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"Then Is Finished The Mystery Of God"



Chapter 4

The Opening of Seals Two, Three and Four

Revelation 6:2-8

HOW DO we humans know that "the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah" came into his heavenly kingdom in the year 1914 and that he has since been riding to ultimate conquest over all his enemies on earth at the symbolic battlefield of Armageddon? What visual evidence of this event that takes place in the invisible heavens do we have, what experiences have we had in this world, to prove these highly important things? We have the proof in the modern-day fulfillment of the things that the apostle John saw in vision at the opening of the remaining seals of the mysterious scroll. The same individual, Jesus Christ, who breaks the seven seals in heaven is also the one who, when on earth as a perfect man, provided the needed information. He foretold the visible, tangible evidences that would present themselves on earth to prove that he was invisibly present in his heavenly kingdom and was giving his attention to all his royal interests here on earth. Do the things brought to view at the opening of the other seals agree with what he foretold on earth before his sacrifice as the Lamb of God? What did he foretell back there in the year 33 C.E., about sixty-three years before sending the Revelation to John?

Four of his apostles called forth from him the prophecy of world events and conditions that were to come after the Gentile Times ended in 1914. The apostle Matthew reports the question that they put to Jesus Christ in these words: "When will these things be,

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and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?" (Matthew 24:3) The disciple Mark frames the question in these words: "When will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are destined to come to a conclusion?" (Mark 13:1-4) The disciple Luke words the question similarly: "When will these things actually be, and what will be the sign when these things are destined to occur?" (Luke 21:7) Was there some "sign" that would immediately precede the terrible destruction that he foretold, a "sign" that also betokened his invisible arrival and presence in spirit form? He had not personally set a date for it by referring to the Bible's timetable or chronology. And so that "sign" would be just as much of an alarm clock as a fixed date, if not more so.

The apostles did not ask for the wrong thing, but they did not realize the full coverage of their question. But Jesus knew all that the question embraced in type and antitype. Hence he first gave them the prophecy that applied to the time of his sitting at the right hand of God in heaven down till the destruction of earthly Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E., to serve as a type of larger things of that kind to come. The future larger things, the antitypical things, would follow the same pattern, so that his prophecy concerning the type would also apply to the antitype. Looked at from this standpoint, the doomed unfaithful Jerusalem and province of Judea pictured Christendom, the unfaithful spiritual Israel. — Luke 21:20-24; Matthew 24:15-22; Mark 13:14-20.

Accordingly, when we make the antitypical application and keep Christendom and her worldly neighbors in view, the prophetic words of Jesus take on a twentieth-century meaning, when he said: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another pestilences and food shortages; and there will be fearful sights and from heaven great signs." (Luke 21:10, 11) Well, now, what stage of the signifi-

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cant world events would those things mark? Would they mark the start of the period of time that Jesus' apostles spoke of as the "conclusion of the system of things"? The start of the "time of the end"? — Daniel 12:4.

Yes, for, according to the account in Matthew 24: 7, 8, Jesus explained what part of the world's distress those things were, when he said: "For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another. ALL THESE THINGS ARE A BEGINNING OF PANGS OF DISTRESS." Thus the world's "pangs of distress" would first express themselves in the form of the rising of nation against nation and of kingdom against kingdom, that is, in warfare, and famines or food shortages, earthquakes and pestilences. These things, in close combination, appear to threaten the existence of the old "system of things," and yet the complete end of that "system of things" does not occur at that point of time and at that perilous development of world affairs.

Rather, all those distressing things would be only the start, the "beginning" of the system's "pangs of distress." Viewing them from this standpoint, the disciples of Jesus Christ would understand that such distressing things were merely the forerunner of the complete end of the "system of things"; they were the opening phase of the "conclusion of the system of things."

It is true that a "system of things" — with special regard to the natural circumcised Jews — did end in the year 70 C.E., at the destruction of Jerusalem and her temple of worship. Jesus had just previously foretold that disastrous event in the hearing of his disciples. Hence it appears that the four apostles were directly seeking advance information with reference to this. In line with their thinking Jesus did answer their question, and in doing so he spoke of the destruction of the literal city of Jerusalem, in Matthew 24: 15-20; Mark 13:14-18; Luke 21:20-24. What Jesus,

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in the verses preceding this, prophesied would come before Jerusalem's destruction doubtless did come true in the years from 33 C.E. down to 70 C.E., as the history of those times will show.

