What The Future Holds
The future is something that man has speculated about ever since the beginning of the race. The truth is that no one knows by experience, because none of us have ever been there. According to generally accepted theory, it is impossible to travel backwards in time (outside of a black hole, that is!), so even if someone went into the future, they could never return to report on what they had seen. So the future remains one of the great unknowns that intrigue us all.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalpyse
Predictions about the future can generally be divided into two main camps, the prophetic and the non-prophetic. The prophetic claims to be revelation from a divine being or a messenger of a divine being, thus relying upon the concept that God is not limited by time and knows the future directly. Non-prophetic predictions can be based on any of a wide variety of sources, from the philosophical to the scientific and everything in between, and generally tend to be less specific than prophetic predictions.
(In a sense, science fiction can be considered a third form of prediction about the future, based on both the extrapolation of scientific concepts and the writer's own “prophetic” speculation. Although I have definite ideas about the future, I do enjoy science fiction, as you can read about by following the link in this sentence.)
In today's modern age, non-prophetic predictions of the future have proliferated. Certain ideas are based on generally accepted scientific theories, such as the idea that the sun will eventually swell into a red giant and consume the Earth. Fortunately, this prediction is not supposed to take place for billions of years. Some other ideas come from sociology and related “soft sciences” and are based on theories and observations of human nature. Will we eventually destroy ourselves in a nuclear war? What will society be like in fifty years? Or a hundred? Or a thousand? Factoring in technological advances, will we colonize other worlds? Will we achieve star travel? And if we do, how will that affect us? Will we truly “mature” as a race? Or will we continue to be the same flawed human beings that we are now?
Prophetic predictions of the future generally involve the idea of the “end of the world”, or “the end of the age”. God—however He is viewed by the particular belief system—brings about a final judgment on the world, and afterward everything changes. Usually some type of paradise or utopia is predicted, and most of the time it is only for followers of the particular belief system, with non-believers being relegated either to complete destruction or else some form of eternal punishment. Since these visions of the future differ dramatically from one belief system to another, they cannot all be true. At most, only one can be true. (Those who believe that “all paths lead to God” should consider the logical implications of this.)
Leaving aside the prophetic and the far future, there are some concepts that can be examined from a purely natural point of view, by extrapolating what we already know about the world and the human race.
Human beings either came about through an act of creation by a superior being, or else as a product of random evolution. If the former is the case, then our nature is essentially fixed at being whatever the Creator designed it to be. If, on the other hand, we are products of natural selection and mutation, then our nature is changeable. However, according to theory, these changes would require long time periods, on the order of hundreds of thousands of years, for any noticeable difference to manifest itself. Basically, what this means is that human nature is essentially unchanging, at least in time frames as short as the recorded history of our race.
The implication of this is that “people are people”. Unless you are talking about the far future, or a scenario where man or a superior being actually engineers changes in human nature, the people in the future will have the same basic drives, emotions, etc. as people do today, and as they have had throughout recorded history. Any speculation about a naturally occurring future needs to take this into account. It might be nice if things such as jealousy, selfishness, prejudices and so forth simply “went away”, but the reality is that they won't. Education can change the way we express these attitudes, but they are at the core of our being, and cannot be “educated away”.
In short, the people of the future will be just like the people of today. They may have a few more toys to play with than we have, just like we have more toys than our ancestors a hundred years ago, but these differences are superficial. Where it counts—in the human heart—nothing will be any different.
This is one area in which we can be certain that change will occur. However, exactly what those changes will be cannot be accurately predicted. Many past guesses about the world of today have turned out to be wildly wrong. Some things that were predicted to be available are nowhere on the scene, while other things that were not predicted have advanced far beyond what anyone anticipated. A couple of examples are space flight and computers. Many predicted that we would have bases on the moon, colonies on Mars, regular passenger service to and from space and so forth by the beginning of the 21st century. Didn't happen. On the other hand, speculation about computer technology usually predicted what we would consider today to be laughably primitive toys, while reality moved far ahead of anything imagined.
Scientific advance depends upon a number of factors, not the least of which is the political and economic climate in which it takes place. Discoveries might be made, only to have restrictions placed on them by governments, or else to turn out to be prohibitively expensive to take advantage of. Existing commercial powers have been known to suppress new ideas in order to avoid facing competition or obsolescence.
