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4 horsemen of the Apocalypse




Introduction to the Horses in Revelation - A Study in Zechariah

Before we continue our verse-by-verse study in the book of Revelation, it is necessary to take a detour to the book of Zechariah to understand what the horses are in Revelation. The prophet Zechariah was the son of Iddo, who was a priest (Nehemiah 12:12-16). He was a contemporary to the prophet Haggai during the reign of Darius (Zechariah 1:1), after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon. Zechariah was given a series of visions, two of which include different colored horses.

Zechariah 1:8

1:8 - I saw by night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse, and it stood among the myrtle trees in the hollow; and behind him were horses: red, sorrel, and white.

Zechariah sees several horses, divided into three colors. We will come back to the colors later. Sitting on one of the red horses, is a man identified in Zechariah 1:11 as the "Angel of the Lord." Other passages show us that the "Angel of the Lord" was the pre-incarnate Christ:

Exodus 3:2-6 - And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn." So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground." Moreover He said, "I am the God of your father-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.
Judges 6:21-23 - Then the Angel of the LORD put out the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the Angel of the LORD departed out of his sight. Now Gideon perceived that He was the Angel of the LORD. So Gideon said, "Alas, O Lord GOD! For I have seen the Angel of the LORD face to face." Then the LORD said to him, "Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die."
Judges 13:21-22 - When the Angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and his wife, then Manoah knew that He was the Angel of the LORD. And Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, because we have seen God!"
Zechariah 12:8 - In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them.

The following passage describes the pre-incarnate Lord as a man, like Zechariah:

Joshua 5:13-15 - And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, "Are You for us or for our adversaries?" So He said, "No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, "What does my Lord say to His servant?" Then the Commander of the LORD's army said to Joshua, "Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy." And Joshua did so.

The man and the horses are "among the myrtle trees in the hollow." A myrtle tree is an evergreen shrub that grows in moist, but not too humid areas near the Mediterranean Sea. That the myrtle trees were growing in a "hollow," or a ravine, is no surprise, as a ravine forms by the flow of water, like a stream. Israel used myrtle branches to make booths during the Feast of Tabernacles, after their return from the exile:

Nehemiah 8:14-15 - And they found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, and that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, "Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written."

God said Israel was the least of the nations:

Deuteronomy 7:7 - The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples.

God made Israel a great nation and kingdom. Disobedience of God's Law resulted in the split of the kingdom, and eventually exile. God brought Israel "low for their iniquity":

Psalms 79:6-8 - Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You, and on the kingdoms that do not call on Your name. For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling place. Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, for we have been brought very low.
Psalms 106:40-43 - Therefore the wrath of the LORD was kindled against His people, so that He abhorred His own inheritance. And He gave them into the hand of the Gentiles, and those who hated them ruled over them. Their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand. Many times He delivered them; but they rebelled in their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity.

Israel has been at the bottom of the "ravine" since the exile, when the "times of the Gentiles" began, where other nations would have dominion over Jerusalem. The Gentile dominion will end when Jesus returns (Luke 21:24-27). The picture here in Zechariah is the hope of the future restoration of Israel, which will find fulfillment in the Feast of Tabernacles when Jesus returns.

The myrtle tree is a very fragrant and desirable tree. In the following prophecies about Israel's restoration, the Lord likens their future to the myrtle tree and other desirable trees:

Isaiah 41:19 - I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the acacia tree, the myrtle and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the cypress tree and the pine and the box tree together....
Isaiah 55:13 - "Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

As an interesting side note, Queen Esther's Hebrew name was "Hadassah," which means "myrtle tree." At one of Israel's lowest points in history, Esther gave hope to the Jewish people, by risking her life to save them:

Esther 4:13-16 - And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!"

Zechariah 1:9-11

1:9 - Then I said, "My lord, what are these?" So the angel who talked with me said to me, "I will show you what they are."

1:10 - And the man who stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, "These are the ones whom the LORD has sent to walk to and fro throughout the earth.

1:11 - So they answered the Angel of the LORD, who stood among the myrtle trees, and said, "We have walked to and fro throughout the earth, and behold, all the earth is resting quietly."

Zechariah asks the angel about the horses in the ravine among the myrtle trees. The man standing with the horses tells Zechariah God sent the horses to "walk to and fro throughout the earth." We find similar wording in the following passages that describe the "eyes of the Lord":

2 Chronicles 16:9 - "For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars."
Zechariah 4:10 - "For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth."

Recall from Revelation 5:6, the Holy Spirit represents the eyes of the Lord "sent out into all the earth." Satan is similarly seen moving about the earth:

Job 1:7 - And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it."

