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The Four Riders of the Apocalypse

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6 And aI saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, aaas it were the noise of thunder, bone of the four beasts saying, Come and see. 2 And I saw, and behold cda white horse: dand he that sat on him ehad a bow; and fa crown was given unto him: and he went forth gconquering, and to conquer.
3 And when he had opened the second seal, I heard hthe second beast say, Come and see. 4 And there went out another ihorse that was red: and jpower was given to him that sat thereon kto take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard hthe third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo la black horse; and he that sat on him had ma pair of balances in his hand. 6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, ||nA measure of wheat for oa penny, and three measures of barley for oa penny; and see thou oohurt not the oil and the wine.
7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of hthe fourth beast say, Come and see. 8 And I looked, and behold pa pale horse: and his name that sat on him was qDeath, and qHell followed with him. And power was given ||unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill rswith sword, and nrswith hunger, and rswith death, and rtwith the beasts of the earth.
The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Re 6.

The Lamb Takes Center Stage

The preceding five chapters have led up to this point: “the things that must shortly come to pass.” As a futurist, we believe that this marks the beginning of the Tribulation. The focus changes from the throne room of God as the emphasis of chapters 4 & 5, to the Lamb and the earth. As the curtain opens on chapter six, we meet those that will have a part in this drama: the Lamb/Son of God, angels, men, living creatures, Satan, and four horsemen. There will be actions on earth, in the heavens, and in hell itself.
There are four different symbols associated with God’s judgment in the book of the Revelation:
(1) The opening of the seven-sealed book
(2) the sounding of seven angelic trumpets
(3) the reverberations of seven thunders
(4) the outpouring of seven bowls of divine wrath.”[1]
The Lamb will break each seal on the scroll in succession and as He does, John does not repeat the words of the Lamb. Instead, the breaking of each seal will causes an event that John records.
Before we get into these fourteen, action packed chapters of judgment, it would be good to remember that John was not just writing to the seven churches to encourage the brethren, he was writing to Christians throughout history. Warren Wiersbe wrote:
He was not only writing prophecy that would be fulfilled in the end times; but he was also writing great theology and dramatically revealing the character of God and the principles of His kingdom. These chapters describe the cosmic conflict between God and Satan, the New Jerusalem and Babylon; and no matter what “key” a student may use to unlock Revelation, he cannot help but see the exalted King of kings as He vindicates His people and gives victory to the overcomers…In every era of its history, the church has had to contend with Babylon (compare Rev 18:4 with Jer. 50-51) and Antichrist (see 1 John 2:18ff) Revelation 6-19 is merely the climax of this conflict.[2]
The sequence of events beginning in this chapter closely parallels the events described by Jesus in the Olivet discourse. The following chart compares the Olivet Discourse as found in the Gospel of Matthew with six of the Seal judgments as found in Revelation 6.
Important Notes
Note One: There is a discussion among expositors on whether the seal (Rev 6:1-17; 8:1-5), trumpet (Rev 8:6-9:21; 11:15-19), thunders (Rev 10:1-7), and vial/bowl judgments (Rev 16:1-21) are consecutive, simultaneous or are parallel. I will take the position that they are connected to one another and there is some overlapping; the seventh Seal introduces the first seven Trumpet judgments (Revelation 8:1-5) and the seventh Trumpet judgments introduces the seven Vial/bowl judgement of God’s wrath (Revelation 11:15-19, 15:1-8).
It is worth mentioning that each of the judgements brings greater devastation than the previous one.
Note Two: the beginning of each verse in chapter 6 begins with “and”, the Greek word kai – meaning also, both, if, so, and. (except for the last verse 17). Kai is often applied when joining groups of words with a snowballing force. Its use in this chapter, keeps the reader/listener’s attention to the unfolding of each event, anticipating a “what’s next” type of discussion.
Note Three: this commentary is written with the pretribulational theology, taking into consideration that the church has been “snatched up” to heaven, before the outpouring of God’s wrath.
Note Four: The scene shifts between heaven and earth many times in the Revelation: Walvoord created the following chart to show the changing scenes. (Walvoord J. , 1966)

The Shifting Scenes of Revelation

Revelation 1-3 Earth
Revelation 4-5 Heaven
Revelation 6:1-8 Earth
Revelation 6:9-11 Heaven
Revelation 6:12-16 Earth.
Revelation 7:1-8:6 Heaven
Revelation 8:7-11:14 Earth
Revelation 11:15-12:4 Heaven
Revelation 12:5-14:20 Earth
Revelation 15:1-8 Heaven
Revelation 16-18 Earth
Revelation 19:1-10 Heaven
Revelation 19:11-20:10 Earth
Revelation 20:11-22:21 Heaven