And then there is the factor of public acceptance. One example of this is nuclear energy. For various reasons—fear of accidents, fear of explosions, fear of using reactors to produce weapons-grade material, fear of radioactive pollution, or whatever—nuclear energy has met with a lot of public opposition. Therefore, it has never become as widely used as it might have been under different circumstances.
In summary, barring some kind of unforeseen catastrophe that destroys the infrastructure in which research and development take place, there will be scientific advance in the future. But it will probably not be what we might expect. Instead, expect surprises.
This type of speculation about the future is very popular in fiction. Stories about worldwide disasters make great reading or watching (even if they are B-grade). But what about reality? Will the world end in some type of cataclysm? Will life simply be wiped off the face of the planet? The possibilities are almost endless.
One kind of disaster that has been in the news recently is the possibility of an asteroid or comet hitting the Earth (see the section on near-Earth asteroids on the page about The Asteroids). The fact is that if this occurred, the potential for death and destruction is quite large. On the positive side, at this point there are no space rocks that are known to be heading for impact with our planet. This does not rule out the possibility that one might be discovered tomorrow, though. Many scientists and non-scientists alike are urging research into ways of deflecting potential killer asteroids.
And then there are people who are worried that the Earth's climate might change in such a way as to severely damage life on the planet. While there is absolutely no real evidence that such extreme change is currently taking place, or that man's activities are sufficient to trigger such a change, that does not mean that it could never happen. The biggest single influence on climate is the Sun. If the Sun's energy output goes up or down by as little as one percent, it could trigger massive climate changes on our planet. Furthermore, evidence is coming in that factors as seemingly exotic as the cosmic ray flux have an influence on cloud cover and rain, which also affect climate. Volcanic eruptions can lower temperatures worldwide; a well-known example of this was the explosion of Krakatoa. Like an asteroid impact, these events offer a potential for disaster that largely depends on factors that are either unknown or else beyond human control.
While speaking of the sun, it is only fair to mention that solar flares have a potential for causing tremendous damage to our modern civilization. A solar flare—even the most powerful type—would not reach the Earth's surface and cause any direct effects. But it would wreak havoc with the Earth's magnetic field, causing it to fluctuate wildly for a short period of time. These fluctuations would induce tremendous currents in any kind of electrical wiring, which would trigger overloads and burnouts on a worldwide scale. Such an event actually took place in 1859 (see Carrington Event). Today, the results would be unimaginably worse.
Biological disasters are also the stuff of speculation; worldwide pandemics that wipe out most or all of the human race. Supervolcanoes. Polar shift. Overpopulation. And don't forget true man-made disasters, the most popular of which include nuclear war and over-pollution. You name it, someone has probably already thought of it.
To sum it up, there are definitely possibilities when it comes to natural or man-made disasters. However, most cannot be predicted at all, and those that can are subject to wild swings in degree of probability. Right now there are no known disasters waiting in the wings to wipe out the human race.
Tomorrow, of course, that could all change.
As I stated above, there are two basic classes of predictions about the future: the non-prophetic, which I discussed in the previous section, and the prophetic. As you are almost certainly aware of from reading other pages on this site, my life's experiences have convinced me to accept the Biblical Christian position. However, before I discuss this position, I will present summary overviews of several other eschatologies for comparison. (The term “eschatology” refers to the part of a belief system that deals with the end of the age or the world.)
Because of connections with Christian beliefs, I have placed Islamic and Jewish eschatologies at the end of the list, right before the discussion of the Christian view.
Hinduism does not view the “end times” the way most belief systems do. Rather, the Hindu belief is that time is cyclic and expresses itself in a repeating order of birth, growth and decay. Each cycle, called a kalpa, lasts from 4.1 to 8.2 billion years, which is a full day and night in the time frame of Brahma. Brahma, in turn, will live a total of 311 trillion and 30 billion years, after which, the entire created order will collapse into a singularity.
Within the current kalpa there are 4 ages called yuga. These 4 yuga encompass a cycle that begins in complete purity and ends in total decay. According to Hindu teachings, we are living in the final yuga, also known as the Kali yuga, because it is ruled by the demon Kali. A continual descent into ever-increasing depravity characterizes this final yuga. As this age draws to a close, Vishnu will appear in his final incarnation, known as Kalki, riding on a white horse. With the few remaining righteous souls, he will destroy all evil and all of the demons in the world. At this time, when the current cycle draws to a close, a new kalpa will begin, in which everyone will be righteous. In turn, it will go through the same 4 yuga as the current age, in a cycle that will only end with the eventual death of Brahma.
