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“The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” – Revelation 6:1-8

May 30, 2021

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The fifth chapter of Revelation focused on the scroll, the sealed book of God's plan for the redemption of His creation and establishment of His permanent kingdom.

The central truth of Revelation 5 is that only the Lamb (Christ Jesus) is worthy to take the scroll, break its seals, redeem the creation and claim His kingdom. (Rev. 5:12)

Only He is worthy because His blood was shed on the cross, the sacrificial atonement for the sin of the world.  (Jn. 1:29)

In the sixth chapter, we will read of the Lamb breaking the seals of the scroll, opening the book, and the preliminary events at the beginning of the end times.

As we study Revelation, we need to remember that the Book of Revelation contains two purposes of God:

  1. The establishment of the kingdom and the gathering of His saints into the kingdom.
  2. The judgment of God upon Satan and his kingdom that have oppressed God's people.

Matthew 24:29-31

God will judge evil and its work for the suffering inflicted on His people throughout history, and until the last day when Christ returns. (Rev. 19, 20)

But God has an additional purpose for His wrath and judgment against evil in the last days.

Mercifully to drive the wicked to repentance before the final judgment falls and salvation is impossible.

Finally, let us understand that the "breaking of the seals" is not part of the "Great Tribulation."

"For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be."

(Matt. 24:21)

But are preparatory and preliminary to it, "...the beginning of sorrows;"

"All these are the beginning of sorrows."

(Matt. 24:8)

Prior to the "abomination of desolation."

"Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand),"

(Matt. 24:15)

Which opens the "Great Tribulation!" 


The First Seal

"Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, "Come and see."

Revelation 6:1

"One of the four living creatures..."

     * Cherubim (Rev. 4:6-8)

"Come and see."

     * Better translated simply "come" or "come out" or "come forth." (NIV, CSB, LV, RSV)

The best understanding is that the four living creatures call or summon the four horsemen to "come" forth, and ride on earth as instruments of God's divine purpose.


And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a  crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

Revelation 6:2

There are two, possibly three understandings of this verse based upon symbolism and reference verses in both the Old and New Testaments. 

  1. This is the antichrist leading the stampede of horsemen.

            The "white horse" is a counterfeit of Christ's white horse. (Rev. 19:11)

            "A bow" - Used by a mighty hunter, like Nimrod. (Gen. 10:8-10)

            A bow shoots arrows as in:

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

(Eph. 6:16 - NIV)

            "A crown" - "Stephanos" (Gk.), a temporary fading crown awarded for victory in athletic games.  Not "diadems" (Gk.) "many crowns" as Christ wears. (Rev. 19:12)

          "...He went out conquering and to conquer..."

            * To incite war and be victorious in it.

But only Christ will be ultimately victorious, not antichrist.

Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God,… 

(Rev. 19:15-17)

  1. This interpretation is symbolic of Christ.

            * Because of the comparison to "the King of kings" coming at the final judgment with "the sword," not "a bow." (Rev. 19:11-16)

The main problem with this interpretation is that this verse (Vs. 6:2) is at the beginning of the last days, the prelims to the "Great Tribulation," and Christs return at the end.

Additionally, it is impossible to conceive of Christ Jesus, the King, coming forth after being summoned by one of His angels ('living creatures') to lead three evil, destructive horsemen.

  1. This interpretation is symbolic of the Gospel going forward during the tribulation, contrary to evil being perceived as victorious. 

          "...a white horse..."

            * Colors are uniformly symbolic in Bible prophecy.

            * White is the color and symbol of Christ, His righteousness, His people and spiritual victory.

            * Christ has hair "white like wool." (Rev. 1:14)

            * Overcomers receive a "white stone" with a new name written on it.(Rev. 2:17)

            * We wear "white garments." (Rev. 3:4-5, 18)

            * Twenty-four elders are "clothed in white robes." (Rev. 4:4)

            * The martyrs are given "white robes." (Rev. 6:11, 7:9, 13)

            * The "Son of Man" sits on a "white cloud." (Rev. 14:14)

            * He returns on a "white horse" with the armies of heaven in "white robes," on "white horses." (Rev. 20:11)

           * At the final judgment, God is seen on a "white throne." (Rev. 20:11)

Considering all this, it would seem that the "white horse" and its rider must be connected to God and the Christ.

