Revealing the Father through the Book of Revelation: Horses of the Apocalypse (Revelation 6)
Intro to the Seven Seals
The vision of the scroll, introduced in chapters 4 and 5, begins here. In Revelation 5:1–7, Christ received from the heavenly Father the scroll sealed with seven seals. The first four seals reveal four horses and their riders. These are commonly called “The Horses of the Apocalypse” (Revelation 6:1–8).
Many commentators assume the Horses of the Apocalypse represent the work of the Antichrist, who will soon unleash a series of end-time devastations. Thus, some commentators over the last century have exchanged the passage’s Christ-centered view for a demonic one! On the other hand, many Christians believe the white horse (the first rider) symbolizes the Lord Jesus Christ.
It would make no sense that opening the scroll would bring destruction and calamity to God’s people. The bitter weeping of John as he was looking for someone worthy to open the sealed scroll would also make no sense if disaster followed the opening of the scroll (Revelation 5:4). Likewise, the praises in heaven would also make no sense if unlocking the news would bring horror and destruction (Revelation 5:8–14).
The message of the Bible is that “He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), not famine and earthquakes. Therefore, the Book of Revelation has the good news of the heavenly Father, as the other books of the Bible.
Since we live in the end times, we must know what the heavenly Father reveals to us. Therefore, our view of the four horses will determine how we will view the other visions of the Book of Revelation.
As we go deeper in our journey of discovering the “Revelation of the heavenly Father through Christ,” the vision of opening the seals and releasing the four horses with their riders in Revelation 6:1–8, along with the other visions, unveil the excellent news of the heavenly Father for His faithful people.
The Four Horses
Scriptures often mentioned Horses. Some kings used swift horses rather than camels to carry messages (Esther 8:10, 14). Hebrews thought of horses in terms of power during a time of war. Pharaoh’s horses and chariots pursued Moses the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 14:9). Israel’s Canaanite enemies met the Hebrews with many horses and chariots, which were very powerful and equipped (Joshua 11:4–9).
The vision of the four horses of the Apocalypse derives its roots from Zechariah 6. He saw four chariots coming from between two bronze mountains. The first chariot was pulled by red horses, the second by black horses, the third by white horses, and the fourth by powerful dappled-gray horses.
Zechariah asked the angel who was talking to him, “And what are these, my lord?” The angel replied, “These are the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world” (Zechariah 6:1–5, NIV). “They are going out to do his work,” the work of the heavenly Father (6:5, NLT).
Zechariah’s vision symbolizes the Holy Spirit’s power, which appeared like swift, powerful horses coming out of the presence of the heavenly Father. The heavenly Father prepared the horses for a battle, which is not against flesh and blood, but against the kingdom of Satan and His evil powers (Ephesians 6:12).
According to the heavenly Father’s will, these horses of the vision appeared to have the lead. Thus, the Spirit of the Father filled the Lord Jesus Christ, empowered Him, and led Him to do His Father’s will. Thus, the Holy Spirit played a significant role in the coming of Christ and His ministry:
The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ was by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35–36; Matthew 1:18).
The Holy Spirit anointed the Lord Jesus Christ during His baptism (Matthew 3:16–17; John 1:32–34)
The Holy Spirit led Christ into the wilderness to be tested by the devil, and He returns in the power of the Spirit (Matthew 4:1–2).
The Lord Jesus Christ begins His ministry by the Holy Spirit’s power (Luke 4:14–22). The prophets declared that the Holy Spirit would abide and lead Him (Isaiah 11:1–2, 59:21, 61:14).
The Lord Jesus Christ cast out devils and did good deeds by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20; Acts 10:37–38).
the Lord Jesus Christ instructed His disciples by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:2).
