The tribulation period will be a time of deception, war, famine, and death. The Antichrist will rise to power and masquerade as the Messiah, pretending to bring peace, but instead bringing war. In this passage, we learn what will unfold when the first four seals are opened and their terrors are unleashed on the earth.
White Horse: Deception (vv. 1-2)
Though the horse is white, this horse represents deception: the Antichrist will be the imposter riding the horse. He will proclaim peace, but really he is the “son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3; see Revelation 17:8-11).
This rider will have a temporary laurel (a symbol of victory and honor), but he is the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing. He will seem to solve the Middle East crises and let the Jews rebuild the temple.
Probe: Because Christians will be gone from the earth, discuss ways the Antichrist will be able to deceive people during the tribulation period.
Red Horse: War (vv. 3-4)
The second horseman will ride a red horse, associated with terror, carnage, and death (see Revelation 12:3; 17:3).
He will usher in war (see Daniel 8; Matthew 24), culminating in Armageddon.
Probe: The United States has an arsenal of 35,000 nuclear weapons, equivalent to 460 million tons of TNT. Though this is powerful, consider the dreaded danger of what the four horsemen can unleash in a supernatural way (see Revelation 16:14).
Black Horse: Famine (vv. 5-6)
• The third horseman carries scales, used for measuring, rationing, and weighing. He will usher in a food shortage, leading to malnutrition and disease.
A denarius was a day’s wage. All money will be used to buy low-nutrient food such as barley, leading to a severe famine.
Probe: Read Mark 13:8. How is Jesus’ prophecy fulfilled in this section of Revelation?
Pale Green Horse: Death (vv. 7-8)
The last horseman, Death, rides along with Hades, bringing untold destruction upon the earth, leaving one-fourth of the population dead.
Probe: The Antichrist will be everything the world says it wants, but Jesus will be everything the world truly needs. Consider how Jesus will make Himself known during the tribulation. Who will He use to proclaim the good news (see Revelation 7)?
Connect Up: Even in the midst of destruction and death, Christians are called to trust in God (see Job 13:15; Psalm 23). How can God’s people use the forthcoming destruction to draw near to Christ?
Connect In: Read Romans 12:13, Galatians 6:2, and Philippians 2:4. Christians will not be on the earth during the tribulation, but for now, how are we to act toward one another in the personal trials we walk through?
Connect Out: As the reality of the tribulation comes into focus, what effect should it have on your willingness to evangelize? Read Romans 8:14-28, and ask your heavenly Father to show you how He would use you to build His kingdom.