Welcome to A Revelation of Jesus. In this video we will continue looking at the opening of the Seven Seals. In the previous video we studied the white horse and his rider. If you haven’t watched it please do so as it has background information that is critical for understanding this video.
I’ll summarize briefly: I have proposed that the seven seals symbolically represent the judgment of different categories of people. The symbols are multifaceted, combined to form a complete picture of the investigative phase of the judgment.
First and foremost, each seal is opened by the Lamb, who symbolizes Jesus and His self-sacrifice. This shows us that Jesus, who loved us so much that He died to save us, is in charge of the judgment.
Each of the first four seals is introduced by one of the four living creatures who shout, “Come and See!” Jewish Tradition teaches that the faces of the living creatures are the same as those on the standards, or flags, of the four leader tribes as they camped around the Tabernacle, namely, Judah, Ephraim, Reuben, and Dan. The faces symbolize attributes of God’s character; we might say that they set the standard for the tribes that are under their jurisdiction.
The tribes themselves, in other words, the categories of people who are being judged, are symbolized by colored horses. We saw that the spiritual tribe of Judah, strong and faithful, is symbolized by the white horse. The rider is Jesus, who directs His faithful followers into the world to conquer the strongholds of darkness and unbelief.
As for the rest of the horses, “when [the Lamb] opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come and see” 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 6:3,4).
Tradition says that the image of the second living creature, the face of an ox or calf, was on the standard of the tribe of Ephraim. This is supported by Moses’ blessing of Ephraim: “His glory is like a firstborn bull, and his horns like the horns of the wild ox” (Deuteronomy 33:17).
The ox symbolizes the divine characteristics of strength, submission, and sacrifice. But the tribe of Ephraim, symbolized by the red horse, perverted these characteristics and became a leader in idolatrous worship.
Ephraim’s blessing from both Jacob and Moses was the richest of all the tribes. But several stories in Joshua and Judges show that Ephraim had a tendency to demand benefits that they didn’t deserve. Instead of using their rich blessings to be spiritual leaders, the tribe of Ephraim and their first king Jeroboam initiated the idolatry that resulted in the downfall of Israel, leading 10 tribes to separate from Judah and set up a new religion that centered on the worship of golden calves. The story is found in 1Kings chapter 12.
In the book of Hosea and the Psalms, Ephraim is repeatedly condemned for their idolatry. For example, “Ephraim is joined to idols. Their drink is rebellion, they commit harlotry continually” (Hosea 4:17,18). “Ephraim did not keep the covenant of God. They refused to walk in His law, and forgot His works and His wonders that He had shown them…God did not choose the tribe of Ephraim but chose the tribe of Judah” (Psalms 78:9-11, 67,68).
Ephraim is not included on the list of the tribes that make up the 144,000, even though his brother Manasseh is. The red color of the second horse is the color of sin: “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). Satan, the originator of sin, is symbolized by “A great, fiery red dragon” (Revelation 12:3).
It is significant that all of the other three horses simply appeared—“Behold, a white horse”, Behold, a black horse”, “Behold, a pale horse” But the red horse “went out”.
The Greek word used here is the same word that John used to describe the “many antichrists [which] have come…they went out from us, but they did not belong to us” (1 John 2:18,19). Red horse people make strong claims about their Christian identity, but instead, they are an influence against Christ.
The rider of the red horse is Satan. This can be seen from his activity: he “takes peace from the earth” (Revelation 6:4).
Jesus, on the other hand, is “the Prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Just before His crucifixion He told His disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
But Isaiah 59 describes the life of sin that Satan tempts us to follow that takes us away from God’s presence. The prophet concludes, “The way of peace they have not known…whoever takes that way shall not know peace” (Isaiah 59:1-8).
The red horse rider also “causes people to kill one another” (Revelation 6:4). Again it is Satan who “was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44) and “[His] purpose is to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).
His weapon is “a great sword.” At this point you may remember that Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).
The context of Matthew 10 is Jesus sending His disciples out to preach the kingdom of God. Jesus told them, “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves…but beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you…brother will deliver up brother to death…you will be hated by all for My name’s sake” (Matthew 10:16,17,21,22).
When white horses invade Satan’s territory and seek to introduce his slaves to Jesus, they often face violent opposition.
As Christians we are instructed, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). But Satan makes sure that it is not always possible. We are warned that, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).
However, the red horse rider does not primarily wield a physical weapon. The apostle Paul tells us “The sword of the spirit is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Satan’s sword is the perverted misinterpretations of God’s word that present an ugly picture of God and a false picture of what it means to be a Christian. These have done as much as anything to “take peace from the earth” and cause people “to kill one another”.
Red horse Christians are the tares among the wheat that Jesus warned against (Matthew 13:24-30).
Judas was a red horse, as were the legalists who tried to compel the Galatians to accept “another gospel”.
During the dark ages, Red horse theologians and religious leaders persuaded church councils to promote the worship of images, relics, and saints.
In modern “Christian” society there are millions of red horses who go to church and identify as Christians but are indifferent to God and have set up idols of wealth, appearance, power, and reputation that are much more precious to them than Jesus and His kingdom.
Even more tragic are the spiritual deaths that have resulted when red horses take the name of Christ but misrepresent Him through false doctrines, unchristian behavior, and hypocrisy, turning honest seekers away from God.
When the Book of Life is opened the heavenly court will see that although the red horses consider themselves Christians, they have chosen to ignore Jesus and have forfeited the eternal life that could have been theirs. “[Their names] will be blotted out of the book of life” (Psalm 69:28, Revelation 3:5).
“When [the Lamb] 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. 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; but do not harm the oil and the wine” (Revelation 6:5,6).