Additionally, the white horse and its rider in this verse, unlike the other three (the red, black and pale horses) has no woe or evil connected to it.

From the "beginning of sorrows" through the end of the "Great Tribulation," the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be preached. (Mk. 13:10)

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

(Matt. 24:14)

Although the kingdom of God will not be established until the return of the "Son of Man" (Matt. 24:29-31), the tribulation period will be a time of great tension and contention between darkness and "the Light" as the church continues to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. (Matt. 9:35-38, 28:18-20, Acts 1:6-8)

I believe the rider of the "white horse" in this verse is not our Lord Jesus, but His Gospel.

             "...a crown was given to Him, and He went out conquering and to conquer."

The "crown" is the symbol of the meaning expressed by the words "...He went out conquering and to conquer."  This is not a complete and total conquest, instead the meaning is that the proclamation of the Gospel will win souls to Christ, and conquer or defeat the desires of the wicked one, even during the Tribulation.


The Second Seal

When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come and see." Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.

Revelation 6:3-4

"Another horse, fiery red went out..."

            * Red is symbolic of blood shed, terror and ultimate evil.

            * "...a great fiery red dragon...that serpent of old, called the devil and Satan who deceives the whole world;..." (Rev. 12:3, 9)

"...to take peace from the earth..."

            * The opposite of "peace" is "war."

"And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places."

(Matt. 24:6-7)

"...and that people should kill one another..."

            * People are always killed in war, but notice the phraseology:

"...and that people...kill one another."

            * This describes the worst kind of war - civil war.

"...there was given to him a great sword..."

            * The most powerful of weapons -- in our time: nuclear weapons.


The Third Seal

When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come and see." So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine."    Revelation 6:5-6

"...a black horse and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand..."

            * This represents scarcity or famine; scales were used to measure grain (food).

"A quart of wheat..."

            * The amount of wheat needed to sustain one man for one day.

"...for a denarius..."

            * An entire day's wage for a laborer. (Matt. 20:2)

"...three quarts of barley for a denarius..."

            * Barley was less nutritious than wheat, less expensive. Often used to feed livestock.

            * In time of famine, used to feed a laborers family.

Famine always follows war!

(Jer. 24:10)

"...do not harm the oil and the wine."

            * Oil and wine were expensive commodities in ancient times, the food of the wealthy and privileged.  This may mean that even during scarcity and famine the rich will survive.

Again, this is a picture of conditions in "the beginning of sorrows," not the "Great Tribulation" where there will be complete famine, not scarcity.


The Fourth Seal

When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come and see." So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.

Revelation 6:7-8

"...a pale horse..."

            * The Greek word is "chloros,” a pale green or gray, the ashen color of fear, the pallor of death.

The pale horse represents death from war, famine, pestilence and wild beasts.

Famine, pestilence (disease) and wild beasts (rats) always are the by-products of war.

“…him who sat on it was death, and Hades followed with him…”

            * Hades (hell) follows death for the unbeliever.

“Hades,” the underworld or grave, accompanies “Death” to swallow up all who are struck down by famine, pestilence (death) and wild beasts.

“…and power was given to them over a fourth of the earth to kill with sword (war), with hunger (famine), with death (pestilence) and by the beasts (rats?) of the earth.

Disease always follows Famine!

(Eze. 5:12, 17)

Even after all the death caused by war, famine, disease and plague carrying rats, these horsemen of destruction were limited to 25% of the earth's population.

Far less than how many will be killed by the end of the tribulation period on earth, where only a remnant will still be alive at Christ's second coming!

These, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, are only the “beginning of sorrows.” 


If all this is true, and I believe it is, what does this call us to do as believers?

And if you don't believe, what are you to do?

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