In this lesson we learn how a fourth of the world's population will be destroyed in the Tribulation.


A cursory look around our globe reveals some terrifying realities --war, starvation, diseases with no cure, uncontrollable dictators, biological terrorism. Some might think the Tribulation has already begun. In reality, these are just birth pangs of something much worse to come.

1. The First Seal Opened: The White Horse

II. The Second Seal Opened: The Red Horse

III. The Third Seal Opened: The Black Horse

IV. The Fourth Seal Opened: The Pale Horse

V. Conclusion

   A. The Response of Praise

   B. The Response or Passion

   C. The Response of Personal Evaluation



   We have arrived in our study at Revelation 6-the place where the real action of the Great Tribulation begins. Chapter 1 contained the things John saw, chapters 2-3 the things which are, and chapters 4-5 the setting of the throne of God in heaven from which the judgments of the Tribulation will proceed. Held in the hand of the One on the throne is a scroll which is taken by the Lamb who was slain (5:7). That scroll contains seven seals, the seventh of which contains seven trumpets, the seventh of which contains seven bowls judgments all, about to fall upon the earth.

   It will take three lessons in our series to cover all of Revelation 6. In this first lesson of the three, we will cover Revelation 6:1-8 and discover the content of the first four seals which are opened by Christ. The first

four seals consist of four horsemen who are released to ride upon the earth, carrying various forms of judgment. In our day, the relevance of the horse as a metaphor for judgment is unfamiliar. But in the biblical world, the horse would have been readily understood. For example, Job 39:19-25 is an extended reference to the esteem in which horses were held in the ancient world. In battle, the strength and fearlessness of the horse was respected. The horse was primarily thought of as a weapon of war more than as an agricultural asset or mode of transportation. So the image of four horsemen would bring to mind immediately the idea of warfare and battle to the ancient reader of Revelation.

    Four times (6:1, 3, 5, 7) we read the word, "Come!" Most translations have this command directed to John-but he is already there. It seems better to read the word with its alternate meaning, "go" or "proceed," and have it directed to the four horsemen. Therefore, the living creature issuing the command sends each of the four horsemen out of heaven to their mission on earth-"Go!"




   The white horse (verse 2) in oriental imagery was the picture of a conqueror. Since it is the first horse sent out at the beginning of the Tribulation period, we must discover the purpose and meaning of this first horseman. Because there is a reference to Christ riding a white horse in Revelation 19:11, some believe that Christ Himself must be the rider on this white horse. But there are some differences which make that conclusion strained, at best. Consider the differences:

• Chapter 19, Christ's weapon is a sword; chapter 6, the rider's weapon is a bow with no arrows.

• Chapter 19, Christ wears a crown (a diadem, or kingly crown); chapter 6, the rider wears a stephanzos, a victor's crown of one going forth to conquer. It could be worn by anyone, whereas the diadem can only be worn by Christ.

   • Chapter 19, the white horse signals the end of judgment; chapter 6, the white horse signals the beginning of judgment. It isn't likely that Christ would appear in both places, especially since His Second Coming is the more logical place for Him to appear to put an end to judgment.

   These and other disparities between the two riders lead me to believe that the rider of the white horse in Revelation 6 is not Christ, but the Antichrist. He carries no arrows because we know he conquers in the name of false peace. He is the prince mentioned in Daniel 9:26 who makes a covenant with Israel to protect the Jews from their enemies. This treaty marks the beginning of the Great Tribulation. The next horseman (verse 4) is allowed to "take peace from the earth," the peace which the first horseman, the Antichrist, has established.

   The person represented by the rider on the white horse could be alive in our world today since he will appear at the beginning of the Tribulation as a full-grown man.

That means he would have been born 30-50 years prior to his appearance at the beginning of the Tribulation. Many believe the world stage is set for the appearance of such a person, meaning he could be alive at this moment.



   It is very clear that the rider on the second horse personifies war; its red color (verses 3-4) speaks clearly of the shedding of blood. War is nothing new to the human race; thousands and thousands of conflicts

fill the pages of recorded human history. In the last hundred years alone, two world wars claimed the lives of 42 million people with 50 million more being wounded. Millions more civilians were killed or died in concentration camps. But the wars yet to be fought on planet earth, and the suffering which attends war, will be more devastating than anything in history. The" great sword" the rider holds in his hand is the large sword used by Roman soldiers going into battle-used when nations rise against nations.

   You may ask why it is important to know about these four horsemen if, as a Christian, I am going to be absent from the earth during the period of the Tribulation. The reason is that every event casts its shadow before it. That which will take place in the future has its portents in the present. The "wars and rumors of wars" (Matthew

24:6) we hear of today are the foretastes of that which is yet to come and those foretastes are part of the diet of the world each of us lives in today.

