Lesson 13
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The four horses

The four horses of Revelation are not unique to Revelation.  Zechariah saw four horses having the same colors.  Zechariah was told the four horses represent the four spirits of heaven that stand in the presence of the Lord of the whole world. Zechariah 6:5 These go out throughout the earth at God’s command to accomplish His will. Zechariah 1:10,11 

Zechariah saw the black horse go north, the white horse went west, the pale horse went south and the red horse by inference went west. Zechariah 6:6 These four horses go throughout the whole world.  These four horses symbolize the four living creatures that stand in the presence of God. These four living creatures might be thought of as “senior angels” having great responsibilities. They are appointed to carry out special services throughout the universe of God. These angels insure that God’s desires are carried out.

(For more detailed study on these four creatures and their responsibilities read Ezekiel 1 & 10.)

The seals begin

Each horse and rider represents the works or actions of the four living creatures.  As Jesus opens each seal, He commissions a specific process that leads to the conclusion of the plan of salvation.  Very important point:  The effect and influence of the seals is both cumulative and associative.  This means that the conquering begun in the first seal one is concluded in seal 6.  The process begun in seal two reaches its climax during seal five and the understanding of seal three prepares some “teachers” for the events that transpire during seal four. (See diagram at the end of this study.)

In other words, a seal doesn’t begin and end so that the next seal can begin and end.  Rather, the first three seals begin certain processes that remain in motion until their counterpart concluded their work. It was for this very reason that Jesus was given sovereign power!  He starts three processes upon earth that He must personally manage.

Even more, He must manage the outcome of each process so that the gospel accomplishes its task. Just as a rider of each horse controls the action of the horse, Jesus sends the four living creatures to earth with special assignments. As each “senior angel” prepares to do his work, John is invited to observe. They each say to John, “Come.”

First seal

“I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.”  Revelation 6: 1,2

The first horse and rider (senior angel) goes out of the heavenly sanctuary to conquer something on earth. Nothing is conquered in the first seal. No special event in heaven or on earth marks the opening of this seal.  Rather, this seal marks the beginning conquest of Jesus.  In 1844, Jesus our High Priest set out to conclude the sin problem by revealing more truth about the everlasting gospel. Time has come to put the everlasting gospel in final form, for soon, it must go to every person on earth.

The great revival in Protestant America in the early 19th century prepared the way for understanding the arrival of 1844. The work that began under this seal sets the stage for the final presentation of the gospel.  The entire world must hear the full gospel!  John saw the consummating victory of the gospel. He saw the victory of the 144,000 and the great multitude that no man could number.  He says, “And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name…” Revelation 15:2

Second seal

“When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ Then another horse came out, a fiery red one.  Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.” Revelation 6:3,4

The second horse (senior angel) goes out of the heavenly sanctuary with a large sword.  This sword eventually causes men to slay each other.  A number of Bible students are reluctant to identify this event as having a heavenly origin.  But Jesus told his disciples, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  Matthew 10:34 The sword of Jesus is the power of truth.  Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword…” Paul said, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:17 In Revelation 2:12, John describes Jesus to the church in Pergamum as, “Him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.”  Jesus said to this church, “Repent therefore!  Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”  Revelation 2:16

We will study the war and bloodshed that occurs all over the earth in lesson 18 and 19 as a result of the work done by this senior angel.  The coming war will be a contest between truth and falsehood.  This seal points forward to a time when people will kill one another over truth!  Here is a subtle but very important point. Notice that the text describing the second seal does not have to mean that the slaying occurs at the time the second seal is opened. (Neither is the conquering described in the first seal accomplished during the time of the first seal.)  Rather, the consequence of the second seal is seen when peace is taken from the earth and men slay each other on account of the sword!

What is the sword?  Allowing the Bible to interpret itself, we must conclude from the texts above that the sword represents the “Words of God.”

Can we look back to the time period following 1844 and find anything to mark the opening of this seal? Yes!  The formation of the Bible societies during the mid to late 19th century by Protestants fulfills the meaning of this seal!  Remember, the gospel commission belongs to them after 1798. The translation and distribution of the Bible into every nation on earth has grown immensely since 1844.  In those days a large number of Protestant churches in Europe and North America formed Bible and Missionary Societies to carry the gospel to the entire world!  The late 19th century marks a “high-water mark” for the establishment and activity of mission service by Protestant denominations.  People gave liberally to the printing and distribution of the Bible.  In fact, no book on earth has ever been translated and distributed to the extent the Bible has. No other book on earth has ever overcome the popularity of the Bible and the Bible will be the book upon which the great controversy will be focused!

Third seal

“When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand.  Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine! “ Revelation 6:5,6

The third horse (senior angel) goes out of the heavenly sanctuary with a pair of scales and a message.  The scales imply a judgment or decision-making process. We know from Daniel that the books of record were opened in 1844 and that Jesus began an investigation of the records of the dead. The work of the third senior angel is to see that people on earth become aware of what Jesus is doing in the heavenly sanctuary.  During the past 158 years, the understanding and awareness of the investigative judgment has grown around the world.  Even though general knowledge of the ongoing judgment process is not yet widespread among the populations of the earth, several million people already know about it!  Those who understand this truth will soon be in a position to explain the even more important judgment process that is coming: the judgment of the living!

The message that accompanies this seal is twofold.  First, wages are promised to those who will help spread this special message and secondly, a warning is given to those who should hear it.  Even though many years have passed since the judgment hour message first began, and those who first preached the judgment hour message are now dead, all who have helped to carry this message throughout the earth will receive their due reward!

