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In Revelation chapters 5 and 6 only the Lamb, symbolizing Jesus Christ, is found worthy to open the scroll with seven seals, the first four of which usher in the four prophetic horsemen of the book of Revelation.
This account in the book of Revelation parallels Matthew 24 when Christ answered the disciples' question about the end of the age by revealing specific details concerning events that would take place just before His return.
The first horseman rides a white horse symbolizing the proliferation of false religious beliefs that has been occurring for centuries.“And …behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to Him, and He went out conquering and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2). Some commentators think the rider on this white horse is Jesus Christ, but this is not correct. Revelation 19 describes the appearance of Jesus Christ on a white horse, but with a sword, not a bow. That sword is pictured as coming out of His mouth, representing the Word of God which is described as a “two edged sword” in Hebrews 4:12.
In Matthew 24:5 Christ tells His disciples “… many will come in my name saying they are the Christ and will deceive many.” This has happened. There are those who say they represent Christ, but teach a different gospel.
False religion sets the stage for the second rider on a red horse prophesying wars and death as a result of man turning his back on God’s way of life. This present generation has lived under the threat of nuclear war all their lives and in Matthew 24:22 we are told unless Christ returns and intervenes warfare will escalate to the point that all life on earth would be wiped out. “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”
As a result of the horrendous wars the third horseman is introduced in Revelation 6:5. This black horse and the rider with the scales represents famine. There have been famines in multiple parts of the world in recent times resulting in the deaths of more than 70 million people.
In the Ukraine in the 1930’s over 4 million people died as a result of a famine, when the area was in the control of the Soviet Union ruled by Joseph Stalin. In China in 1958 20-55 million people are estimated to have died in another famine under Mao Tse Tung and, in Ethiopia, in 1984 100’s of thousands of people died because of political strife, war, and the resultant famine. However, the famine described in the book of Revelation will be much more serious and widespread.
The conditions on the earth symbolized by the first three horsemen, then bring about the ride of the fourth horseman. This is a pale horse symbolizing the death of a quarter of all human life, as human civilization disintegrates with people continuing to turn their backs on God’s way of life. “When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, ‘come and see.’ So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was death.., 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” (Revelation 6:7).
Although the four horsemen of Revelation are most often referred to, there is importantly a fifth horsemen mentioned in Revelation 19:11. This is Jesus Christ who will return to save mankind. “Now I saw heaven opened and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True…His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns... and His name is called the Word of God….And the armies in heaven…followed Him on white horses.” In verse 15 we are told “...out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron… And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
The four horsemen of Revelation have already begun to ride and their impact will intensify as time goes on, but it’s the ride of the fifth horseman Jesus Christ that gives humanity hope and will end spiritual deception, war and suffering. When Christ rides the kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ and He will reign forever (Revelation 11:15).
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