The Four Horsemenreleased with the opening of the first four sealsprecede the descent of Christ in the clouds to save the church (the sixth seal).
Who are the Four Horsemen?
What is the significance of the Four Horsemen?
Just as John the Baptist was of divine origin sent to fulfill a divine purpose before the first coming of Christ to Israel, and just as the two witnesses (Rev. 11) are of divine origin sent to fulfill a divine purpose before the second coming of Christ to Israel, the Four Horsemen are of divine origin sent to fulfill a divine purpose before the arrival of Christ to save the church (and Israel).
It is the prophet Zechariah who enabled us to make a definitive statement about the Four Horsemen (and about the two witnesses); it is the prophet Ezekiel who enabled us to understand the significance of the Four Horsemen.
Who is the Fifth Horseman? Christ.
THE FIRST COMING OF THE MESSIAH: JOHN THE BAPTIST
God sent John the Baptist to precede the Messiah’s first coming to Israel. What was his role in preparing the way for the Messiah?
A voice of one [John] calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” (Matt. 3:3)
I [John] baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Matt. 3:11)
I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” (John 1:31)
Just as God prepared the world for the first coming of the Messiah to Israel, God shall prepare the world for the second coming of the Messiah to Israel. Different times demand different roles for those sent by God.
Whereas divine blessing was upon the Earth via John the Baptist to prepare the way for the salvation of all bloodlines, divine judgment shall be upon the Earth via the two witnesses and the Four Horsemen who shall prepare the way for the salvation of God’s people.
THE TWO WITNESSES
God shall send two witnesses to precede the Messiah’s second coming to Israel. What is their role in preparing the way for the Messiah?
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. (Rev. 11:3-6 KJV)
The two witnesses shall speak the Word of God and bring God’s righteous judgment upon the unrighteous.
Who are the two witnesses?
God revealed this through the prophet Zechariah.
And the angel that talked with me [Zechariah] came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. . . . Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?
And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth. (Zech. 4:1-3, 11-14 KJV)
The two witnesses “are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
THE FOUR HORSEMEN
Prior to seeing the release of the Four Horsemen, John saw the following vision:
And I [John] saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. (Rev. 5:1-5 KJV)
Christ’s vision to John is drawing our attention to Heaven. It is the King of Kings who opens the seals in Heaven, and with the opening of the first four seals, the King’s Four Horsemen are released.
If the Four Horsemen are released prior to the salvation of the church (the sixth seal), then are they released during the time of wrath, or grace? Grace.
Wrath doesn’t begin until after the church is gathered. Therefore, the Four Horsemen shall begin their role during the age of grace.
Heaven gave John the following vision:
And I [John] 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.
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: to and power was given 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.
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.
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 [Greek: Hades: the grave] 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. 6:1-8 KJV)
Who are the Four Horsemen?
There is no need to project our imagination onto the Scriptures and come up with an interpretation based on our own modern times and culture, for God already gave us the correct answer 2500 years ago by way of the same prophet who spoke to us about the two witnesses: Zechariah.
And I [Zechariah] turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass. In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses; And in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot grisled and bay horses. Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these, my lord? And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth. The black horses which are therein go forth into the north country; and the white go forth after them; and the grisled go forth toward the south country. And the bay went forth, and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth: and he said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth. So they walked to and fro through the earth. Then cried he upon me, and spake unto me, saying, Behold, these that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country. (Zech. 6:1-8 KJV)
Who are the Four Horsemen? “The four spirits of the heavens” are the Four Horsemen.
The angel said to Zechariah, “Behold, these that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country.” The word “quieted” means to “give comfort, . . . (cause to . . .) rest.”1
If the Four Horsemen bring comfort to an angel of God, and bring judgment to the unrighteous, then it is evident that they bring comfort to the righteous and discomfort to the unrighteous. The parallels between the two witnesses and the Four Horsemen are unmistakable: they bring righteous judgment to the Earth.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FOUR HORSEMEN
Just as power is given to the two witnesses, so shall power be given to the Four Horsemen. Why is power given to the Four Horsemen?
And power was given unto them [the Four Horsemen] 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. 6:8 KJV)
It is the prophet Ezekiel who first revealed the significance of the “four spirits of the heavens”: the Four Horsemen shall bring the “four dreadful judgments” to the Earth.
What did Ezekiel say about the will of God?
For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: How much worse will it be when I send against Jerusalem my four dreadful judgmentssword and famine and wild beasts and plagueto kill its men and their animals! Yet there will be some survivorssons and daughters who will be brought out of it. They will come to you, and when you see their conduct and their actions, you will be consoled regarding the disaster I have brought upon Jerusalemevery disaster I have brought upon it. You will be consoled when you see their conduct and their actions, for you will know that I have done nothing in it without cause, declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezek. 14:21-23)
Divine judgment is the final stage of a just and patient God who seeks for all to be saved. When divine redemption is beyond the reach of man’s mind because of man’s depravity, then judgment must followfor God is a righteous and just God and that requires judgment. Divine judgment is not only upon the unrighteous Gentiles, but also as seen throughout the Old Testament, divine judgment is upon “faithless” people.