The Scroll is Opened by Breaking the Seals

Revelation 6:1-2 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.
I often wonder what must have been going through the mind of the Apostle John at this point.
· All worship and singing stops and the throne room falls silent.
· Anticipation of what the scroll holds within and without is about to be revealed.
What was John’s expectation? Was it hope, eagerness, caution, or wonder? We do not know how much time has passed between the events of chapter 5 and 6. John only knew that the Lamb, holding the scroll, was preparing to break the seals and reveal the contents of the scroll.
And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. The wait is over; the Lamb breaks the first seal. The opening of the seal is more than just an announcement of God intentions; it is His will being carried out, without question. Without the Lamb saying anything, one of the Beasts (living creatures) proclaims, “come and see.” We do not know which of the four living creatures announces the breaking the first seal, but some have suggested that each of the first four scrolls follows the introduction of the four beasts as they were introduced in chapter four. In this case it would be, “like a lion” (Revelation 4:7).
Come” is a distinctive command. Some translations like the King James and the New King James have the living creature say “come and see.” If this is the correct translation, then it would mean that John is called to “come” and to read the scroll “see.” The only problem I see with this translation is that John does not indicate that he looks upon or reads the scroll, that only Jesus was found worthy to open the book and break the seals (Revelation 5:5).
Who was the living creature talking to? Was it John? Was his attention to be drawn away from the scroll and the Lamb and to the action of the declaration? Or is the command to “come” levelled at the rider of the white horse, to spur him into action?
Whatever the correct translation of the word or phrase “come and see,” action follows the announcement.

First Seal: The Antichrist is Revealed, and Peace is Established for a Period

2 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.
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. John’s sees a rider on a white horse. In the Old Testament, horses, and the chariots they pulled were not for peaceful purposes; they meant war. The horse represented majesty, power, triumph, prosperity, and conquest (Deut 20:1; Josh 11:4-9; Ps 33:17; Pr 21:31; Job 39:19-25; Hosea 14:3; Rev 19:11, 14). In the New Testament, horse or horses is found fifteen times, and only once outside of the Revelation. (James 3:3)
John’s description of the rider on the white horse tells us a lot about him. The rider has a bow, and a crown is “given him.” Some try to identify this rider with the Christ as found in chapter 19, but, within the context of this passage, it is highly doubtful that the Lamb would be announcing of His judgment on the earth while breaking the seals in heaven.
First, This rider has a bow. Jesus, according to Revelation 2:12 and 2:16, is described as having a “sword with two edges” and “the sword…which proceedeth out of his mouth” (Revelation 2:16, 19:21). I cannot find anywhere where Christ is associated with a bow.
Second, the rider is wearing a stephanos, a victor’s crown. It is not used of the kingly crown, diadēma. The rider has a victor’s “crown” given to him. Everywhere in Scripture, Jesus is already wearing a king’s “crown.” Also, we never read that a crown is ever “given” to Him except the crown of thorns. Look at the description of the Christ when He returns at His Second Coming.
Revelation 19:11-13 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. 12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
“There are two important riders in Revelation: Antichrist at the opening of the book (6:1–2) and Christ at the close (19:11–16). The prefix anti in Greek means “instead of” as well as “against.” The world ruler is a counterfeit Christ, energized by the master counterfeiter, Satan (2 Cor. 11:13–15). John does not use the term Antichrist; instead, he calls him “the beast” (chap. 13). The world would not receive the true Christ, but it will receive the false Christ (John 5:43).”[3]
There are several other differences between the two. For a further examination, please look at the following table, Table 14 - Comparison of the rider of the white horse in Chapter 6 & 19.

Comparison of the rider of the white horse in chapter 6 and 19

It is very clear to me that the first rider is NOT Christ. If he is not, then who or what is he? The action assigned to this white horse and rider is “he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” John does not tell us what or whom he is to conquer. If we follow the teachings of the Scriptures, Old Testament and New Testament, we can draw some conclusions.
· Daniel stated that a “prince that shall come,” who will make a covenant of peace with Israel at the beginning of the Tribulation and since this marks the beginning of the judgments of the Tribulation, the rider on the white horse points to the Antichrist
· Jesus taught His followers in the Olivet discourse that there would be the appearance of antichrists.
· The Antichrist would assume as many of the attributes of the Christ to persuade men to follow him. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the Antichrist would “resemble” the Christ: white horse, crown, bow but no arrows. But then again looking closer, the white horse is the only similarity between the two (chapter 6 and 19).
· The Antichrist is identified during the Tribulation to appear to solve all the problems of the world and bring peace (bow – ability to make war; no arrows – will not have to use the bow to bring about peace). To disguise his real intentions, the Antichrist will not show his real intentions of conquering the whole world at the beginning. He will proclaim peace. The world will receive him as their great deliverer and savior.
· The Antichrist is Satan’s imitation of the real Christ. He is an imposter! He will mislead, betray, and fool the whole world. His deception will include the Jews who are still looking for the Messiah to come (John 5:43; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12)
· Overall, the context of the four horsemen involves war and disasters associated with war. Those are goals of the Antichrist and not the Christ.
We will look at the Antichrist in greater detail, but a birds-eye-view would show us that he is called the “beast” in Revelation 13:1-18; 16:10-13; 17:3-14; 19:19-21; 20:10. He is called by many names, “son of perdition” (John 17:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3), “wicked” (2 Thessalonians 2:8);

Second seal: the peace is broken by world war.