Recall from Revelation 4:8, Satan is a cherub, and thus has many "eyes" like other cherubim and seraphim.

The army of the Lord has creatures that look like horses that "run to and fro":

Joel 2:4-11 - Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; and like swift steeds, so they run. With a noise like chariots over mountaintops they leap, like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble, like a strong people set in battle array. Before them the people writhe in pain; all faces are drained of color. They run like mighty men, they climb the wall like men of war; every one marches in formation, and they do not break ranks. They do not push one another; every one marches in his own column. Though they lunge between the weapons, they are not cut down. They run to and fro in the city, they run on the wall; they climb into the houses, they enter at the windows like a thief. The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble; the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness. The LORD gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it?

What we can gather from the passages above, is that these spirit beings are able to move quickly and survey what is taking place on Earth. Zechariah 6:5 confirms that the horses in Zechariah's visions are spirits. These spirits report to the Lord that "all the earth is resting quietly." As we will see in the next section, the Lord is angry about this.

It seems rather odd that the Lord would have spirits report to Him what is going on throughout the Earth, when He knows everything. Perhaps it is for the benefit of the spirits. We know that angels have interest in what is going on here on Earth:

1 Peter 1:12 - To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven - things which angels desire to look into.

When the sons of God report what they observed on Earth, Satan also reports to God, but uses his observations to accuse man:

Job 1:6-11 - Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!"

In short, spirits report to the Lord what they see happening on Earth, and apparently gain some benefit, or learn from what they see. It is interesting to note, angels await judgment (1 Corinthians 6:3). Since angels await judgment, I presume all spirits will likewise be judged, since Satan, who is a cherub, also awaits judgment (Daniel 9:9-11). If so, I wonder if what these spirits did when they "walked to and fro throughout the earth" will determine the outcome of their judgment.

Zechariah 1:12-15

1:12 - Then the Angel of the LORD answered and said, "O LORD of hosts, how long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?"

1:13 - And the LORD answered the angel who talked to me, with good and comforting words.

1:14 - So the angel who spoke with me said to me, "Proclaim, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts: "I am zealous for Jerusalem And for Zion with great zeal.

1:15 - I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease; For I was a little angry, And they helped - but with evil intent."

The "earth is resting quietly" (Zechariah 1:11), apparently because the nations are at ease. God is very angry with the nations, because they went beyond what the Lord directed in judging Judah during the 70-year exile; they had "evil intent" in their motives. We learn more about these nations in Zechariah 1:19. Here we see the Angel of the Lord acting as intercessor before God for Israel. This is more evidence that the Angel of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Christ, because "He makes intercession for us":

Romans 8:34 - Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

Zechariah 1:16-17

1:16 - "Therefore this is what the Lord says: 'I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,' declares the Lord Almighty.

1:17 - "Proclaim further: This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.'"

The Lord tells Zechariah that restoration to Jerusalem is coming. Isaiah describes this restoration as a myrtle tree that comes up instead of a brier:

Isaiah 55:13 - "Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

Zechariah 1:18-21

1:18 - Then I raised my eyes and looked, and there were four horns.

1:19 - And I said to the angel who talked with me, "What are these?" So he answered me, "These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem."

1:20 - Then the LORD showed me four craftsmen.

1:21 - And I said, "What are these coming to do?" So he said, "These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one could lift up his head; but the craftsmen are coming to terrify them, to cast out the horns of the nations that lifted up their horn against the land of Judah to scatter it."

The four horns are the nations that scattered Judah. Recall from Revelation 5:6, horns generally represent kings or kingdoms in Scripture. These four horns, which the Lord used to scatter Judah, He calls "beasts" in Daniel and Hosea:

Daniel 7:17-18 - 'Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.'
Daniel 7:2-7 - Daniel spoke, saying, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man's heart was given to it. "And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: 'Arise, devour much flesh!' "After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. "After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns."
Hosea 13:5-9 - I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. When they had pasture, they were filled; they were filled and their heart was exalted; therefore they forgot Me. "So I will be to them like a lion; like a leopard by the road I will lurk; I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs; I will tear open their rib cage, and there I will devour them like a lion. The wild beast shall tear them. "O Israel, you are destroyed, but your help is from Me."

History has shown these four horns, or kingdoms, are: Babylon (lion), Medo-Persian (bear), Greece (leopard), and Rome (wild, terrible beast). While many nations have ruled over Judah, these four are the nations which "scattered" the Jews into exile. Zechariah sees four craftsmen that would cast out the horns of these nations as punishment for their "evil intent" (Zechariah 1:15).

