The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Have you ever wondered why there are continual wars or why there is such a disparity of wealth—why some people and whole nations are rich and overfed while others are starving and deprived of other basic necessities? Why do governments spend billions on wars that kill and maim while the poor continue to suffer?

If you wonder why the world is the way it is, why there couldn’t be more love and peace and cooperation among people and nations to make the world a better place, the answer can be found in the Bible, beginning with Revelation chapter 6, about the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.

In Revelation chapter 6, Jesus opens the book of the future, the book of prophecy, which is sealed with seven seals, and shows the apostle John the future of the world from that time (about 90 AD) to the last days of earth’s history and beyond.

Another name for the book of Revelation is the Apocalypse, which means “a revelation concerning the future.” The four horsemen of the Apocalypse reveal the truth about religion, war, and economics, and set the stage for future events foretold in the Bible.

The First Seal

And I saw when the Lamb [Jesus] 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. (Revelation 6:1–2 KJV.)

We find another picture of a white horse in Revelation chapter 19: “And behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True. ... His name is called The Word of God” (Revelation 19:11,13 KJV). We know from John 1:14 that the Word of God is Jesus: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

At the time of this revelation in about 90 AD, the resurrected Jesus was going forth to “conquer” the world with the Gospel through His apostles and the early Christians. They would eventually convert the mighty Roman Empire, as Jesus’ message of the love and forgiveness of God would prove more powerful than all the legions of Rome.

We can therefore conclude that this first horseman who wears a crown and goes forth to conquer is Jesus. And following Jesus are the armies of heaven, the resurrected saints, who are also riding white horses as they come down to earth to defeat the forces of the Antichrist and take over the world at the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19:14).

The Second Seal

And when He had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, “Come and see.” And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword. (Revelation 6:3–4 KJV.)

This red horse symbolizes war, and the military and their war machines. The horse’s color is appropriate because it represents all the blood shed in humankind’s hellish wars—wars for which God is not responsible, but rather come from the pride, prejudice, and avarice of man’s heart.

What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from your passions that wage war within you?

James 4:1 CSB

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 NKJV

This black horse’s rider with the pair of balances in his hand symbolizes the rich capitalists that have a major impact on world conditions through their manipulation of national and global economies. Only one other verse in the Bible pictures a man with balances, or scales: “The merchant uses dishonest scales; he loves to defraud” (Hosea 12:7 NIV).

Another prophet, Amos, also said that the merchants—the wealthy capitalists of his day who were robbing the poor instead of helping them: “ Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land … skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.” (Amos 8:4–6 KJV).

This black horse, then, represents famine and poverty perpetrated by the rich who refuse to share with those in need. Oil and wine, throughout the Scriptures, symbolize abundance or luxury. The fact that the oil and wine were not to be harmed indicates a situation where wealth and luxury exist alongside famine and poverty—and the gulf between rich and poor only continues to grow.

The Fourth Seal

And when He had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, “Come and see.” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with the sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

Revelation 6:7–8 KJV

The fourth and final horseman of the Apocalypse is death itself—death not only from war, but also from plagues and famine, and death in every other conceivable form.

Death has always been with us, of course, but death by war and conflict, famine, natural disasters, and new plagues and epidemics such as Ebola and the coronaviruses will reach unprecedented levels immediately prior to Jesus’ return: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7).

War, greed, and death—the characters that were revealed when the second, third, and fourth seals were opened—are almost as old as the world itself, but the biblical picture painted both here and elsewhere is that each of these forces has taken on greater power since the time of this revelation.

Jesus predicted in His famous endtime discourse in Matthew chapter 24, that all this would culminate in a time of “great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved” (Matthew 24: 21–22 ESV).

In other words, Jesus was explaining that one day man would reach such an impasse that if God were to let him continue unchecked, he would annihilate himself. However, when man finally reaches that extremity, Jesus said that God would intervene. And the way God will intervene is by Jesus’ Second Coming, when He returns to take over the world and set up His righteous rule (Matthew 24:29–30; Isaiah 9:7; Revelation 19:11–21, 20:1-6).

Only within the last century has the human race developed the potential to destroy itself. The military (red horse) now has nuclear bombs, intercontinental missiles, chemical and biological weapons, and other lethal technologies. The rich and powerful, riding on their black horse, were complicit in the last century’s great wars, and their hoarding of resources and misuse of their riches threatens more wars and violence. In their relentless pursuit of greater wealth, they are finally succeeding in polluting the entire earth—a by-product of modern technology.

Lastly comes the fourth horseman on the pale horse—death in every form.

These four horsemen of the Apocalypse will continue to ride until Jesus returns to wipe out the Antichrist and his forces at the Battle of Armageddon, and to mete out His judgments to the perpetrators of war, evil, and injustice. God will then cleanse and purify the earth and set up His eternal kingdom, ruled by Jesus Christ–a kingdom of love, truth, and justice, where there will be no more war, oppression, or poverty.

Which horse are you putting your money on? Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Follow Him, and “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). And when He returns to rapture all who believe in Him, you will be counted amongst the "blessed" who have been granted the right to eternal life in God's presence forever (Revelation 22:14).

You can receive Jesus by praying this simple prayer:

Dear Jesus, I believe that You are the Son of God, and I ask You to come into my heart and life. Please forgive me for all my sins and grant me Your gift of eternal life. Please help me to know Your truth and love and to tell others about You so that they may come to know You too. Amen.