Can you hear the thundering hooves getting closer with each passing day? What or WHO are the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse and when do they ride? We’ll be exploring these important questions in our next few posts. Time is growing shorter and shorter as we rapidly approach the end of the age and the consummation of all of these things.
In Revelation 4, the apostle John, exiled by Rome on the Isle of Patmos in the latter years of his life, was a witness to God Almighty holding in His Right Hand a very important scroll that was sealed with 7 seals. John was very upset, and wept openly, because he thought that there was no one worthy to break the seals and open the scroll, or to even look at it.
Why was John upset? I think it’s because he couldn’t bear to think of this world remaining in the hands of its current landlord (satan) forever. Since the fall of mankind there has been an UNTOLD amount of suffering, sickness, sorrow, pain and death on this earth. The Scroll that God held in His Right Hand seems to be a very important legal document, which may be why the 24 elders were present at the time of its opening. In Biblical times, elders were the consulting body of a city, nation, or king and operated in a Governmental or legal capacity. I believe this important legal scroll is a type of “deed” to planet earth. John wept bitterly because he thought that there was no-one worthy to break the seals and open the scroll, or to even look at it! But John was comforted by one of the elders who gently explained to him that there is ONE who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll, the LAMB who was SLAIN, Jesus the Christ. Jesus is the ONLY ONE WORTHY to break the seals and open the Scroll! God is taking back HIS CREATION from the “god of this world” (aka satan).
Jesus has OVERCOME! Hallelujah! What happens when Jesus begins to break these seals? Well, that’s the subject of much of the book of Revelation which literally means apocalypse or unveiling. In general, the opening of the seals reveal judgment and destruction on the earth for mankind’s sin and rebellion. This time is described in the Bible as the worst time in human HIS STORY, and is the beginning of God judging the “god of this world” (satan), and all those who have aligned themselves with him in his rebellion. The good news; however, is that at the end of this DIFFICULT AND PAINFUL time period, Jesus will return to earth to set up His Glorious Kingdom that has no end! Sounds like an EPIC MOVIE, the ultimate battle between Good and evil, and yet it’s NOT fiction, it’s the TRUTH.
In Revelation Chapter 6, the Lamb begins to break the seals of the Scroll and the 4 horsemen prepare to RIDE. Imagine these horses back behind a starting gate, pawing the ground, waiting for their cue, anxious to ride.
Who are these 4 horsemen of the apocalypse? Before we get into each individual horsemen, we’ll just say that the colors of the 4 horses in Revelation 6 are white, red, black, and “ashen” /gray. Is there anything like these anywhere else in the Bible?
Hundreds of years before the Apostle John penned the book of Revelation, The Old Testament Prophet Zechariah saw in a vision a similar set of horsemen. Zechariah (whose name means “YHWH has remembered”) prophesied to the Kingdom of Judah during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. At this time the Jewish people, who had been exiled in Babylon for 70 years because of their sin and rebellion, were permitted by King Cyrus of Persia to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple and the city. Like many of the Old Testament prophets, Zechariah prophesied of both his current “time” and also the end-times.
Zechariah 6: Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four chariots came out from between two mountains. And the mountains were mountains of bronze. 2 The first chariot had red horses, the second black horses, 3 the third white horses, and the fourth chariot dappled (aka gray) horses—all of them strong.4 Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” 5 And the angel answered and said to me, “ These are the four spirits (wind/Ruach/breath) of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth. 6 The chariot with the black horses goes toward the north country, the white ones go after them, and the dappled ones go toward the south country.” 7 When the strong horses came out, they were impatient to go and patrol the earth. And he said, “Go, patrol the earth.” So they patrolled the earth.
Zechariah saw in a vision something similar to what John the Revelator saw hundreds of years later. Zechariah saw 4 horses, white, red, black, and gray, with chariots which are called the 4 Spirits (aka “winds”) of the Heavens, that go out to patrol the 4 corners of the earth AFTER presenting themselves to God (YHWH).
In Psalm 104 vs. 3, God makes the winds (Spirit/Ruach) His Messengers. In Zechariah 6, God calls the horses with the Chariots the “4 winds of the Heavens”. In Zechariah 6, God is sending out these 4 winds (spirits), His messengers, to patrol the earth. Psalm 104 indicates that these horsemen, these “chariots”, these “winds of Heaven” are YHWH’s MESSENGERS. What are the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse? Are they also God’s Messengers? What connection do these 4 horsemen have with the 4 living creatures that surround God’s Throne? The 4 Living Creatures, those highly exalted Seraphim from God’s inner circle, are the very ones who announce each horseman, as the Lamb of God, Jesus the Christ, breaks the seals.
