The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
The four horses and their riders described in Revelation 6 are not unique to the end times.
“These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the LORD of all the earth.” (Zechariah 6:5)
Their function is to set up such chaos and desperation that even hard-core anarchists are ready for a strong leader.
“if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day…The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke…because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me.
- The LORD shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee
- The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust:
- The LORD shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies..
If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, The LORD Thy God.” (Deuteronomy 28)
They were repeated by Jeremiah.
Thus saith the LORD unto this people…the LORD…will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins…I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.” (Jeremiah 14:1-12)
These four horsemen detail a linked sequence of events common to every catastrophic breakdown of society. A ride through history gives a broad overview of this pattern, enabling us to recognize future recurrences even before the next step in the sequence unfolds. Forewarned is forearmed.
962 BC – 911 BC (I Kings 3:1, 4:21, 11:9-40, 14:25-30, 15:16)
- White Horse – Solomon makes leagues with Egypt and a multitude of surrounding nations, inevitably including marriage as part of the contract. And when one theocracy makes a league with another theocracy, the gods are never left out. “But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites: Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods…Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites…Chemosh, the abomination of Moab…and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.”
- Red Horse – Egypt wars against Israel . Note as we proceed that each deliverer becomes the next oppressor.
- And the LORD sent…bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it.” (II Kings 24:2)
- Black Horse – Famine implied as part of war
- Pale Horse – Death resulting from war, understood
911 BC – 736 BC (I Kings 15:16-21, II Kings 12:17, 15:37)
- White Horse – Judah makes league with Syria / Aram to defend against Israel. The Kingdom of Aram-Damascus reached its height in the second half of the 9th century BCE, during the reign of king Hazael.”
- Syria wars against Judah
- Black & Pale Horses understood as part of war
736 BC – 692 BC (II Kings 16, 18:13, 19:29-35)
- White Horse – Judah makes league with Assyria to defend against Syria and Israel
- So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, saying, I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me…And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king’s house, and sent it for a present to the king of Assyria…And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus…And Urijah the priest built an altar according to all that king Ahaz had sent…And when the king was come from Damascus…the king approached to the altar, and offered thereon [as his god’s representative, vicar, manifestation, priest-king].
- Red Horse – Assyria attacks Judah
- Black Horse – famine during seige
- Pale Horse – death from plague
Are you catching the pattern? The nation with whom God’s chosen – but unrighteous – people make a league always betrays the league! Can we see God’s signature here?
“The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.” (Psalm 9:16)
The wicked are those who trust in humans rather than Almighty God.
“The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)
The righteous are those who put their trust in Creator YHVH even through – especially through! – mortal death, believing his promise for everlasting life through connection / identification with him.
“O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them. Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about.” (Psalm 17:7-9)
These horse-drawn episodes continued to repeat, escalating each time, when they do not achieve their objective of driving the remnant – a critical mass number – back to their Rock.
692 BC – 586 BC
- White Horse – Judah makes league with Babylon to defend against Assyria (Isaiah 39:1-2)
- Red Horse – Babylon attacks Judah (II Kings 24:1-2, 25:1-2)
- Black Horse – Famine (II Kings 25:3)
- Pale Horse – Death (Ezekiel 5:12)
~ 520 BC
The Four Horsemen are formally introduced by Zechariah. We can line up his vision with world events unfolding at that time with the rise of the Persian Empire.
“And I [Zechariah] turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass.
- In the first chariot were red horses; – color of blood for killing
- and in the second chariot black horses; – black is the color of famine
- And in the third chariot white horses; – conquering through political means without force
- and in the fourth chariot grisled and bay horses – corpse pale, death.
Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these, my lord? And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the LORD of all the earth.
I would point out that, just as cherubim are mighty angels with animal bodies rather than humanoid, so these horses can be real spirit beings as well, inspiring humans to act in tandem with them.
- The black horses which are therein go forth into the north country [famine in Asia Minor during the Persian Wars];
- and the white go forth after them [some Greek city states forge political alliances with Persia];
- and the grisled go forth toward the south country [death as Cambysis ruthlessly subjugated his only rival superpower, Egypt].
- And the bay went forth, and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth: and he said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth. So they walked to and fro through the earth [death expands its reach from the breakdown of commerce, trade, law and order during world war conditions.]
We have now reached more well-documented historic eras allowing us to match up John’s expanded details of the horsemen with Daniel’s overview of history during the Times of the Gentiles.