The Lord Jesus Christ offered Himself a sinless sacrifice by the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9:13–14).
the Lord Jesus Christ went to Hades (1 Peter 3:19) and rose from the dead by the Holy Spirit’s power (Romans 8:11).
the Lord Jesus Christ breathed the Holy Spirit into His disciples (John 20:22–23)
the Lord Jesus Christ baptizes in the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16)
The Seven Seals
When the Lamb of God broke each of the scroll’s seven seals (Revelation 5:1), the heavenly Father reveals a specific aspect of His plan of redemption and the coming of His kingdom. Going further to study the future visions, we must be aware that they do not depict events chronologically. The seventh seal contains the seven trumpets (Revelation 8:1–11:19), and the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15) includes the seven vials (Revelation 16:1–21). Therefore, in our minds, we must not separate the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven bowls, and the scenes in between from each other.
As we go further, we experience more depth in the word of God. I found out that studying Revelation is like peeling an onion. When you finish peeling a layer, you find another one, and so on until you reach the core of the onion. So likewise, the heavenly Father reveals to us His word “precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, there a little” (Isaiah 28:10, ESV). David said, I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad” (Psalm 119:96, ESV).
Through the visions of the seven seals and the following images, the heavenly Father reveals the entire divine plan of redemption, foretold in the law and the prophets, leading us to New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, the dwelling of the heavenly Father and the Son among the redeemed (Revelation 21:3).
The First Seal (6:1–2)
6:1 Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.”
As the Lamb opened each of the first four seals, one of the four living beings cried out, “Come and see.” John drew near and paid attention to what the heavenly Father would reveal.
A Horse Went Out
6:2 And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
The beginning of the Gospel of John is about the incarnation of the “Word, ο λόγος; Logos.” John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God,” and “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory” (John 1:1,14). So likewise, the beginning of the four horses’ visions is about the manifestation of the incarnation of the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Greek word “ἐξῆλθεν exeélthen” translated “went out” is the same term used in John 16:28. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “I came out from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world and go unto the Father” John 16:28, ASV). He also said, “I proceeded forth [exeélthen] and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me” (John 8:42, KJV).
With the opening of the first seal, the heavenly Father manifested the Lord Jesus Christ riding on a white horse. The white color represents holiness and purity. Daniel also saw the garment of the heavenly Father white as snow and His head and hair like pure wool (Daniel 7:9). The Lord Jesus Christ is also the Holy One of God (Luke 1:35), and He appeared as riding on a white horse (Revelation 6:2; 19:11). Thus, in the vision of the first seal, the heavenly Father manifested His work by His Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of holiness” (Romans 1:4), in the birth and life of the Holy Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 1:35). Thus, St. Mary gave birth to the Lord Jesus Christ of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18).
Christ’ Sinless Life
The Lord Jesus Christ lived a sinless and perfect life in His flesh by the Spirit of holiness. The Scriptures testified for His righteousness. Isaiah said of Him, “He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth” (Isaiah 53:9). Peter said, “He was guilty of no sin; neither was deceit (guile) ever found on His lips” (1 Peter 2:22, AMP). Satan, who was the ruler of this world, had nothing in Him. Therefore, through Christ’s death, the heavenly Father destroyed the power of Satan him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14).
The Lord Jesus Christ came down from heaven, not to do His own will, but the will of the heavenly Father who sent Him (John 6:38; Hebrews 10:5–7), and His food was to do the will of His Father to finish His work (John 4:34). So He obeyed His Father to the point of death (Philippians 2:8), and the heavenly Father made many righteous for the sake of His obedience (Romans 5:19).
The Lord Jesus Christ became the Lamb of God, “a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). He carried the sins of the world (John 1:29) and the fitting High priest for us, “who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26).
The Description of the Rider
Had a Bow
The Lord Jesus Christ, the rider of the white horse, had a bow but no arrow. The rainbow is a sign of the convent God made with the living creatures in Genesis 9:13. The Lord Jesus Christ came with the new covenant of the heavenly Father. So, He is “the messenger of the covenant” (Malachi 3:1), and “the Mediator of the new covenant” (Hebrews 12:24), for which He offered His blood. After the last supper, He took a cup and said to His disciples, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20).
