The fourth chapter of the Revelation describes John's visit to another dimension, where he sees the glory of God. It is a beautifully poetic picture that he paints, and it is not necessary to go into a detailed explanation of it in this chapter. Likewise, we have already described the incidents of the fifth chapter, where John saw the movie (or book, if you like), and wanted to watch it. This brings us to the sixth chapter, where the seals were removed one by one and John was introduced to what would be the overall theme of the message that awaited him.

Over half of the "book" (four reels, or seals, out of seven) has to do with four horsemen. These are collectively known as "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse". There is a white horse, a red horse, a black horse, and a grey horse. At the Battle of Armageddon, Christ is described as riding on a white horse. (Revelation 19:11) Here John sees this same horseman going forth to conquer. And what is he going to conquer? He is going to conquer the other three horsemen!

The second horse is red (like blood), and the man on him causes people to kill each other. The Bible says that this horseman takes peace away from the world. Obviously he represents War. War itself comes from a foolish attempt to conquer through the use of weapons. The rider on the red horse has "a great sword". Each succeeding generation of people has found more cruel and more sophisticated ways of destroying other people through war. And they always tell themselves that "This will be the war to end all wars." But it never happens.
So how is the rider on the white horse going to end all wars? What weapon does he have with which to do this? The word used here for his weapon is unclear. It has been translated "bow". No arrows; just a bow! The word doesn't occur anywhere else in the Bible, and the Greek lexicon seems to imply that the bow may be nothing but a piece of ribbon, rather than the string stretched tightly between two ends of a stick like that used by American Indians. Some weapon, eh? So Jesus is going to conquer all the armies of the world with a limp piece of ribbon!

In the description of Jesus at the Battle of Armageddon, he has a sword, but the sword is not held in his hand; rather it comes out of his mouth. St. Paul wrote, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but [they are] mighty through God, to the pulling down of strongholds." (II Corinthians 10:4) To the Ephesians, Paul wrote, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against… spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore, take unto you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day… Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:12-17) So our weapon is not a material sword, but rather the words of Jesus!

Spiritual weapons or not, people really will die at the Battle of Armageddon. God is not afraid of violence. But he does insist that he be the one who does it, and not some over-zealous followers who want to fight a "holy war" in his name.

So the only weapons he gives to us are the teachings of Jesus. If we are loyal to what God has said through Christ, he will provide us with weapons that will do the job better than all the armouries of earth when the time comes. For now, we must, like the Lamb, be content to merely wave ribbon-like banners at the forces of hell if that is what God requires.

How unlike the philosophy of the institutional church, which has shown a proclivity for blessing the weapons on both sides of an armed conflict!

The third horse is black. This horseman has the First Century equivalent of a cash register or calculator in his hand. He is announcing the prices of various commodities. People are being charged the equivalent of a day's wages for a basket of wheat or three baskets of barley. These same working class people are forbidden to touch such luxuries as wine or oil. The picture we have here is of the business world, in their black suits, black limos, and talking on their black mobile phones. They have structured the world's economy in such a way that most of the world struggles just to get the bare necessities of life, while a tiny minority enjoy all the luxuries. Indeed, this horseman must represent Greed.

We have not said much about greed up to this point. It was not challenged much in the Old Testament writings, which we have been studying up until now. But Jesus Christ saw mankind's desire to accumulate wealth as the root cause of all the world's problems. He went so far as to teach that the spiritual choice we each face is not whether we will work for God or work for Satan, but whether we will work for God or work for money. (Luke 16:13) His followers said things like, "The love of money is the root of all evil." (I Timothy 6:10) "Where do wars and fighting come from? Isn't it because you… desire to have and cannot obtain? You fight and war, and yet you have not…" (James 4:1-4) And "…Greed is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5)

The black horseman symbolises all the suffering and injustices that have been poured out on the earth because of corporate greed. The Christian answer is not to demand that the government do something about it, but rather it is that we will give of ourselves, all that we have! Jesus said, "If anyone comes to me and does not give up all that he has, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:33) He said, "Seek not what you shall eat or what you shall drink… for all these things do the nations of the world seek after… Rather seek the kingdom of God… It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give to the poor. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Luke 12:2934)

This is not a popular message, but it is the Lamb's answer to the problems that now face the world. If we turn and hide from this truth, then we will never be able to see the rest of the secrets of The Revelation. For, as we have already said, the teachings of Jesus are the key to unlocking the mysteries of The Revelation.