The 4 Living Creatures who are in the center of God’s Throne, as well as surrounding it, are part of His “inner circle”. Honestly, God is so unbelievably awe-inspiring, so incredibly Holy and amazing, no Bible Scholar really understands the magnitude who these beings are that surround the His Throne. Some say that they are Seraphim, a kind of exalted Angelic being that we see in Isaiah 6.
Like the Seraphim in Isaiah 6, the 4 living Creatures in Revelation 4 have six wings and sing Praises to God day and night. In human terms, we’ll just give a brief synopsis of what John seems to be describing. These 4 living Creatures are very close to God’s Throne and are therefore very powerful, exalted beings with 6 wings. They appear to be worship leaders because, like the Seraphim, they “do not cease to say (or sing) Holy, Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty” day and night. Most scholars believe that the faces on the 4 Living Creatures (lion/calf/eagle/man) have something to do with the 4 Gospels of Jesus Christ and also 4 of the most powerful Tribes of Israel. These Living Creatures are described as being full of eyes, front and back, and can therefore see everything, past, present, and future. In Hebrew, it is not uncommon for a description to be more focused on the function rather the appearance.
In Revelation 5, John discovered that the Lamb who had been slain, Jesus Christ, is worthy to break the seals and open the Scroll because He had purchased FOR GOD, with HIS BLOOD, people of every tongue, nation, and tribe, making them to be a Kingdom and Priests to God. At this point, God Almighty hands Jesus, the Lamb who was slain, the Scroll, the deed to planet earth, and the 4 living Creatures, along with the 24 elders, FALL DOWN BEFORE THE LAMB, each holding a harp (music) and bowl of incense (prayers of Christians), and they “sang a new song”, a song of Praises to our God. Although the Bible doesn’t give us a clear definition of what is meant by a “new song”, leaving it to be rather MYSTERIOUS, it seems to be a song of Redemption, a song of Praise. The song is “new” perhaps in that it encompasses the full redemption of God – not just His promises, played out in Old Covenant types; not just His incarnation and sacrificial death; not just His resurrection and ascension; not just the sending of His Holy Spirit, although all of these gifts of grace are marvelous; but now His glorious return and the creation of new heavens and a new earth.
The 4 Living Creatures, surrounding the Throne of God, the ones who fall down before the Lamb and WORSHIP HIM are the very ones who ANNOUNCE the breaking of each seal of Revelation. As they announce the breaking of each seal, each of the 4 horses of the Apocalypse begin to RIDE. Like the 4 horsemen in Zechariah, I believe that the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse are God’s messengers who are delivering a message of judgment to an unrepentant world. The number 4 derives its meaning from creation. On the fourth day of what is called ‘creation week’ God completed the material universe. We will discover in future posts that the judgments that God pronounces against all those who desire to rebel against His Righteous and Loving sovereignty over HIS CREATION will increase in magnitude and severity as we move through the breaking of the 7 seals, the 7 Trumpets, and the 7 bowls of wrath. Our God is merciful and even came in the likeness of human flesh (Jesus Christ) to absorb His own wrath for us on the Cross so that we could escape His Righteous punishment for our sin and rebellion; however, for those who refuse His lifeline of mercy, His Son Jesus Christ, there is the chilling reality that His wrath awaits.
JESUS is taking back this WORLD from its current landlord, but not before He separates the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the weeds. God is going to give one last “shout out”, and then remove His people, following the same pattern as Noah and Lot. After the Rapture, He’s going to bring judgment on the world by first giving them over to that which they seek.….the worship of the antichrist. For those who miss the Rapture, but seek the True God Jesus Christ during this time of Tribulation, refusing to worship the beast (antichrist) even if it costs them their physical lives, they will also receive the crown of ETERNAL LIFE.
Our next few posts will go into more depth regarding the rider of each horse, what happens after the seals are broken, and a general idea of timing of the Tribulation period. No man knows the exact day or hour, but we are given clues as to the “season”, because God does not want His people to be caught unaware. God’s clues, especially that of the FIG TREE, indicate we are getting close.
Matthew 24:36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37 For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.