As the first four seals are broken the infamous four horsemen of the apocalypse ride forth. Remember, ‘apocalypse’ does not mean disaster it simply means ‘unveiling’. Whilst there is plenty of disaster to come most interpreters from the historicist school of thought generally agree that the initial white horse is a more positive omen. Some will point out that much later in the book we see Jesus himself mounted on a white horse and conclude that this is a symbol of a time of gospel spread and harvest. Others have noted some differences between the rider of this horse and the one later (namely the type of crown worn) but none the less think that this speaks of a time during the next coming eight or so decades where the Roman world was at its height of peace and prosperity.
The red horse rides out next, which correlates with a period of civil war. Many histories unequivocally record this. Famine, plague and unfair taxation are the inevitable next phases following civil war and societal breakdown. This period is represented by the black horse and the scales he holds in his hands; also well known history. Having declined into a state of weakness and vulnerability the doors were then open for ‘Death’ to coming riding in on his pale horse. In the form of barbarian hordes the Western empire was terrorised and death and destruction were all around.
Throughout the book of Revelation, as all across the Scripture, we will encounter many uses of the words ‘earth’ (GK: usually ‘GE’, also translated as ‘land’) and ‘world’ (GK: various, including: KOSMOS and OIKOUMENE). It would be easy to just think of occurrences of ‘the earth’ and ‘the world’ as meaning ‘planet earth’ or ‘the entire world’ or ‘everyone on the planet’ as that is how we most often tend to use these words in everyday speech today. But this is definitely not the case throughout much of, most in fact, biblical usage. In simple summary, ‘earth’ just means soil/dry land and can be applied to a small tract of land, such as, the land of Israel (used often) or some other piece of land of any size and extent. ‘World’ sometimes does speak of ‘planet earth’ but it is also used in the Bible to mean either the ‘inhabited world’ or, at that time, the ‘Roman world’, (i.e. the Roman empire). For example…
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world (OIKOUMENE) should be taxed.”
The taxation mentioned in Luke did not happen in China, South America or New Zealand. We shall not delve any deeper into this topic but it is vital to be aware that much of what is to follow in interpreting the book of Revelation in the historicist’ mode will be focused upon the ‘Roman world’, the ‘Roman earth’. As indeed is the case with these first four seals in chapter six. The ‘world’ that John is living in is the Roman world. The ‘sea’ and the ‘earth’ from which will arise multi-headed, multi-horned beasts is the ‘sea of nations’ and the Roman ‘earth’. The world from which the antichrist and his false Church will arise is the Roman world.