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Friday, 04 November 2016 21:35

38. Opening the first seal: Who is the one riding the white horse? * Revelation 6:1-2

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1  And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four living creatures saying, Come and see.

2  And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.


*** Background ***: The Lamb is the one opening the seals. He is the only one found worthy to do it, because He paid the price to restore humanity with His own blood. As soon as Jesus opened the first seal, interesting events started to be unveiled. The first four seals are related to each other, as they all involve riders on horses. Many people are familiar with the expression “the four horsemen of the Apocalipse”.

We find similar texts in the Old Testament, talking about different colored horses (Zechariah 1:8-17, and Zechariah 6:1-8). The colors of the horses in chapter 1 of Zachariah are mentioned (red, speckled, and white), but are not emphasized. In chapter 6 of Zachariah, we see the same colors as the horses in chapter 6 of Revelation. One of the key elements that can help us understand the horses in Revelation is that, in both of Zechariah’s texts, the horses come from Heaven. The Lord sent them. And they had a mission to be completed here on Earth.

***Voice (noise) of thunder said: Come! ***: Following the opening of the first seal, John saw one of the four living beings making an announcement. He had the voice of a thunder. Revelation 4:7 tells us: “And the first living creature was like a lion, and the second living creature like a calf, and the third living creature had a face as a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.” The voice of thunder seems to go very well with the first one. It is possible that the first living creature, the one who looked like a lion, was the one making the announcement: “Come and see”. In some Greek manuscripts, such as the Textus Receptus, the text reads Erchou kai blepó. Erchou is a from the verb Erchomai, which means to come or to go. Blepó means to look, see, perceive, discern. Other manuscripts, such as the Codex Alexandrinus, only includes the word Erchou (“come”). In any case, the living being is calling to the scene a white horse and its rider (mentioned in verse 2), and inviting John to witness the scene.

*** White horse ***: There are a few things we need to consider in order to understand the results of the opening of the first seal.

Where and who?: A white horse and its rider “went forth conquering and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2). The first thing we need to look at is: where did they go to conquer? Once we have an idea of where they went, it will be easier to see what group of people they were targeting. The living being that called them was clearly in the throne room in Heaven. Revelation 6:2 gives the idea that they “went forth”. This leads us to believe that, like the texts we read in Zechariah 1 and 6, the horseman is going out from Heaven, and heading somewhere else. Throughout the book of Revelation, the main focus is to reveal Christ to the fallen humanity. From the beginning of the first vision, Christ was showing to John His plan to be reunited with His people on planet Earth. The rider and the white horse were likely headed to Earth, to conquer the people there. Since the horseman was sent from Heaven, his mission must then be to conquer people for God.

Color white: the color white in Revelation is always linked to Jesus and His followers.

Jesus is portrayed with white hair

Revelation 1:14

The overcomer receives the promise of a white stone

Revelation 2:17

The overcomer would wear a white gown

Revelation 3:4,5,18

The twenty four elders are dressed in white

Revelation 4:4

The martyrs are given white robes

Revelation 6:11

The Son of Man is seated on a white cloud

Revelation 14:14

Jesus is the rider of a white horse

Revelation 19:11

Armies following Jesus are riding white horses, and dressed in white

Revelation 19:14

God will sit on a white throne in the final judgment

Revelation 20:11

Symbolic and prophetic nature: The symbolic and prophetic nature of this horseman and white horse becomes clear after looking at the implications of where he is coming from, where he is going to, and the significance of the color of the horse. A literal approach to the scene following the opening of the first seal cannot encompass the depth of the symbolism presented. The goal of the horseman on the white horse relates to the message embedded in all of the passages that include the color white as a qualifier.

The main 3 interpretations: There are different views on how to interpret the white horse and rider. 1) Literal: a modern view is the literal interpretation. Under this view, the horse and rider would be the Parthians, who were enemies of the Romans, and were known for their use of horses, bows and arrows during wartime. The problem with this view, is that it does not carry any prophetic significance in terms of the conquering people for God. 2) The rider as the antichrist: the proponents of this way of interpretation have good arguments, such as the instances in the Bible when the arch and the bow are used as symbols of the enemies of God’s people. They defend the idea that, since the other horses bring about plagues, so does the first one. Once again, this interpretation doe not take into consideration the fact that the horseman left heaven to conquer for God. 3) Rider and horse as a symbol for the spreading of the Gospel: Christ is the one who sealed the opportunity of salvation and made it real when He died at the cross. The Pentecost, which we saw was related to Jesus taking His place on the throne with the Father, marked the beginning of the spread of the Gospel. The message of the Gospel is clearly covered in all of the instances in the book of Revelation where the color white is mentioned. The Word of God spread quickly after the Pentecost, most definitely conquering people for the Kingdom of God. This view seems to be the one that matches more closely the events that would be taking place soon after the ascension of Christ to His throne.

*** A bow ***: The horseman had a bow. It seems that he was using it as his conquering weapon. In Habakkuk 3:8-9 and Psalm 45:3-5, we see God riding a horse, with a bow in His hand. With His arrows, He pierces the hearts (Psalm 45:5) and the heads (Habakkuk 3:14) of His enemies. This way, He can give them a new heart, and new understanding if they are willing to let Him in.

*** A crown ***: the rider received a victory (stephanos) crown. That is the crown that was promised to the overcomer, and the type of crown the twenty four elders wore. The fact that the rider is already wearing the victory crown indicates that He has overcome the challenges imposed by sin. In the moment in time depicted in John’s vision (enthronement of Christ in chapter 5), only the twenty four elders and Jesus were wearing the victory crown. In Revelation 19:11-12, Jesus is the rider of the white horse, but in that scene, he is wearing a royal crown (diadem), and not a victory crown. This is because Revelation 19 is showing the time of Christ triumphant victory over his enemies. At that point, Christ will be the undisputed ruler of the world, and will wear the royal crown. 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 says: “Then comes the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet.

*** Conquering, and to conquer ***: The Greek word used for “conquering and to conquer” is the same word used for the one who overcomes, described in the seven letters to the Asia Minor churches (Revelation 3 and 4). It’s the verb nikaó. It means to conquer, to overcome, to be victorious, to prevail, to subdue. Now it becomes very evident that the white horse and rider represent the life journey of the one who overcomes once he accepts the call to hear the Spirit, and follow the Word of God. This process started at the Pentecost, and will continue on to the time of the end of the world. The message of the gospel spread very fast during the first century. Since then, it never really stopped conquering. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”

*** Overview ***: After considering each element described in Revelation 6:1-2, we can see that the conquering going on the planet Earth is both the spreading of the Word of God and the response people have when they hear the message. If they accept it, they initiate the path of the one who overcomes. They receive a new heart, and new understanding. But who exactly is the horseman? There are two Bible verses that help us understand the answer to this question. Psalm 45:4 says that God rides in His majesty. Revelation 19:13 says that Jesus “was clothed with a robe dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.” Jesus is the living Word of God, going forth as the horseman. He is riding in the fullness of His majesty, because the blood He shed on the cross made a way for people to overcome the world, just as He did.

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