Revelation 6:2

white horse
This white horse is the first of four horses of different colors, similar to the horses seen by Zechariah (Zec. Zec. 1:8; Zec. 6:2-6).1 See Zechariah’s Horses for a discussion of the relationship between Zechariah’s visions and the horsemen shown John. Within the context of the book of Revelation, white represents righteousness. “The white horse . . . emerges as an emblem of righteousness, though there is no guarantee that the righteousness is more than apparent.”2

he who sat on it
The similarities between this rider and Christ are striking:

  1. Riding a White Horse - Both ride upon a white horse indicating victory (Rev. Rev. 6:2+; Rev. 19:11+).
  2. Wearing a Crown - Both wear a crown (Rev. Rev. 6:2+; Rev. 19:12+). (But Christ wears multiple crowns.)
  3. Overcome - Both are “overcomers”—victorious in their pursuits (Rev. Rev. 6:2+; John John 16:33; 1Jn. 1Jn. 4:4; Rev. Rev. 3:21+; Rev. 17:14+).

Even so, this is not the white horse which carries He who is Faithful and True in Revelation Rev. 19:11+. For it is the Lamb who has just loosed the first seal sending this horseman out. It violates all logic for the same person to be opening the seal and sending himself forth.3 “Moreover, it would be inappropriate to have an angelic being call forth Christ or his servants.”4 If Christ rides forth here, who is it that remains in heaven to open the remaining seals?5 This rider carries a bow whereas Christ’s weapon is a sword (Rev. Rev. 2:12+; Rev. 19:15+). This rider is alone whereas Christ is followed by the armies in heaven also riding on white horses (Rev. Rev. 19:14+). Finally, this rider sets forth at the beginning of the Tribulation whereas Christ rides forth at its end.

In light of related passages, it seems best to understand this rider as representing a movement which ultimately culminates in the one whom Jesus described:6 “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive” (John John 5:43). To an unsuspecting world he looks like Messiah, the political savior of mankind, yet he is a deceiver, the anti- or pseudo-Christ. Here is documented the initial appearance of the figure of the Antichrist upon the stage of world history. Although there will be numerous false messiahs down through history, none as convincing and successful as this final figure.7 The Restrainer has been taken out of the way so that the Antichrist, the son of perdition, might be revealed in his own time (2Th. 2Th. 2:6-7). He is the one who will be destroyed with the breath of the mouth of the Lamb (2Th. 2Th. 2:8; Rev. Rev. 19:20+). The church has already been taken up for she watches for Christ, not Antichrist. See Rapture, Imminency.

The beginning of birth pangs of Matthew Mat. 24:1 and the first four seals of Revelation Rev. 6:1+ are the same thing and will occur during the first half of the seven years of the 70th week. In light of the fact that the beginning of birth pangs will involve false messiahs, it would appear that the rider of the first seal will be a false messiah. . . . Since, . . . God’s Holy Spirit has the function of restraining humanity’s lawlessness, and since the Antichrist will be the ultimate expression of human lawlessness, it would appear that Paul was indicating in 2 Thessalonians 2Th. 2:6-8 that the restraining work of the Holy Spirit is the restraint that prevents the Antichrist from being revealed until the right time. The Holy Spirit will continue that restraining work until He, as the restrainer, is removed, at which time the Antichrist will be revealed. Since, as noted earlier, only God has the authority to remove the Holy Spirit’s restraint, and since the Antichrist will be revealed once that restraint is removed, we can conclude that it will be through divine activity that the Antichrist will be turned loose to conquer the world. . . . It is important to note that God declared He will raise up the foolish, idol shepherd (Zec. Zec. 11:16).8

The rider on the white horse is more probably to be identified as the Antichrist. If this is not Antichrist, then Revelation does not place Antichrist on the scene of events before the middle of Daniel’s Seventieth Week (in Rev. Rev. 13:1+), and the rider is virtually unidentifiable.9

Pre-wrath rapture advocate Marvin Rosenthal finds the idea of God’s release of the Antichrist to be “preposterous:”

If the seals are God’s wrath, then God alone must take direct responsibility for a counterfeit religious system and the emergence of the Antichrist, for that is precisely what the first seal depicts. To attribute the emergence of the Antichrist to God is obviously preposterous. . . . To suggest that the first four seals are God’s wrath is totally unfounded. It strains reason to think that once God begins His Day of the Lord wrath, the Antichrist is able to assume control of the world.10

But to take any other view—that the manifestation of Antichrist is under the control of Satan or man—is opposed to biblical teaching. Even if the restrainer is taken to be something or someone other than God Himself (a view we do not hold), who is it that takes the Restrainer “out of the way” so that the “lawless one” is revealed (2Th. 2Th. 2:6-7)? If the revealing of Antichrist is not subject to the precise timing and permission of God, then what are we to make of a tremendous number of biblical passages which assert the absolute sovereignty of God over all things?