It is not clear if these craftsmen are earthly or spiritual. If the craftsmen are on earth, then each subsequent horn would become the craftsman that cast out the horn that was in power at the time. In other words, the Medes and Persians were the craftsman that cast out the horn of Babylon, Greece the craftsman that cast out the horn of the Medes and Persians, and Rome the craftsman that cast out the horn of Greece. The Roman Empire has not been cast out yet. It will revive in the last days and be cast out by the Lord and His saints:

Daniel 7:23-27 - "Thus he said: 'The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces. The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; he shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings. He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time. 'But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever. Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.'"

Click here for more on the revived Roman Empire.

Zechariah 6:1

6:1 - Then I turned and raised my eyes and looked, and behold, four chariots were coming from between two mountains, and the mountains were mountains of bronze.

Skipping over to chapter 6, Zechariah has another vision about horses. In this vision he sees four different chariots of horses coming between two mountains. Horses and chariots are vehicles of war:

Proverbs 21:31 - The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the LORD.
Job 39:19-25 - "Have you given the horse strength? Have you clothed his neck with thunder? Can you frighten him like a locust? His majestic snorting strikes terror. He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength; he gallops into the clash of arms. He mocks at fear, and is not frightened; nor does he turn back from the sword. The quiver rattles against him, the glittering spear and javelin. He devours the distance with fierceness and rage; nor does he come to a halt because the trumpet has sounded. At the blast of the trumpet he says, 'Aha!' He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of captains and shouting."
Jeremiah 46:9-10 - Come up, O horses, and rage, O chariots! And let the mighty men come forth: The Ethiopians and the Libyans who handle the shield, and the Lydians who handle and bend the bow. For this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of vengeance, that He may avenge Himself on His adversaries. The sword shall devour; it shall be satiated and made drunk with their blood; for the Lord GOD of hosts has a sacrifice in the north country by the River Euphrates.

Recall from Revelation 1:15, bronze signifies judgment. God used "four horns" to judge Israel, which is reminiscent of the four horns on the altar that was overlaid with bronze and used to make atonement for sin:

Exodus 27:1-2 - "You shall make an altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide - the altar shall be square - and its height shall be three cubits. You shall make its horns on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it. And you shall overlay it with bronze."
Exodus 29:36 - And you shall offer a bull every day as a sin offering for atonement. You shall cleanse the altar when you make atonement for it, and you shall anoint it to sanctify it.

Mountains in Scripture show dominion. The following passages depict mountains as kingdoms:

Jeremiah 51:24-25 - "And I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea for all the evil they have done in Zion in your sight," says the LORD. "Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain, who destroys all the earth," says the LORD. "And I will stretch out My hand against you, roll you down from the rocks, and make you a burnt mountain."
Daniel 2:34-35 - You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
Daniel 2:44-45 - And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold - the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.

Both Babylon and the Lord's Kingdom arrive during a time of judgment. God used Babylon to judge Israel and other nations. Babylon was later judged by the Medo-Persian kingdom. When Jesus returns it will be in judgment, when He will destroy all the kingdoms of the world. The passages below also show a relationship between mountains and judgment:

Psalm 36:6 - Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O LORD, You preserve man and beast.
Psalm 72:1-4 - A Psalm Of Solomon. Give the king Your judgments, O God, and Your righteousness to the king's Son. He will judge Your people with righteousness, and Your poor with justice. The mountains will bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. He will bring justice to the poor of the people; He will save the children of the needy, and will break in pieces the oppressor.
Revelation 16:19-20 - ...And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.

Clearly, the two bronze mountains Zechariah saw in his vision depict judgment. Zechariah 6:5 shows that these chariots of horses are coming from Heaven. Moses patterned the tabernacle after heavenly things:

Hebrews 8:4-5 - For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."

The two bronze pillars in the earthly temple apparently represent the bronze mountains in Heaven:

1 Kings 7:15, 21 - And he cast two pillars of bronze, each one eighteen cubits high, and a line of twelve cubits measured the circumference of each.... Then he set up the pillars by the vestibule of the temple; he set up the pillar on the right and called its name Jachin, and he set up the pillar on the left and called its name Boaz.

Recall from Revelation 3:12, "Jachin" means "he establishes" and "Boaz" means "strength." In light of the following Psalm, the bronze pillars in the earthly temple are appropriately named for the mountains they represent in Heaven:

Psalm 65:6 - Who established the mountains by His strength, being clothed with power.