This is what the Sovereign Lord says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. Yet in her wickedness she has rebelled against my laws and decrees more than the nations and countries around her. She has rejected my laws and has not followed my decrees. Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: You have been more unruly than the nations around you and have not followed my decrees or kept my laws. You have not even conformed to the standards of the nations around you. Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations. Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again. (Ezek. 5:5-9)
Christ prophesied about this end-times judgment in Matthew:
For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until nowand never to be equaled again. (Matt. 24:21)
Ezekiel expounded upon this time by addressing the four dreadful judgments of God:
When I [God] shoot at you with my deadly and destructive arrows of famine, I will shoot to destroy you. I will bring more and more famine upon you and cut off your supply of food. I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will leave you childless. Plague and bloodshed will sweep through you, and I will bring the sword against you. I the Lord have spoken. (Ezek. 5:16, 17)
Ezekiel prophesied of “four dreadful judgments” and John prophesied how the same judgments would be delivered: the Four Horsemen.
How will God shoot “deadly and destructive arrows of famine”?
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. 6:2 KJV)
How will God “bring the sword”?
And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given 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. 6:4 KJV)
How will God “send famine and wild beasts” and “plague and bloodshed”?
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. 6:8 KJV)
Christ himself made reference to this time in his revelation given to Matthew:
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matt. 24:7, 8 KJV)
“Sorrows” means, “a pang or throe, esp. of childbirth:pain, sorrow, travail.”2
The divine harmony of divine revelation given to us by Ezekiel, Zechariah, John, and Matthew reveals this: The “four spirits of the heavens”who are the Four Horsemenshall bring God’s “four dreadful judgments”: the birth pains. (This is not to say that all the birth pains are delivered by the Four Horsemen.)
THE BIRTH PAINS
The “four spirits of the heavens” are agents of Heaven’s will who bring judgment. With judgment comes tribulation upon the Earth. In the case of the end-times judgment, that tribulation represents birth pains.
What exactly do birth pains precede?
The birth pains precede the “birth” of the transformed church off the Earth (the sixth seal), and the “rebirth” of Israel after the second coming of Christ to Israel (the seventh seal).
With the Four Horsemen on the Earth comes tribulationwhich the church is transformed out of: “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:13, 14 KJV).
The church is not receiving God’s judgment, but nevertheless, the church is still on the Earth when the Four Horsemen are released and therefore is in the presence of tribulation.
Following the salvation of the church, the birth pains shall intensify, for now shall be the time of wrath: “And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames. Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it” (Isa. 13:8, 9 KJV).
It is the Fifth Horseman, Christ, who brings an end to the time of wrathand an end to the Antichrist.
Whereas the Four Horsemen mark the beginning of the end of all that has been prophesied about the church and Israel, the Messiah, riding on his white horse, will fulfill the promises given to Israel.
THE FIFTH HORSEMAN: CHRIST: THE SECOND COMING TO ISRAEL
The divine judgment brought to Earth by the Four Horsemen foreshadows the divine judgment brought to Earth by the Fifth Horseman: Christ.
I [John] saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.”
Then I saw the beast [the Antichrist] and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh. (Rev. 19:1121)
See, the Lord is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. (Isa. 66:15)
This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. (2 Thess. 1:7-10)
This is the fulfillment of Gabriel’s revelation to Daniel, when the Antichrist shall be destroyed: “And on a wing of the temple he [the Antichrist] will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him” (Dan. 9:27).
THE FIVE HORSEMEN
There is no record that the Four Horsemen cease from their judgment in Revelation. In other words, the Four Horsemen will continue to bring forth the will of Heaven right up to when Christ descends from Heaven.
The focal point for Christ is the Holy Land (to destroy evil and restore Heaven’s reign over Jerusalem), and the focal point for the Four Horsemen is Jerusalemalong with a fourth part of the Earth.
Characteristics found in the Four Horsemen are fully manifested by Christ himself when he descends from Heaven on his white horse.
What are characteristics exhibited by Christ?
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. . . . And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword (Rev. 19:11, 15 KJV)
Are we to assume that Christ will have a literal sword hanging out of his mouth?
[T]he sword of the Spirit . . . is the word of God. (Eph. 6:17 KJV)
If Christ makes war for righteousness sake, then what is the role of the red horse?
Power is given to the red horse to carry out the individual role of producing war founded upon righteous judgment. War brought about by the red horse (that precedes the salvation of the church) foreshadows the war that Christ himself will wage against the Antichrist (that precedes the salvation of Israel).
The black horse receives “balances.”
What is the context? Judgment.
The prophet Daniel spoke of “balances” in the context of judgment and the corresponding consequences:
Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. . . . Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. (Dan. 5:27, 28 KJV)
What are the “wages of sin”? “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
The “balances” given to the black horse is the metaphorical representation of God’s divine judgment. Judgment of man shall be upon God’s balances: what man sows is what man shall reap; what man shall receive shall be balanced against what he earned (in life).
The pale horse brings the grave (Hades). This is where judgment will send the unrighteous.
What is to be learned from the “white” horse?
Christ and the church appeared to John riding on white horses. Why white? White is associated with holiness and righteousnesswhich is what Christ is: holy and righteous. The symbolism of the white horse is that he brings the standard of Heaven to Earth: holiness and righteousness.
It is God’s covenant that mankind decides to be in harmony with or in rebellion against. The heart of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is salvation.
Everything that must be hereafter, as seen in Revelation, is founded upon righteousness; it is founded upon the Word of God; it is founded upon God’s covenant; it is the agreement with mankindwhich the Creator is faithful to bring forth into reality.
“The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and greatand for destroying those who destroy the earth.” Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. (Rev. 11:18, 19)
1. James Strong, Abingdon’s Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon, 1981), 77, (Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary).
2. E. W. Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 719.