I want to comment on Darrin Ball’s denial that the third seal is not referring to famine, in particular the birth pang of famine in Matthew 24:27. He places the third seal after the midpoint. Ball is a sharp prewrather, but I believe he is mistaken on this issue.
1. One of his main objections is the word “famine” is not found in the third seal account. It’s absence is irrelevant. Ball is committing the very common word-concept fallacy, which is the assumption that studying a single word or phrase corresponds to having studied the entire biblical concept and that the concept can only be present if a particular word is present; in this case, “famine.” I have inveighed against this common fallacy in my book (pp. 222–23) and on this website; just do a word search (no pun intended) for “word-concept” on this website for articles I have written on this. Posttrib and pretribs commit this fallacy all the time. The fallacious formula goes like this: “The particular word X is not found in this passage, therefore the concept is not found there.”
Imagine doing a biblical study on the concept of hypocrisy and all you did was look up the word “hypocrisy” in a concordance. You would miss the most important passage in the Bible on hypocrisy in Isaiah 1:10–15 because the mere word is not found in that passage! Nor should we expect it, since it is not a prose account, but a graphic poetic description of hypocrisy. Likewise, Ball in surface-level fashion reads the third seal account looking for the mere word “famine,” yet misses right in front of his nose the powerful language that conveys famine! In fact, it would be redundant to place the word “famine” in this account and it would deflate the evocative imagery it is conveying.
I commented in my book:
The third seal results in famine and scarcity, which may be the consequence of battle in the war-torn areas the [unrevealed] Antichrist conquers [during the first half]. The black horse of this seal symbolizes famine. The imagery of a balance scale symbolizes high prices and rationing of food due to scarcity (cf. Ezek. 4:16; Lev. 36:26). Another indication of famine is that the writer of Revelation describes the value of the wheat and barley as eight to sixteen times the average prices in the Roman Empire at the time. In an eschatological context, this will be inflation to an acute degree. This food crisis may allow the Antichrist to assert his control over food prices and related commodities. How would he eventually do this? Presumably, the crisis would carry over into the second half of the seven-year period, and when the Antichrist institutes his mark-of-the-beast scheme, he will use it to assume absolute control of who can buy and sell.
I would direct people to my Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord where I have a discussion on this.
2. Next, in this facebook thread he argues that where the birth pangs in Matthew 24 are not indications that the end has come, the seals in Revelation, however, are indications of the end. Thus, he concludes, the third seal cannot correspond to the birth pangs in Matthew 24.
This is not correct. Just as the birth pangs precede the end, the first three seals precede the end. The first three seals are not the end of the age, just as the birth pangs are not the end of the age. Both have to happen before the end of the age.
3. Next, on a related issue, Ball interprets Matthew 24:9–14 in a historicist fashion as though the events therein have been occurring throughout the church age. This not the case according to the Greek grammar and context. Matthew 24:9–14 refers to the great tribulation, not the interadvental church age. I have written about the structure of Matthew 24 in my book, particularly this passage. You can read an excerpt here:
4. Finally, I have previously responded to Ball on the issue of the correspondence of the seals and birth pangs here:
I hope this analysis helps those who are thinking through these issues.