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Book of Revelation 101: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Updated on December 13, 2015
I know they're not "horses" per say, but it looks cool, and I love the imagery connected with each one's meaning
I know they're not "horses" per say, but it looks cool, and I love the imagery connected with each one's meaning | Source

Symbolic or Literal?

How do you interpret the Book of Revelations?

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Important Things to Know about the Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation can be a VERY difficult book to understand, and it cannot be read literally, because a lot of it is very symbolic. While there are some parts of the book that can and most definitely should be taken literally, there is also a lot of it that hold deeper symbolic meaning.

I have recently taken up an Institute course studying the Book of Revelations, and I wish to share some of the deciphering tools and doctrines I've been learning. In this hub I will cover the meaning of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Seven Seals

First thing is first: The sealed book God was holding contained 7 seals. Each of these seals describes a period of time of things past, or to come. The earth has a temporal existence of 7,000 years, the Millennium to occur after Christ's Second Coming being the last 1,000 years. Seven seals, each covering 1,000 years of time of the World's History. The Sixth and Seventh seals cover the before and after of Christ's second coming, or the 6,000 and 7,000 years. So, the seals are in order of millenniums of time. The First seal is the first 1,000 years of the earth's temporal existence!

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The First Horseman

"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 6:2

Each horse has a color about it, and the rider wears/carries something significant. The choice of color and object is not random; remember, the book of revelations is symbolic. So, what does white color signify? Truth! Justice! All that is right! Glory even! The rider is also wearing a crown. Aside from royalty, being "crowned" is also a sign of Victory. The rider carries a bow with him, it shows he fought a battle, a battle for truth, justice, and all that is right in the sight of God. According to his crown, he was victorious! All this within in the first thousand years? This describes Enoch

The First Thousand Years

"And the children of men were numerous upon all the face of the land. And in those days Satan had great dominion among men, and raged in their hearts; and from thenceforth came wars and bloodshed; and a man’s hand was against his own brother, in administering death, because of secret works, seeking for power." - Moses 6:15 Is described within Enos's time, or about 3765 BC. Fast forward to when Enoch is born, about 3378 BC and you can imagine just how crazy the world has become. If you continue in Moses 6 starting about verse 21 to the end of that chapter, and on into Moses 7 you can plainly see the victorious war Enoch has against the wicked of the world. So great, in fact, was his victory, that an entire city was translated up to heaven!

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The Second Horseman

"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 6:4

Red horse = Bloodshed.

Sword? Death, war, murder, killing!

The Second Thousand Years

So the first thousand years ends, Enoch and all the righteous people are gone, leaving a world full of scary wicked people, save for of Enoch's sons: Methusela, who begat Lamech, who begat Noah, in about 2,944 BC. Fast Forward some 500+ years later and God is talking about sending a flood to the earth. Why? "The earth was corrupt before God, and it was filled with violence." - Moses 8:28

Well, ya, I mean, look at what was going in Enoch's time! All the righteous were taken away, save Methuselah and his posterity, that leaves an entire world full of murderers, liars, theives, etc. Pretty dismal situation if you ask me. So, God warns Noah he's going to send a flood, because the people won't listen and repent. And so, as we know, all the people and animals are killed and drown from the face of the earth, save it were eight souls

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The Third Horseman

"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. 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." - Revelation 6:5-6


Black horse: Death? Not quite, that's the last one, but it is close. The Black horse is Famine. Its rider holds a pair of scales. In common terms today Scales are often used as a sign on judgement, or to measure weights, but remember, this is within 2000 BC, not 2000 AD. What did they use scales for back in that time? Before the standard currency, money was counted by weight, as well as grains were counted by measures; hence "A measure of Wheat", or "A measure of Barely", or even "A measure of grain".

Scales in the middle of a famine? What happens to the prices of food when there is a shortage? They go UP! "A measure of wheat for a penny", though not a penny in today's standards, no. The KJV Bible always translates "denarius" as "penny", however, its worth isn't that of a penny at all. Roughly, it's about $20. Ouch!

The Three Thousand Years

Moving up to 2000 BC now, this is after the flood and the people start to multiple on the earth again. One of those descendants is knows as Abraham. Yes, THE Abraham, the Father of the Covenant Abraham. He writes in his own book "Now, after the priest of Elkenah was smitten that he died, there came a fulfillment of those things which were said unto me concerning the land of Chaldea, that there should be a famine in the land. Accordingly a famine prevailed throughout all the land of Chaldea, and my father was sorely tormented because of the famine, and he repented of the evil which he had determined against me, to take away my life." - Abraham 1:29-30, and in Abraham 2:1 "Now the Lord God caused the famine to wax sore in the land of Ur, insomuch that Haran, my brother, died; but Terah, my father, yet lived in the land of Ur, of the Chaldees."


