he ever so popular Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, as found in that Book of Obscuration by John the Revelator, is among one of the most significant in symbolism found in all Holy Script. The scene is symbolic and spiritual, yet another of those cryptic sayings that is misunderstood by most commentators reading these eight passages of scripture. Moreso, it is the redemptive work of Christ as described in this beautiful book of the unveiling of Jesus Christ in humanity.
To best understand what I am about to share, I suggest the reader to put aside any preconceived ideas that these passages are reference to events that are futuristic (preview of events to come) or historical (review of past time and sequence of events), but rather a chronology of individual human experience. Albeit I do not entirely dismiss historical aspects of the book of Revelation, I simply do not believe much of the Preterist interpretation that most are peddling these days and I find it somewhat to be educated guesswork with its imaginary deciphering of certain passages matching certain events or especially persons in history. Perhaps some may accuse me of the same regarding my explanation of this book of mystery. Again, I understand how some may have arrived at the idea of the rider and his white horse representing barbarous invaders (e.g., called Parthians) attacking the Roman empire, the red horse for civil war and some Roman general trying to become emperor, the black horse representing famine in the land and the so-called pale horse pestilence and plagues and so forth. I simply think there is a better explanation, as you shall hopefully agree upon after reading this brief article.
But before we proceed, permit me to offer the reader some thoughts on the idea of redemption, for the rider on these four horses, as we shall see, is none other than our Redeemer – The Lord Jesus Christ. Suffice it so say, as one scholar of old had so wisely stated, in its’ simplest of terms redemption is the deliverance of creation from all that is wrong to its’ salvation and all that is right. And may I add, it is only in Jesus Christ the Redeemer, that we can find the satisfaction to meet the need of the buying-back of humanity to a state or condition from which it had lost. Christianity is a message of redemption and this picture of the four horses and their rider represents aspects of the “goings forth” or progressive unveiling of Christ in our spirit redeeming our soul from sin and iniquity and all that hinders from our full potential in God.
In the opening of the seven seals of the scroll, specifically the first four of them, we find that God is loosening the seals of our inner book (ye are epistles known and read of all men), and revealing Christ to our human consciousness, one seal at a time. Christ no longer hidden but revealed, no longer veiled but unveiled, no longer covered but uncovered, no longer masked but unmasked. But notice, it does not come at one instant of time, in one swooping experience of God, but rather it requires the breaking of all seven (meaning completeness) seals for the entire revelation and the process or work to be finished.
The author uses symbols of the Lamb nature and Four-Living Creatures working together to send forth the rider on each horse. The Lamb-Lion sends forth the rider on the white horse; the Lamb-Ox sends forth the red; the Lamb-Man sends forth the black and the Lamb-Eagle sends forth the green. What a beautiful story of Christ from his ascension giving gifts unto men, in this case the gift of the four horsemen, as so observed by Leithart.
Let us now proceed to the passages of these four horses and their rider and find perhaps a glimpse of what the author had in mind when writing these words.
“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. 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” (Rev 6:1-2).
Here we have a rider and horse summoned by the lamb and living creature, as with the others three horses as well, to “come”, thereby signaling him to ride across the stage of activity. This should come as no surprise, as the Old Testament establishes the idea of four colored horses in Zechariah, which are said to the four spirits of the heavens sent forth by God. In these two passages in Revelation, we have a picture of the uncovering of Christ that has been latent in the soul of every man, woman and child and he is riding out of our spirit through our soul to conquer all that obstructs and hinders us from our full potential in Christ. He comes in swiftness, power and fearlessness as represented of a horse, conquering (overcoming & subduing) the bestial nature and everything contrary to the spirit of Christ.
In this book of symbolism, this dazzling white color represents something. It speaks of light, illumination, and purity. We find white robes and hair of white when referring to ancient ones in scripture. We read the rider has a bow in his hand, which can be connected to the word of truth (ref Hab 3:8-9). Furthermore, no interpretation of the white horse can be correct which does not recognize the connection of a similar vision in chapter nineteen of this same book, “. . . he that sat upon him was called faithful and true, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war” (Rev 19:11).
So, in these two passages in chapter six we get a picture of Christ unveiled and moving out of the inner realm of spirit, with clarity and illumination, starting his disruption in redemptive power, invading swift and striking with absolute deadly precision, conquering the otherwise unconquerable, all the vice contrary to his divine nature within our soul.
“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” (Rev 6:3-4).
As with all the seals, we thank God for the loosening of this second seal, for as long as the scroll is sealed, the world is at peace, but it is a peace that is dependent upon its external circumstances, and therefore is an uneasy peace. And the gospel does just that, it is a loosening and shaking of our world and exposes all that is contrary to the spirit of Christ.
