The Meaning Of The Four Horsemen

Q. I always try to follow good hermeneutic principles when trying to understand God’s word starting with literal, historical and grammatical interpretation. The book of Revelation does however have the use of symbols and metaphorical interpretations. I am trying to understand the use of horses in the first 4 seals of Rev 6 – what are the horses and what do they mean. Jesus also comes on a white horse at His second coming – what are the horses? Also, the personal pronouns used for those on the horses indicate a person, yet that which follows are war, famine, pestilence, etc – can you help me understand why the use of masculine personal pronouns?

A. From Rev. 1:1 we see that when Jesus came to inform John about the future He “signified” it. Some translations say, “He made it known” but the Greek word for “signified” means He rendered it in signs and symbols. The four horsemen of Rev. 6:1-11 are examples of this. Each is introduced as a horse with a rider, but it’s what they represent that’s important.

The first horseman represents the anti-Christ coming to begin his conquest of Earth. His similarity to Jesus appearing on a white horse in Rev. 19:11 is intended to deceive the people of Earth into thinking he’s coming to bring peace on Earth. The second horseman represents the world wide warfare that will become necessary for the anti-Christ to complete his conquest. The third horseman represents war induced shortages that will cause food prices to skyrocket. And the fourth horseman represents the death that will be caused by the warfare, the food shortages, the breakdown of health services and sanitary conditions, and by the wild animals that will resort to attacking humans for food.

The use of personal pronouns throughout is meant to direct our attention to the fact that it’s the riders, not the horses, who are responsible for the devastation. This means these things are happening through human agency.

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