Chapter Twelve

On Saturday they went to the funeral of the Smiths. They took Cathy with them, as they felt that it was important for her to understand such an important event in one’s life as its physical end, given the comfort that spiritual resurrection awaits all Christians after they come to this milestone in their lives. Being aware of the sadness of death to those left behind, they also were comforted with George’s words:

“Bob and Evelyn were Christians,” George said in his brief service in their honor. “For them, death has no sting, for even now they await a resurrection into the arms of Jesus. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10:28:

“’And fear not them who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.’

“Perhaps they met an untimely death; and perhaps also they have left behind the grief of their passing. But thank our God that they left this world with their souls intact. For those who are grieving, permit me to give you a hope-filled message from Paul. It’s in 1 Corinthians 15:

“’Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who giveth us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’

“One further word is in order,” George told them. “It’s in Revelation 21:

“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be anymore pain; for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write; for these words are faithful and true.’

“So we shall grieve for a season for the fellowship we shall no longer have with Bob and Evelyn. But they are in a better place, and we, too, have the same blessed hope. Let us pray together, upon Psalm 23. . .”

The culprits still had not been found.

The next day at Church George continued with his preaching out of the Book of Revelation. As he had promised, he went directly to Revelation 6, out of which came the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. “In Revelation Chapter 6, like in the previous two chapters,” George began, “The Apostle John writes the vision that Jesus shows him.

“And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder, on of the four living creatures saying, Come and see. And I saw and, behold, a white horse; and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him, and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

“I’ll interrupt the narrative here to talk about this first horse, the white one that emerges with the opening of the first seal on the scroll by none other than Jesus Christ. For over a hundred years the horseman on the white horse has been interpreted as the Antichrist. Notice that he had a bow, but no arrows were mentioned. This has been interpreted as the Antichrist conquering with a deceptive peace, but always with the threat of violence. To continue with the narrative,

“’And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red; and power was given to him that sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another; and there was given unto him a great sword.

“The red horse always has been interpreted as suggestive of open warfare. This interpretation is validated by the passage itself in which peace was taken from the earth. Right now we Christians are expecting two great wars in the future. The first is the war described by the prophet Ezekiel in Chapters 38 and 39 in his book; the second is the final war of Armageddon, which apparently enmeshes the entire world in warfare. The great sword given to the horseman on the red horse is suggestive of mass slaughter. I’ll return to the narrative:

“’And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, Come and see. And I beheld and, lo, a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures say, A measure of wheat for a denarius, and three measures of barley for a denarius, and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.

“The black horse has universally been interpreted as signifying famine. A denarius was the equivalent of a day’s wage, which means that when the black horseman comes into history, a day’s wage will be required to purchase just enough to survive on. Notice, too, that the oil and wine are not to be touched. This is usually interpreted as meaning that great wealth will remain in the hands of a few privileged people in the midst of the famine. Back to Scripture:

“’And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, Come and see. And I looked, and, behold, a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the field.’

“In some ways, this fourth horseman is the most terrifying. Historically, the pale horse has been interpreted as pestilence, disease. But there’s a problem with that interpretation. Note that the killing includes death by sword and hunger, the method of the red and black horsemen. There’s an even bigger problem with that interpretation, in that the translators got it wrong because they had trouble believing what Scripture said. In the original Greek, this fourth horse was described by the word chloros. Chloros doesn’t mean pale, but green. The translators decided that this didn’t make sense, as green horses just don’t exist. So they changed the meaning of the word from ‘green’ to ‘pale’.” George chuckled at the irony. “After all the improper allegorization of passages that should have been taken literally, they chose this rare instance where allegorization is appropriate to insist on a literal interpretation. What they didn’t understand was the allegorical nature of these horses. In that context, green would be perfectly permissible. Not only that, but God can do anything He wants. If He wants to make a green horse, who’s to stop Him? But back to the point. A green horse can suggest disease as well or better than a pale horse, so it doesn’t change the dynamics of the interpretation. But the other matter does, that of the inclusion of sword and hunger in the method of killing. That application of other modes of killing in addition to disease opens the door to another interpretation entirely of all four horsemen. Sometimes I enjoy watching some prophetic teachers on television. They give me fresh perspectives on the Word of God. At times they obviously aren’t correct in what they say, but in this case the viewpoint of Irvin Baxter on the four horsemen gave me pause. It doesn’t necessarily contradict the standard interpretations – either or both may be correct. But since it does make sense, I’ll share it with you.

