Study Guide

The Four Horsemen in Book of Revelation

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The Four Horsemen

If you see these guys coming down the street, you might want to walk (or run) the other way, because things are about to get ugly.

Opening Act

The Four Horsemen kick off the Apocalypse. They're released when the Lamb opens the first four seals and are sort of a shout-out to a few other creepy horsemen in Zechariah. So, what should you be watching out for?

Conquest or Pestilence: Rides a white horse. Has a bow and crown. Will conquer (6:2).
War: Rides a red horse. Has a sword. Takes peace from the Earth (6:4).
Famine: Rides a black horse. Has a pair of scales. Ruins the food market (6:5-6).
Death: Rides a pale green horse. Has Hades as a friend to tag along. Gets to kill people. Lots of them (6:8).

The horsemen are generally seen as evil. After all, they all represent terrible things and usher in an age of misery on Earth. So, they're bad guys, right? Case closed.

Hold Your Horses

Not so fast. The horsemen may bring about some nasty stuff with them, but they're also servants of God. Jesus himself unleashes them on the Earth and they get their authority to kill and maim directly from the Big Guy (who thinks this whole plaguing the Earth is a swell idea, remember?).

They're kind of on par with the angels of death who also destroy and kill on God's orders. Of course, those angels have soft fluffy wings and don't ride weird-colored horses out of the sky, so we don't worry as much when we see them coming down to smite us.

The Horsemen Ride Again

However they're interpreted, the Four Horsemen are some of the most recognizable and popular figures from Revelation. Depictions of them sometimes go the scare-the-crud-out-of-people route.

In the X-Men comics, the Four Horsemen are henchmen of the villain Apocalypse. In the movie Elf, the four rangers of Central Park try to foil Santa's escape plan. A few Notre Dame football players from the 1920s were nicknamed "the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame." Want to know why? Just ask the people they tackled.

The Four Horsemen get a few laughs sometimes, too. Outspoken atheists Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett are sometimes called "the Four Horsemen of Atheism" (hey, it was their idea). In an episode of The Simpsons, the Simpson family falls asleep in church and wakes to find that the Apocalypse has started and the Four Horsemen are riding down from the sky. The Four Horsemen also tweet: Pestilence, Death, Famine, and War.

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