And let's not forget Joseph, Abraham's great-grandson who saved Egypt from 7 years of brutal famine. That particular famine wasn't just in Egypt, it was widespread so bad that other nations were coming to Egypt to buy grain!

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The Fourth Horseman

"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." - Revelation 6:8


Pale horse signifies DEATH. Sword, hunger, beasts of the earth: Wars, famine, those who flee in the wilderness are devoured by wild beasts...

The Four Thousand Years

Leading up to before Christ's first coming, the 1000 BC times. What's going on in the world? Conquests, raids, cities and nations falling upon each other, not to mention the near destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of its 12 tribes! Hundreds of thousands are killed, and those who aren't killed are lead captive by their enemies

What do YOU think?

Do you agree? Disagree?

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No More Horseman

That's right, these guys have PASSED! While true, we may be able to see some similar signs of their effects today, its not the Horsemen. No, rather the things occurring TODAY are actually within the beginnings of the 7th seal. More specifically, the period of silence in Heaven for the space of half an hour...

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    • profile image

      Pharmc593 3 years ago

      Hello! gddgece interesting gddgece site! I'm really like it! Very, very gddgece good!

    • Wakerra profile image
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      Wakerra 4 years ago

      I have my opinions of truth as well, and it seems I'm always humbled when I find out my ideas are wrong. I keep having to remind myself of the verse in Isaiah: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Yes, only God knows, but let us not forget what is quoted over 14 times in the scriptures "Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." He wants us to ask him, he wants to enlighten our minds with his thoughts and his ways. As we continue to seek in faith, we will find the truth. And truth never changes, while beliefs may, as the world's beliefs have been changing dramatically. God's truth is the Rock and foundation that we should all be building our lives around, so that we shall not fail when the hard times and trials come upon us. May he continue to bless your life as you continue to seek and follow him!

    • SwordofManticorE profile image

      SwordofManticorE 4 years ago from Burlington

      I think truth is proven to all by the holy ghost through love. What I wrote before is my belief, but is it truth? Only God knows. The one thing I have learned about my beliefs and what I know , is that what I know is in my opinion the truth, everything else is my belief, because what we believe today, may change tomorrow

    • Wakerra profile image
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      Wakerra 4 years ago

      Those are some very interesting points, and you have addressed my concern with the famine, thank you. Indeed the horsemen can be fit into many different time periods, and some even place them to today and in the future, if not all throughout the course of time. Such is the way with most of the Bible. Passages can be interpreted to fit in so many different ways, each one making sense, but who is to say what is the true interpretation? Whose word it is? God's. How can we know of spiritual truths without seeking spiritual guidance?

      I may not be able to prove everything with facts, but I don't have to. I may not know everything, but I do know when God confirms truth to me through the witness of the Holy Ghost.

    • SwordofManticorE profile image

      SwordofManticorE 4 years ago from Burlington

      Read up and research the Jewish war. Neighbor murdered neighbor for food in that great city. what food was affordable before the siege was over priced during the siege. The streets were piled with bodies and disease was everywhere. Nero was the one who martyred the saints in Rome. The name Nero in Hebrew mathematics is 666. Another thing I find interesting is the second death that is mentioned four times in revelations. As I understand it, this second death happened AD70 with the destruction of the temple and the end of the Jewish religion a second time. First by Babylon, and the second time by Rome. John prophesized this in Matt 3:10.

    • Wakerra profile image
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      Wakerra 4 years ago

      Interesting, but this is actually within the fifth seal, which is about martyrdom and the destruction of the believers. The scattering of the twelve tribes, the complete massacre of the Jewish people, and what was that conqueror guy who "lit the streets of Rome with the bodies of crucified Christians"?

      I also fail to see how famine and heightened prices fits in with 70 AD

    • SwordofManticorE profile image

      SwordofManticorE 4 years ago from Burlington

      My understanding of the four horsemen already occurred AD70 with the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.

