The first horse, a white one, while being the least understood, is perhaps the most important because it produces the most insidious destruction: universal religious deception. Yet we see that the other three horsemen are also heavily involved in and influenced by this world’s false “Christian” religions. Few understand the four horsemen because few listen to Christ and His interpretation, which is the vital key to understanding the book of Revelation.
The deceived followers of the man on the white horse “go forth conquering and to conquer” based on their erroneous belief that the white horseman is Jesus Christ. In fact, he is Satandisguising himself as Christ (2 Corinthians 11:14). This leads directly into, and overlaps with, the second horseman of the apocalypse: war! The second horseman has wreaked havoc on mankind with religious wars throughout history.
We must be mindful to look to God in order to have these prophetic symbols unlocked to our understanding. It is because man has refused to look to God that he is being hounded by these destructive horsemen to begin with.
Satan has succeeded, via the first horse of religious deception, to deceive all of mankind into following a false christ. He would like nothing more than to blind us to the meaning of the remaining horses, which are saddled up, awaiting one last ride. Only Jesus Christ can open the mysterious second seal for us.
A few in this world have an idea of what the solution to man’s mounting problems is, but even they acknowledge that it is impossible to achieve, given his carnal human nature.
In his book Politics Among Nations, Hans Morgenthau wrote, “The overwhelming majority would put what they regard as the welfare of their own nation above everything else, the interests of a world state included. In other words, the peoples of the world are not willing to accept world government, and their overriding loyalty to the nation erects an insurmountable obstacle to its establishment.”
Norman Cousins, author of In Place of Folly, wrote, “The nations have insisted on retaining for themselves ultimate authority in matters of security. They want the right to possess greater physical force than they are willing to invest in the organization charged with the maintenance of world peace. They have provided no specific or adequate machinery to prevent aggression.”
After the Japanese surrender in Tokyo harbor ended World War ii, Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, “The basic problem is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural developments of the past 2,000 years. It must beof the spirit if we are to save the flesh” (Reminiscences).
In Matthew 24:6-7, Christ said, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” Though Christ was addressing His disciples then, He had a much larger audience in mind—the multiple billions who inhabit this Earth today—at the end of the end time. Christ would never allow such suffering to occur without warning His servants first, either in person or through His written Word (Amos 3:7).
The importance of the duality of Scripture cannot be emphasized enough. We shall see that Matthew 24 refers to: 1) a first typical fulfillment in a.d. 70; 2) a long-term condition prevailing from a.d. 70 until now; and 3) an end-time anti-typical fulfillment yet ahead. It is this last type that you and I are staring straight in the face!
John’s vision, revealed by Jesus Christ and recorded for us today in Revelation 6:1-8, differs only slightly from the Olivet prophecy in Matthew 24 and the other Gospel accounts. Josephus describes in graphic detail the wars and resultant famine and plagues in Jerusalem about a.d. 70, almost 40 years after the Olivet prophecy was first given. (Please read Josephus’s Wars of the Jews, which tells of thousands of Jews being impaled by the Romans.)
Yes, what Christ said in Matthew 24 indeed had a typical fulfillment in a.d. 70. But John’s vision was recorded 20 years after the city’s fall and the temple’s destruction. Nothing in it speaks of historical fulfillment or events occurring in John’s day. Instead, it is referring to a future completion immediately ahead of us.
An End-Time Message
Revelation is clearly a book for the end time. Revelation 9:16 mentions a standing army of about 200 million men. There were not even enough men, women and children alive in the first century for this to be fulfilled then. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that the world population exceeded 1 billion people. Only then could so many men be amassed into such a large fighting force. During the height of World War ii, the combined armies of both the Allied and Axis forces were less than half (approximately 70 million) of the 200 million mentioned in Revelation.
Even the context of Matthew 24 shows that the ultimate fulfillment of these prophecies is still ahead. Verses 21-22 show that Christ’s message would apply at a time when human annihilation was a very real threat. Only since shortly after the last world war and the arrival of nuclear weaponry has this been a practicality. Everything is now in place for the four horsemen to stampede.