Rosenthal lacks an adequate view of the sovereignty of God and how He redirects sin and the depravity of man toward His own ends. There are many examples where sin accomplishes God’s purpose, yet those who sin remain fully responsible for their actions. God is not the author of sin, but all things serve His purpose in the end (Mtt. Mat. 24:26; Mark Mark 14:21; Luke Luke 22:22; Acts Acts 2:22-23). See Who is the Restrainer?.

The first six seals. . . are thus set here, in order to show us that these judgments do not arise from chance, but are all under Divine control. The great False Messiah of the first Seal cannot be revealed until the appointed moment shall have come and the voice from the throne gives the permissive command “Go!” The judgments cannot fall until the same command is given.11

a bow
The bow is a symbol representing strength (Job Job 29:20; Job 30:11; Eze. Eze. 39:3).

Some understand the mention of a bow, but no arrows as an indication of his initial deception by peace and agreement (Dan. Dan. 9:27). “The Antichrist is seen riding a white war-horse, and with bow in hand, but with no arrow fitted to it. The symbol suggests bloodless victories.”12 Like Antiochus Epiphanes before him, he would “come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue . . . and after the league is made with him he shall act deceitfully” (Dan. Dan. 11:21-23).

And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes. His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; he shall destroy fearfully, and shall prosper and thrive; he shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people. Through his cunning He shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule; and he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity. He shall even rise against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without human means. And the vision of the evenings and mornings which was told is true; therefore seal up the vision, for it refers to many days in the future. (Dan. Dan. 8:23-26)

There is no question among expositors that Antiochus is in view in this prophecy. What was prophesied was fulfilled literally through him. However, the prophecy looks beyond Antiochus to a future person (the Antichrist) of whom Antiochus is only a foreshadowing. This coming one is said to “stand against the Prince of princes” (Dan. Dan. 8:25). This can be none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the prophecy must go beyond Antiochus and look forward to the coming of one whose ministry will parallel that of Antiochus. From Antiochus certain facts can be learned about the forthcoming desecrator: (1) He will achieve great power by subduing others (Dan. Dan. 8:24). (2) He will rise to power by promising false security (Dan. Dan. 8:25). (3) He will be intelligent and persuasive (Dan. Dan. 8:23). (4) He will be controlled by another (Dan. Dan. 8:24), that is, Satan. (5) He will be an adversary of Israel and subjugate Israel to his authority (Dan. Dan. 8:24-25). (6) He will rise up in opposition to the Prince of princes, the Lord Jesus Christ (Dan. Dan. 8:25). (7) His rule will be terminated by divine judgment (Dan. Dan. 8:25). So it may be concluded that there is a dual reference in this striking prophecy. It reveals Israel’s history under the Seleucids and particularly under Antiochus during the time of Greek domination, but it also looks forward to Israel’s experiences under Antichrist, whom Antiochus foreshadows.13

So before the terrors of the Tribulation break loose and lead to the battle of Armageddon there will come a period of world peace. But it will be a deceptive peace, as the world is lulled into a false sense of security followed by war, famine, and death. The world’s desperate desire for international peace will serve as the bait for the satanic trap. That longing for security and safety will play into the hands of Antichrist, Satan’s ruler, who will convince the world that he can provide them. He will particularly deceive Israel, whose people have for so long desired peace, and he “will make a firm covenant with the many [Israel] for one week” (Dan. Dan. 9:27). Antichrist’s peace pact and protection of Israel will not last, however: “in the middle of the week [the Seventieth Week of Daniel’s prophecy; the Tribulation] he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate” (Dan. Dan. 9:27). The false peace that Antichrist brings will come to an abrupt halt at the midpoint of the Tribulation when he desecrates the temple in Jerusalem, betrays the Jewish people, and launches deadly attacks on them (cf. Mtt. Mat. 24:4-10). There can and will be no peace until the Prince of Peace sets up His earthly kingdom (Rev. Rev. 20:1-6+).14

