Note: This article appeared in the April 1984 issue of Charisma. It’s just as pertinent today as it was when it ran more than 31 years ago.
There is definitely a “mystery of iniquity” attached to the four horses in chapter six of Revelation. We may not fully understand everything that will happen when they come upon the earth.
But, Revelation does not end with chapter 6! For John points us in chapter 19 to another horse and rider—One who rides to bring the kingdom of God in all its fullness to earth. Like the first horse in chapter 6, this horse is white. But there the resemblance ends, for the rider of this horse is Jesus Christ Himself, coming in glory and power to the earth.
Let us see what the aged apostle is trying to tell us in the account of the rider on the white horse in Revelation 19. Chapters 7 to 18 deal with the catastrophic saga of history, perhaps just ahead, about which Jesus insisted we are to make no mistake, when “there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21, 22). It will be a time of nuclear conflagrations, biological holocausts and chemical apocalypses rolling over the earth, bringing man to the edge of the precipice. History will “bottom out” in the battle of Armageddon. We already see its shadow creeping over the earth.
Will man exterminate himself? He almost will, as Jesus stated. But just before man does so, Christ will come back! The demonized leaders “of the whole world” will have mobilized both as antagonists and protagonists of that coming world anti-God system—probably headed by the Antichrist. They’ll be “gathered,” we’re told, “together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (Revelation 16:16).
Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of “the war to end all wars,” and now Ellen Goodman, the columnist, speaks of a possible ominous war ahead, “to end all life.” It won’t happen. God has other plans for the human race! Life is not going to be brought to a catastrophic end. God’s intervention will see to that.
Everywhere I go, people ask, “Are you an optimist or a pessimist?” My reply is that I’m an unswerving optimist. In the words of Robert Browning, “The best is yet to be.” I believe that, too.
It is estimated that forty wars are going on somewhere in the world at any given time. Any one of them could be the beginning of “the beginning of the end!”
So we have to ask: Can paradise be restored? Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
As the late Sir Winston Churchill asked a young American clergyman thirty years ago, “Young man, can you give me any hope?”
In Revelation 19:10-13 the ancient apostle writes, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one but he himself knows. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.“
The identity of the rider on the white horse in Revelation 19 is the Lord Jesus Christ, Israel’s Messiah, head of the church, the King of kings and Lord of lords. The white horse of deception in Revelation 6 darkens into a dirty gray in comparison to the impeccable, immaculate white horse here in Revelation 19. Whereas the red horse in Revelation 6 inflicts war to kill and defoliate, this white horse, with the mounted “King of kings” draped in a robe dipped in blood, declares war on the killers—to establish His kingdom of salvation and peace. Whereas the black horse of Revelation 6 carries famine and disease, the white horse of Revelation 19 brings healing and the Bread of Life. And whereas the pale horse of Revelation 6 brings death and hell, the white horse of chapter 19 brings life and heaven to all who place their faith in Him.
The clear teaching of the Word of God is that He will come when man has sunk to his lowest and most perilous point in all history—the time when the four horses of the Apocalypse, with their mounted riders, have run their course and pushed man to the very edge of the precipice. There is an eerie feeling throughout society today that concurs with the late Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who lamented, “Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth.” Left to himself, that is precisely what man would do. Barbra Streisand put her finger on the problem; she is reported in Esquire as having said, “I do believe the world is coming to an end. I just feel that science, technology and the mind have surpassed the soul—the heart. There is no balance in terms of feeling and love for fellow man.”
At 78, Skinner shocked the American Psychological Association Convention (1982) by asking in understandable anger and anguish, “Why are we not acting to save the world? Is there to be much more history at all?” Asked afterward, “Has the observer of social conditioning lost his optimism?” his reply was, “I have … When I wrote Beyond Freedom and Dignity, I was optimistic about the future. A decade ago there was hope, but today the world is fatally ill … It is a very depressing way to end one’s life … The argument that we have always solved our problems in the past and shall, therefore, solve this one is like reassuring a dying man by pointing out that he has always recovered from his illness” (Philadelphia Inquirer, September 25, 1982).