Yet we must remember that the unfaithful doomed Jerusalem of Jesus' day had a prophetic significance, that is, a typical meaning. What happened to this capital city of natural Israel was in itself prophetic, typical, of what was later to happen to the religious organization of unfaithful spiritual Israel, as pictured by literal Jerusalem. Accordingly, the things that Jesus predicted were to happen before Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E. were also, in themselves, prophetic of what would happen on earth down till the antitypical Jerusalem, the unfaithful spiritual Israel (Christendom) is destroyed in the near future. Just as the destruction of unfaithful Jerusalem and her temple marked the end of a "system of things," so, too, the destruction of antitypical Jerusalem, unfaithful spiritual Israel (Christendom), would mark the close of a long-standing "system of things." This understanding of Jesus' prophecy is bolstered up by what the apostle John saw take place after the crowned Rider on the white horse went forth with his bow "conquering and to complete his conquest." — Revelation 6:1, 2.

What the apostle John saw after the Lamb Jesus Christ opened the first seal starts off the "conclusion of the system of things," for the vision of the first seal comes true after the end of the Gentile Times in 1914. Does the breaking of the other seals furnish the proof of this? Yes!

Let us look, now, as the apostle John watches the vision of the Lamb of God breaking the seals of the mysterious scroll: "And when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say: 'Come!' And another came forth, a fiery-colored horse; and to the one seated upon it there was granted to take peace away from the earth so that they should slaugh-

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ter one another; and a great sword was given him."  — Revelation 6:3, 4.

THE HORSEMAN ON THE FIERY-COLORED HORSE

The "living creature" that the apostle John heard inviting him to come and see the next tableau was the second living creature, the one "like a young bull," that one that specially displayed divine power. (Revelation 4:7) The divine power, which is all-powerful, could have prevented what took place in fulfillment of this vision disclosed by breaking the second seal. But it was the purpose of Almighty God to let the earthly nations and kingdoms show what action they would take when the Rider on the white horse was crowned and rode forth according to God's will. Would they peacefully receive him or not? What did John see?

The horse that John now saw come forth was "fiery-colored," flame-colored, red like blood. Its color suggested blood! Very appropriately so, because it fitted in with the mission on which the horse's rider rode, namely, "so that they should slaughter one another." Besides this, since it was granted to the rider "to take peace away from the earth," what could this mean but war, bloody war? So, then, when the Gentile Times ended in 1914 and the Rider on the white horse did ride forth, was this event marked by bloody war?

Yes, world war, the first world war of human history! By October 5, 1914 (the middle of the seventh Jewish lunar month, Tishri 15), the Gentile Times had ended in that year, and by that time there were nine nations and empires involved in war, and it was really a world war. Many more nations entered the war after that date, till finally twenty-eight were involved. With good reason the vision to John showed that to the rider on the fiery-colored horse a "great sword" (a symbol of war) was given. Indeed, the quantity and size of carnal weapons employed in that first world war were the largest up till that time in all human history, airplanes and armored tanks now coming into use in warfare.

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With such a "great sword" a great slaughter could be made of humankind, making the earth run red with blood. And indeed more than 8,500,000 were killed, not to speak of the more than 21,000,000 wounded casualties and the millions of missing persons. More than 45,000,000 armed forces were mobilized, and they did "slaughter one another." And with twenty-eight nations and empires taking part in the conflict, it was truly, as Jesus Christ foretold, a case of nation arising against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and this with total mobilization of each nation. Some nations were able to remain neutral, but they were in great uncertainty, so that to that symbolic rider of the fiery-colored horse it was in real fact "granted to take peace away from the earth."

When World War I ended on November 11, 1918, world peace was not really restored to surviving mankind. The establishment of a League of Nations for world peace and security was incorporated into the peace treaty that was eventually signed. However, this League failed to preserve the peace and security indefinitely, and World War II broke out on September 1, 1939, to right the wrongs and to settle the problems that had been left by the peace agreement after World War I. If he had ever dismounted, the rider of that fiery-red horse was riding again, and his "great sword" took an unheard-of toll of 56,000,000 victims. Culminating in the explosion of the first two atomic bombs used in warfare, World War II left the world of mankind in worse fear and danger than ever before. The now dead League of Nations was replaced by a new international pact for world peace and security, namely, the United Nations, which went into force October 24, 1945. But has even this vaster organization, with 126 member nations as of this writing, restored world peace or removed the threat of world war? Let history records to date answer.

