horse does not.
– The rider is also presumably given the crown by someone in the throne room, which was a victor’s type of crown.
– The rider of the horse has gone out to conquer. He is “bent on conquering” (conquering and to conquer (KJV)). He is ambitious to win, at all cost.
What does the white horse suggest? It suggests purity and righteousness, but under the control of perhaps a not so righteous rider, but otherwise enabled. So, in one sense it does sound like something that is very good, but the rider remains suspect other than he is given means to wage war and be victorious.
When we look at war, those who go to war do not feel they are doing so for the wrong reasons. They are compelled they are doing it for the right reasons. For the most part, all go to war for their own idea of what righteousness is. “We’re on the right” or, “We’ve been wronged; therefore, we’re going to make it right”. All nations do this to this day. So, it suggests here that a white horse is fighting for the side of righteousness – the horseman is empowered to go out on a white horse on the pretense of righteousness to conquer with his holy campaign. We are also not to limit the rider’s scope of conquest either. His scope includes all means and methods, not limited to regions or people, weak or strong, small or great, innocent or guilty.
The parallel here is with Matthew 24:4-6 with Christ’s description of a false message of Him that would deceive many, except now we have more information and perhaps new challenges.
As we follow the parallel of Matthew 24 of a false and deceptive message of the savior that many will believe, the obvious challenge for us may be that the rider of the white horse is given authority from the throne room to conduct his campaign. He goes to conquer minds and hearts to rule over them.
“Why would God allow or enable and empower a false Christian message to go out there?” one may ask. Such a decision would seem to be against every moral and ethical bone in our being.
We must return to the throne room for context. The answer to these possible objections begins with acceptance that we are not in a position to question God’s judgement. We are not worthy to take the scroll, but as servants we can learn to appreciate what is happening and praise God for His wisdom.
Revisiting Christ’s words:
“For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:5).
Given what the first seal has opened up to us, Christ is essentially saying “Take heed that no one deceives you because the deception is righteousness.” The deception is righteousness, with good deeds and good works in His name, in the belief their works are accepted before the throne leading to salvation.
We should also not assume that this is a single church organization, as the determination to conquer would precipitate into a multifaceted, multifront and evolving agenda to perpetuate and achieve goals– “…he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.”
The question inevitably will arise in regards to when the first seal might be released. There are some that suggest that false Christs and a false message of Christ will emerge suddenly before the end. This is only a dramatic interpretation. Realistically, and from what we might glean so far, and as we look at history, the activity of the first horseman has continued for centuries already.
The unsatiated desire to conquer hearts and minds of people with a false Christian message under the pretense of righteousness takes a lot of time through many successive generations. If one wanted to conquer land or material that would be relatively easy, and often does not take much time at all when the resources are available to conduct wealth and asset driven campaigns. The conquering of minds and hearts to create a long-term victory that needs to be maintained takes time for it to culminate to achieve results. The ultimate goal is to maintain the deception throughout the centuries to expand conquered territory in terms of minds and hearts.
Christ does answer that for us to a degree: “…these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”
Luke gives us the same presentation in Chapter 21 of his gospel account. Luke is a very astute historian, and often provides certain accuracies that are helpful.
“So they asked him, saying, ‘Teacher, but when will these things be and what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?’
And He said: “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them. But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately” (Luke 21:7-9).
Here we are also being told not to get caught up in the anxiety that the time is near. Christ already recognized that speculations would be one way of winning converts as we mentioned previously. The lesson for us here is not to entertain such messages (See Luke 17:22-23).
In terms of timing Luke helps us with what follows in verse 10, he indicates a break in time here, a break in time and in space.
Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Luke 21:10).
“Then He said to them” – By these words in Luke’s account, there is an indication of a break in time. Therefore the wars and rumours of wars mentioned prior form part of the period during the first horseman’s activity, which do not occur at the end. It suggests that the achievements of the first horseman are done through peaceful means and through not so peaceful means, but on the pretext of a righteous campaign in the name of Christ.
THE DIFFICULT PART
A false message of the Gospel that God has enabled to go forth into the world may seem troublesome, and contradictory, and would appear to go against His will, yet it is clearly His will. It is by design. How can we reconcile this?
Our God is love (1 John 4:7). As He is love, all of His activity is a loving activity. When He judges and executes judgement He does so in love. When He rules, He rules in love. When He plants or uproots, He does so in love. All of His activity is to love. Love also has embedded wisdom (Philippians 1:9), and perhaps through His wisdom we can start to appreciate Him in what is to unfold, and start to find reconciliation in His love, wisdom and mercy.
