“And I looked, and behold! a pale horse; and the one seated upon it had the name Death.”
“Do the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse indicate that the events of Revelation have already begun?”
The character of the horsemen might give that impression, but it is not so. Rather they depict the context, or adverse conditions on Mankind, in which the events of Revelation take place.
Ride of the HorsemenThree of the horsemen represent war, impoverishment and death – crises which have always been with us. These are not Divine creations, but personifications of the consequences of our flawed human character as it has developed during our era of independence. The other (first) horseman is Jesus Christ – the one who has been given a crown – who will complete the conquest he began when he “conquered the world” by his ransom sacrifice in the 1st century (John 16:33).
The first horseman is not chasing the other three horses directly, but rather is riding against that which causes them: wayward Mankind:
And I saw the heaven opened, and, look! a white horse. And the one seated upon it is called Faithful (Galatians 3:23-25) and True (John 8:32), and he judges and fights in righteousness. His eyes are a fiery flame, and many diadems are upon his head. He has a name written that not even one perceived unless [they were of the] same [leaning as Jesus Christ], and he is arrayed with an outer garment sprinkled with blood, and the name he is called is “The Word of God” (John 1:1).
Removing the CauseHere, having concluded his conquests of rebellious ones, Jesus Christ wears “many diadems” – just as the Mediaeval King of England, Scotland and France had a triple crown and Pharaoh wore a dual crown representing the King of the north and the King of the south. These “many diadems” represent the crowns of rebellious kings (Revelation 17:12-14) who wage war on Jesus Christ during his reign, whose diadems Jesus Christ will take for himself as he vanquishes them during his conquest. When that aspect of human behaviour has been removed, those three horsemen — War, Impoverishment and Death — will no longer have the catalyst to sustain them.
As a “closing bookend” to this, Revelation tells us of the moment when Jesus’ reign concludes and God takes possession of the earth:
“The tent of God is with Mankind, and He will reside with them and they will be His peoples. God Himself will be with them. And He will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither mourning, nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”
Just as these act as “bookends” to the vision’s events, so too Revelation 19:11-17 acts as a primer to identify the rider of the white horse as the King Jesus Christ.These former things – represented by those three horsemen – will have run to their finish by the action of the first horseman, Jesus Christ, who removes their cause and educates remaining Mankind toward life. Once removed, our King to be Almighty God Jehovah (1st to the Corinthians 15:24-28) will prevent them from ever happening again.
However, besides explaining their character and demise, Revelation also shows when these horses will begin their ride.
TimingThe first event of Christ’s reign is depicted as a great shout of praise:
And I heard every creature that is in heaven and on earth and underneath the earth and on the sea, and all the things in them, saying:
“To the One sitting on the throne and to the Lamb be the blessing and the honour and the glory and the might forever and ever.”
This unanimous shout of praise from the earth has never happened before, but it will spring from the worldwide expression of relief at God’s Divine Rescue from the climate crisis. Hearts will have different motives: some in relief at the rescue, others in delight at our Lord’s return, others at God’s Own intervention, whereas others - especially those in the Heavens - will be giving thanks that all creation has begun to be united again under God’s care. Whatever the hearts motives, this will be a unique cry of praise.
Only after this do the horsemen begin their ride. Firstly the white horse signifying the start of Christ’s reign to complete the conquest he began spiritually at his resurrection. Later, the three horses which follow show that despite his reign, the familiar problems of war, famine and death will intrude horribly, caused by the unrest precipitated by those who rebel against the new way — the ones who are the subject of the dreadful events in Revelation.
Establishing the ContextThe similarity between the characters of the three horsemen and Mankind’s problems today is inevitable, because they are the same problems. However the theme of the Bible has not concluded, our Lord has not yet returned, his coronation – a glorious and unmistakeable event – has not taken place: the Lord’s day (Revelation 1:10) – the era in which the events of the vision of Revelation all take place — has not yet begun. In showing the context for the start of Revelation, the apostle John shows that these problems will continue – even during our Lord’s reign. But when those who cause them have been removed or educated to a finer way of life, then those former things will have passed away — forever.