For Reflection: If the first four seals are viewed as God’s warning of what sin can cause, what is the message about the urgency of sharing the gospel, of repentance (change of direction) at a significant scale, and of loving our sisters and brothers as ourselves - wherever they are? Where is God calling you to be the change you want to see in the world?
I am taking author’s privilege to make comment about this vision as a scientist. The breaking of each of the first four seals releases one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Consistent with the Biblical character of God, I believe the four horsemen to be a warning of preventable catastrophes that humans (rider) and their technologies (horses) may bring on humankind as a whole – at a global level. These include conquest (war); removal of peace (civil unrest); unjust economy with inflation; and famine, pestilence, and wild beasts.
Consistent with John’s vision, Jesus foretold a time of wars, famines, earthquakes, and persecution of Christians. Every century someone sees four horsemen. There have been hundreds of predictions of the end of the world. So many, in fact, that a book has been written on the subject: A History of the End of the World by Yuri Rubinsky and Ian Wiseman (1982). As you may have guessed, none of the predictions have yet been right.
Scientists now “see” four horsemen and, for the first time in recorded history, each horseman, astride the product of man’s progress, arrives with the power to impact the entire Earth. In Scientific American (September 2010) an article appeared: “Risk Analysis: laying odds on the apocalypse.” One important note: prior to the industrial revolution, the odds of all of the human-caused apocalyptic events at a global level had a probability of zero. Now global nuclear war with extensive devastation within hours is possible. Runaway global warming was given one in two odds in the next 200 years. Global warming is one factor among several that makes famine and increased food insecurity a likely outcome. A killer pandemic was given a one in two odds in the next 30 years. A decade after the article, we see the potential impact of social media on civil unrest globally, and the potential for global economic inflation and disruption.
Matthew 24:4-8; 36; 42
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The Seven Seals
6 Then I saw the Lamb break one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures call out, as with a voice of thunder, “Come!”[a] 2 I looked, and there was a white horse! Its rider had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering and to conquer.
3 When he broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature call out, “Come!”[b] 4 And out came[c] another horse, bright red; its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another, and he was given a great sword.
5 When he broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature call out, “Come!”[d] I looked, and there was a black horse! Its rider held a pair of scales in his hand, 6 and I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s pay[e] and three quarts of barley for a day’s pay,[f] but do not damage the olive oil and the wine!”
7 When he broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature call out, “Come!”[g] 8 I looked, and there was a pale green horse! Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence and by the wild animals of the earth.
9 When he broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given; 10 they cried out with a loud voice, “Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” 11 They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed.
12 When he broke the sixth seal, I looked, and there was a great earthquake; the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree drops its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the magnates and the generals and the rich and the powerful and everyone, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their[h] wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”