posted on Apr, 17 2010 @ 07:34 AM
I want to offer some thoughts on the "4 Horsemen" episode in Revelation ch6.
I won't be trying to identify them. I'm not considering when they might come or might have come.
Instead, I'm posing the question; why would God be sending them? What are they supposed to be for?
The most important clue, I think, lies in those horses. Four of them, different colours. As a group, they've got predecessors, in a couple of
chapters of Zechariah. I'm sure the Christians of John's time would have recognised the echoes, and they would have been reading this chapter in the
light of what Zechariah said. I'm hoping to do the same thing.
Obviously Zechariah was writing, in the first instance, for the people of his own time, so we have to think about that side of things first. The most
important point about the background of Zechariah's book is the problem of "other nations". Judah had been invaded by the Assyrians in the past,
they had been conquered by the Babylonians, and now they were living as part of the mighty Persian empire. That's why the dates are in the name of
Darius, and not one of their own kings.
A group of horses, different colours. The first group we find is in Zechariah ch1. They've been out patrolling the earth (so somebody tells the
prophet), and the report they bring back is that "all the earth remains at rest". This prompts an outburst from the angel of the Lord, complaining
about the contrasting state of Judah themselves. They are not "at rest", because they've been feeling the effects of the Lord's anger. The Lord
responds with comforting words; he says that he is "jealous" on behalf of Jerusalem, and also "very angry with the nations that are at rest".
A similar group (slightly different colours, and with chariots) goes out on patrol in Zechariah ch6. The most important mission is to "the north
country", the direction of all the recent invaders.
There seem to be at least two schools of thought about the translation of Zechariah ch6 v8; as between, say "brought my spirit to rest on the land of
the north" (Jerusalem Bible), and "set my spirit at rest in the north country" (RSV). The first suggests that the north is feeling God's anger,
the second suggests, perhaps, that God's spirit was previously troubled. Perhaps a Hebrew scholar will be on hand who can adjudicate beween the
I must admit that I rather like the sense of the second version, because it implies a neat, logical reversal of the situation in ch1.
The situation of ch1 was;
Earth at rest
God's people not at rest
Therefore God's spirit not at rest
The achievement of ch6 would then be;
Rest of earth overturned
Rest of God's people (implicitly) restored
Therefore rest of God's spirit restored
Anyway, the gist of the message, either way, is that God is expressing his jealousy for his people by expressing his anger against, taking action
against, the oppressors of his people.
There was certainly trouble in the Persian empire at this time, because of a succession dispute and various revolts, "but that's not important right
now". My concern is to take these insights and try to apply them to the interpretation of Revelation ch6.
The colours of the four horse in Revelation are nearly the same as the colours in Zechariah ch6 (the fourth colour in the RSV is "dappled" in the OT
and "pale" in the NT). In my mind, these colours have a clear and unmistakable message for us. The message is "These horses are much the same
horses that you saw operating in Zechariah, and you should be expecting them to have a similar function".
If there's going to be any parallel between the setting of Zechariah and the setting of Revelation, then the later setting should be including these
The world at large- at least the portion of the world controlling God's people- would be "at rest".
God's people themselves, in contrast, would not be "at rest"- they would be oppressed and in trouble.
God would then, presumably, be "jealous" on behalf of his people, and "very angry with the nations that are at rest".
The 4 Horsemen would then be coming out into the world, like the north-country chariot of Zechariah ch6, as the expression of that anger.
In the first instance, we should be looking for parallels in the time when John was writing. Church tradition mentions great perscutions in the reigns
of Nero and Domitian. Between those times, hostile action against the church was not constant, but there was always the pressure of the possibility of
hostile action. Meanwhile, the "Roman Peace" of the Empire at large (outside the immediate vicinity of the Imperial palace) has become proverbial.
The episode of the 4 Horsemen would then have been read by the church as a promise that God would respond to their troubles, and that he would take
action against their oppressors.
If we want to apply this passage as prophecy, then we should surely, once again, be looking out for similar parallels.
That is to say, the church, God's people, would be oppressed and troubled, while those who held power over them would be comparatively "at
God would then be "jealous" for his people, and angry at their oppressors.
The 4 Horsemen would then be sent as God's response to the needs of his oppressed people, which is the answer to my original question.
I have one more suggestion to make to anyone who believes that the 4 Horsemen have already been seen in the world. Please look at the events you've
got in mind- whatever they are- and ask yourself this question; In what way can they be seen as God's response to the oppression of his people?