The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
"And I looked, and behold ... " - Revelation 6:2
Jesus was asked specifically about the sign of His return and the end of the age, and His answer is preserved in Matthew, chapter 24:
Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple, and Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" - Matthewi24:1-3
In answering those questions, Jesus gave a panorama of history, accurately describing 2,000 years of church and world history in advance. Probably most students have noticed that a parallel text appears in Revelationi6, which is the passage that links the "sign of the Son" to the sign described in Revelation 12:1 -
|4 And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you.
5 For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.
| Religious Deceit
||1 Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, "Come and see." |
2 And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
|6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
||3 When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come and see."|
4 Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.
|And there will be famines,
||5 When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come and see." So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.|
6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine."
| …pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
||7 When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come and see."|
8 So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.
|9 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.
||9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.|
And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. - Matthewi24:10-14
The Great Tribulation
The chronology of Matthew 24:4-31 is ambiguous. There are at least three ways that this passage can be parsed:
- Pre-tribulational - Matthew presents strict chronology. Because the rapture is a "mystery" that was not revealed until Paul explained it to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:51), we would not expect explicit reference to it in the gospels. In this model, the rapture happens before the 'abomination of desolation' in verse 15. The "great tribulation" is God's wrath on the Christ-rejecting world, explained in more detail as Trumpet and Bowl judgments in Revelation. Immediately after that severe tribulation, the Lord gathers the dispersed Jews, who are His "elect" on earth.
- Post-tribulational - Again, the chronology is uninterrupted, but the church is divinely protected while remaining on earth. In both of these models, the events from verse 15 through verse 31 can run up to seven years ("Daniel's 70th Week"). The rapture is described by verses 29-31 and takes place "immediately after the tribulation of those days" which is understood to be the "great tribulation" of verse 31.
- Pre-Wrath - This view says that Matthew 24:15-28 is a parenthesis, and not part of the chronology. Rather, it is Jesus' specific answer to the disciples' question regarding the destruction of the Temple. Jesus gave an overview of the period of time from when He spoke until the time He would gather His elect. He then explained the destruction of the Temple, describing the event as a period of unprecedented great tribulation. After this, false christs and false prophets would arise. This view, also embraced by preterists, sees the abomination of desolation, the flight from Jerusalem, and the warning concerning false christs and false prophets as all fulfilled.
I have concluded that the "tribulation of those days" refers to both the tribulation of believers in verse 9, AND the expected final "great tribulation" of Israel in the near future (Zech. 13:8-9). Clearly they both must end at the same time.
More Good Stuff:
How To Prepare For the End of the World — Five steps anybody can take to prepare for the end of the world and the establishment of a righteous one-world government under Jesus Christ.
The Revelation 12 Sign Compendium — Here is a comprehensive and straightforward analysis of the sign, it's possible significance, and claims and critiques about the sign.
23 Minutes in Hell — In 1998, the Lord gave Bill Wiese a vision of hell. Hear his testimony and deepen your understanding of what Jesus Christ really did for you. This presentation is the end of "cheap grace."