So, we now have the opening of the second seal, while the former horse continues to gallop through our soul. Therefore, the process intensifies. Not only has Christ invaded our life with divine illumination and light, thereby conquering, but we have another horse with its’ rider. The Spirit bursts out of illumination and sharpens the division. The color is assumed to be red, but it is not a color at all. It is not the same Greek word for ‘red’ as the sky is red in scripture, but rather it is a word used only twice and means flame-like or fire-like. The other verse is the great red (fire-like) dragon in chapter twelve of the same book. Thus far, we have the idea of the rider moving forward in swiftness, strength, and fearlessness in flame-like manner. It is as a refiner’s fire, as refining is a separating process and there can be no further removal until a separation takes place within our soul-life, the lower soul from the higher soul, for a two-souled man is unstable in all his ways. So here we have a rider riding to purge or to purify! This purging does not save, the fire does not save, but rather removes the hinderance that separates one from experiencing Christ.
This rider on this second horse is not intended unto destruction or annihilation but unto redemption, for Jesus Christ is once again the rider. He is to take peace from the earth. This second horse and rider has baffled many commentators where they could not see Jesus Christ as the one riding, or for that fact, the one riding on subsequent horses. Afterall, how is it that the Prince of Peace is to take peace from the earth? Well, I will tell you. Jesus said himself, “Think not that I come to cast peace on the earth; I come not to cast peace, but a sword” (Matt 10:34). In other words, he comes to disturb the peace and contentment we have in our lower soul life, the carnal mind. Many cling to the ‘non-violence’ lens and miss the work of redemption by Christ in such manner, as suggested by these eight passages. Nay, he makes war upon everything within our soul that is contrary to the rule of his kingdom. And we are to stand, having our loins girted about with truth, having the breastplate of righteousness, our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and above all, taking the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, the divine logos of God, to quench the fiery darts of the wicked. There is no conflict only when we go unchallenged and live in a false sense of peace. In Jeremiah we read something similar, about the supposed peace and tranquility of those in Egypt when having no opposition and at a place of no war. Yet here in this passage in Revelation we find the Lamb-Ox sending forth the Spirit of Christ with a sword in his hand, not to bring peace but to divide! This is a sword (e.g., living divine logos within) that can divide asunder soul and spirit and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
So, we have the Spirit of Christ riding and shooting his bow with light and illumination, and quickly uses his sword in a flame-like action to purge and take peace from those that live in a false sense of security, living without Christ. Yet it says, ‘they should kill one another’, what could this mean? Clearly, they begin to slay one another. One commentator stated that it may not appear to be, but this uproar and mayhem opened by the second horse is essential to the renewal of our soul. While considering this slaying of one another, it reminded me of when Jesus spoke that he came to set a person at variance with his household, and that he that taketh not his cross is not worthy of him. Remember, we are dealing with symbolism in these passages, and therefore should not necessarily find ourselves reading a literal meaning back into this passage. In my opinion, this is figuratively speaking of killing one another, as when we embrace our new life and faith in Christ, it puts us as odds with those that oppose it. Households and relationships become strained and severed at times, to the putting to death of former bonds of friendship and harmony.
“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” (Rev 6:5-6).
Now we come to the rider on a third horse. Meanwhile, don’t assume that the former two horses are yet finished with their work, they are still riding forth. As stated previously, the rider is none other than Jesus Christ himself. This time the color of the horse is black. The picture is not just dark, but black, it is the very absence of light and color. It is the dark side of the work of redemption, the surgical removal of our pain and suffering, perhaps even the dark moment where we think God has abandoned us.
Looking more closely at the text, we see a pair of balances are in the hand of the rider, with the utterance of a measure of wheat for a penny and three measures of barley for a penny, etc. What an interesting utterance! The idea of a balance depicts carrying out fair transactions in the marketplace, weighed accordingly. The rider distributes a just balance, scales to measure and calculate prices. It seems that everything that once had value is now lost. What we prized high in worth is now seen as less important. Barley was the least expensive of the grain produce and was more commonly found as bread for the poor. Here we have a price for an entire family for the day! Likewise, the wheat in the scale is one measure for the day as well. Meanwhile, the oil and wine were the luxury of the rich and seemed unlimited in supply. But here again is where many commentators have missed some key ideas. It does not seem that this third horse is speaking of conditions of famine in history or depleted resources of food but rather inflation, a high cost of commodity. Figuratively speaking, regardless of your place in life, this revelation of Christ will cost you everything that you have valued and placed above it! To buy the truth and sell it not, it means you will pay a price. What shall a man give in exchange for his soul? I shall tell you, everything. It will cost you your lower (former) soul life to experience this higher (new) soul life.