It is interesting to note many similarities between the Hindu cyclic belief system and certain aspects of modern cosmology, especially those involving the so-called “oscillating universe”, which explodes, expands, collapses back on itself, and then explodes again.
Like Hindu beliefs, many forms of Buddhism teach cycles. In Buddhist cycles, the life span of human beings varies according to human behavior. In the past, there was no evil behavior among humans, and thus they lived very long lifespans, up to 80,000 years. They were the epitome of perfection: full of beauty, wealth, pleasure and strength. However, with the passage of time human behavior deteriorated, becoming more and more evil and unwise, until today our lifespan is only around 100 years. Buddhists believe that this degeneration will continue until it reaches a critical point and swords “appear” in the hands of everyone. Most humans will hunt and kill one another, but a few who still have a bit of wisdom will hide until the slaughter is over.
At that time, those who hid will re-emerge and resolve to mend their ways and live wisely and virtuously again. The human lifespan will gradually increase again until it reaches the original 80,000 years. At that time the cycle will begin all over, with humans descending into evil and selfishness again.
Zen Buddhism takes a rather different cyclical view. According to Zen, a person is continuously dying and being reborn, moment by moment, in an ongoing cycle. Rather than a focus on the future, the Zen focus is on the present moment.
Much of the original Zoroastrian texts have been lost, but from the ones that remain, the basic concepts of Zoroastrian eschatology can be seen. Like Hindus, Zoroastrians believe that history is divided into 3 ages, though there is no evidence of belief in cycles. The three ages are Creation, Mixture and Separation. At the end of the third age, there will be a great battle between the forces of good and evil, and good will win. Following the battle, the dead will be raised into the bodies that they had while alive, and the final judgment—by ordeal—will follow.
Two of the “good entities” or yazatas, will melt all of the metal in the hills and mountains, creating a huge molten river that flows across the Earth. All mankind will be forced to cross this river. The righteous will not be harmed, but the wicked will be burned, and the river will carry them down into Hell and annihilate the last vestiges of evil in the Universe.
Afterward, the righteous will partake of a special plant and become immortal, their bodies becoming so light that they won't even cast shadows. They will require neither food nor drink, nor carry weapons. Everyone will speak the same language and belong to a single nation, living with the same single purpose in total harmony for the glory of God.
The term “eschatology” is probably not truly appropriate to Bahá'í, since in their belief, creation has neither a beginning nor an end. Rather, human history consists of a series of progressive revelations, incorporating the teachings of most of the world's major belief systems. Each system's principal teacher or founder is regarded as merely another messenger from God, bringing the next level of knowledge of Him. The coming of each messenger is regarded as the “day of judgment” for the previous messenger's belief system. Heaven and Hell are merely symbols of spiritual progress; Heaven represents belief and acceptance of the new prophet's message, while Hell represents denial and rejection.
According to Bahá'í, the prophet Bahá'u'liáh—for which the faith is named—was the fulfillment of the eschatological prophecies of other major religions, such as Islam and Christianity; in other words, he is the Mahdi and the Christ, as well as all other messianic figures combined.
Adherents of Bahá'í do believe in life after death, but it is considered to be both a condition of the soul (which is not subject to natural law), as well as a realm where those who are close to God are also close to one another. But it is not linked to any specific end of an age or the world as we know it.
Prophecies in Islam actually come from two different sources, the Qur'an, which is the Islamic holy book, and the hadith, which is a collection of reports about the words and deeds of Muhammad and form the basis for Islamic law and tradition. Because Islam shares a certain amount of history with Judaism and Christianity, there are some aspects of Islamic End Times views that are similar. All three believe in a final judgment, and in an eternal afterlife where the righteous—as defined by the particular belief system—will live forever.
Essentially, Muslims believe in 3 periods before the Day of Judgment. The first ended with the death of Muhammad. The exact dates and times of the remaining two are less clear, but the End of Days is supposed to begin with the coming of the Mahdi, or Twelfth Imam, who is one of the major figures in Islamic eschatology. Another major figure is Isa which is actually the Arabic name for Jesus, although the Jesus of Islam bears little resemblance to the Jesus of Christianity. The final figure is al-Dajjal, who is the Great Enemy, or False Messiah.
