The pale horse in the Book of Revelation has been a mystery for many. What does it mean or represent?
The Seven Seals and Jesus Olivet Prophecy
The Book of Revelation is heavy with symbolism and in the sixth chapter of Revelation, the Seven Seals are mentioned. I think there is a strong correlation between what happens in these seven seals and the Olivet Prophecy of Jesus in Matthew chapter 24. In the first place, the number seven is the number of completion or perfection in the Bible and so seven seals is seen as the perfection of God’s judgment that will be poured out on the earth. Revelation 6:1 says “Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” What I have noticed in reading Matthew 24 and Revelation six is how these seven seals seem to be matched up with one another. Both Revelation six and Matthew 24 are both Jesus’ revelations. The Book of Revelation is not John’s revelation but it is “The revelation from Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:1a). Both chapter six of Revelation and Matthew 24 with Jesus’ Olivet Prophecy apparently have the same sequence of events. Many believe that each of these four horsemen represent chronological events leading up to the time of Christ’s return and each horse and each rider are a different, intensifying step leading up to the final days before Christ’s return. Others believe that this was already fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The chapter begins with the first of seven seals.
The Four Horsemen and their Seals
The White Horse
Here is what I was writing about earlier. There is a close resemblance between the first horse and Jesus mentioning the many false prophets and teachers. Revelation 6:2 says “And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given to him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” Now notice Matthew 24:4-5 where Jesus predicts that many false prophets will come and proclaim to be Christ or claim to come in His name but Jesus warns, “…Take heed that no man deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and will deceive many.” Is this conquering done through false prophets, false teachers, and false ministers who will “deceive many?” There seem to be no shortage of apostate teachings and teachers today. White could easily represent the image of someone who appears righteous or is portrayed as being sent from God but even Satan has his own ministers who masquerade as angels or ministers of light (2nd Cor 11:4).
The Red Horse
Now look at the red horse Revelation and Jesus mentioning the presence of wars in Matthew 24. Revelation 6: 3-4 records, “When the Lamb [Jesus] opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a huge sword.” Now read Matthew 24:6-7 which says “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Rev 6:1-2). Red can certainly be associated with blood and the red horse seems to symbolize war so the parallel between the red horse in Revelation 6:3-4 and Matthew 24:6-7 seem to be about the very same thing and that is war and rumors of other potential wars to come.
The Black Horse
The black horse in Revelation 6:5-6 and Matthew 24:7a again match closely together as we will see. We read in Revelation 6:5-6 where it says “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 that you do not hurt the oil and wine.” This is essentially what Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 24:7a that “there will be famines.” What follows war? Typically famine and scarcity of food follow wars because of the widespread destruction and this serves to drive up the cost of food exponentially.
The Pale Horse
The final horse of what many call the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse comes in Revelation six and in Matthew 24. In Revelation 6:7-8 it reads “When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.” Matthew 24:9-10 reads “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.” Pale is normally what the skin color of a dead person looks like. The rider on this horse took the lives of a fourth of those who lived on the earth and Jesus mentions the fact that many will be delivered up in a “tribulation” and be put to death which seems to be a severe worldwide persecution of Christians. No wonder then that what follows next in Revelation (6:9) mentions “the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.”
Whatever the pale horse represents, we know that God will judge the world in righteousness someday and that everyone will have to give an account for what they did in their lives. Revelation 20:12-15 tells the fatal outcome for all who refused to repent and trust in Christ, “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon.