The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse an 1887 painting by Victor Vasnetsov
1887 depiction by Victor Vasnetsov

By COGwriter

Many have heard about the prophecies related to the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.

This article will quote the Bible, various writers, and even non-biblical prophecies that may have some reflection on this subject. (There is also a related YouTube video titled The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.)

What Does the Bible Teach About the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Here is what the Bible specifically mentions about them in the Book of Revelation:

1 Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, "Come and see."

2 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.

3 When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come and see." 4 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.

5 When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come and see." So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 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."

7 When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come and see." 8 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 6:1-8).

Revelation 5:2 and 6:1 indicate that the seals related to the horsemen had not be opened prior to John’s vision in Revelation (circa 95 A.D.), thus an end time fulfillment (like in the 21st century) is consistent with this prophecy.

It may also be that the horsemen of Revelation 6 could be related to the horses of the four chariots that seem to be the same color in Zechariah 6:1-7.  The account in Zechariah may represent the ante-type with also some future application [like geographic starting points] or may not be related at all.  The sequence of the horsemen, though, in Revelation 6 is more consistent with the sequence in Matthew 24, than the order shown in Zechariah.

The First Horseman: The White Horse of False Religion

Perhaps somewhat paralleling the ride of the first horseman of Revelation 6:2, Jesus warned about false religion:

4 And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you.  5 For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. (Matthew 24:4-5)

In 1973, the old Worldwide Church of God taught:

A Counterfeit Creeps In

The very first world development Jesus Christ warns about is the advent of many false preachers, misleading and deceiving the many, not the few.  This condition began immediately after Christ’s death and resurrection.  The Apostle Paul warned that the spirit of iniquity was already working, even as he wrote.

Jude, the younger brother of Jesus Christ, exhorted early Christians to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.  For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness” (Jude 3, 4).

In the first century true Christians witnessed a counterfeit Christianity creeping in, deceiving many.  Such religious deception has now increased in intensity until the whole world has become deceived about the true message of Christ.  By the time of the end, your Bible says that Satan the devil “deceiveth the whole world” (Rev. 12:9).

There is no greater sign of this universal ignorance about God than the misunderstanding of who the first horseman of Revelation 6 actually represents.

“Another Christ”

It is true that the white horse represents a Christ, but it is a false Christ.  It is true that the first horseman represents a gospel and a church, but it is a false gospel and a false church—all in the name of Jesus Christ, but in truth a deception and a counterfeit.  Jesus Christ says so Himself in Matthew 24, and the Apostle Paul amplified Christ’s words very plainly in II Corinthians 11.

“I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  For if he that cometh preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted” they might be deceived.  “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.  And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (II Cor. 11:3-4, 13-15).

Your Bible identifies Satan’s ministers as being professing Christians!  They don’t appear Satanic, of course.  They appear as “angels of light.”  They look like the white horse of Christ’s return, but they are in truth a clever counterfeit of the true Christ.

Paul isn’t warning us against obviously false religions—such as pagan animism.  Eastern occult sects, outright Satan worship, or bizarre semi-Christian cults—but rather against a subtle counterfeit.  Counterfeits, like bogus money, attempt to be as close as possible to the original, yet with subtle flaws discernible only to experts.  Counterfeit Christianity is the same.  It may appear Biblical or Christ-like, but subtle flaws exist throughout its beliefs.

The horseman aboard the white horse in Revelation 6 is just such a subtle counterfeit…

All three of the remaining horsemen, however, have their basis in this world’s false Christian religions

If you are still part of this world’s religious Babylon, this very book of Revelation warns you to, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4). To escape the following three horsemen, come out of the first horseman: counterfeit Christianity—the root cause of war, famine and pestilence prophesied to come on all mankind during your lifetime! (Alexander G. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Ambassador College Press, Pasadena (CA), 1973, pp. 14-16,19)

As the earlier chapters of this text have shown, a compromised religion calling itself Christian has been perceived by many as the true and faithful Christian religion. 

Around 1918, G.G. Rupert wrote:

Christ...is king of his people and head of the one true church.  All other organizations are but imitations and counterfeits...they are left under the influence of Satan to practice every deception under the name Christianity that Satan wishes them to do and teach...We say that the Greek, the Roman, and the Protestant organizations are all the daughters of modern Babylon, the Baal woman, who is the representative of the work of Satan in every age. (Rupert GG. The Seven Churches. Union Publishing Company, c. 1918, pp. 5,10, 22)

Getting back to that same 1973 booklet, the old WCG also taught:

The long-term condition of false religion described above will culminate in the end-time fulfillment of the white horseman of Revelation 6, in the person of a great False Prophet…He will signal the beginning of sorrows: the first horseman. (Alexander G, p. 17)

Even though this first seal is opened up prior to the Great Tribulation (the “beginning of sorrows” precedes the Great Tribulation, cf. Matthew 24:8,21; and it could have officially began as early as the Feast of Trumpets in September 2009; if the first seal, in a sense, was not opened centuries ago—as at least its antetype has been around since Simon Magus of Acts 8:9-24), it will not be until after the beast powers of Revelation 13 are in full control, when the whole world will worship the beast and the dragon (Revelation 13:3-8; 18:23), that this horseman’s conquest will be complete. 

