Earlier today, I wrote about how for some reason I never realized it, but the order Jesus gives during the Olivet Discourse about the signs that would indicate His return DIRECTLY CORRESPONDS to the order of the release of the Four Horsemen during the opening of the first Four Seals!
First Horseman - White Horse - First Seal = False Peace/False Religion/False Messiah
Second Horseman - Red Horse - Second Seal = War! War! War!
Third Horseman - Black Horse - Third Seal = Famine
Fourth Horseman - Pale Horse - Fourth Seal = Disease
While the above is good for a quick reference, I thought it would be even better for us to take a moment to look at each one individually a little more closely. Let's go to Revelation 6.
The first thing of special interest to me was that a Creature is associated with each of the first Four Seals/Four Horsemen. Revelation 4:6-8 tells us that these four living creatures were around the throne. Remember the living creatures around God's chariot throne in Ezekiel's visions (Ezekiel Chapters 1 and 10)?
It's also interesting to note that a color is associated with the horses seen in each of the first Four Seals. Joel 2:1-4, Zechariah 1:8-10, and Zechariah 6:1-3 describe horses that bring judgment from God too. Perhaps we'll look at that idea more closely a little later.
So, what can we learn about these Four Horsemen? What do we know about them from what the Holy Bible tells us?
First Seal: Conqueror on a White Horse (Revelation 6:1)
White is a symbol of purity and peace. Here is a rider who appears to come in the name of and bearing a message of peace, but he is a conqueror; one who imposes his version of peace on the world. Possibly this rider will even bring about a pseudo peace, or a condition described by the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:3: "For when they say, 'Peace and safety!' then sudden destruction comes upon them ... And they shall not escape." Some confuse this rider with Jesus Christ, whom Revelation 19 shows riding a white horse at His Second Coming. Yet, a careful examination reveals important distinctions. Christ is wearing "many crowns" at His return, not just a single crown as worn by this First Horseman, and instead of wielding a bow, Christ is brandishing a sword with which He strikes the nations.
Plus, to be consistent with Christ's statements in Matthew 24, we must conclude that this rider represents not Jesus, but instead false teachers who appropriate His name while corrupting His plain teaching and leading many into destructive heresy. Remember His warning: "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name ... and will deceive many" (Matthew 24:4-5).
A man claiming to be God, in the temple of God, performs signs with the intent of persuading men to worship a system that appears to be doing good for the world. His allure will likely lie in bringing about a peaceful solution to a world crisis where no one else has succeeded. The world will wonder in amazement at the ability of this system to impose a "peace" that will seemingly bring security in which the world can prosper economically. It will be a global system unlike any previous system, and it will seem to work. The ride of the first horseman, false religion, will greatly impact the nations in the last days. It will mark the expansion of a religious movement without parallel in history.
Second Seal: Warmaker on a Red Horse (Revelation 6:3)
War! War! War! The Red Horse will bring a terrible time of warfare on Earth. Peace disappears and men slay each other. The world has experienced times of war right through history, and even in this last century there have been many wars. However, the war described here will be worse than anything experienced before. This is signified by the fact the Horseman is given a very large sword. The events described here will be widespread in the their effects. Peace will be gone from the Earth.
Red is the colour of Esau and his descendants the Edomites. Esau was red when was born (Genesis 25:25). The name Esau comes from a root meaning "to press or to squeeze." The word Edom, which is the name given to the nation which he founded, comes from a root word meaning "red." The spiritual forces released by the rider on the fiery Red Horse can be discovered by reading the story of Esau and Jacob. The same spiritual forces continued to work between Edom and Israel. The grievance will often be the result of deception (Genesis 27:36). The dispute may relate to a disagreement over the inheritance of land (Genesis 25:54). One tribe may have dominated the other, but they will become restless and cast off their yoke (Genesis 27:40). They will have held onto a grudge from the past, consoling themselves for many years with the thought of killing the other. They will make a vow to obtain revenge (Genesis 27:41; Numbers 20:20).
The Second Horseman is perhaps the most easily identifiable of the famed Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, since both of its symbols, the fiery red color and the great sword, are well known to represent war. However, underlying this facile identification of the symbols are a few interesting details that add depth to them. The Greek word John uses for "red" is purros or pyrros, meaning "the color of fire" (compare our words "pyre," "pyromania," "pyrosis"). This is not the normal Greek word for red (eruthros), but a more specialized term that suggests fieriness or flickering reds, oranges, and yellows like a flame. It is the same word that John uses to describe the redness of the Dragon (Satan) in Revelation 12:3 (the third and only other occurrence is in a proper name, Sopatros Purrou, which is strangely not fully translated in Acts 20:4). This particular color intimates heat and ferocity like an out-of-control wildfire. The Horseman's "great sword" is a translation of máchaira megálee. Again, this is not the ordinary sword of war (romfaia) but a short sword or long knife like a dagger. Frequently, máchaira is the knife used to prepare a sacrifice or to slaughter an animal for food. It is also the sword worn by magistrates and executioners. That the red horseman's sword is "great" (megálee) means either that it is larger or longer than usual or that it is highly effective in doing its job.
The red horseman, with its fiery red horse, great sword, and relentless aggression, is a fearsome symbol of unremitting, intensifying, uncontrolled, horrific conflict. God intends this figure to instill terror in mankind in the hope that he will repent of his enmity and be saved from its destruction and death (II Peter 3:9-13).
Third Seal: The Black Horse of Economic Woes and Famine (Revelation 6:5)
When the Third Seal is opened a Black Horse goes forth on the Earth. It is a symbol of economic crisis. This horse brings famine on the Earth too. We are not told what causes the famine, but the results are made very clear. The Greek measure, translated here as a quart, was a "choinix." It was the daily ration for a soldier in active service. The coin mentioned is a "denarius," which was the equivalent of a day’s wages. John saw a famine so severe that a daily ration of wheat will cost a day’s wages. Barley was a little cheaper as it was considered to be of poorer quality. The situation will be so severe that ordinary people will need all that they can earn to buy food. The wealthy will not be affected. Luxury items like oil and wine are not to be damaged. They are not essentials, but will be more readily available. The real shortage will be for basic food items. He represents famine, but he also represents income distribution as it will exist in the last days.
Fourth Seal: The Pale Horse brings Pestilence (Revelation 6:7)
The Fourth Horse of Revelation 6 is pale and sickly; a deadly shade of green. It brings pestilence and death on the Earth. This Horseman is called "Death" and he is a symbol of deadly disease spreading over the Earth. John is seeing something like the bubonic plague ("black death"), which spread to Europe in the 14th century and decimated the population.
I recently discovered that the term "Pale Horse" is a bad translation here. It’s original Greek word is "chloros" where we get the word "chloroform" from, or "chlorophyll" (that which makes a plant look green). Thus, a better translation here is a green color to represent sickness, disease, and death.
We should always keep in mind that the fact that the Seven Seals are opened by Jesus Christ indicates his sovereignty over the future. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13), He is sovereign from the beginning to the end of history, and everything in between.
Jesus opens the Seals to permit us to see the future course of history, which is not hidden from the saints (Revelation 1:1, 22:6, 10). God has entrusted Jesus to reveal the future course of history to His church ("the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy").
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