Revelation Chapter 6

The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, opens the first seal (v.1)

First seal (v. 2) – the white horse

The symbolism of the horse seen in the vision by St. John is of war — the horse was the instrument of war at that time. The colour white signifies victory. So most commentators agree that the white horse signifies prosperous, victorious wars. The rider cannot be Christ, as He is the Lamb, and he is signified with the sword of the Word coming out of His mouth (Revelation 2:16; 19:15). This first seal then signifies a period of Roman victory and power around the time of St. John’s exile on Patmos.

Second seal (v. 3,4) – the red horse

The second horseman holds a great sword in his hand, to whom “was given power to take peace from the earth, and to make men that they should slay one another.” The horse is the symbol of war, but now the colour is red indicating war has come to the Roman home territory which was once peaceful. That land is now drenched in blood. The Roman generals had waged triumphant wars in the countries of their enemies during the period of the first seal, but now a period of internal war has come. Roman endured a period of incessant civil wars, which weakened the kingdom.

Third seal (v. 5) – the black horse

Black is the color of mourning. The black coloured horse and horseman with balances indicates that the land was torn by calamitous war, and is filled with sorrow, mourning and despair. Oil and wine, though common foods, are entirely prohibited through famine and deprivations that came from war. Mourning, calamity and famine is certainly symbolized. Rome was subject to the hordes of conquering Barbarian armies from the pagan nations to the North who conquered pagan Rome (Visigoths, Vandals, Huns etc). These outside forces are also represented in the following pale horse.

Fourth seal (v. 7,8) – the pale horse

The horse is now pale, the bloodless colour of the dead. Upon him sits a rider only described as DEATH. Behind the dread destroyer follows Hades, the unseen world, swallowing up the dying mortals and hiding them from human vision. Death and Hades employ (1) the sword or war; (2) hunger, or famine; (3) death, or pestilence, for so is the word here used often to translated, and such is its meaning in this place; and finally (4) the destruction caused by the wild beasts of forests and field.