This article concludes our study of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. In Parts 1, 2, and 3, we examined the riders of the white horse, red horse, and black horse. We will now study the fourth and final of these infamous horsemen, the rider on the pale green horse.
This rider and his horse appear in verses 7 and 8:
“And when the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the fourth living being say, â€˜Come!’ And I looked up and saw a horse whose color was pale green like a corpse. And Death was the name of its rider, who was followed around by the grave. They were given authority over one-fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword and famine and disease and wild animals” (Revelation 6:7-8, NLT).
What does the symbolic language of this verse tell us about this rider? We can identify several points:
1) He rides a pale green horse. The color pale green is a symbol of death. In fact, this verse compares the color of the horse to that of “a corpse,” and later, it informs us that this horse and its rider will be responsible for the death of one-fourth of the earth’s population.
2) His name is Death. Death indicates not just physical decomposition, but spiritual death as well. Christ defeated death with His resurrection, opening the door for all who believe in Him to follow. However, death still haunts those who refuse the free gift of the Lamb of God. Following the millennial kingdom, death and Hades will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14), never to plague mankind again.
3) He is followed around by the grave. The original Greek word for “grave,” as used here, is Hades. Hades is the place where unbelievers go following death. While believers are made righteous by the blood of Christ, unbelievers have no intermediary, and they will be judged according to their deeds at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). The fact that one-fourth of the earth’s population could perish without a believer among them tells us that this event must take place soon after the Rapture of the church. It seems to indicate that the world will not be heavily populated with believers, and we know from Revelation 7:9 that the Tribulation saints will be a multitude too great to count.
4) He and Hades are given authority over one-fourth of the earth. One-fourth of the earth’s population will die as a result of the actions of the rider on this fourth horse.
5) He kills with the sword, famine, disease, and wild animals. The method by which he kills includes deadly force, starvation, disease, and wild animals. Wild animals, or “beasts of the earth,” might possibly foreshadow a rebellion by animals against humans. However, it’s much more likely that this is a reference to human governments. The books of Daniel and Revelation refer to world empires as “beasts.” And they both specifically refer to the revived Roman Empire as a “beast.”
The Antichrist’s Rise to Power
It is my belief that the four horsemen in Revelation 6 represent the Antichrist and the initial phases of his rise to power. In the first three parts of this series, I speculated that the first three horsemen might be references to the Antichrist and his use of molecular manufacturing (MM). The white horse represents an attempt to conquer the world without using deadly force, while the red horse represents the deadly world war that follows. The black horse represents the economic tribulation resulting from that war as well as the existence of molecular manufacturing itself. If these interpretations are accurate, how do the actions of the rider on the pale green horse align with this scenario? Does the fourth horse bring further death and destruction, or is this a mere reiteration of the previously mentioned global war?
In all likelihood, the pale green horse represents further bloodshed. Let’s summarize what has happened so far in our speculative scenario:
The development of molecular manufacturing has led the Antichrist to attempt a bloodless, worldwide coup in order to prevent the unprecedented destruction of an MM-enabled arms race. Nevertheless, other developing molecular manufacturing powers challenge him, plunging the world into a horrifying and bloody war. The Antichrist emerges from this war victorious, but the war and molecular manufacturing have left the world economy in ruins. The crippling of international trade and numerous capital markets has led to a scarcity of food. The resulting inflation is so high that an entire day’s wage will barely purchase enough food to survive.
In the aftermath of these horrible events, the worst is yet to come. One-fourth of the world’s population will soon be killed.
The Modern-Day Pax Romana
Following this destructive global conflict, the Antichrist will attempt to reestablish order, peace, and security to the world. Enforcement of the peace will be a primary concern of a global regime. The world will be an infinitely more dangerous place, where a lone hobbyist will be capable of building weapons far more powerful than the nuclear bombs of the Industrial Age. The prospect of another MM-enabled conflict will so horrify the world that it will enact draconian measures to prevent one.
A system of safeguards will have to be constructed in order to prevent emerging nation-states, terrorist groups, and individuals from breaching the peace. A single global government will go a long way toward mitigating military conflict, as there will only be one military power with a unified purpose. However, in the age of molecular manufacturing, competing militaries could rise quickly, and to prevent a loss of its governing monopoly, this global government will have to deploy the best intelligence-gathering methods of the era.
MM will offer almost unlimited possibilities for twenty-four-hour surveillance of the global population. Such surveillance could be godlike in its implementation–seeing everything, hearing everything, and knowing everything. Imagine “nanodust”–nanoscale cameras and listening devices as plentiful and as difficult to remove as common, everyday dust. MM will enable the manufacture of such sophisticated devices in the trillions, and at a negligible cost. Outfitted with advanced artificial intelligence (AI) software, these devices could sift through continuous video and audio feeds, searching for predetermined patterns that indicate what the state believes to be “aberrant” behavior. This isn’t hard to imagine. The United States National Security Agency already monitors phone calls and emails in this manner. This application can simply be extended on a wider scale that encompasses all speech and actions on the earth. Although this may prevent acts of terrorism and preserve the peace, it is not a desirable outcome. History teaches us that such power, even in a system of checks and balances, will eventually lead to abuse.
