By: Nelson Walters
There are hundreds of theories about who will ride the white horse of Revelation Chapter 6. Billy Graham claims it will be the Antichrist, some say he has already ridden and he was Saddam Hussein, Mohammed or Hitler, Irenaeus thought it would be Jesus, some have pictured Obama on that horse, Muslims attribute this passage their Mahdi, the Hindu see Krishna, and some consider the rider impersonal, that “pestilence” rides the horse. But can we know with certainty the identity of the rider? And just as importantly, do we need to know who it is?
Let’s answer this last question first. Why does it matter who rides the White Horse? It is critically important for several reasons:
- Jesus commanded us to be watchful. We can’t watch for the signs of his coming if we don’t know what to watch for. If we think the rider has already come and he has not, we may be completely led astray.
- The rider of the White Horse is intimately tied to the “mosaic picture” God has painted in his word about the period we know as Daniel’s 70th Week. If the church is to endure and overcome this time of testing, we will need the complete and accurate picture God has given us.
Now that we know why it’s important, we need we need to examine the passage where the rider of the White Horse is found:
Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. (Rev. 6:1-2 NASB)
We can and should treat this like a mystery novel and examine each of the clues.
- Appears with the breaking of the first seal of Revelation
- Rides a white horse
- Has a bow
- Has a crown given to him
- Goes out conquering and to conquer
In two short verses this is actually quite a few clues. If we consider all of them we can rather definitively answer the mystery. In order to do that however, we need to have a good working knowledge of the Book of Revelation. John wrote Revelation to help explain much of what the prophets had written about and to add details that the prophets didn’t see regarding the return of Jesus. In the days of John, the Bible wasn’t divided by chapter and verses. In order to reference a section of another book of the Bible, John couldn’t say “see Genesis 1:1,” he had to quote it. This is exactly what he did in his Gospel. In John 1:1 the apostle quotes Gen. 1:1 by saying “In the Beginning was the word.”
In Revelation there are literally hundreds of quotes from the Old Testament and the Gospels. Each of these quotes is there to direct the reader to that older portion of scripture. These quotes are saying, “what I’m writing about in Revelation refers to this older part of the Bible. It is a further explanation of what this section talked about.”
WHEN ARE THE SEALS OPENED?
The vast majority of commentators believe that the first seal on the scroll pictured in Revelation 5-6 is opened at the beginning of the 70th Week of Daniel. I agree with them. Let’s look at a couple “proofs.”
Most readers are probably not aware of it, but the colored horses in Revelation 6 are found in Zechariah and John is referencing these two chapters when he mentions the horses. One cannot surmise about the Horsemen without understanding these sections of Old Testament scripture. In the following verse we see the Horses come out.
Now I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold, four chariots were coming forth from between the two mountains; and the mountains were bronze mountains. With the first chariot were red horses, with the second chariot black horses, with the third chariot white horses, and with the fourth chariot strong dappled horses. (Zech. 6: 1-3 NASB)
We notice that the horses come out from between two mountains of bronze. If we can determine what these are and when they arise, we’ll know the timing of the horses coming forth. Mountain is a symbol of a kingdom. In Daniel 2 :35 which is part of the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, we see “the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” The stone is Jesus and his Kingdom (“mountain”) will fill the whole earth. Bronze is a metal and also a symbol found in the exact same dream interpretation, “then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth.” (Dan. 2:39). Nearly every commentator agrees that this kingdom was the Hellenistic (Greek) Kingdom.
From these symbols we can easily see that the two mountains of bronze are two sub-kingdoms that came out of the Bronze Kingdom. We know from history that the Seleucid Empire and the Ptolemaic Empire were the two dominant empires that came out of Alexander’s Empire. The Bible refers to them as the King of the North (Seleucid) and King of the South (Ptolemaic). Interestingly Daniel Chapter 11 clearly states that these empires will rise again in the end times. “At the end time the king of the South will collide with him, and the king of the North will storm against him” (Dan. 11:40 NASB). If we return to Zech. 6 we see references to the “north country’ and the “south country” (“the black horses are going forth to the north country; and the white ones go forth after them, while the dappled ones go forth to the south country” Zech. 6:6 NASB). This reference in Zechariah totally supports the mountains of bronze as the modern Seleucid and Ptolemaic empires.
Although it has taken a tour of several other prophetic books to discover this, we have determined what the two mountains of bronze are. They are two of the end time kingdoms that will arise out of the future Hellenistic Empire. This tells us where the horses will ride and the approximate timing (end times), but can we be more precise? Please read ARE WE ABOUT TO SEE IRAN FULFILL DAN. 8? In this article based on Daniel 8, we learn that Iran will invade the Middle East, Turkey will counterattack and then this empire will be broken up into 4 nations. The Antichrist will arise out of one of these four. The King of the North and South will rule at this same time. Thus the horses ride at the time just after the Antichrist arises.
