19.4. Significance for Understanding Revelation

Whatever the case may be concerning the red horses, the similarities between Zechariah’s vision of the chariots and the horsemen shown John are:
  1. Four different categories of horses ride with a global ministry.
  2. The horses ride at the command of God—they serve God’s purposes.
  3. The horses ride in judgment.
  4. The horses have similar colors representing victory (white), bloodshed (red), black (judgment), and pale or dappled (sickness leading to death).
We note the reversal in the order of the white horses and black horses in Zechariah’s vision versus what John sees of the four horses. In Zechariah’s vision, the white horses follow the black horses in their ride north indicating a time of judgment and destruction followed by victory and peace. Here, the white horse rides out ahead of the black horse, indicating victory and peace which degenerates into a time of judgment and death. The pattern established in John’s vision (Rev. Rev. 6:1+) matches what we see elsewhere in Scripture of the end-times—at a time when people believe all is well, then destruction will come suddenly (Mtt. Mat. 24:37-39; Luke Luke 17:26-30; Luke 21:34-35; 1Th. 1Th. 5:3). One of the most difficult aspects of interpreting prophetic passages from the OT is determining whether a passage was completely fulfilled in the local near-term setting, or whether aspects of the passage reveal events of the end. Often, a passage begins describing a local situation, but then transcends that situation and reveals information concerning the last days.

There is a well-known type of biblical narrative in the Old Testament in which the Holy Spirit leads a prophet to consider some event that is taking place before the gaze of the world at that moment. The inspired writer presents some of the details of what is to him contemporaneous history. Then, suddenly, without so much as a break in the paragraph, the Holy Spirit carries the writer forward more than two thousand years to the time of the end and speaks of prophetic events which have some similarity with those taking place before the eye of the prophet.1

Some feel that Zechariah’s vision of the chariots is such a passage:

God’s wrath is specially spoken of in this last vision as being caused to rest on “the north country” [Zec. Zec. 6:8], because not only was it there that the attempt was first made to array a world-empire against God, and where apostasy sought, so to say, to organise and fortify itself; not only did Babylon also, at a later time, become the final antagonist and subduer of God’s people and the destroyer of His Temple [Solomon’s Temple], but probably because there, “in the land of Shinar,” the metropolis of world power, Babylon, the great rival of the city of God—wickedness [Zec. Zec. 5:8], . . . will once again establish itself, and all the forces of evil again for a time be concentrated. Then God’s judgments shall be fully poured out, and anti-Christian world-power be finally overthrown to make room for the Kingdom of Christ.2

It is interesting to consider that in Zechariah’s time the chariots rode north to Babylon in judgment, whereas in the book of Revelation it is once again Babylon which occupies center stage in the end times to be overthrown in judgment (Rev. Rev. 18:2+, Rev. 18:21+).


1 Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 124.

2 David Baron, Zechariah: A Commentary On His Visions And Prophecies (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1918), 182.