“And I saw...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”.
A strong man promises to bring peace through strength to a chaotic world. The imagery of a bow without an arrow, and a crown given, not seized, portrays a Prince of Peace who conquers the hearts of his subjects and is granted authority by his power base.
- Alexander the Great rose to power during the decline of the Persian Empire. Beginning at the age of 20 he led a much smaller army to victories against the mighty Persian army across Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt without suffering a single defeat to conquer the perpetual enemy of Greece. At the age of 25, in 331 BC, he became ‘great king’ of Persia after emerging victorious from the Battle of Gaugamela, in what is now northern Iraq. He inspired loyalty in his Greek warriors and his new subjects by identifying himself as one of them, and as one with their gods.
- Approaching Jerusalem, “when he saw the Multitude at a Distance, in white Garments; while the Priests stood clothed with fine Linnen; and the High Priest in Purple and scarlet Clothing, with his Miter on his Head, having the golden Plate, whereon the name of GOD was engraved; he approached by himself, and adored that Name, and first saluted the High Priest. The Jews also did altogether, with one Voice, salute Alexander, and encompass him about…And when he had…given the High Priest his right Hand; [ancient sign of friendship – no weapon in hand – in this context offering a political alliance.]…he came into the City. And when he went up into the Temple, he offered Sacrifice to God, according to the High Priest’s Direction; and magnificently treated both the High Priest and the Priests.” What just transpired at Jerusalem is what would transpire shortly after in Egypt. These are theocracies, remember. When the High Priest allowed Alexander to offer sacrifice, he was being accepted as the son of the God of the nation, the manifestation of God himself, just by different names in different languages. This was most certainly a sacrilege at Jerusalem.
- the Seleucid Kingdom of Syria…[was one of the] successors of Alexander the Great’s broken empire… Antiochus IV came to power c. 170 B.C.E…Antiochus sought to bring about a sense of cultural uniformity…embracing the Hellenistic way of life and the worship of the Greek pantheon, especially Zeus. By taking the epitaph Epiphanes (“God Manifest”), Antiochus even claimed to be Zeus incarnate.
- The Maccabees [successfully won freedom from Antiochus’ oppression of the Jewish religion], then founded the Hasmonean royal dynasty and established Jewish independence in the Land of Israel for about one hundred years, from 165 B.C.E. to 63…They consolidated their power by…combining the office of king and High Priest although the Hasmonean’s were not descended from Moses’ brother, Aaron the first High Priest and [a royal priesthood was not legitimate according to Mosaic law.] Ironically, the election was performed in Hellenistic fashion…
- Julius Caesar rose to power as the Roman Republic was in a rapid decline. A genius military commander and politician, he conquered the biggest threat to Rome at the time – the Gauls and almost all of Western Europe, gaining him broad support and popularity among the common people as well as the undying loyalty of his soldiers, who supplied him with the necessary muscle to seize power during a civil war. Following the law of the Republic designed to restore order during a crisis, Caesar made himself first consul with total power.
- The Jewish Sanhedrin proclaimed Caesar their king at the trial of Yeshua of Nazareth, son of David.
- Tariq bin Ziyad took the Iberian peninsula from the Visigoth successors of the Romans in 711-720 AD, establishing the Western-most reach of Islamic territory. The Muslim period in Spain is often described as a ‘golden age’ of learning where libraries, colleges, public baths were established and literature, poetry and architecture flourished. Both Muslims and non-Muslims made major contributions to this flowering of culture.
- Following the Islamic conquests of the 7th century, successive waves of Jewish refugees migrated from North Africa and the Middle East onto the Iberian Peninsula, attracted by the country’s reputation as a land of opportunity and rich potential. Living with both Moslems and Christians, Sephardic (Hebrew for Spanish) Jews would develop as a unique branch of the Jewish people—multilingual, multitalented, and also deeply attached to a place where they lived for over a thousand years. Sephardic Jews were inspired to craft unique forms of self-expression in poetry, philosophy, science, and monumental legal codes by the co-existence of the three cultures in one territory and a veritable Golden Age of Jewish culture occurred. Moses Maimonides, the foremost example of Judaic and classical traditions, harnessed Aristotelian thought to rabbinic Judaism.
