Some of the most intriguing passages in the Bible can be found in Revelation chapter 6, a chapter dealing with events that occur during the Tribulation period of human history. Both Old and New Testament prophets mention this period frequently, including Jesus Christ, when He said, “unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive” (Matthew 24:22). This series of articles will focus on the proper interpretation of the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” (found in verses 2 through 8 of chapter 6), while exploring one very plausible scenario for their fulfillment.
The first horseman appears in verse 2:
“I looked up and saw a white horse. Its rider carried a bow, and a crown was placed on his head. He rode out to win many battles and gain the victory” (Revelation 6:2).
Throughout history, this has been properly interpreted as a passage referring to the Antichrist. But what does the symbolic language of this verse tell us about the man of perdition? Several things are immediately noticeable:
1) He rides a white horse. This description is commonly used in Scripture to identify a conqueror. So, it is appropriate to view the Antichrist as a conqueror.
2) A crown is placed on his head. The Antichrist is either the king of a nation or nations, or an elected or appointed head of state(s).
3) He rides out to win many battles and gain victory. The Antichrist goes out into the world with every intention to conquer it.
4) He carries a bow. The Antichrist wields the traditional weapons of war, but in this passage, he is not viewed as using deadly force to conquer (no arrow accompanies his bow).
This last characteristic of the Antichrist and his nefarious career is intentionally placed last on the list because it is the most revealing and enigmatic statement in the aforementioned verse. How can a person conquer without using deadly force, when this has been the exclusive method of choice for conquerors throughout history? This apparent contradiction has often been rectified by viewing the Antichrist as a great diplomat who will use diplomacy to peacefully bring a willing world into an era of global government. But is this a realistic view? Revelation 13:7 tells us that “he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation.” Given the global history of nationalism, tribalism, racism, and other animosities among men, it seems beyond comprehension that any man, no matter how charismatic, could conquer the world with mere words.
This gives us the perfect opportunity to apply the golden rule of biblical interpretation: “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense.” The Bible is clearly telling us that one of the ways believers will be able to identify the Antichrist is by recognizing his ability to conquer the world without using deadly force. But, again, given what we know about history, is it possible to conquer the world without using deadly force?
Right now, it’s not. But very soon, it will not only be possible, but absolutely necessary. Just as much of the world remains asleep to the “signs of the times,” it also remains ignorant of the exponential growth of its technological capability. The world is on the verge of a monumental breakthrough that will literally change the world geopolitical landscape overnight. This imminent technological discovery is known as molecular manufacturing (MM), the ability to precisely position reactive molecules via mechanochemical synthesis. The length of this article doesn’t allow room to elaborate on the details of MM, but those interested can learn more by visiting The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology at www.crnano.org. That said, molecular manufacturing will be a technology so powerful, it will swiftly transform every facet of the human condition–partly to great benefit, partly to great peril.
In his 1986 book, Engines of Creation, in which K. Eric Drexler first posited the ideas of nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing, he made the following observation (found in chapter 11: “Engines of Destruction”) concerning the dangers of this technology’s development:
“States could use assemblers or advanced AI systems to achieve sudden, destabilizing breakthroughs. I earlier discussed reasons for expecting that the advent of replicating assemblers will bring relatively sudden changes: Able to replicate swiftly, they could become abundant in a matter of days. Able to make almost anything, they could be programmed to duplicate existing weapons, but made from superior materials. Able to work with standard, well-understood components (atoms) they could suddenly build things designed in anticipation of the assembler breakthrough. These results of design-ahead could include programmable germs and other nasty novelties. For all these reasons, a state that makes the assembler breakthrough could rapidly create a decisive military force–if not literally overnight, then at least with unprecedented speed.”
For those who think the United States remains, and will remain, the world’s greatest military power well into the future, I recommend rereading that last sentence.
Molecular manufacturing will turn the world upside down. Its development will amplify the current march toward smaller, more precise, and efficient weapons. Instead of killing its enemies, a nation could simply disarm them. Even a nation-state as small as Singapore or Monaco could very quickly build a military force far more powerful than all the current world militaries combined.