As for the believer abiding in Christ, what is His only advice for us? His advice is to take heed that we are not deceived. We are not to be swayed by the victorious and impressive works of the first horseman, which can be very deceptive and attractive. Though he appears to have accomplished much, we are not to be swayed from our calling and our testimony, even though by outward appearances we are not that impressive!
Consider also that Jesus Christ does not ask His disciples to go to battle with the white horseman. We are just not to be swayed by him. Also of note, Christ did not express that the horseman is intrinsically evil or has evil intent, nor those who in general are conquered by him and, in a sense, become him.
As history has played out since the time of Christ, and as our contemporary experience also teaches us, we can perhaps see God’s mercy and wisdom come into view.
The activities of the first horseman has proliferated Christian-Judeo thought throughout much of the world. Though often the means may not be to our liking, including the troublesome teachings that have come about by it, much of the outcome has benefited society for the interim. Whether the ends justify the means is not in our capacity to judge.
Judeo-Christian beliefs have up to now given many in the western hemisphere a unique sense of liberty and justice, which continues to attract so many people from around the world to the United States.
“We hold these Truths to be self- evident …” is inspired in contrast to the once assumed idea that the rights of individuals are dispensed by the government or at the behest of the divine right of kings.
“All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words would not have transpired if the signatories of the constitution did not fear a Higher Power.
Regardless of increasing contrary sentiments, the Unites States is a nation whose values are decidedly Judeo-Christian.
God’s Church, the Sabbath keeping community of believers who have held to the truth of God have been the beneficiaries of much of the activity of non-Sabbatarians throughout the centuries. The Bible in virtually any translation or language, and much if not all of the original manuscripts copied and preserved through the ages were not accomplished by Sabbatarians. Indeed, some have lost their lives in the process. There is the example of free distribution of Bibles by the Gideons and other organizations. This writer, among others, has benefited from commentaries and Biblical research outside of the Sabbath keeping community, including concordances and other references.
Even beyond the proliferation of God’s word, non-Sabbatarian organizational activities have precipitated hospitals, orphanages, and ministries devoted to helping the less fortunate. Biblical principles have had a prevalent effect on laws that have benefitted all of society, including this writer and you the reader, personally. Even the fear of God, found in an individual, group or society, has had a positive stabilizing influence.
In this environment, Sabbatarians have prospered and have had the freedom of worship to assemble and to disseminate the truth of God in the western world and beyond.
Therefore, when I hear brethren talking about the ignorant teachings of those in other mainstream churches (Heaven and Hell, Christmas, Sunday … and so on), I try to remind them that Jesus Christ has taken on the responsibility of their ignorance (i.e. the ignorance of the world). He died and was resurrected, and has taken on the responsibility. All judgement was given to Him (John 5:22, Revelation 5). It is not wise for the Christian to try and take part in the kind of judgement that rests exclusively in the hands of the Christ.
Though society, including the Church, have benefited by the works of mainstream and very old professing Christian institutions, these works should not be construed with the works of God Himself. This does require elaboration.
“…If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10:37- 38).
Christ makes it clear here that it is the Father’s works, not His own, that authenticate who He is, and that He was sent from the Father. He even suggests they should not believe Him if He was doing the works of another.
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves” (John 14:10- 11).
Christ Himself acknowledges that it is the Father who dwells in Him that does the works. The only authentic works acceptable to God are His own, and disciples, who are not greater than their Master cannot do their own works and make them acceptable to God. With that, the exciting thing is we can do our Father’s works too, providing only that we abide in Christ, and He in us. This is made explicit in Christ’s words:
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:5-8).
The great intrinsic value here, as Christ explains repeatedly, is that God is glorified. God cannot be glorified by works done outside of Himself. Only perfection can beget perfection. Only holiness can precipitate holiness. This is a reality that is universal–that God can only accept His own works. God will not share His glory, but we can partake of His glory, we can participate in His works. Perhaps a further understanding of the works of God come from this exchange between Christ and His disciples.
“Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered AND said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:27-29).
We know we cannot earn our salvation, but what is implied here is that it takes work to believe, and it takes work to get others to believe, and it takes work to keep them believing.
Therefore, when Christ refers to the greater works (John 14:12), this is the greater work–belief. Christ came that we may believe in Him and Jesus the Christ whom He sent. The food that perishes, in Christ’s mind, is essentially all the elements of life that people may look to so that they can be filled, that is, where they can find sustained significance and security. Many in Christendom look to the Bible to find assurance God will support them in these areas of life. Many conduct worship practices and other activities out of insecurity, or out of obligation to their churches and church cultures. These things may appear to be beneficial and helpful to oneself and others, but they are temporal. Yet in all this they want God to bless the things they find security in, as they do not find security in God Himself. Those who believe in Him are not to thirst and never hunger (John 6:35); God satisfies their true needs of significance (being loved by the Father) and security.
