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Revelation 1-6: What Are the “Four Horsemen”?

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Staggering events will soon shock the whole world! Great prophecies in the book of Revelation show how and when these catastrophic events will occur.

This “personal” begins vital understanding that will forever change your outlook on the future. You must have the keys that unlock what lies ahead—as well as the entirety of the book of Revelation.

This stunning book of prophecy is opened, revealed and explained—at last!

Understanding who is the actual author of the Revelation—and understanding the critically important theme, the centerpiece of the book, is vital. Without these keys, many have bogged down into either arguments about whether “the Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10) is a reference to Sunday—or whether John, instead of Christ, authored the book.

Why does almost everyone refer to this book as “The Revelation of St. John the Divine”? Nowhere does it refer to John as either divine or the Revelator. So the primary purpose of chapter 1 is to establish Jesus Christ as the book’s author.

Notice: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw” (Rev. 1:1-2).

Did you notice that the book of Revelation contains Jesus Christ’s words, as the Revelator, not John’s words? John was merely a scribe—a kind of secretary taking dictation.

Anyone who carefully examines these verses will plainly see that the Revelation originated with God (the Father), who gave it to Christ. Christ sent and signified the Revelation by His angel, who then gave it to John, “Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.” John merely recorded these events, preserving them for the servants of Jesus Christ—His end-time Church. So, it came from the Father to Christ to an angel to John, and finally to Jesus’ servants—and no one else.

These are not my words, but the Bible’s.

A towering question overshadows the discussion here. If the world’s best minds cannot even discern the book’s correct title—and Author—how could they discern its message?

Christ used John to “bare record of”—write down—what He was revealing. In short, John wrote three things: (1) the Word of God, (2) the direct testimony (the words) of Christ, and (3) what he saw in vision.

The Theme

With this background, you now understand the introduction to the book.

Most reputable scholars generally agree, and admit, that the term “the Lord’s Day” is, in fact, a reference to God’s coming day of reckoning, or judgment upon the world—the day of the Lord!

Yet almost no one else understands this. Without this central point correct in one’s thinking, the entire book will make no sense. Reading Revelation becomes a fruitless exercise.

Now notice verse 10. It actually reveals the central focus or theme of the whole book. Understand that John lived over 1,900 years ago—long before the events of this book were to be fulfilled. He recorded, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind Me a great voice, as of a trumpet” (Rev. 1:10).

Both the Rotherham translation and the Concordant version render this verse, “I came to be, in Spirit, in the Lord’s Day.”

Centuries of controversy have sprung from this reference, because people argue about which day of the week John is referring to. The presumption is that he is talking about Sunday, though the prophecy says nothing of the kind. This verse has nothing to do with Sunday—and is not a reference to any day of the week! The day of the week on which John may have received this prophecy is irrelevant.

The “Lord’s Day” is speaking of the time of God’s Wrath. Over 30 different Old Testament prophecies refer to “the great and the terrible day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31).

The prophet Joel speaks of it. Here is a small portion of how he describes the day, plainly referenced in other verses as lasting one whole year: “Blow you the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord comes, for it is near at hand; a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there has not been ever the like [this is the worst time in history], neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. A fire devours before them; and behind them a flame burns: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yes, and nothing shall escape them” (Joel 2:1-3).

The Day of the Lord is the really terrible time of God’s punishments, plagues and judgments at the culmination of 6,000 years of mankind’s practice of sin. Jesus Christ, through John, is revealing to His servants what occurs prior to—and through—His Return!

Ezekiel 8:3 gives some insight into how John could be transported 1,900 years into the future. Notice: “The spirit lifted me [Ezekiel] up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem.” Like Ezekiel, John was in vision—“in the spirit”—from the Isle of Patmos, where he recorded the Revelation. In the past, God has projected His servants (through visions) into important future events so that they could record them.

We are in the time of the end, when God wants His servants to understand the last events preceding the Return of Christ.

The book of Revelation does not speak to unknown events in the distant past. It warns of colossal events that spring from world troubles affecting the masses of humanity alive NOW.

Grasp that the Day of the Lord is the towering centerpiece of the entire book.

The whole book of Revelation can be broken down, in detail. Chapter 1, verse 3, declares, “...he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written” are “blessed.” What would be the point of this verse if God did not want the reader—the “hearer”—the “keeper” (the obeyer)—to understand it? This is an important statement to all who read Revelation. It includes you!

This entire book will be made clear—plain—understandable! Let’s begin. Verses 14-16 are a direct description of Jesus Christ, as He now exists in full glory—an awe-inspiring picture. Take a moment to meditate on how far it is from the well-known image of the popular, long-haired, sallow-complexioned, sad-faced, false “Christ” of this world: “His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; And His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shines in [its] strength” (Rev. 1:14-16).

There are two types of symbols used in Revelation. The first is found in verse 12, where John saw “seven golden candlesticks.” Also, in verse 16, he saw “seven stars” in Christ’s hand.

Understand one of the most important rules of Bible study—the Bible interprets itself!