In his article on “Psychology and Armageddon” in Psychology Today (May 1982), Harvard Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Robert Coles describes a prevailing feeling worldwide that mankind is heading for its final Armageddon.
The gamble that man will have taken will be the worst in all history.
The Antichrist or system will be a monstrous impostor, the incarnation of iniquity.
And all people the world over will think and say, “We’ve been had!” As I wrote earlier in this book, there is coming a time in the future—whether near or far I do not know (since Jesus warned us not to speculate on dates), when a counterfeit world system or ruler will establish a false utopia for an extremely short time.
The economic and political problems of the world will seem to be solved. But after a brief rule the whole thing will come apart. During this demonic reign tensions will mount, and once again the world will begin to explode with a ferocity involving conflict on an unparalleled scale.
Even the grip of the world leaders will be unable to prevent it. This massive upheaval will be the world’s last war—the battle of Armageddon.
According to secular and scientific writers, there is an inevitability to man’s date with Armageddon. “Everybody who’s anybody believes that global war is imminent,” reckons Phil Surguy of Today.
Arming for Armageddon
On August 10, 1982 Ellen Goodman wrote in her column that with “Armageddon perhaps around the corner, what are intelligent people to do? Wrap ourselves in mourning sheets and wait for the end?” Are we to stare up at that intimidating nuclear sword of Damocles that “has hung over us like some apocalypse without the promise of redemption?”
Emphatically not! Jesus urged that when universal holocaust begins “to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). Rather than pulling mourning sheets around us, we are to look for redemption in Christ. We are also to work as if these events are far in the future. Jesus promised a blessing on those who would be found working when their Lord returns.
I will not here deal with the who, what, why, how or when of Armageddon. But I know from a vast number of Scriptures that Armageddon will be interrupted by the return of Jesus Christ on the white horse leading the armies of heaven, as clearly prophesied in many Bible passages. In no place is it more definitively or dramatically described than in Revelation 19.
When John foresaw “heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True,” he went on to describe the rider as “the Word of God” followed by the armies of heaven “riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.” Turning his focus back on the coming Messiah, John saw that “out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter’ ” (Revelation 19:11-15). And in case anyone gets confused as to His identity or authority, John makes it unmistakably plain, “On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16).
The Man on the White Horse
John makes clear that He and His army from heaven are faced with the Antichrist and the military forces gathered together to make war not only against each other but against the armies of heaven. But the Antichrist is “captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous sign on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation 19:20). The Antichrist’s collaborators and colleagues are all conquered by Jesus Christ.
Adolf Hitler’s grandiose notion of Nazism was that he would “last a thousand years.” It didn’t happen! Time (January 4, 1982) points back to Mao Tse-tung’s global “export of revolution” as an obsessive vision “to hasten the Communist millennium.” Mao’s aegis is gone, his vision already radically altered.
No, the oldest extant quotation from all literature, to a Bible believer, has to be Jude 14 and 15. Jude cited, “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, who prophesied that the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of His holy ones to judge everyone” alive, including “all the ungodly.” And the ungodliest man or system ever will be the Antichrist. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “The Lord Jesus will overthrow [that lawless one] with the breath of His mouth and destroy [him] by the splendor of His coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
The Return of Jesus Christ
Seymour Siegel has commented, “The central problem of Christianity is: If the Messiah has come, why is the world so evil? For Judaism, the problem is: If the world is so evil, who does the Messiah not come?” The Messiah is coming to solve both dilemmas, and perhaps soon! Every devout orthodox Jewish worshiper prays every day, “I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah. Even though He tarry, yet I will wait for Him every coming day.”
The Scripture says, “The government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever” (Isaiah 9:6,7).
