What Are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

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There are many movies and television shows that deal with apocalyptic circumstances, and many of us have heard reference to the four horsemen. But where does the idea come from? Are they real people? What do they do? For decades, Hollywood has used the symbol for its own purposes, but the four horsemen are real symbols that originate in the Bible.

In Revelation 6, Jesus opens seven seals of judgment to begin the Tribulation period on earth. The first four seals he opens are the four horsemen, and each is released from heaven to usher in various judgments on the earth. While some apocalyptic judgments are specific events, these are overarching judgments that will last for periods throughout the Tribulation. Here's a look at each symbol individually:

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The White Horse

The White Horse

"And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer." (Revelation 6:2)

The rider on the white horse is the Antichrist. He will arrive on the world scene at the beginning of the Tribulation and work to unite the nations, signing a peace treaty with Israel. He will be a charismatic leader that presents himself as the savior of the world. His power and authority will come from the dragon (Satan), and like Satan he is a great deceiver. The symbol of him on a white horse aptly illustrates this quality, then, for Jesus returns to earth on a white horse (Revelation 19:11-14). Satan's purpose has always been to counterfeit the work of Christ. By the second half of the Tribulation, the Antichrist will break his peace treaty and wage open war against believers.

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The Red Horse

The Red Horse

“Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.” (Revelation 6:4)

The next horseman, the red horse, represents war and bloodshed. Nation will rise against nation during the Tribulation and individuals against each other. It is a time of murder, assassination, bloodshed, revolution, and war.

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The Black Horse

The Black Horse

“So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.’” (Revelation 6:5-6)

Black is often connected with famine in the Bible; and food shortage is a typical byproduct of the war that will be happening. A denarius was the standard daily wage for ancient laborers. In the early days of the Tribulation period, food will be in short supply; people will have to work all day just to get enough food to eat. Yet the luxuries of the wealthy (“oil and wine”) will remain untouched.

The famine will provide the way for the Antichrist’s rule. Later in the Tribulation, He will require the people to take his mark in order to buy or sell. Hunger will play into his hands and strengthen his control.

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The Pale Horse

The Pale Horse

“So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.” (Revelation 6:8)

Death is the pale rider with Hades (hell) following behind. They will kill with the sword, hunger, disease, and wild beasts—the four judgments the Lord said he would send in Ezekiel 14:21. Death and Hades are mentioned together three times in Revelation, and the first time in Revelation 1:18 tells us that Christ holds the keys to Death and Hades. Though the companions will wreak havoc during the Tribulation, Jesus holds the ultimate power and will throw them both into the lake of fire after the Battle of Armageddon.

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Just the Beginning

Just the Beginning

The four horsemen are just the beginning. The book of Revelation outlines many more judgments and events that will happen on earth in the End Times.

Discover more of the prophetic timeline and why Bible prophecy is important at Dr. Jeremiah’s new blog.

Dr. David Jeremiah is one of America’s most trusted Bible teachers. For more than 36 years he has helped millions deepen their understanding of the Bible through 8,761 daily Turning Point Radio releases and a weekly Turning Point Television program that reaches millions of people weekly.

Publication date: February 22, 2018

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MORE: Who are the Four Horses of the Apocalypse and Why Do They Matter?

This article is part of our larger End Times Resource Library. Learn more about the rapture, the anti-christ, bible prophecy and the tribulation with articles that explain Biblical truths. You do not need to fear or worry about the future!

Battle of Armageddon
Signs of the End Times
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
The Seventh Seal Opened
What Is the Death Angel?

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