THE FOURTH SEAL -- A Pale Horse
“And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. 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.” Revelation 6:7-8.
Review and Herald, vol 20, July 8, 1862, #6, p 44.
The rider upon the pale horse is named Death. Hell, the grave, followed with him. The symbols under this seal denote great persecution, and martyrdom of the church. The period of this seal cannot be mistaken. It must have been during the unlimited, unrebuked, unrestrained, persecuting rule of the Papacy, from about A. D. 538, to the time when the reformers commenced their work of exposing the corruptions of the Papal system.
Alonso T. Jones, Great Nations of Today, p 170-183.
Exactly corresponding to this fourth phase of the Church, in the course of the Seven Churches, is the Fourth Seal in the series of the Seven Seals. For it is written: "And when he had opened the Fourth Seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast [living creature, cherub, R. V., and Eze. 10:20] say, Come and see. 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." And that this was the slaughter of the saints of God is made plain by the very next verse: "And when he had opened the Fifth Seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held." Rev. 6:7-9.
This fixes upon the Papacy the application, in the Christian dispensation, of the phrase "that woman Jezebel."
In the reign of the original Jezebel, when the king charged Elijah with being "he that troubleth Israel," the prophet replied, "I have not troubled Israel, but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim." 1 Kings 18:17, 18.
The ancient Jezebel caused the people not only to forsake the commandments of God, but to do honor to idols. And she not only caused them to forsake the commandments of God, and to do honor to idols, but to do honor also to the sun.
So it was with the modern Jezebel: In the making of the Papacy, idolatry -- image-worship -- was introduced, and grew until it became universal in the Church. And when in the seventh century an effort was made to abandon it, the Church of Rome, under Pope Gregory II and his successors, defended the images and their worship, and maintained their cause until the seventh general Council, September 24 to October 23, 787, the Second Council of Nice, by a decree confirmed image-worship, and established it as a legitimate part of Catholic worship. "The scene was decorated by the legates of Pope Adrian and the eastern patriarchs; the decrees were framed by the president Tarasius, and ratified by the acclamations of three hundred and fifty bishops. They unanimously pronounced that the worship of images is agreeable to Scripture and reason, to the fathers and the councils of the Church." -- "Decline and Fall," Chap. XLIX, par. 17.
Also with the modern Jezebel it was not enough that she would cause the people to forsake the commandments of God and do honor to idols; but she must also cause them to do honor to the sun. In the making of the Papacy the honoring of the sun was established, and that to the exclusion of the honor of God. And in this transaction, more than in any other one thing, there was indeed revealed "that man of sin, the son of perdition who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he as God sitteth in the temple [the place of worship] of God, showing himself that he is God. 2 Thess. 2:3, 4.
In Paul's discourse to the elders of the Church at Ephesus, he said that from the bishopric there would arise men "speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them." Acts 20:30. This is but expressing another feature of the "falling away," the leaving of the first love, that is described in the Seven Churches, and the Seven Seals, and 2 Thessalonians 2, as the development of the Papacy. In Dan. 8:12 it is described as being developed through "an host" being "given him . . . by reason of transgression."
The perverse-minded teachers not only spoke perverse things to draw disciples to themselves rather than to Christ, but they did it also to "draw away" disciples even from Christ to themselves. They wanted disciples drawn to themselves, that they might gain power; and whatever means would draw the multitude was readily adopted by them. For this purpose they adopted the pagan philosophy, they imitated the pagan mysteries, they adopted the pagan forms, and the day of sun-worship. By this means, "by reason of transgression," the apostasy succeeded in gathering "an host," even before the union of Church and State was formed in the Roman Empire; and when that union was formed, that host was infinitely increased.
"By taking in the whole population of the Roman Empire, the Church became, indeed, a Church of the masses, a Church of the people, but at the same time more or less a Church of the world. Christianity became a matter of fashion. The number of hypocrites and formal professors rapidly increased: strict discipline, zeal, self-sacrifice, and brotherly love proportionately ebbed away; and many heathen customs and usages, under altered names, crept into the worship of God and the life of the Christian people. The Roman State had grown up under the influence of idolatry, and was not to be magically transformed at a stroke. With the secularizing process, therefore, a paganizing tendency went hand in hand." -- Schaff, "History of the Christian Church."
The lust for power was the secret of all this course, from the beginning; for no man can ever want disciples to himself, except it be to obtain power. And, when this host had thus been gathered, in this was found the incentive to ambition, among these bad leaders and teachers themselves, each one to obtain for himself the position of supreme power. And Eusebius tells that "some that appeared to be our pastors, deserting the law of piety, were inflamed against each other with mutual strifes, only accumulating quarrels and threats, rivalship, hostility, and hatred to each other, only anxious to assert the government as a kind of sovereignty for themselves."