“And 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: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword” (Revelation 6:3-4). Jesus Christ opens the second seal and John sees a red horse whose rider is given authority to remove peace from the Earth. When peace is gone, there is only war. The man on the red horse plainly represents war with its abominable effects. Verse 4 clearly interprets itself, but further proof is given in Matthew 24:6-7 as we have read. Christ practically spells it out for us in His description of the second horseman who represents “wars and rumours of wars.”
But some may argue that man has always had wars. Other questions often raised include: Which wars are being referred to in Matthew 24? Does the second horseman represent war in general or one specific war? Again, let’s allow the Bible to interpret itself.
War After War
The first thing Christ prophesied about was a general condition of war that would extend from His time on Earth until man’s misrule on Earth was finally over. “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars [plural] …” (Matthew 24:6). The very next thing He said after warning about this seemingly endless state of warfare was, “[S]ee that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” These many wars comprise a general, not specific, condition of war. Christ admonished us not to be too troubled. Throughout man’s miserable existence on Earth, there have been alternating periods of war (of every description) and peace. Unfortunately, the periods of war have lasted much longer than those fleeting times of peace.
The rest of Matthew 24—and the second horseman of the apocalypse—refers to a far more serious type of war. One of such great impact that it is a totally unique war of and by itself—a world war of cataclysmic proportions far worse than World Wars i and ii combined.
The mood gets far more serious after the many wars of Matthew 24:6 are mentioned. Verse 7 tells us that “nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” This indicates world war, where one large block of allied nations or countries would be directly attacking another. It means much more than “wars and rumours of wars.”
The world has already survived two world wars, but neither can compare to the potential global war spoken of in Matthew 24:22: “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved [alive].” The Moffatt translation adds the word alive. This refers to total war, with the annihilation of all people as the outcome, barring divine intervention.
World War ii was not the “war to end all wars” as many had hoped. The atomic blast in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, killed close to 80,000 people. Three days later, another atomic blast killed tens of thousands in Nagasaki. Today, hydrogen bombs can be several thousand times more deadly and destructive than the primitive atomic bombs. The word overkill was not used until these detonations in 1945. Today, there is roughly 150-200 times world overkill. Estimates show there exists the equivalent of 8 tons of tnt for each man, woman and child!
Only in the generations since World War ii has the potential for worldwide cosmocide existed. Never before has mankind had the potential to completely destroy itself—until now!
Gene Williams, author of Nuclear War, Nuclear Winter, said just one H-bomb is the equivalent of bundling up all the explosive power of five World War iisand setting itoffwithin one second! The World Health Organization conducted a study in 1979 which reported that a large-scale nuclear war would kill between 2 and 3 billion people. And that study was completed before the theories about nuclear winter were factored in!
That same year, U.S. President Jimmy Carter stated, “Just one of our relatively invulnerable Poseidon submarines—less than 2 percent of our total nuclear force of submarines, aircraft, and land-based missiles—carries enough warheads to destroy every large- and medium-sized city in the Soviet Union.” Each sub can fire 160 warheads (each with 2½ times the destructive power of a Hiroshima-type bomb) at targets 3,000 miles away.
Today, the independent Soviet states still have a similar destructive potential. Between America and the former Soviet Union, there is over 700 times the destructive power of all the bombs dropped by the Allies on Germany and Japan in World War ii. Thomas D. Cabot, in an article that appeared in the July-August 1984 issue of Harvard Magazine, summed it up well by saying, “The nuclear weapons argument sounds like boys soaked in gasoline arguing about who has the most matches!”
The scale of war Christ prophesied in Matthew 24 and Revelation 6 simply could not have been fulfilled at any other time in man’s history! Humanity has never built or designed weapons that it did not eventually use. Man will find a use for the deadly nuclear weapons and other destructive devices created since World War ii. We have created nuclear missiles stored underground or under the sea in submarines, armor-piercing laser beams, biological (germ) and chemical warfare, nerve gas, neutron bombs designed to destroy people (not buildings) and heat-seeking missiles (“smart bombs”).
