Revelation 6:2 And I saw... a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
Horses in the Bible are symbols of warfare. In the Old Testament this was their only use.
White is associated with righteousness.
Revelation 3:4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
Revelation 7:14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Revelation 19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
Revelation 19:14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
We might reasonably assume that the white horse represents the preaching of the gospel. A warfare that was not carnal but prospered nonetheless throughout the civilised world.
Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
2 Corinthians 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
Acts 17:6... These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;
Revelation 6:4 And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
Red is associated with bloodshed and the description supports it.
Matthew 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
Matthew 24:6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
Revelation 6:5... I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. 6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
Black is associated with famine and again the description supports it.
Lamentations 5:10 Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine.
Whether we understand this to represent a literal famine of bread or a famine of hearing the word of God where truth comes at a personal cost (reference to the oil and the wine has spiritual connotations) doesn’t really affect the overall symbolism of the horses.
Revelation 6:8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Pale – Greek ‘Chloros’ – greenish and therefore sickly; associated with death by various means. Hell – Greek ‘hades’ – the grave.
In the Old Testament Zechariah has a prophetic vision of horses; red, black, white and grisled and bay (mixed colour). He is told that they represent ‘the four spirits of the heavens’.
Zechariah 6:1 And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass. 2 In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses; 3 And in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot grisled and bay horses. 4 Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these, my lord? 5 And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.
‘Spirits’ is the Hebrew word ‘ruach’ which is also translated ‘winds’ as in Jeremiah 49:36 and Daniel 7:2.
Jeremiah 49:36 And upon Elam will I bring the four winds (‘ruach’) from the four quarters of heaven, and will scatter them toward all those winds; and there shall be no nation whither the outcasts of Elam shall not come.
Daniel 7:2 Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds (‘ruach’) of the heaven strove upon the great sea.
In context the striving of the four winds represents the strife arising between nations from the four quarters of the earth as a result of which change is wrought amongst governments and peoples.
The result of the symbolical work of the horses / spirits / winds was to accomplish what God purposed among the nations with respect to his people Israel.
Zechariah 6:6 The black horses which are therein go forth into the north country; and the white go forth after them; and the grisled go forth toward the south country. 7 And the bay went forth, and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth: and he said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth. So they walked to and fro through the earth. 8 Then cried he upon me, and spake unto me, saying, Behold, these that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country.
If we read back this information into Revelation 6, we might reasonably suppose that the horses represent God’s control of the affairs of nations (through their free choice) in order to bring to fruition his purpose with his elect – those who believe and obey the gospel; whether Jew or Gentile.
God controls who rules in the kingdoms of men as we are told in Daniel 4:17 and Romans 13:1.
Daniel 4:17 This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.
Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
The purpose of God is worked out through preaching, wars (although the nations engaged in war do it for their own ends), disease and natural disasters. Through all these things the nations are constrained to fulfil God’s long term purpose. The number of God’s elect will be made up and Jesus Christ will return at the appointed time.
Jesus describes it thus:
Matthew 24:6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. 9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
In these verses we have each of the elements represented by the four horses:
V 14... this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations
V 7 nation shall rise against nation... 9... shall kill you
V 7... there shall be famines (literal famine)
V 11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many (spiritual famine).
V 7... famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places
Those who believe and understand the scriptures are forewarned and know to expect all these things. Because of this knowledge they are not perplexed by the events that happen but are rather encouraged endure to the end.
I hope you have found this helpful.
God bless you,