The Islamic prophetic calendar can be roughly outlined as follows: The End Times (or third historical period) begins with the appearance of the Mahdi. He will be a political leader who will conquer many of Islam's enemies, preparing the way for the future rule of Isa. When Isa appears—descending from the heavens in a manner reminiscent of prophecies in the Bible about Jesus' return—he will join forces with the Mahdi to defeat al-Dajjal. When al-Dajjal is defeated, Isa will rule the world in peace for 40 years, and then die.
Much of the Islamic time-table is not clear regarding dates. However, it does list certain events, or signs. These include the escape of two tribes of vicious beings, the abandonment of Medina, the coming of a Beast from out of the ground that will talk to people, the sun rising in the West, a huge black smoke cloud that covers the Earth, and more. There will be two trumpet blows, after the second of which all of the dead will rise for the Day of Judgment.
Of necessity, this is an extremely condensed overview of Islamic eschatology. The subject is quite complex and entire books—if not whole libraries—have been written about it. There is also considerable dispute between various sects of Islam, primarily between the Shi'a and Sunni branches.
There are a number of similarities between Jewish views of the future and Christian views. This naturally follows from the fact that Christianity actually represents the fulfillment of part of the Jewish prophecies. The main divergence between Christianity and modern Judaism is that Christians believe that Jesus Christ fulfilled some of the prophecies about the coming of their Messiah when he came 2000 years ago. Traditional Jews continue to believe that all of the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah remain to be fulfilled, whereas Christians—which includes so-called “Messianic Jews” who share the basic Christian beliefs—believe Jesus actually was the Messiah, but that he only fulfilled the prophecies about redemption when he came the first time, leaving the rest for a future second coming.
Basically, Jewish prophetic beliefs center around the political liberation of the nation of Israel. They believe that God will bring all Jews from around the world back to Israel and restore the kingship of the house of David, along with the Jewish temple. God will then raise up the Messiah from the lineage of David, who will rule the world and usher in an age of peace and enlightenment. All nations will then recognize that the God of Israel is the One True God. Finally, God will raise all the dead from the beginning of mankind, and will then create a new heaven and new Earth where the just will live forever.
Like the previous section on Islamic views, this is a greatly simplified overview. There are many details to each of the individual points, as well as differences in view among different branches of modern Judaism. As with Islam, entire books and/or web sites could be devoted (and have been!) to discussing the subject of Jewish End Times beliefs.
As mentioned in the previous section, Christians view their beliefs as the fulfillment of some of the Jewish prophecies about the coming of their Messiah. When Jesus born into the world, he came as the incarnation of God Himself in human flesh, and proceeded to live a normal life until he was put to death by the Roman authorities. According to Scripture, in addition to being God incarnate, he also differed from other humans in that he remained perfect and did not sin. Finally, after being put to death, he returned to life 3 days later, and after spending a short period of time on Earth, ascended into the heavens, promising to return.
This part of Christian eschatology is actually historical, not currently prophetic. The prophetic aspect enters in when we consider the return of Christ, since that is clearly a future event that has not yet taken place. These are prophetic events that not only appear in the New Testament, but are also present in the Old Testament—the Jewish Bible, since traditional Jews do not accept the New Testament—in the form of predictions about the coming of the Messiah in power to rule the world as King.
In the same manner as the above overviews of the eschatologies of other belief systems, I will present a brief summary of Christian belifs here.
Following Christ's ascension into the heavens, the Holy Spirit of God came and filled his followers, who then went out to take the message of salvation by faith in Christ to the entire world. Since then, we have been living in the Church Age. When the Christian message has finally reached every people group in the world, the events associated with the end of the age will begin to take place. There will be much death and destruction. Finally, a world leader will arise who is known in Scripture as the Beast, or the Antichrist. He will be supported by a False Prophet, and will either directly rule or else have a major influence over the entire world, exercising the power of the devil. Meanwhile, God will execute a series of devastating judgments on the human race, resulting in the death of a large majority of the population.
At some point during these events—there is considerable difference of opinion as to when—all of the remaining Christians will be transformed and receive new bodies, and all dead Christians will be raised with the same kind of bodies. They will all go to be with Christ. Afterward—theological positions vary from immediately to up to 7 years—the Beast and False Prophet will gather their forces for the final battle, where Christ will utterly defeat them. This will usher in a 1000 year period where Christ will rule on this Earth. The devil will be locked away during this time, and deception will cease.
