The First Seal: The First Horseman

Revelation 6:1-2
The End Times

In my last post, we concluded our study of Revelation 5.  In this post, we begin our journey in Revelation 6 as the first six of the seven seals are opened.  As you can quickly see, we will be taking each seal individually as the Four View interpreters have much to say about each.

Chapter 6 begins the account of the events that take place on the earth during the seven years of tribulation.  Futurist interpreters believe that these events begin immediately after the rapture of the church in chapter 4.  The sequence of seals marks a progression during the tribulation period.  It is interesting to note that these signs follow in the exact same order as the signs that Yeshua speaks of in Matthew 24, where He is responding to His talmidim questions regarding the signs that will foretell His return and the end of the age. (These parallel verses from Matthew 24 will be included as we explore each seal.)

The First Seal

Next I watched as the Lamb broke the first of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living beings say in a thundering voice, “Go!” 2 I looked, and there in front of me was a white horse; its rider had a bow and was given a crown; and he rode off as a conqueror to conquer.” ~ Revelation 6:1-2 (CJB)

The white horse and rider represent, for some, Yeshua setting out on His triumphant career, because later (in 19:11), Yeshua appears on a white horse.  But to others (including me), the rider on the white horse is the Antichrist who inaugurates the seven years of the Great Tribulation.  But this is not open war yet – war does not begin until the second seal.  Rather, just as Satan presents himself as an angel of light, so the Antichrist presents himself first as the picture of goodness.

Matthew 24:3-5 (CJB): When He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the talmidim came to Him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that you are coming, and that the ‘olam hazeh is ending?” 4 Yeshua replied: “Watch out! Don’t let anyone fool you! 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray.”
Next I watched as the Lamb broke the first of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living beings say in a thundering voice, “Go!”  Yeshua, the Lamb, is found beginning to break the seals of the book.  The mention of thunder tells us that the storm is about to come.  This storm is denoted in Scripture by several different labels.  It has been called “the day of the Lord;” “the day of Jacob’s trouble;” “the day of darkness;” “the day of vengeance of our God;” “the tribulation;” and finally, “the great tribulation.”  When one of the angels says “Go,” a rider proceeds across the stage of time, summoned to go forth upon the earth.

I looked, and there in front of me was a white horse; its rider had a bow and was given a crown; and he rode off as a conqueror to conquer.  He cannot be Yeshua, for Yeshua is holding the scroll and breaking the seals. Neither can the rider be made into a type of the world system. As Finis Dake explains:

It is clear that the symbol is one of an individual, for he has a bow and is given a crown and he goes forth “conquering and to conquer.” This is in fulfillment of Dan. 7:8, 24-26; 8:8-10, 20-25; 11:35-45 as to the rise of the Antichrist among the ten kings of Revised Rome. Through conquest he will become supreme over them by the middle of the week. The giver of the crown is not mentioned here, but it merely symbolizes the rise of the Antichrist to power as king among the ten kings, through the operation of satanic powers, 2 Thess. 2:8-12; Rev. 13:1-4; Dan. 8:25; 11:36-39. It seems clear that this rider will cause the wars, famines, pestilences, death and hell of the following three seals. These blights always follow an ambitious conqueror. Antichrist is pictured as such in Dan. 7, 8, and 11.

When the Antichrist comes, he comes promising peace, a mock millennium, and whatever else he needs to promise to rally the nations behind him.  Remember what Sha’ul said, “When people are saying, “Everything is so peaceful and secure,” then destruction will suddenly come upon them, the way labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there is no way they will escape” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:3 (CJB).  It is significant that the Antichrist has a bow, but no arrows!  He conquers with power yet peacefully.  The tribulation begins with the Antichrist making a covenant with Israel by promising them peace and protection.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 6:1-2 [1]

Historicist Approach:

Going back to chapter 4 and the subsequent breaking of the seven seals (chapters 6-8) Yochanan’s vision gives a glimpse of the conquests of Imperial Rome for three hundred years, culminating in Constantine’s establishment of Christianity as the religion of the empire.  The seven trumpets that follow (chapters 8-11) foretell the fall or Western and then the Eastern Roman Empires to the end of the world.

The white horse and rider of the first seal refer to the period of Roman imperialism from the death of Domitian (96 CE) to the peace made by Commodus with the Germans in 180 (CE).  During this period, Rome expanded its military might until occupying most of the territories formerly ruled by the Babylonians, Medo-Peresians and Greece.

A few Historicists, including Matthew Henry and Adam Clarke, interpret the breaking of the seven seals essentially as the Preterists.  The whole vision applies to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

Preterist Approach:

Jay Adams suggests that the seven seals are in a row on the edge of the overlapping end of the scroll as I depicted in the picture in my last post.  Consequently, it is impossible to open the scroll until all the seals are broken.  In this view, nothing happens until the seventh seal is broken in chapter 8.  (This makes sense physically, especially if you have ever seen a Torah Scroll.  We’ll have to look at this a little closer as we go along.)

Since the holocaust of 70 CE was preceded by more than three years of war between the Jews and the Romans, some take the rider of the white horse as Vespasian or Titus at the head of the Roman armies.  Alternatively, the rider could be Yeshua going forth to war against His murders through the calamities about to be revealed.

Futurist Approach:

Some Futurists, including Kuyper, Ladd and Morris, see the rider of the white horse as Yeshua going out to conquer with the Besorah (Gospel).  Jennings on the other hand, rejects this adamantly as Yeshua’s reign will not bring war, famine or strife.  Most Futurists believe that the rider of the white horse is the Antichrist.  The crown is not a symbol of legitimate sovereignty (diadema), but a crown acquired by conquest (stephanos).

Idealist Approach:

To many Idealists, the four horsemen represent the universal sequence of conquest, war, famine, and death, oft repeated in history, but here revealed as proceeding from God’s sovereign purpose in judging corrupt humanity.  This view could certainly be borne out by many of the prophets in the Tanakh calling Israel and Judah to repentance.

In my next post, the Second Seal is broken.

 Click here for PDF version.

[1] Material in this section is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg

5 thoughts on “ The First Seal: The First Horseman

      1. Sorry…dumb auto correct. What I meant to write was that I do not believe Titus of Rome can be the antichrist as some suppose because of what Daniel wrote (I believe in Chapter nine). He wrote that the people of the prince to come will destroy Jerusalem and the temple. We know that Titus destroyed the temple in 70 AD. The prince to come will be of the people of Titus.

        Now, some suppose that because Titus was Roman that the prince (antichrist) will be of Roman decent. However, if you look at Titus, he was given authority in the region of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, etc. I’m more inclined to believe that the “People of the prince to come” may be Muslim.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m personally having a hard time accepting the views of the Historists on most things. I’m tending to agree more with the Futurists and some of the Preterists. I haven’t been able to understand the Idealists at all. Just my thinking so far. I trust that Yeshua has it all figured out anyway and will reveal all eventually.

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