   As wars and conflicts increase, the world will become restless for someone to bring peace and unity to our divided and embattled world. And it is in that context that the Antichrist will arise. There will be a thin dividing line between the signs of the appearing of the Antichrist and his actual inauguration as a world leader. Between those two events, the Rapture of the Church will occur. But the Church may be on earth during a significant part of the turmoil leading up to the revealing of the Antichrist. That is why it is important to know the

stages of judgment represented by the four horsemen. 



   The color black is often connected with death and starvation, and famine often occurs as a result of war. Scarcity of food and other resources often result in an increase in prices so that enough food to subsist on can consume all of one's daily wages. Verse 6 indicates that a quart of wheat, or three quarts of barley (enough for one day), would cost a denarius (penny), which constituted a day's wage in biblical times. In the Tribulation period, along with the appearance of the Antichrist followed by war, famine will appear, and the globe will be

wrenched with hunger because of the inability to secure food. All but, the rich will suffer, for their staples, oil and wine, will not be harmed. But the average person will border on starvation.

   This setting also plays directly into the hands of the Antichrist. Revelation 13:17 says that "no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the Beast, or the number of his name." The Beast will control the world through the world's own hunger. Men and nations will do unusual and unplanned things in order to get food-and unfortunately, individuals will as well. Hunger is a basic human motivation, and the Antichrist will use it to his advantage as a means of moving people to give him allegiance.

   We see evidences of the politicization of food distribution in some African countries today. The pathetic and heart-wrenching photos we see of starving children and adults (many of them Christians) make us think in terms

of food shortages. In reality, what has sometimes happened is that food supplies have been cut off by warring political factions. As the African proverb has stated for generations, "When elephants battle, the ants get trampled." Using starvation as a means of genocide is a twenty-first century reality in our world. If it is happening today, how much more might it continue at the hand of an evil world ruler?



   The three previous horses each had one rider only. Now John looks and sees that the fourth horse has a rider with another person following (verses 7-8). Death is the rider with Hades following close behind. Death and Hades are mentioned three times in Revelation. Christ has the keys to death and Hades in 1:18, and 20:14 says that death and Hades will be cast into hell. But 20:13 tells us a little more about them. They will be judged one day, following the Tribulation during which they have reigned. They will be judged, "each one according to his works." Found guilty, they will be cast into hell.

   After the Antichrist's brief treaty of peace comes war, and after war comes famine, and after famine comes death and Hades. They are armed with the sword, hunger, pestilence (plagues), and wild beasts. These are the four judgments the Lord said he would send in Ezekiel 14:21. In our day, we have seen war and famine wreak havoc on our world, and we are now in the process of seeing pestilence and beasts and plague do the same. Pestilence is a word for "epidemic." The greatest epidemic the world has ever known, AIDS, will kill more

people in the world than all previous epidemics combined. Because the incubation period for the HIV virus can be up to ten years, many people are already infected with AIDS (HIV-positive) who do not even know it. As a result, they continue to spread the disease to others. Because AIDS is spread primarily through sexual contact, people who know they are HIV-positive are unwilling to take necessary steps to protect others from the disease they carry. Children in the wombs of their infected mothers are being born with the disease. Blood supplies

are becoming tainted, increasing the risk for surgical patients to become infected. Medical workers can become accidentally infected by contact with tainted blood. The specter of this disease gets more ghastly with each new report and assessment-and still no cure has been found.

   Diseases are also spread by "beasts" of the earth-which could be anything from rats, which can carry as many as 35 known diseases, to disease-resistant microorganisms spread by birds and animals which are

shipped or which migrate from one country to another. In past decades and centuries, diseases could be contained in their country of origin fairly easily. But today, a person can contract an animal-borne disease in one country (e.g., AIDS or the Ebola virus which both originated in animal populations in Africa) and arrive by airplane in another country in a matter of hours-and be "lost" among the population.

   It is not difficult to imagine that "death" and "Hades" will account for 25 percent of the world's population being killed during the Tribulation (6:8).



The Response of Praise

   Neither is it difficult to see why praise and worship are the central focus of chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation. Why? Because those who know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord will be worshiping Him in heaven while the events of Revelation 6-19 are unfolding on the earth. If being excluded from the fourth of the world's population killed by war, hunger, disease, and the beasts of the earth isn't a reason to praise, I don't know what is.

The Response of Passion

   But there is another response we should have. It would be selfish and self-centered for us to be concerned only about saving ourselves. If there is any "neighbor" whom we are to love as we love ourselves, we must warn them of what is coming upon the earth. If we really believe the messages of the four horsemen, we will tell anyone and everyone how they can be spared from the torment of the Tribulation.

The Response of Personal Evaluation

   Which brings us to the necessary question, where will you be when Revelation 6 begins to unfold on the earth? Don't wait another minute before making sure that when the trumpet of the Lord sounds, you will

leave this earth at the Rapture. After that trumpet; after the Church is gone, it will be too late to reconsider.