Many events in the past several years suggest that “beginning of sorrows” seems to have begun.

The Second Horsemen: The Red Horse of War

Possibly somewhat paralleling the ride of the second horseman of Revelation 6:3-4, Jesus warned about wars:

6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. (Matthew 24:6-7a)

Notice some of what in 1973, the old Worldwide Church of God, taught will happen after the first horseman:

As the first horsemen rides forth “conquering and to conquer” in the name of his false religion, the second horseman—war—is quick on his heels as that instrument of conquest. (Alexander G, pp. 23-24)

After the second seal is opened (Revelation 6:3-4), there will be even less peace on the Earth. 
There may also be wars in parts of the world that have rarely had them (perhaps, for example, even between some South American nations), as well as wars in areas that have long been especially tense (like Korea, possibly involving other Asian nations).  Damascus ultimately will be destroyed and could be a signal for destruction to come for Jacob (Isaiah 17:1-4).  There will likely be civil unrest and perhaps rioting in scales not seen before, including within some Western nations (such as in Europe and North America).  This will lead to military leaders rising up in various parts of the world.  And one European will, after making one or more false peace deals/pronouncements (e.g. Daniel 9:26-27; 11:27; 1 Thessalonians 5:3), become the final Beast leader (Revelation 13:4) and he will take over many nations (Daniel 11:39-43).

The following prophecy seems to teach that a coming “King of Europe” will be like the Beast of Revelation:

Nostradamus (16th century): As a Griffin the King of Europe shall come, Accompanied by those of Aquila. Of Reds and Whites shall lead a great army…(Dupont, Yves. Catholic Prophecy: The Coming Chastisement. TAN Books, Rockford (IL), 1973, p. 105)

A Griffin is a mythological creature with parts of other animals like the head a lion, eagle's wings, and a fish (Dupont, p. 105). One variety is known as a “sea-griffin” and tends to resemble a dragon in its appearance, so in a sense, a Griffin could be considered as a beast from the sea (cf. Revelation 13:1) which also has the mouth of a lion (cf. Daniel 7:4; Revelation 13:2). In mythology, Aquila (a constellation) was owned by the Roman god Jupiter and performed many tasks for him (Aquila.  Wikipedia, accessed 02/07/11).

Notice what the Bible warns about the beast power:

1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. 2 Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority…and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him? (Revelation 13:1-2,4b)

Thus, Nostradamus' “King of Europe” Griffin seems to have a resemblance to the Beast of the Bible.  So, does the “Great Monarch” (who is presumed to be the same person; see also The King of the North) that certain Catholics have foretold:

Venerable Bartholomew Holzhauser (died 1658): The Great Monarch will have the special help of God and be unconquerable. (Connor, Edward. Prophecy for Today. Imprimatur + A.J. Willinger, Bishop of Monterey-Fresno; Reprint: Tan Books and Publishers, Rockford (IL), 1984, pp. 35-36)

Thus, a powerful military leader is expected by biblical and Roman/Orthodox Catholic prophecy—though the Bible shows that the help for this “monach” will be Satanic (Revelation 16:13), not God.

Since there is rebellion against the Beast/King of the North leader in Daniel 11:40 (and that verse occurs after the start of the Great Tribulation, see chapters 53-56 related to the sequences of Daniel 11), it should be clear that although this horseman begins his official ride prior to the Great Tribulation (and perhaps began it already), he ends it after it has begun. 

The Third Horseman: Black Horse of Food Shortages

History, as well of the words of Jesus (Matthew 24:7-8), tends to show that food shortages come after wars, and the third horseman comes after the horseman representing war.

Notice that this horseman results in scarcity and famine.  Revelation 6:5-6 indicates that there will be food, but that it will be quite expensive (food-price inflation).  Some will thus die as they will not be able to afford it, while others will survive but struggle. 

And while the northern Babylonian Beast power will prosper for a short while, it too will ultimately succumb to famine according to Revelation 18:2,8:

2 Babylon…8 her plagues will come in one day--death and mourning and famine…

We are starting to see more reports of food shortages and the potential for food inflation. I also suspect that agricultural practices, such as the heavy reliance on genetically-modified crops is helping set the stage for some of this in countries like the USA (see also GMOs and Bible Prophecy; there is a related YouTube video GMO Risks and the Bible).

