The 4 Horsemen Of The Apocalypse And Their Meaning

The 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse are symbols originated from the description of John of Patmos in the book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. In the sixth chapter of the Revelation of Saint John it is described how the Lamb of God has a book that contains seven seals; These begin the tribulation period on earth.

The Lamb of God or Jesus Christ opens the first four seals to initiate the liberation of the horses with the horsemen of the Apocalypse; each rider rides on a different horse. The first rider does so on a white one that symbolizes conquest, the second is red and describes war, the third is black and represents hunger, and the fourth is pale with the meaning of death.


Since their appearance, horsemen have been called by different names; however, the four horsemen maintain the same meaning and are seen as symbols of conquest. Tradition says that the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse were released from heaven so that man would know the apocalyptic judgments that the human race would face on earth.

Currently, the history of the 4 horsemen continues to be the object of study, analysis and concern in Western culture.

First horseman: the white horse of conquest and victory

The mention in the Apocalypse associated with this horseman is the following: “And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard one of the four living beings say with a voice of thunder: Come and see! And I looked, and I saw a white horse. The one who rode it had a bow, he was given a crown, and he went out conquering and to conquer ”. (Revelation 6, 2)

After opening the first seal, the horseman who was observed was on a white horse with a bow and a crown.

For the vast majority of people, the rider of the white horse is associated with conquest or victory.

However, for Irenaeus of Lyons (known as Saint Irenaeus, an influential second-century Christian theologian) the first horseman was Christ. This theory was supported and described in Revelation 19.

Saint Irenaeus and Saint John Chrysostom considered that, in addition, it symbolizes the spread of the Gospel, since the bow of the white horseman coincides with the representation of the Christian kingdoms, which they led evangelized to distant villages.

Other beliefs

On the other hand, beliefs opposed to Irenaeus of Lyonm pointed out that the rider of the white horse was not Jesus Christ and it was not Revelation 19. Many historians of the time considered that it was impossible for Jesus Christ to open the seals and also be part of them.

Interpretations around the white horseman vary according to beliefs and cultures, since some currents indicate that the white horse rider was an antichrist and others assure that he responded to the name of “pestilence.”

Finally, for most believers the rider of the white horse means hope, since he has been able to triumph in the face of any adversity. He is considered the winner of all battles, the one who always accompanies man and encourages him to be better every day.

Second Horseman: The Red Horse of War

In the following passage from the Apocalypse the reference to the red horse can be found: “And when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living being say: Come and see! And another horse came out, red; and to the one who rode it, power was given to take peace from the earth and to kill one another, and a great sword was given to him ”(Revelation 6: 4).

The second horseman that appeared on the seals was red and symbolizes the war, bloodshed, revolution and murder of a people facing each other.

Of the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the second is the most remembered. In his appearance, the red horseman held a great sword in the air as a symbol of war.

There are other theories related to this horseman, as certain currents indicate that it may represent the persecution of Christians.

Red color and sword

If we study the meaning of the color red, we find that in the Old Testament it represented the blood shed by violence or by sacrifice.

In the case of the long sword used by the second horseman of the Apocalypse, it is similar to a mega-machaira , a knife used for the sacrifice of animals. The one that the rider holds is a little longer than the machaira , which is why it is more powerful.

The red horseman has been associated with the First and Second World Wars, as well as with all the battles that have been fought during the history of man.

This horseman is also said to ride among human beings to fight and kill each other over individual conflicts.

The world has lived through various bloodshed throughout history, and Christian tradition indicates that the red horseman will ride a last war and the end of humanity will come.

Third horseman: the black horse and the famine

This is how the Apocalypse describes the arrival of the third horseman: “And when he opened the third seal, I heard the third living being say: Come and see! And I looked, and behold a black horse; and the one who rode it had a scale in his hand.

And I heard a voice from among the four living beings that said: two measures of wheat for a denarius, and six measures of barley for a denarius; but do not harm the wine or the oil ”. (Revelation 6: 5-6)

The opening of the third seal gives rise to the appearance of the third rider who rides a black horse and carries a balance. This horseman represents the arrival of the famine.

Unlike the previous ones, the third black horseman is the only one who has said a few words. He says to John: “two measures of wheat for a denarius, and six measures of barley for a denarius; but do not harm the wine or the oil ”.

In this sense, it was said that the price of wheat and barley was very high and with one day of employment it was not possible to feed a family, since the former workers earned only one denarius.

Oil and wine

Several theories revolve around the mention of oil and wine by the rider of the black horse. One of these indicates that it refers to the fact that man does not need these elements to live.

According to another explanation, it refers to the fact that oil and wine are only used by Christians in their sacraments.

Despite the fact that the black horseman is recognized as a symbol of famine, some consider that he holds the so-called “scales of justice” and calls him the “law-giver lord”.

However, in the Bible black represents hunger and food shortages, which brings with it the onset of war. For this reason, Christian tradition estimates that the famine will give way to the rule of the antichrist.

Fourth horseman: the pale horse and death

The arrival of the last horseman of the Apocalypse is narrated in this way:  “ And when he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living being, saying: Come and see!

And I looked, and I saw a yellow horse; The one who rode it was called Death and Hades followed him; and power was given to them over a fourth of the earth to kill with the sword, with famine, with slaughter, and with the beasts of the earth (Revelation 6,7-8)

The fourth seal was opened and brought with it a bay-colored horse ridden by the rider of death or pestilence, a name given to it in some translations (as in the Bible). He is the only rider who brought his explicit name.

The fourth horseman of death has a pale color that was described as khlômos ( χλωμóς ) in the original Koiné Greek language. However, many interpretations can present it as a horse colored green, yellow, gray, or the color of a corpse.

The rider of death is considered by the Bible as one of the most powerful, because no one can escape from death and because it is one of the oldest gods.

Pale horse

The pale horse is a symbol of death. In his appearance he did not show any object; only Hades followed him, who had his mouth open and received the dead.

Hades is known as the god of the dead, but in some cases he is associated with hell. On the other hand, in the Bible it is associated with a sacred place where all the dead are buried to rest in eternity.

Some illustrations show the fourth horseman carrying a weapon that was called the “reaper of souls.”

There are also stories that indicate that the fourth horseman had the mission to end all life in the Roman Empire under the four precepts of hunger, pestilence, the sword and wild beasts.


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