Nor was it only government in the Church and over this host that had been gathered by reason of transgression that they were anxious to assert: it was government of all kinds -- civil as well as ecclesiastical; State as well as Church. And when the Union of Church and State was formed, the way was fully opened for the ambitious Church managers to get control of the civil power, and thus assert the civil government as a kind of sovereignty for themselves, and to use it the further to enlarge, and more firmly to fix, their ecclesiastical power.
Just here, too, the Church encountered a difficulty, upon which, in her blind ambition, she had not reckoned; and by which, in order to maintain the power that she had gained, she was compelled to secure control of the civil power. She found that her discipline was impotent to restrain the evil "host," which she had by transgression gathered to herself; and if Church discipline were to be maintained with this "host," it could be maintained only by the power of the State. This power, however, the Church was not only willing, but glad, to employ; because it was a step which would only increase her power: and power was the sole aim in every stage of this procedure, from the first steps taken, and the first words spoken in speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
The principal thing which had characterized the Church of Rome, from the beginning of the apostasy -- and, indeed, the chief thing in the apostasy -- was the exaltation of Sunday. This was her sign of authority; this was the key of her ambition and of her power. And now the power of the State was gladly seized upon by the Church, to accomplish the further, and even the supreme, exaltation of Sunday; and, by this, to enforce Church discipline, not only upon those who were adherents of the Church, but also upon all who were not. By this means, she could enforce the authority of the Church, and a submission to the authority of the Church, upon those who were in no wise connected with the Church.
This, at once, gave to her power over all; and this power was held by her, and was confirmed by the State, as the power of God; because "there had in fact arisen in the Church a false theocratical theory," which aimed at "the formation of a sacerdotal State, subordinating the secular to itself in a false and outward way." This theocratical theory was already the prevailing one in the time of Constantine; and . . . the bishops voluntarily made themselves dependent on him by their disputes, and by their determination to make use of the power of the State for the furtherance of their aims."
This false theocratical theory, and the formation of a sacerdotal State -- a false theocracy -- is the foundation and the explanation of the whole course of things in the making of the Beast, and of the place of Sunday legislation in the making of the Beast.
A true theocracy is the government of God. A false theocracy is a government of men in the place of God. True theocracy is the kingdom of God itself; false theocracy is a government of men in the place of God, passed off upon men as the kingdom of God.
In that Church and State intrigue the Church in Rome claimed to be Israel oppressed by the new "Pharaoh," Maxentius. Constantine was the new "Moses," "called by God" to deliver "Israel" from "Egypt" and the oppressions of "Pharaoh." And when that deliverance had been wrought, the bishops of the Church claimed, and insisted, that the kingdom of God as prophesied by Daniel was come.
In the system that was thus being formed, the State was not only to be subordinate to the Church, but was to be the servant of the Church to assist in bringing all the world into the new "kingdom of God." The bishops were the channel through which the will of God was to be made known to the State. Therefore the views of the bishops were to be to the government the expression of the will of God; and whatever laws the bishopric might deem necessary to make the principles of their theocracy effective, it was their purpose to secure.
Accordingly, no sooner had the Catholic Church made herself sure of the recognition and support of the State, than she secured from the emperor an edict setting apart Sunday especially to the purposes of devotion. March 7, A. D. 321, Constantine, playing into the hands of the new and false theocracy, issued his famous Sunday edict, which, both in matter and in intent, is the original and the model of all the Sunday laws that have ever been made. It reads as follows: --
"Constantine, Emperor Augustus, to Helpidius: On the venerable day of the sun let the magistrates and people residing in the cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain-sowing or for vine-planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations, the bounty of heaven should be lost. (Given the 7th day of March, Crispus and Constantine being consuls each of them for the second time.)" -- Schaff's translation from the Latin, "History of the Christian Church," Vol. II, sec. 75, par. 5, note 1.
All know that, when the original Israel had been delivered indeed from Egypt by the Lord, the Sabbath was given to them, and by a law, to be observed in that government of God, that true theocracy. And the establishment of Sunday observance by law, in the new, false theocracy of the fourth century, was simply another step taken by the creators of this new theocracy, in imitation of the original. This setting apart of Sunday in the new theocracy, and its observance being established and enforced by law, was in imitation of the act of God in the original theocracy in establishing the observance of the Sabbath. This view is confirmed by the testimony of one of the leading bishops of his day, as well as one of the principal bishops engaged in the making of the Beast. These are the words: --
"All things whatsoever that it was duty to do on the Sabbath, these we have transferred to the Lord's day." -- Eusebius, "Commentary on the Psalms," 92.