The crowned rider, with a bow, astride the white horse had nothing in common with the rider on the fiery-colored horse. The crowned rider of the white

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horse took no part in World War I, which was started by the second horseman armed with the "great sword." In fact, the first horseman on the white horse held back from at once following up World War I with the 'battle of Armageddon,' as many students of Bible prophecy then expected. (Revelation 16:14, 16) However, the ride of the second horseman on his fiery-colored mount was a very painful proof that the first horseman riding crowned on the white horse had truly been made king in the heavens at the close of the Gentile Times early in October of 1914.

Was this, though, the only proof that the first horseman, the Lord Jesus Christ, had been crowned king in the heavens at God's appointed time in 1914? Jesus Christ, when on earth as a man, had predicted more proofs. And there were more proofs that did come. That is why, in the apocalyptic vision to the apostle John, the Lamb of God broke more seals of the mysterious scroll. What proof, if any, did the breaking of the third seal bring to view? What did you see, John? He answers in Revelation 6:5, 6:

"And when he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say: 'Come!' And I saw, and, look! a black horse; and the one seated upon it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice as if in the midst of the four living creatures say: 'A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the olive oil and the wine' "

THE HORSEMAN ON THE BLACK HORSE

Whose voice was it that invited the apostle John to come and look at this tableau? The third living creature, the one that had "a face like a man's." (Revelation 4:7) Correspondingly, what it led John to see was something to stir human compassion, famine, black famine. The horseman that John now saw was on a black horse. He followed the second horseman to whom it was granted to take away peace from the earth by the "great sword" of world war.

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Famine is a common aftermath of war. Repeatedly God's prophetic Word combines famine and war with its sieges of cities, its destruction of growing crops, its converting of implements of peaceful agriculture into unproductive weapons of war, its greedy appropriation of abandoned crops by invading armies. (Isaiah 51:19; Jeremiah 14:12-18; 16:4; 21:7, 9; 44: 12-27; Ezekiel 6:11, 12; 12:16) Over sixty years before sending the Revelation to John, Jesus Christ had foretold famines or food shortages along with gory war. (Matthew 24:7) In the Revelation he stuck to that prophecy in its antitypical sense.

Yet, how do we know that the third horseman, the one on the black horse, represents famine, food shortage? Well, look at what he has in his hand, a pair of scales! And listen to the comment made on this that seemed to come forth from all four living creatures and that showed agreement among them, namely, "a quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius"! Those were really famine prices, for in the apostle John's day a Roman denarius was the day's wage for a worker who toiled for twelve hours. (Matthew 20:1-12) So the famine price meant a whole day's wage for enough wheat to sustain just one man a day, with no more for any dependents of his. Barley, a less substantial food and which was then the common food of the poor people, sold cheaper, but still at a price that compared with that of the wheat. — 2 Kings 7:16, 17.

Not only were measures of staple foodstuffs to be high, but, because of the food shortage, the foodstuffs were to be weighed out, rationed, to allow for equal distribution and to prevent overconsumption of available food supplies. The black foreboding picture was enough to remind the apostle John of the famine prophecy of Ezekiel 4:10, 16: "Your food that you will eat will be by weight — twenty shekels a day. . . . and they will have to eat bread by weight and in anxious care, and it will be by measure and in horror that they will drink water itself." Necessarily the

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"pair of scales" of the third horseman on the black horse had to be used to control the consumption of food stocks, if any.

Not only were the poor to be affected by the famine or food shortage, but also the well-to-do people. This was suggested by the command coming from amidst the four living creatures: "And do not harm the olive oil and the wine." This might sound like a command to protect the luxuries of the rich people and discriminate in favor of them because they had the money with which to buy, even at high prices. But the command from the living creatures appears to be a control proclamation. It meant that the famine victims should not draw too heavily at a time on the available olive oil and wine, because the supplies of these also would be limited.

By drawing too heavily upon them at the start of the famine, the quantity of olive oil and wine would be 'harmed,' not leaving enough for future needs before the famine was over. The effect was that even the people with the money would be limited as to the amount of olive oil and wine they could enjoy at a time. So the famine would affect all people without regard for class distinction, social standing or financial means.