- Isabella and Ferdinande: The Making of the First World Power: The marriage of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon united two powerful kingdoms into the Kingdom of Spain, which was promptly expanded by conquering and expelling all Moslems from Granada in 1492, a feat no other Christian ruler had been able to accomplish in the last 700 years. Spain became a major voice on the European continent, and Isabella became one of the most formidable monarchs in Europe and the most powerful woman in the world just when the nations of Europe were breaking out of the dark ages to discover a world rich with resources and luxury goods. Isabella’s funding of Christopher Columbus’ exploration of a new trade route in 1492 was the crowning achievement of the age and the beginning of a new empire.
- Most of the Jews of Spain lived predominantly under Muslim rule until 1147, when they fled to Christian Spain for protection from harsh Moslem restrictions.
- Napoleon Bonaparte rose to power through unprecedented opportunities during the chaos and instability of government throughout the French Revolution of 1789 – 1799. Like Alexander and Julius Caesar, he was a brilliant military commander who led an increasingly admiring and loyal army to stunning victories, defeating the Italians and the Austrians then menacing the growing British Empire in Egypt. With calculated timing he returned to France where, greeted with adulation as a potential saviour, he led a short and bloodless coup against an unpopular regime. Establishing a Roman republican government recently resurrected by America in 1776, he became, like Caesar, first consul with dictatorial powers, then Emperor of the still existing Western Roman Empire.
- In Austria, Chancellor Metternich wrote, “I fear that the Jews will believe (Napoleon) to be their promised Messiah”.
- Otto von Bismarck – rose to power in the Prussian legislature as an ultra-conservative royalist. He was determined to unite the German states into a single empire…With Austrian support…he provoked the Franco-Prussian war…and in 1871 created the Second German Reich with Wilhelm I of Prussia as Kaiser / Caesar / Emperor.
- Jews have lived in Germany for over 1700 years…In the nineteenth century, the Reform Jewish movement began…which saw the assimilation of many German Jews into the cultural and intellectual life of the wider society.
- Adolf Hitler rose to power in the chaos of the catastrophic aftermath of losing the Great War. When Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated and fled the country, the resulting power vacuum sucked in all manner of revolutionaries. What, in a calmer time, would have disqualified Hitler completely from being taken into the world of acceptability, triggered support from desperate segments of the population. One of the world’s most influential orators, in 1932, 37% of the electorate gravitated toward Hitler, so the President allied with him by appointing him to be Chancellor. His leadership skills were matched only by few in the world, unmatched oratory skills, brilliant strategic military expansions and economic growth plans.
- The Jews in Germany and Poland provided convenient scapegoats to shift the burden of blame for the hardships suffered as a result of WWI.
“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.”
The same strong man who promised peace and prosperity to his followers at home seizes the resources to do so from the enemy.
- Alexander the Great’s legacy was the War of the Successors which split Alexander’s empire into Macedonia, the Seleucid Empire in Asia Minor, Syria and Mesopotamia, and the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt. For centuries these three fought each other for the hegemony of the Levant and the Eastern Mediterranean, until defeated by the Romans.
- The Hasmonean dynasty sought the protection of the rising power of the Romans against the Greeks, which was accorded by the Roman Senate c. 139 B.C.E.
- Julius Caesar’s legacy: played the critical role in the death of the Roman Republic resulting in two civil wars and the creation of an imperial system in the outward form of the Republic.
- substantial evidence of Jews in Spain comes from the diaspora that ensued from the Roman conquest of Judea. “When Titus prevailed over Jerusalem, his officer who was appointed over Hispania appeased him, requesting that he send to him captives… the second influx of Jews [enslaved captives] into Spain [occurred] shortly after the destruction of Israel’s Second Temple.
- Isabella of Spain’s legacy was war throughout the New World. “Colonial warfare became prevalent in the late 15th century as European powers increasingly seized overseas territories and began colonizing them… generally considered to have ended following the conclusion of the Portuguese Colonial War in 1974…invading powers often directed actions against indigenous non-combatants and local economies. This included the burning of villages, theft of cattle, and systematic destruction of crops…In extreme cases, some powers advocated for genocide…The first major colonial wars in North America were fought by Spanish conquistadors.”
- the entire Jewish community, some 200,000 people, were to be expelled from Spain.Tens of thousands of refugees died while trying to reach safety…at the same time religious expulsion from Austria, Hungary and Germany stimulated a widespread Jewish migration to the much more tolerant Poland…about three-quarters of all the Jews in Europe lived in Poland by the middle of the 16th century.