The meaning of these candlesticks and stars is explained by simply continuing to read: “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels [or messengers] of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which you saw are the seven churches” (vs. 20).

We have just introduced the subject of the next two chapters. Chapter 1, verse 3 explains that

Revelation is written to God’s servants—those of His Church through the ages.

Chapters 2 and 3: The Seven Church Messages

Chapters 2 and 3 contain Christ’s messages to seven different churches in Asia Minor—today’s western Turkey. Combined, these messages represent the first overall message of the book. They are directed to the seven successive eras, or stages, of God’s Church, and span the entire New Testament period—from when Jesus built the true Church in A.D. 31, until His Second Coming!

God has chosen to work with His Church through sequential eras. Each message contains Christ’s brief description of the spiritual condition of these consecutive eras. They are not spoken to any of the well-known, respected denominations of this world’s professing Christianity. They are directed to God’s one true Church. Men have never understood the messages, because they have never recognized how to identify God’s Church.

Most eras are described as having their own unique doctrinal and spiritual problems that eventually lead to Christ raising up a new leader to establish the next era. These eras are known as Ephesus (Rev. 2:1), Smyrna (2:8), Pergamos (2:12), Thyatira (2:18), Sardis (3:1), Philadelphia (3:7) and Laodicea (3:14).

These were actually seven cities lying close together (in this order) on a mail route in Asia Minor. God knew each city would reflect a corresponding attitude existing in the era it represents. Christ was able to use them to show a pattern that would span the 2,000-year history of His Church.

History demonstrates that most people do not heed Christ’s warnings. This is never truer than at the end of the age. The most faithful brethren in the Church of God today are a remnant of the sixth, or Philadelphian era. They remain separate from the lukewarm seventh era. (You will want to read our book, titled Where Is the True Church? – and Its Incredible History!)

Chapter 4: Before God’s Throne and the 24 Elders

The 4th and 5th chapters present the setting for the central part of the Revelation that follows. They set the stage for unveiling the great prophecies and theme of the book.

In chapter 4, verse 1, John describes a door opening in heaven and an invitation from a great voice to “come up” to be shown things “which must be hereafter.” Understand that John was actually on a small island (Patmos) in the northeastern Mediterranean Sea, and all of what he saw was occurring in vision. He was not literally in heaven.

In verse 2, John saw the Father on His throne, and a magnificent picture of the setting in which God exists. Surrounding Him are 24 more “seats” (lesser thrones), occupied by “24 elders.”

It is important to study this chapter with chapter 5, because they present a descriptive picture of four “beasts” (or living creatures), as well as the 24 elders—and Jesus Christ, as the Lamb of God (Rev. 5:6), standing before God’s throne.

This awe-inspiring picture is of the environment—atmosphere—magnificent beauty—of God’s throne. The description is simply stunning!

Chapter 5: Christ Unseals the Prophecy

Chapter 5, verse 1 pictures the Father holding the book of Revelation (with seven seals on it) in His right hand. At this point, the book (actually a scroll or parchment) is still unopened—sealed—locked! Notice: “And I saw in the right hand of Him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.”

“Seven” is God’s number of completeness—and, of course, the book was also completely sealed. This means the meaning of the prophecy has remained hidden from view—unavailable to mankind! It has not even been possible previously to read it correctly in proper sequence, let alone understand it.

Here is the description: “And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon” (Rev. 5:2-3).

The account reveals that no man is qualified to open the book. If only men would simply believe God, there would not have been so many men, over the centuries, giving their interpretations of a prophecy that cannot possibly be understood. Like Daniel, who recorded a prophecy he did not understand, John was also unable to comprehend this prophecy. He actually cried in verse 5 because he did not see any way to open it.

It is at this point that Christ, and Christ alone (not any human being), is deemed “worthy” to UNSEAL THE BOOK!

Do not be confused about who can open this book to correct understanding. Daniel’s book is a companion to all the main prophecies of Revelation, and his book was “sealed till the time of the end” (Dan. 12:9). Christ opens them for His servants—those of His one Church—to read. He reveals the meaning of these prophecies: “and He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne” (Rev. 5:7).

The 24 Elders Explained

Let’s read something else about the 24 elders—and clear up a wrong understanding about who and what they are. Notice: “And when He had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having everyone of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sung a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for You were slain, and have redeemed us [them] to God by the blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And have made us [them] unto our God kings and priests: and we [they] shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:8-10).

Some claim the 24 elders are taken from saved human beings. This idea comes from a mistranslation of the italicized words. They should be replaced by the words in brackets. See the Revised Standard Version, and also the margin of the New King James Version. Both render them correctly.

These elders are spirit beings created by God to be His counselors. They were probably created before the physical creation, along with the cherubim (Michael, Gabriel and Lucifer—who became Satan), the four living creatures and the billions of other angels that serve God.

Chapter 6: The Seals Are Opened

Now for critically important chapter 6—and the beginning of Christ’s one-by-one removal of each of the seven seals.