After the outbreak of World War I and the ending of the Gentile Times in 1914, this is exactly what happened. For victory at the battlefront the civilian population behind had to make their contributions and sacrifices. The nations involved in the world conflict had to be totally mobilized. With more attention on successful warfare and less attention on agriculture, and with transportation and communications being interfered with or endangered, food supplies came into high demand. Persons still living today who went through World War I do not forget the measuring out or rationing of various foods, even cows' milk for babies coming under control. In certain countries right

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in the theater of the war the food shortage became desperate.*

To illustrate the food situation to which peoples were reduced by World War I, let us pull out of our archives the British dispatch of March 7, 1919, which was published throughout the earth and which read: "George H. Roberts, the food minister, said today that he could state on absolutely unimpeachable authority that the situation with regard to food conditions in great areas of Europe was nothing less than tragic. 'It is not too much to say that Roumania is starving, that Serbia is starving, that Austria is starving and that Germany is starving,' he declared. 'Ever since the armistice was signed the Allies have been doing what they could to relieve the situation, and food is being sent to all the countries that I have named. But it is not enough, and the question now arises whether we shall be able to get sufficient food to those countries in time to prevent a catastrophe.'" In the following year (1920) in the famine that still persisted, there were 255,000,000 that were affected. This does not take into account the millions that were affected by food shortages in other large areas of the world, in Asia, and so forth.

At the end of World War I practically all of Europe was on the verge of starvation and calling for relief from victorious America. This famine-stricken condition in particular was part of the proof that Jesus Christ foretold, indicating that he had been crowned king in the heavens and was present in his kingdom. But he had foretold even more proof. Would his opening of further seals of the mysterious scroll corroborate this to the onlooking apostle John? Yes. There is another horseman that must ride forth.

"And," writes the apostle John, "when he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say: 'Come!' And I saw, and, look! a pale


* See in the issue of The Watch Tower, dated February 1, 1918, the leading article entitled "Views from the Watch Tower," paragraph 5 on page 35 down to and including the six paragraphs under the subheading "The Evil Arrows of Famine," on page 37.
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horse; and the one seated upon it had the name Death. And Ha'des was closely following him. And authority was given them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with a long sword and with food shortage and with deadly plague and by the wild beasts of the earth." — Revelation 6:7, 8.

THE HORSEMAN ON THE PALE HORSE

The fourth living creature that the apostle John had seen was "like a flying eagle." (Revelation 4:7) This cherubic living creature featured the farsighted, swiftly moving wisdom of the Almighty God Jehovah. This living creature's invitation to John at the opening of the fourth seal for John to come and see was very fitting, for God's wisdom had already, like an eagle, foreseen long previous what was prefigured when the fourth seal was broken in order to open up its section of the mysterious scroll.

A fourth figurative horseman dashes onto the scene of world affairs. His horse is yellowish pale, livid, sickly-looking in color. What a good match its color was to the name of its rider, whose name is Death! But this is not just ordinary death, which results from the sin of mankind's first earthly parents, Adam and Eve. (Romans 5:12) This is a premature death, due to a stated number of special causes, which are later named, these hastening the death of those who would have at last died of death inherited from the first Adam. It brings its victims earlier than ordinarily into the embrace of the one who is, in the Bible, a close associate with death. Who is that? What does the vision show?

Is it Gehenna? Or "the fiery lake that burns with sulphur"? Gehenna or this "fiery lake" symbolizes "the second death" or everlasting destruction out of all existence. (Matthew 10:28; Mark 9:43-47; Revelation 19:20; 20:14, 15) Ah, no, but the symbolic rider Death was accompanied by Ha'des. As the apostle John says, "its rider's name was Death, and Ha'des came close behind." (Revelation 6:8, NEB) Whether

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Ha'des was also upon a horse or was on foot is not stated, although for Ha'des to keep up with Death on horseback a person would imagine Ha'des also to be on a horse. Says one noted Bible commentator: "... kept step with death, whether on the same horse or on another horse by his side or on foot John does not say."* At any rate, Ha'des overtakes those who are victimized by the fourth horseman, Death. These poor victims are not everlastingly destroyed. They go to a place for which there are keys to let the inmates out.

Even Jesus, dying on a stake outside Jerusalem, went to Ha'des, and Almighty God Jehovah used the key and let his Son out on the third day. (Acts 2: 27-32) And now the keys to Ha'des have been given to the resurrected Jesus Christ, so that he can now say triumphantly: "I became dead, but, look! I am living forever and ever, and I have the keys of death and of Ha'des." — Revelation 1:18.

What a hope these facts offer! Those brought down to Ha'des by the fourth horseman Death will, like Jesus Christ, have a resurrection from the dead. The Ha'des to which they go and to which Jesus Christ went is not the mythical Ha'des of the pagan Greeks of ancient times, but is the common grave of mankind. There they sleep in death, awaiting a resurrection that is guaranteed to them. How so? Because, as we are assured in 1 Corinthians 15:20, "now Christ has been raised up from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep in death." — Acts 17:31.

