Fourth Seal (series: Lessons on Revelations)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Fourth Seal: The Pale Horse and Its Rider



Commentary on the Book of Revelation
By: Tom Lowe Date: 10/8/2015


Lesson: III.B.4: Fourth Seal: The Pale Horse and Its Rider (Revelation 6:7-8)


Revelation 6:7-8 (KJV)

7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
8 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.


Introduction

Following in the wake of the famine comes another horse, still more terrible in its symbolic meaning. It is pale, meaning livid and corpselike. The rider is called Death, the aftermath of war and famine. The fourth living creature is given divine authority to send him into the world. Under the three previous seals, a false peace was followed by war and famine on the earth. There have been furious wars, famines, and death-dealing plagues in the past, but nothing comparable to this event which is still in the future. Its fury is depicted in its widespread effects, killing one-fourth of the earth’s population. This is the result of the foregoing judgments—the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence—which God calls “My four sore judgments” (Ezekiel 14:21).

As we approach this passage we must once again remember that it is not telling of the final end but of the signs which precede it. That is why it is a fourth part of the earth which is involved in death and disaster. This is a terrible time but it is not the time of total destruction.


Commentary

7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
8 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.

The Lamb “opened the fourth seal”—and as they see the Lamb opening the seals—they realize that God is in control and that His purposes will be accomplished. And the “fourth” living creature said, “Come!,” calling a rider on a “pale horse.” The drive for conquest (white horse), had led to warfare and bloodshed (red horse), which had brought famine and pestilence (black horse), resulting in “death” and the grave (pale horse). The “pale” color (literally a pale green) indicates the color of death. The four riders were given “power over the forth part of the earth to kill” people by “sword,” famine and plague, and by the wild “beasts.” “Death” by wild “beasts” would be expected when millions of people have died through war, famine and plague. The number of one-fourth of the earth, working from present-day numbers, would mean over a billion people would die in this first wave of judgment were it to happen today. But nothing that cataclysmic has occurred in all of history.

There are four instruments of judgment mentioned in the clause “to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” It is interesting to note that the four judgments named here are the same four with which Jehovah threatened guilty Jerusalem in the past: “For thus saith the Lord God; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?” (Ezekiel 14:21). The “sword” named under the second seal, and “hunger” named under the third seal, are here reproduced, and coupled with two others—pestilence and the “beasts of the earth.” In Leviticus there is a passage which tells of the penalties which God will send upon His people because of their disobedience. Wild beasts will rob them of their children and destroy their cattle and make them few in number. The sword will avenge their breaches of the covenant. When they are gathered in their cities the pestilence will be among them. He will break the staff of bread and they will eat and not be satisfied (Leviticus 26:21-26).

Thus far we have treated as literal the expression, “the beasts of the earth,” but some Bible commentators are of the opinion that the reference is symbolic. It seems inconceivable that, in an age of napalm and atomic bombs, mankind could be imperiled by Lions and tigers and bears. Since the Greek word translated “beasts” occurs thirty-eight times in the Revelation, and in all other references has to do with the beast—the coming superman—the beasts referred to here might well be bestial (cruel) men who rise to power to plague mankind. Such an idea is certainly consistent with the book of Revelation and with the book of Daniel.

In the three preceding seals, the riders

are not named. But here the fourth rider is given the name “Death,” the final claimant and custodian of the body. “Hell” or Hades (sheol) followed after him to gather the souls of the victims. Hades, the abode of the unregenerate and souls that leave the body at death, is an ally of death. Hades is the abode of departed spirits during the interval between death and resurrection. It is temporary, in contrast to the lake of fire which is forever— “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:13-14). “And death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them,” that is, all the dead came, from all regions where they were scattered—on the land and in the ocean—in this world and in the invisible world. “Death and hell” are personified, and are represented as having dominion over the dead—custodians of the bodies and souls of the men butchered during these terrible days (Death claims the body while hades claims the spirit and soul of the dead—and at the time set by God, they must “deliver up,” or “surrender” those who were held captive by them—and both “death and hell” will one day be cast into HELL. “Hell” has been called the king of terrors; those sent there, that is, all who die in their sins, will be in a state of eternal misery. In times of general destruction multitudes go down unprepared into the pit. The period of the fourth seal is one of great slaughter and devastation, destroying whatever may tend to make life happy, and ravaging the spiritual lives of men.

Death evidently has an all-inclusive, three-fold meaning that we do not ordinarily attach to it. We think of death as referring only to the body. (1) This is physical death, and it refers only to the body. It comes to a man because of Adams sin. (2) Then there is what is known as spiritual death, which is separation from, and rebellion against, God. We inherit a dead nature from Adam; that is, we have no capacity for God and no desire for Him at all. (3) Finally, there is eternal death, which is eternal separation from God. Unless a man is redeemed, this inevitably follows. This is the second death which we will discuss when we come to chapter 20, verse 14.

But the Christian can take courage. Because he is in Christ he doesn’t need to fear. Our Lord said “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (Revelation 1:18). After all unredeemed men have heard the final word of judgment, “death and hell were cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14). Again we are reminded of the fact that these judgments in sequence, in character, in duration and in severity have their source in the throne of the eternal God. “Power was given unto them” (“Death and hell”). At the back of it all is the permanent truth that no man or nation can escape the consequences of their sin.

When the Rapture of the Church takes place, it stands to reason that percentage wise, more farmers and working people will be taken than those of the rich class. When the farmers who produce food are taken there will be a scarcity of food, and when the red horse rides out with the sword, no doubt the farmers will be using a sword instead of a plowshare. They will be so busy protecting their own lives, they will not have time to till the ground.

We refer, of course, to farmers who will be left when the Rapture takes place. All born again farmers will go in the Rapture. Those who are not born again will be left behind. There will be few to till the ground—and the few who are left under the second, third, and forth seals will be so busy protecting their own lives that they will have no time to grow crops and produce food. There will therefore be a time of terrible famine and starvation.

Already there are signs indicating that the end might be near. Your only hope is a right relation to the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. Accept Him at once, and you can rejoice with the redeemed that we shall be taken from the earth before that great and dreadful day of the Lord. During the Great Tribulation, death will ride unbridled. The Lord Jesus put it like this: "If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:22; NIV). May God awaken us all to see the horror of the coming tribulation and thereby hasten us to prayer, giving, and a renewed effort to reach the lost with the gospel.


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