Thus the change of the Sabbath -- the rejection of the Sabbath of the Lord, and the substitution of Sunday -- is the essential feature, the chief instrumentality, in the making of the Beast. This is confirmed by further facts from the proceedings in that baneful transaction. In an oration which this same Eusebius delivered, "in praise of Constantine," and in his presence, on the thirtieth anniversary of the emperor's reign, he declared that God gave to Constantine the greater proof of His beneficence in proportion to the emperor's holy services to Him, and, accordingly, had permitted him to celebrate already three decades, -- thirty years, -- and that now he was entering upon the fourth one. He related how the emperor at the end of each decennial period had advanced one of his sons to a share of the imperial power; and now in the absence of other sons, he would extend the like favor to other of his kindred. He gave the meaning of all this as follows: --
"The eldest, who bears his father's name, he received as his partner in the empire about the close of the first decade of his reign; the second, next in point of age, at the second; and the third in like manner at the third decennial period, the occasion of this our present festival. And now that the fourth period has commenced, and the time of his reign is still further prolonged, he desires to extend his imperial authority by calling still more of his kindred to partake his powers; and, by the appointment of the Caesars, fulfills the predictions of the holy prophets, according to what they uttered ages before: 'And the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom.'" -- Eusebius, "Oration in Praise of Constantine," Chap. III.
Then as the sun was the chief deity in this new kingdom of God, the bishop drew for the edification of the Apollo-loving emperor, a picture of him as the sun in his chariot traversing the world; and positively defined the new system of government as a "monarchy of God" patterned after the "divine original," as follows: --
"Lastly, invested as he is with a semblance of heavenly sovereignty, he directs his gaze above, and FRAMES HIS EARTHLY GOVERNMENT ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN OF THAT DIVINE ORIGINAL, feeling strength in its CONFORMITY TO THE MONARCHY OF GOD." -- Id.
The system of government there established being considered as in very fact the kingdom of God itself, the laws enacted in promoting the interests of that kingdom would, necessarily, be religious. And even so Eusebius plainly declares, in the following words: --
"Again, that Preserver of the universe orders these heavens and earth, and the celestial kingdom, consistently with His Father's will. Even so, our emperor, whom He loves, by bringing those whom he rules on earth to the only begotten Word and Saviour, renders them fit subjects of His kingdom." -- Id., Chap. II.
And the Sunday laws were the very chief of all the laws that were ever enacted in the interests of this "kingdom of God." For, by it, the authority of the Church was extended over those who did not belong to the Church, equally with those who did; and this is not true of any other law. Consequently, the Sunday law was the chief means by which men were brought "to the only begotten Word and Saviour," and rendered "fit subjects of His kingdom."
At every step in the course of the apostasy, at every step taken in adopting the forms of sun-worship, as well as in the adoption and the observance of Sunday itself, against it there had been constant protest by all real Christians. Those who remained faithful to Christ and to the truth of the pure word of God, observed the Sabbath of the Lord according to the commandment, and according to the word of God which sets forth the Sabbath as the sign by which the Lord, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, is distinguished from all other gods. These accordingly protested against every phase and form of sun-worship. Others compromised, especially in the East, by observing both Sabbath and Sunday. But in the West, under Roman influences and under the leadership of the Church and the bishopric of Rome, Sunday alone was adopted and observed.
Against this Church-and-State intrigue throughout, there had been also, as against every other step in the course of the apostasy, earnest protest by all real Christians. But when it came to the point where the Church would enforce by the power of the State the observance of Sunday, this protest became stronger than ever. And additional strength was given to the protest at this point by the fact that it was urged in the words of the very arguments which the Catholic Church had used when she was antagonized, rather than courted, by the imperial authority. This, with the strength of the argument upon the merit of the question as to the day which should be observed, greatly weakened the force of the Sunday law. But when, in addition to these considerations, the exemption was so broad as to allow all who dwelt "in the country, freely and at full liberty" to pursue their regular avocations on Sunday, and when those who observed the Sabbath disregarded the Sunday law, its effect was largely nullified.