Zechariah 6:2-5

6:2 - With the first chariot were red horses, with the second chariot black horses,

6:3 - with the third chariot white horses, and with the fourth chariot dappled horses - strong steeds.

6:4 - Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, "What are these, my lord?"

6:5 - And the angel answered and said to me, "These are four spirits of heaven, who go out from their station before the Lord of all the earth."

Zechariah 1:9-11 hinted that these horses were spirit beings; here we are explicitly told that they are "four spirits of heaven." At face value, it looks like the horses are the spirits, as there was no hint of any rider, except for the pre-incarnate Christ in Zechariah 1:8. However, in this passage the horses pull chariots, which may imply that there are riders. The chariot and horses of fire that took Elijah to Heaven had riders, or horsemen:

2 Kings 2:11-12 - Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!" So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces.

The Lord's army has both chariots and horses of fire, but no riders mentioned, like in the previous passage:

2 Kings 6:15-17 - And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" So he answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And Elisha prayed, and said, "LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

The Lord's army in the following passage describes both horses and mighty men, which probably means it includes both horses and horsemen:

Joel 2:3-5, 7-9, 11 - A fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns; the land is like the Garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; surely nothing shall escape them. Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; and like swift steeds, so they run. With a noise like chariots over mountaintops they leap, like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble, like a strong people set in battle array.... They run like mighty men, they climb the wall like men of war; every one marches in formation, and they do not break ranks. They do not push one another; every one marches in his own column. Though they lunge between the weapons, they are not cut down. They run to and fro in the city, they run on the wall; they climb into the houses, they enter at the windows like a thief.... The LORD gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it?

The following passages suggest that cherubim are chariots, which might clear up the discrepancy between the passages above that show the spirit horses with chariots versus riders, as cherubim with their wheels could be described as both chariots and riders:

1 Chronicles 28:18 - ...and for the construction of the chariot, that is, the gold cherubim that spread their wings and overshadowed the ark of the covenant of the LORD.
2 Kings 6:17 - And Elisha prayed, and said, "LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Ezekiel 10:6-10 - Then it happened, when He commanded the man clothed in linen, saying "Take fire from among the wheels, from among the cherubim," that he went in and stood beside the wheels. And the cherub stretched out his hand from among the cherubim to the fire that was among the cherubim, and took some of it and put it into the hands of the man clothed with linen, who took it and went out. The cherubim appeared to have the form of a man's hand under their wings. And when I looked, there were four wheels by the cherubim, one wheel by one cherub and another wheel by each other cherub; the wheels appeared to have the color of a beryl stone. As for their appearance, all four looked alike - as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel."

When we come across these spirit horses again in Revelation, their riders are given authority to administer judgment on the earth. The bronze mountains show us that judgment is here in Zechariah too, but it is unclear whether the horses are given power to mete out judgment, or if we can deduce from Revelation that implied riders have that authority. Regardless, the authority comes from the Lord, who sends these horse-drawn chariots from the bronze mountains of judgment:

Isaiah 66:15-16 - For behold, the LORD will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword the LORD will judge all flesh; and the slain of the LORD shall be many.

Zechariah sees four different kinds of horses that come from the bronze mountains. There are also four different kinds of horses in Revelation. In Zechariah 1:8, the prophet sees three colors of horses. The table below shows the translated colors or markings of these horses, along with the original Hebrew for the Old Testament, original Greek for the New Testament, and translated Greek from Hebrew in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament:

Color of horse(s) Zechariah 1
(Hebrew)
Zechariah 6
(Hebrew)
Zechariah 1
(Greek)
Zechariah 6
(Greek)
Revelation 6
(Greek)
White Laban Laban Leukos Leukos Leukos
Red Adom Adom Purrhos Purrhos Purrhos
Black - Shachor - Melas Melas
Sorrel, Spotted, or Speckled Saroq - Psaros and Poiklilos - -
Dappled, Mottled, or Grisled - Barod - Poiklilos -
Pale Green - - - - Chloros

The white, red, and black horses match in the Greek. However, the last horse looks different between passages.

The Hebrew word "saroq" in Zechariah 1:8 is also used in Isaiah 16:8, translated as branches or vines, but literally means "clusters," as in the clustered fruit of the vine. The Septuagint translates "saroq" with two Greek words "psaros," which means speckled, and "poiklilos," which means varicolored, also used to describe Joseph's "coat of many colors" (Genesis 37:3).

The Hebrew word "barod" in Zechariah 6:6 is also used in Genesis 31:10, which means dappled, mottled, grisled, or gray-spotted. The Septuagint translates "barod" as "poiklilos," which means varicolored, also found in Zechariah 1:8. The translators of the Septuagint believed that this horse was similar, if not the same type of horse described in Zechariah 1:8, based on their use of the Greek word "poiklilos" for both.

