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Book Review: Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Billy Graham

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"For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night,"  my favorite response to doomsdayers and predictors of the end time.  Similar verses are found in more than one book of The Holy Bible.  Two of the most commonly known are in 2 Peter and 1 Thessalonians.  Apostle John, "The Revelator," writes of his dreams/visions and details in the Book of Revelations events that will precede the end of times. Believers look for the rapture, tribulation, millennium, and other events that according to John's writings will follow the ride of the most famous of all the horses and horsemen mentioned in the Bible.  In one of over a dozen books he's written, the spiritual adviser to twelve U. S. Presidents takes a close look at what these four symbols mean, where they came from, where they are going, and what we can do about it.

The Disciples expected the Second Coming to occur in their lifetime.  Believers in every succeeding generation have seen the signs and expected it, too.  Billy Graham heard the sound of the hoofs in 1983 and wrote  Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.   My copy came from a garage sale back in Louisiana about five or six years ago.  We are approaching the thirtieth anniversary of the publishing of this book, so it's a good time to read what Reverend Graham had to say twenty-seven years ago, put my ear to the ground, and see if I can hear anything.

Most of the books and literature to which I have been exposed regarding the apocalypse have been scholarly, text book type, studious works that were not necessarily easy to read.  Graham's writing sounds conversational, friendly, and appealing.  It's almost as if he recorded the text and then edited it — maybe he did.  When this book appeared out of a pile in a garage sale, I flipped through it, added it to my purchases, and tucked it away for a future read.  Not sure how I decided it was time to read it the other day when I unpacked a box and found it, but it made it's way to my nightstand and atop the queue of books to read.  

Early in the book, Reverend Graham discusses how John was told to write to the seven churches.  One was the church in Laodicea, which felt the wrath of Christ in John's recounting of his visions. Jesus makes them an offer they can't refuse in Revelations 3: 19 & 20.  [This is the  scriptural reference to one of my favorite paintings.  Seems like this work of art has been with me all my life.  It has a prominent place above the pulpit in the Mangham United Methodist Church, the church of my childhood and the home of many memories.  Often, parishioners would be inspired by that painting when the sermon was not so.]    

"I stand at the door and knock."

Graham announces in the introduction that this book was not intended to "..interpret these passages as much as to make them relevant to the great problems we face as individuals and as a world."  He points out that "John the Revelator" tells us that readers of "The Book of Revelation" will be blessed. How ironic that perhaps the most difficult to read book in the Bible is the only one whose author promises a blessing to those who read it.  According to Graham, the meaning of John's writings were clear to his contemporaries, they are relevant to us today, and how important it would be for us to have the same clarity. 

 

Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse opens with a parable involving Harry Truman. No, it's neither the former President, nor the sheriff of Twin Peaks. It's the Harry Truman of Mt. St. Helens fame who claimed he knew the mountain better than anyone. As Graham says, "..the stubborn man who put his ear to the mountain but would not heed the warnings."  Then our favorite evangelist leads us through a four chapter preamble to set the stage for the horsemen.  It's hard to imagine a Southern evangelist NOT beginning with a story and an elaborate "stage-setting," but Graham manages to pull it off with style and a convincing explanation that hooks the reader for "The White Horse and Its Rider."  I smiled with familiar memories of that old fashioned "altar call" that slips into the book in several places.  He even includes a prayer for the reader to pray and accept Christ immediately.

A chapter is devoted to each horse and rider with the exception of the first, the white horse, and it gets three chapters. No doubt Reverend Graham believes that the one representing "deception" is significant.  In the first of the three chapters on "The White Horse and Its Rider," we get Graham's thoughts on "The Rider Who Deceives" — who is this guy?  He's wearing a crown of victory and carries a "bow of great destruction."  Some writers have even speculated that it could be Jesus Christ Himself.  The next chapters cover deception from within and from outside the church and we get instructions on how to fight the rider who deceives.  

