Isaiah says about the unbelieving world that the “wicked are like the troubled sea.” That is a good figure. When a hard wind blows and a storm churns up the sea, waves are tossed against one another and they cast up their mire and dirt. The world in which we live is characterized by this too. Perhaps the best word we can use to describe the present condition of the world is that of agitation. Everyone in it is restless and edgy. There is fear of the unknown. There is no peace in our world. Natural catastrophes, wars and threats of wars, lawlessness in society—all contribute to man’s discontent and agitation. There is no peace, saith our God, to the wicked.
But the unbeliever is bound and determined to find an earthly peace. Unbelief always thinks that it will find the way, while living in sin, to overcome the results of sin and create peace on earth. In our broadcast today, we are going to examine another cause of agitation to this world—the economy. Revelation 6:5, 6 speaks of this. These verses we wish to consider today. They read: “And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast 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 beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.”
Our world has problems. Real problems, as far as our economy is concerned. The people of our society have gotten themselves into deep trouble by their frivolous spending and their greed. What is going to happen to our homes and our families? What is going to happen with employment? We elected a president who promised us the world on a silver platter. But he could not give what was not his to give. People are running scared.
The child of God who has found peace in Christ now sits back and observes. Here is but another sign that Jesus Christ is coming. It is a sign that we watch in order to see what God has in store for us in the future. We do not panic, because we understand that even the economy is in the hands of God. This is not some random sign that indicates Christ’s return. But it fits as another piece in the puzzle of God’s design to bring about the end. Today, we consider how it fits.
The vision of John that we consider needs a little explanation in its context. In Revelation 5, the apostle John saw a book having seven seals that needed opening. No one could open the seals because no one was worthy. Finally there appeared a Lamb that was slain who, because of His blood, was worthy of opening these seals. In Revelation 6 we find the opening of each one of those seals. The first four of those seven seals set loose four horsemen. Each of these horsemen rode a different colored horse. The first horse was a white horse; the second red; the third horse (we consider today), black; and the last, pale. Each of these horses ran through the earth fulfilling a certain calling for which each one was sent forth. We are not going to consider the meaning of each of these horses. We already mentioned the red horse a couple of broadcasts ago. He was the horse that brought wars and threats of wars in the earth.
The horse we consider today is the black one. This color is significant because it says much about the other symbolism of our text. The rider of the horse was carrying a balance. Without trying to describe a balance, suffice it to say that a balance is a method of judgment. One can judge the weight and the worth of something with a balance. That the horseman here in these verses carried a balance means that his duty was to determine the distribution of this world’s wealth to nations and to people. He received this instruction from the Lamb in verse 6: “A measure of wheat for a penny; and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.”
That instruction given him was very specific. He was to weigh out to men either a measure of wheat or three measures of barley. What is meant by measure is one day’s-worth of food. Wheat was more expensive than barley, so a measure of wheat was worth a penny. And three measures of barley was worth a penny. A penny was a day’s wages. In other words, this horseman was to distribute to the nations of this world and to people just enough food to eat in a day.
On the other hand, he was commanded not to hurt the wine and the oil. Wine and oil represent wealth and riches. These items of the marketplace were purchased by the rich and the prosperous of the world. So, on the one hand, the horseman was to distribute to the nations and peoples of this world just enough for the poor to eat, no more than a hand-to-mouth type of existence, but the horseman must not touch the wealthy and take from them their riches. Perhaps the best way to describe what this horseman was sent out to do is described in the saying, “The rich get richer and the poor, poorer.”
This vision really is not hard to interpret. The horse is black. This color is the color of scarcity and want, of famine and poverty. We read, for example, in Lamentations 5:10, “Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine.” But the scarcity and the poverty that is referred to in this particular case is not caused by famine as much as by economics. Throughout the history of this world there have always been the “haves” and the “have-nots.” There have been those who grow fat in their wealth and ease while many in the world are given very little in the way of earthly necessities, much less comforts.