In Revelation, John describes the last horse as "chloros," which means green. The same word is found in Mark 6:39, Revelation 8:7, and Revelation 9:4, to describe the color of grass and plants. At first glance, it looks like this horse is completely different from the horses in Zechariah. However, John seems to focus on the color, while Zechariah seems to focus on the pattern of the horses. Also, the color green has a large spectrum. A horse the color of green grass doesn't seem to fit the context of this horse being connected with death, which is probably why most translators call it a "pale" horse:

Revelation 6:8 - So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.

The following excerpt from the article: "Ancient Greek Color Vision" has some interesting insight about the color "chloros":

    As seen through the eyes of the Ancient Greeks, color perception is a very different thing than our own color perception.... In his writings Homer surprises us by his use of color. His color descriptive palate was limited to metallic colors, black, white, yellowish green and purplish red, and those colors he often used oddly, leaving us with some questions as to his actual ability to see colors properly.... He calls the sky "bronze" and the sea and sheep as the color of wine, he applies the adjective chloros (meaning green with our understanding) to honey, and a nightingale .... [W]e must think about his meaning, did he indeed see honey as green, did he not see the ocean as blue, how does his perception of color reflect on himself, his people, and his world.
    Homer's odd color description usage was a cultural phenomenon and not simply color blindness on his part, Pindar describes the dew as chloros, in Euripides chloros describes blood and tears. Empedocles, one of the earliest Ancient Greek color theorists, described color as falling into four areas, light or white, black or dark, red and yellow; Xenophanes described the rainbow as having three bands of color: purple, green/yellow, and red. These colors are fairly consistent with the four colors used by Homer in his color description, this leads us to the conclusion that all Ancient Greeks saw color only in the premise of Empedocles' colors, in some way they lacked the ability to perceive the whole color spectrum.

Based on this article, a pale green or greenish-yellow color is not out of the question. If Zechariah and John both saw the same type of horses, this might be what they saw:


Pale horse

This horse is a pale green color, with a variegated pattern that could be described as dappled, mottled, grisled, spotted, speckled, or even clustered like grapes on a vine. As we will see in the next section, the direction the Lord sends these horses out may support that the two prophets saw the same horse in all three visions.

Zechariah 6:6-7

6:6 - "The one with the black horses is going to the north country, the white are going after them, and the dappled are going toward the south country."

6:7 - Then the strong steeds went out, eager to go, that they might walk to and fro throughout the earth. And He said, "Go, walk to and fro throughout the earth." So they walked to and fro throughout the earth.

As mentioned in the last section, it is unclear if Zechariah and John saw the same type of fourth horse. That being said, note the four ways the pale green horse has authority to kill:

Revelation 6:8 - So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.

God warned Israel that if they didn't follow Him and His statutes, they would die from the wild beasts, the sword, pestilence, and famine:

Leviticus 26:21-26 - Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins. I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, destroy your livestock, and make you few in number; and your highways shall be desolate. And if by these things you are not reformed by Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you, and I will punish you yet seven times for your sins. And I will bring a sword against you that will execute the vengeance of the covenant; when you are gathered together within your cities I will send pestilence among you; and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. When I have cut off your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall bring back your bread by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.
Deuteronomy 32:20-25 - And He said: 'I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faith. They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God; they have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols. But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled in My anger, and shall burn to the lowest hell; it shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. 'I will heap disasters on them; I will spend My arrows on them. They shall be wasted with hunger, devoured by pestilence and bitter destruction; I will also send against them the teeth of beasts, with the poison of serpents of the dust. The sword shall destroy outside; there shall be terror within for the young man and virgin, the nursing child with the man of gray hairs.

These are the same as God's four judgments He poured out on Jerusalem through the Babylonians, though worded a little differently from Revelation:

Ezekiel 14:21 - For thus says the Lord GOD: "How much more it shall be when I send My four severe judgments on Jerusalem - the sword and famine and wild beasts and pestilence - to cut off man and beast from it?"
Ezekiel 5:15-17 - "'So it shall be a reproach, a taunt, a lesson, and an astonishment to the nations that are all around you, when I execute judgments among you in anger and in fury and in furious rebukes. I, the LORD, have spoken. When I send against them the terrible arrows of famine which shall be for destruction, which I will send to destroy you, I will increase the famine upon you and cut off your supply of bread. So I will send against you famine and wild beasts, and they will bereave you. Pestilence and blood shall pass through you, and I will bring the sword against you. I, the LORD, have spoken.' "
Ezekiel 33:27-28 - Say thus to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "As I live, surely those who are in the ruins shall fall by the sword, and the one who is in the open field I will give to the beasts to be devoured, and those who are in the strongholds and caves shall die of the pestilence. For I will make the land most desolate, her arrogant strength shall cease, and the mountains of Israel shall be so desolate that no one will pass through.'"
Jeremiah 15:2-3 - And it shall be, if they say to you, 'Where should we go?' then you shall tell them, 'Thus says the LORD: "Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity." ' "And I will appoint over them four forms of destruction," says the LORD: "the sword to slay, the dogs to drag, the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy."