Those brought down to Ha'des by the fourth horseman Death were to be many. Imagine people in the fourth part of the earth being killed off. That might mean the killing off of a fourth of the world's population at the time, this depending upon how thickly populated that fourth part of the earth happened to be.

Well, concerning the fourth horseman and his companion Ha'des it is stated: "And authority was given them over the fourth part of the earth." (Revelation


* Quoted from pages 342, 343 of Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume 6, by A. T. Robertson, edition of 1933.
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6:8) No particular "fourth part" or quarter of the earth is named, but the thought is that a population that could occupy a quarter of the earth would be threatened with Death and Ha'des. In other words, not all the world's population at the time would be killed off, nor even the larger part of it, but only a large fraction of it. There would be survivors of this ride by the fourth horseman Death accompanied by Ha'des. Yet it was to be something out of the ordinary, something that would be an added proof of the fact that the first horseman, Jesus Christ, had been crowned and had begun to ride victoriously since the close of the Gentile Times in 1914 C.E.

How, though, was the fourth horseman Death to bring down his numerous victims to Ha'des? Revelation 6:8 goes on to tell us, saying: "To kill with a long sword and with food shortage and with deadly plague and by the wild beasts of the earth."

Four disastrous means are mentioned. What a terrible corpse-strewn appearance of the earth the letting loose of those four destructive forces could produce! Those four terrors remind us of the four expressions of judgment that Jehovah God brought upon unfaithful Jerusalem in the seventh century before our Common Era. "For this is what the Lord Jehovah has said, 'So, too, it will be when there will be my four injurious acts of judgment — sword and famine and injurious wild beast and pestilence — that I shall actually send upon Jerusalem in order to cut off from it earthling man and domestic animal.'" (Ezekiel 14: 21) Some thousands of inhabitants of Jerusalem and the land of Judah survived those four expressions of divine judgment, but these were deported to far-off Babylon, and Jerusalem and Judah lay desolate without man and domestic animal for seventy years, from 607 B.C.E, to 537 B.C.E.

Back there in 607 B.C.E, after the desolation of Judah and Jerusalem the Gentile Times began. But in 1914 C.E. those Gentile Times of 2,520 years of duration ended. Then the four horsemen began to

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ride. To a horrifying extent the fourth horseman astride his pale horse rode up and down through the earth, laying low victims by the millions to feed Ha'des. There was (1) the "long sword" of world war, to be followed by other wars, minor ones and even a second world war. There was (2) the "food shortage," with never again an improvement in the world's food situation to follow. There was (3) the "deadly plague," or, literally, "death." Jesus had foretold "in one place after another pestilences." (Luke 21:10, 11) At the due time they came, and they spelled "death" to millions. In 1918 an influenza with great killing power was first noted in Spain, for which reason it was called "Spanish influenza." It spread, not only to the nations involved in World War I, but to all nations of the earth, even to the Eskimos of the far north. It raged through the winter of 1918-1919, and proved to be "one of the most devastating plagues of all time." In a few months it put 200,000,000 persons in beds of sickness, and in twelve months it fed 20,000,000 victims into Ha'des or Sheol, the common grave of mankind.

Not only were people to be put to death by beastly men and nations engaged in modern warfare, but they were to be set upon by (4) literal "wild beasts of the earth" and killed. To the fourth horseman and his ghastly companion Ha'des authority was to be given "to kill . . . by the wild beasts of the earth." The devastation of human communities by the widespread warfare, famine and pestilence would certainly have an effect on the wild animal life of the countries affected. (Exodus 23:29) Reasonably it would lead to the multiplication of these wild beasts so that, hunger-crazed, they would become a menace to human life in many areas. Many were reported killed by wild animal packs or by individual man-eaters. All this added to the massive harvest reaped by the fourth horseman Death at the very beginning of the "time of the end" of this human system of things.

Thus, as in the case of the four divine judgments

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upon ancient Jerusalem, the four destructive elements of war (the "long sword"), famine ("food shortage"),


"deadly plague" or "pestilence" and "wild beasts of the earth" did their terrible work both before the Gentile Times began in 607 B.C.E, and immediately after they ended in 1914 C.E., just as foretold. All this latter calamity came as the result of the riding of the rider of the fiery-colored horse, the rider of the black horse, and the rider of the pale horse.

Thus far, in the vision to the apostle John, only four seals have been opened, and they have revealed incontestable evidence of the fact that the first horseman, the Rider of the white horse, is riding crowned as king and with his bow in hand, "conquering and to complete his conquest." Will the opening of the fifth seal add to the evidence of this glorious fact? Hear now what John tells us.



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