- Napoleon Bonaparte: 23 years of warfare by one of the greatest military strategists in history, during which he created an empire that stretched from the River Elbe in the north, down through Italy in the south, and from the Pyrenees to the Dalmatian coast. The Napoleonic Wars devastated Europe.
- In countries that Napoleon Bonaparte’s ensuing Consulate and French Empire conquered…The emancipation of the Jews exposed them to a new form of political antisemitism.
- Bismarck: The Great War / WWI from 1914-1918. As chancellor of the new Germany, Bismarck made the German empire the most powerful in Europe through alliances with Austria-Hungary, Italy, and England against Russia and its allies France and Great Britain. When the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist…Russia, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Serbia had lined up against Austria-Hungary and Germany, and the first global modern war had begun. Russia’s simmering instability exploded in the Russian Revolution of 1917 which ended czarist rule. Massive permanent social upheaval was generated by millions of women entering the workforce to replace men who went to war or never came back.
- Hitler: 6 years of World War II involving more than 50 nations and 100 million soldiers deployed
- The Jews of Germany, Poland and other conquered territories were treated as enemies of Germany and conquered through confiscation of wealth and consignment as slave labor in concentration camp factories and mines. Six million Jews were killed in the Final Solution of the Jewish Problem.
“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 thou hurt not the oil and the wine.”
The rich get richer during crises, especially the corrupt military-industrial complex, while for the average person “a man’s daily wages would be but just enough to buy himself bread, without any thing to eat with it; and when he would have nothing left for clothes, and other things, nor anything for his wife and children:”
The Black Horse is not simply famine but dreadful living conditions, not just for combatants but civilians in homelands diverting resources for war and in lands devastated by war, earthquakes and other natural disasters experiencing a break down of law and order, and homeless refugees in camps fleeing battlefields and genocide.
- Alexander the Great’s legacy: Famine as part of warfare raging for years in Judea not only from attacks by Seleucids but civil war between the Hasmoneans.
- Caesar’s legacy: Procurator Florus despoils the temple at Jerusalem, revolt breaks out. There is desperate famine in besieged Jerusalem.
- Isabella’ legacy: “The large pre-Columbian population sustained itself through farming…By knowing how much agricultural land is required to sustain one person, population numbers can be translated from the area known to be under human land use. We found that 62 million hectares of land, or about 10 percent of the landmass of the Americas, had been farmed or under another human use when Columbus arrived..After being wiped out by contact with Europeans, there were simply not enough workers left… previously managed landscapes returned to their natural states, thereby absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. The extent of this regrowth of the natural habitat was so vast that it removed enough CO₂ to cool the planet…This explains the drop in CO₂ at 1610 seen in Antarctic ice cores, solving an enigma of why the whole planet cooled briefly in the 1600s. During this period, severe winters and cold summers caused famines and rebellions from Europe to Japan.
- Napoleon Bonaparte’s legacy: Throughout the 19th century, the monarchies of Europe, fearing what had happened in France at the end of the 18th century, became more and more suppressive with heavy taxation…Urban workers had no choice but to spend half of their income on food, which consisted mostly of bread and potatoes…In the years 1845 and 1846, a potato blight caused a subsistence crisis in Northern Europe…Harvests of rye in the Rhineland were 20% of previous levels…the cost of wheat more than doubled in France and Habsburg Italy…There were 400 French food riots during 1846 to 1847…Revolutions of 1848 remains the most widespread revolutionary wave in European history…Over 50 countries were affected
- Bismarck’s legacy: In the catastrophic aftermath of losing the Great War Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated and fled the country. Hyperinflation from 1918 to 1923 wiped out the entire middle class, followed by the stock market crash of 1929 and the world-wide Great Depression that lasted until 1939. What, in a calmer time, would have disqualified Hitler completely from being taken into the world of acceptability, triggered support from desperate segments of the population. One of the world’s most influential orators, in 1932, 37% of the electorate gravitated toward Hitler, so the President allied with him by appointing him to be Chancellor. His leadership skills were matched only by few in the world, unmatched oratory skills, brilliant strategic military expansions and economic growth plans. Meticulous planning by Hitler has in some way, shaped the power politics of the world that we see even today.