With these and other weapons at man’s disposal, it is no wonder the second horseman of the apocalypse has the power to take peace from all the Earth. Surely this confrontation is not completely fulfilled in small-scale regional conflicts, civil wars, or even international conflicts such as those in Korea or Vietnam many years ago. The very fact that this second horseman has a great sword should serve as a clue that he has the ability to kill millions, ultimately billions, almost effortlessly. Has that kind of destruction ever occurred before in conventional warfare?
Let’s now focus on the specific time and place of the second horseman’s final death march upon Earth.
Another World War to Come
Religious deception—the first horseman—has conquered the Earth with Satan’s counterfeit religion. Now we see war—the second horseman—as the tool religion has used down through history to gain its satanic conquests. Notice Revelation 12:7-9: “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Satan is the great being symbolized by the rider of the blood-red horse. The casting down of Satan leads to this intensified period of global wars and conflicts.
Satan is the same being who took peace from the Earth back in the Garden of Eden, who later challenged Jesus Christ for rulership of the world, and who is today the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), and the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). He’s responsible for the war-making that has gone on in every era of man’s history. But now, with his reign almost over, Satan realizes his time is extremely short (Revelation 12:12). But he will not give up without a titanic struggle.
From God’s gift of revealed prophecy, we can specifically label Satan’s terrifying political instrument, or tool. It is the beast, the international alliance that has been forming in Europe since World War ii, but with roots extending back for thousands of years. Only God’s end-time Elijah predicted the seventh revival of this dreaded power while its principal constituents lay prostrate after a crippling defeat in World War ii.
The Holy Roman Empire is and has been Satan’s primary tool of destruction. Daniel 7 describes this world power, which is now poised to rear itself one last time. Like its predecessors, this final resurrection is based upon the infamous partnership between a political power and a universal false church. Revelation 13 describes this ungodly partnership in great detail.
Daniel 11:40-41 and 44 depict the beast’s almost invincible nature and foretell that it will achieve remarkable victories with its blitzkrieg-style artillery assaults. “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon. … But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make [or take] away many.”
In the archaic terminology of his day, the Apostle John describes the terrifying weapons with which the climactic wars are to be conducted. “And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. … And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months” (Revelation 9:3, 7-10).
With a little imagination, we can see that John is not just speaking of conventional warfare, but mainly radiation sickness, the effects of germ warfare and other modern weapons. First on the horseman’s hit list are the descendants of the ancient lost 10 tribes of Israel as they are identified by both biblical and secular sources. These represent the present British Commonwealth nations, the United States and several of the democracies of northwestern Europe. (For proof of this national identity of our peoples, request our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy.)
The political, religious, military and economic polarization of these power blocs is forming this very minute, and has been for some time. Much of the structuring of these alliances has taken place behind closed doors out of view of an unsuspecting world. Very soon, perhaps in a matter of just a few years, these giants will clash in the deadliest battle ever experienced in ancient or modern history. Almost too devastating to even imagine, this war will be so destructive that unless God forcibly intervenes, the entirety of mankind will perish.
Jeremiah declared, “… and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant” (Jeremiah 4:7). Imagine New York, Los Angeles, London and Sydney vaporized by nuclear attack, with tens of millions dying instantly.
Military experts estimate that about a third of a nation such as the United States would be killed by a full-scale nuclear attack just at the first strike. They can only estimate because that has obviously never occurred before.
But Jesus Christ said it will happen! The Bible even reveals what percentage will die! Notice the “kill ratio” foretold about 1,900 years ago. “And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths” (Revelation 9:17-18). We could speculate on the exact particulars of nuclear weapons and radiation fallout, but the end result will be the same—one third of all humanity will die!
The Prophet Joel also paints a gruesome picture of our immediate future. “A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them. The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array. Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness” (Joel 2:2-6).