Since any disrespect to Sunday, or any weakening of its standing would, in the nature of things, hinder people from attaining to the place of "fit subjects" of this "kingdom of God," it became necessary for the Church to secure legislation extinguishing all exemption, and prohibiting the observance of the Sabbath, so as to quench that powerful protest of the Sabbath-keepers. And now, coupled with the necessity of the situation, the "truly divine command" of Constantine and the Council of Nice, that "nothing" should be held "in common with the Jews," was made the basis and the authority for legislation utterly to crush out the observance of the Sabbath of the Lord, and to establish the observance of Sunday only, in its stead. Accordingly, the Council of Laodicea enacted the following canon: --
"CANON 29. -- Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday [`Sabbath,' in both Greek and Latin], but shall work on that day; but the Lord's day they shall especially honor, and, as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out [`accursed,' Greek and Latin] from Christ." -- Hefele, "History of the Church Councils," Laodicea.
The report of the proceedings of the Council of Laodicea is not dated. A variety of dates has been suggested, of which A. D. 364 seems to have been the most favored. Hefele allows that it may have been as late as 380. But whatever the date, before A. D. 380, in the political condition of the empire this could not be made effective by imperial law. In 378 Theodosius, a Spanish soldier, became emperor of the East. In 380 he was baptized into the Catholic Church; and immediately an edict was issued in the name of the three emperors, commanding all subjects of the empire, of whatever party or name, to adopt the faith of the Catholic Church, and assume the name of "Catholic Christians."
As now "the State itself recognized the Church as such, and endeavored to uphold her in the prosecution of her principles and the attainment of her ends" (Neander); and as Theodosius had already ordered that all his subjects "should steadfastly adhere to the religion which was taught by St. Peter to the Romans, which faithful tradition" had preserved, and which was then "professed by the pontiff Damasus," of Rome; and had now ordered that they should all "assume the title of Catholic Christians," it was easy to bring the imperial power to the support of the decrees of the Church, and make the Laodicean Canon effective.
Now was given the opportunity for which the Church had waited so long, and she made use of it. At the earliest possible moment she secured the desired law; for, "by a law of the year 386, those older changes effected by the emperor Constantine were more rigorously enforced; and, in general, civil transactions of every kind on Sunday were strictly forbidden. Whoever transgressed was to be considered, in fact, as guilty of sacrilege." -- Neander.
And in this transaction of substituting the observance of Sunday for the keeping of the Sabbath of the Lord, the Papacy fulfilled the prophecy of the word of God that she should "think to change times and the law" of the Most High. Dan. 7:25.
Uriah Smith, Biblical Institute, Lesson 21, “The Seven Seals”, p 255.
The fourth seal introduces a scene stranger still. It was a pale horse and the name of his rider was death, and hell (hades, the grave) followed with him. "And they had power to kill with sword and with hunger and with death and beasts of the earth." The preceding seal having brought us to the commencement of the papal supremacy, this seal naturally covers that period of its history during which it had in its hands the power of persecution. This was restrained by the great Reformation of the 16th century, as we shall see under the following seal.
Uriah Smith, Daniel and Revelation, “The Seven Seals”, p 438.
"VERSE 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 him over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth."
The color of this horse is remarkable. The colors of the white, red, and black horses, mentioned in the preceding verses, are natural; but a pale color is unnatural. The original word denotes the "pale of yellowish color" that is seen in blighted or sickly plants. A strange state of things in the professed church must be denoted by this symbol. The rider on this horse is named Death; and Hell ( , the grave) follows with him. The mortality is so great during this period that it would seem as if "the pale nations of the dead" had come upon the earth, and were following in the wake of this desolating power. The period during which this seal applies can hardly be mistaken. It must refer to the time in which the papacy bore its unrebuked, unrestrained, and persecuting rule, commencing about A.D. 538, and extending to the time when the Reformers commenced their work of exposing the corruptions of the papal systems.
"And power was given unto them" - him, says the margin; that is, the power personified by Death on the pale horse; namely, the papacy. By the fourth part of the earth is doubtless meant the territory over which this power had jurisdiction; while the words sword, hunger, death (that is, some infliction which causes death, as exposure, torture, etc.), and beasts of the earth, are figures denoting the means by which it has put to death its martyrs, fifty millions of whom, according to the lowest estimate, call for vengeance from beneath its bloody altar.
James White, Signs of the Second Advent, p 19.
When the fourth seal was opened, there appeared a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was called Death, and Hell followed with him. The color of this horse, which is pale or yellowish, like that seen in blighted or sickly plants, denotes the condition of things in the church when the papacy bore its unrestrained and persecuting rule, commencing about A. D. 538, and extending to the time when the reformers had exposed the corruptions of the papal system. During that period fifty millions of martyrs lost their lives by the very instrumentalities named in the prophetic description of that period.