The late Arnold Toynbee of Cambridge foresaw that “only a world government can save mankind from annihilation by nuclear weapons.” That’s right! And Jesus Christ will be the King over all the earth in His theocratic world government.
Jonathan Schell’s book The Fate of the Earth, which I have quoted several times, envisages a day when “existing institutions must give way to some sort of transcendent sovereignty and security, presumably by a government that embraces all mankind,” in fact “world government” (Time, April 19, 1982). That will happen when Christ returns.
What Happens to the Nuclear Monster?
As I mentioned earlier, on a statue across from the United Nations building in New York is the inscription, “They will beat their swords into plowshares.” Where did that quotation come from? From the Bible!
In Micah 4, only one of many scriptural prophecies which deal with this catastrophic question, we read that the world’s “nations will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house (of the true God who)… will teach us His ways.’ ” As King of the world “He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more. Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken” (vv.2-4).
But in the long run the beating of “swords into plowshares” is something Jesus Christ Himself, as King over all the earth, will effectively enact.
The King Is Coming!
As Bill and Gloria Gaither lyricized for the world to sing, indeed “The King Is Coming!” What was future tense for Isaac Watts will be present tense then—”Jesus shall reign, where’er the sun/doth his successive journeys run;/His kingdom spread from shore to shore;/till moons shall wax and wane no more.” That precious promise makes life here exciting every moment, regardless of the circumstances.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia points out that the result of Christ’s triumph over Antichrist and the forces of evil will be a reign of Jesus Christ and His saints of all the ages over an earth that will know unprecedented prosperity and peace. From time immemorial, man has longed for a combination of true law and order, of peace and prosperity, of freedom and fulfillment, of health and happiness, of godliness and longevity on this earth. It will happen when Christ comes again to set up His kingdom.
A New World Coming
That leaves us with only one absolute certainty about the future: Christ as the Prince of Peace, with the government upon His shoulders. The utopian dreams and schemes of the Platos, the Bellamys, the Owens and similar philosophers and idealists throughout history will all be fulfilled through His rule. That’s the message of the God-Man on the white horse coming down out of heaven, which the apostle John foresaw and recorded in Revelation 19.
John Milton yearned for “Paradise Restored.” I’m sure that for nearly a thousand years Adam longed to get back into the Garden of Eden, from which he was driven because of his sin. But he couldn’t! Professor John Walvoord puts it concisely, “The longing for perfect government, righteousness, equity, economic prosperity, and deliverance from insecurity and fears which plague the modern world finds its answer in the return of Christ and the establishment of His kingdom.”
The Scriptures have a great deal to teach us about the world of the coming Christ. The Messiah will take complete charge of the peoples of the entire earth. He “will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious,” assures Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of power, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” Throughout the world today people crave a society of peace and provision, but also one of goodness and justice. The Messiah Christ will implement all these, as “with righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth,” as “righteousness will be His belt and faithfulness the sash around His waist.” Will it work? Yes: “they will neither harm nor destroy … for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:10, 2-5, 9).
So transformed will the prevailing order be that even the animal world will be completely tamed. “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy” is the promise of the coming King (Isaiah 11:6-9). This will be in complete contrast to the savage beasts, scavenger birds, devouring insects and raging diseases that have been among the most ferocious foes of primitive and civilized man from the Adamic to the atomic ages.
A Message from the Messiah
Sickness will be remedied by Christ, the great Healer of nations. And He will remove all deformities and handicaps. At that time there’ll be no designated spots on parking lots, or graduated ramps on buildings, for the handicapped. There will be no blindness, deafness, muteness, paralysis—no need for eyeglasses, hearing aids, speech therapy, wheelchairs, crutches, or white canes. “No one living,” assures Isaiah (33:24), “will say, ‘I am ill.’ ” “I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the Lord” through Jeremiah (30:17). “Declares the Sovereign Lord” through Ezekiel (34:15, 16), “I will bind up the injured.” “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come,” prophesies Isaiah, and “then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reed and papyrus will grow. And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness” (Is. 35:4-8).