After the 1000 years, the devil will be released and will deceive a huge number of people, who will march on Jerusalem where Christ is reigning. God will then destroy the world with fire. Then will come the Final Judgment, where those who followed Christ in this life will go to live forever in a new Earth, in a huge city called New Jerusalem. Everyone else will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, along with the devil and his fellow demons, where they will be punished forever.
Interpreting prophecy has long been one of the great pastimes of Biblical scholars, both professional and amateur. If you ask ten Bible students what they believe certain prophetic passages mean—that is, in what manner they will be fulfilled—you could get up to ten different answers. The truth is that none of their answers can be either proven or disproven, since they involve events that have not yet taken place.
When Christ came the first time, he fulfilled a number of Old Testament prophecies. However, if you look at the prophecies that were fulfilled, and how he fulfilled them, it becomes obvious that no one could have predicted their manner of fulfillment in advance. In a manner similar to Isaac Asimov's Laws of Robotics, I have come to consider this to be the First Law of Prophecy: No one can know the manner of fulfillment of any prophecy before it is actually fulfilled.
I have also come to believe that it is possible that there is a connection between the specificity of a given prophecy—that is, the degree to which it can be accurately understood in detail—and the degree of freedom of will that those involved have in events that lead to its fulfillment. Briefly, the more detailed and specific the prophecy, the less freedom of will those involved will have in its fulfillment. This might be considered a Second Law of Prophecy, and in fact may be on some level related to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.
So what does this imply about all of the predictions about how Biblical end times events will actually take place? In brief, it reduces them to guesswork. Educated guesswork, possibly, but guesswork nonetheless. We will have to wait until the events actually take place. Then, if the same underlying pattern applies that applied in Christ's first coming, the individual prophecies will be recognized as having been fulfilled, and will finally be understood.
Have any of the prophecies regarding the second coming of Christ already been fulfilled? Again, this is a question where you will get different answers, depending on whom you talk to. But, you ask, did I not say that prophecies were meant to be recognized after their fulfillment? If that is the case, shouldn't everyone recognize the ones that have already been fulfilled—assuming that any actually have been? To that I go back to the prophecies that were fulfilled by Christ's first coming. The fact is that not everyone has recognized them. Even among those who believe that the prophecies are valid, many still deny that they were fulfilled. This is why there are Jews today who believe the Old Testament, but do not acknowledge that Jesus is their Messiah. We are all still human, and what we believe often colors our understanding of the events of history.
Here are some broad, general predictions that I believe have already been fulfilled
This is one prophecy that most Christians acknowledge has been fulfilled. In 1948, nearly 1900 years after the Jews were scattered from their homeland by the Romans, the nation of Israel was reborn. The prophet Jeremiah, in chapter 16 of his book, verses 14 and 15, states that the LORD would gather His people from all of the countries where He had scattered them. Likewise, Ezekiel said something similar in chapter 34, verse 13 of his prophetic book. And there are a number of other similar prophecies. It is true that many of them applied to the return from captivity in Babylon. But the references to “all the nations” implies a larger scattering, which is what occurred in 70 AD when the Romans drove them out. In addition, not all of the Jews returned to Israel after the Babylonian captivity. At the time of Christ, there were Jews living in all parts of the Roman Empire.
The reason that this is important is because many of the end times prophecies directly involve Israel. If Israel did not exist as a nation, then they could not be fulfilled. This does not necessarily mean that all Jews will live in Israel, but the nation must exist as a Jewish state. As we know, this has clearly happened.
According to the gospel writer Matthew, in chapter 24, verse 14 of his account, Jesus declared that the “gospel of the kingdom shall be preached to all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end shall come.” In the centuries since his resurrection and ascension into the heavens, evangelists have worked to take the gospel into all parts of the world, in fulfillment of Jesus' command at the very end of Matthew's gospel. To a large degree, this has been done.
Now the fact is that at this point this prediction has not been completely fulfilled. There still exist groups of people (according to the meaning of the Greek word translated as “nations”) who have not heard the gospel. But we are living in a time when the gospel is spreading faster than the human race. For the first time in history, using technology which has only become available within the last hundred years—or less—is has become possible to actually see the completion of this command of Christ, very possibly within our lifetimes.