The Fourth Horseman: Pale Horse of Pestilence and Death

History, as well of the words of Jesus (Matthew 24:7-8), tends to show that pestilences and death follow food shortages.  In Revelation 6:7-8 the fourth horseman, the pale horse of death and pestilence, comes after the horseman representing famine.

According to Jesus, one or more significant pestilences will begin shortly before the start of the Great Tribulation.   It biblically appears to be highly likely that the USA and its Anglo-allies will be hit hard by pestilences (likely worsened by their relatively high dependence upon genetically-modified “foods”) just prior to being taken over (Leviticus 26:21-25) by the Beast power (Daniel 11:39).  And while no pestilence will stop the rise of the Babylonian Beast power, the Book of Revelation indicates that the final effect of the fourth horseman will ultimately affect this spiritual city of Babylon, and apparently result in death (Revelation 18:8) and including by the sword (Revelation 19:14-21).

Notice some of what in 1973, the old Worldwide Church of God, taught related to the end of the ride of the fourth horseman rides:

Jesus promised protection to His own elect…Fortunately for mankind, God is not only going to save these “elect,” but millions of others will be protected “for the elect’s sake.”  God will stop the death stroke of the fourth horseman before it sweeps all mankind from the earth. (Alexander G, p. 39)

God will intervene to save human life from human destruction for the elect’s sake (Matthew 24:22) and Jesus will win (Revelation 19:14-21).

From the Beginning of Sorrows to the Great Tribulation

With all of the natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, related food shortages, and emerging pestilences in the past few years (and human-made problems such as war, civil unrest, and persecutions), this may be a good time to clearly show that these types of events are foretold to occur prior to the Great Tribulation (with some in it and/or in the Day of the Lord).

Notice what Jesus taught:

4 And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. 9 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

15 "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be (Matthew 24:4-21).

The sequence of end time prophetic events in Matthew 24 that Jesus provided is the same sequence as was listed for the four horsemen of the Book of Revelation (and similar accounts are listed in Mark 13:5-8 and Luke 21:8-11).   The “great tribulation” itself does NOT begin until verse 21 of Matthew 24—which is after the fifth seal of Revelation 6 is opened.  And while “tribulation” is involved in Matthew 24:9, this at least partially seems to be referring the persecuting tribulation that true Philadelphia Christians will face just prior to the great tribulation (apparently toward the end of the beginning of sorrows).

Jesus’ words undoubtedly were intended to give comfort to His followers throughout the entire church era.  Various false religious leaders, wars, famines, and pestilences have occurred since Jesus came, and hence they could perhaps be considered as an ante-type related to these prophecies.

Yet, the final time Jesus referred to as “the beginning of sorrows” technically may not be considered officially to have begun until the first of the seven seals is opened.  While it is possible that this has occurred (as the False Prophet is undoubtedly alive now), it may not actually officially begin until the False Prophet gets more prominence (cf. Alexander G, p. 17).  

This seal may be opened when an antipope is about to take control and/or starts with lying wonders (presuming a pontiff is the False Prophet of Revelation 13:13-15; 19:20) to get the attention of those even without a Greco-Roman background.  It may be possible that this seal is to be (or even was) opened around the time when the one who will become the False Prophet successfully works with groups which will re-connect with Rome. Such a deal has already happened with some of the Anglicans (Messia H, Hanna J.  Vatican welcomes Anglicans into Catholic Church.  CNN, October 21, 2009.  http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/europe/10/20/vatican.anglican.church/ viewed 10/25/09), and will likely ultimately be followed by one or more deals involving the Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox, and others.  Signs and wonders are expected (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11) and this may be what helps drive other religions without a Greco-Roman background to be “conquered” by the first horseman (cf. Revelation 18:23).

While there have always been false teachers, wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, as the seven seals of Revelation begin to be opened, these will intensify in a way never before seen.

After the first four seals are opened, persecutions will apparently intensify (Matthew 24:9-10), numerous false prophets who perhaps will support the False Prophet as well as false declarations of peace (1 Thessalonians 5:3) will arise and deceive many (Matthew 24:11), some will fall away from the truth (24:12), others will endure to the end (24:13), the gospel message will be preached to the world as a witness (24:14), the end will come (24:14), the abomination spoken of by Daniel will be established (24:15), and soon afterwards the Great Tribulation will begin (24:21).

A Prince and a Greek Orthodox Prediction

Sometime during the beginning of sorrows, a prince will start to rise up (Daniel 9:26-27) who will be the final biblical King of the North (see chapter 53). Interestingly, some of the Eastern Orthodox seem to realize that he may be identified around then. Near the end of the 4th century, there was an exchange between two important Orthodox leaders pertaining to the beginning of sorrows:

Epiphanius: When will come the end of the world?  What are the ‘beginning of sorrows’ and when shall they take place?  From what signs and events shall humanity be able to know that the end of the world is near and what signs will be manifest?...