The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) has identified this as one of its “Dangers of Molecular Manufacturing”:
“Surveillance is only one possible kind of abuse. With the ability to build billions of devices, each with millions of parts, for a total cost of a few dollars, any automated technology that can be applied to one person can be applied to everyone. Any scenario of physical or psychiatric control that explores the limits of nanotechnology will sound science-fictional and implausible. The point is not the plausibility of any given scenario; it is that the range of possibilities is limited mainly by the imagination and cruelty of those with power. Greed and power are strong motivators for abusive levels of control; the fear of nanotech and other advanced technologies in private hands adds an additional impetus for abusive rule.”
This fear that advanced nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing could be abused by the state has its roots in some of the earliest examinations of this technology and its implications. The man widely credited with coining the term “nanotechnology,” Dr. K. Eric Drexler, drew a similar conclusion. In “Engines of Destruction,” chapter 11 of his landmark book, Engines of Creation, he states the following:
“A bomb can only blast things, but nanomachines and AI systems could be used to infiltrate, seize, change, and govern a territory or a world. Even the most ruthless police have no use for nuclear weapons, but they do have use for bugs, drugs, assassins, and other flexible engines of power. With advanced technology, states will be able to consolidate their power over people.”
The twentieth century vividly illustrated mankind’s capacity for mass murder and destruction. Although the sin that drives these evils has been around since the Garden of Eden, advancing technology harbors the ability to amplify our destructive nature. The genocide of Hitler and Stalin, on such a mass scale, would have been impossible prior to the Industrial Age. Technology aided in their systematic elimination of entire groups of people. Once molecular manufacturing is fully functional, yet another constraint will be lifted from our evil nature: People will no longer be needed. In the Holocaust, some Jews were temporarily spared due to their ability to perform manual labor, a task the state needed. In the age of molecular manufacturing, the state will have no need for manual labor, opening the door to a horrendous possibility. In the same chapter of Engines of Creation, Dr. Drexler addresses this concern:
“But with advanced technology, states need not control peopleâ€”they could instead simply discard people. Most people in most states, after all, function either as workers, larval workers, or worker-rearers, and most of these workers make, move, or grow things. A state with replicating assemblers would not need such work. What is more, advanced AI systems could replace engineers, scientists, administrators, and even leaders. The combination of nanotechnology and advanced AI will make possible intelligent, effective robots; with such robots, a state could prosper while discarding anyone, or even (in principle) everyone.”
A few paragraphs later, Drexler further elaborates on this dystopian future:
“States have needed people as workers because human labor has been the necessary foundation of power. What is more, genocide has been expensive and troublesome to organize and execute. Yet, in this century totalitarian states have slaughtered their citizens by the millions. Advanced technology will make workers unnecessary and genocide easy. History suggests that totalitarian states may then eliminate people wholesale. There is some consolation in this. It seems likely that a state willing and able to enslave us biologically would instead simply kill us.”
Unfortunately, this is the future the Bible tells us the human race will experience. A global government will exercise complete power “over every tribe and people and language and nation” (Revelation 13:7). This control will be amplified by a governmental system that can determine who is able to buy or sell. In an era of molecular manufacturing, it will be impossible to prevent counterfeiting. All the financial transactions in the world will have to make the final leap toward electronic banking, giving an all-knowing government final authority over the transactions of its citizens. The Bible tells us that the Antichrist will exploit this power by requiring that all who buy and sell be branded with a mark signifying their allegiance to both him and his global government:
“He required everyoneâ€”great and small, rich and poor, slave and freeâ€”to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name” (Revelation 13:16-17, NLT).
Those who do not submit to this new world order and worship the Antichrist and his government will be unable to purchase food, housing, and the necessities of life. Eventually, this persecution will evolve into outright murder:
“And the beast was allowed to wage war against God’s holy people and to overcome them” (Revelation 13:7, NLT).
We also learn that anyone refusing to worship the beast must die (Revelation 13:15).
These will be terrifying times for those who live in the world, but those who endure these events can escape unscathed. By accepting the blood of Christ as payment for their sins, they can renounce the things of this world and enter into an eternal life of glory with Jesus Himself. Our Lord makes this promise to everyone who acknowledges Him before men:
“Remain faithful even when facing death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10, NLT).
The crown of life is reserved for all who have been persecuted for loving Christ, and an entire multitude from this generation will experience this wonderful gift for all eternity.
When examining the characteristics of the four horsemen of Revelation 6, it seems quite probable they foreshadow the development of molecular manufacturing, a revolutionary technology that could be developed within the next three to five years, and almost certainly will be developed by the year 2020.
Nevertheless, we shouldn’t worry over such things. Only those who love this world more than God should be terrified by the prospect of these events. Those who love Christ should be at peace in their hearts and rest assured, for the outcome of these events–horrifying as they may be–has been predetermined from the beginning: Christ will be victorious.
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NLT).