Those who sense their true security and significance are aware they abide in Him, and have no need to look elsewhere for these needs. Admittedly this truth does not come to full awareness overnight in the believer, but he must labor to know it–this is the labor Christ would have us do, and teach others to do by encouragement, by teaching and by actions. The believer labors through trials in a process ordained by God to strengthen their trust in Him, and become fully aware they are complete in Him (Colossians 2:9-10). See the article The Joy of Overcoming from the Summer 2010 issue of SVM for more on overcoming trials.
The work of the first horseman does not teach this. Rather, it creates dependencies, and these dependencies cause individuals to look to worldly elements to fulfill needs, and by doing so it successfully conquers. This essentially captures what a false image of Christ does. If conquered by the first horseman, the individual will believe that he or she expresses a dependency on God, but behind it all is an insecurity. This perhaps can be understood in a broader context.
The activities of the rider of the white horse has had its greatest victories over societies and nations that do in fact proclaim the Christian God as their security. The national anthem of Canada calls on God to preserve the country. The United States has the patriotic song “God Bless America”. “God Save the Queen (King)” is the national anthem of the United Kingdom. Yet, these are anthems that are calling on God to bless and preserve their institutions in which they find security. If we are honest with ourselves, we are also guilty of this. God alone provides security without an intermediary other than His Son alone.
Those who identify themselves as Christian in the United States, Canada and other English-speaking countries, just as an example, interpret the wealth and democratic systems around them as a blessing by God, and often filter the behavior of their own nations as God ordained. With that there are expressions of gratitude and worship by Christians that feel blessed in the countries they live. Yet, few stop to realize at whose expense the wealth comes about, and that many of the systems and activities that brought this wealth are not as honorable as we have been taught to believe.
BABYLON – BRIEFLY
The Babylonian system controls the politics of the world. It is described as that great city that reigns. The city represents financial and economic power and is a system that at least reaches all developed nations. The expressions in the book of Revelation describing Babylon as a whore that rides a beast may cause many in the United States and Canada, for example, to point to other lands, other religions and philosophies to distance ourselves from it, yet Babylon is much closer to us than we may comfortably think. What is striking to this author is how dependent on the Babylon system the world becomes that it would lament its final end (Revelation 18). The Babylonian system offers wealth and security for those fortunate enough to be benefiting from it, and that includes this writer and many of the readers of this article. The apostle Paul utilized his rights as a Roman citizen, something that no doubt he held with value and never gave up, but his identity remained in Christ. My citizenship is Canadian, and it is of value to me for certain rights and freedoms and I do utilize them to do this work and live life. God has made provision for societies to develop and emerge in this way for His purpose and we are perfectly entitled to make use of its tenets.
The vast majority of the professing Christian faith, even God’s Church to some degree, does not recognize Babylon for what it is, and has incorporated the prosperity it gives as a blessing that is pleasing to God, even a heritage that is promised. They even call on God to bless this system, and bring peace to it. In reality this is a counterfeit system of security. God’s people, particularly in the western world, must interpret national wealth and the security it provides very carefully. God’s people have no home here; whatever benefit that these things provide in the dispersion of the Gospel message does not authenticate national acceptance before the Throne. God will not place His name on America or the British Commonwealth or any other former or current wealthy system even though many mistakenly believe that He does.
Many recognize the Roman Empire as the Beast Power to again be resurrected, but the wealth and prosperity along with the societal constructs of the Greco–Roman world was also ordained by God to be instrumental in advancing the Gospel message in ways that are not appreciated by most today . Many citizens in those empires also enjoyed securities and privileges and also felt blessed by their own deities. Yet, God utilizes nations for His purpose, and continues to do so in like manner until He puts an end to the Babylonian system, and returns the kingdom of Israel and ushers in the eschatological Kingdom of God.
What is being presented here may be challenging to some who have been taught that America is God’s country, and has been blessed to do His work. God utilizes modern nations to fulfil His will as He sees fit, but He does not work with them in any partnering relationship. Many reading this article may be familiar with British or Anglo-Israelism, or believe in America’s manifest destiny in some form, and are perhaps filtering this article through these teachings. This is not a subject to be discussed here. For an exposure of these teachings, the reader is referred to the SVM website www.shepherdsvoicemagazine.org for a recently posted paper by this author.
