This fourth seal continues the train of events played out under the first three. It shows what will happen once the wars and famines have spread. In this self–satisfied age of ours, and as western Americans, we can hardly conceive of such things occurring in our part of the world. But a bit of sober reflection will quickly apprise us of our folly.
Not only has humanity long been heading downhill in a moral sense, but the vision in Revelation 6 tells us that at some future time the world must pay for its disobedience to God. In Ezekiel 16, God tells the prophet that Sodom was destroyed on account of “pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness,” as well as neglect of the poor. This should send a shout of warning to the nations now at ease. Once Christ begins breaking the seals, escape from tribulation will no longer be an option.
Many prophecy students think that the present Middle-Eastern crisis will bring about the conditions described so vividly in these seal judgments. A massive attack on Israel and western interests by a confederation of Islamic states, for instance, could precipitate the world into a WWIII scenario. This would certainly trigger wars and famines and pestilences, and make possible the rise of an Antichrist figure.
But let’s not forget who is behind the curtains. In the breaking of the seals, all judgments proceed from God. However, most of the disasters and depredations will be brought about by the immediate agency of the white horse rider. The red and the black are followed by yet another rider. Let’s find out who he is, and what events he brings with him to the inhabitants of earth.
(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 the sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”
Wherever famine reigns during the tribulation, pestilence will rear its ugly head. We are not sure whether the pestilence here mentioned has causal connection with the preceding famines. However, it appears as one factor in a series of judgments which will come upon the world for its iniquity– warfare and famine being the other two. These judgments are set into operation, as we have seen previously, by the rise of Antichrist, which will probably take place during the first half of Daniel’s 70th week.
The color of the horse is “pale,” the Greek word chloros signifying a pasty green color. This is a corpselike hue quite in keeping with the rider who sits thereon, whose name is death. We are here informed that the events of the fourth seal must be more terrible than the previous three. This is why hell is seen following the pale horse rider as its attendant; to remind us that all death, which is separation of body from soul, will end in the gathering of bodies to the grave, and of souls to the “intermediate state,” where they’ll await the resurrection.
Here the word death is put by the figure metonymy, as the effect for the cause. The cause is sword, hunger, and pestilence. The effect is death. The jurisdiction of this seal is “a fourth part of the earth”–earth signifiying the Adamic creation, and not one particular part of the globe. The “fourth part” may refer, however, to the confines of the revived Roman empire, as many think, or even some unidentified nation which will play a key part in last-days events. It is most probable that it refers to the lands over which Antichrist will extend his dominion, as he marches forward on his career of conquest.
During the first half of Daniel’s 70th week, or toward the close of the sunteleia which merges into the 70th week, there will be a time of psuedo-peace, a sort of “calm before the storm.” Antichrist, a European leader, will come forward and make a covenant with the Jews (Dan. 9: 27). This covenant will include provisions of international protection for Israel, and a liberation of the Temple Mount from Muslim occupation, to allow the Jews to re-build their Temple.
Preparations for this Temple are already underway. Furthermore, it is believed that the Ark of the Covenant is secretly stored beneath the Temple Mount and accessible by way of the now-sealed Warren’s Gate entrance outside the Western Wall. Many feel the presence of the Ark to be indispensable in validating a re-institution of the temple service. Others are vigorously opposed to such a move, insisting that the Gospel superseded the Old Covenant system in such a way as to make any return to the priestly elements impossible, and even abominable in the sight of God.
But regardless of the controversy attending these issues, there are two organizations (The Temple Institute and The Temple Mount Faithful) whose sole purpose is to spearhead the rebuilding of the Temple. Once the temple is rebuilt, the Ark returned to the Holy of Holies, and the sacrificial system restored, a brief time of peace will follow for Israel. Antichrist will leave the Jews alone while he wages warfare elsewhere, bringing the nations under his dominion. This false peace will be shattered in the midst of the 70th week, when Antichrsit breaks the covenant and desecrates the Temple.
What we have, then, in these seal-judgments ostensibly takes place during the first half of the 70th week, during the same period of false peace outlined above. With this in mind, the “fourth part of the earth” most likely refers to areas outside the land of Palestine.
As seen, the judgments will consist largely of pestilence, but will be accompanied by sword, and famine, and unnatural death, as well as the “beasts of the earth.” It is difficult to define what is meant by this last phrase. It most probably refers to wild animals which will enter into the towns and cities of earth to devour and destroy. This bespeaks very chaotic conditions characterized by the desolation of inhabited towns by famine, death, disease, and conquest. As the whole civilized world will be thrown into confusion at this time, it is not unreasonable to assume that the beasts of the earth, who now fear man, will become more rapacious as woodlands are contaminated, water sources polluted, and the bodies of men left in the fields by the battles waged as Antichrist marches forward.
It was such conditions as these against which Israel was warned by Moses: “I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number, and your highways shall be desolate” (Lev. 26: 22). We find in the next verse that the such afflictions will be issued for reformatory purposes (v. 23). Compare also with Ezekiel 5: 17 and 14: 5.
These depredations of beasts are Pre-Millennial in scope, as the prophecies of Israelite national restoration confirm. “And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods” (Ezek. 34: 25).
While it is possible that the beasts will ravage Palestine during the tribulation, their activities are not necessarily restricted to the Holy Land, because the Jews are now scattered throughout all the nations of the world. As the purpose of the Tribulation is to bring Israel under the bonds of the New Covenant, so the tribulation will be of a worldwide scale. Here, as we see in the “beginnings of sorrows,” the jurisdiction of these judgments is over the fourth part of the earth. The fulfillment of these Mosaic warnings and curses will be to urge the Jews to turn to their Savior, Who alone can and will restore them, on the condition of national repentance (Acts 3: 19-21; Matthew 23: 39; Leviticus 26: 40-45; Deut. 30: 1-10).
Needless to say, these will be very trying times for the inhabitants of earth. While Antichrist rises in power, and wars and rumors of wars rage abroad, we fully expect that many Christians, especially those who embrace “Covenant Theology,” will continue to deny that the Tribulation is in progress. It is these people who will become main candidates for the end-time deception that will cause large portions of the professing church to accept and endorse the agenda of Antichrist and the False Prophet.