“Surely the day is coming” prophesied Malachi (4:1, 2) in the last chapter of the Old Testament, when the peoples of the world will finally “revere My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” And in the last chapter of the New Testament, we read that there will stand in that era “the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse” (Rev. 22:2, 3). “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
Currently, as Paul wrote to the Romans (8:18-21, 22), “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” But “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed,” for the whole “creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed, for the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
Our Vanishing Problems
We’ve had enormous controversies in and beyond the church, throughout the world, on birth control, abortion and euthanasia. These problems will all vanish as the curse on the earth is removed, and in place of thorns and thistles, drought and deserts, will be fruits and vegetables, fountains and fertility.
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Fields was so right recently to exclaim, partly from exasperation but mostly from expectation, “Without the Messiah, the human enterprise would crash into darkness forever.” But thank God, the Messiah is coming. He saves individuals today. In the great tomorrow, He will make all creation.
One day it will happen. The prophet Isaiah predicted, “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.” Yes, the world will be like the “splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God” (Is. 35:1, 2).
A Pointed Invitation
And in feeling this way so strongly, I am only reflecting exactly the way the ancient apostle John felt. He simply could not conclude the Revelation of Jesus Christ without making the last six verses of his book one of the most compelling invitations to repent of sin and receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord to be found anywhere in the entire Bible.
“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to give you this testimony for the churches,” is what we read in Revelation 22:16. Jesus Christ Himself wants John to make no mistake about it. After envisaging a panorama of scenes covering the past, the present and the future; after peering deep into the heavens, the earth and hell; after being introduced to God, to man all the way from his best to his worst and to Satan himself—Jesus wants the last word!
Why? Because, as we read in chapter 1 (v. 5), He is the one above all others “who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood” shed on the cross for our sins to purchase our pardon and peace. And He is, therefore, the One to whom we are ultimately as well as immediately answerable. Later in that first chapter (vv. 17, 18) He assured, “I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One, I was dead and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades”—of hell itself!
In chapter 3 (v. 20) Jesus comes a step closer and declares, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will go in and eat with him, and he with Me.” Jesus is saying to you, right now, that if you have never admitted Him as Savior and Lord into your life, you not only vitally need to do so now, you can do so now! Many say, “There is no need.” But the goodness of God should lead to repentance.
When, however, difficulties and heartaches come into your life, God can use those “hard knocks” to show you your need of Christ in every circumstance. It may be a business disappointment, a reverse in your love life, a broken marriage, a tragic bereavement, a hopelessly severed or even strained relationship between you and a parent or child. It could be the gradual or rapid deterioration of your own health. Whatever your disappointment, it’s His appointment!
So He’s knocking at your heart’s door, just as when there’s a knock on the door of your home. You may open the door and invite the individual on the threshold in to share in your hospitality and friendship. Or you may indeed simply ignore the knock. It’s that way with Jesus knocking at your heart’s door. Right now, you can bow your head on an airplane, in a jail—in an office, in a hotel, in a hospital or in your home, and you can open your heart to Christ by a simple prayer of faith.
So we have this good news made possible in the past by Christ’s everlasting love and death on the cross for us.
And we have His knocking at our heart’s door in the present, seeking possession of our lives, not only for our eternal benefit, but—incredibly—for His also. He wants to “show us off” to the rest of the universe as an example of what His grace can do. Then, in chapter 4 (v. 1) we are shown the future, invited through John’s eyes to look ahead: “And there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ ” And Jesus gives us a preview of the heaven He has gone to prepare for us.
In Revelation 21 He makes unmistakably clear that “the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” Then He assures, “This is the second death” (Rev. 21:8), so “I, Jesus,” initiate this final biblical invitation. “I, Jesus … give you this testimony” (Rev. 22:16).