It’s no wonder the Prophet Jeremiah exclaimed, “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it” (Jeremiah 30:7).
These dreadful and frightening events would not be necessary if man would only turn from his evil ways of war, disobedience to God, false religion, vanity, greed and all that produces man’s worsening state of decay. The blood-red second horseman only rides because of mankind’s lack of deep, heartrending repentance toward its Maker. But nations have proven unwilling to repent and turn to God.
The second horseman of the apocalypse must ride roughshod to teach man a very painful, yet necessary lesson. There is no need for the “elect of God” to be unduly alarmed or frightened. “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). We can take hope that this global insanity is not permitted to run its course. “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved [alive]: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (verse 22).
The very elect of God will be provided with a place of protection from these terrible events (Revelation 3:10; 12:14). We can lay claim to these promises if we qualify as God’s very elect. The very elect will not be taken in by the spiritual deception of the first horseman.
The Final Battle
God’s climactic, last-minute intervention to save the world from itself is announced by the blasting of the seventh and final trumpet in Revelation 11:15: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” World rulership will be dramatically transferred to Jesus Christ.
Six thousand years of human misrule, intolerance, misunderstanding and suffering will finally be laid to rest. During man’s history, over 1,400 wars have been waged, just over 100 since World War ii. Amazingly, the nations will want nothing to do with the new peace enforced upon them when Christ returns! Rather than lay down their arms, they will pick them up again and fight against God. It is really Satan himself who will be behind this tumult. Realizing he is about to lose his throne (2 Corinthians 4:4), Satan will desperately attempt one final all-or-nothing battle against his successor, Jesus Christ.
John wrote of this time: “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. … And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Revelation 16:13-16).
The valley of Megiddo, or Armageddon as it is commonly called, is strategically located near three key mountain passes, which give quick access in all directions through the State of Israel. It provides a very suitable gathering place for the entire world’s armies to descend upon Jerusalem. It was the sight of several important battles anciently. Righteous King Josiah was killed as he attempted to block Egyptian Pharaoh Necho’s passage northward to fight the Babylonians. Gideon and Barak both won significant battles there during the judges period. General Allenby’s forces surprised the Turkish armies there in 1918.
“And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army” (Revelation 19:19). And what will be the outcome? Fortunately, there will be no real contest this time. “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).
An even more graphic description occurs in Zechariah 14:2, 12: “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle …. And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.”
Thankfully, really good news follows the bad—much like clearing skies after a storm.
A World Without War
With Satan bound (Revelation 20:2), his diabolical church-state system destroyed and the nations no longer under his influence, remarkable things will begin to happen, as the Prophet Isaiah describes: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:2-4; see also Micah 4:1-4).
Can we comprehend a world without war? It will only become a reality when all mankind will finally learn from God and His newly born-again sons how to live according to God’s laws. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and for the sake of all humanity, the sooner we arrive at that point the better.
Meanwhile, a resurrected Holy Roman Empire (the abomination of desolation) will destroy anyone in its path caught unawares. Only a small remnant will escape. The majority, including God’s lukewarm Laodicean Church, will be slaughtered or enslaved in the Great Tribulation. Those who escape will be the ones who warn today in the tradition of the end-time Elijah, Herbert W. Armstrong (Ezekiel 3 and 33). We have no choice but to warn those we love.
The mere thought of what is yet to transpire made the Prophet Habakkuk terribly sick (Habakkuk 3:16). This is a subject that none of us likes to contemplate.
Famous astronomer Dr. Carl Sagan, in To Preserve a World Graced by Life, wrote, “The dangers of nuclear war are, in a way, well-known. But in a way they are not well-known, because of the psychological factor—psychiatrists call it denial—that makes us feel so horrible that we might as well not think about it. This element of denial is, I believe, one of the most serious problems we face” (emphasis added).
Sticking our head in the sand won’t make the threat of nuclear war disappear. The prospect of nuclear winter is a deadly reality. The season for warning the Laodiceans and the world is almost over! But there are still two horsemen poised to ride.