    • amer786 profile image

      amer786 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Regrettably, this is true. And though I have not studied this in detail yet, but 300 years has got something to do with it. Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) also prophecized that the first 300 years of Islam will be more untainted before a long decline in spiritual standards sets in. Council of Nicea, viewed suspiciously by many, was also 325 AD. Jesus (peace be on him) appeared in the progeny of Moses (peace be on him) after 1,000 and 300 years. Same is also prophecized for Messiah in progeny of Muhammad (peace be on him).

      Reformation and renaissance are divine acts I believe, with a symbolic heavenly descent of a divine guide.

    • Wakerra profile image
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      Wakerra 4 years ago

      Unfortunately it seems religion no matter where you are is always corrupted in some form. Even since the beginning of time, people were changing scriptures, or making their own forms of worship because they didn't believe. Over time the original truths can be lost and falsehoods taken to be doctrine. Shortly after the flood of Noah we even begin to see this happening again with Egyptus and her posterity.

      Oh, I could go off a tangent train on the history of the Gospel since the beginning to now, but to spare the comments of this hub, you can check them out from my published hubs on my profile, and even more here

      http://www.squidoo.com/the-pattern-of-apostasy-and...

      http://hubpages.com/@wakerralm

    • amer786 profile image

      amer786 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Well said sir, symbols do not lose their meaning—a white knight is just what it is, as is a monster or a war. And if I may add, the son of God. Schism and strife are not unique to Christianity. It is rampant in Judaism and Islam too. Like you say, sometimes this is due to mistranslation and omission but I would add that politics and power are a reason too.

      The current world-stage is a great study in our day and age. In the Islamic world, misinterpretations and exploitations of symbolism are at the root of death and destruction. For example, in Islamic Eschatology (much like the Christian side) a Messianic and Mahdi (divine guide) will appear in end times. They will mobilize an army against the Dajjal (the anti-christ). After much battle, they will slay the Anti-Christ. Those who participate in this Jihad will be rewarded in Heaven with wine and women of exquisite beauty reclining in lush green gardens in silk garments with fruit aplenty—sounds like a great deal. By misusing these symbols, the clerics dupe young boys and men into acts of terror. Even though The Mahdi and Messiah aren’t here yet, they say, since so many signs are fulfilled they must be on their way so let’s get a head-start. Christian eschatologists are not helping either with all the talk of the Babylonian Beast rising out of the Middle East. Indeed, what is missing from both sides is The Messiah. Now that’s not something one can fill in. So, both are probably erring with their politics. Muhammad (peace be on him) saw it coming and denounced the Islamic scholars of the latter-days as mischief-makers and called them the ‘worst’. Jesus (peace be on him) too had the premonition I believe that he stated in Matthew 7:21-23.

      I believe a solution would have to include an understanding of symbolism.

    • Wakerra profile image
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      Wakerra 4 years ago

      Why does Hubpages not notify me of these new comments??

      Honestly I didn't think twice about the fairytale comment, so no harm done ^^ My Institute teacher brought up a good point when it came to symbols. He said that symbols, when translated, don't lose their original meaning. This is where some of the confusion between religions comes from. Notice how there are so many christian religions that believe in the same Bible, but contradict each other so much? In its course of translation, may "plain and precious" parts were taken out, coupled with the occasional mis-translation, because we are human. Even though the surface level of understanding may not be existent, we do still have a lot of the deeper meanings with symbols, metaphors, and likenesses. Once you understand these, you can make the connections

    • amer786 profile image

      amer786 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      I read the Hub, thank you for sharing. Btw, my sincere apologies about my earlier remark on the nature of the second coming, please excuse the 'fairytale' comment. I did not know of your religious orientation.

    • Wakerra profile image
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      Wakerra 4 years ago

      Very interesting. Yesterday we went over the chapters in Revelation where it talks about the great pit being opened and the "locusts" that came out of them, among many other things, and clarifying exactly what it was talking about. I'm going to write a hub on that topic in the near future. Just as Muhammad, John the Revelator was describing things of the future, but how can you describe a "boat" or a "plane" when you don't have modern description? You relate it to the closest thing you can

      Fire also has an interesting meaning with purify, as two other elements. I wrote a hub about these called "What is up with Wine?" if you're interested

    • amer786 profile image

      amer786 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Yes of course, not everything is symbolic and metaphorical. One can usually make out the difference with a little bit of common sense (which is eroding fast).

      Fire sure is an amazing concept. The physical universe was apparently born of it (The Big Bang) and will probably die into it. Like you said there’s the burning bush and the fire of hell. Fire provides a world of energy today and yet is a destructive force in warfare too.

