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As a continuation of this question and this question:

Few Biblical symbols, allegories, or metaphors have fired the imagination more than the alleged Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse described all too briefly in Revelation 6:1-8.

Do the Jehovah's Witnesses have an official interpretation of these verses? And if so, how are the Horsemen interpreted by the Jehovah's Witness faith?

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In the Watchtower Society’s 1988 reference book, “Insight on the Scriptures” Vol. I, it says this on page 1146:

“In the apostle John’s symbolic vision, the glorified Jesus Christ is depicted as riding a white horse and as being accompanied by an army, all of whose members are seated on white horses. This vision was revealed to John as representing the righteousness and justice of the war that Christ will wage against all enemies on behalf of his God and Father, Jehovah. (Re 19:11, 14) Earlier, Christ’s taking kingly action and the calamities that follow are represented by different horsemen and their mounts. – Re 6:2-8.”

To get more details on the Revelation 6:2-8 verses which are specifically asked about in this question, I found this explanation in the Watchtower Society’s 1969 book, “Then is Finished the Mystery of God”, page 40:

“In this preliminary vision the rider on the white horse differs in appearance from the rider of the white horse described in Revelation 19:11-16, where this same rider is pictured as having ‘many diadems’ on his head and as having protruding out of his mouth a sharp long sword with which to smite the nations of earth, to pronounce the execution of divine judgement upon them. However, in this latter vision the rider of the white horse is riding to the ‘war of the great day of God the Almighty’ at the place that is called in Hebrew Har-Magedon… But when the rider on the white horse appears with his bow after the opening of the first seal of the scroll it is at the beginning of that ‘time of the end.’ That is when the seven Gentile Times have ended, and hence it was the early autumn of the year 1914 C.E…”

This indicates that the Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret the first rider of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to be Jesus Christ from the year 1914 and onwards, and that they also interpret the rider of the white horse in chapter 19 verses 11 and 14 to be Jesus Christ, but that ride is still future as they say the battle of Armageddon has not yet begun. On page 44 the author of that 1969 book goes on to confidently state that,

“Worthy ones of this generation of mankind will see the crowned Rider of the white horse complete his conquest with the help of Jehovah God the Almighty.”

However, given that a generation is about 36 years or so, that generation has NOT seen the completion of Christ’s ride. He then admitted to previous interpretations not being too precise either:

“In July [of 1917] the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society published the book known as the seventh volume of the ‘Studies in the Scriptures’. (See the issue of August 1, 1917, of ‘The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence’, page 226, column 2.) This book contained a commentary on the entire Book of The Revelation, and attempted to explain, but too soon, Revelation 6:1, 2. However, thirteen years later, or on August 11 of 1930 the Watch Tower Society released at its Brooklyn headquarters the two volumes of the book entitled ‘Light.’ Ah, at last this set forth the explanation of Revelation 6:1, 2 that was based on events since the end of the Gentile Times in 1914, which events fulfilled the thrilling Bible prophecies.”

After saying the year 1914 was only identified in 1930, with hindsight, as the time Jesus began to ride forth as per Revelation 6:2, the ‘Then is Finished the Mystery of God’ book goes on to give its interpretation of the three other horsemen, from pages 46 to 76. Here are just brief quotes to summarise Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs about them:

“The horse that John now saw come forth was ‘fiery-colored,’ flame-colored, red like blood. Its color suggested blood! Very appropriately so, because it fitted in with the mission on which the horse’s rider rode, namely, ‘so that they should slaughter one another.’ Besides this, since it was granted to the rider ‘to take peace away from the earth,’ what could this mean but war, bloody war? So, then, when the Gentile Times ended in 1914 and the Rider on the white horse did ride forth, was this event marked by bloody war? Yes. World war, the first world war of human history!” Page 50 “The crowned rider of the white horse took no part in World War I, which was started by the second horseman armed with the ‘great sword’.” Pages 51-52

“The horseman that John now saw was on a black horse... represents famine, food shortages… After the outbreak of World War I and the ending of the Gentile Times in 1914, this is exactly what happened.” Pages 52 & 54

“A fourth figurative horseman dashes onto the scene of world affairs. His horse is yellowish pale, livid, sickly-looking in color. What a good match its color was to the name of its rider, whose name is Death! …This is premature death… the symbolic rider Death was accompanied by Hades… Those brought down to Hades by the fourth horseman Death were to be many… something that would be an added proof of the fact that the first horseman, Jesus Christ, had been crowned and had begun to ride victoriously since the close of the Gentile Times in 1914 C.E.”

and then refers to the Spanish influenza of 1918-19 which killed some 20 million victims. Pages 56 to 59.

