The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. - Psalm 110:1
This prophecy of David was one that Jesus quoted to the Saduccees in Luke 20, and expressed how that it was speaking of Him. Now, in the book of Revelation, as Jesus opens the scroll and breaks the seal, we see the overwhelming power and terrible vengeance of God executed on all the inhabitants of the earth as Christ claims ownership of all of Creation. Knowing that the type of literature we are reading is prophetic, we can understand also that John is possibly using quite a bit of symbolism. Whether or not the exact object that he saw was the exact object that he used to represent is not as important as the message that he is seeking to transmit.
As Jesus Christ opened the first seal, a powerful force emerges that John refers to as “a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow.” After Christ opens the second seal, another comes, and thus occurs a similar occurrence with the breaking open of each of the first four seals. The horsemen of the apocalypse have long intrigued the secular mind. Pop culture plays up these horsemen and many artists have sought to render paintings and drawings of these colorful end-times harbingers. The interpretation of what each of these represents is a matter of centuries of dispute with the church fathers even failing to come to a consensus on the exact interpretation of the vision of John. What I will seek to do now is to explain what seems to be a fair interpretation of the events that we find here in the text.
The first horseman comes on a white horse with a crown of victory and a bow, and he comes in conquest. It is interesting that he is not using his bow to conquer, but that instead he merely carries it with him. We perhaps can see this first figure coming with much power, but no need to exercise that power. This figure would then be seen to sweep the world with bloodless conquest, establishing peace through strength and unity. He is said to ride on a white horse much like the one we find Christ riding in Revelation 19. Here an imposter of Christ has come to delude the world into thinking that peace has arrived, but momentarily that peace will be done away with. Seeing this powerful force of deception, conquest, and peace, I would imagine we could understand him to represent the rise of the Antichrist and his feigned offer of peace that we find in 1 Thessalonians 5 and Matthew 24.
The second horseman comes on a red horse and carries a sword. He represents a massive force of war that shatters the false sense of peace and plunges the world into chaos. Eventually mankind turns on one another and bloodshed ensues. Immediately after this chaos begins, Jesus opens the third seal and the third horseman comes on a black horse with measuring instruments in hand as he declares a dire message of famine. This apocalyptic messenger has come to decimate the earth’s food supplies and plunge the entire earth into anarchic starvation. Finally, the fourth seal is broken, and the fourth horseman comes on a pale horse bringing pestilence and death. The chaos of broken peace, war, famine, and disease now ravage the globe. Godless and Christless masses writhe in agony at the disaster that has occurred and a quarter of the earth is slaughtered.
These frightful sights must have left John feeling sick. As he beheld the justice of God, rebellious humanity writhed under the agony of unbridled wrath and judgment. This was just the first four seals of the scroll, what horrors would the remaining three bring? What a dreadful thing when the fierceness of the wrath of God is poured out on mankind.
Reflect: As He claims what is rightfully His, Christ executes wrath on rebellious and impenitent mankind. How is this right and just?