      Interestingly, in Islamic Eschatology, the prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) said that in the latter-days things will be so drastically different that there will appear a donkey that will mobilize by eating fire. This donkey (a symbol for transportation) will be able to spring from East to West, move at extreme speeds, and be able to leap over clouds. He also said the donkey will be able to move on water and when it does that its back will expand exponentially so it can carry mountains of food or merchandise. To the people at the time this must have sounded so bizarre. But today we know what he was talking about. By using symbols, in a matter of a few sentences, is an amazing exposition of contemporary fire-driven modes of transportation. Look up “Dajjal’s Donkey” on YouTube.

      Regrettably, some clerics and so-called Muslims insist there will come a literal donkey that will eat fire and fly around the world just like in those dragon movies. I say, let them wait.

    • Wakerra profile image
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      Wakerra 4 years ago

      lol I just have this imagery of a little red devil with horns and a pointed tail poking at my heart with his pitchfork. However this pulls an excellent point of imagery being universal. After all, we all (or so I would hope) know that devils don't look this way, yet we use them in everyday cartoons/caricatures/etc because people can easily recognize it as a "devil", same with halos and wings on angels.

      Imagine living 50 AD and seeing an image of above described devil. I'd probably have a hard time understanding what this little creature was supposed to be, its kind of the same concept with the imagery in the scriptures today. We just need to understand what its supposed to represent, then everything else falls into place.

      I should probably also clarify myself with "fire" while I still can, not all cases of fire mentioned are symbollic (like the fire that came down to stop the egyptians from racing into the red sea, and the burning bush) but in most cases it is symbollic

    • amer786 profile image

      amer786 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Right on! Another great benefit of symbolic language or parables is that a point can be driven across clearly and swiftly. For example, in the Holy Quran verse 13:35 says . . . “The ‘example’ of Paradise is that through it flow streams, its fruit is everlasting, as is its shade—a reward for the righteous, whereas the reward for the erring is Fire”. This is clearly telling us that the rivers of milk and honey and fruits and everlasting shade is a way of explaining the essence of Paradise, its form may actually differ but this is more or less what it will feel like. And Fire, is a way of explaining the state of those who close their lives with sin and deviance. Also this is probably true of demons and devils. We feel the incitements and temptations of sin with in us, but is there really a horned devil with a fork and arrow-tail running and stoking our desires? You read my mind with the wings! I agree they are a way to explain mobility and flight—after all why do Angels who supposedly perform in a dimension unlike the physical world we know, need wings as we know them?

      I also find that the prophecies around the second coming of Christ or The Messiah are symbolic in nature. Sorry to say but feel that people have either lost this crucial understanding or they just care for fairy tales more. Prophetic dispensation from God Almighty of a Messiah, or Mahdi, or a second Christ will happen in same manner as they have in the past. I doubt God will change the rules at this point in the final millennia or epoch.

    • Wakerra profile image
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      Wakerra 4 years ago

      I know the symbolism is universal throughout the scriptures, I'm hoping my course in the Book of Revelation will be able to help me understand some of the other scriptures (I tried reading a passage in Ezekiel with the cherubims and the wheels...wow, I couldn't make heads of tails of that one...)

      An interesting point my teacher brought up with me was that Symbolism is easily translated into any language, unlike translating a language directly from one to another. The only difficult part is, understanding the meaning of the symbols. The numbers seem to hold symbolic meaning (Seven, for instance, means perfection or completion). The description of Fire and Wings are also usually symbollic: Fire represents Glory, or light. The pillar of Fire that led the children of Israel in the wilderness was a pillar of light, and eyes of fire are symbolizing glory, or power. Wings are mentioned to various creatures, but they're not literal, rather they represent the ability to move, act, etc

    • amer786 profile image

      amer786 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Wakerra, great hub! I really enjoyed. I don't know how far you got it right but what I agree with is your rational and agreeable approach to revelation and scripture unlike the popular appeals of fantasy and thoughtless literal translations that we see in religion today. Parables, metaphors and symbols are the language of scripture.

      You have certainly prompted me to study the The Book of Revelations and I will use this Hub as a reference point. It seems to make sense.

      You should also do a Hub on Daniel's dreams about the four beasts, 10 Kings and 7 horns. I am studying that. I believe it is also symbolic in nature.

      God Almight's peace and blessings. Pray we survive the fourth horeseman's legacy. Perhaps it is not quite over yet.