This proof eliminates the possibility that the horses of Revelation ride before the Tribulation. An additional proof of is found in the Book of Daniel. In Daniel 7: 8-10 we find these verses:
While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one (the Antichrist) , came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts. I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire. A river of fire was flowing and coming out from before Him; thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; the court sat, and the books were opened.
This scene is the exact scene depicted by John in Revelation chapters 4 and 5 that immediately precede the opening of the scrolls. Here is a table that shows the similarities in the visions. Please notice that the phrase “thousands of thousands and myriads of myriads” is exactly quoted in Rev. 5:11. This is a “fingerprint” match. The two scenes are identical.
|Element of the Vision||Daniel 7||Revelation 4 -5|
|Thrones for the elders||Thrones were set up (v. 9)||24 thrones with 24 elders (4:4)|
|Throne for God||The Ancient of Days took His seat (v. 9)||A throne in heaven and one sitting on the throne (4:2)|
|God’s Appearance||Hair like wool (v. 9) Body like Beryl (10:6)||Hair like wool (1:14) Body like jasper, sardius (4:3)|
|Throne’s Appearance||A river of fire coming out before him (v. 10)||Flashes of lightening from out of the throne (4:5)|
|God’s Attendants||Thousands upon thousands and myriads upon myriads (v. 10)||Myriads upon myriads and thousands upon thousands. (5:11)|
|The Scroll||The book(s) were opened*(v.10)||Jesus opens the scroll with 7 seals (6:1)|
|The Transfer of the Kingdom||All the kingdoms of the whole earth given to the saints and Christ (v.27)||The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (11:15)|
|Extent of the Kingdom||His dominion is an everlasting dominion (v.14)||He will reign for ever and ever (11:15)|
From this all of this we now know that the seals are opened after the Antichrist comes on the scene out of one of the four nations that are formed out of a Turkish Empire that conquers Iran. From this we can eliminate all contenders prior to the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week like Mohammed, Hitler, or Saddam Hussein.
We will now begin to look at the horse and rider. It is my opinion that they present a consistent picture of deception and that deception is the theme of the first seal of Revelation.
THE WHITE HORSE
In Rev. 19:11 we see Jesus riding a white horse. This has led many to believe that the rider of the white horse in Rev. 6 is also Jesus. There are several differences that make this very, very unlikely.
|White horse in Rev. 6
||White Horse in Rev. 19
|Rider has a bow without arrows||Rider has a sword|
|Rider was “given” a victor’s crown (stephanos)||Rider “has” royal crowns (diadems)|
|Goes out conquering and “to conquer” (incomplete)||Will subdue the entire earth|
|Peace taken from the earth
by the red horse that follows
|Peace brought to the earth
by the rider on the white horse
We can see that the rider of the white horse looks like Jesus but isn’t Jesus. In Matthew 24, Jesus foretold events that he called the “Beginning of the Birth Pangs” that exactly mirror the events in Revelation 6.
|Overall Condition of the Earth||Beginning of the Birth Pangs||7 Seals of Revelation 6|
|Deception by False Messiahs||“See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many”Matt. 24: 4-5||“ I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.”Rev. 6:2|
|War||“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”Matt. 24: 6-7||“To him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.”Rev. 6:4|
|Famine||“In various places there will be famines.”Matt. 24: 7||“He who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”Rev. 6:5-6|
|Death||“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name”Matt. 24: 9“And in various places plagues and famines” Luke 21: 11||“He who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.”Rev. 6:8|
The first one of the Birth Pangs that lines up with the white horse is:
And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. (Matt. 24: 4-5 NASB)
Now this is a perfect match. The rider of the white horse tries to convince the world he is their messiah figure. That is why he looks somewhat like Jesus, he is a pretend messiah.
THE MAHDI AND THE WHITE HORSE
Islam is looking for their Mahdi to ride a white horse. In fact they attribute this exact verse, Rev. 6:2 to him. It seems Muslims accept or reject our scriptures based on how they fit their needs. In reading this verse, they see the Mahdi (our Antichrist) on the white horse conquering the world. The early Muslim transmitter of Hadith, Ka’b al Ahbar is quoted as saying: “I find the Mahdi recorded in the books of the Prophets… For instance, the Book of Revelation says: “And I saw and behold a white horse. He that sat on him…went forth conquering and to conquer.”
