You don’t have to look much further that your Facebook newsfeed to see that we live in a …troubled world. People are literally killing each other over issues of religion, race, relationship, and politics. Our nation upholds the murderous practice of abortion, and seems to abhor our freedom to think for ourselves and hold our own beliefs.
More than just a season of trouble, I believe these are the birth pains spoken of by Jesus, and the apostles after him. Many Christians I have talked to view the rapture as some sort of exit plan, an escape from the Tribulation we fear having to endure and the troubles of this world. I don’t think we can read Revelation, or Jesus’ prophecy on end times in Matthew 24, and believe that we’ll be exempt from the tribulation to come at the end of times. I believe it’s happening now, and more than playing “pin the tail on the anti-Christ” or “guess the date,” we need to recognize the signs of the times and respond appropriately, in God-honoring fashion.
“I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the living creatures say in a voice like thunder, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.” – Revelation 6:1-2
It’s interesting to me that we get to see the bow, but no quiver and no arrows. It may be assumed that the rider has these, but I believe that they are intentionally left out because this rider never intends to actually fire a shot. His conquest is driven by ideas and emotion. Consider this: any time the politicians cry about having to make budget cuts, what two areas always fall victim to those cuts? It’s not their salaries, pensions, or vacations. They cut education and public services (like police and fire). Pair that with the thralls of media moguls who seem to run every story bent on vilifying police and what you see is an effort to conquer people through ignorance and fear. If we are scared and ignorant then we will surrender our freedoms and empower the government to care for us. No quiver, no arrows, no shots fired, but simply the threat of possible harm and the emotion of fear and insecurity grants this rider his conquest … and we’ve been watching this snowball for a while now.
“When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.” – Revelation 6:3-4
Whether it’s Christians being dragged out of their homes and beheaded in the streets (see Revelation 20:4), mass shooting at nightclubs, cops killing citizens, or citizens killing cops, the thousands of unborn lives murdered each day in abortion clinics, or the countless, faceless women and children lost in human trafficking, we can see that peace is taken from the earth. Like the false prophets in Isaiah’s day people cry “peace, peace” when there is no peace. The sanctity of human life has been perverted and degraded for the pleasure, convenience, or agenda of others and largely the world doesn’t seem to care. As Jesus said in Matthew 24, speaking of the end times, “Because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of most will grow cold.” We selectively show solidarity to those we can relate to, and oppose the cries for the same from those we are convinced don’t deserve it. Jesus taught us to love our neighbor, love our enemy, and pray for those who persecute us. But we don’t. And we justify our disobedience due to a lack of love for God, for others, and only real love for ourselves.
“When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a days wages, and do not damage the oil and wine!'” – Revelation 6:5-7
Could you imagine if it cost you a day’s wages just to buy a loaf of bread? My family of seven spends about $300 – $400 every two weeks on groceries and we can get a pretty good deal on bread. If it cost a day’s wages just for a loaf of bread, we would never have enough to eat. Sadly, this is the case throughout much of the world. Not just unable to afford basic necessities as far as bread and food, but clean drinking water. The poor suffer and want for basic staples for life, and yet our country throws out food by the dumpster full every day. Even the poor among us, in our own wealthy nation, can find it hard to eat. Yet the call is “Don’t damage the oil and wine!” Forget the people … just don’t hurt the wine. Politicians vote themselves exorbitant salaries and ridiculous benefits, and yet claim to be “for the little guy.” Yeah, that’s a crock. If this rider had a name, it would be Corruption, and he is right here and riding hard.
“When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They [the four horsemen] were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by the sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” – Revelation 6:7-8
Violence, famine, plague (whether its flu, or H1N1, or E.coli/Ebola), even the beasts of the earth (hear about those poachers killed by lions last week?) saturate our headlines. If we think the saints will be somehow exempt from the Tribulation, we’re kidding ourselves. It is hear and it’s only gaining momentum. It’s going to get worse, and it will do so fast. This is why our hope is not in any government, legislation, cause, movement, or in any one person or group. Our hope must be in Christ alone, and the victory he has already won.
Now, I don’t share this to freak anybody out. Quite the opposite. Just as Revelation was written to a persecuted church to assure them that no matter what kind of temporal “defeat” they may experience, God is still in control, his plan is moving forward, and victory is assured, even through death. Neither am I writing to predict any kind of timetable. Jesus made it very clear than no one will know the day or time, but he did tell us to be aware of the times and the signs. We can know that we are in the season of tribulation that he spoke of. Like birth pains, they get increasingly worse and more intense as things come to a head (no pun inten… okay, yes it was). But the last thing the people of God should do is panic.
In fact, this is why we’re all still here. Christ is this world’s only hope, and we are ambassadors and envoys of this reality. In Christ, we are lifted above all temporal circumstances. For us, redeemed and given true, eternal life, “to live is Christ and to die is gain!” As I mentioned before, Jesus said that in the last days the love of most would grow cold … but not so for the children of God. We will love, and this tribulation will quickly separate those walking in the Spirit, and those trying to look the part in their own ability. It is the worst of times, and the end of times, and God is calling on his children to be a city on a hill, the light of the world, the salt of the earth, witnesses of his glory, majesty, and might, and ambassadors of his gospel for the sake of the world. In all that happens, God is showing us the fruit of our own sin, yet, as Revelation pointedly states, most will blame and accuse God rather than repent. Nevertheless, we must be ready to show a better way … The Way, The Truth, and The Life, because in Him is hope and life.