There is at least one issue that some have brought up regarding the current spread of the gospel. Did Jesus simply mean that every nation would hear “believe in Jesus and you will be saved,” or was he talking about a more complete knowledge of the gospel, a knowledge that involves at least basic discipleship? If he meant the former, than yes, we are getting close to seeing this prediction fulfilled. But if he meant the latter, then we are probably further away from true fulfillment.
In the book of Revelation, the writer John sees a scroll in the hand of God. When this scroll is opened, seven events, represented symbolically, are predicted to occur. Similarly, later on in the book, seven angels blow seven trumpets, each one announcing yet another event, and finally, seven angels pour out seven “bowls of wrath”, executing seven final judgments on the human race. The nature of these events has long been a subject of much speculation.
Again, while it is impossible to truly discern in advance what any of these events might be, we can at least get some idea as to the timing of some of them, based on the context and the culture in which the book was written. First of all, we can safely say that the trumpets represent events that will take place shortly before the actual return of Christ. Why? Primarily because of the meaning of trumpet blasts in the culture of the time. They were used as announcements or warnings to prepare. And since trumpet sounds are associated with Christ's return elsewhere (see Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 52, and his first epistle to the Thessalonians, chapter 4, verse 16), it makes sense to associate the trumpets in Revelation with the time period just prior to his return.
Similarly, the bowls are described as being the pouring out of God's final wrath upon the Earth, which indicates that they are also events that take place at the very end of the age. Even though we cannot state precisely what the events are, from the description of suffering and death, it is clear that they have not yet taken place. The same thing can be said about the trumpet events. These are all events still in the future.
The events in the scroll are a different matter. When John was called up to receive the Revelation, he was told that he would learn about things that would take place later. What he saw was a scroll in the hand of the King—God. In the culture of the time, this represented a decree. God was decreeing what was going to take place in future history. But there was no time frame associated with these events. This means that their fulfillment could take place anywhere from the time that John received the Revelation, up to the end of the age. So the question is: Have any of these events been fulfilled?
The first four seals of the scroll are associated with four riders on horses. These four riders are traditionally called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. One question that has come to my mind from time to time is why these four events are depicted as living beings? Most other events in Revelation are not. One very simple explanation that makes sense—at least to me—is that they are depicted as living beings because they actually do represent living beings. And given their described characteristics, these beings are probably powerful, high-ranking demons.
Although the Four Horsemen are commonly associated with end-times events, there is really nothing in the text to actually support this. The only requirement is that the events associated with them take place between the time when John received the Revelation and the end of the prophecy in the book. So this brings us back to the question at the beginning of this section: What has already been fulfilled? Looking at what has taken place in history since the beginning of the Christian era, I would like to offer the proposition that the first two Horsemen have already appeared on the scene.
The first rider was dressed in white and on a white horse, and he was given a crown and went forth to conquer. Some believe that this horseman represents the church age, when the gospel goes out to “conquer” the world. While this is possible, it is not consistent with the rest of the seals, which describe events strongly negative with respect to Christ's followers and the world in general. Others believe that it represents the coming of the Antichrist. While this is possible, there are difficulties in reconciling it with later seals.
Historically, there was an event that took place which fits very well with the description of this horseman. Several centuries after Christ, Muhammad burst upon the scene, claiming to have the “final revelation” from God. After taking over Arabia, he and his followers went forth to conquer. Historically, Islam has shown itself to be more than just a religion. It is a complete socio-political system, with the goal of eventually taking over the entire world in the name of its ideology.
As with any other religion or philosophy, most of the adherents of Islam merely wish to be left in peace to live their lives and raise their families. But the ones who take it seriously are often fanatics to the point of irrationality—and even many “ordinary” Muslims support them, even if they are unwilling to take up the sword themselves. Many Christians have viewed the fanaticism of Muslims as clear evidence of demonic influence. I agree—and given the worldwide scope and ambition of Islam, I would add that it is evidence of a powerful, high-ranking demon with a specific agenda—another characteristic consistent with identification as the White Horseman of Revelation.
And if this is correct, then not only has the first seal of the scroll of Revelation been fulfilled, but it has been fulfilled for over 1300 years.
