Are you what we might call a modern-day prophet, a tomorrow-thinker in a world of yesterday-dwellers? Or do you know somebody like that? Though often unpopular and unthanked, these people perform a vital role in society. They look at the future and issue precious warnings.
A legend dated around AD 89 states that the apostle John lost the first transcription of his apocalyptic vision. The account was preserved only by word of mouth, since the document was lost during the persecution of Domitian. In it a fifth horseman emerged. This rider actually led the other four, says the legend. You remember the other four: War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death. As the lead rider became nauseated by the deeds of his fellows, he pressed far ahead of them. He entered every village, every city, with a great cry and terrifying predictions. To the rulers of each place he warned of those who came hard behind him, and as proof, he showed them the blood on his own horse's hooves. Then, as always, he went on, for his urgency was great.
Behind him citizens fell into profound arguments. Some called him a liar. They said the blood was that of goats, not humans. Others considered him insane . . . and a few claimed he had not passed that way at all; they merely imagined him there. Theological, philosophical, and political debate abounded. In the end, no one said, "A prophet has been among us," so his warnings did not prevail. The four horsemen ultimately arrived, and as predicted, slew their three times tens of thousands.
Meanwhile, the legendary fifth horseman came to the outermost reaches of the earth and turned about, satisfied with his work. However, as he revisited one city after another—all now destroyed and desolate—he realized nothing he had said had made one bit of difference. Unrepentant, arrogant, indifferent, and disobedient, they had refused to act upon the truth they had been told. The legend concludes with the fifth horseman rejoining his companions. Together they slew all mankind and destroyed their cities.
And the identity of him who led? The name of him who warned, according to the legend?
Though often unpopular and unthanked, truthtellers play a vital role in society.