The Four Horsemen

Just as the seven-eyed Lamb foreshadowed the eventual triumphant Christ, today’s ever-popular image of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ushers-in the manner of Death that will swiftly descend upon an evil world. They are harbingers of total destruction from which no one is exempt. The opening of each seal introduces them as they thunder across the page undeterred and unfretted. In point of fact they represent all that is wrong with humanity—climaxing here in scenes of total self-condemnation and destruction.

The First Four Seals, 6:1-8

Rev 6:1 Then, in my vision, I saw the Lamb break one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures shout in a voice like thunder, ‘Come!’

Rev 6:2 Immediately I saw a white horse appear, and its rider was holding a bow; he was given a victor’s crown and he went away, to go from victory to victory.

Rev 6:3 When he broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature shout, ‘Come!’

Rev 6:4 And out came another horse, bright red, and its rider was given this duty: to take away peace from the earth and set people killing each other. He was given a huge sword.

Rev 6:5 When he broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature shout, ‘Come!’ Immediately I saw a black horse appear, and its rider was holding a pair of scales;

Rev 6:6 and I seemed to hear a voice shout from among the four living creatures and say, ‘A day’s wages for a quart of corn, and a day’s wages for three quarts of barley, but do not tamper with the oil or the wine.’

Rev 6:7 When he broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature shout, ‘Come!’

Rev 6:8 Immediately I saw another horse appear, deathly pale, and its rider was called Death, and Hades followed at its heels. They were given authority over a quarter of the earth, to kill by the sword, by famine, by plague and through wild beasts.

The White Horse represents some form of military conquest. Its color represents victory as a conquering hero rides upon it. During WWII just before the Battle of El Alamein in the desert of Egypt, Mussolini envisioned himself riding on a White Horse through the streets of Cairo—this would never come to fruition as the Afrika Korps suffered a humiliating defeat by the British Eighth Army. The White Horse doesn’t always win the spoils of battle.

The breaking of the second seal ushers in a rider on a Red Horse—depicting slaughter and misery, as Red is the color of blood. Hence, winning the spoils of battle as first initiated by the White Horse. The end will usher in gore in all its bloody mess—such is the sorrowful fate of a fallen world.

As the third seal is broken open a rider on a Black Horse enters the scene—this represents the eventual famine that will occur after the ravaging effects of war as well as self-destruction:

The situation is one in which a common laborer would have to work all day to provide enough food for himself, with nothing left for his family.

The alternative would be to spend the day’s wages to buy three quarts of barley to make inferior bread in hopes of providing enough food to sustain his family. The scourge of the third seal, then, is famine, which appropriately follows in the wake of the war and bloodshed of the first two seals. (Smyth Helwys Bible Commentary)

The fourth seal is the most deadly of all because it represents Death itself—represented by the pale-green color of the fourth horse. The Greek word is chlōros, from which the word “chlorine,” a pale, yellowish-green gas, is derived. (ibid) Hence accompanying death is severe pestilence—the final mark against sentitalia, yea, all manner of living things suffer as a direct result of such carnage. Mara himself is the Black Horses’ nefarious rider—hades itself follows in his wake.

The Fifth Seal, 6:9-11

Rev 6:9 When he broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of all the people who had been killed on account of the Word of God, for witnessing to it.

Rev 6:10 They shouted in a loud voice, ‘Holy, true Master, how much longer will you wait before you pass sentence and take vengeance for our death on the inhabitants of the earth?’

Rev 6:11 Each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to be patient a little longer, until the roll was completed of their fellow-servants and brothers who were still to be killed as they had been.

This scene unfolds not on earth, but in heaven. “Oh, master, how much longer must we wait before we are avenged?” A signal that even the righteous ones must suffer before their final company arrives. They are given some comfort in being bestowed with the White Robes, a symbol of their glorified souls. This is reminiscent within Buddhism as even the Noble Ones must await the final awakening (until all sentient beings enjoy their company) before annutara samyak samvbodhi (supreme and perfect enlightenment) is bestowed.