Revelation 6 Ezekiel 14 Ezekiel 5 Ezekiel 33 Jeremiah 15
Sword Sword Sword Sword Sword
Hunger Famine Famine Desolate land Famine
Death Pestilence Pestilence & blood Pestilence Death
Beasts Wild Beasts Wild Beasts Beasts Beasts

The "north country" is the area north and east of Israel including Babylon, and Medo-Persia, who conquered Babylon:

Jeremiah 46:10-13 - For this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of vengeance, that He may avenge Himself on His adversaries. The sword shall devour; it shall be satiated and made drunk with their blood; for the Lord GOD of hosts has a sacrifice in the north country by the River Euphrates. "Go up to Gilead and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt; in vain you will use many medicines; you shall not be cured. The nations have heard of your shame, and your cry has filled the land; for the mighty man has stumbled against the mighty; they both have fallen together." The word that the LORD spoke to Jeremiah the prophet, how Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon would come and strike the land of Egypt.
Jeremiah 50:8-9 - "Move from the midst of Babylon, go out of the land of the Chaldeans; and be like the rams before the flocks. For behold, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country, and they shall array themselves against her; from there she shall be captured. Their arrows shall be like those of an expert warrior; none shall return in vain."

The "south country" naturally would be Egypt. When God announced through His prophets that Babylon would conquer Jerusalem, He warned the people to go into exile quietly. For those who tried to stay or flee to Egypt, God sent three of the four severe judgments after them:

Jeremiah 42:13-17 - "But if you say, 'We will not dwell in this land,' disobeying the voice of the LORD your God saying, 'No, but we will go to the land of Egypt where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor be hungry for bread, and there we will dwell' - Then hear now the word of the LORD, O remnant of Judah! Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: 'If you wholly set your faces to enter Egypt, and go to dwell there, then it shall be that the sword which you feared shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt; the famine of which you were afraid shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there you shall die. So shall it be with all the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to dwell there. They shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. And none of them shall remain or escape from the disaster that I will bring upon them.'"
Jeremiah 44:13-14 - For I will punish those who dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, so that none of the remnant of Judah who have gone into the land of Egypt to dwell there shall escape or survive, lest they return to the land of Judah, to which they desire to return and dwell. For none shall return except those who escape.

Beasts are not mentioned directly in the passages about Judah fleeing to Egypt. However, the following prophecy about the judgment on Judah, at the hands of Babylon, describes the beasts as cleaning up the dead bodies, but not causing death like the other three judgments:

Jeremiah 34:17-21 - "Therefore thus says the LORD: 'You have not obeyed Me in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother and every one to his neighbor. Behold, I proclaim liberty to you,' says the LORD 'to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine! And I will deliver you to trouble among all the kingdoms of the earth. And I will give the men who have transgressed My covenant, who have not performed the words of the covenant which they made before Me, when they cut the calf in two and passed between the parts of it - the princes of Judah, the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf - I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their life. Their dead bodies shall be for meat for the birds of the heaven and the beasts of the earth. And I will give Zedekiah king of Judah and his princes into the hand of their enemies, into the hand of those who seek their life, and into the hand of the king of Babylon's army which has gone back from you.'"

The theme of these four severe judgments is certainly death. God clearly warned that anyone who went to Egypt instead of surrendering to Babylon would die by three of the four severe judgments. Their dead bodies would be meat for the beasts, which is the fourth of the severe judgments. Therefore, the pale green horse in Revelation and the dappled horses in Zechariah both involve the four severe judgments of God. The variegated pattern of this horse may reflect the manifold judgment that comes when the Lord sends this type of horse out.