HE HAD A BOW
If we look into scripture for the first use (Law of Primacy) of the word “bow” (Gk: TOXON) we find it in an unusual place:
I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. (Gen. 9:13 NASB)
At first glance this seems like it doesn’t fit. “This can’t be the reference John was alluding to,” you might say. Many English translations mis-translate “bow” as “rainbow” but that is not what the word is. The Holy Spirit chose the word “bow.” It is a picture of God hanging up his weapon in the sky as a sign of a covenant.
If John was referring to this verse, it would imply that the rider of the white horse was “hanging up his weapons and entering into a covenant.” Most prophecy students are intimately familiar with these passages about a false covenant:
Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, And with Sheol we have made a pact. The overwhelming scourge will not reach us when it passes by, For we have made falsehood our refuge and we have concealed ourselves with deception. (Isa. 28:15 NASB)
And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week 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.
Amazing. If “bow” truly does equate with a “covenant” (and God’s Word says it does), this would be a reference to these famous deceptive covenants entered into by the Antichrist! This is completely consistent with the white horse which is deception as well.
HE WAS GIVEN A CROWN
Because many commentators don’t understand that Revelation is a book of references, most miss what this (stephanos or victor’s crown) is referring to and simply guess at what it means. I believe the correct reference is found in the same reference passage as the white horse is found, Zechariah 6.
Take silver and gold, make an ornate crown (Gk: stephanos) and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the Lord, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices. (Zech. 6: 11-13 NASB)
This passage is universally known to apply to Jesus, who shares the same Hebrew name as this Joshua (Yeshua.) Jesus is also known as the Branch, will build the Millennial Temple in Jerusalem, and will be King and Priest. By referencing this verse, John is showing us that the rider of the white horse will deceptively appear as Jesus or a messiah figure and will be both the religious and political leader at that time.
Again this is amazing symbolism of the deceiver.
CONQUERING AND TO CONQUER
I must admit that for my entire Christian life I have thought of this phrase as a military phrase, conquering countries and planning to conquer them. I was wrong. That is not how the word is used in scripture. It is a spiritual conquering. In fact, the Greek word nikao found in this phrase is usually translated “overcoming. ” I am sure you know many of the verses where this word is used by heart:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom. 12:21 NASB)
In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (John 16:37 NASB)
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4 NASB)
Based on this word study, we can see that it is not a physical conquering, but a spiritual conquering that the rider of the White Horse is attempting! This is revolutionary understanding. Again, as with each of the previous symbols in this passage, deception is the theme.
Earlier in Revelation, Jesus writes letters to the 7 Churches of Asia. To most he says “to he who overcomes…” This is the same word.
Interestingly in two of those letters John addresses a group of people that historians have had trouble identifying. This group might be related to this word as well:
Because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. . (Rev. 2:14-15 NASB)
The Nicolaitans appear only in Revelation. Irenaeus (who we saw also identified the rider of the White Horse as Jesus) believed they were a gnostic sect who followed Nicolas (Acts 6:5) of Antioch. This view is highly discounted today, and frankly the group remains unknown. Some have looked at the meaning of the two Greek words used in constructing the name “Nicolaitans” and surmise it may be a code word for the followers of the coming Antichrist, those who “overcome the people.” (nikao [overcomes} plus lao [people]).
The Hebrew word Balaam has a similar meaning: “he who consumes.” In our previous post, ARE ALL 7 YEARS OF TRIBULATION PICTURED IN PSALMS, we saw a very similar concept is used in Psalm 14:4 about the people of the Antichrist, “Do all the workers of wickedness not know, who eat up my people as they eat bread. (Psalms 14: 4 NASB)”. This is the Psalm that details the fourth year of the Tribulation, the year the persecution known as the Great Tribulation begins.
Because Balaam is linked as a false (deceptive) teacher in this passage, let’s examine the teaching of Balaam. He was not an Israelite but a prophet of one of the false religions of the Middle East, yet he heard from the true God, YHWH. He was repeatedly asked and bribed by Balak, King of Moab to curse Israel, but God made him bless Israel instead. Because he couldn’t curse Israel he taught the Moabites to entice the Israelites with immorality so they would worship Baal.
Peter discusses Balaam as well:
They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. (2 Pet 2:13-19 NASB)
Notice the passage ends with the word “overcome” (nikao). This word is intimately tied to deception and defeating deception. The rider of the White Horse is a type of Balaam, a false prophet. Deceiving and trying to deceive.
The picture is complete, the rider of the White Horse is a deceiver. He carries a false peace treaty, His crown and white horse show he is trying to appear as a messiah in Jesus’s place. Finally he is trying to conquer (overcome) the souls of men. The rider of the white horse is the Antichrist.
Let us not be deceived ourselves.