Furthermore, it has been missed by most and mentioned only by a few (Prinzing, Eby, etc.) how the distinct phases of the harvest season of the three feasts (Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles) serve as a background for the progressive redemptive work of Christ as the rider upon this black horse. Here we can see the life of Christ unfolding and springing forth in the feasts and serving as stages of our spiritual growth. Christ our firstfruit and firstborn from the dead, with the first barley representing the resurrected Christ. Not only a physical resurrection, which was so important to the early Christians, which brought light and clarity to the idea of immortality, but now hath Christ been raised from the dead within the believer’s soul, the resurrected Christ within! Likewise, the wheat measured within man and producing enough food for the day. And there is the oil and wine, not measured but unlimited in supply, from the Christ life within as he tabernacles in our flesh. So much could be said on this topic, but I believe the reader gets a general idea of this concept in scripture.
“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 sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth” (Rev 6:7-8).
Once again, we have the rider as Jesus Christ. But many will ask, how can this be? How can the spirit of life bear the name of death? If most commentators haven’t already missed Christ riding on the white, fire-like, and black horses, they certainly do at this juncture. Before we examine these two passages, first notice which living creature, along with the lamb is summoning forth this stage of activity in the revelation. It is understood to be the eagle, and rightfully so as birds of prey over the corpses of the slain, along with the final stage of these four horses to soar into life.
So, we have this fourth horse however it is not pale in color, but green. It is most certainly not greenish-yellow or pallid or sickly green as some has supposed, since they associate it with death and hades. The Greek word used here in the text simply means the color ‘green’. It is the same word where we find the grass to be green. Therefore, we have the rider named Death riding on a horse of green, which is the color of life in scripture. What a paradox, death riding on life!
Furthermore, hades follow this rider as he swiftly moves (picture of the horse) forward in this stage of redemption. Let us look more closely into the language of this text to see what it could possibly mean, this symbolism. The rider moves with four instruments to kill, by sword, by hunger, by death and by the beast of the earth. Again, how can we possibly connect any of this with Jesus Christ and the work of redemption?
First, the rider on the green horse kills with a sword. But this sword is not ‘machaira’ as found with the second seal, as a short Roman two-edged sword or even a sacrificial knife of circumcision, this is ‘rhomphaia’ as in a long heavy sword or sabre, as the one that David used to sever the head of Goliath. This sword can remove the head from the body. This is where we find the souls beheaded or the remnant were slain with this sword. The rider on his green horse swiftly beheads our soul, as the name of death, riding on the spirit of life.
Second, the rider on the green horse kills with hunger. Simply put, our former passions and desires are put to death by starvation and replaced with those aligned with that pleasing unto God. We no longer feed former thoughts and lifestyles but rather walk in ways of the Spirit of Christ, that we may eat of his flesh and drink of his blood in his kingdom.
Third, we have the rider on the green horse killing with death. It is here that we see the principle of death destroying death. It is by death that life springs forth, that is a principle in scripture. We are reconciled by his death, while saved by his life. Can we not see this redemptive work of reconciliation and salvation with the rider on this horse? The death is his death as he rides swiftly by the Spirit of life. His death reconciles us while his life swallows up the death within our soul. And yet the paradox, it is the law of the spirit of life that frees us from the law of sin and death, that we live in Christ in order that we may die to the former life. Of course, there is not enough that can be said of the cross as an instrument of death, that we may live. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live!
Fourth and last, the rider on the green horse kills with the beasts of the earth. Certainly, the beasts of the earth can be none other than the bestial nature of mankind across the earth. This reminds me of “thou hast tried us, afflicted, and caused men to ride over our heads, to bring us to a wealthy place” (paraphrase – Psalms 66). There have been vessels of wrath fitted for destruction used in our lives to ultimately bring us to a better place in God.
We should not find it surprising that this rider on this fourth horse has total authority over death and hades. Likewise, it is none other than Jesus Christ that has the keys to death and hades. This seems to be the final concluding blow where Christ finishes the redemptive work in our soul, dealing with the remaining fourth part of our earth (e.g., one horse for each part, if you will), bringing death to all that opposes his kingdom and restoring it with the life and happiness in his eternal kingdom. After this seal, the symbols abruptly change for the remaining seals, and they seem to read as a product of this redemptive work of the rider and four horses (e.g., fifth seal - souls of them that had been slain, etc.).
In closing, I believe this article has only scratched the surface of these eight passages and if per chance it resembles even a small glimpse of what John the Revelator had in mind with his original revelation, then I am forever grateful. The book of Revelation is the unveiling of Christ and reveals the spiritual journey of our soul as it is redeemed back to God the Father. Perchance, if you can find yourself reading this book in such a manner, which I believe it was intended, you will find riches that will forever bless your soul.
Author of Christ The Original Matrix.