The Scroll Seals Broken
Image above is from Gustave Doré – Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1865.
There are three main images in this chapter:
1. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse vss. 1-8
2. The Souls under the Altar
3. The Day of Wrath
We deal in this post with the White Horse and its Rider.
Vs. 1 Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Go!” (see my explanation below for this translation.)
The question arises as to the identification of the one who is addressed by the word “come” (in most translations).
(1) Some think that the command is addressed to the Coming Lord himself. The invitation expresses the desire of creation to be redeemed.
(2) Other commentators think that the invitation is addressed to John. Hence, the addition “and see” by the KJV.
*(3) Most modern commentators see this as an address to the four horsemen. I agree with this 3rd option.
The word [“come” in the ESV] is erchomai, which can mean either “come” or “go” depending upon the context. This is the command from the Living Creatures to the Four Horsemen to begin their ride. If the Creatures were beyond the Horsemen, they would say “come.” If the Living Creatures were behind the Horsemen, the Living Creatures would say “go.” That is why I opt for translating this as “Go!” These Living Creatures—an Angelic order representing all of creation—never leave their close proximity to the throne of God.
We can draw two lessons from this first horseman’s ride:
I. This command comes from God’s throne room!
There is nothing inconsistent with the justice of God meted out to those who persecute His people. God is not a “divine Barney the Dinosaur” (“I love you; you love me” type). God’s love is true and genuine, but so is his wrath. If one of His people is harmed, God will mete out justice! “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19 ESV).
In any case, the angels that represent all creation are eager to see the Horsemen’s program begin and reach its conclusion because it will mean the redemption of the earth as a place of habitation for redeemed humanity. It will mean suffering for the created order, but it will conclude with glory for God’s people and a renewed creation.
Christians will suffer as well since they are a part of the created order. Note Matthew 5:45b “For [God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” However, we can be sure that the wrath of God will never fall on His people!
vs. 2 And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.
The rider of this horse is much disputed.
(1) Some think that it is Christ himself.
(2) Others think it is Antichrist.
(3) Some see it as military conquest.
*(4) Others think it symbolizes conquest in general.
I think it is wrong to view this white horseman as a person. All of the other riders symbolize abstracts. This one too is an abstract. It is also wrong to view it as military conquest since the second seal deals with war, etc. It is better to take this rider as symbolic of conquest by whichever means—political, economic, etc. Sun Tsu, in The Art of War, said, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”(emphasis mine.) After all, many different interests go into the decision for conquest. The White Horseman leads the other three.
“The rider of the white horse could well be called Conquest. It is appropriate that he lead this terrible cavalry of violence, famine, and death, for the expansionist aspirations of rulers precipitate military conflict and scarcity of such resources sources as food and medicine, leading to malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and death.” (see Johnson below.)
The first rider has a war bow. And he is given a victor’s crown, the twisted laurel branches with leaves given in athletic contests (stephanos). In Rev. 19, our Lord wears kingly crowns, many diadems (diadema).
The second verb in the last phrase is the present tense of nikao (Greek for “conquer or victory”; used to name the tennis shoes, by the way, meaning “winners wear these shoes!”). It is used to describe the manner of rider’s going out. The first rider goes forth in a conquering manner in order to make fresh conquests.
Because of the white color, many see this as an allusion to Rev. 19 where Christ returns on a white horse. The only similarity between the two riders is the color white. It was associated with victory in ancient Rome. (see Roman Triumph pictured above.) This goes along with the other symbols in chapter six. Satanic forces will be unleashed throughout the last days which will lead nations to seek to conquer the world through deception and error and bring suffering upon the earth.
The so-called Pax Romana was a fiction. Rome did not bring peace and prosperity for all. Rome brought enforced peace for the enrichment of the elites in Rome and elites in the captured territories who cooperated with Rome. Poor people sought the patronage of rich men to eke out a living (see Johnson below).
That Christians are affected by the fallout from the Four Horsemen is true. However, I agree with Johnson’s view that the horsemen are all sent for the purpose primarily to punish and judge the “earth-dweller” persecutors of Christ’s Church. “It seems better to view the primary targets of the destructive forces symbolized by the four horsemen as rebellious, covenant-breaking humanity, ‘those who dwell on the earth,’ rather than the faithful and suffering church.” (see Johnson below).
II. We need to remember since God sends this horseman, He is sovereign over conquest!
God hears our prayers
When I visited and preached in Romania in the early 1990s, Christians told me of their prayers for deliverance from the repressive communist regime. The secular press in the West reported “they held candle light vigils.” Believers told me they had to carry candles to light their way at night since it was all the artificial light they could afford and there were no street lights. Their real business was not to light candles but to pray. God heard those prayers!
Nothing can touch us without our heavenly Father’s permission. I don’t understand why He permits evil in His providence, but I would rather have Him sovereign over it, but not the author of it, rather than evil affecting me at random without Him! He will explain it all when we see him face to face.
Conquest in the World Today
In the Far East there are several regimes that are intent on conquest of their own peoples, economic prosperity, and acquisition of new territory. They are persecuting Christians with a vengeance. Leviathan states must have no rivals for authority!
“A new video from Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) dramatizes the true story of a North Korean man named Sang-chul whose life was changed when he met a pastor in China. This pastor, Han Chung Ryeol, [who lived in Changbai, China] risked…his life to bring the gospel to people living in what is arguably the most oppressive country in the world. …If someone reports you have even ‘glanced at’ a Bible, you and all your relatives will be arrested and sent to a concentration camp for years. To speak the name of God can lead to soldiers coming in the night, says Sang-chul. And there will be no trial. No journalists will write about you, and no one will ever dare ask where you have gone.
Note: Changbai, China, and its close proximity to N. Korea. (Google Maps)
“Sang-chul eventually put his trust in God and persuaded Pastor Han to give him a Bible, despite the danger. Over time, Sang-chul even took the risk of sharing his new-found hope with his wife and his best friend.
“Then in the summer of 2016, Sang-chul says he heard that the North Korean government was honoring some assassins for killing a ‘terrorist missionary’ in Changbai. He immediately knew it was Pastor Han who had died. CBN News reports that the pastor was found in the Changbai Mountains with multiple knife and axe wounds. He died at age 49, leaving behind his wife and two children. (see Pastor Han below.)
God will punish those who seek to destroy His Church. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or 5 years from now, but the White Horse will eventually ride over them and this, and other regimes who persecute His people, will be conquered by others and punished.
We can labor for God knowing that Christ has said, “…I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” — Matthew 16:18 ESV emphasis mine.
Next time the Red Horse and its Rider.
Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Pastor Han Martyred. (2019). “North Korean Man Shares Story of Pastor Killed Because of the Gospel.” Retrieved 9 January 2020 from https://churchleaders.com/pastors/videos-for-pastors/358630-voice-of-the-martyrs-north-korean-man-shares-story-pastor-killed-gospel.html
© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved