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The "Four Horsemen
of the Apocalypse"

In Revelation 6:2, the opening passage describes a vision of four horsemen who are harbingers of calamities to come:

 

SEAL #1 (WHITE HORSE)

I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

 

The first horse is white, and its rider carries a bow, and was given a "crown".  Traditionally, this white horse has been associated with various interpretations, including conquest, the spread of false religion, or the arrival of the Antichrist.

 

Under another interpretation, the first Horseman is called Pestilence and is associated with infectious disease and plague. It appears at least as early as 1906 in the Jewish Encyclopedia.  This particular interpretation is common in popular culture references to the Four Horsemen.   

Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, in his 1916 novel The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (filmed in 1921 and 1962), provides an early example of this interpretation, writing, "The horseman on the white horse was clad in a showy and barbarous attire... While his horse continued galloping, he was bending his bow in order to spread pestilence abroad. At his back swung the brass quiver filled with poisoned arrows, containing the germs of all diseases."

 

Coronavirus pandemic: in March 2020:

The symbolic interpretation of the white horse as Pestilence -- in the context of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic in 2020 -- is a thought-provoking concept.  While this interpretation is not universally accepted, it offers an intriguing perspective on the profound impact of the pandemic.

Perhaps most compellingly, the concept of  "toxon" in ancient Greece, which referred to both a bow and a poison-tipped arrow, provides historical context.  Archers in ancient Greece would dip their arrows in poison to make them more lethal, and "toxikon" initially referred to poison-tipped arrows before eventually encompassing the poison itself. This evolution of language suggests a connection between arrows, poison, and the spread of harm.


In the case of the coronavirus pandemic, the "arrows" can be seen as the virus itself, causing widespread harm and suffering. The rapid and often silent transmission of the virus mirrors the stealthy nature of poison-tipped arrows.

 

In addition, the mention of "stephanos" (crown) can be directly related to the physical characteristics of the virus. The crown-like spikes are an inherent feature of the virus, and this connection strengthens the association between the pandemic and the white horse symbolism.

The pandemic has indeed conquered, in a sense, by spreading far and wide, affecting nearly every corner of the globe.  Furthermore, the devastating consequences of COVID-19, from loss of life to economic disruption, parallel the biblical notion of a pestilence that brings widespread suffering and death. The pandemic has tested the resilience of healthcare systems, economies, and societies on a global scale, leaving an indelible mark on the world's history.

SEAL #2 (RED HORSE)

When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.

 

The Red Horse symbolizes conflict, violence, and war.  The color red is traditionally associated with bloodshed, violence, and war, making it a fitting choice for the horse that represents these concepts. The rider is given a "great sword," indicating the magnitude and severity of the conflicts that will unfold. The Red Horse's mission is to "take peace from the earth," signifying the disruption of tranquility and the onset of strife on a global scale.

Invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022:

This conflict marked a significant and troubling event in modern history.  It can be argued that this event disrupted the relative peace that had prevailed in Europe since the end of the Cold War in 1989. This invasion, and the subsequent conflict in Ukraine, exemplify the idea of " taking peace from the earth," as described in the symbolism of the Red Horse in the Book of Revelation.

This invasion and the subsequent hostilities were a stark reminder that geopolitical conflicts and territorial ambitions could still disrupt the tranquility that had prevailed for several decades. The Red Horse's symbolism, with its " great sword" representing the magnitude of conflicts, aligns with the scale and intensity of the violence in Ukraine.

From 1989 until 2022, Europe had experienced a period of relative stability and peace after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The end of the Cold War brought about the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, and the broader process of democratization and economic development in Eastern and Central Europe. The prospect of a peaceful and united continent seemed promising.

However, Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 shattered this illusion of enduring peace. The annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine represented a blatant violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty. The conflict resulted in the loss of thousands of lives, displacement of civilians, and a profound humanitarian crisis. It also strained relations between Russia and Western nations, leading to sanctions, diplomatic tensions, and increased military deployments in the region

Hamas Invasion of Israel on October 7, 2023

On October 7, 2023, hundreds of Hamas gunmen crossed from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, breaking through the heavily guarded perimeter fence, landing by sea, and using paragliders. It was the most serious cross-border attack against Israel in more than a generation.

 

SEAL #3 (BLACK HORSE)

When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds a of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”

 

In Revelation 6:6, the black horseman is described as causing famine and out of control inflation.  John hears a voice, unidentified but coming from among the four living creatures, that speaks of the prices of wheat and barley, saying, "and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine". This suggests that the black horse's famine is to drive up the price of grain but leave oil and wine supplies unaffected (though out of reach of the ordinary worker).  One explanation is that grain crops would have been more naturally susceptible to famine years or locust plagues than olive trees and grapevines, which root more deeply.

The statement might also suggest a continuing abundance of luxuries for the wealthy, while staples, such as bread, are scarce, though not completely depleted.  Such selective scarcity may result from injustice and the deliberate production of luxury crops for the wealthy over grain, as would have happened during the time the Book of Revelation was written.  Alternatively, the preservation of oil and wine could symbolize the preservation of the Christian faithful, who use oil and wine in their sacraments.

The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine:

This conflict has affected the production and distribution of barley and wheat. Ukraine is one of the world's largest producers of grains, including wheat and barley, and any disruptions to its agriculture sector can have significant impacts on global markets.  The conflict in Ukraine has led to disruptions in the supply chains for agricultural products, including grains.  These disruptions can lead to higher prices for consumers and reduced access to food for those who are already vulnerable to food insecurity.

Vladimir Putin said the grain deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain safely through the Black Sea won’t be restored until the West meets its obligations to facilitate Russian agricultural exports.  Russia pulled out of the deal in July 2023, complaining that its own food and fertiliser exports faced obstacles and that not enough Ukrainian grain was going to countries in need.  Putin has said Russia could return to the grain deal if the West fulfils a separate memorandum agreed with the UN at the same time to facilitate Russian food and fertiliser exports.

SEAL #4 (DEATH)

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.

The Pale Horse is the fourth and final horseman, indicating that it represents the culmination of the preceding three horsemen — war, famine, and plague. Together, they symbolize the complete breakdown of society. 

The significance of the Pale Horse in the Book of Revelation extends beyond its symbolism and interpretations. It serves as a stark reminder of the fragility of human existence and the consequences of our actions.

References:  Wikipedia ("Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse"); ChatGPT 3.5

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