Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are described in the last book of the New Testament of the Bible, called the Book of Revelation of Jesus Christ to John of Patmos, at 6:1-8. The chapter tells of a book or scroll in God's right hand that is sealed with seven seals. The Lamb of God opens the first four of the seven seals, which summons four beings that ride out on white, red, black, and pale horses.

The four riders are often seen as symbolizing Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death. The Christian apocalyptic vision is that the four horsemen are to set a divine apocalypse upon the world as harbingers of the Last Judgment.

Albrecht Dürer, Knight, Death and the Devil, 1513
The first horseman is called Pestilence, and is associated with infectious disease and plague. It appears at least as early as 1906. "They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine, plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth." (Revelation 6:7-8 NASB). It is a matter of debate as to whether this passage refers to the fourth rider, or to the four riders as a whole.

The rider of the second horse is often taken to represent War. His horse's color is red. The color red, as well as the rider's possession of a great sword, suggests blood that is to be spilled.

When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him. — Revelation 6:3-4

When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; but do not damage the oil and the wine.”
The third horseman rides a black horse and is popularly understood to be Famine as the horseman carries a pair of balances or weighing scales, indicating the way that bread would have been weighed during a famine. — Revelation 6:5-6
The fourth and final horseman is named Death. Of all the riders, he is the only one to whom the text explicitly gives a name. Unlike the other three, he is not described carrying a weapon or other object, instead he is followed by Hades. Illustrations commonly depict him carrying a scythe.

When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth. — Revelation 6:7-8