And I saw when the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come!” Rev 6:1.
The four horsemen herald the horrors of war, famine and pestilence. The language seems to go back to Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 32, where these three plagues are among the consequences of breaking the Mosaic covenant. In Revelation 6 they express the consequences of rejecting Jesus and the salvation He provides.
In Western countries things like famine and pestilence (contagious disease) may seem like distant realities. They occur mainly in “benighted” corners of the world that make the news but are rarely visited. If we are to truly experience the dread that these images must have evoked when they were first written, we need to consider analogies that lie closer to home.
Many people, even in Western countries, are only a paycheck or two away from missing house or rent payments. With corporations downsizing and markets shifting, few jobs are secure, even in corporate America. It takes only a small downturn in the economy to bring a hint of apocalyptic dread into the experience of many people.
When I was 17-years-old, I started working for a temporary agency. I was sent with a couple of other men to unload a boxcar full of 1100 doors. The workforce of the agency was largely made up of “drunks” and “college kids.” My boxcar companions were of the former variety. One was 35-years-old and the other 47. Both began to get the “shakes” by around eleven in the morning. The older man would often sneak away from the work site to get a beer.
Fascinated by these two, I did some investigating. I discovered that the younger man was a nuclear physicist and the older one was an engineer. In fact, he had been a supervisor in the construction of Henderson Field on the island of Guadalcanal, one of the most famous battlefield sites of the Pacific War in 1943.
Both of these men had started life with high hopes and great achievements. But then the riders of “war, famine and pestilence” invaded their lives. Through the gruesome plague of alcohol, their families were shattered and they were reduced to miserable hulks of humanity. Their lives were totally consumed with eking out a bare subsistence in the midst of plenty.
Tragedy is no stranger to even the wealthiest of societies. We all need the Lamb to survive.