In Part One, I proposed a question: “To which time, era or age, do the Seal Judgments belong? Do they belong to the first half of the seven years of the Day of the Lord only? Or, could they belong to the period of time we know as the Church Age? There are really only these two options. Answering this question correctly, which we will attempt to do in this series of articles, will completely alter our view and the timing of events in the Book of Revelation.
As Revelation 6 opens, it is Jesus, the Lamb of God who had just made His appearance in God’s throne room at the end of chapter 5, after having been slain and victoriously resurrected from the dead, who took the seven-sealed scroll from the hand of the Father. It was not thousands of years after Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father that He took the scroll and began to open its seals at the beginning of chapter 6. The beloved Apostle John, at the age of 90-95 or so when he wrote the Apocalypse, was taken back several decades to the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension—to the time when this throne room scene actually happened. He then watched as Jesus opened the seals and the four powerful Living Beings surrounding the throne gave the orders and sent the four Riders on their mission. Let’s examine these phantom riders to see what they were about.
First Seal: Spirit of Religious Domination and Deception–Revelation 6:1-2
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.
Usually in Scripture, the color white is used in a positive way—or at least in a neutral way. The original Greek word was used as a descriptor of heavenly clothing, heavenly horses, and even the hair on Jesus’ head. One would think—and many have, that because the first apocalyptic horse making his appearance with his rider is white, that there must be a positive association intended. There are those who have taught that this is symbolic of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost as in Acts 2 as He empowers the Church to bring about the kingdom of God on the earth. Others have taught that this is Jesus Christ Himself riding on the white horse.
What is the Rider’s crown all about with his mission to conquer? Is this White Horse Rider sent to reprove the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and take the kingdom of God by force? How does that fit with commands we are given in God’s Word to overcome by faith, as we find in 1 John 2:13-14 and 5:4-5?
The other three riders on their horses represent negative events. It hardly seems logical that the first rider has a positive purpose, especially in light of the fact that Jesus Himself comes riding a White Horse in Revelation 19, when He comes to set up His millennial kingdom. The Red and Pale Green horse Riders are granted a crown—earthly conquering authority. God would not need to grant Himself permission to pour out the Gift of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus did warn that His name would be used for false pretenses after He left and on through to the end of the age. Jesus never taught the use of force in order to conquer men into becoming disciples—although, that is exactly what we will see false religion has done since the very beginning of the Church Age. The Great Commission does not read that way. Men need to make this decision by their own free will and choice.
The Spirit of Religious Domination
It is called the spirit of antichrist—a conquering spirit going forth all around the world of men, using a religious system and the name of Jesus Christ, with the intent of controlling and dominating the masses. The agenda of domination is further shown by the symbols of the bow and the crown. It must be remembered that these Riders are not in any way human. They are spirit entities with an agenda to carry out upon the earth.
The Apostles had to deal with demonically inspired false doctrines from the very beginning of the Church being instituted.
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. 1 John 4:1-3 (emphasis mine)
For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 2 John vs 7
John was defending true Christianity against Gnosticism, a heresy that had its roots in the teachings of Greek philosophers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the like. Gnosticism had already gotten a foothold into Christianity in the first century. Below is an example of what the belief system taught:
“All matter in the physical world is evil. All things spiritual are good. Only a few receive revelations of secret knowledge, who are then served by those who do not have the intuitive wherewithal to receive…”
Early Gnostic thought taught that Jesus Christ’s physical body was only an illusion—as was His crucifixion and resurrection. Greek philosophy taught against the resurrection of the physical body because they believed that once a person’s evil body died, their good spirit was free to roam the universe. Paul had to address this in Corinth. Gnosticism was the source of a variety of false doctrines in the early church. 1 Corinthians 15:12-14
12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ was not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.
History shows that after the worst of the persecution by the Roman Emperors started to die down, church fathers were able to begin dealing with some of the issues that had come up due to the infiltration of the Gnostics. By then, serious problems had risen within the Church. It was due to some of the writings against these heresies that led to the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church, with the Papacy centered in Rome. It was John that pointed out that the spirit of antichrist began in the first century by bringing gnostic teachings into the Church.
For anyone that takes the time to study history from the first century to the present, it becomes quite clear how this conquering, dominating spirit in the earth used Christianity to introduce pagan influences and heretical doctrines into an institutionalized, corporate church.
Although this spirit of antichrist first showed its true nature with gnostic teaching, any religion, organization, hierarchy, or denomination that uses the name of Jesus Christ, Christianity, or the gospel to force, coerce, or brainwash its followers is being led by the spirit of antichrist and religious domination symbolized within the First Seal. This antichrist spirit has only become stronger since it began 2,000 years ago, especially since the early 19th century.
Below is a quote by author David W. Lowe in his excellent book, Then His Voice Shook The Earth.