That being said, Jeremiah pictured the Gentiles that attacked Israel as beasts, and thus these nations could be considered one of the four severe judgments of God:

Jeremiah 12:9-12 - My heritage is to Me like a speckled vulture; the vultures all around are against her. Come, assemble all the beasts of the field, bring them to devour! "Many rulers have destroyed My vineyard, they have trodden My portion underfoot; they have made My pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. They have made it desolate; desolate, it mourns to Me; the whole land is made desolate, because no one takes it to heart. The plunderers have come on all the desolate heights in the wilderness, for the sword of the LORD shall devour from one end of the land to the other end of the land; no flesh shall have peace.

God sends out the horses in Zechariah in specific directions. The horse-drawn chariots originate in Heaven, but the point of reference for their movement on the earth is Israel, since this is where Zechariah was given his visions. The white and black horses go north, the dappled horses go south. The red horses are not sent in a specific direction, but go out with the other horses throughout the earth, after the other horses first go in the direction the Lord sends them:


Strong Steeds

Notice that the dappled horses go south of Israel, or toward Egypt. As shown earlier in this section, when Judah fled to Egypt instead of surrendering to Babylon, God sent out His judgments of death after them. Note the pale horse in Revelation 6:8 involved the same judgments God used against Judah in Egypt. This is further evidence that John and Zechariah saw the same kind of horse; John described the color, while Zechariah described the pattern.

We will go into more detail about what the other colors of the horses represent in the verse-by-verse study of Revelation, but for now, here is a summary, based on the context they are given:

Color of Horse in Revelation 6 Meaning
White Conquest
Red War and Bloodshed
Black Desolation and Famine
Pale Green Death

If the white horse means conquest, and the black horse means famine in Revelation, do they mean the same in Zechariah? Look where these horses go in Zechariah's vision. Babylon conquered the Assyrians, which is north of Israel. The prophet Nahum prophesied desolation of Nineveh, the seat of the Assyrian Empire:

Nahum 2:8-10 - Though Nineveh of old was like a pool of water, now they flee away. "Halt! Halt!" they cry; but no one turns back. Take spoil of silver! Take spoil of gold! There is no end of treasure, or wealth of every desirable prize. She is empty, desolate, and waste! The heart melts, and the knees shake; much pain is in every side, and all their faces are drained of color.

The white horse of conquest and the black horse of desolation coming to Assyria certainly fit the same meaning of the horses in Revelation. As shown to Zechariah, all the horses go throughout the world after the white and black horses go north and the dappled horses go south. The red horse in Revelation means war and bloodshed. After Babylon conquered Assyria, Israel, and Egypt, they continued to expand their empire through war, until the Medes and Persians overpowered them. Therefore, the red horse in Zechariah's vision is also about war like John's vision in Revelation. In the midst of war, Egypt suffered the judgments of death, represented by the dappled horse, as a result of welcoming those fleeing from Judah:

Jeremiah 44:13-14 - For I will punish those who dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, so that none of the remnant of Judah who have gone into the land of Egypt to dwell there shall escape or survive, lest they return to the land of Judah, to which they desire to return and dwell. For none shall return except those who escape.

All the horses in both Revelation and Zechariah have a global scope, as they "walked to and fro throughout the earth." Zechariah saw the conquest and desolation in the white and black horses, death in the dappled horses, and expanding war in the red horses, just like John in Revelation. But the global conquest never found fruition because another empire came up stronger, restarting the cycle of conquest, desolation, and death through war. In Revelation, there will only be one empire, and the conquest of the antichrist will stretch to the farthest parts of earth:

Daniel 7:23 - "Thus he said: 'The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces."
Daniel 11:41 - He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown....

Going back to the four horns in Zechariah 1:18, if the craftsmen are on earth, then each subsequent horn would be the craftsman that cast out the horn that was in power at the time. The pattern of conquest and desolation, followed by more war, continued through the empires of all the horns. The last empire, or the revived Roman Empire, will come in the wake of war, desolation, and death, after conquest.

Notice that the empire conquered by each horn is north of Israel. Each subsequent horn took over both Egypt and Israel. The severe judgments of God: the sword, famine, pestilence and wild beasts naturally follow war and conquest. The horses' movement in Zechariah's vision fit the conquest of all the empires:

White and Black Horse - North Dappled Horse - South Red Horse - Global
Babylon conquers Assyria Egypt taken in conquest by Babylon Global conquest in war continued until Medo-Persia defeated Babylon
Medo-Persia conquers Babylon Egypt taken in conquest by Persia Global conquest in war continued until Greece defeated Medo-Persia
Greece conquers Medo-Persia Egypt taken in conquest by Greece Global conquest in war continued until Rome defeated Greece
Rome conquers Greece Egypt taken in conquest by Rome Global conquest ended when the society collapsed in Rome. Once revived, global conquest in war will continue until the Lord destroys the global empire.