The key point in the Jehovah’s Witness interpretation of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is the date October 1914, upon which all of their interpretation depends. If they are wrong about that, they are wrong about all else. So far, they are sticking to their doctrine about October 1914, but if that is dropped at any time, then they will have to reinterpret their claims about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

  • The dependency with 1914 actually moves in the other direction. The doctrine on 1914 derives proof from the observation that the prophetic conditions of the ride of those horsemen were all significantly fulfilled beginning in 1914. The mention of a "generation" is meant to reflect Jesus' statement at Matt. 24:34, and is believed to still be ongoing. It isn't just 36 years. – 4castle Apr 2 '18 at 21:40
  • Awake! 22 October 1995, page 4: “the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away." Then the 1995 Watchtower (1 November) explained in Questions From Readers that 'a generation' is no longer viewed as being 70 or 80 years. It said it's about 37 years. Now, if that has been changed, I'd appreciate the latest teaching references. Thanks. But this is beside the point of the question and does not alter the fact that JWs still link the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse with the date 1914. We agree on that! – Anne Apr 3 '18 at 13:21
  • Yes, we can agree that they're linked. Your answer is very good; I'm just trying to correct the minor errors. That 1995 Watchtower said that the destruction of Jerusalem was 37 years after, but specifically said that "A generation of people cannot be viewed as a period having a fixed number of years". The teaching on "this generation" has been changed also since a 2008 Watchtower so that the "generation" refers to the group of anointed ones which were contemporaries to the anointed ones who lived in 1914. – 4castle Apr 3 '18 at 13:45
  • Thank you for explaining this changed teaching. It breaks the link between 1914 and 'the generation' due to see Armageddon. Timely, given that we are now 104 years further on! It effectively makes a new link between the 20th century anointed JWs and the 21st century ones. However, here's the exact quote from that 1 November 1995 Watchtower, page 31: – Anne Apr 3 '18 at 16:35
  • "While we, with the benefit of hindsight, know that Jerusalem's destruction in the 'great tribulation' came 37 years later, the apostles hearing Jesus could not know that. Rather, his mention of 'generation' would have conveyed to them, not the idea of a period of great length, but the people living over a relatively limited period of time. The same is true in our case." The new 2008 stance clearly discards that now - of necessity. – Anne Apr 3 '18 at 16:39
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This article from Jehovah’s Witnesses official website discusses the four horsemen and their rides. Brief excerpt for each horseman :

THE RIDER OF THE WHITE HORSE

Who is the rider of the white horse? The key to his identity is found in the same Bible book, Revelation, which later identifies this heavenly rider as “The Word of God.” (Revelation 19:11-13) That title, The Word, belongs to Jesus Christ, for he acts as God’s spokesman.

THE RIDER OF THE RED HORSE

This rider represents warfare. Notice that he takes peace away from not just a few nations but the whole earth. In 1914, for the first time in history, a global war erupted. It was followed by a second world war, which was even more destructive. Some estimates place the total number of deaths due to wars and armed conflicts since 1914 at more than 100 million! In addition, vast numbers of other individuals suffered debilitating injuries.

THE RIDER OF THE BLACK HORSE

This rider represents famine. We find here a picture of food rationing so severe that a quart (1.08 L) of wheat would cost one denarius, a whole day’s wage in the first century

THE RIDER OF THE PALE HORSE

The fourth rider represents death due to plague and other causes. Soon after 1914, the Spanish flu killed tens of millions. Possibly some 500 million people were infected, about 1 out of every 3 humans then alive!

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