Like Antiochus before him, the Antichrist plays a special role in relation to Israel during the events to come:

God will have specific purposes for bringing Antichrist on the world scene. One purpose will be the punishment of Israel. . . . [the] desolation of Israel by the Antichrist will be part of God’s judgment of the nation because it rejected its Messiah in His first coming [John John 5:43]. . . . A second purpose will be the repentance of Israel. . . . God will bring the Antichrist on the world scene to play a major role in shattering [Israel’s] rebellion [Dan. Dan. 12:7]. . . . A third purpose will be the judgment of the world. . . . God will judge the world by giving it the kind of ruler it deserves. . . . A fourth purpose will be the exposure of the world’s unbelief. God will bring the Antichrist on the world scene and permit him to make his claim to be God to demonstrate mankind’s unbelief, . . . A fifth purpose will be the instigation of the final showdown between Christ and Satan’s forces and the defeat of those forces.15

a crown
στέφανος [stephanos] , generally used of a victor’s crown or wreath, but not always. A widespread, but erroneous teaching is that this crown, being a stephanos and not a diadema, indicates that the rider cannot be Christ.16 Not so, for Christ is also found wearing such a crown (Mtt. Mat. 27:29; Mark Mark 15:17; John John 19:2, John 19:5; Heb. Heb. 2:9). Evidence that this rider is other than Christ must be derived from other factors (see above). See Crowns.

was given to him
ἐδόθη [edothē] , passive voice. Although the rider likely believes he has gained his own crown for himself (cf. Isa. Isa. 45:1-4; Pr. Pr. 21:1; Dan Dan. 2:21; Dan. 2:37; Dan. 4:25, Dan. 4:31-32; Dan. 5:21), it is only his by permission. Everything which proceeds from the opening of the seals is subject to the permission of the one seated on the throne and the Lamb. The sovereignty of God is heavily emphasized throughout the book of Revelation—there is nothing which transpires that God Himself does not grant authority for it. This is seen in the frequently-found phrase was given which denotes the granting of permission to an agent from another, namely God (Rev. Rev. 6:2+, Rev. 6:4+, Rev. 6:8+, Rev. 6:11+; Rev. 7:2+; Rev. 8:3+; Rev. 9:1+, Rev. 9:3+, Rev. 9:5+; Rev. 11:1+; Rev. 13:5+, Rev. 13:7+, Rev. 13:14-15+; Rev. 16:8+; Rev. 19:8+; Rev. 20:4+). The first horseman is granted his crown (Rev. Rev. 6:2+), the second horseman is given to take peace with a great sword (Rev. Rev. 6:4+); Death and Hades, who ride with the third horsemen are given authority to kill a fourth part of the earth (Rev. Rev. 6:8+), the four angels are given the power to hurt the earth and sea (Rev. Rev. 8:3+), the star from heaven is given the key to loosen the demonic locusts from the abyss (Rev. Rev. 9:1+) who were themselves given power to torment men (Rev. Rev. 9:5+), the beast is given authority to continue for forty two months (Rev. Rev. 13:5+) and to make war against the saints and overcome them (Dan. Dan. 7:25; Rev. Rev. 13:7+), the fourth bowl is given the ability to scorch men (Rev. Rev. 16:8+). All of these horrific and terrible realities—the very manifestation and flowering of sin of which God is no author—are harnessed for His purposes. The troubling and yet comforting reality is that there is no creature which ultimately does not serve God’s purpose , either willingly or unwillingly. Troubling, because in the inscrutable purpose of God such evil is allowed to continue. Comforting, because everything we suffer is subject to God’s approval and purpose (Job Job 2:6; Rom. Rom. 8:28). “How irresistible the grasp of Omnipotence on the powers and forces of evil. They are effectually bridled till the plans of God are ripe and ready for action.”17 Once the reality of God’s sovereignty is understood, the bondage of Satan is seen for what it is. For Satan has less freedom in rebellion against God than he once had in obedient service of the Master.

he went out conquering and to conquer
νικων και ἵνα νικήση [nikōn kai hina nikēsē] , both conquering and conquer are from νικάω [nikaō] , the same root as overcomer. Thus, he is another overcomer (Rev. Rev. 11:7+) to be contrasted with the True Overcomer Who is Christ (Rev. Rev. 5:5+; Rev. 17:14+).

