In His sermon on the Mt. of Olives Jesus said that the first phase of the End Times would include pestilences, along with other signs of the times like false messiahs, wars, famines and earthquakes.
Pestilences would include wild animals, pests, diseases and environmental hazards. These things have been problems in every age, but in these days there are major concerns about AIDS, drug-resistant strains of old diseases like tuberculosis, and newer threats like Ebola. Radiation from space, radio, television and cellular signals, and nuclear accidents are adding to the growing problem of cancer, which affects most families today. Terrorism and threats of war pose the additional nightmare of injury or death by nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
During the Tribulation, the Book of Revelation predicts even greater world-wide disasters, symbolized by the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (Revelation 6:1-8). These disasters are a false messiah (white horse), a great war (red horse), famine (black horse), and then rampant sickness and death (pale horse).
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This is an area where it would be unwise to be dogmatic, but there are two possible connections to nuclear destruction from the account of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Revelation chapter 6 describes the early part of the Tribulation as a vision of four riders on different colored horses. First there is the rider on a white horse (verses 1-2), a mighty conqueror and apparent messiah who appears to be able solve the world’s problems, but in reality is a false savior – the “beast” of Revelation 13, who is often called Antichrist.
The second symbolic rider comes on a red horse (Revelation 6:3-4). This speaks of the ravages of a great world-wide war. It is not likely that this war is started by the rider on the white horse, since, as the previous verses indicate, he is seen as a messianic hero.
Jesus told us that the period leading up to the Tribulation would be characterized by “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7).
It is likely that this is the war of Ezekiel 38 and 39, which results in fiery destruction of the aggressors from the north when they try to conquer Israel. This could very possibly escalate to nuclear warfare, which involves more than one of the present-day nuclear powers. The emerging world dictator could take credit for the destruction of Israel’s invaders, or at least take advantage of the situation, to bring about the seven-year peace treaty between himself and Israel that was prophesied by Daniel. If this is the case, this war would take place at the very beginning of the seven years of the Tribulation. And, of course, if it involves a nuclear exchange, it will result in the release of unwanted radiation.
The third horse will be black, and it will bring great famine, probably as a result of the world war and continued global economic problems (Revelation 6:5-6).
The fourth horse brings a variety of deadly situations.
When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. – Revelation 6:7-8
The color of the fourth horse is translated many ways. Some Bible versions translate it as “pale,” others as “ashen,” or “pale green.” The Greek word is chloros, “greenish.” It is the root of the well known “chlorophyll”, the tiny green chemical converters in the leaves of most plants.
Chloros also suggests deadly chlorine gas, which is pale green in color and quickly fatal to all who breathe it. The intended picture here is a sickly pale green that symbolizes death as a result of the terrors of nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare.
Therefore, one of the main causes of this Fourth Horseman’s deadly mission might be radiation and the cancer that it produces. This radiation could be the result, not only of nuclear weapons, but of damaged nuclear power plants as well. And these catastrophes could be caused by terrorism or natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis.
One other possibility for the meaning of the green horse has been suggested by some Bible teachers in the light of the growing threat by Islamic radical terrorists. They wonder if the green could come from the well-known fact that Islamic countries all use green in their flags and seem to prefer that color. Time will tell if there is any connection here.
More related information is available in our book, Connecting the Dots: A Handbook of Bible Prophecy.