THE FIRST HORSEMAN
The first rider is shown as wearing a crown, having a bow in his hand and riding a white mount. Who is he? Jesus Christ. He is the one that has been given a crown by his Father and is commanded to go forth in a righteous war, pictured by the white horse. This picture calls to mind the words of the psalmist: “Gird your sword upon your thigh, O mighty one, with your dignity and your splendor. And in your splendor go on to success; ride in the cause of truth and humility and righteousness, and your right hand will instruct you in fear-inspiring things. Your arrows are sharp—under you peoples keep falling.”—Ps. 45:3-5.
Even more explicitly identifying the first horseman are John’s own words recorded at Revelation 19:11, 13, 14: “Look! a white horse. And the one seated upon it is called Faithful and True, and he judges and carries on war in righteousness . . . and the name he is called is The Word of God. Also, the armies that were in heaven were following him on white horses, and they were clothed in white, clean, fine linen.”
When did this rider go forth to conquer? According to fulfilled Bible prophecy, in the year 1914. Then it was that Jehovah said to his Son, “Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.” (Ps. 110:2) That marked the time when the dragon and his demons warred against Michael and his angels, right after the birth of God’s kingdom, pictured by the birth of a male child; all of which began to take place in heaven when “the nations became wrathful” on earth in 1914.—Rev. 11:18; 12:1-9.
THE OTHER HORSEMEN
The second horseman rode a fiery-colored or red mount. The horseman had a large sword and it was granted to him to take peace from the earth, resulting in a large slaughter among men. Red is associated with war because war means bloodshed and blood is red. Thus the ancients made the planet Mars a symbol of war because of its reddish hue. This horseman’s work finds mention in Jesus’ great prophecy: “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” Certainly World War I, beginning in 1914, took peace from the earth and resulted in much slaughter.—Mark 13:8.
The third horse was black and its rider carried a pair of scales. He was accompanied by an announcement of high prices: a quart of wheat and three quarts of barley, each for a denarius, a day’s wages. (Barley was held to be so far inferior to wheat that Roman soldiers at times were punished by being given barley instead of wheat rations.) This horseman pictures famine due to war. Fittingly the horse itself was black, for blackness is a symbol of famine: “Their aspect has become darker than blackness itself. They have not been recognized in the streets. Their skin has shriveled upon their bones.” Jesus, in his great prophecy, likewise associated world war with famine: “Nation will rise against nation and . . . there will be food shortages.”—Lam. 4:8; Mark 13:8.
The rider’s having a pair of scales in his hand is also indicative of famine conditions. Thus Ezekiel was told: “Son of man, . . . they will have to eat bread by weight and in anxious care, and it will be by measure and in horror that they will drink water itself, to the intent that they may be lacking bread and water.”—Ezek. 4:16, 17.
As to the meaning of the peculiar instruction given to this third horseman, “Do not harm the olive oil and the wine,” God’s Word itself gives a clue, for at Proverbs 21:17 we are told that “he that is loving wine and oil will not gain riches.” Wine and oil are symbols of luxuries and their not being harmed would indicate that, in spite of famine conditions that affected the common people, the rich still had their luxuries, and so it proved to be.
The fourth horseman that John saw, sitting upon a pale or pallid-looking horse, is a fitting symbol of pestilence, and so we again find the prophecy of Revelation paralleling Jesus’ great prophecy: “And there will be . . . in one place after another pestilences.” (Luke 21:11) This fourth horseman and his mount did indeed picture pestilences or plagues and other far-reaching means of destruction of life, particularly in the postwar period. “And authority was given them [Death and Hades] over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with a long sword and with food shortage and with deadly plague and by the wild beasts of the earth.”
What about the “wild beasts” mentioned in this Re 6 verse (8)? In the days of Israel wild beasts represented another threat to life. In modern times, however, such is the case mainly in places left desolate. The wild beasts in modern times would therefore refer to beastly ways in which life was taken by governments or organizations due to the conditions brought about by World War I. As for the expression “the fourth part of the earth,” this may well be a symbolic way of saying that the effects would reach the four corners of the earth, but not necessarily cover the entire earth.
The fifth horseman is shown to be Hades, fittingly the last rider. The three that immediately preceded him represented the various means by which death was caused—war, famine and pestilence and wild beasts. This last rider, Hades, aptly represents the destiny of all those victims of the previous three riders, namely, Hades or gravedom.
Jesus Christ himself gave both the great prophecy concerning his second presence as recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke in their Gospels and the one concerning the horsemen as recorded by John at Revelation, chapter six. And even as in the Gospel accounts Jesus associates his return with war, famine and pestilence, so in the Revelation prophecy, Christ’s presence, as indicated by the first horseman going forth, is associated with the following horsemen, picturing war, famine and pestilence, to fill the common grave of mankind. As we note how beautifully these prophecies harmonize and have been fulfilled our faith is strengthened, and more than ever we say, “Let God be found true”!—Rom. 3:4.
Age of Fear
“This is a different world. People today are frightened by the memory of concentration camps, by the possibility of atomic war, by the breakdown of old empires and old ways of living and believing. Each person shares the hopes and terrors peculiar to this age, not an age of reason or of enlightenment, but an age of fear and trembling.”—The Atlantic, July, 1961.