The last horse is a livid or pale greenish color symbolizing disease or death. The color there is hard to get into the English language, which is why it’s translated "pale." It’s actually the Greek word chloros, from which we get the words "chlorophyll," the substance in plants that makes them green, and "chlorine," which is a pale greenish gas. Behind this fourth pale horse comes Hades, the abode of the dead. It says these two are given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine, and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Let me back up a moment. I describe the second horse, the red one, as symbolizing bloodshed. Almost all of the commentators agree with that in general terms, but Hendricksen narrows it down a bit. He believes that it’s bloodshed, but that it refers specifically to the persecution of Christians rather than to war and its results in general. This fits the pattern he sees in these chapters, namely, the advance of the gospel resulting in the persecution of believers, judgment on the wicked, and the vindication of God’s people.

Billy Graham, in his book Approaching Hoof Beats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, devotes three chapters to the study of false or deceptive religion, which he thinks is what's represented by this rider. The arguments he presents in support of this view are thus: first, the language of conquering is not used so exclusively of Christ as Hendricksen suggests. It’s used elsewhere of the beast in his war against the saints.

Now we need to look at each of these horses and what they signify. When the Lord Jesus breaks the first of the seals and the four living creatures cry, "Come," a white horse appears in heaven. We read that in verse 2: "I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest." Who is this rider?

One of the most disturbing movies that I’ve ever seen is Francis Ford Copula’s epic on the Vietnam War called Apocalypse Now. It describes the journey of an American officer who’s sent up river to find and eventually assassinate a renegade commander who has holed up in an inaccessible region. Deep into the battle area, he arrives at a remote river outpost in the midst of a firestorm. Shells are exploding all around, men are being blown to pieces, and the whole scene is bathed in the red-orange glow of the exploding shells. It’s a scene right out of Dante’s Inferno.