THE FOURTH SEAL: THE PALE HORSE AND ITS RIDER (6:7-8). Death here no doubt refers to a great pestilence following the wars and famines of the first three seals (cf. Matthew 24:6-7; Ezekiel 14:21).
Historicists assign this seal to a period of twenty years (A.D. 248-268) during the reigns of Decius, Gallus, Aemillianus, Valerian, and Gallienus. Others stretched it out to A.D 296, but historically this does not correspond with the devastation of this seal.
Preterists remain focused on the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. They translate thv ghv as “the Land” instead of “the earth.”
The same dreadful judgments are found in the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: How much worse will it be when I send against Jerusalem my four dreadful judgments—sword and famine and wild beasts and plague—to kill its men and their animals! Yet there will be some survivors—sons and daughters who will be brought out of it. They will come to you, and when you see their conduct and their actions, you will be consoled regarding the disaster I have brought upon Jerusalem—every disaster I have brought upon it (Ezekiel 14:21-22).
Certainly, the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. prefigures A.D. 70, which prefigures the distress of the end times.
Idealists see this seal as a series of judgments that repeats itself in history, where a quarter of the human race will be wiped out by disasters.
Futurists apply this seal to the entire period of the Tribulation or to the final three and a half years.
PALE is the translation of the Greek word (clwrov), where we get our word “chlorophyll.” An ashenyellowish-green characterizes the decomposition of a corpse. God granted this horseman the authority to bring death to twenty-five percent of the world’s population. One-fourth equals more than all the people of North America, Central America and South America.
HADES (SHEOL) is the abode of the unsaved dead, a fitting comrade of Death. Death deals with the living and Hades with those killed. Since Christ holds the keys of death and Hades (Revelation 1:18; 20:13-14), He gives them power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
THE WILD BEASTS OF THE EARTH might be taken literally from what is said following the first Battle of Gog and Magog of the end times.
Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Call out to every kind of bird and all the wild animals: ‘Assemble and come together from all around to the sacrifice I am preparing for you, the great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel. There you will eat flesh and drink blood (Ezekiel 39:17).
On the other hand, in apocalyptic genre “beasts” symbolizes empires, nations or governments of the earth (Daniel 7). “Wild” indicates that the nations will be ferocious, fierce, barbarous, cruel, inhumane, and savage during the end times. The wild beasts provide the arena for the next seal.
The first four seals deal with the earth, the last three concentrate upon heaven. They are the beginning of birth pains (Matthew 24:8). The first four seals is a sifting of the wheat and chaff, resulting in the fifth seal—martyrs (Luke 21:12-19).