Wednesday, 18 November 2020
And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. Revelation 6:2
Verse 6:1 saw the opening of the first seals and the voice like thunder calling out. The response to that leads to John’s words, saying, “And I looked.” This signifies a new part of the vision. His attention is directed away from the living creature and to what has been called forth by it. With that accomplished, he says, “and behold, a white horse.”
Here we have two separate emblems to consider. The horse in Hebrew is the word sus. It also means a swallow (the bird) and swiftness. One can see the similarity between the two as a horse darts and leaps around swiftly like a swallow in the air does. The horse is used at various times to signify battle or war. Two of the many such examples are –
“The horse is prepared for the day of battle,
But deliverance is of the Lord.” Proverbs 21:31
“He devours the distance with fierceness and rage;
Nor does he come to a halt because the trumpet has sounded.
25 At the blast of the trumpet he says, ‘Aha!’
He smells the battle from afar,
The thunder of captains and shouting.” Job 39:24, 25
Psalm 147:10 shows that a secondary aspect of the horse is that of strength. Taken together, one sees that this is a symbol of strength in battle.
The color white signifies purity, innocence, righteousness, and the like. That has already been seen in verses 3:4 & 5, and elsewhere. It was also the color of royalty at John’s time. The commanding officer would ride a white horse. That continued throughout history. With this understood, John next says, “He who sat on it had a bow.” The bow is an implement used in hunting, in battle, and so on. As it is held by one on a horse, it is here reflective of an instrument of war.
At times, commentaries make a to-do about there being no arrow mentioned. The reason for this is to justify their position that this rider is Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who has a bow but no arrow. This is an argument from silence. First, a bowman implies a man who will use a bow. Further, a bowman without an arrow would be a rather dull person. Going into a battle with a gun and no bullets makes as much sense as a tennis puck. Secondly, time and again in Scripture, the bow is mentioned without noting arrows with it, such as –
“I sent the hornet before you which drove them out from before you, also the two kings of the Amorites, but not with your sword or with your bow.” Joshua 24:12
Having a bow implies having arrows. The bow stands as representative of the weapon, just as having a machine gun implies having the capability to fire bullets. John next says, “and a crown was given to him.”
The stephanos, or “crown,” is a symbol of royalty, honor, and victory. Christ wore such a crown of thorns in His crucifixion. He the victorious King. The gospels mention the crowns of rejoicing, righteousness, life, and glory. Each is a symbol of honor. The twenty-four elders of Revelation have such crowns of royal heavenly governance. Thus, such symbolism is seen here as well – royalty, honor, and victory. Of this rider, John next says, “and he went out conquering and to conquer.”
Of this, Albert Barnes says, “John saw in him two things: one, that he had the aspect or port of a conqueror – that is, of one who had been accustomed to conquest, and who was confident that he could conquer; the [o]ther was, that this was clearly the design for which he went forth, and this would be the result of his going forth.”
This is correct. The horseman is summoned forth to wage war, to do so under the guise of purity and royal authority, and who anticipates victory.
To understand the symbolism further, the vision of Zechariah and four horses should be reviewed. That ancient symbolism is being brought forth again in Revelation. In Zechariah 1, four variously colored horses were sent throughout the earth as it rested quietly. These were followed by four horns (symbols of power and strength) that scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.
They were followed by four craftsmen. Of these, it said –
“These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one could lift up his head; but the craftsmen are coming to terrify them, to cast out the horns of the nations that lifted up their horn against the land of Judah to scatter it.” Zechariah 1:20
The four horses are jointly sent on a mission, just as the four horses of Revelation are sent. They have a unified purpose. Understanding this, the symbolism of this rider on the white horse is identified by scholars in various ways – he is Jesus, he is the church, he is the antichrist, he signifies the Roman empire of ages past, and so on. As this rider is united with the other three coming horses, it is not Jesus.
Jesus will return on a white horse after the tribulation period. It is not the church; they are already taken out at the rapture. He is not the Roman empire of ages past. However, he is associated with Rome, in that he is the coming antichrist. In Daniel 9:27, it says of the coming antichrist –
“Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.”
This coming person is described further in Daniel and elsewhere. He will be a man of war, but he will also supposedly bring peace as a great ruler. Being antichrist, he will be the hope and expectation of what the world anticipates of the Prince of Peace, but He is actually the one to lead them away from any peace at all.
To read an almost astonishingly detailed analysis of all of the aspects of the symbolism of this verse, one can refer to the commentary on it by Albert Barnes at this link – https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/revelation-6.html. He does a great job with the symbolism, and he gives countless references to support his analysis. However, his final conclusion is incorrect. He identifies it as the old Roman empire.
The problem with this is that it fails to take into consideration the idea of dispensations. The tribulation period, now being described in Revelation, occurs after the church age, not during it. His conclusion is correct to a point (that Rome is involved), but he could not foresee Rome being revived as a power. He thus inserted the past, not the future, into his analysis. Despite this, the analysis is excellent.
This rider on the white horse is not Jesus, but the false Christ who will come prior to the return of Jesus. The breaking of the first seal is not to bring peace to the earth, but judgment on the earth. This rider is going forth to make war. Along with him, three other terrifying riders will come forth as well.
Life application: This rider has been given authority to do his work during the time of the tribulation period. Eight more times in the coming chapters, the term “was given” is used to indicate an allowance of evil power, so the argument cannot be made that this is Jesus from that term. The term “anti” when applied to the antichrist means “instead of.” And this is certainly what is expected during the tribulation period based on the figure mentioned in Daniel 9:26 – “the prince that shall come.”
This prince is anticipated to come in the final seven-year period mentioned in Daniel’s vision, and that seven-year period is still future; it is the tribulation period of Revelation. The figure in this verse then is this coming antichrist – going out conquering and to conquer.
To avoid being here when he arrives on the scene, be sure to call out for Jesus now. In believing in His gospel, you will be saved. When the rapture occurs, you will be taken from the world before this terrible time comes.
The timeline is set by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 –
- Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you:
not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter,
- as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
[warning] Let no one deceive you by any means;
2a for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition
The “falling away” and the “man of sin” being revealed is being stated based on “the day of Christ,” not “our gathering together to Him.”
In other words, the rapture will occur. Only then will the antichrist be revealed who will sign the seven-year peace deal with Israel. During that seven years, he will fulfill the symbolism of this rider on the white horse. We are not to look for the antichrist. Rather we are to have our eyes fixed on JESUS.
Lord, the best part about reading Your word is to know that we know we are already safe in You. The antichrist who is coming has no authority over us because we are Yours! Hallelujah and amen to this! Lord, we pray for our family and friends who still don’t know you. Please move in their lives now to desire calling on You and to believe in Your gospel message, so that they will be spared from this time of trial to come. Amen.