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The Four Horses Of Revelation And Their Message For Today

Updated on January 29, 2022
Johan Smulders profile image

Johan is a marriage counsellor and evangelist with a BA from the University of South Africa and an MA from Abilene Christian University.

The Four Horses of the Apocalypse – A modern reality

The book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John at some time between 70 and 95 AD. It was a time of severe persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperors. John recorded the visions that he saw while in exile on the Island of Patmos (Rev 1:9). It uses a type of literature known as Apocalyptic Writing that was familiar to the readers of his time and so they understood it.

Many of the Old Testaments writers used these kinds of graphic and vivid images to explain present and future events. Ezekiel is one and often recorded visions that he saw. A good example is “the valley of dry bones” in Ezekiel 37:1-14.To us today it is difficult to understand the word pictures that John records because we do not really think like that. When we understand the significance of the numbers and images, the book has a powerful message that is still relevant today.

With the spread of the Corona Virus in the world today, the passage in Revelation 6 and the opening of the seven seals is particularly important. In Chapter 5 John is shown a scroll that no-one is capable of opening, leading to “much weeping” (5:4). But then John is introduced to the only one who is able to open the scrolls, “the Lamb who was slain” an obvious reference to Jesus Christ. “You have redeemed us to God by Your blood” (5:9- 12). This passage is a quotation from several Old Testament books.

It is, however, in the description of the four horses in Chapter 6 that brings us squarely into the world of today. As the seals are opened, four horses with riders come out and ride into the world. These horses and riders are still doing their business, even today.

The White Horse and the Rider carrying a bow and setting out to conquer

This represents man hunger to take over countries, nations and even individuals. In its macro form it refers to the Roman Empire and even the world Empires that preceded it like Babylon, Assyria and Greece. In modern times it would include colonialism and expansionism. On a local level it would include tribalism and even political control. In a micro level it includes modern slavery and even relationships that are ruined.

The Red Horse and the taking away of peace

The opening of the second seal introduces a fiery red horse with a rider that has the ability to take peace from the earth. The world wars and the ongoing regional and local wars are testimony to the activity of this dangerous horse and rider. Taking it down to its micro level it enters the home and family, the workplace and society in general.

The Black Horse and the rider with scales in his hand

The rich become richer and the poor poorer, a basic fact of life. This horse and rider introduces greed and economic power that uses and abuses people so that while some can enjoy the oil and wine of prosperity, the large percentage of the world’s population lives in poverty and want. The world lives on the basic principle of “I take what I want and not what I need” and so there is a huge discrepancy between those who control the positions of economic power and the workers who provide the sweat and tears.

The Pale Horse and its rider death

This horse represents the final outcome that results from the efforts of the former horses. Disease and death follows greed and war. Lack of nutrition leads to starvation, sickness and death and add into the mix the diseases that throughout history has destroyed millions. The Black Plague, The Flu Epidemic and now the variety of Corona Viruses that have the world in a lockdown. The natural disasters like drought, hurricanes and tornadoes bring death.

It is interesting that these four horses of the Apocalypse feed off each other. One hardship results in another. Following war comes hunger, as history has shown. Greed has devastated countries and even individuals. It will eventually destroy the world as global warming increases. These stark realities have been, continue to be, and always will be the reality of our human world because they lie in the very hearts of every man and woman.

The only way to defeat them is to read on in the rest of the chapter and also the whole Book of Revelation because there is another white horse riding through the world and that is Jesus (19:11-16). He wins the battle for those who folloe Him.

While many readers of Revelation get lost in the: “when is this all going to happen?” they don’t realize that, as in the time of John writing this book, it was already happening. In the same way it is also happening today. The message is a timeless one and will continue to happen till Christ returns. Meanwhile, like the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:8-20, believers who are living is a saved relationship with God already have protection and prosperity. Yes, the world is a dangerous place because of the human factor as illustrated so graphically by the four horses of the apocalypse. At the same time we can enjoy the “peace that passes understanding” in Christ.


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