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I remember quite clearly when I first heard the term four horsemen. I was in eighth grade, and "new math" was coming into vogue. Our math teacher apparently was having a tough time helping a class of rambunctious, attention-challenged eighth-graders grasp the finer points of the concept.

Much to his relief, four of us finally caught on. He promptly dubbed us "the four horsemen." At the time I thought it was a compliment.

Several years later, when I came to understand the biblical significance of the term, I wasn't sure what to think.

I've long wondered about the connection in his mind. Perhaps, this being his first year out of college and being stuck with trying to teach math to junior-high students, he felt the end of his world was imminent. I certainly wouldn't have blamed him. And, now that I think about it, he lasted only that one year at our school.

But the four horsemen of the Bible—or, as they are often called, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse—are no trivial matter. They are deadly serious, and according to the Bible their disastrous ride marks four overlapping waves of catastrophe, spiritual and physical, that devastate the world in the time leading up to Jesus Christ's return.

Who are these four mysterious horsemen found in Revelation 6? What do they represent? Should we take them seriously?

Many people misunderstand the first of the four, and thus become totally confused about the most important trends prophesied to overtake the earth before Christ's second coming.

But maybe we shouldn't be surprised that so many misunderstand this first horseman. After all, as you'll learn in this issue of The Good News, he represents the very thing billions of people are victims of—false religion, particularly false Christianity.

Does this sound surprising to you? It's certainly a jarring concept, but it shouldn't be. After all, Jesus Christ Himself clearly told His followers —and us today—that many false teachers and religious figures would arise, claiming to represent Him, and would deceive many.

He repeats this warning three times in one prophecy alone—the major prophecy He gave shortly before His death (recorded in Matthew 24) in which He explained to His disciples the major trends that would dominate the period leading up to His return. Those sobering warnings clearly should get our attention!

In fact, Christ's prophecy is key to understanding the identity of these four horsemen. Jesus clearly told us what they portend; those trends are represented symbolically by the four horsemen of the book of Revelation—where many additional details of end-time events are spelled out for us if we're willing to understand and accept what it says.

It's difficult to properly understand end-time events and where they are headed without an understanding of what these four horsemen represent. To help you better grasp these prophecies, and to see their clear meaning from the pages of the Bible, in this issue of The Good News we're beginning a series of articles that will cover the meaning of each of these four horsemen in great detail.

If you want to understand Bible prophecy as it applies to our age and the times ahead, few things could be more important to you. We hope you'll study this article series carefully and prayerfully. GN