The opening of the four seals in the book of Revelation and the vivid description of judgements that followed, has been the subject of much speculation and attempted interpretations. The following is submitted as a paraphrase of what the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse means, based upon an historical interpretation that was relevant to believers at the time when the book was written.
Paraphrase of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
REVELATION CHAPTER SIX
“And I saw when the Lamb, namely the Christ community of chapter 5, who as “seven horns and seven eyes” will be sent forth into all the earth in the age to come, being counted “worthy” in their head, to open, or understand the truth of, the seals, opened one of the seals, namely the first, and I heard as it were the noise of thunder, for with a sudden blow, the emperor Domitian fell to an assassin, and one of the four living ones, or the manifestation of Yahweh Sabaoth, which will ultimately be the glorified saints, but at this time was to be the Divine instrument of judgement on pagan Rome, namely, its own legions, saying, Come and see.
The First Horseman
And I saw, and behold a white horse, being a symbol again of a great military power, but in a state of peace – the “Pax Romana” or Roman Peace, which was maintained by a constant preparation for war, and he that sat on him, being the one who directs or controls the might of the animal, namely the Roman Senate and the emperor as “princeps” or “first citizen”, had a bow, as his weapon of war, and a crown, or coronal wreath of victory, was given unto him: and he went forth conquering and to conquer, for everywhere the Roman Legions went they were victorious in battle, being well disciplined and honourable. This most favourable condition continued in the empire until the time of emperor Marcus Aurelius, who died in 285.
The Second Horseman
And when he, the Lamb community, or immortal saints in prospect, opened the second seal, I heard the second living one, namely the calf say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red, for it signified bloodshed, and power was given to the Roman Emperors who sat thereon, to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another by assassination, by the violence of the Praetorian Guards who were supposed to protect the emperor but turned upon him for personal advantage; and by civil war as the legions of the empire fought for revenge, or control of the purple. And there was given him a great dagger.
The Third Horseman
And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third living one, namely that which had a face as a man, say, Come and see. And I beheld and lo, a black horse, for the long civil wars and violent removal of emperors brought on a period of great distress and mourning and he that sat on him had a pair of balances to weigh goods in his hand.
And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living ones, that is the emperor, who was the general of the Roman legions, say “A measure of wheat for a denarius, and three measures of barley for a denarius, which was about a day’s pay. The people were reduced to paying exorbitant prices for the necessities of life as inflation soared out of control. But they were not prepared to give up the good things of life and the entertainments of the arena and so they say, see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
The Fourth Horseman
And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living one, or final phase of cherubic judgment, say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale green coloured horse, for when the emperor Diocletian took control of the empire it was in a state of emergency: and his name that sat on him which was the Roman Senate was Death, because Diocletian was the first emperor to remove his permanent residence and his court from Rome. He established himself in Nicomedia in Asia Minor, so that within a few years the city shone with the evidence of imperial greatness.
This was a ‘secret but fatal’ wound to the Roman Senate, who now were reduced to a useless monument of antiquity on the Capitoline Hill. Rome ceased to be the queen of the empire and the vast resources which once came her way were now diverted to the East; and hell followed with him, for the death of Rome’s imperial stature was soon to be completed by Constantine, who would remove the capital of the empire permanently to “New Rome”, or Constantinople. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, or Italy, for Diocletian sought to reduce the chances of further contenders for the purple by dividing his power with his friend Maximian