- Hitler’s legacy: “Savage Continent…a world without institutions. No governments. No school or universities. No access to any information. No banks. Money no longer has any worth. There are no shops, because no one has anything to sell. Law and order are virtually non-existent because there is no police force and no judiciary. Men with weapons roam the streets taking what they want. Women of all classes and ages prostitute themselves for food and protection. This is…a history of Europe in the years directly following World War II, when many European cities were in ruins, millions of people were displaced, and vengeance killings were common, as was rape.” The Netflix series The Defeated does an excellent job of presenting these unimaginable circumstances.
“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.” – massive death rates from all causes.
- Alexander’s legacy: The Ptolemy rulers of Egypt and Seleucids of Asia Minor battle Rome for control of the lands surrounding the Mediterranean and eastward to India in centuries of warfare with uncounted numbers of deaths.
- Caesar’s legacy: as above, in battling for supremacy
- in the 70 AD war 20,000 Jews killed in a pogrom in Caesarea, 10,000 Jews killed in Damascus in one day, 600,000 – 1,200,000 Jews died in siege of Jerusalem
- Isabella’s legacy: Our new data-driven best estimate is a death toll of 56 million by the beginning of the 1600s — 90 percent of the pre-Columbian Indigenous population and around 10 percent of the global population at the time. This makes the “Great Dying” the largest human mortality event in proportion to the global population, putting it second in absolute terms only to World War II, in which 80 million people died — 3% of the world’s population at the time.
- Napoleon’s legacy: One estimate is that 5,000,000–7,000,000 died overall, including civilians
- The emancipation of the Jews…exposed them to a new form of political antisemitism. It was secular, social, and influenced by economic considerations, though it often reinforced and was reinforced by traditional religious stereotypes….As religious confession became subsumed in European political culture by national identity and nationalist sentiment, a new series of stereotypes that reinforced and was reinforced by older prejudices fueled antisemitic politics:
- Bismarck’s legacy: World War I took the lives of more than 9 million soldiers; 21 million more were wounded. Civilian casualties numbered close to 10 million. The two nations most affected were Germany and France, each of which sent some 80 percent of their male populations between the ages of 15 and 49 into battle.
- The severe effects that chemical weapons such as mustard gas and phosgene had on soldiers and civilians during World War I galvanized public and military attitudes against their continued use. The Geneva Convention agreements, signed in 1925, restricted the use of chemical and biological agents in warfare and remains in effect today. Look at the pattern of actions in history, not what governments say! The Geneva Convention will not be honored any more than the League of Nations restrictions on war.
- The first global war also helped to spread one of the world’s deadliest global pandemics, the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people.
- Hitler’s legacy: World War 2 is the biggest mass war known to man.
- “Some 75 million people died in World War II, including about 20 million military personnel and 40 million civilians, many of whom died because of deliberate genocide, massacres, mass-bombings, disease, and starvation.”
- 80% of Soviet males born in 1923 didn’t survive World War 2. That is the vast majority of a whole generation.
- The Jewish population of Europe was about 9.5 million in 1933. In 1950…about 3.5 million. In 1933, 60 percent of all Jews lived in Europe. In 1950, most Jews (51 percent) lived in the Americas (North and South combined).
Have you recognized all the patterns?
- First, the lauded Peacemaker always bringing massive war.
- Next, the Jews are lured into a promised haven which becomes the next killing fields.
Notice the the four horsemen of the apocalypse don’t actually go anywhere. They simply ride in a in a macabre merry-go-round. These dire circumstances are the inevitable results of un-right-eous choices by men in power. They create such social chaos that otherwise independent humans are driven to a strong desire for, belief in, and subjugation to a savior. However, when the savior is un-right-eous, nothing changes but the faces, fashions and fatality potential of the weapons. This interminable cycle of events only ends when righteous people call for the righteous savior.
With the concept of “coming to pass” firmly in mind, please understand that I am not pointing the finger at any person or event as being fulfilment of prophecy, simply as being one of a host of obvious recurrences of prophecy bringing the end looming into view. As you go round and round the views of the food stalls, the plunging roller coaster, the horror house, etc. stay the same, while only the individuals in each fleeting view change.
My purpose is to update our static Sunday School pictures to heart-pounding current events. For now I just want to expand our awareness that what has been before will be again, and vice versa – known history brings past history to life. Alexander the Great and the Seleucid Kings certainly rode into power on the Four Horsemen, as did Julius and Augustus Caesars and their successors in the Fourth Kingdom, regardless of the use of the title Caesar or location in the city of Rome.