To reiterate, each horn conquered the seat of the ruling empire. The seat of each empire was north of Israel and their conquest spread south, taking Israel and Egypt. War continued in each empire, expanding their territory until the next horn arose in power. In other words, the white and black horses went north of Israel when a horn conquered the ruling empire, the dappled horses went south when the new ruling empire continued their conquest, taking Israel and Egypt. The red horses and all the horses ride out in war, conquest, desolation and death, as the empire expands. Here are the empires at their furthest extent:

Empires in the Holy Lands
Maps by Wayne Blank @ "www.keyway.ca"

Zechariah 6:8

6:8 - And He called to me, and spoke to me, saying, "See, those who go toward the north country have given rest to My Spirit in the north country."

The horses' mission is to give rest to, or quiet the Spirit of the Lord, or the Holy Spirit. The earth was "resting" in Zechariah 1:11, where we are first introduced to these spiritual horses, after the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon:

Isaiah 14:3-7 - It shall come to pass in the day the LORD gives you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear and the hard bondage in which you were made to serve, that you will take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say: "How the oppressor has ceased, the golden city ceased! The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers; he who struck the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he who ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted and no one hinders. The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing."

But God was angry:

Zechariah 1:15 - I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease; for I was a little angry, and they helped-but with evil intent.

God used the Persian king to punish Babylon in the "north," bring the exiles back to Israel, and rebuild the temple. It is interesting to note, Zechariah 6:9-14, which comes after this passage, is about the temple. The nations in the "north country" God used for judgment, but they had "evil intent." God later judged these nations for their motives. In the following passage, we see that judgment quieted the Lord's "fury," or anger, toward Jerusalem:

Ezekiel 16:42-43 - "So I will lay to rest My fury toward you, and My jealousy shall depart from you. I will be quiet, and be angry no more. Because you did not remember the days of your youth, but agitated Me with all these things, surely I will also recompense your deeds on your own head," says the Lord GOD. "And you shall not commit lewdness in addition to all your abominations."

God's "fury" is "wrath":

Job 20:23 - When he is about to fill his stomach, God will cast on him the fury of His wrath, and will rain it on him while he is eating.

If the spirit horses' mission is to quiet the Spirit of the Lord, and His fury is judgment unto wrath, it is no surprise that these same types of horses arrive at the beginning of the Tribulation in Revelation. In the Tribulation, the Lord's fury will be against "all nations":

Isaiah 34:2-4, 8 - For the indignation of the Lord is against all nations, and His fury against all their armies; He has utterly destroyed them, He has given them over to the slaughter. Also their slain shall be thrown out; their stench shall rise from their corpses, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; all their host shall fall down as the leaf falls from the vine, and as fruit falling from a fig tree.... For it is the day of the Lord's vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion.

The horses in Zechariah quieted the Lord's Spirit after the fall of Babylon. But Babylon will fall twice. Judgment is proclaimed against Babylon after the chariot of horses arrives:

Isaiah 21:6-9 - For thus has the Lord said to me: "Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he sees." And he saw a chariot with a pair of horsemen, a chariot of donkeys, and a chariot of camels, and he listened earnestly with great care. Then he cried, "A lion, my Lord! I stand continually on the watchtower in the daytime; I have sat at my post every night. And look, here comes a chariot of men with a pair of horsemen!" Then he answered and said, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen! And all the carved images of her gods He has broken to the ground."

The second time Babylon falls will be right before Jesus returns:

Revelation 18:2-8, 20 - And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury." And I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, 'I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.' Therefore her plagues will come in one day - death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.... Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!"

After Babylon falls the second time, and the Spirit of the Lord will rest when the Lord returns in judgment:

Isaiah 59:16-21 & 62:1- He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness, it sustained Him. For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, fury to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; the coastlands He will fully repay. So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him. "The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," Says the LORD. "As for Me," says the LORD, "this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants' descendants," says the LORD, "from this time and forevermore...." For Zion's sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns.

In this introduction to the four horses in Revelation, we have learned that God sends these spirit beings to the earth in times of judgment against Judah. The last such judgment will begin at the start of Daniel's 70th Week, which is the last seven years of the 490 years determined in Daniel 9:24. When God sends the horses out in judgment in Revelation, it is not only against the Jews, but also against the inhabitants of the world. The horses will ride to quiet the Lord's fury against all nations, as shown in the passages in this section. Now that we understand the purpose of these horses of judgment, we can move on to our verse-by-verse study of Revelation.

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Revelation Flow Chart:

Revelation Flow Chart

 
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