“Under this interpretation,” George continued, “the four horses represent socio-political systems of man as the end of the age approaches. Under this regime, the white horse represents the Catholic Church, which indeed has exercised much control over the peoples of the earth. The Catholic Pope wears white in his public ceremonies; also, the Popemobile and the Pope’s personal airplane are white. Has the Catholic Church indulged in corruption in its past? Yes indeed, but before I present some details, you must remember that any organization of man, even if it starts out in service to God, is susceptible to corruption. This is particularly true when it becomes enmeshed in politics and other worldly issues in contrast to Jesus’ clear claim that His kingdom is not of this world. How can I have any doubt that the Protestent Churches aren’t susceptible to the same failures when I see it happening before my very eyes? But in the early 1500s, Martin Luther certainly had a case against the established and deeply politicized Church. The arrogance of her leaders, even at the intermediate level of the bureaucracy, was both astonishing and disgusting. Her idolatry, heresy, moral filth, unbelievable cruelty, indifference to human suffering and many other human failings were rampant. Her rejection of the true God in favor of pomp and wealth was virtually complete. I’ll present just one example, taken from Foxe’s Book of Christian Martyrs:

“John Browne ran into trouble with the Church by sitting too close to a priest on a public barge in 1517.

“’Do you know who I am?’ the priest demanded. “You’re sitting on my clothing!’

“’No sir,’ replied Browne, ‘I don’t know who you are.’

“’I’m a priest.’

“’Oh. Are you a parson? A vicar? Or a lady’s chaplain?’

“’No. I’m a soul priest,’ the man replied. ‘I sing for a soul.’

“’Do you? That’s wonderful!’ Browne exclaimed. ‘But where do you find this soul when you go to mass?’

“’I don’t know.’

“’Ah. And when the mass is done, where do you leave this soul?’ continued Browne.

“’I don’t know.’ Pastor George made a theatrical face with this.

“’But if you don’t know where to find or leave this soul, how can you save it?’

“’Get out of here! The priest yelled. ‘You’re a heretic, and I’ll get even with you!’

“As soon as he left the barge, this priest went directly to Archbishop Warham. Three days later John Browne was taken from his house and imprisoned in Canterbury, where he remained from Low Sunday until the Friday before Whit-Sunday, without his family knowing where he was.

“The night before he was to be burned as a heretic, Browne was locked in the stocks at Ashford, Kent, where he lived, and found by his wife, who stayed by his side all night listening to his story. Browne showed her his feet, which had been burned to the bones with hot coals by bishops Warham and Fisher, ‘to make me deny my Lord, which I will never do. Please, Elizabeth,’ Browne continued, ‘do as you have done in the past and bring the children up virtuously in the fear of God.’

“The next day Browne was burned at the stake, saying, ‘Into thy hands I commend my spirit. You have redeemed me, O Lord of Truth.’”

“But to return to the subject at hand,” George continued, “the association of the white horse with a corrupted end-time version of Catholicism, possibly having merged with the fallen Protestant Churches and the Islamic religion, seems to be strengthened by the narrative of Revelation 17, in which a harlot representing a false end-time church sits atop a vicious beast representing the end-time political-economic system. The harlotry of the end-time false religion is symbolic of this church’s infidelity to the true God. A foretaste of such harlotry is presented in the Book of Hosea. The association of a fallen-away Catholic Church with this harlot is the inclusion of some key identifiers in Revelation 17, including the color white, which is traditionally worn by the pope, the color scarlet in which cardinals deck themselves out, the color purple, the traditional color of bishops, and the great material wealth of this false church.

“The red horse in this new interpretation in the context of the most powerful of the systems of man represents communism, to which the color red is strongly associated. It has certainly engaged in much warfare and bloodshed, often against its own people. The latest estimates for the number of deaths that Stalin was responsible for are around forty million, far more than the number associated with Hitler. And then we are still waiting for the Ezekiel 38 war, in which Ezekiel specifically named Russia. Now, as to the color black, the association here is to capitalism, which is not exempt from the charges of suffering and death. There is the thought that the Antichrist’s one-world government will have elements of socialism and capitalism. Black is an apt color for capitalism. When things are going well economically, the numbers are said to be ‘in the black’.

“But the most ominous horseman in the systems interpretation, at least for the near future, is the green one. Green is associated with Islam, which is currently on the move. This religious system actually is attempting to take over the entire world, and is rather far more advanced in that objective than most westerners realize. In Europe, it’s well on the way toward executing a bloodless coup. At the same time, the historically Islam nations of the Middle East are becoming more fundamentalist and religious in their outlook as well as more militant. I’ll finish up today’s sermon with a warning: make no mistake; at its core, Islam is not a religion of peace, nor does it have anything in common with the Judeo-Christian understanding of God. It is monotheistic to be sure, but that monotheism is so simplistic that in its insistence on a single God, Allah the father, it denies the deity of both Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It is a religion of hatred. But don’t fall into the trap of hating its adherents. They are to be understood as misguided, and must be loved, even when they hate you.”

Earl and Joyce followed their routine of taking Cathy home with them and bringing her back with them to the nursing home in time for the Bible study. Joyce was troubled when they left the Church.

“Earl, did you notice that the attendance has dropped significantly since George began the Book of Revelation?” she asked. “Not only that, but this is the second week in a month that someone has walked out on his sermon.”

“Yeah. But the guy who left was creepy. He looked mean. I don’t know if there’s a connection, but he ducked out when George linked the fourth horseman with Islam. And boy, was he mad!”

[to be continued]


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