A Crown Was Given to Him
The horse rider has a crown on his head (Revelation 6:2), a picture of Christ’s victory, by The Spirit of the Father. Because the Lord Jesus Christ is victorious and has defeated all evil forces, the heavenly Father crowned Him with a crown of gold (Revelation 14:14; 19:12).
He Went Out Conquering
In Revelation, the verb “to conquer,” with two exceptions (Revelation 11:7; 13:7), always points to either the Lord Jesus Christ or His followers. First, he overcame the world by the power of the Spirit of His Father. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Second, Satan could not take hold of Him, for he had nothing in Him (John 14:30).
The Second Seal (6:3–4)
6:3 When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come and see.”
The Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, opened the second seal. The second living creature announced the revelation of the second element in the heavenly Father’s plan of redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Description of the Horse
6:4 Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.
The full description of the riders fits perfectly with sin, which takes peace away, causes war between nations, and makes people kill one another.
Fiery Red Horse
John saw a rider on a “fiery red” horse. “Red” occurs many times in Revelation to symbolize the evil that leads to terror and bloodshed: the red dragon (Revelation 12:3), the red beast (Revelation 17:3).
The Description of the Rider
Taking Out Peace
It was granted to the rider “to take peace from the earth” (Revelation 6:4). Wickedness is the reason for taking out the peace of people at all levels. Isaiah said, “There is no peace,” Says my God, “for the wicked” (Isaiah 57:21).
Killing Each Other
Wars and fights come from the sinful desires that war in our members (James 4:1). Cain was wicked and murdered his brother because Cain’s works were evil, and his brother was righteous (Genesis 4:8; 1 John 3:12).
A Great Sword
The “great sword” is an implement of bloodshed. It is the influence that greed, anger, and vengeance wield to bring about wars until the end of history.
The Good News of the Second Seal
Some see a paradox between this horrible image of sin and the good news of the heavenly Father’s revelation through Christ. But, unfortunately, such understanding blurred the eyes of some commentators, that they don’t see anything good in this vision.
We also find what seems like such a paradox in Isaiah’s description of the Lord Jesus Christ, the bondservant of Yahweh (Isaiah 53). The Lord Jesus Christ is “the most handsome of the sons of mankind” (Psalm 45:2, NASB). But on the cross, He appeared with no form or beauty to save us from our transgressions and iniquities. Therefore, Isaiah said, “He had no special beauty or form to make us notice him; there was nothing in his appearance to make us desire him” (Isaiah 53:1–2, NCV).
Christ as Sin for Us
It is shocking but awakening to know that the rider’s image of the second horse represents the image of sin that Christ carried on His holy Body. The paradox overlaid its shade when the heavenly Father planned to make the Lord Jesus Christ, the sinless one, to be sin for us. “For He [the Father] made Him [Jesus], who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The second horse rider, the Lord Jesus Christ, had “the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3). The fiery red horse and its rider, the Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, has the message that the Lord Jesus Christ is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He took the image of sin when He became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28).
The heavenly Father has condemned sin in Christ’s flesh. “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3).
The Lord Jesus Christ, the sinless one, became sin for you and me that we might become righteous. He “bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
The Third Seal (6:5–6)
6:5 When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So, I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.
As the Lamb of God opened the third seal, the mighty voice of the third living creature heralded the coming of the third horse and its rider.
The Description of the Horse
A Black Horse
Scriptures connect the color black with famine. Thus Jeremiah said, “Our skin has become as hot as an oven, Because of the burning heat of famine” (Lamentations 5:10, NASU).
The Description of the Rider
Having a Pair of Scales
The balance (scales) symbolizes judgment. So to pronounce the heavenly Father’s judgment to Belshazzar, the king, the heavenly Father said to him, “You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting” (Daniel 5:27).
