7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 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. ~ Revelation 6:7-8
We return today to Revelation 6 to the only one worthy enough to open the seals to the scroll. Today, we come to the fourth seal represented by a pale horse. The Apostle John uses the Greek word "chloros" translated "pale." We get our word "chlorine" from this Greek word. The word "chloros" appears several times in the New Testament in connection with grass or vegetation.
According to v.8, the rider on this pale horse was death. The combination of the two, pale and death, represents decomposition, or a corpse. And fittingly, death is followed by Hades which is just another word for the grave. Death claims the body and Hades claims the soul.
There are four forms of death that are related to this attack. First, the sword, which here is not war but murder; individual assault upon one another. It is people taking the law into their own hands and murdering other people without regard to justice or law.
With murder comes famine or widespread starvation. The Lord Jesus spoke of such famines in Matthew 24. There would be on earth, he said, earthquakes, famines and plagues or pestilences which is the third form of death in this verse. These pestilences are endemic diseases. When civilization begins to crumble, the defenses of mankind against diseases are lost, as well. Whole populations are decimated by such pestilences. There may be a reference here to biological warfare, the willful spreading of diseases among people so that they are wiped out en masse.
The fourth form of death will be by the wild beasts of the earth who will attack people. A "fourth of the earth" will be given over to these four forms of death, and a fourth of the population will die. There are 7.7 billion people on earth today and that would mean that almost 2 billion people will be decimated by these four forms of death. Rats are annually responsible for the loss of billions of dollars of food in America alone, and death all over the world. Rats infested with bubonic plague killed one-third of the population of Europe in the fourteenth century. Rats can carry as many as thirty-five diseases at once. And amazingly, if ninety-five percent of the rat population is exterminated in the given area, it will replace itself in less than a year. It has killed more people than all the wars of history, and it always makes its home where people dwell.
These four seal-judgments are all references to forces that are already at work among us, but they will be carried to an unprecedented extreme in that day. Thus, these four seals confirm God's announced method of making men face up to truth. He will do this by removing His leash from evil, allowing it to have its full expression. Romans 1 declares that He will "give men over" to their own evil, and will allow it unrestricted manifestation.
These four expressions of death have been predicted by God to be His means of final judgment in a number of Old Testament passages. Jeremiah 14:12, He says, “I’m going to make an end of them by the sword, famine, and pestilence.” In this one verse, three of these four forms of death are mentioned. And then again in Jeremiah 44:13 we read, “I will punish those who live in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem with the sword, with the famine, and with pestilence.”
With war and famine and earthquakes, sanitation goes. No medicine, living conditions descend to a primitive level, and the rats may be the wild beasts that run wild to kill. Awesome, divine judgment. And this is only the beginning, only the beginning; far more to come.
And sadly, it isn’t even until the sixth seal that the people recognize that God is the source of this. The writer of Hebrews asks, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” And the answer is, we won’t. But the Lord Jesus has provided a way of escape. I trust, my friend, that you have trusted solely in the Lord Jesus as your savior. If so, you will escape this awful period of time.