The Way It Happened

Revelation 6:7-8, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Part V of V

When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

//This is the concluding post for our discussion of the four horsemen, and how they relate to the time of John of Patmos. If this historical-critical treatment of Revelation intrigues you, be sure to pick up my book at

The fourth rider brings the expected climax after the famine and bloodshed of prior horsemen: Death. The color of this horse, rendered “pale” in the New International Version, actually denotes a pallid yellowish-green, the color of putrifaction. Again I’ll quote first-century historian Josephus about the Jerusalem war of 70 A.D.: “So all hope of escaping was now cut off from the Jews, together with their liberty of going out of the city. Then did the famine widen its progress, and devoured the people by whole houses and families; the upper rooms were full of women and children that were dying by famine; and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged.” He goes on to describe the stench of the dead bodies and the thick putrefaction occurring around them. Josephus’ estimate of the number of Jews dying from this war is 1.2 million.

Only by grasping the utter horror of the time can we appreciate the context of Revelation. Written in a period before the tension escalated between Jews and Christians, Revelation is a poem of hope offered to the survivors of Judea, encouraging them to remain true to God and promising better times ahead.

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