Balance also symbolizes famine. A shortage of food will always increase prices and force the government to ration what is available. “To eat bread by weight” is a Jewish phrase indicating that food is scarce (Leviticus 26:26).
6:6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”
Following the appearance of the black horse and its rider, John heard something like a voice in the center of the four living beings. Since the four living beings were around the throne (Revelation 4:6), this is likely the voice of the heavenly Father, the One sitting on the throne (Revelation 4:2–3).
The heavenly Father’s pronouncements reveal how devastating the famine will be. A quart of wheat is barely enough to sustain one person for one day. At the same time, a denarius represents one day’s wages for an average worker.
Those scenarios in Revelation 6:5–6 represent how drastic the curse is because of disobedience to the heavenly Father. Curse brings “four dreadful judgments, sword, famine, wild beasts and plague—to kill its men and their animals!” (Deuteronomy 28:46–48; Ezekiel 14:21, NIV).
The Good News of the Third Seal
We were all under the curse of the law before the death of Christ; as the scripture pronounced, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law” (Galatians 3:10, NIV).
The imagery of the black horse and its rider with the balance in his hand presents the heavenly Father’s plan to make His Holy Son a curse as a mandate for redemption. Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ became a curse on our behalf on the cross, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree” (Galatians 3:13; Deuteronomy 21:23). Thus, the heavenly Father redeemed us from the curse through the Lord Jesus Christ.
No Harm to the Oil and Wine
Despite those extreme conditions, the voice of the heavenly Father commanded not to damage (waste) the oil and the wine. Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and wine is a symbol of joy. Likewise, nothing has affected the fullness of the Spirit in the Lord Jesus Christ and His pleasure. The Lord Jesus Christ had become the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
The Fourth Seal (6:7–8)
6:7 When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see.”
The fourth seal follows the pattern of the first three. The Lamb broke the seal, and the fourth living creature heralded the fourth horse and its rider.
6:8 So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.
The Description of the Horse
A Pale Horse
John describes the final horse as ashen (pale). Chlōros (ashen, pale), from which the English words “chlorophyll” and “chlorine” derive, refers to a sickly, pale, yellow-green color. More specifically, it describes green vegetation (Revelation 8:7, 9:4; Mark 6:39).
The horse’s color vividly portrays the pale-green pallor of the decomposition of a corpse. Fittingly, the rider who sat on the pale horse had the ominous name, “Death.”
The Description of the Rider
The Name Death and Hades
In this terrifying scene, John saw Hades following Death, as they come in pairs, before the redemption in Christ
(Revelation 1:18; 20:13,14).
Death came to all men through Adam when he disobeyed the command of the heavenly Father. The Lord God said to them, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17, NIV). Because of Adam’s sin, death and hades entered the world and ruled over everybody before Christ, “because all sinned” (Romans 5:12, NIV).
A Fourth of the Earth
The “fourth of the earth” refers to those on the fourth watch. The fourth watch represented a difficult time for those working in the sea, and death threatened them. In the fourth watch, the Lord Jesus Christ saved His disciples from drowning in the sea (Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52; John 6:15-21).
The Good News of the Fourth Seal
Again, how can such a dreadful image that portrays death fit with the good news of the heavenly Father’s Revelation through the Lord Jesus Christ and His redemption plan? It seems this is another paradox.
Opening the fourth seal, which has the pale horse and rider, presents a significant element of the heavenly Father’s redemption. The Lord Jesus Christ “became obedient to death, even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8, NIV). “He suffered death so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9, NIV).
The heavenly Father decreed that as people suffered death and hades because of Adam, many receive the grace of eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:15, NIV). Through baptism, The Spirit of the Father buries us with Christ into death and raises us to live a new life as new creations (Romans 6:4, NIV).
Excerpt from: Revealing the Father through the Book of Revelation, by Hegumen Abraam Sleman