The four horses of Revelation are similar to Zechariah’s vision (6:1-6) and parallels Matthew’s account of end time events as told by Jesus when His disciples ask Him, “What will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?” (24:1-7).
To understand this, it is important to note that it is Christ who breaks the seals to the scroll. He alone is worthy. No one else was capable of doing it. The breaking of the seals, unleash the events in the rest of the book of Revelation. Therefore, it is God who sets these events in motion to accomplish His plan for planet earth. The Bible refers to this time as the Day of the Lord.
The first rider is on a white horse. Because it is a white horse it is often thought of as Christ. However, the crown that this rider wears is a crown of triumph. (Gk. ‘stephanos’) Jesus wears a diadem (Gk. ‘diadema’). A diadem is a crown that is associated with kingly or imperial dignity. This rider also has a bow, but Jesus has a two edged sword from His mouth with which He strikes the nations (Revelation 19:15).
Secondly, Matthew 24 warns of false messiahs who will mislead many. (vs. 4, 5, 24) The fact that the second rider takes peace from the earth implies that the first rider creates a sense of peace. This fits perfectly in Scripture with the person referred to as the Antichrist or beast who initially confirms a peace agreement with Israel at the beginning of the seven years of tribulation. (Daniel 9:27) Thus the conclusion is that the first rider is the Antichrist who God allows to go out to deceive the world and who ultimately demands worship as God. (II Thessalonians 2:4)
As stated above, the second rider is granted to take peace from the world. Again we see the sovereignty of God because these events are all taking place under His control. God grants these events to unfold. This rider is on a red horse, which pictures bloodshed. This is exactly what occurs since he is given a great sword and men slay one another. Matthew also warns that there will be wars and rumor of wars, but that is not yet the end (24:6) The rider of the second horse is a picture of the world condition after the Antichrist has risen to power.
The third horse is black and has a rider with a set of scales in his hand. This is a picture of the world condition as a result of war. The scales were used to weigh out grain just as we weigh meats and price them accordingly. In this picture, a denarius would only buy one quart of wheat or three quarts of barley. The normal purchasing power of one denarius was 8 quarts of wheat or 24 quarts of barley. The high price for these grains indicates their extreme shortage. The implication is that famine conditions exist as a result of war when the second rider went out to take peace from the earth. Matthew wrote, “… in various places there will be famines and earthquakes” (24:7) Black most likely symbolizes the affliction and death that result from war and famine.
The fourth horse is ashen (pale) and has a rider who had the name Death and Hades. The first three seals result in a tremendous amount of death. One fourth of the people on earth die. When a person dies without having trusted Jesus as their personal Savior, his/her soul is consigned to Hades, a place of torment (Luke 16:23). They remain there until the Great White Throne judgment where they will be judged according to their works. (Revelation 20:11-12) Then Hades, which includes everyone there, will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14). The idea behind this fourth rider then is that many will die and their soul will be relegated to Hades with their final destination being the lake of fire.
More on this next time.