"For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." (I Thess. 5: 3)
If the "sudden destruction" is connected with the coming of the Lord and with the day of judgment and great tribulation, then clearly "when they shall say" must precede it. Thus, we should look at this as a sign of the coming day of judgment and tribulation. These words of Paul are said in the context of discussing the "times and seasons" for the coming day of the Lord. The adverb "when" points to both a specific time (chronos - chronology) and to a season (kairos - a characteristic). Further, the pronoun "they" must refer to the wicked world, to those who are children of darkness. The present tense of "when they shall say" may be interpreted as "when they are saying."
To what specific event is the apostle referring? It seems clear that Paul is referring to something that is monumental and of something on a world scale. No one can doubt that this has not as of yet been fulfilled. If it had been fulfilled, then why is the destruction prophesied not been realized? Further, how does such a prophecy of world peace square with all the prophecies that speak of wars, commotions, earthquakes, and such like, as that which precedes the coming of the Lord? Do such things precede or follow the coming of the Lord? And, why is there so little prophecy, comparatively speaking, about this coming "world peace"?
Our Christian forefathers feared the creation of Wilson's "League of Nations." And, it was this fear and opposition that helped to squash Wilson's dream. For the same reason, our Christian forefathers feared and opposed the creation of the United Nations. They saw it as a sign of the coming one world government associated with AntiChrist and the end times. I don' think they were wrong and see the U.N. as that institution which is destined to rule the world and will be that form of the "beast" spoken of by both Daniel and John in the Apocalypse.
It also must be understood that the peace that is announced in the prophecy by the wicked world is no real peace, but a false peace. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." (Isa. 57: 21) "The way of peace they know not." (Isa. 59: 8) It will rather be a time when the wicked world will be "saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace." (Jer. 6: 14; 8: 11; Eze. 13: 10)
The "peace" of the prophecy is clearly a political peace and the safety is that which is perceived to result from such political peace and when war between nations is perceived to be no more. Further, this is what will be said after thousands of years of war between nations. When Jesus said that the time leading up to his return would be a time when "nation shall rise against nation" (Matt. 24: 7), this is to be understood of what is to precede that time when they shall "peace and safety." What the last generation of men will be saying is "finally! peace and safety." Or, "peace and safety at last!"
The "peace and safety" that will be announced by that wicked last generation will not be a peace between people, between neighbors, but between nations, a strictly political peace, brought about by the creation of a one world government, what many today call "the new world order." The United Nations is the forerunner of this world government. As long as war is in the heart (Psa. 55: 21) men will fight and war.
It is my view that the rider on the white horse, when the first of the seven seals are opened, corresponds to the time when the world says "peace and safety."
"And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see." (Rev. 6: 1-3)
Many connect this rider on the white horse with antichrist but this does not seem probable. Nor is it likely that he is the Lord Jesus Christ who does later appear on a white horse at the end of the opening of the seven seals, and who seems to be contrasted with this rider. This rider has an empty bow but Christ is seen later with a sword.
First of all, it is doubtful that this rider refers to an individual, no more than the riders of the red, black, or pale horses (to follow) refer to a single individual. It is inconsistent that those who think that this rider refers to antichrist, to a particular individual, but do not think that the following riders refer to individuals. Likely the coming of each rider simply signifies the going forth of divine power for the purpose of bringing about described events on earth. Secondly, the antichrist does not seem to come on the scene until Revelation chapter thirteen, under the character of "the beast," after the seventh seal has been broken. It is possible that this rider on the white horse does refer to antichrist, but that it refers to his initial appearing, while Revelation thirteen refers to his final appearing. I do not think this is tenable, however.
I do think that the going forth of the rider on the white horse lays the groundwork for the personal appearing of "the beast" or antichrist. I also believe that this going forth of the rider on the white horse is the first event that begins the "day of judgement" or that "hour of trial" which is to "come upon all the world." (Rev. 3: 10) It is the "beginning or sorrows" (Matt. 24: 8) or start of "the great tribulation." (Rev. 7: 14)
This going forth of the rider on the white horse speaks of that time "when they shall say peace and safety." The symbolism of the "white horse" and the empty "bow" speaks of a time of triumph when "peace and safety" have been achieved. Further, the conquests of this rider seems to be the result of diplomacy rather than conflict, the result of a "peace movement" among the nations. It is a bloodless conquering. The giving of the crown ("stephanos") is symbolic of victory.
This is the peace that the United Nations is now seeking to acquire by creating a one world government or a "united states of the world." It will be achieved by the will of God and by his sufferance. And, it will be the event that begins that series of events that make up the day of the Lord.
The peace that is brought to the world by the white horse rider is not the peace of Christ because the opening of the next seal brings on the rider on the red horse and to him it is divinely given, as an act of divine judgment, "to take peace from the earth," the very peace that the rider on the white horse effected. No one can take away the peace of Christ when it comes. The taking of peace from the earth by the red horse rider shows how the peace brought by the white horse rider was short lived. It also evinces the prophetic words of Paul. "When they shall say peace and safety then sudden destruction" may be read as "when the rider on the white horse comes, bringing peace and safety, then sudden destruction comes by the rider on the red horse."
It is unclear how the one world government with its promised peace and safety will be finally realized. We are still in that period where nation is rising up against nation and there are rumors of wars everywhere. One can envision several possible scenarios where the United Nations finally receives its power to govern the world. And, of course, to bring this about will require each nation to give up much of its sovereignty and weapons to the world government. Perhaps it will be some great catastrophe, such as a worldwide economic collapse or catastrophic