14. Fourth Seal: Revelation 6:7–8 — The Midrashic Pale Horse

Christianity has fully relied on the Gospels to give credence to its beliefs. However, the Book of Revelation was constructed from about the fourth decade through to about 80 A.D. and begins with the words “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” – Rev. 1:1 and concludes with “come Lord Jesus” – Rev. 22:20. Christianity cannot give any logical explanation in their theological system. The prefix and suffix are not there by mistake.

The Gospels whole emphasis is on their Jewish governance – of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

All of Revelation is midrashic using earlier metaphors, fables and tales to describe their milieu – the condemnation of the churches of Asia for failing to understand their midrashic Christ. The book was closed in an age when their government enslaved their people, the supreme example being Herod the Great, but also compromised when their integrity meandered, increasingly in the fifth decade, to Roman procurators. Disaster struck with the final annihilation and burning of Jerusalem.

Paul and John both witnessed this catastrophe building up.

The Ancient scribes had documented the recurring captivity of their nation. They thought Judas Maccabees had set up the “everlasting kingdom”.

Consequently “The Word” was the only weapon available to record, for generations to come, such obsequious treachery. Midrash was their weapon the Ancient scribes mastered and why Revelation is pivotal to our understanding and reverence.

The pale horse is the symbol of those in society who enjoy the fruits but “make” no atonement in each age.

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And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. 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 (or to him) 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. (Rev. 6:7–8)

These fourfold calamities (sword, hunger, death, and beasts) were promised to ancient Jerusalem. Revelation draws the lesson from the time of Ezekiel but projects it into the reign of late Christendom. “The elders of Israel had set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face.” “So will I send upon you famine and evil beasts, and they shall bereave thee; and pestilence and blood shall pass through thee; I will bring the sword upon thee” (see Ezek. 5:5–17 and 14:1–23).

The “pale horse” comes with four curses. This is a very grim picture. To begin, the word pale is from chlōrŏs and means “greenish,” the same as the “green” grass mentioned later with the first trumpet. The rider is bringing maledictions to those who are verdant, inexperienced, or naïve — those who make no effort to understand anything. That’s most of us, unfortunately. The word chlōrŏs is derived from chŏlē, a female Christian name. So the seal is clearly directed at the churches of our dispensation. A female name is used as woman is symbolic of the life-giver. The pale horse is used to bring punishment to those who have blindly and without question or effort accepted maxims. His rider’s name is Death, and hell followed with him.

The writers of the seals proceed to relate the four torments — sword, hunger, death, and beasts. Why four? Four illustrates the four points of the compass, meaning global, “the four winds of the earth.” This seal reveals a worldwide judgment within ecclesiasticism. But those outside ecclesiasticism are also caught up in the web. No one escapes scrutiny:

• “Sword”: This sword is a counterfeit. It is not the word of the Spirit of God, the God of true, wise determinations. Coming from the word rhŏmphaia, meaning “saber” or “cutlass,” it is a very malicious, ravaging weapon, spitefully triumphing over torpidity, or those who have ignored the spirit of progress. It is very dramatic!

• “Hunger”: From limŏs, hunger is a scarcity of sustenance for the soul. The previously mentioned famine (third seal) has intensified. There is a longing for the food of mercy. Is it genuine? Isaiah vividly assigns the following: “Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for a time to come forever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophecy deceits.” Is this the food that the “green” grass will accept? “Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in the high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant” (Isa. 30:8–13).

• “Death”: Literal death means permanent cessation. Death is loss of intellectual life. John is writing in the spiritual sense. It is interesting to consider OT quotes regarding life and death in the flesh. The ancient writers are exemplifying the imperishable life. They uplift the food of the Spirit that the faithful hand to others. As they ingest their gift and develop, they in turn offer renewed sustenance. This is everlasting life. But death — how is death presented in the OT? Many quotes could be given, but a two shall suffice: “For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?” (Ps. 6:5) and “Consider and hear me. O Lord my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I should sleep the sleep of death” (Ps. 13:3; see Ps. 115:17, Eccles. 9:5–6, 10).

Ezekiel has much to say concerning death, mainly using the word pestilence in a vision of the fourfold punishment brought upon Jerusalem. Ponder the reason this calamity befell Jerusalem, for this is our exemplar. Today those professing godliness are the corresponding part of ancient Jerusalem, being tied to the essence of susceptible conformity.

Cogitate in more detail on Ezekiel’s words of warning, for they are important. Think about this:

The elders of Israel … Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and have put a stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them? … Every man of the house of Israel that setteth his idols in his heart, and putteth before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; Repent and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations (Ezek. 14:1-6).

Can vulnerable ecclesiasticism refresh and be born again? Or is it going to stay passively where it is?

For thus saith the Lord God; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast? Yet behold therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters: behold they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it. And they shall comfort you, when you shall see their ways and their doings, and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord God (Ezek. 14:21-23).

We are looking for the remnant in the end of days. We have to find that remnant, the great survivors, and it must come from freethinkers who are willing to consider all propositions.

• The “beasts of the earth”: These are a similitude of the two beasts described in Revelation 13:1 and 13:11. Revelation is saying that the former beasts in kind will arise again in the end times before the new age. They are types, metaphors, and parameters for archetypal application.