The fourth horse, the grey one, is clearly named. The man riding on his back has become widely known as the Grim Reaper. The Bible says, "His name that sat on him was Death; and Hell followed with him." (Revelation 6:8)

The Bible says, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." (I Corinthians 15:25) But it will not be conquered through war and greed. In fact, war and greed only hasten death for much of the world. And they both overlook the fact that we are all going to die eventually anyway. Money can buy food, clothing, shelter, and medicine. It can buy heart transplants and potency drugs. It can pay for accommodation at the best health resorts and provide an environment that is virtually germ free. But it will not stop the Grim Reaper from sooner or later appearing at your door. And when that day comes, it will only be the Creator of life who will decide your fate for the rest of eternity. He will not be impressed with either your money or your weapons.

Isn't it time to consider that maybe Jesus, or the "Word of God" (the rider of the white horse), really can conquer death with his "ribbon"?

We Christians have been saying for centuries that our Messiah rose from the dead, that he conquered death. Today's world doesn't give much credence to that. But who else is as qualified to give answers to the puzzles of life and death? What if Jesus actually did rise from the dead? What if he can conquer death? And what if he actually can give you eternal life? Wouldn't it be stupid to ignore him?

It has been said that even the richest people would sacrifice all their wealth to live another five or ten years, if they knew that they were only hours away from certain death. They would, of course, be stupid not to. In the face of death, things suddenly get into proper perspective. But for the bulk of our lives most of us live as though we will never die.

This Christ, the date of whose death was predicted hundreds of years before he was even born, whose life has changed the course of history, who claims to be the Son of God, says that he can give eternal life to anyone who will put their faith in him. True, he asks you to give up everything you own to follow him. But is that really so much to trade for eternal life?

Leo Tolstoy, the world famous author of War and Peace, had this to say about life and death:
"We have learned to look ahead in every part of our lives; but we do not look ahead to where life itself is leading. You may do all you can to protect yourself from danger and sickness, but in the end a building will fall on you, or a king will have you killed, or you will simply die in your bed with few people taking any interest in it…

If you know ahead of time that all your strength will not be enough to win the war against death, wouldn't it be better to change now, and use your life for something that will not be destroyed by death?… If there is a meaning to life, it will not come in a life that is lived without faith and without God. To live a life with meaning, you must live one that is not destroyed by death.

We have been tricked into doing very cruel things to make our lives better and safer… But only in working for God and others can we find true life, life that will not be destroyed by death." (What I Believe, chapter 8)

John saw that the "Lamb that was slain" was really able to conquer war, greed, and death. But he also saw that the Lamb did it without the usual weapons. He saw that the answer to life does not lie in more weapons or more money. It lies in taking up your "cross" and following the Lamb to death if need be… without hitting back, and without hating your persecutors.

Are you ready to do that?

Appendix, Chapter 11

Revelation 6:1-8. "I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard (as if it were the noise of thunder) one of the four beasts saying, "Come and see." I saw, and behold, a white horse. And he that sat on him had a bow. A crown was given unto him, and he went forth conquering and to conquer. When he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, "Come and see." And there went out another horse that was red. Power was given to him that sat on it, to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another. There was given unto him a great sword. When he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, "Come and see." I beheld, and lo, a black horse, and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, "A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny. And see that you not hurt the oil and the wine." When he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, "Come and see." I looked, and behold, a pale horse. His name that sat on him was Death; and Hell followed with him. Power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with the sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

Revelation 19:11-16.
I saw heaven opened and behold, a white horse. He that sat on him was called Faithful and True. In righteousness he judges and makes war… and on his head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew but he himself. He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood. His name is called The Word of God. The armies which were in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations. He will rule them with a rod of iron. He treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. He has on his vesture and on his thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS."

Luke 16:13. "No servant can serve two masters; either he will hate one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" [money].