The portion of this message counsels those who hear the judgment hour message not to reject the understanding of 1844.  Oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4), and wine symbolizes doctrine or teachings (Revelation 17:2). The admonition “don’t harm the oil or wine” apparently means, “Receive the Holy Spirit and the truth concerning the ministry of Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary.”  (For an Old Testament parallel on the use of wheat, barley, wine and oil as wages, see II Chronicles 2:10-15.)

First three seals set global stage for the next three seals

These three seals have been opened.  As each seal is opened, there is a progressive revelation of Jesus in heaven and on earth. Who Jesus is, what He is and how He intends to conclude the gospel commission becomes clearer to the watching angels and to a growing number of people on earth.  Truth is ever progressive and the seals demonstrate just that.  The first three seals were opened over a short time period beginning in 1844. By 1864, the judgment hour message was understood well enough to be proclaimed abroad! And for more than a century, the activities described in these three seals have influenced the earth, in effect, setting the stage for what is about to happen!!!

Fourth seal

“When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a pale horse!  Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him.  They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” Revelation 6:7,8

The opening of the fourth seal brings global devastation. This senior angel is the angel of death. Perhaps this is the same angel that flew over Egypt and killed the firstborn children and animals of the Egyptians. Exodus 12-13 Perhaps he is also the same angel that killed 185,000 of Sennacherib’s army. II Kings 19 Regardless of his identity, his influence upon the earth is unmistakable.

Jesus sends this senior angel to earth with four terrible judgments to arrest the attention of the world.  These judgments are identified as: sword, famine, plague and wild beast. 25% of the earth will perish in these judgments!  For deeper study on these four dreadful judgments, you must read Ezekiel 14:12-23.

The fourth seal is the next one to open.  This is self-evident.  From the perspective of chronological timing alone, the devastating results of this seal have not been observed upon earth since the seals began opening in 1844. We will see that the events during this seal are a great catalyst marking the beginning of the judgment of the living! The death and destruction attending the 4th seal is fully explained in Revelation’s story on the seven trumpets and the seven last plagues. These will be studied in considerable detail in future lessons.

One last point. The first four seals are actions carried out by senior angels (the four living creatures). The followers of Jesus on earth carry out the fifth seal, and Jesus Himself carries out the sixth seal!

Fifth seal

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the alter the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.” Revelation 6:9-11

The opening of the fifth seal ushers in a period of martyrdom. Why would Jesus allow martyrdom to come upon His people? There are two reasons. First, persecution separates pretense from substance. When the price for being a Christian is great, who will be willing to bear the cross and follow the teachings of Jesus? The pure in heart that love God’s truth and are willing to give their life for truth.

In America, the cost of being a Christian has been for the most part, easy. We have religious liberty. We can worship without intimidation or fear. We have freedom of speech. We can teach and believe whatever we want. We are truly blessed! But this blessing has brought a curse. We have become lazy, weak and in many instances, corrupt.  Christianity today is comprises of many fair-weather Christians filled with external piety. Protestant America has become degenerate and looks more like a hospital for sin-sick people than an army of soldiers prepared for the final conflict with Satan!

The second reason the 5th seal brings martyrdom is that when the 5th seal is opened, Satan is personally upon the earth claiming to be God. Those following Jesus will recognize the devil for what he is and will do everything possible to tell the world of this supreme deception.  Think of it!  With much of the world receiving the evil impostor as God, those who fearlessly identify the impostor as the devil will not be looked upon favorably!

How would you feel if someone called your God “the devil?” If ever there was a holy war, this will be it. Those killing the followers of Jesus (who remains in heaven until the sixth seal is opened) will actually be told the evil impostor they are doing God a service!

Sixth seal

“I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, {13} and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. {14} The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. {15} Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. {16} They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! {17} For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” Revelation 6:12-17

The opening of the sixth seal brings Jesus to the rescue of His people. The opening of the sixth seal is the second coming. John describes King Jesus as riding on the white horse, having the title, “King of kings and Lord of lords” upon His sash. Revelation 19:11-16

Just as the work of the first seal began on a white horse in 1844, so the work of the sixth seal is concluded on a white horse. Jesus set out to conquer in 1844 and at the second coming, he conquers!  John says, “I saw standing open and there before me a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.  With justice he judges and makes war… Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter…’” Revelation 19:11,15

Seventh seal

“When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” Revelation 8:1

The opening of the seventh seal occurs at the end of the 1,000 years and the story within the book of life – now unsealed – is fully exposed. The importance of this seal will be seen again in later lessons.


The first three seals prepare the world stage for the development of the next three seals. The relationship within the seals becomes apparent when compared to their counterpart. The breaking open of each seal reveals a new dimension in the work of Jesus as our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary!

The opening of each seal moves us chronologically towards the second coming and the great day of reckoning at the end of the 1,000 years. In the next lesson, we will study the consequences of the seals in more detail. You will see how the opening of the 4th seal marks the beginning of the judgment of the living!  Review this lesson carefully for those who study Bible prophecy study the deep things of God.
                                                                                         Seals open

  1. White horse
  2. Red Horse
  3. Black Horse
  4. Pale Horse
  5. Martyrs
  6. Second Coming

Open 1

Open 2

Open 3

Open 4

Open 5

Open 6

1844 Today

The first three seals mark the beginning of three processes that prepare the world for the next three seals.  As each seal is opened, Jesus and His everlasting gospel are more clearly revealed.

The First Six Seals


  1. Do you think John and Daniel saw the same scene that occurred in 1844?
  1. When did Jesus receive the book sealed with 7 seals?
  1. What is in the book sealed with seven seals?
  1. What is proven when the book of life is finally opened?
  1. Which seals have been opened?

Memory Verse:  “None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”  Daniel 12:10


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