The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (Rev. 6:1-8)

By Kathy L. McFarland

January 4, 2012

"6 And I 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. 2 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. 3 And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. 4 And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to 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. 5 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. 6 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. 7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. 8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell 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." (Revelation 6)

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There are at least three different schools of thought concerning the identity of the four horsemen: “preterist, futurist, and idealist.” The preterist looks for symbols from the first century; thus the white horse might be Emperor Domitian (Nero reborn), or a people, the “Parthians” who were a constant threat to the Roman Empire.[1] The Futurists make interpretation from the point of contemporary context; therefore, the rider “is seen either as the antichrist marching to eschatological battle or Christ proclaiming the gospel to the end.”[2] Idealists look to symbols to define the riders, usually connecting the natural progression of exceedingly worse developments that originate from war.

My belief is as a futurist. The White Horse Rider is probably an antichrist, with intentions of conquering first the territories of Magog, Meshech, and Tubal, to form the power base for the ten-nation empire that will eventually lead to the signing of a peace treaty with Israel.[3] I do not find any solid evidence that the first rider would be Christ; His representation in Rev 19:11-16 as going forth on a white horse to judge and make war is not the same events spoken in Revelations 6:1-8; though the color of the horse is the same, the weapons are different. Further, there is a satanic character identified through the use of the word “conquering,” which is used elsewhere describing the beast oppressing the saints.”[4] It is also problematic when the Lamb of God both opens the seals, and then appears as a result of it opening.  It just does not make logical sense for it to be the Lord Jesus Christ; thus, it probably is an antichrist that rides into the world and fools both unbelievers and the compromised church.

The Red Horse is commonly interpreted as “civil strife,” that naturally occurs after a terrible war, according to Yeatts. This leads to an identity of the next two horses in a progressive development of the horrors of war.[5] However, an argument can be made that it is not a natural progression, because it is a separate seal that is opened.  If it were a natural consequence, then a seal would not be necessary.  Thus, I believe the degree of civil strife that will be unleashed upon the world will be earth-shaking, murderous riots and wars without purpose and that are not naturally evolved.

The Black Horse brings famine, collapse of monetary systems, and spiritual apathy in my belief.  Dr. Hindson’s identity of the Black Horse as “Devastation”[6] does not fully capture the purpose in my opinion.  The clear reference to famine presents a bleak picture of scarce food and a loss of value to money used to purchase food.  Also, the typological significance of wheat and barley is shadowed throughout the Word of God, and denotes the very best of food eaten by the righteous, represented by wheat, and the more common spiritual feedings of barley. The admonition to save the oil and the wine also appear to typologically link wheat and barley by denoting the essence of the substances of relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ (wine) and His Holy Spirit (oil).  When the typological significance of these four substances is considered together, then a hypothesis can be formed to suggest a more spiritual famine is possible. While a certain reference to an extreme food famine is literally probable, a detailed study of the typological aspects of wheat, barley, oil, and wine leads an extra possibility of extreme spiritual apathy developing throughout the earth as the third seal is opened, except for those who have the testimony of Christ and the Holy Spirit within them.

The Pale Horse is the Antichrist that brings Death and Hell, and he kills a fourth part of life with sword, hunger, death, and beasts.  The powerful rule of the Antichrist begins, and the warnings in Matthew 24:10-12 and Revelation 13:7,8, suggests that it is those of strong Christian faith that will be persecuted for their belief in God and their refusal to take the mark and worship the beast; as a result, Christians will be some of the fourth part of life that will murdered. With the opening of the fourth seal, the work of the Seraphim is complete, and the “process of purifying and refining the church in preparation for their coming before God Almighty is finished.”[7]

While Dr. Hindson expresses the identity of the four horsemen generally, he takes the idealist approach that one event naturally follows another and ever-increasing proportions of devastation.[8] This fails to consider the opening of each seal purposefully. His exclusion of the faithful Church in this process of the opening of the first four seals in the first 3 1/2 year tribulation period confuses my belief and in my view, is not fully supported by prophecy in the Word of God.


Hindson, Edward. The Book of Revelation: Unlocking the Future: Scofield Ministries, 2002.


Van Kampen, Robert. The Sign: Bible Prophecy Concerning the End Times. Wheaton, IL: Good News Publisher, 1992.


Yeatts, John R. Revelation, Beleivers Church Bible Commentary. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2003.




[1] John R. Yeatts, Revelation, Believers church Bible commentary (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press,

2003), 135.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Robert Van Kampen, The Sign: Bible Prophecy Concerning the End Times, (Wheaton, IL: Good News Publisher, 1992) 191.

[4] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.;

Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 374.

[5] Yeatts, “Revelation,” 126.

[6] Edward Hindson,  The Book of Revelation: Unlocking the Future, (Scofield Ministries, 2002),


[7] Van Kampen, “The Sign,”252.

[8] Hindson, “Revelation,” 83

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