We have never experienced that here in North America, have we? Even the poor seem to have enough to eat, though perhaps the extras are hard to come by. When my family and I went to Jamaica, I was embarrassed by what I possessed as a middle-class American when I lived there. I lived among people who had nothing more than a one-room shack with a tin roof over their heads. We complain when our beds sag in the middle. They had little cots with a thin mattress that had far outlived its usefulness. They lived from hand-to-mouth. They made just enough for one day’s worth of food.
When I went to Ghana, I saw this in an even more striking way when I visited the “bush country.” There I saw little children running around with little more than a loin-cloth. Their bellies were distended because of malnutrition. They lived in clay huts with a thatch-roof. They slept on hard ground.
We may not realize it, but the black horse has been running throughout history creating this huge gulf between the rich and wealthy, the noble blood, and the poor and needy, servants to the rich. It still happens today. The famous and powerful of this world, the upper-class, rule over the lower class. These same rich and powerful snub their noses at the poor man and despise him for his poverty. In other words, just as there is strife between nations; just as there is strife in society; so also is there strife between the classes of people—the poor revolting against the rich rulers and trying to make themselves rich.
What is more, this sign is evident among us here in our own nation and society. One cannot help but look at the economy right now. Banks have made foolish loans and find the average man is unable to pay them back. The housing market is bottoming out. Banks do not have the money to advance money to people. Middle-class Americans who have invested in stocks are losing their interest and these stocks are eating away at the principal as well. The only ones who do not seem to be hit hard by all of this are the rich. They are able to finance anything they want.
The horseman on the black horse is putting the balance to work. The middle-class in our country seems to be disappearing. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening again. And because this is happening in the United States, it has started to affect other countries as well.
In it all, the child of God who lives by faith is given the spiritual eyes to see that all of these things must come to pass. Here is another sign that Christ is coming. Oh yes, all of this affects our wallets, too. All of this eats away at our own comforts and extras. It is a labor pain that hurts. But we see it for what it is: another event in the nations that God is using to bring about the return of Christ.
But the question is: How is this a sign? We cannot just say it is a sign and then let it go at that. Then it means nothing. What makes this economic imbalance in society a sign that actually brings about Christ’s coming?
In this connection, we must notice that the running of the four horsemen of Revelation 6 does not refer to future events that are yet to take place. The signs of Christ’s coming that they represent are not signs that will happen immediately before Christ appears and at no other time in history. Rather, these horses have been let loose at the time of Christ’s ascension into heaven. Christ sends out the four horsemen. So, the economic problems and extremes that are symbolized here in this black horse are problems that have risen in the past. But neither has this black horse and his rider stopped running. The black horse still runs. He will run until the very time of the second coming of Christ. The economic imbalance in society is something that has taken place repeatedly in the past, just as today, and will continue in the future too.
Just a superficial study of history reveals this to us. Certainly those who are students in school ought to remember some facts about the Medieval period from their studies. The division between the rich and the poor was a prominent feature of the Middle Ages. Economics was defined by feudalism. There were powerful and wealthy lords who owned huge estates and were able to defend themselves from others by means of a small army of knights. The peasant was not able to defend himself, so he became a serf to the lord of the land. He worked for the lord for free, in exchange for protection for his little parcel of land.
These conditions prevailed until the time of the Renaissance, when the poor rebelled against their lords. This was the cause of the French Revolution, as well as of other revolutions, including, somewhat, the American Revolution. As a result, a working middle class emerged. And this is what has made the United States and similar countries so powerful.
I know that this is putting history in a very simplistic, uncomplicated way. More was involved in all of this. But here is the point. Though there are times of prosperity in the world and the economies of the world, these are passing things. Think of the Great Depression that hit our country. Think of the recession that we experienced a few decades ago. Think of what is happening to our economy right now. There is always going to be economic instability, causing the rich to grow richer and the poor poorer.
This, too, is a cause of agitation in this world. There is prejudice. There is tension between the classes of people. Who knows what the black horse and his horseman have in store for us in the near future?
But we can be sure that the more our world is headed toward a global economy, the more the economy of the whole world is going to stand or fall together. We see, even in the foreign markets of today, how much our economy affects that of other countries. The only way to fix a failing and troubled economy, it seems, is to develop a world economy. A world economy can be controlled only by a worldwide kingdom. And this is how economic imbalance serves as a sign of Christ’s coming.
