There are a lot of popular theories about the four horsemen. Most don’t make much sense at all. I’ve only heard one that makes perfect sense.
Before I begin, please remember that fulfilled prophecy cannot be stated as a fact until it has come to pass. I've studied a lot of theories on prophecy and what I've written here is what rings true in my mind after countless hours of study, but I will never say this is absolute fact until we see it happen. However, the symbols used in the Bible will be known at the time of the end (Dan 12:9) and when you finish this book I believe you will agree with me that there is little doubt that the time is now.
There are two passages that deal with horsemen and chariots with horses. Just as Daniel and Revelation both talk about the same beasts, Revelation 6:1-8 and Zechariah 6:1-8 both deal with the same prophecy.
Rev 6:1 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. 2 And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. 3 And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. 4 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. 5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. 6 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. 7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. 8 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.
Zech 6:1 And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass. 2 In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses; 3 And in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot grisled and bay horses. 4 Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these, my lord? 5 And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth. 6 The black horses which are therein go forth into the north country; and the white go forth after them; and the grisled go forth toward the south country. 7 And the bay went forth, and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth: and he said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth. So they walked to and fro through the earth. 8 Then cried he upon me, and spake unto me, saying, Behold, these that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country.
The horses represent spirits in the world, as it says in Zech 6:5.
Let’s take a look at each type of horse.
The black horses go forth into the north country and the rider had a pair of balances in his hand, saying, “A measure of wheat for a penny…” Does the northern hemisphere contain most of the capitalistic nations? What is capitalism? Free trade! Black represents capitalism like red represents communism in political and news circles. Can you find the pair of balances on a US dollar bill?
The white horse went forth after the black and the rider had a bow, and a crown, and it went forth to conquer. Catholicism follows Capitalism for the vast majority of “Catholic” nations are “Western” Capitalistic nations. White is the symbol of peace. The Catholic church brings a message of peace. This is not proof of anything, but it's interesting that the Roman Catholic pope wears white, rides in white (his limo, helicopter, etc). If the pope were to ride a horse, what color would it be? The pope wears a crown. The rider has a bow but no arrows. Although the Vatican has no standing army, Catholicism is certainly a conquering power. When the majority of the people of a nation becomes Catholic; that nation is referred to as a “Catholic” nation, and the Vatican believes it has the right to make political decisions and command the leaders of a nation that is “Catholic”. One of the Vatican’s major goals is to conquer America.
The red horse was given power to take peace; that they should kill one another, and he had a great sword. What greater military might exists in the world than the combined power of Russia and China? A very great sword! Red is the color of communism. It’s estimated that over 80 million Chinese have been killed in political purges in China since the Communists took over in 1948. The government of the USSR killed 67 million of its own people and Russia is still very much a socialist (communist) nation. Do they kill one another?
The pale horse went south and Death sat on him and Hell followed him and he was given power to kill with the sword and hunger and the beasts of the world. The southern hemisphere contains most of the poverty stricken nations. War, crime, revolution, hunger and beasts of the earth are more prominent in the more backward nations of the third world. But the word “beast” here is the same word used to describe a "king" in other areas of the Bible, so it very likely refers to the fact that many of the “kings” of the Middle East are killing their own people. The last 100 years have seen more death than the entire history of man (wars, abortions, etc.) The passage in Zechariah splits the pale/green horse in two; into the grisled and bay horses. That makes this prophecy easier to understand in that it has two components: Islam and Death. A very interesting thing about this horse is that the meaning of the original Greek word is interpreted as “pale” in the King James Bible, but the word chloros (khlo-ros'); also means greenish, or pale green. This word (chloros) is also used in 3 other places in the bible: Mark 6:39, Revelation 8:7 and Revelation 9:4. In all three of these other places it was interpreted correctly as green. This horse was also given power over the fourth part of the earth. Since we know these horses are spirits, it is very, very interesting that the color of Islam is green (their flags, etc.), and that there are 1.48 billion Muslims (Islam followers) in the world today. That’s almost exactly one fourth of the world population. This horse went south; and 96.5% of the world’s Muslims are in the southern hemisphere, in Africa and Southern Asia. Can Islam be defined as “Death”? This may refer to the “second death” mentioned in Revelation chapters 2, 20 and 21, where it means everlasting death. I’ve seen arguments that the terrorists are only the “radicals” and poor Muslims being recruited, but if you look at the history of the men that hijacked the planes on 9/11, they came from middle class and wealthy families. The attacks that are happening everywhere, the suicide bombings, the masses of Muslims chanting, “Death to Israel, death to America”, are not only the poor and radical, it is the mindset of Islam as a whole. Look at what happened recently in Palestine. They knowingly elected a terrorist organization into their government! And, given what we know about Islam and how it will be used by the Antichrist, the term “death” here may be referring to the “second death” of Revelation where those that are not saved come before God on judgment day.
The four horsemen and the horses with chariots most likely represent the spirits of Catholicism, Capitalism, Communism, and Islam. These spirits are in the world today and have been here for a long time. If you think about it, I’ll wager you’ll notice how the spirit of the people living under these forces have different attitudes, ways of thinking, etc; that fit the spirit governing their lives.
The four horsemen of Revelation are also the first four seals, of which there are a total of seven.
There are four groups of sevens in the book of Revelation. Seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials and seven thunders. John was told not to write what the seven thunders said. The seven trumpets are discussed in the next chapter. The seven vials are all “poured out” at the end of the final seven years before the return of Christ, and are discussed further in chapter 10 of this little book.
The remaining seals are: Seal 5 – The saints of God that are already dead are told to rest yet for a little season. Seal 6 – there is much happening here and this seal appears to be the same prophecy as the 7th trumpet and the 7th vial. There’s a definite correlation here with the seven trumpets. As you will see in the next chapter, the first 4 trumpets have very likely sounded and we’re right on the heels of the Three Woes. We’ve already seen that the first four seals have been opened and it’s very likely that we’re in that “waiting period” of the fifth seal, right on the heels of the sixth. Seal 7 – There is silence in heaven for the space of about a half hour. (see Chapter 10 for more information)
Most people are taught that the book of Revelation is a chronological record of the end time events, but there is no scriptural basis for thinking that. The 6th seal, the 7th trumpet, the 7th vial, Matthew 24:29, and Ezekiel 38:18-22 all talk about the same things and are representing the same period of time that immediately follows the great tribulation at the end of the final seven years, discussed more in Chapter 10 - Understanding Revelation and the Timeline of Events.