It would be completely futile for me to preach the gospel, as I have done to many people every year for the past generation, if the Holy Spirit were not convicting the hearers of their sin and prompting them to open their hearts to Christ. And your reading of this is entirely in vain, if through doing so, the Holy Spirit has not inspired you to spiritual growth or, if you are not a believer, issued an unmistakable call to you to give your life to Jesus Christ. Right now, the Holy Spirit is saying one thing to you, “Come!” Come to Christ! Open your life to His salvation and to His control.
In verse 17 we read, “the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ ” The bride of Christ is His church. It is made up of those who have received Him as Lord and Savior. Doing so, we take His name and are thereafter known as Christians. We love Him and we live with Him as our Lord, to the exclusion of all others. He has promised to provide for all of our needs. So, we’re the bride! He is the bridegroom!
Then again, Jesus invites, “Let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ ” (v. 17). We’re told that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). One of the verses I have used most frequently to lead people into a saving experience with Jesus Christ is John 5.24. It is Jesus speaking, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” That’s one of the clearest promises in all of the Bible as to how to come to Christ. Then, when we come to Christ, we’ll urge others to come to Christ. When we confess Jesus as Lord of our lives, we’ll want to confess Him before others.
“Whoever is thirsty, let him come” (Rev. 22:17), testifies Jesus! So many are chronically thirsty but can’t put a finger on what that thirst is or a handle on how to quench it. Pascal, the great French physicist and philosopher of the 17th century, noted that all humans have in their hearts a God-shaped void that only Jesus can fill. John had already written in his Gospel years before what Jesus said to a morally mixed-up woman at the Samaritan well: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13, 14).
Riches cannot quench that thirst! Knowledge cannot quench that thirst! Alcohol cannot quench that thirst! Drugs cannot quench that thirst! Sex or romance cannot quench that thirst! But Christ can! And He asks you right now, wherever you are, to come to Him. Believe in Him! Tell Him that you do! Call upon Him to save your soul, to satisfy your thirst with the water of eternal life.
Again, in Revelation 22:17, Jesus repeats the invitation one final time with the strongest and most inclusive call of all: “And whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” By this, Jesus is saying that—from our human viewpoint—a decision for Christ is entirely a matter of the will. God has done everything possible to bring you salvation; you can add nothing to what He has done. If you wish to be saved and go to heaven, you can, by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. If you wish not to be saved and therefore to be lost forever, that also is your privilege. Insofar as Jesus is concerned, He “wants, all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).
Peter, writing the closing chapter of his two letters, pleads that Christ is certainly “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). I cannot think of how God could open the door wider for you to enter into the household of faith! And to be sure that no one thinks salvation is something we buy, contribute to or earn, He clarifies, “Take the free gift.”
Jesus Christ rose from the dead to be alive forever. And because He is alive, and because He can be everywhere at once, He is right there where you’re reading. All you have to do is take Him, receive Him.
No! In the next to the last verse in the Bible, Jesus “testifies” to you, “Yes, I am coming soon.” The old apostle is so happy about that reassurance that he replies, “Come, Lord Jesus!” When you really mean your commitment to Christ not just as a momentary, but as an ongoing relationship, you will have Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior forever. You can choose to “be with the Lord forever” (1 Thess. 4:17).
No, you couldn’t! But you will not be on your own. Christ gives you day-by-day and moment-by-moment His unmerited favors. He strengthens, energizes and directs your life. The last verse in the Bible, Revelation 22:21, promises, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” What more could you desire, ask or ever hope for than that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you forever?
Let me offer you a final suggestion.
I had led tens of thousands who have come forward to make decisions for Christ in every part of the world ‘in this simple prayer:
I receive Christ as Savior.
I confess Him as Lord. From this moment on I want to follow Him and serve Him in the fellowship of His church.
In Christ’s name, Amen.”
8/14/2015 | Billy Graham | Source: charismamag.com "BILLY GRAHAM: What Does God Have in Store for the Grand Finale?"