A global economy will come under the rule and government of the Antichrist. That this is going to be the case is evident from Revelation 13:16, 17, which reads: “And he [that is, the Antichrist] causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” The Antichrist will be able to solve the imbalance in the economy by controlling the wealth of everyone in this world.
The Antichrist will control the economy by means of a mark on people’s foreheads or on their right hands. Now, whether this is literal or not is a question. But we well know that already now technology is so advanced that it is not hard for the bank or the government to control a person’s income and use his money. When the Antichrist reigns, there will be a brief time of economic stability. I say a brief time, because God is going to cut short that kingdom of the Antichrist. The economy of his kingdom will soon be plagued by the imbalance of money and riches. As long as sin is in this world, unbelieving man will not overcome its problems. Not a bad economy, either. There is no peace, saith our God, to the wicked.
During this short reign of Antichrist, the believer, the small remnant according to grace that is left in this world, will be persecuted by the Antichrist. That persecution will take place by means of the Antichrist’s control of the economy. The believer will no longer be able to buy or to sell in his kingdom. He will become financially destitute. All around him he will see prosperity. But he will have a hard time eking out a living for himself in this world. The Antichrist will make him a social outcast who is nothing more than a serf to others around him because he will refuse to take on himself the mark of the beast.
So, the economy, people of God, plays an important role in the development of the Antichrist, in the persecution of the church, and, therefore, in the return of Christ. Here is a clear harbinger that announces to you and me: “Christ is coming.”
That will be the true test of faith, will it not? Will we become so set on the treasures and pleasures of this world that we will be willing to denounce the kingdom of Christ to follow the Antichrist?
Are you preparing yourselves for Christ’s coming right now? Are you using your money and what it buys to lay up in store riches in heaven? There are so many Christians who are not watching for Christ’s return. They squander everything that they earn. They spend money faster than they can make it. They are so caught up in the instant gratification of this world that they cannot say “no” to what they want and desire.
These are not preparing themselves right now for the coming of Jesus Christ. When we see the sign of Christ’s coming through spiritual eyes, then the warning rings out to us: “Watch! Prepare! The sign is there. Do not ignore it.”
At times we can despair when we see the economic upheaval that takes place in our society. The economy touches every one of us, after all. Sometimes we can become panicky. What will become of us and our children? Will I be able to provide that which is necessary for my family? But in this all, we must not fear. Christ is in control of everything.
This sign of Christ’s coming is symbolized by a horse. The horse is a powerful creature, not only brave, but also vehement in battle. This sign runs its course in the history of the world and no one can stop it. But this horse is controlled by its rider. The horse does not run wild. This is a sign—controlled in all of its details by the rider. And the rider is controlled by Christ! Christ sits on His throne and sends out the rider and he runs. The horse and his rider follow the divine direction of Jesus Christ Himself. Christ directs everything that happens in our economy to bring about His return.
Oh, yes, by means of this sign the Antichrist will gain control over the kingdoms of the earth. Because of this sign we will be persecuted. But all exactly according to the will of the One who has saved us from our sin. In other words, Christ is on our side. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If God is for us, then this sign, too, is for us.
Let us pray.
Father in heaven, again we come unto Thee, thanking Thee that Thou hast given us eyes to see and hearts to understand the things of the kingdom of heaven. We are thankful that we can see even this as a sign of the coming of Jesus Christ. When we see even the economy collapse about us we know that all things are secure so long as we rest in our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ. Teach us to trust in Him and in Him alone. And bless us in Thy grace. Strengthen us for today and tomorrow. We ask this for Jesus’ sake, Amen.
Rev. Wilbur G. Bruinsma (Wife: Mary)
Ordained: October 1978
Pastorates: Faith, Jenison, MI - 1978; Missionary to Jamaica - 1984; First, Holland, MI - 1989; Kalamazoo, MI - 1996; Eastern Home Missionary - 2006; Pittsburgh PRC - 2016.Website: www.prcpittsburgh.org/
Address216 Thornberry Dr.
State or ProvincePennsylvania