Can I ask you something?
What do you honestly expect to get out of reading these visions of heavenly seals and apocalyptic horsemen? Are you one of those people who think these verses will help you interpret CNN? Do you believe there are clues here about the blueprint of the future?
If not—great!—but if so…why?
Clearly no one imagines that there will be a literal collection of demonic horsemen riding through town like Clint Eastwood’s scary friends. We all know these horsemen represent something. Almost unilaterally biblical scholars agree that these riders represent conquest, violence, economic hardship, and death. But I confess that I’m puzzled as to why people are always looking to uncover who these horsemen ‘really are.’ After all, when has there ever been a season in human history in which conquest, violence, economic hardship and death were not glaring fixtures? These “horsemen” are always present. Since Cain murdered Abel, and David conquered Jerusalem; since the widow gave up her two mites and the thieves expired beside Christ on the cross—these things have always been prevalent in the human condition, and always will be.
And maybe that’s the point. Rather than trying to figure out whether the red horse is a nuclear threat from the Orient, maybe we’re better off simply acknowledging that any time we choose to live according to the principles of power (war, violence, economy, death), we are simultaneously choosing to live contrary to the Lamb. And—whereas the sacrifice of the Lamb gives life—these manifestations of earthly power rob us of life. The horsemen, then, represent the inevitable consequences of people who try and rule the world in opposition to God.
If ambition leads to conquest, and hate leads to violence, and greed leads to oppression, and recklessness leads to death…shouldn’t we be cautious about our own ambitions, hate, greed, and careless disregard on a small scale?
Shouldn’t we learn how to live like we’re not trying to self-destruct?