 

The red, black, and pale horses follow bringing war, hunger, and pestilence. Graham explains that deception and false religion lead to war, and that war in turn leads to famine and pestilence.  Through each chapter, he covers the threats, fears, prophesies, and his ideas on how we should respond.  Always faithful, our North Carolinian evangelist sticks to the scriptures for guidance and inspiration.  He says that for those who believe, events will unfold to give them an optimistic outlook for their destiny.  His references to long held classic beliefs based on the Bible help  Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse withstand the test of time.  Events that were current in 1982 do not.  

The January 18, 1982, edition of the Toronto Star  ran a story based on research from the U.S. National Academy of Science predicting a second ice age and called it a "serious worldwide cooling: with profound social and economic implications."  Harvard's B.F. Skinner (yes, the one with the rats in the boxes) stunned a medical convention that same year with his announcement that he had lost hope and asked, "Is there to be much more history at all?" Scholars, historians, scientists, and ministers predicted imminent nuclear war in 1982, and many of these experts had little hope for humanity seeing the year 2000.  Graham himself proclaimed, "But virtually everything has been fulfilled that was prophesied in the Scriptures leading up to the coming of Christ. We know His coming is near."

Reverend Bruce McGee agrees, "I do believe virtually every prophecy has been fulfilled except the coming of Christ for the rapture. That is the next thing on God's agenda."  Pastor Dave Cottrell isn't convinced, "From the time of Jesus, himself, there were prophecies both from Jesus and via Old Testament prophets and even the writings of Paul and others that remained (and in fact, though small in number now, still remain) to be fulfilled before he returns."

Followers of the Baha'i Faith believe their founder (who died in 1892) represented the Second Coming of Christ ".. fulfilling detailed prophecies of all the worlds religions" and uniting all the people of the earth [from their website]. 
 
What do I hear when I listen for the approaching hoofbeats?  Echoes.  We're right back now to where we started.  Just as the disciples expected The Second Coming in their era, perhaps we should heed John's advice and expect the coming of Christ at any time, but work as if He will not come for a thousand years.
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About FCEtier

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    I think this is an enlightening review. In the grand scheme of things, what is 25 years? The concept of “time” is where we need to rethink things.

    Something being said to be “near” in the Bible is like saying Alpha Centauri is our closest star. There is being near and then the distance that still exists.

  • http://etierphotography.blogspot.com/ FCEtier

    Thanks Victor.
    I know in my own perception, I hear the word “near” and automatically think, “in my lifetime”. It’s hard to resist.

  • tom chastain

    billy graham has a new book out called storm warning on thmas nelson publishing its in the stores now and online great gift idea and wonderful idea for a Bible study

  • http://etierphotography.blogspot.com/ FCEtier

    What’s it called Tom? Sorry, I couldn’t resist!

  • tom chastain

    billy graham has a new book out called storm warning on thmas nelson publishing its in the stores now and online great gift idea and wonderful idea for a Bible study

  • http://www.lynnvoedisch.com Lynn Voedisch

    Good thing I read until the end. You sum it up nicely.
    It is quite possible to be a Christian (of some shape or variety) and not believe that Revelations should be part of the Canon. I’m one of those. Churches battled for many years, hundreds, over whether “John’s” dream (and no one knows who really had the vision) had any particular merit. I, and many thelogical thinkers back me up, feel that it completely misrepresents the theme and quest of Christ’s mission. He was a prophet of peace and unquestioning love, yet in Revelations he carries a sword and is quick to swoop down on his enemies.
    This is my belief only–and certainly an minority one. There is no time or space to go through the argument thoroughly.
    However, you do a good job here of making Graham the humble messenger. He did a similar thing in a book on Angels: Messengers of the Divine (not entirely sure of the title). You will find it amusing that I don’t believe in Revelations, but I do believe in angels. Graham does a fine job of bringing that subject down to earth, so to speak.
    If I couldn’t stop arguing with him, I’d probably read this book, but you did a good job presenting the flavor of it.

  • http://etierphotography.blogspot.com/ FCEtier

    Thanks Lynn. Since his focus was only on the four horsemen, Graham just covered the first six chapters of Revelations. I’m not sure if he ever addressed the remainder in subsequent writings or not.