The true nature of the dependency the world places on the Babylonian system of wealth and security manifests itself when it is threatened. This system will one day be threatened to such an extent and scale that the rise of nations into a collective Beast power will emerge as prophesied through the books of Daniel and Revelation. God’s servants who have heeded the warnings of Christ, and know their identity in Him will not be deceived and will not get behind the rallying cry of the nation they abide in or hold allegiance to.
Babylon is Babylon, and we would be wise to assume it is here, not “over there” and God’s true servants must recognize it as such, even if it goes against our own sense of appreciation for the favourable living circumstances we too have accepted, and our national pride. Though we may have physically benefited, God warns us from heaven not to place our security and hope in it lest we be deceived and receive God’s judgement (Revelation 18:4)
The reader is referred to The Environment of Early Christianity, S. Angus, M.A. PhD. New York Charles Scribner’s and Sons, 1920, for de tailed research in this area of historical research.
At this juncture, we also must never lose sight of God’s mercy and compassion for people living in this fallen world. God does come to the aid of people who do not have His calling. God hears their prayers and extends mercy upon whom He shows mercy. He sees acts of kindness and does not forget them. We are looking at the greater concern of the shape of the Church and God’s will to reconcile creation to Himself.
Many are concerned in all facets of Christianity, including the Church of God, in the decline of Christian-Judeo values in the world. It is indeed a concern to see our society degrade, especially when certain institutions such as the family and education are directly attacked. God’s laws are universally true, and His commandments, if not followed, will lead to consequences. Indeed, this publication has presented the material such as the Children of God series to bolster Godly approaches to development of children through to adulthood. Yet, we must not get caught up in world events and trends as so many of us have. The Gospel of the Kingdom is good news, and the Kingdom can rise in our hearts now.
We must have a greater reverence of His sovereignty over history and the nations, that He will have mercy on whom He has mercy, will abase who He will abase, and He need not provide any explanation. The believer must recognize much of the modern world is conquered by a false image of Christ and has put their trust in it. The United States is no different than any other gentile nation in history that will serve a purpose, and that purpose will also come to an end. It is the Gospel message of the Kingdom of God and the restoration of Israel to the promised land that is of utmost importance. There is no message or a calling of God’s Church to proclaim to the United States to turn itself back to God or else face judgement as a nation, which has been a misguided rallying cry to many corporate Church members. The gospel is not a message regarding the welfare and preservation of any modern nation no matter what high claim on Him they make.
REJECTION AND JUDGEMENT
The rejection of His Son may be captured in the following words of John:
All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:3-5).
The King James Version suggests the darkness did not comprehend it, but other translations capture it more accurately in that the darkness could not overcome it, or extinguish it. This continues to this day. With the rejection, God in His wisdom and judgement has made provision for a Christ-like figure the darkness will absorb, control and accept so that it will continue on its path, reserved for judgement. Yet, as we have already presented, embedded in this false Christian message there is mercy and purpose.
This may sound difficult to grasp, but we can make a sober mental check to consider the alternative measure God could have taken, which is complete annihilation of mankind, something He would have been well within His right to do. At the other extreme we may wonder why God did not resolve sin in the world quickly and remove Satan from it?
The desire for a false Christ exposes how humanity more easily embraces false teaching than it does Biblical truth, which essentially defines what the white horseman is. God’s larger purpose in allowing sin to continue will mean a more sincere and acute awareness of the exceeding sinfulness of sin (Romans 7:13). Evidence in scripture suggests the Millennial reign will still have elements of the mind-altering effects of sin. So deceitful is sin that it can disguise itself as though it is God doing the works of God.
This author does not presume to have captured all the elements of the white horse and rider that rides it, or the full extent of its overall purpose. The concern is that God’s people must not have an identity crisis as time moves forward and the circumstances change.
The Book of Revelation was given to us for prophecy, but also for theology. And the theology is given to us in a very dramatic way to impress on us His authority, His methods and His intent. If we study it and meditate on it and we keep the words in our heart, though we may not quite understand them, the words will be with us. We can still keep the narrative and the expressions here in our hearts and bring them to remembrance at a later date. As history unfolds and the end time prophecies start to unfold, the book of Revelation is a resource to His servants to interpret events, and their own place in them.
We are not to live in fear or in doubt as to our identity and purpose, but with confidence that God has the sovereign authority over creation and that He is going to do the right thing.
The reality is the world is in fact on a collision course with God, and He is making the arrangements (Zechariah 14). God desires to make no peace or reconciliation with the darkness; and deception, death and destruction are the consequences. In the meantime, the white horse rider–he rides–and will serve the purpose he was given, as will the riders that come after him.