“Constantine, when he arrived on the scene, brought great changes to the Roman Empire. He revolted against Rome and took his power to Byzantium, later renamed Constantinople. Between him, representing the eastern half of the Roman Empire, and Licinius of the western half, the edict of Milan brought an end to the severe persecution of the Christian Church. But, it also served to incorporate the worship of Greek and Roman gods into Christianity. Later, Emperor Theodosius decreed Catholic Christianity to be the State religion, ordering people to be labeled Catholics and judging those, who fell outside their parameters as raving mad and worthy of whatever punishment the Roman Catholic Church could devise. The result of the edict of Milan and Theolosian decrees were forced conversions of pagans, causing churches to be filled with false converts. With the split of the Roman Empire from Rome by Constantine and others from the Western Branch, the bishops of Rome established the papal hierarchy, ruled by an earthly priesthood of bishops, cardinals, priests, and other ministers, with the Pontifex Maximus at the head, the Pope.”
Today, the papal system within the Roman Catholic Church, the largest and most powerful religious system on earth, still demonstrates the work of the same dominating spirit that has continued operating throughout the entire Church Age. The history of the papacy is laced with the persecution of anyone who disagreed with the accepted teachings of the Roman Church, especially true Christianity that was forced to go underground.
In Dave Hunt’s well documented book, A Woman Rides The Beast, I found this quote::
“Every citizen in the empire was required to be a Roman Catholic. Failure to give wholehearted allegiance to the pope was considered treason against the state punishable by death. Here was the basis for slaughtering millions. As Islam would be a few centuries later, a paganized Christianity was imposed upon the entire populace of Europe under the threat of torture and death.
Thus Roman Catholicism became “the most persecuting faith the world has ever seen…(commanding) the throne to impose the Christian (Catholic) religion on all its subjects. Innocent III murdered far more Christians in one afternoon…than any Roman emperor did in his entire reign.” Pg. 243
Citing historical examples are troubling to the mind and heart, but history is rife with the historical proven evidence. A couple historical quotes are necessary at this point to confirm the work of the First Seal ‘dominating spirit.’
“I glorify you for having maintained your authority by putting to death those wandering sheep who refuse to enter the fold; and…congratulate you upon having opened the kingdom of heaven to the people submitted to your rule. A king need not fear to command massacres, when these will retain his subjects in obedience, or cause them to submit to the faith of Christ; and God will reward him in this world, and in eternal life, for these murders.” (Pope Nicholas I, 858-867 AD, when encouraging the King of Bulgaria to force Roman Catholicism on his subjects)
“While there is still time, then, turn your forces against Bohemia; burn, massacre, make deserts everywhere, for nothing could be more agreeable to God, or more useful to the cause of kings, than the extermination of the Hussites.” (Pope Martin V, 1417-1431 AD, who commanded the King of Poland to massacre the Hussites, who resisted in honor of Jan Hus, a martyr)
Note this quote by Will Durant, American writer, historian, and philosopher:
“Compared with the persecution of heresy in Europe from 1227 to 1492, the persecution of Christians by Romans in the first three centuries after Christ was a mild and humane procedure. Making every allowance required by an historian and permitted to a Christian, we must rank the Inquisition, along with the wars and persecutions of our time, as among the darkest blots on the record of mankind, revealing a ferocity unknown in any beast.”
Because we live in the 21st century, we have the advantage of looking back at history and so are able to draw some conclusions. The history of the religious spirit of domination in the Roman Catholic Church operating through the Papacy is impossible to dismiss. Although the Church of Rome is one of the most obvious examples of this phenomenon, it is only one of many religious organizations using this type of control over the masses. Of the major world religions, Islam is another example. Muslim people live under a powerful religious domination of their own. It is based on the teachings of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad. Islamic people are strictly ruled by the teachings of the Qur’an and the collection of traditions and sayings of Muhammad found in the Hadith. The head-sheikhs and imams have tremendous influence and control over their followers, and the followers must, without question, obey.
There are quite a number of well-known modern-day cults that could be added to the list. Their followers, to one degree or another, are indoctrinated to accept and obey the teachings of the sect without question. Although, in modern Western society it is not culturally acceptable to torture and murder someone for questioning, resisting, or rebelling against the cult belief system, the consequences of crossing the religious order can be both physically and emotionally devastating, with families being split or lost to the cult. Quite often a person’s entire livelihood is destroyed, as is their reputation in society.
Even New Age doctrine, which originates from early Gnostic thought, uses brainwashing and deception as a means of control over its adherents. Followers are taught that they have a “Christ-self” within them to which they must eventually ascend. They are falsely taught that everyone must eventually achieve what it takes to “ascend” as Christ did at His baptism and later at His ascension.
We must remember the example Jesus left for us to follow. He never forced or coerced anyone. Those who chose to follow Him would have to pick up their own cross every day and follow Him. The Jewish people knew what crosses were all about. They saw people hanging on them at the side of their roads every single day. Following Jesus would be a sacrifice they would have to choose to be willing to make, not be tricked into.
The spirit at work within the First Seal, (symbolized by a Rider on a White horse with a bow and a crown), began its domination on the earth in the first century after Christ’s finished work on the cross and ascension to God’s right hand. It is still going strong today and is presently preparing for its finale, its last stampede.
–Continued in Part Three–