Revelation 6:8

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

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. Revelation 6:8

With the fourth seal opened, John’s eyes are directed to the last horrifying horse and rider. As it says, “So I looked, and behold a pale horse.” The Greek word translated as “pale” is chlóros. It indicates, like Clorox Bleach, a sickly pale greenish color. Without explicitly saying so, this is a horse of sickness and plague – an obvious connotation from the color. The Pulpit Commentary notes, “The Greek poets use it as an epithet of fear, and Thucydides thus describes the colour of persons affected by the plague.”

With that in mind, John next says, “And the name of him who sat on it.” Here is a difference from the first three horses. In each previous instance, the word epi was used, signifying “on.” However, with this rider, the word epanó is used. It signifies “over,” or “above.” It is as if he hovers above the horse like an apparition. So deadly is he that if he sat on the horse, the beast itself would immediately die. This is because his name is “Death.”

Here, the Greek reads “the Death.” By simply capitalizing the word, the thought is made understandable. Death is personified by this ghastly figure. It is similar in thought to Isaiah’s words where death is also prefixed by an article in the Hebrew –

“He will swallow up death forever, (Literally: ha’mavet – “the Death.”)
And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces;
The rebuke of His people
He will take away from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 25:8

Here, in Revelation, John says the rider is Death, “and Hades followed with him.” Again, there is an article before “Hades.” It is “the Hades.” Like Death, the place of Death is personified. Isaiah personifies sheol, the place of the dead, in a similar manner by giving it lifelike attribues, saying –

“Hell from beneath is excited about you,
To meet you at your coming;
It stirs up the dead for you,
All the chief ones of the earth;
It has raised up from their thrones
All the kings of the nations.” Isaia4:9

It is to be understood that Hades follows with Death. The idea signifies “after-with,” as in being accompanied. Thus, the Pulpit Commentary rightly states, “…not as a separate infliction, but as the necessary complement of Death in the completion of the vision, swallowing up and guarding, as it were, those seized by the latter.”

Of this horse and rider, John next says, “And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth.” Views vary on the scope of this. The term ges is used. It can be the earth, a country, the inhabitants of a region, and so on. At times, it may signify only the land of Israel, or it may signify the Roman Empire. But the sense seems rather clear. This is a heavenly vision being sent to the people of the earth, and so it appears that a quarter of the population of the planet will fall under the power of the rider, who is Death.

Of the means in which he brings about his destruction of humanity, John next says, “to kill with sword.” The plague of the sword is mentioned first. The Greek word signifies a long and broad cutlass, but it can be used figuratively as well. The idea is that of the implements of man cutting one another down. Even nations cutting down other nations in battle would be included in the destruction. That is then followed “with hunger.”

The word gives the sense of a scarcity of food, dearth, and famine. It is a natural consequence of war. The first means, the sword, leads naturally to this means. Next, it says, “with death.” It is the same word as used when describing the Death above. This is death that occurs in any manner. As the other means of death are explicitly stated, this is a catchall phrase to include any manner of death that would occur along with them, but probably “pestilence” gives the sense of what can be expected. It is a natural consequence of a world filled with war, famine, and captivity.

John then finishes the terrifying thought with, “and by the beasts of the earth.” This is probably to be taken in two separate ways. The first is literally. With war and depopulation, animals such as dogs and the like will become packs of killers. Other animals would also go on the offense against weakened humans.    

However, with the rise of modern diseases stemming from animals – both natural and manmade – it can be assumed that things like equine encephalitis, swine flu, bird flu, mad cow disease, ebola virus, typhoid, AIDs, malaria, coronavirus, and etc., would all be a part of this type of death. The diseases of animals, jumping to humans are occurring more and more, even now. When the world is in a state of chaotic war, there will not be the funds available to stop such outbreaks, and they will spread like lightning over the earth. They will be able to kill in the billions with little chance of containing them.

Life application: What is seen in this verse is not unlike what Jeremiah was told would come upon the people of the land for their disobedience –

“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. I will hand them over to trouble, to all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem. Jeremiah 15:2-4

What was prophesied to them is not unlike what John sees will come upon the entire world someday. Israel had forsaken the Lord their God, and they suffered because of it. Since the coming of Christ, He has been made known throughout the entire world. And the world that has rejected Him will likewise suffer.

What seems like a world of peace and prosperity right now could, within an extremely short period, turn into a world of war, famine, disease, and utter ruin. Not only could it happen, it will happen. When the rapture occurs, it will be a mere seven-year period before man, who numbers about 7 to 8 billion right now, will be brought almost to extinction. The Lord, through Isaiah, says, “I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, A man more than the golden wedge of Ophir” (Isaiah 13:12). And Jesus’ own words tell us it is so –

“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” Matthew 24:21-22

Only those who have called out to the Lord Jesus in faith will be taken at the rapture. Now is time to consider what the word says, to humble yourself, and to admit you are a sinner in need of a Savior. That Savior – and He alone – is JESUS!

O great God Almighty, we who know what the Bible says look with dread at what is coming upon the world. It tears at our souls that what is coming could have been avoided – simply by acknowledging Jesus as our Lord. We pray for those who have not yet accepted this truth, desiring that many will realize it before it is too late. Amen.


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