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  • Writer's picturePaul Martin


Updated: Feb 16


Revelation 6:1-4

It could be said that references in the media to the four horsemen of the apocalypse have become more frequent due to global events occurring in our world. The book of Revelation describes four men riding horses that unleash havoc on our world. But who are they? What are they? To understand their significance I need to first set a scene for you…

It was a day I would never forget; the day of our rush to hospital. With a twenty five minute drive to the nearest one, the thought foremost in my mind was, “Would we make it in time?” As I raced down the road, every traffic light that approached was a challenge to be beaten. In my desperation, I half hoped that we would pass a Police car, as a Police escort would save us precious minutes.

We had phoned ahead to the hospital, so they would be ready for our arrival. As I burst through the entrance announcing that we had arrived, staff seemed to have a little less urgency than I was comfortable with. I guess they had seen it all before, parents-to-be expecting their first child. Oh did I forget to mention that? My wife Debs and I were having our first baby. Of course we were ready for this, with coins for the car park meter, an overnight bag with nappies, wipes, chocolate and magazines.

We arrived at the hospital and having informed staff that the baby was coming, we were told to wait before being settled into a room. I don’t know what I was expecting it to be like, but the baby did not pop out in the next five minutes. He did not arrive in the next hour, or three hours, or even eighteen hours! It also turned out that magazines were not really of much interest when you are experiencing the pains of labour every five to ten minutes. It’s not like waiting for a bus I can tell you! It is very painful at very regular intervals! The chocolate was very tasty though.

What we read in this part of Revelation is often referred to as “The four horsemen of the apocalypse,” which can be a bit misleading. It’s as if people are expecting to see actual riders coming from the clouds on the day of judgement, releasing a sequence of future catastrophes. Yet we read in Revelation chapter 5 that a scroll containing these events was opened by Jesus the Lamb following His death and resurrection. These are seals that have been open for some time and the things released by the horsemen are already taking place. Our world is being impacted by what Jesus refers to as “birth pains” (Matthew 24:4-14). As in the pains of childbirth, a delay takes place before the final event. Yet these signs are here to leave us in no doubt that we are in the last days.

Notice that the four horsemen are “given permission” to bring suffering to this world. Evil wants to have its way in this world but is held back by God. The first rider actually bears a similarity to a vision of Jesus that John sees later on in Revelation; but here it is not Jesus. This rider carries a bow, which stands for the evil leadership of those who abuse their positions of power to take over those who are weaker than they are (Psalm 11:2). The crown represents ruling powers, not satisfied with leading their own people, they successfully conquer other unwilling nations by force too.

The second rider brings war, where nations join forces to fight against other nations. This horse is as red as blood. The great sword stands for the large amount of lives lost on the field of battle. Countries that once enjoyed peace are thrown into turmoil. People flee as bombs are dropped on their homes and innocent lives are lost.

Seeing these things happen in the world can lead us to ask, “Where is God? Why is there so much suffering in this world?” In the previous two chapters we have clearly seen that God is on the throne. He is in charge. But how does this make sense, when the horrors that come through war are so destructive? Why doesn’t God do something about it? The answer is this: Our world is in the pains of labour. These things are a sign post of the times we are in; revealing the fact that something is coming. The evil which humankind invited into this world has caused its devastation. It is God who holds this world together. To a world that resists the LORD and His Lamb, this is a small taste of what it would look like without Him if evil were allowed to have its way. This view from heaven gives us a very different perspective on our lives!

Everlasting God. You are still in charge. I look to You. You are the Creator who brought this world into being. Your purposes are being worked out in my lifetime. Help me to see things like You do. In Jesus Name.

This is an excerpt from Paul Martin’s newly published book “Beasts, horsemen ...and an apocalypse.” It contains 49 devotions for young people which simply explain the apocalyptic language of the book of Revelation. It also has specially designed journaling pages to connect with God in prayer after the devotion. BUY THE BOOK

The four horsemen of the apocalypse

__________ Photo of horse by Daniel Bonilla - Unsplash #endtimes


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