Tradition tells us that the image of the third living creature, the face of a man, was on the standard of the tribe of Reuben.
Man was created in the image of God and Jesus the “Son of man” lived a perfect life; He “was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Thus the standard of the man symbolizes the divine characteristics of godliness and righteousness.
But except for Jesus, man has never lived up to his standard, starting with Adam. “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). The black horse symbolizes the tribe of Reuben, a group of people who are all too human.
Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob, lost his firstborn status by sleeping with his father’s concubine.
Jacob recalled this incident in his blessing: “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might and the beginning of my strength…Unstable as water, you shall not excel, because you went up to your father’s bed, then you defiled it” (Genesis 49: 3,4).
Reuben, like Judah, attempted to intercede for his brother Joseph when the other brothers wanted to kill him, but his efforts were weak and ineffective. His name is on the list of tribes included in the 144,000, but not in the first position that his birth order would indicate.
The Greek word for black is used in scripture to portray darkness, in other words, a lack of light, rather than evil. The black color of the horse indicates spiritual darkness caused by ignorance.
The pair of balances show that the rider of the black horse is Jesus. In Daniel we see that it is God who weighs in the balance (Daniel 5:27). Proverbs tells us that “Honest weights and scales are the Lord’s” (Proverbs 16:11). Job said, “Let me be weighed on honest scales, that God may know my integrity” (Job 31:6).
Thus the black horse represents people who are in spiritual darkness, but when weighed in the balance they are found to have Jesus as their rider. “A voice in the midst of the four living creatures” explains what this means: “A measure of wheat for a denarius, and three measures of barley for a denarius, but do not hurt the oil and the wine” (Revelation 6:6).
Wheat and barley were the grains used to make bread, and with a denarius being the wage for a full day’s work, these prices indicate a lack of bread.
Bread is the symbol of several things. Most importantly, bread symbolizes Jesus. He said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). So the black horses may not know much about Jesus.
Bread also represents Christ’s body, the church: “For though we [the church] are many, we are one bread and one body” (1Corinthians 10:17), so the black horse people may not have had much contact or communion with the church of God.
Bread can also represent the true teaching of God’s word: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), so these people may not have had adequate or accurate teaching from the Bible.
From all outward appearances the Black horses may not seem to be candidates for eternal life. But He who holds the balances declares that there has been no harm to the oil and wine: They have been taught by the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the oil, and because by faith they have responded to the Spirit’s promptings, Jesus has applied his blood, symbolized by the wine, for the forgiveness of their sins.
There are black horses in remote jungles and deserts, and in teeming cities of the world where there is no witness for Christ.
They are also found in churches where they are taught to be righteous by distributing literature, making pilgrimages, or performing penance; but in the quiet place of their hearts they hear the voice of the Spirit telling them to love God and their neighbors.
Paul describes this group as those “who do not possess the written law, but they show the work of the law written in their hearts” (Romans 2:14,15). “They seek the Lord, in hope that they might grope for Him and find Him” and although they are in darkness, “these times of ignorance God overlooked” (Acts 17:27-30).
In the final judgment their names will not be blotted out of the Book of Life.
“And when [the Lamb] 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 the 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).
Tradition indicates that the image of the fourth living creature, the face of an eagle, was on the standard of the tribe of Dan. The eagle symbolizes the divine characteristics of justice and protection. God’s justice may require chastisement, but His purpose is to bring His people into a close and safe relationship: “You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Exodus 19:4)
But the tribe of Dan, symbolized by the pale horse, perverted these characteristics so that they became enemies of God’s followers. This is seen in his blessing: “Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, a viper by the path that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider shall fall backward” (Genesis 49:16,17).
Judges chapter 18 tells the brutal story of how the tribe of Dan separated themselves from the rest of Israel, abandoning the worship of the Lord to serve idols. When Jeroboam and the tribe of Ephraim set up an alternative religion, Dan established a second center of idolatry based on the worship of golden calves.
Dan’s name is not on the list of the tribes included in the 144,000, even though he is on every other list of the twelve tribes. The horse is described as pale, but in the original Greek it is actually the deathly green of leprous decay that was a sign to destroy a garment or a house in which it was present (Leviticus 13:49, 14;37).
The rider is “Death, and Hades followed with him” (Revelation 6:7). This is obviously “He who had the power of death, that is the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). His activity is “To kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth”. This phrase is used several times in the book of Ezekiel to describe the severe and destructive judgments that would fall upon God’s followers who turned away from Him and stubbornly persisted in apostasy.
Here we see Satan’s comprehensive plan to destroy believers: he uses red horses to lead them into apostasy and when they have forfeited God’s protection he stirs up pale horse enemies to destroy them.
Herod was a pale horse, telling the wise men that he wanted to worship the newborn king but then killing all the infants in Bethlehem in order to destroy Jesus. The priests and church leaders who carried out the inquisition and crusades were pale horses. In our day many of the atheists and political activists who use the courts 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 became the worst enemies of God’s followers. The names of pale horse enemies will be blotted out of the Book of life.
Stepping back to see the whole picture, there are four main categories of people who are found written in the Book of Life: strong and faithful white horse followers of Jesus, apostate red horses who are used by Satan to deceive or discourage God’s followers, weak black horses who follow Jesus, but in ignorant darkness, and pale horse enemies who Satan uses to destroy God’s followers.
These categories are not set in stone; no one is stuck being a red or pale horse. “Today is [still] the day of salvation” (2Corinthians 6:2) and God sends His Spirit to plead with each of us, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).
Our prayer can be, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23,24).
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And to find out in advance where this is all going, you can order the book A Revelation of Jesus by David Lackey, available from online bookstores.