Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are the forces of man's destruction described in the Christian Bible in chapter six of the Book of Revelation. The four horsemen are traditionally named after the powers/dangers they represent: Conquest, War, Famine and Death; only Death, however, is directly named in the Bible.

Horses and their riders

The White Horse

The White Horse as evil

The rider of the white horse is commonly interpreted to be a representation of deceit, false prophets, false teachers or even the Anti-Christ. This belief points out that there are many differences between the white horse in Revelation 6: and Jesus on the white Horse in Revelation 19: In Revelation 19: it states in no uncertain terms that the rider on the horse is Jesus. In Revelation 6: it makes no such statement. Their position is that the clear identification of Jesus in Revelation 19 and not of the rider in Revelation 6: is for the reader's benefit, to separate the two white horses.

In Revelation 19: Jesus has a sword coming from his mouth (representing the word of God). In Revelation 6: the Rider has a Bow, the symbolism of these two weapons is considered relevant by those who take this position. The Sword is often used to represent Justice and retribution in scripture See Romans 13:,See Jeremiah 9:16 respectively. The Bow is often used to represent war and deceit see Psalms 11:2, Psalms 78:57.

This view also points out that in Revelation 19: Jesus has many Crowns being King of Kings. In Revelation 6 the rider has one crown symbolizing the small stature of this rider. This view points out that the Devil is the Prince of this world and wears a crown. The worldly beasts of Revelation and Daniel wear crowns. Revelation 13: Daniel 7: Daniel 2:

The White Horse as righteousness

Those who take this position argue the white horse representing evil or deception ignores much of the imagery presented throughout the Revelation and many cross references of whom the Bible names as being given a crown. For instance, "every" other time the colour white is used in the Revelation, it is always representative of righteousness and holiness, and whenever the author, John, depicts a malevolent force, he consistently shows it as evil (the two beasts of chapter 13, or the scarlet beast and the prostitute of chapter 17). Because of this there is no reason to interpret the white horse as representing anything other than something/someone that is righteous and holy. Even the terminology “conquering and to conquer” alludes to a righteous person, as the Greek term used here is used throughout the New Testament as a word meaning “to overcome” and “to be victorious.” In the 23 other times it is used in the New Testament (15 times in the Revelation alone), 22 of those instances refer to Christ or to His followers overcoming evil. So, in this 24th instance of the word (one of 15 times in the Revelation), it should be taken to mean the same thing: a righteous or holy force who is able to overcome and gain victory. Also, considering the rider is given a crown (something only seen to be given to Jesus or the 24 elders -- Daniel 7:13, 14, 27; Luke 1:31-33; Revelation 4:4, 10; 14:14), [Crowns are, however, worn in Revelation by the locusts shaped like horses prepared unto battle with faces like men, 'and on their heads as it were crowns like gold', Revelation IX.7. The king of these horse-men-locusts is the Angel of the bottomless pit, named Abaddon or Apollyon. Revelation IX, 11.] one might conclude that the rider of the white horse is on the side of good. However, it could be the Antichrist in disguise, as it is said that the Antichrist would seem pure, and make himself seem righteous and working for peace while actually deceiving mankind.

Thus by analogy with the white horse and rider of Revelation 19, one possibility is that the first horseman is Jesus Himself. Alternatively he could represent the Holy Spirit (the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, wherein Jesus is the Second Person, the Son) -- whom Jesus promises to send his disciples to aid them after his own departure from earth (Acts 1:4-8). In Acts 2, 17-21, Saint Peter while preaching referred to the apocalyptic vision of the Old Testament prophet Joel (Book of Joel 2, 28-32), who foretold an "outpouring" of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh so that everyone should prophesy and dream prophetically. This according to Joel (and Peter) should prepare for the Last Day, when 'The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes.' The writer of "Revelation" clearly knew this passage. The Holy Spirit was understood to have come upon the Apostles at Pentecost (as teacher, comforter, counsellor, and source of guidance to believers) after Jesus' departure from earth. The appearance of the Lamb in "Revelation" 5 shows the triumphant arrival of Jesus in heaven. The crowned white horseman could therefore represent the sending-forth by Jesus of the Holy Spirit. In a similar vein, the white horse and rider may be held to represent the advance of the gospel of Jesus Christ [Vos, Brian D. "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse", "The Outlook", June 2006 vol. 56 no. 4, pp 16-20. [] ] since the outpouring of his Spirit on the church. The sending forth of that gospel is unstoppable, since God's Word cannot be bound (2 Timothy 2:9) and does not return to Him void; it accomplishes the purpose for which He sends it forth (Isaiah 55:11).The rider of the white horse is also recognized as Conquest.

