Revelation 6:1-8 - The Four Horsemen
And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a loud voice of thunder, come. And I saw and behold a white horse, and he that sat thereon had a bow, and there was given unto him a crown, and he came forth conquering and to conquer ... And another horse came forth, a red horse, and to him that sat thereon was given to take peace from the earth ... And I saw, and behold a black horse ... and I heard a voice saying, a measure of wheat for a shilling and three measures of barley for a shilling ... And I saw a pale horse, and he that sat thereon, his name was Death, and Hades followed with himRevelation 6:1-8
A new year has arrived. Something new may differ from the old. A new year hopefully will bring with it new and better things. The old was not satisfactory, not what men wanted it to be. That's why people wish each other a happy new year.
But we know what the wise Solomon said centuries ago. "What has been will be again, and what has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun," (Ecclesiastes 1:9). That doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to change what is wrong, where we can. But it does mean that man, no man, is going to change the world fundamentally. There will always be sin in this world, with all its distressing results. In fact sin will increase as the years roll by. And with this, increase also the inevitable results.
The scripture passage before us introduces the opening of the seals in the book which John saw in his vision. This book contains God's decrees concerning all that must take place on the earth. These seals in the book represent forces and events that come from these Divine decrees. The things spoken of happen when the seals are opened in all of history. They have been here throughout the entire New Testament history and will be here in 1987. And they will continue until the end of time. The one difference is that as time goes on and we approach the end of time, these forces will become more prominent and effective.
John sees in the vision first of all a white horse. Horses in the Bible were strong. They were the strongest force man could use at that time. Israel was forbidden to have horses; they might put their trust in them. This horse was white. A victorious king or general returning from the battle front often entered his home country riding on a white horse. It symbolizes victory. Here the rider on the white horse has a bow in his hand, which symbolizes warfare and fighting. But the rider also has a crown on his head. This means that he is victorious. He is victorious not only after a battle, but while he goes into battle and continues on this course. He goes forth conquering and to conquer.
What does all this mean? The rider on the horse can represent only one person, the Lord Jesus Christ. Often we read that he is the conquering One. He is the Lamb that conquers. In Revelation we also read that He has conquered. Putting everything together, we get the picture of the exalted Lord Jesus Christ, ruling the world and always being victorious. He always rules all of history, peoples and nations. He always also rules over the devil and his angels. Satan has much power. But even that is controlled by God through our Lord Jesus Christ, who rides the white horse. When the devil tempts us, the Lord uses him, making the temptations trials, for the refining of our faith even as gold is refined. Throughout all time Christ rides the white horse; He is the only Lord, always victorious, always conquering, never losing. So it will be until the end of time.
There follows the description of three other horses. Of none of these do we read that they go forth conquering and to conquer. Each one, however, does have power, in fact much power. With that power, each is galloping through the world at all times, also in 1987. At the same time Christ, the horseman on the white horse, is mentioned first, and is Lord of them all. The rider on the red horse was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. Red is the color of blood. This red horse brings about war. How many wars there have been – hundreds of them, causing an untold amount of bloodshed. One of the seals means that also this horse comes from God's decree. Because of sin, the Lord "brings" or "allows" war to take place.
This may occur in the coming year. Although we may hope that the attempts of our president will be more successful in trying to reach agreements with Russia regarding arms production, this does not mean that all war will cease and that perhaps at some future time we will have a just and lasting peace on this earth. According to the Bible, this will never take place. The red horse will keep on running throughout the world and during all of time.
The third horse is black. This rider suggests want. Here it evidently refers to physical want. The third horseman represents an irritable force, issuing from God's degree (the sealed book) and directed by Christ (who opens the seals) causing and bringing about want. The horseman appears as a merchant, or vendor. He holds a pair of balances in his hand. A voice cries,
A measure of wheat for a penny and three measures of barley for a penny.
A penny was a day's wages for a laborer (Matthew 20:9). A measure of wheat, or three measures of barley were considered to be just enough for one person for one day. All this therefore likely symbolizes having just enough for one day. On the other hand, oil and wine symbolize abundance, luxury, riches. And these might not "be hurt," damaged. A contrast is pictured, between the rich that live in abundance and the masses of poor that live by the day. Such conditions will therefore prevail throughout all times, as the rider on the black horse rides in the world.
There is a fourth horse, whose color is pale. Pale-green is the color of a corpse, of physical death, and the rider's name is Death. He has the power to kill by various means, the sword, hunger, the beasts of the earth, but also through germs. The fourth horse, therefore, represents a mighty force that brings about death. Included also in this is the power that brings about calamities, diseases and all kinds of catastrophes that bring death.
The three horses, the red, black and pale, represent God's judgments upon mankind. They have always been in the world, and are here today. They will continue to run their course until the end of time in response to man's star.
By these judgments man is called to repent. We don't read that there specifically. But we do read several times in the book of Revelation after much was said about judgments, that people repented not. This implies that God does call men to repent with these three horses riding throughout the world. He also calls us to repent. (How different this often is from what we see in people, also in our times. When calamities overtake us we are encouraged to pray that they are removed. Also to "prayer chains", this often is the only prayer.) How fitting it would be that we also urge each other to repent before the Lord and pray for spiritual growth as well as physical welfare. The dreaded realities of war with all it implies, the terrible experience of hunger, poverty and want, and the ever present possibility of death, which eventually will conquer all of us, should make us turn to the Lord in repentance and faith.
As these three horses are a general description of history and what God is bringing upon man because of sin, we must never forget the white horseman. Jesus Christ is always victorious. He was and always will be Lord of the universe and history, as well as of His Church in a special way. His cause really never suffers defeat. He is always "successful" and victorious. Our only hope is to believe in Him and to belong to Him and His church. May God give us grace that we may put all our trust in Him. Psalms 72 is being fulfilled.
Christ shall have dominion over land and sea.
The coming year will bring nothing really new.
What has been will be. The one thing that will be new is the mercy of God in Christ Jesus every day again. That faithful love will never fail. May we learn to love Him more, trust in Him more, be better witnesses of His wonderful truth that He is always riding the white horse of victory. And may it all give us wonderful peace in our heart!
The works of the red, black and pale horses are God's answer to sinful man. And what a frightening and scary place this world has become. But how thankful we should be that we may know the truth and that we may always keep our eyes focused on that white horse and its rider.
And as we trust in Him, He will give us the victory, in our hearts today, and in 1987, and perfectly when He returns upon the clouds.