Revelation 6:3-4 And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. 4 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.
The second seal is broken, and another beast says, “come and see.” The second horse and rider are revealed and this time the horse is red in color and its rider is given a “great sword” and power to “take peace from the earth.” No crown of any type is mentioned.
Red is often associated with terror, bloodshed, and death (great red dragon, Revelation 12:3; scarlet colored beast, Revelation 17:3). He takes “peace from the earth” with a “great sword.” The result of this rider’s appearance is war on the earth. We have always had wars on earth. According to a New York Times article, out of the last 3,400 years, the earth has only had peace for 268 of them. That is just 8 percent of recorded history.[4] But, this war will be unlike any that the world has seen up to this point. World War I has the title, “The war to end all wars.” Sixty-five million men were involved in the battle over Europe. Over ten million men lost their lives and twenty million were wounded on the battlefield. World War II had over twenty million casualties.
The red horse and rider bring the entire world into war. This will require mobilization of all resources; military, industrial and human on a scale never seen before.

Third seal: the outcome of world war is a shortage of foodstuff and famine follows.

Revelation 6:5-6 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. 6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
Another seal broken and another beast says, “come and see.” The third horse and rider are revealed and this time the horse is black in color and its rider is given a “pair of balances.” The color black indicates mourning and speaks of famine. From within the four beasts come the words, “A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” The word “measure”, chaeniv is slightly more than a US dry quart. This was the amount of food needed to support one soldier or laborer of moderate appetite for one day. Wheat is considered the food of the wealthy and barley is the food of the poor. There would not be enough food for the whole family.
The King James use of “penny” is the Greek word denarius, which is the common wage for one day’s labor.
“…see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” - Wheat and barley, oil and the vine, were the staple foods in Palestine and Asia Minor.[5]
The oil and the wine are luxuries that are enjoyed by the rich. Oil would correspond to our toiletries, the beauty aids and the body conditioners that we use today; that is, the luxuries of life. The wine corresponds to the liquor that will be in abundance. Isn’t it interesting that there will not be enough foodstuff, not enough barley for food, but there will be enough barley to make liquor! They will make it in that day, and the rich are the ones who will get it.[6]
Of course, this plays into the hands of the Antichrist. It is normal during famine for the government to step in and control the distribution of food. They also set guidelines and pricing of all foodstuff.
No crown of any type is mentioned for the rider of the black horse.

Fourth seal – is death on an unprecedented scale; ¼ of the world will die.

Revelation 6:7-8 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. 8 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 sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Another seal broken, another beast says, “come and see.” The fourth horse and rider are revealed and this time the horse is pale in color and its riders name is Death and Hades followed him. The Greek word chloros means greenish, verdant, dun-colored, and green; from which we derive the English word “chlorine.” The result of this sickly green color is a ghastly prelude to the rotting, advanced stages of decomposing corpses that will become an all too familiar sight.
Power and authority to kill by the sword, famine, pestilence and wild beasts one quarter of the earth’s population is given to them. Let that number sink in just a minute. Twenty-five percent of the earth’s population will die. The estimated population as of December 2013 is 6.93 billion people. That would mean that this fourth horseman is responsible for the death of approximately 1.74 billion people. Remember the death toll of WWII was twenty million. The death toll of the fourth horseman is 86 times greater than WWII.
It is no wonder that as Jesus referred to this time of tribulation He told them:
Matthew 24:21-22 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
These judgments are anything but trivial, they go beyond anything this world has ever seen.
This rider does not carry any symbol; bow, sword or balance. Everyone is familiar with death.
“…and Hell followed with him” – the word translated “hell” is the Greek word hades – unseen place of the dead, grave. J. Vernon McGee comments on the usage of the word hell.
Hell is a very unfortunate translation there; it is this same word hades, and, actually, it does not refer to hell at all. It speaks of physical death—either where the spirit goes or of the grave where the body is placed.[7]
No crown of any type is mentioned. The result of this rider’s appearance is death on the earth.
Mounce (Mounce, 1998) summarizes this section as follows:
“Reviewing the various interpretations assigned to the Four Horsemen tends to rob the contemporary reader of the dramatic nature of the vision itself. It is good to place oneself back in one of the seven churches and listen to the visions as they are being read. Instead of discussing the probable significance of each of the four colored horses those first listeners would have recoiled in terror as war, bloodshed, famine, and death galloped furiously across the stage of their imagination.”[8]
[1] Paige Patterson, Revelation, An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of the Holy Scripture, (Nashville, TN, B&H Publishing, 2012) 176
[2] Warren Wiersbe, Be Victorious, (Colorado Springs, Co, David C Cook Publishers, 1985) 62
[3] Wiersbe, W. W. (1991). With the Word Bible Commentary (Re 6:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
[4] Chris Hedges, The New York Times, July 6, 2003
[5] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Re 6:6). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
[6] McGee, J. V. (1997). Thru the Bible commentary (electronic ed., Vol. 5, p. 942). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
[7] McGee, J. V. (1997). Thru the Bible commentary (electronic ed., Vol. 5, p. 943). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
[8]. R. H. Mounce. The Book of the Revelation. Revised Edition. New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, MI; Erdmans, 1998) 145-146
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