The Apocalypse, or the Book of Revelation, is the last book
of the Bible. It foretells future events, including the coming of
four horsemen. It is God's last word to his people.
Written around 96 CE in Asia Minor, the author was
probably the Christian from Ephesus known as John the
Elder. John was in exile on Patmos, an island off the coast
of Asia Minor, because he preached the Christian faith.
"I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day," according to John,
"and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying,
'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,' and,
'What you see, write in a book.'"
The book begins with short letters of exhortation to Christian
churches in the seven leading cities of Asia Minorâ€”
Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamon, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia,
and Laodicea â€”the key area for expansion of Christianity
into the Roman Empire and the recipients of John's
Apocalyptic literature isnâ€™t common today, so we arenâ
€™t used to reading and interpreting it. It was much more
common in the ancient world. A complex style, it followed
certain conventions that would have seemed more familiar to
its audience at the
The book is written symbolically and filled with visions. The
first vision is of seven lampstands, which represent the seven
churches of Asia Minor, the recipients of the letters.
The second is a scroll sealed with seven seals, which are
opened one at a time, releasing dire threats that destroy the
earth. Four of these, represented by the horsemen, are
hunger, disease, war and death.
The first rider holds a bow and rides a white horse. He
represents conquest. The second horse is red; its rider
wields the sword of war. The rider of the third, a black
horse, carries a pair of scales representing scarcity and
hunger. The final horse is pale. Its rider is Death.
The third vision is of three great signs in heaven and of
cosmic war. The prophecies have been interpreted various
ways, depending on the historical setting of the
interpretation. Thatâ€™s easy to do, because essentially the
book recounts the age-old struggle between good and evil,
between God and Satan, the Great Red Dragon.
The fourth vision is a vision of judgment on Babylon, which
seems to equate with Rome. The ruling power at the time
had been corrupted by its own success. Incredible evils
were perpetrated by its rulers, including persecution of
This was the setting of the book of Revelation. John was
writing to comfort Christians whose lives were at risk for
their faith. Though his book is a complicated one, his
message is simpleâ€”God and good triumph over Satan and
evilâ€”in the cosmic battle, in the politics of earth, and in the
daily lives of God's people.
The fifth and final vision is of the New Jerusalem, a scene of
peace and harmony and joy.
How encouraging the book must have been to its original
readers in the Roman Empireâ€”hiding in caves, fearful for
their lives. How encouraging it is for us today as we feel the
breath of the four horsemen on our necks, the continuing
threat of hunger, famine, plague, war and death, of falling
cliffs, cracking earth and rising seas.
God's final word on the future of Los Angeles--and of all
other places--is a word of hope. The God who made and
loves us is in a cosmic battle with the forces of evil, and the
outcome is certain. God wins!