One way to express a truth is simply to express it factually. “Racism is wrong”. But another way to express that same truth is show it in pictures without ever making the literal statement.
For instance, perhaps you have seen the film Crash. It literally made me weep at how messed up this world can be because of how we mistreat each other. Racism is wrong, but that statement doesn’t move like the images I saw in that movie.
Revelation is expressing truth as surely as any factual statement, but it’s using images rather than literal words. If you understand the images, which are rooted both in a type of literature called “Apocalyptic” and in Biblical history, you understand the power of what is being portrayed here.
Take the four horses of the apocalypse contained in this passage, for instance. Will such horses one day really ride the earth? I’d suggest they do so now as they have throughout human history. The horses represent such things as political power, war and violence, injustice and poverty, death.
The horses ride through history in battles between nations; corporate scandals that cheat and defraud; in terrorism. But they also ride in homes torn apart by conflict; wherever children live in neglect and fear; and wherever “good” people are willing to manipulate or hurt others.
These riders seem to ride roughshod over the earth, and sometimes it even seems they trample the church underfoot as well. And so we hear the voice of an anguished church, of real people who have suffered at the hands of the world for their faithful service to Christ.
What are we to make of that?
The answer is in the next image of those who have overcome the world; who have transcended it, risen above the power of the horses; and hence are beyond the reach of the suffering they cause. This is the victory the white robe represents—a robe “given” to them, showing the need for God’s grace and help to able to receive it.
Very quickly, note two other things. First—rest. Oh how I long for that! Sometimes the battles here take such a toll… but it won’t always be that way.
Not also that those in robes are numbered. God counts. Why? Because He is not willing that any of his children should perish. I have two kids. Whenever we go anywhere, I always count to be sure the both are there. “Counting” is a way of expressing how very precious God’s children are to him.
God will rescue, friends. You matter to Him. That’s what this chapter teaches, and that is a truth—whether said in words or in images—you can count on as sure as sure can be.