The initial, typical “beasts of the earth” vision was taken from OT Bible history and from prophetically written in Daniel 7–9 concerning the kings and kingdom of the pre-exilic, pre-Babylonian captivity. The second, a beast with two horns, is again referring to Jewish governance of the Pharisees and Sadducees in the NT. The second beast with two horns, it is said, should make an image of the first beast. Rome is not the subject, just as it was not in Daniel 2.

Both these two “beasts of the earth” show powers that arose quite unpretentiously but declined into treacherous corruption and tyranny.

Let’s quickly reiterate a brief outline of these “beasts of the earth” as they are emphasized in the fourth seal of Revelation 6:8.

We find the ten-horned beast and the seven-headed beast in Revelation 13:1. As the story proceeds, we see that the Hebrews left repression in Egypt (the dragon — Ezek. 29:3). They probably left in little groups and journeyed to Canaan, where they settled as a boisterous, rebellious, brutalized mob.

Israel of old was unrefined in the time of Judges even to the time of King Saul, the first king. Then the kingdom of Israel was given to David, and progress began with the command to Solomon to construct the temple. Israel divided into two kingdoms, with ten tribes (the ten horns) to the north and Judah’s two tribes to the south.

Israel apostatized and was assimilated into Assyria, never to rise again. Judah followed the Davidian line and had many ups and downs. Judah continually backslid even into idolatry up to the time of Hezekiah and then regressed further during the last seven kings (the seven heads) of Judah, with minor reforms under Josiah.

Thus we have the two pre-exilic kingdoms:

1. Israel: destroyed

2. Judah: two captivities to Babylon; briefly in Jehoiachin’s reign (606 BC) and then in Zedekiah’s reign (588 BC).

The second beast of Revelation 13:11, reflects the beast of the NT era. It also is a forewarning of much more ferocious beasts that would arise and dominate globally. Again, this beast with the two horns is a transposition from the kingdom of the Jews. Post-Babylonian captivity saw the kingdom rise to power, prepared to restart anew. All was quiet for some time. Gradually, Jews took an interest in idolatrous Hellenism (see 1 Macc. 1:11–15). Their own culture began to wane. The renegade Jews hardened their hearts, blinded with Grecian mores. Renegade Jews joined Antiochus Epiphanes (the Greek-Syrian leader) to plunder the temple. Many Jews became hellenized and translated their sacred books into Greek. Daniel termed the idol worshipping Jews as, “an host that was given him (Antiochus Epiphanes) against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practiced and prospered” (Dan. 8:12). Daniel confirms this conspiracy in Daniel 8:24, “but not by his own power.”

Here in Greek days, the post-exilic era of the Jewish kingdom originated in all sincerity, but it ended in turmoil and hostility due to the traitorous rebellion of Jews to Antiochus Epiphanes and despair of Jewish governance. This despair grew until the victory by Judas Maccabees over Antiochus Epiphanes. With Judas Maccabees’ victory, the temple was repaired and rededicated (2 Macc. 10:1–8). So peaceful a nation was it, that Zechariah records, “There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof” (Zech. 8:4–5).

The Hasmonean kingdom of the Jews established official contacts with the Romans, leading to the Roman invasion of Judea in 63 BC, with the Hasmoneans being displaced in 37 BC and the appointment of Herod the Great. Although Herod rebuilt the temple, many Greek-Roman style sporting contests were introduced, including gladiatorial combats and chariot races held in the new arenas. Within Judea, four groups were identified: the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots. Pharisees claimed to be keepers of the oracles of God and unwavering retainers of Levitical law. The Sadducees held the civic power. Both were tyrannical and oppressive. Both were to be held responsible for silencing the messianic body some of whom were Essenes and Zealots. The two-horned beast of gospel days, we are told, “spake as a dragon.” Some matters were referred to Rome but were always sanctioned through the Jewish councils, Sanhedrin, and high priests. Rome reluctantly and at last resort intervened in the life and times of the early messianic movement, personified in the likes of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.

Paul’s writing reflected the true inspiration in the OT, passed down in textual form. Paul, a Pharisee, grasped the intent and saw that light shine. This would be like the church seeing the Bible opened. The synoptics, using midrashic techniques, were supplementary to Paul by recording the angst against Jewish leadership in detail. The synoptics list chapter after chapter of the questioning misdemeanors and crimes with intent by the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and other administrators. The messianic awakening realized too well that the two-horned beast would eventually lead to the total collapse of the Judean society, but that did not eventuate until long after the dating of the Messiah with the burning of Jerusalem in AD 70.

A superficial interpretation of the messianic catastrophe would be indelibly etched in the minds of future generations, but it’s resurrected body and second coming would have to wait until apocalyptic times. The uprising had been inspired by Judas’s victory over the Grecians with Judas being the stone setting up the everlasting kingdom. The persecution and crucifixion was to be recorded in the NT documenting the long struggle over the restrictive latter-day Pharisees and Sadducees. John, the revelator, pictured these former beasts, arising again in earthly end times. The year AD 70 was not the subject of the NT but initiated the permanent end to old Judaism and was the perfect environment for a new, watered-down version of theology to emerge, leading to an extensive Age of Darkness and a literal wrapping and warping of all.

Enough said about the pale horse’s (Rev. 6:7) power over the fourth part of earth. The pale-greenish horse, usually those deeming themselves knowledgeable in society, is likely to be those proffering violence for resolution of contentious issues. This violence comes to the fore in Revelation 13 when these former hollow beasts of the earth have prominence. The fourth seal — pale horse, sword, hunger, death, and beasts — forewarns us of apocalyptic times ahead.

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