The Sixth Seal, 6:12-17

Rev 6:12 In my vision, when he broke the sixth seal, there was a violent earthquake and the sun went as black as coarse sackcloth; the moon turned red as blood all over,

Rev 6:13 and the stars of the sky fell onto the earth like figs dropping from a fig tree when a high wind shakes it;

Rev 6:14 the sky disappeared like a scroll rolling up and all the mountains and islands were shaken from their places.

Rev 6:15 Then all the kings of the earth, the governors and the commanders, the rich people and the men of influence, the whole population, slaves and citizens, hid in caverns and among the rocks of the mountains.

Rev 6:16 They said to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us away from the One who sits on the throne and from the retribution of the Lamb.

Rev 6:17 For the Great Day of his retribution has come, and who can face it?’

The sixth seal brings further cataclysmic disaster, as even the whole earth and the universe itself is destroyed in fiery fashion—yea, the very stars fall from the sky. The figure of the Blood-Red Moon is most prominent here:

Conspiracy Theorists are most apt to appear on the scene whenever a blood-red moon appears in the night sky, predicting that the end of the world is nigh. This scene also depicts the spiritual-battle-cry that “The Day of the Lord is near!”

Even earlier, the prophet Joel had used similar language to describe the coming “day of the LORD,” the day when God would appear on earth to punish God’s enemies. Joel 2:30-31 states, “I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes.” Clearly the apocalyptic idea of eschatological woes is an adaptation of the prophetic expectation of a future day of God’s visitation for judgment upon the wicked. (ibid)

Perhaps the best motif from this scene is how all the populace—from great Kings down to common Slaves—attempt to run-away and hide from such a terrifying event. Yea, there is no place to hide; all will be judged equally on that great Day of the Lord. While there is no Day of the Lord within Buddhism, it still does not erase the judgment-factor:

The Buddha was especially critical of a certain monk Migsala who claimed to know the future punishments of his favorite sinners.  The Buddha rebuked Migsala saying “How do you know the complexity of human character?” He went on to say that “whoever judges others digs a pit for themselves.”  Those who obsess about the sins of others are usually those most in need of repentance.

Self-judgment is key here, and many there are who dig this awful pit for themselves. Another series further expounds on this matter:

“Your teachings neglect to speak of the nature of sin. We all have sin you know, we’re all sinners.”

“Oh, is that so? Show me your sin, bring it to me.”

“That’s ridiculous, sin is always an internal thing, an internal motivator that brings about disastrous outcomes.”

“The choice you make with your internal or external attachments all stem from ignorance, not some objective motivator. If you give top priority to the Unborn there’s no birth or death and even sin.”

“Nonsense! You know from your past experience as a Priest that sin exists. People came to your confessional in hopes of being absolved from it.”

“The people who came to confession (Sacrament of Reconciliation) were ordinarily and emotionally troubled in mind and spirit. In point of fact, they were their own judge and jury. True forgiveness can only come from oneself alone—to be able to forgive oneself.”

“Oh, how is that so?”

“Over scrupulosity results in a malignant spirit. This was the state of affairs more often than not. They were obsessed with their own subconscious factors of self-condemnation. Thus, they always confessed the same stuff over and over again.”

“Well, what about karma being that motivator?”

“The same principle applies. The karmic-mind houses a self-fulfilling prophecy. Actions that stem from ignorance since time immemorial. Cut the root cause by recollecting one’s Primordial and thus Authentic Stature. This Pure Recollection initiates a deep gnosis that transcends sin and even merit. Once you have this awareness of your True Self the realization dawns that all activities are of a spontaneous nature but that the Real You is not the doer of any of them.”

An accompanying Tozen Video from our Bodhichild Channel on YouTube also sheds further light on the nature of the problem.

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