This will have a significant impact on the world political structure. Just as the development of atomic weapons made the United States and the Soviet Union world superpowers during the Cold War, the development of molecular manufacturing will make the nation that develops it the world’s dominant superpower. In addition, it can cement that power permanently if it uses its initial advantage to disable competing nation-states from developing molecular manufacturing capabilities of their own.
It is my assertion that this elimination of potential rivals will not simply be one of many foreign policy options, but rather, the only one. This is because of the inherent instability of an MM-based arms race. The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology has identified an unstable arms race as one of the top dangers of molecular manufacturing:
“The nuclear arms race was stable for several reasons. In virtually every way, the nano-arms race will be the opposite. Nuclear weapons are hard to design, hard to build, require easily monitored testing, do indiscriminate and lasting damage, do not rapidly become obsolete, have almost no peaceful use, and are universally abhorred. Nano capability will be easy to build (given a nanofactory), will allow easily concealable testing, will be relatively easy to control and deactivate, would become obsolete very rapidly, almost every design is dual-use, and peaceful and non-lethal (police) use will be common. Nukes are easier to stockpile than to use; nano weapons are the opposite.”
The Center also agrees that an MM monopoly will be an attractive policy option for the developing nation:
“Each nation will see only a few possibilities: 1) an arms race that will probably be unwinnable since it will develop into a disastrous war; 2) developing ahead of everyone else and establishing dominance; 3) some other nation developing earlier and establishing dominance; 4) international cooperation and trust sufficient to ensure safety; 5) a multinational organization willing and able to keep the peace.
“Option 1 is undesirable; Option 3 is probably unthinkable for any of the current large powers; Option 5 is probably unacceptable to the U.S., as the world’s sole superpower; Option 4 may be seen as unfeasible. Only one nation can succeed at Option 2. This implies that a preemptive strike option (whether military attack, or sabotage or derailment of nanotech development efforts) will appear very attractive to a number of powerful nations.”
Regardless of whether it is linked to Bible prophecy, molecular manufacturing is near and inevitable. It’s also a foregone conclusion that a nanotechnology arms race must be avoided at all costs. As such, it is very likely the leading power will assert itself over potential rivals in order to prevent the unprecedented destruction of a nanotech arms race.
Oddly, this leads to the agreement of two often diametrically opposed worldviews:
The Secular Worldview: Molecular manufacturing is coming. In order to ensure geopolitical stability and survival of the human race, competition among molecular manufacturing-enabled competitors must be eliminated and a global government must be established.
The Biblical Worldview: The Antichrist will worship a god of fortresses unknown to his fathers (Daniel 11:37-39), and he will rule over a global government (Revelation 13:7). When he initially appears, he will ride out to conquer many (Revelation 6:2).
This convergence between the secular worldview and the biblical worldview is cause for examination of the times in which we live. When molecular manufacturing is developed in the near future, its invention will almost certainly be followed by a military campaign to prevent a future showdown between competing MM-enabled nation states. However, this military campaign will in no way resemble the military conquests to which we’ve become accustomed. It will be waged with horrifically effective weapons that will be hundreds of times stronger, lighter, faster, and more accurate than the best military technologies of today. Encrypted networks will be easily compromised, the concept of MAD easily circumvented. World domination will come with relative ease to an MM-enabled power competing against today’s defense technologies. And victory can be absolute without a single human casualty.
Is this the scenario foreseen in Revelation 6:2? Perhaps. Perhaps not. However, it should be noted that the timeline for its development coincides with an era in which all the “signs” addressed by Jesus and the prophets are present.
The most important sign is that Israel is once again a nation. Jesus told His followers:
“Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its buds become tender and its leaves begin to sprout, you know without being told that summer is near. Just so, when you see the events I’ve described beginning to happen, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. I assure you, this generation will not pass from the scene before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will remain forever” (Matthew 24:32-35).
The fig tree Jesus is referring to is Israel. It’s been six decades since Israel was once again declared a nation against all worldly odds. Jesus promised that the generation that witnessed fulfillment of this prophecy would not pass until the things of which He spoke happened. The hourglass is running out on that generation, so be alert. Christ tells us that those who are watching for this hour will be blessed:
“Know this: A homeowner who knew exactly when a burglar was coming would stay alert and not permit the house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time. For the Son of Man will come when least expected” (Matthew 24:43-44).
“Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).