Red Horse

The rider of the second horse is generally held to represent War. The red color of his horse represents blood spilled on the battlefield. He carries a greatsword, which represents battle and fighting.

Revelation 6:4 - "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."

Black Horse

The third horseman, riding the black horse, is called Famine. The black color of the third horse could be a symbol of the dead.

Revelation 6:5 - 6:6 - “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.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.’”

Pale Horse

The fourth horseman, on the pale, or sickly horse, (which may be the source of the notion of "pestilence" as a separate horseman) is explicitly named Death.

The Greek word interpreted here as "pale" is elsewhere in the New Testament translated as "paisley." The horse is sometimes translated as "pale," "pale green," or "green." The pale greenish color of the fourth horse could mean fear, sickness, decay, and famine. His horse is thin and weak, instead of strong and healthy.

Revelation 6:8 - "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."

Alternative interpretations

One interpretation is that the Four Horsemen are the Four Beasts mentioned in the visions of The Book of Daniel, representing four kings (or kingdoms), the last of which devours the world. The more conventional integration of this portion of Daniel with Revelation, however, is that the eleventh king (arising in the fourth kingdom) is the Antichrist.

Some Christian scholars do not interpret "Revelation" as prophecy of future events so much as a revealing of God's presence in the current events of the first centuryFact|date=July 2007.

In this sense the white horseman is a symbol for a conquering force from without. This is symbolized using the image of the feared Parthian mounted archer on his white horse and given the crown of a conqueror. The red rider who takes peace from the earth is the civil strife that ended the pax romana. The black rider is the famine that follows anytime there is foreign invasion or civil war. The final rider is the death that accompanies conflict and famine and the pestilence that springs up in the aftermath of these other tragedies.

While these images, and especially the Parthians, are specific to the Roman Empire of the early Christian era, there is a universality about them. Each new century, Christian interpreters see ways in which the horsemen, and Revelation in general, speaks to contemporary events. Some who believe Revelation applies to modern times can interpret the horses based on various ways their colours are used. Red, for example, often represents Communism, while Black has been used as a symbol of Capitalism. Pastor Irvin Baxter Jr. of Endtime Ministries espouses such a belief. [cite web
last = Baxter
first = Irvin
authorlink = Irvin Baxter Jr.
title = Arafat and Jerusalem: The Palestinian Perspective
publisher = Endtime Ministries
url =
accessdate = 2006-12-05

Not all interpretations agree that the horsemen are associated with contemporary events. One interpretation suggests that the horsemen are each associated with one of the first, four opened seals. [cite book | last = Draper | first = Richard D. | title = Opening the Seven Seals: The Visions of John the Revelator| publisher = Deseret Book| date = 1991 | pages = 62-68 | isbn = 0-87579-547-1] The white horse represents the first seal in which the city of Enoch [ [,63#19 Moses 7:19] ] is established in righteous conquest. The red horse represents the second seal in which bloodshed and wickedness reigns. The black horse represents the third seal in which famine, plague, and pestilence take hold of the world. The pale horse represents a time of escalated death and destruction. Further interpretation by scholars suggests that each horse represents a given time: the time of Enoch, the time of Noah, the time of Abraham, and the time of Christ.

Another challenged interpretation is that the white horse represents foreign warfare or conquest ("went forth conquering, and to conquer"), the red represents civil war or domestic strife ("that they should kill one another"), the black represents famine ("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"), and the pale represents pestilence or disease in its various forms (" to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth").

Pestilence, Famine, War and Death

This interpretation rearranges the order in which the horsemen arrive to end the world, and a slight change to their personas. Pestilence is portrayed as a distinct entity, separate from Famine, and takes Conquest's normal place in the lineup.

The first horseman to appear is Pestilence, who rides upon a sickly, decaying horse. Pestilence causes the decay and imminent destruction of the worlds crops and wildlife. In the wake of Pestilence comes Famine, a large and portly rider riding upon a thin and sickly horse, symbolizing gluttony and the lack of food. In the wake of Famine, due to immense fighting over the remaining food supplies, is War. War rides upon a red horse and wields a tremendous sword which he uses to slay the millions in his path. And in the wake of War, comes the black rider, Death. His horse is jet black. He is followed by Hades and carries the remaining souls to their final destinations.

It is this interpretation which is most commonly used as the basis for pop culture's uses of the Four Horsemen concept.

ee also

* Antichrist
* Apocalypse
* Armageddon
* "Book of Revelation"
* Eschatology
* Horsemen of Apocalypse (comics)
* Summary of Christian eschatological differences
* The book with seven seals (oratorio)
* The Four Horsemen (song)
* "Good Omens"
* "Thief of Time"
* Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse


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