He will be endowed with the most extraordinary powers, so that “he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people” (Dan. Dan. 8:24). Before his exploits the fame of Alexander and Napoleon will be forgotten. None will be able to stand before him. He will go “forth conquering and to conquer” (Rev. Rev. 6:2+). He will sweep everything before him so that the world will exclaim, “Who is like unto the Beast? who is able to make war with him?” (Rev. Rev. 13:4+). His military exploits will not be confined to a corner, but carried out on a vast scale. He is spoken of as the man who will “shake kingdoms” and “make the earth to tremble” (Isa. Isa. 14:16).18

Ezekiel Eze. 34:23-30 says that when God establishes His covenant of peace with Israel, the covenant will result in safety, peace with nations, and the elimination of harmful beasts by famine. By contrast, when the Antichrist establishes his covenant of peace with Israel [Dan. Dan. 9:27], God will inflict the world with conditions opposite of those His covenant of peace will bring. He will unleash war (the sword) [the second seal, Rev. Rev. 6:3-4+], famine (the third seal, Rev. Rev. 6:5-6+), and harmful beasts (the fourth seal, Rev. Rev. 6:7-8+) upon the earth to demonstrate that the Antichrist’s covenant of peace is not the covenant of peace that will bring true safety, as foretold in the Old Testament.19


Notes

1 As another example of Anti-supernatural Bias, consider Mounce’s observation: “As usual, John modifies his sources [Zechariah] with great freedom. Apparently for Mounce, it is John who is determining the content of his vision!”—Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), Rev. 6:2.

2 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), Rev. 6:2.

3 Fausset sees this rider as “Evidently Christ, whether in person, or by His angel, preparatory to His coming again, as appears from Rev. Rev. 19:11+, Rev. 19:12+.”—A. R. Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 6:2.

4 Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), Rev. 6:2.

5 “How the Lamb who opens the seal can be the effect of the opening, and at the same time be the rider on a white horse, we cannot understand.”—E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), Rev. 6:2.

6 All four riders are representative personifications of forces. With this rider, there is also a correlation to an individual which the “spirit of antichrist” brings forth (1Jn. 1Jn. 4:3). “This rider, like the other three, is not an individual, but a personification of a growing movement or force that will be at work during this future period.”—Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 6:2.

7 “Rabbi Akiba proclaimed Bar Kokhba as Messiah in A.D. 132; the whole Jewish community of Crete followed a messiah named Moses in the fifth century; Abu Issa of Isfahan raised an army of 10,000 men; and European Jewry crowned Shabbetai Zvi messiah in the seventeenth century, although he later converted to Islam!”—Randall Price, Jerusalem In Prophecy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998), 192.

8 Renald E. Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1995), 105-108.

9 Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), Rev. 6:2.

10 Marvin Rosenthal, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), 142.

11 Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation, Rev. 6:17.

12 Arthur Walkington Pink, The Antichrist (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1999, 1923), s.v. “The Career of the Antichrist.”

13 J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: SP Publications, 1983), Dan. 8:23.

14 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 6:2.

15 Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 108-109.

16 “The Greek language has two words meaning ‘crown,’ One is the word diadem, which is a king’s crown. It is the crown of a sovereign and of a person who is royal by his nature and by his position—a king. This is the kind of crown that Jesus wears.”—Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 160. “That the figure is not Messiah is indicated by the fact that the crown here is a stephanos crown, the crown of an overcomer or victor. It is not the diadem crown, the crown of sovereignty and royalty, the type of crown Messiah will wear in chapter 19.”—Ibid., 206. “This rider wears the conqueror’s crown (stephanos); Christ will have a different kind of crown—the crown of kings (diadema).”—Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 105. “This rider wears a stephanos , a crown won as a prize; in Rev. Rev. 19:12+ Christ wears many diadēmas, royal crowns.”—MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 6:2.

17 Walter Scott, Exposition of The Revelation (London, England: Pickering & Inglis, n.d.), 155.

18 Pink, The Antichrist, s.v. “The Genius and Character of the Antichrist.”

19 Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 62.

Read Revelation 6:2