“And when He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘come and see.’ And I looked, and behold, a pale horse; and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to 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” (Revelation 6:7,8).

The fourth living creature has the face of an eagle, and is associated with the tribe of Dan. The eagle is a symbol of justice, but under the influence of sin it represents the fierce enemies of God’s people who attack them and tear them to pieces.[1] Dan was a tribe which very early separated itself from Israel in the far north, and was one of the two tribes that led in the idolatry of the northern 10 tribes.[2] His birthright “blessing” shows that he is actually an enemy of God’s people: Dan “bites the horses heels so that its rider shall fall backward” (Genesis 49:16,17).

The fourth horse is described as pale in English versions, although the actual color in the original Greek is green. This is the ghastly green color of “leprous” mold,[3] the color of death. The pale horse represents those who have somehow at some time been written in the Book of Life, but unlike the deceptive “red horse” false Christians, these have actually become persecuting enemies of Christ’s followers.[4]

The rider is “Death, and Hades followed with him.” Obviously this refers to “him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). His activity is to destroy with “sword, with hunger, with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” These are the same four destructive judgments that are promised against God’s people if they are unfaithful to Him. For example, through Ezekiel God promised that if His people “sin against me by persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch out My hand” sending “My four severe judgments on Jerusalem—the sword and famine and wild beasts and pestilence—to cut off man and beast from it” (Ezekiel 14:13-21).[5] But these judgments have a redemptive purpose“there shall be left in it a remnant who will be brought out…and you will see their ways and their doings. Then you will be comforted concerning the disaster that I have brought upon Jerusalem”’ says the Lord God” (vs. 14:22,23). God is constantly trying to bring to repentance those who have strayed from Him, even if it involves painful judgments that He allows His enemies to inflict.[6]

Thus it is with the pale horse enemies of God. They are allowed to carry out judgments against those who are unfaithful—“power was given to 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.” This no doubt refers to the deadly wars and genocides that have been carried out by “Christian” nations since the time that Christianity became a state religion supported by armies and violence. Pale horses include the priests and church leaders who were in charge of the inquisition and crusades during the Dark Ages. Even today “pale horse” church officials plot to oppose and persecute those who would spread the gospel in “their” territory. Here also are people who had some kind of an experience with the Lord when they were young, but turned away and plunged deeper than ever into sin, crime and violence. Many of the atheists who use the courts and political influence to damage the church once had a tender moment when their names were written into the Book of Life, but rejecting the Holy Spirit they become the worst enemies of God’s people. However, there is a limit to what God will allow; Hades is close on the heels of the pale horse and his rider. Unless they repent they will find their place in “the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

When the seals are finally and fully opened, those who have been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be found to be one of the four horses with one of the two riders. Then it will be too late to change. But "now is [still] the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2); no one has to remain in the red or pale horse camp. God sends His Spirit to plead with each one of us, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15), hoping that “they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26). Everyone has the right to choose who will be his rider, and Jesus is constantly working to turn every person into a white horse. “Today if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts… but exhort one another daily while it is called ‘today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:7-14).

The following table summarizes the categories of people who have been written in the Book of Life, who will be judged during the investigative judgment:








1ST White






Strong Faithful

2ND Red





Take peace


3RD Black





Judge, protect

Weak Faithful

4TH Pale







Continue to next section: 6:9,10 SOULS UNDER THE ALTAR

[1] Leviticus 11:13, Deuteronomy 28:49, Hosea 8:1, Lamentations 4:19, Habakkuk 1:6-8.

[2] Judges 18, 1 Kings 12:25-29.

[3] Leviticus 13:49, 14:37. The Greek Septuagint shows this to be the same root word for green as the “pale” horse. The presence of this green “leprosy” was a sign to burn the garment or tear down the house in which it was present.

[4] The great enemy of God’s people in the book of Revelation is Babylon, and as will be seen in chapters 14-18 where the theme of Babylon is developed, Babylon is a false religious system that claims to be the true body of Christ, all the while persecuting God’s people who are known as the “remnant.” Especially in chapter 17 it is seen that Babylon has two aspects—deceptive false religion, represented by the harlot (these are the “red horse” false Christians) and the oppressive political system, represented by the seven-headed beast (these are the “pale horse” enemies of Christ).

[5] These four judgments are a repeating theme, for example, in Leviticus 26:14-25. These judgments have a redemptive purpose: to get them to “confess their iniquity…with which they were unfaithful to Me” (v. 40).

[6] An example of God’s use of His enemies to punish His unfaithful children in an effort to win them back is found in the history of the kingdom of Judah and the Babylonian captivity. Under the wicked king Manasseh the people of Judah totally turned from the worship of the Lord to the worship of idols, and continued in this pattern despite the brief reforms under Josiah. Through the prophets they were repeatedly warned to repent or the disasters foretold in Leviticus 26 would come upon them, even specifying the 70 years of captivity they would suffer at the hands of the Babylonians (Jeremiah 25:5-12). “Yet you have not listened to Me’ says the Lord, ‘that you might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt…Because you have not heard My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north…Nebuchadnezzer, the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land…and will utterly destroy them” (Jeremiah 25:9). Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand” (Jeremiah 51:7). Here Babylon is being used by God as His servant, a cup in His hand to punish God’s rebellious people in the same ways specified by Leviticus 26 and Revelation 6 (the fourth horseman)—“I will give this city (Jerusalem) into the hand of the Chaldeans, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon…by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence” (Jeremiah 32:28,37). However, the judgments were meant to be redemptive for both God’s people and the Babylonians—“Behold I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger…I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people and I will be their God” (vs.. 37,38). For the Babylonians, godly men like Daniel were such a powerful witness that even the king of Babylon acknowledged the sovereignty of the God of Heaven (Daniel 3:28,29, 4:34-37). Thus we see that God used His enemies to chasten his apostate children, and then used His repentant children to witness to His enemies.