Andrew the Fool-for-Christ: Now son, how can I relate to you without tears the events of the beginning of sorrows and the end of the world?  During the End Times, God will reveal as King a certain poor man…This king will rule...Happiness will reign in the world as it did in the days of Noah.  People will become very rich...

Later on this King will turn towards the East and he will humble the Hagarenes...for their blasphemous religion…many among them will be baptized…the remaining ones will be annihilated…

The entire world will fear this king...he will pursue all persons of the Jewish religion out of Constantinople...and the people will rejoice like in the time of Noah until the deluge came. (Tzima Otto, H.  The Great Monarch and WWIII in Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Scriptural Prophecies. Verenika Press, Rock City (SC), 2000, pp. 111, 113,114)

So, some ancient Orthodox writings indicate that a man will rise up during the time of the beginning of sorrows, who will ultimately become a king—and that is correct.  The comment about “persons of Jewish religion” may refer to persecution of the true saints (cf. Daniel 7:25) as Orthodox and Roman Catholics have often indicated that those with original Nazarene practices are actually Jews pretending to be Christian.  The statement about this King going against the Hagarenes (a term that can refer to Arabs/Muslims as it comes from being a descendent of Hagar of Genesis 25:12) may be a reference to the King of the North going against the King of the South (Daniel 11:40) and/or him fighting against Muslims off and on.  It also needs to be understood, that while the above Orthodox discussion indicates that having things as they were in the days of Noah is a positive thing for a while, the Bible warns that this occurrence comes after the tribulation has began and is a sign that Jesus is about to return (Matthew 24:37-44).  

Thus, some of the Orthodox Catholics are looking for a major leader to rise up during the beginning of sorrows.  The truth that this King will apparently be the Beast of Revelation and basically start the Great Tribulation seems lost to them, however. 

The End of the Age is Getting Close

We in the Continuing Church of God believe that because humankind since Adam (Genesis 3:6), has rejected living the way of give as God’s commandments and statutes teach, that humankind has been deceived by false religions which result in curses such as war, famine, and pestilences.  We also believe that God gave humankind 6,000 years to live apart from Him, so that humans would be better able to appreciate the coming millennial reign of Jesus Christ.

At the end of this human age under Satan's sway (2 Corinthians 4:4: Revelation 16:13; 19:20-20:3), it will mainly be a modified false Greco-Roman form of Christianity which will bring the world to the point of utter destruction, but a destruction that God will prevent from being complete. 

As Jesus taught:

22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened (Matthew 24:22).

Those who recognize how successful that the first ante-type of the four horsemen has been may be able to escape falling for his final fulfillment, as well as the other three horsemen whose biggest disasters and final fulfillment in terms of war (#2), famine (#3), and pestilence/death (#4) lie ahead. 

Notice what else Jesus taught:

36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:36).

People everywhere need to watch and pray that they may be counted worthy to escape these things and stand before the Son of Man.   All four horsemen will complete their rides. And the end of the human-age under the sway of "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4) is coming soon.

Thiel B. Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. http://www.cogwriter.com/four-horsemen-of-the-apocalypse.htm COGwriter (c) 2013

Some items of possibly related interest may include:

Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End? Was a 6000 year time allowed for humans to rule followed by a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth taught by the early Christians? Does God have 7,000 year plan? What year may the six thousand years of human rule end? When will Jesus return? 2021 or 20xx? There is also a video titled The 6000 Year Plan: Is the end of humanity's reign almost up?
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse What do each of the four horseman of the Apocalypse represent? Have they began their ride? Did Jesus discuss the any of this? Might their rides coincide with the "beginning of sorrows? Do they start their ride prior to the Great Tribulation? Did Nostradamus or any other 'private prophets' write predictions that may mislead people so that they may not understand the truth of one or more of the four horseman? This is a YouTube video.
Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism? Was the millennium (sometimes called chiliasm) taught by early Christians? Who condemned it? Will Jesus literally reign for 1000 years on the earth? Is this time near?
When Will the Great Tribulation Begin? 2014, 2015, or 2016? Can the Great Tribulation begin today? What happens before the Great Tribulation in the "beginning of sorrows"? What happens in the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord? Is this the time of the Gentiles? When is the earliest that the Great Tribulation can begin? What is the Day of the Lord? Who are the 144,000? Here is a version of the article in the Spanish language: ¿Puede comenzar la Gran Tribulación en 2013 o 2014? ¿Es el Tiempo de los Gentiles? You can also see the English language video The Great Tribulation Will Not Begin Before 2017.
Who Are The Two Witnesses? What is their job? What does the Bible reveal? What has the Church of God taught on this subject? Might even Roman Catholic prophecies give some clues here? Here is a related link in Spanish/español:¿Quiénes son los dos testigos?

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