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And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.

New Defender's Study Bible Notes

6:1 one of the seals. The Lamb had received the title deed to the earth, but now the seals must be broken and the full writing disclosed to the world, with the usurper driven out of His inheritance. As each successive seal is broken, the Lord will unleash successive great judgments on the earth, with the ultimate end of purging the earth of its age-long domination by Satan.

6:2 he that sat on him. Many futurist commentators take the rider on the white horse to be the Antichrist, who they say is seeking to imitate Christ, who is certainly the conquering Rider on the white horse in Revelation 19:11. This interpretation seems inappropriate. The coming Antichrist is not a “false Christ,” pretending to be Christ, but is the ultimate Antichrist, openly opposing Christ and seeking to destroy all Christian believers and everything for which Christ stands. The Antichrist, or Beast, will receive his power and authority from Satan (Revelation 11:7; 13:7), not Christ.

The proper interpretation is to view Christ as the rider; remember also that each judgment of the seven seals is sent forth by Christ, not Satan. Furthermore, it is eminently fitting that the conquering Christ should be seen as riding forth both at the beginning of His cleansing judgments on the earth, and then again at their climactic completion (Revelation 6:2; 19:11). Throughout the events of Revelation 6 through 19, as the successive seal judgments are sent forth, He is gradually “conquering” and is destined finally “to conquer” completely.

6:5 balances in his hand. The black horse speaks of worldwide famine. This will be the period of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:3-6), who will proclaim on the earth that these plagues are being sent by God from heaven. In particular they will proclaim a worldwide drought for the three and one-half years of their testimony, and this will soon lead to worldwide famine, more severe than any of the great famines of history.

6:6 penny. This voice from heaven is apparently one of ironic commentary on the earthly situation. The “penny” is the denarius, which represented a day’s wage for a laborer. That is, as the famine progresses, the cost of the necessary commodities of life will rise excessively, probably leading to widespread starvation. The “oil and wine,” however, as luxuries of little food value, will still be plentiful, as indulgences of the rich. In fact, “oil” may refer prophetically to petroleum, even though this substance was not known in the New Testament period. The Middle Eastern supplies of oil will indeed be vital to the establishment of Antichrist’s world empire.

6:8 pale horse. The “pale” horse is actually “green” (Greek chloros), the same word used for “green grass” in Revelation 8:7. This also may be divine irony; green is normally associated with life, but the green horse is now overridden by Death.

6:8 Hell. The Lord Jesus Christ now has the keys to Death and Hell (or hades), according to His assertion in Revelation 1:18, so it is clear that this fourth horseman, like the others, is unleashed by Him to judge the earth. Those who yield to the killing sword of the second horseman and the starvation brought by the third will be overtaken by Death, and Hades will swallow up their souls. There will be also many other causes of “death” (e.g., pestilence, suicide), so that a quarter of the world’s population will die in the first year or two of the seven-year period of tribulation. This will amount to at least a billion people!

6:8 beasts. The word for “beasts” here is theerion, meaning “wild beasts.” It is quite different from zoon, the word translated beasts in Revelation 4. It could suggest a proliferation of venomous snakes during this period. However, it is the same word used for “beast” in describing the coming Antichrist and his false prophet (Revelation 13:2,11), so could well refer to the fierce persecutions that will be carried out during this time by various regional dictators, all of whom will eventually yield their power to the Satan-possessed Beast, the most wicked and ruthless of all (Revelation 13:7; 17:13). See also Ezekiel 14:21; Revelation 20:13.

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