Understand that, beginning with chapter 6, unsealing the seven seals spans all but the last two chapters of the book. But since chapter 6 explains six of the seven seals, obviously they do not individually receive a large amount of space. The seventh seal is so important—and so multifaceted—that God devotes much space to its complete explanation.

Most of the remainder of the book is devoted to just the seventh seal!

This is another key to understanding the whole book.

The world sees the Apocalypse as a mystic, cryptic message of doom! The first four seals are represented by four riders, on four different-colored horses. Of course, much has been said and written about them. But “the four horsemen of the Apocalypse,” as they are commonly referred to, are still viewed as mysterious, UNEXPLAINED horrors to be unleashed upon the world without warning.

To clearly understand the first seal of Revelation 6:2, we must accept a basic fact. The Greek term apocalypse simply means “revelation.” So let’s now explain the seven seals to be revealed.

We will read the description of each seal before discussing it.


Here is the first: “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. 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” (Rev. 6:1-2).

What John records is written in symbols, not plain language. It is impossible to understand these symbols by merely re-reading Revelation 6 over and over until their correct meaning sort of “pops into your head.”

It is critical to recognize a long list of human interpretations is available for what this horse and the others represent. But, once again, the Bible interprets the Bible. We must permit Christ to explain what He is unsealing! No one else has any authority to speak for what God gave to Christ—and authorized Him to reveal!

Christ reveals the meaning of the white horse. His disciples once asked Him, “...when shall these things [the destruction of the Temple] be? and what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matt. 24:3).

Understand it is Christ speaking in both Matthew 24 and Revelation 6. He is addressing the very same questions in both chapters. He answers by listing, in time sequence and order, the events and trends that precede the end of the age—and thus His Coming.

Notice the exact parallel between Revelation 6:1-2 and Matthew 24:4-5: “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ [that Christ is Christ]; and shall deceive many.” That’s right! Jesus warned that the many will be deceived by those claiming to represent Him—not the few.

The white horse that John described represents false “christs.” Here’s proof. The one on this horse is a counterfeit of the true Christ and a counterfeit of His Second Coming, described in Revelation 19:11-16. There the real Christ wields a sharp two-edged sword, while the false christ is represented as carrying a bow. Do not miss this critical difference!

Here is a partial description of the true Christ returning in power and glory. While He is riding a white horse, the rest of the description is very different: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He does judge and make war...And out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev. 19:11, 15).

Consider. Most who study Revelation believe the white horse of the first seal pictures the true Christ coming before war, famine, and disease strike the earth. That is ridiculous! Such ignorance and misunderstanding has clouded the timing of the glorious Return of Jesus Christ described in Revelation 19:11-16. This is but one more way false religion—the other white horse—has deceived professing Christianity.

The Second Seal—WAR

When the second seal opens, a red horse appears: “And when He had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. 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” (Rev. 6:3-4). As with Christ in Revelation 19, the sword here is depicted as an instrument of war and killing.

This horse and rider “take peace from the earth.” The opposite of peace is war. When peace is removed, war is what remains. This pictures the “wars and rumors of wars” Jesus referenced in Matthew 24:6.

Wars have continued and grown steadily worse since Christ’s prophecy. But this part of John’s astounding vision has the gravest implications for all alive on Earth today.

This horseman represents the dreadful destruction caused by world war. In the Matthew 24 parallel, war immediately follows false religion. By the end of the age, the potential for devastation in war has become so great it holds the power to take peace not just from two or more nations, but now “from the earth,” as it says.

Only in the modern age have such terrible weapons of mass destruction been available. The 20th century saw the two most devastating wars in history, with the Second World War far more destructive than the first.

We are now in the last recess—or intermission—preceding the time of the truly greatest war, prophesied to exceed anything in the last century. A sinning, rebellious humanity will soon reach the end of its rope. We have reached a time when war’s potential cannot grow worse, and can now erase all life from Earth in one final blast of complete destruction—IF Christ did not intervene and cut events “short” (Matt. 24:22).

The pattern of history is that famine always follows war. This is why famine (the third seal) follows on the heels of war.

The Third Seal—FAMINE

The third seal opens and a black horse, a symbol of famine, appears: “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. 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 you hurt not the oil and the wine” (Rev. 6:5-6).

This pictures extreme worldwide famine, beyond anything civilization has ever seen. This devouring condition is seizing the entire world in an extraordinary way, and is now far worse than most imagine.

The Fourth Seal—DISEASE

The opening of the fourth seal reveals a pale horse, which represents pestilence or disease: “And when He had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death—and Hell [meaning, the grave] followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth [one in every four people], to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth” (Rev. 6:7-8).

This horse is depicted as pale because it is sickly. It obviously represents disease—pestilence! Invariably, war leads to famine—and resulting malnutrition leads to disease. New diseases, or old ones grown worse, are appearing almost daily. The death toll from disease around the world is staggering—now over a quarter million die every day! As with the fulfillment of the other seals, there is far more information available about disease than could begin to fit in this article.

There is much more to understand in the book of Revelation! To learn more, read my booklet Revelation Explained at Last!

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