THE FOURTH SEAL IS OPENED
Rev 6:7-8 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 over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
The authorized Son of God opened the fourth seal, and immediately John heard the fourth beast say, Come and see. As with the announcements made after the previous seals were opened by these living creatures, so it was with this seal. Other than the fact that these four beasts seem to represent the four different forms of earthly creation, there seems to be no other symbolic significance other than to proclaim the opening of each seal, and invite the apostle John to Come and see that which was revealed.
What John beheld was another horse having a much different appearance than the first three. This horse was pale in color, almost as if to say it had no color. This horse also had a rider, but, differing from the previous ones, this rider had a name given to him. The name was Death. Again, looking back into God's word, paleness has always been the symbol of desolation and death. The red and black horses also represented death, but the color red symbolized death due to the ravages of a cruel, bloody war, while black always referred to death that resulted from some form of disaster or calamity. The pale horse can easily be associated with death by natural means, such as hunger resulting in the physical degeneration of the human body, due to the lack of proper nourishment, any form of normal, but terminal, disease, and even the vicious attacks and destruction caused by beasts of the wild.
The scripture states that, immediately following the pale horse ridden by Death was Hell. This designated place is more appropriately translated as Hades - the abode the dead awaiting final judgment. This is the translation found in the Revised King James edition. It seems appropriate that Death,symbolically depicted in the epidemic proportions described here, would be followed by the welcoming graves of Hades that awaited the numerous bodies of the dead.
Referring to Death and Hades, this scripture tells us that power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. The Roman Empire was by far the largest, and most powerful nation in the known world, at this time. And since the literal fulfillment of the prophecies found in the symbols under the first three seals seemed to apply to that nation, the term noted here as the fourth part of the earth, presumably applies to this vast European/Asian empire. By every conceivable means, death was depicted to take place in vast numbers of people being literally eliminated from the face of the earth. During this cataclysmic period of history, carnal war would continue to take lives, famine and pestilence would cause numerous people to perish due to hunger, death due to unhealthy conditions, and contagious diseases, would run rampant, and wild beasts lacking normal nature-provided provisions, would invade towns and slaughter many inhabitants to fill their unsatisfied appetites.
As we look back into the history of the Roman Empire, we find conditions that correspond to, and fulfill the prophecies, which were revealed by the symbols of, both the black and pale horses, and their respective riders. These periods of fulfillment seem to overlap. Looking strictly at the symbols revealed under the fourth seal, the period of Roman history can be reasonably identified by the writings of the historians of that era. Beginning at the close of the civil wars, about A.D. 268, long, localized wars continued, and devastating years of famine resulted. Because of this extended period of dearth, diseases resulted in epidemic proportions, and deadly plagues raged, and the scourge of ravenous wild beasts prevailed.
Of this extended period of massive deaths, historians of that era wrote that, at times, five thousand persons died in the city of Rome daily. There existed Gothic invasions from the north that resulted in much death and destruction. And many surrounding towns, having escaped these barbaric invasions, lost their entire population to various forms of death. Death was estimated by historians to equal, or exceed,the fourth part of the earth during this period of Roman history. The first four seals of the book that were opened revealed periods of triumphant prosperity, civil war, poverty and famine, and finally massive death and destruction. These symbolic prophecies were witnessed, and recorded, by the apostle John for our learning.