“I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest…
7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” Revelation 6:1-2,7-8
Have you ever noticed how someone might have a slightly greenish complexion when they’re sick? The Greek word for pale in verse 8 means ‘green’ and is the word from which we derive our English word chlorophyll. This ‘horse of the apocalypse’ was the color of a sick person—a pale-greenish look.
In our reading, the Lamb—Jesus—opens seven seals. As the fourth seal is opened, he warns us that, in the end times, which have been going on for almost 2,000 years now, there would be illness and pestilence. It has been just over 100 years since the last global pandemic, so while these things may seem new to us, they are anything but new. Cities, nations, economies have been quickly crushed by sudden plague, sickness, and death many times before, sometimes taking generations to recover. Yet while this horse and its rider stampedes over the world once again, we are told also of a greater horse and a greater rider: “I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.” That rider is Jesus. The whiteness of his horse represents his holiness, righteousness, and justice.
In chapter 19:11ff this rider and his horse appear again, conquering his enemies and securing our victory. On his thigh is written the name: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. In these times when the pale horse and its rider, Death, loom large, isolating people, shutting down society, crumbling economies, and bringing sickness and death, Christians live with gospel-optimism, remembering that it is the white horse and its Rider, Jesus, who is the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. Because of his great love, we will not be consumed. He will see us through these things. He has promised us as much. He has promised to help us grow in character and faith through these times. It is precisely when we realize we are helpless, when life radically changes, that we lean on our Helper, the one who is unchangeable, whose mercies are new every morning. “The Lord is with me; he is my helper.” (Psalm 118:7) Pestilence, plague, and global pandemics may have their day, but Jesus will have his eternity. He proved that by his victory over the grave.
Rev. Aaron Odya