The View from Patmos


I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures. It said, “A ration of wheat costs a day’s pay,* and three rations of barley cost a day’s pay. But do not damage the olive oil or the wine.”

When he broke open the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature cry out, “Come forward.”

I looked, and there was a pale green* horse. Its rider was named Death, and Hades accompanied him. They were given authority over a quarter of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and plague, and by means of the beasts of the earth.

I try to avoid apocalyptic thinking; old people are too prone to it. But has anyone noticed that we have already seen two of the four horses of the apocalypse canter by?

COVID-19 has decimated us. Just when it looked as if over, it has mutated into something more dangerous than other recent variants, and is surging again in most of the Northern Hemisphere, even though it is summer. If it does not end up killing us all, monkeypox is in the wings. That’s the first horseman, pestilence.

The war in Ukraine continues; it could in principle at any moment become nuclear, or a world war. It is certainly killing a lot of people, displacing more, and disrupting the food supply everywhere. That’s the second horseman, war.

And partly as a result of the first, partly as a result of the second, food shortages are beginning to appear. Many predict worse by the fall, and perhaps famine in some parts of the world. That’s the third horseman, famine.

Is the fourth horseman on the horizon: Death? Perhaps that refers, broadly, to the doctrine of human “overpopulation”; environmentalism, “climate change.” What John Paul II called the “culture of death.” This horse is green, at least in the ASV translation; and he seems to correspond a verse or two later with “the beasts of the earth.” Environmentalism is indeed causing severe problems in the Netherlands. In principle, environmentalism wants to kill most of us. The recently mysteriously destroyed Georgia guidestones advocated a total human population of no more than 500 million.

The signs of the apocalypse are so vague that they can probably be made to fit the events of any era. Indeed, I believe they were not meant to be a prediction of the future, but a description of the eternal present as a war against good and evil. Jesus himself warns against trying to predict the end time. “Nobody knows the day or the hour”; he will come “like a thief in the night.” Were things really more orderly and coherent in the 1930s? The 1960s? 

So no, I reject the thought that this is literally apocalyptic. But the Devil is playing his tricks. There is an intelligence behind this; a Satanic weltanschauung. It has many names: “the great reset”; “the new world order”; “critical theory”; “postmodernism”; “social justice.”

More simply, evil is being allowed its day. 

It is given dominion, according to St. John, over a quarter of the earth. That’s enough to do a lot of damage.

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