Who is the rider on the white horse in Revelation 6?


We have been studying the book of Revelation and it is a fascinating book. We are in chapter 6 and there were some interesting verses that I would like to get your opinion on. We had recently read chapter 6 and came across some of the verses that caused some confusion.

The verse I am referring to is verse 2, "I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest." I read other supporting scriptures (Revelations 19:11) which it makes reference too. Based on this it appears to be talking about Christ. Upon further study and commentary, it appears that Revelation 6:2 is referring to the Antichrist (Matthew 24:5) that many support. I am studying a little bit more and would raise this tonight at our Wednesday evening class. So I just want to get your thoughts.


A person's view on a particular verse in Revelation will be heavily influenced by his view of the book as a whole. Without getting into the rest of Revelation, let me give you some things to consider.

At the end of Revelation 5, we learn that only Jesus is worthy of opening the scroll. The scroll is a part of God's message that had been kept secret up until this point. But before the contents of the scroll can be revealed, the seals protecting the scroll must be broken. Each seal represents something and the number of seals is significant. Notice that in chapters 2 and 3 we have seven letters that teach and now we have seven seals that reveal.

At the opening of the first four seals, John is commanded to come and observe. He sees four horsemen and they are similar to Zechariah's vision of four horsemen in Zechariah 6:1-8.

At the breaking of the first seal, a rider on a white horse wearing a crown and carrying a bow in his hand is seen. We are told that this figure conquers; thus we know that the symbol is related to wars and battles (Job 39:19-25; Proverbs 21:31; Zechariah 10:3). The bow, too, is a tool used in both hunting and in battles. The white horse is a symbol of triumph and victory. The crown is a victory garland; it is the same word used in I Corinthians 9:25.

Some believe this to be Christ because of Revelation 19:11-15. However, there are several problems. The weapon is different (bow versus a sword) and the crown is different (a victory wreath versus many crowns of a ruler). And there is a problem matching this horseman with the other three. The four horsemen are a set representing something, each in turn.

I believe the horseman on the white horse represents an idea: a period of prosperity and success. If you take the view that Revelation is dealing with Rome, it is interesting to note that after Domitian's death in A.D. 96, the Roman Empire experienced a period of prosperity and military triumphs from AD. 96 to 180. During this period, five relatively good emperors reigned and extended the borders of Rome.

The second rider is on a red horse and carries a great sword. This figure removes peace and promotes warfare. Thus warfare continues, but it takes on a drastically different aspect. The red represents excessive carnage. The mention of "slaying one another" indicates many internal conflicts and strife within. Again, using Roman history, we find that starting with the sixth emperor after Domitian, "With Commodus commenced the third and most calamitous period. It lasted ninety-two years, from 192 to 284. During that period thirty-two emperors and twenty-seven pretenders alternately hurled each other from the throne by incessant civil warfare. Ninety-two years of almost incessant civil warfare ..." [Fall of the Roman Empire, Sismondi].

The third rider is on a black horse carrying scales. Black is the color of deep distress and mourning (Jeremiah 14:2; Ezekiel 32:7-9). A voice from among the four living creatures calls out "a quart of wheat or three quarts of barley for a denarius." A denarius was a typical day's wage, thus this price was a heavy burden for grain. However, the price of some items, such as wine and oil, were not affected. The horseman represents famine in the land and lopsided distribution of goods that chiefly affected the poor. The scales are those of a merchant. Thus, this horseman represents an economic disaster (Leviticus 26:24-26; Ezekiel 4:16). In the later part of Rome's civil wars (A.D. 211-217), taxes were increased. "The most wealthy families were ruined by ingenious and aggravated taxes." [Decline and Fall, Gibbon, Vol. I, page 160). "In the course of this history, we shall be too often summoned to explain the land tax, the capitation, and the heavy contributions of corn, wine, oil, and meat, which were exacted from the provinces for the use of the court, the army, and the capital." [Decline and Fall, Gibbon, Vol. I, p. 195].

The fourth rider is on an ashen or pale horse, named Death, with the grave following behind him. A quarter of the world's population was killed from war, famine, disease, and natural causes. It is very similar to what we read in Ezekiel 5:16-17; 14:21. It is not meant to be a literal quantity, but to indicate the great number affected. This seems to harmonize with the period from A.D. 260-268, during the reign of Gallienus. "The whole period was one uninterrupted series of confusion and calamity ... But a long and general famine was a calamity of a more serious kind. It was the inevitable consequence of rapine and oppression which extirpated the produce of the present, and the hope of the future harvests. ... Other causes must, however, have contributed to the furious plague, which, from the year two hundred and fifty to the year two hundred and sixty-five, raged without interruption to every province, every city, and almost every family, of the Roman Empire. During some time five thousand persons died daily in Rome; and many towns, that had escaped the hands of the barbarians, were entirely depopulated." [Decline and Fall, Gibbons, Vol. I, p. 299, 329].

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