A few hundred years ago, philosophers such as Hegel, Sartre, Marx, and others laid the foundations for what later became modern humanist existentialism. These in turn led to political systems such as communism, socialism, naziism, fascism and other similar totalitarian regimes. These systems are characterized by philosophies which devalue individual human life, and in the 20th century alone have resulted in the violent deaths of well over a hundred million people. Irreconciliable differences with societies that do not embrace these philosophies has led to the greatest buildup of armaments in the history of mankind, including huge armies and weapons of mass destruction. Wherever these humanistic philosophies have gone, terrorism, revolution, and war soon followed.
The Second Horseman of the Apocalypse is described as riding on a red horse and carrying a large sword. He will take peace from the Earth and make men slay one another. If this sounds familiar with respect to the previous paragraph, it is because it is probably not a coincidence.
Today, even though the spirit of humanism is definitely different than the spirit of Islam, we can clearly see certain parallels. Both philosophies have worldwide ambitions. Both are strongly anti-Christian. And many of the followers of both are fanatical to the point of irrationality. In America we can clearly see this in modern Leftism, which is also founded on secular humanism.
And remembering the color of the horse, it may not be a coincidence that the traditional favorite color of communism and other philosophies based on humanism is red.
The Third Horseman carries a set of scales and announces outrageous prices for basic necessities, and then tells everyone not to damage the luxury items. This has most often been associated with famine, but if you examine it carefully, it is not actually describing a lack of food, but rather, availability at high cost. A better explanation might be that this actually represents economic hardship. The command not to damage the luxury items may represent the existence of a privileged class.
So has anything like this already happened? While the answer is obviously ‘yes’, let us remember a few things about the first two horsemen. Conquest—one of the traits characterizing the White Horseman—was nothing new. War and discord—characteristics of the Red Horseman—were also common in the world long before humanism appeared. What we have to remember is that in both cases, these were traits that characterized a movement that 1) had worldwide ambitions, 2) was strongly anti-Christian in its philosophy, and 3) had followers who were fanatical to the point of irrationality.
So while yes, there have been and still are famine and economic hardship in the world, there is currently no clearly identifiable movement—philosophy or religion—that is characterized by these traits. So my contention is that so far, the spirit represented by the Black Horseman has not yet appeared on Earth. Or if it has, it still has not organized its followers into a coherent, recognizable movement.
And if the events associated with the third horseman still have not appeared, then we can pretty safely say that the fourth horseman is also not yet on the scene.
So what will they be?
As I stated before, the First Law of Prophecy states that we cannot know with any degree of confidence what an unfulfilled event might represent. Therefore, I will not waste my time hazarding a guess. The only thing that I will predict is that, assuming that the first two horsemen have truly come, then the third and fourth will probably have certain characteristics in common with them. They will be powerful evil spirits that will stir up movements that will 1) have worldwide ambition, 2) be strongly anti-Christian, and 3) have followers that are fanatical to the point of irrationality.
Beyond that, as with the rest of the seals and the other events described in Revelation, only the future will tell.
People can argue about details until they die of old age, but that is not the most important aspect of Biblical eschatology. Exactly when and with exactly what signs Christ will return are not as important as the simple fact that he will return. And if he really does return as the Bible predicts, then all of his words about Heaven—and Hell—will be vindicated. We all will go to one or the other.
If you want to read more about this aspect of the future, please visit the topical page on Beyond Death.
I have just presented several points of view regarding the future. Of course, nobody can prove any of them, since the future has not arrived yet. But someday it will. I don't know what you who are reading this happen to believe. You may agree with me about the Biblical worldview (even if we do disagree on details). Or you may believe one of the other options presented earlier. Or you may have your own entirely different belief.
I only have one thing to add. In choosing what you believe about the future, use your head, not your feelings. You may happen to like one of the options above, but that is not enough reason to believe it. I happen to like the Green Bay Packers, but that is not reason enough for me to believe that they will win the Super Bowl any given year. Instead, examine history. Examine human nature. Examine the evidence supporting—or denying—any particular belief system. Remember that most of what you are considering cannot be proven or disproven scientifically; it is the legal-historical method that applies. If someone tries to convince you one way or another, examine their motives. Remember also that every faith has its hypocritical believers, who “talk the talk”, but don't “walk the walk”; go to the source and see what the belief system really teaches.
And if you want a challenge, try the following: Ask God to show you the truth. Ask insistently—but with an open mind. Even if you are not sure about His very existence, try it anyway. If you are sincere, I believe you will get an answer.
And what you do about it is up to you.
Copyright © 2005-2020 William R. Penning. All rights reserved.