This is the first of what is popularly called the four horseman of the apocalypse. “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 beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” Not surprising, there are many different views of this first horseman. Many who do not share our pre-millennial view see this horseman and what he represents as a symbol of the coming gospel dispensation. The Geneva Bible notes for instance say this: “The first sign, joined with a declaration, is that because of the sins and horrible rebellion of the world, God will invade the world: and first of all will suddenly, mightily, and gloriously, as if with arrows of pestilence from a distance, beat down the same as Judge, and triumph over it as conqueror.” Others see it as the coming of an event already in our past, as the Roman conquest of Jerusalem or the coming Roman peacemakers that proceeded the persecutions of Christianity and the great wars of the empire. All of these views tend to ignore the fact that we are dealing with things that shall be which are indelibly connected with the literal coming of Jesus Christ. If we are to take this in the literal prophetic context we must lay aside the allegory and preterit viewpoints. There are two viewpoints which we may entertain as advocates of pre-millennialism. The one riding on the white horse is either Christ or anti-Christ.
There are some good men of God that take the view that Christ is the one here riding on the white horse. The sole reason that they make this connection is that Christ in the 19th chapter comes victoriously riding a white horse to conquer this earth and to set up His kingdom. The significance of this point of view is that it sees the whole process of the rest of the book as the process of Christ coming. The one grand problem that I see with this is that it divorces the rider of the first horse with the riders of the other three horses. Only if the first rider is divorced from the others does this make sense for we would not see Christ as the personification of Death and we would not see Hell as following behind Him. Johnson goes a step further in his critique, “Four horses in succession follow. The latter three cannot refer to spiritual changes. If the first horseman represents a spiritual power the others cannot represent carnal powers. If they refer to events in the secular world, the meaning of the first must also be sought there.” Remember the number four is the number of this earth and the four horsemen represent four things that happen in succession upon this earth. The rider therefore can be nothing less than antichrist, the man of this earth driven by the god of this world. The four horses of differing colors are differing phases of the one rider and through the process of the differing colors we see the process of the wicked one being revealed. Just as the seven ears of corn and the seven cattle of Joseph’s dreams are the same thing so these four horses and four horsemen are meant to show us the same things.
It has been rightly said that the four horsemen, or the seals themselves, correspond to the beginning of sorrows from the 24th chapter of Matthew. The order of the events spoken of by Christ in that great chapter is this: the beginning of sorrows, the end, the great tribulation, and the coming of the Son of Man. The beginning of sorrows begins with this statement: “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:4, 5). There are two important ideas conveyed in these verses. First, Christ has told us to beware no particular man will deceive. Note that the word ‘man’ is in the singular. The second part is the plurality of their voice. Many, in the plural, shall come saying ‘I am Christ’ in the singular. This is antichrist and this is the spirit of antichrist. It begins with one man, the deceiver. It ends with many declaring that they are their own Messiah and that they are their own Savior. This coming world leader is a new age leader that will lead the masses into believing in the deity of humanity. We see the seeds of this religion being peddled even now and all we wait for is for the real leader to stand up for the masses to follow. Even now we have a sitting president who has had his mindless followers blasphemously proclaiming, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” But, this coming deceiver will have the masses shouting it in unison. It is this leader that comes on the white horse. He comes on a white horse because he is a false Christ. We will see a lot of things about him that mimics and mocks Christ.
Consider then this rider, this antichrist. Let us consider the way that he is described. We have already considered the white horse. Johnson stated that “Whenever a Roman General was given a triumph his chariot was drawn by milk white horses.” We know that the antichrist will arise out of the revived Roman Empire (Dan. 7, and therefore the historical significance of this picture is relevant). But, the horse is meant to describe the way in which he will enter the scene; He comes in peacefully. He comes in as a Savior. He comes in showing the people a supposed better way; not a Christ without for sinners but a Christ within for gods. As the former head of the UN once said, “give us a man that can lead us and whether he be a god or devil, we will follow him.” The last seven weeks (i.e. years) begins with this man and in such a light. He is a peacemaker on a white horse. “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate” (Dan. 9:27 this correlation is the reason why many of the pre-millennial view see this rider as representing the beginning of the 70th week of Daniel). Whether or not this first rider marks the beginning of that week is a matter of conjecture but the point is only this. He comes first on the white horse as a Savior before they see him on the red, black, or pale horse fully revealed with Hell following after him. Jesus has warned us and warned His own nation Israel against this coming deceiver. Jesus said this: “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (John 5:43). John joined Christ in warning against this man: “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (I John 2:18).
This rider is carrying some things and these things separate him from the real Christ. Johnson again said this: “It has been urged that the Rider upon the white horse in chapter 19 is the same as that of the first seal. There is nothing common but the white horse. The Rider of chapter 19 is clothed, armed and crowned differently. He wears garments sprinkled with blood, has upon his head many diadems (kingly crowns) and out of his mouth proceeds the sword of the Word of God. This warrior holds a bow and wears a garland instead of a diadem.” Consider first his bow. The real Christ bares the sword of truth this man holds a bow. This is not the King of kings this is rather Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. This is not the New Jerusalem but the Old Babylon. They bragged of Nimrod that he was a mighty hunter and they will sing of this man “who is like unto the beast.” The bow is a symbol of power of the wicked. The Bible tells us plainly that “the wicked bend their bow” (Ps. 11:2, see also Ps. 37:14 and Ps. 46:9). This man bore a bow. A bow is also a symbol of what man can do in his own strength. The antichrist is an emblem of humanism and all that it will bring humanity to.
He has a bow and he has crown. It has been pointed out that this is not the many crowns of Christ. It is not a golden crown but answers rather to the corruptible crown spoke of by Paul (I Cor. 9). His crown is a decaying crown. It is not everlasting but carries with it only a fleeting glory. It is a crown that is given to him. Who gave it to him? The people, gladly it would seem as we compare Scripture with Scripture. He will come riding as a Savior carrying the bow of his own power the world will give Him a crown. There is no mention of war here. Like Hitler marched into Austria and was received peacefully by the populace so shall this man one day arrive on the world scene and the world will fashion him the prettiest corruptible crown they can fashion.
And so this rider marches on; going forth conquering and to conquer. He is conquering in peace, presented as a Savior. Thus we see the first phase of antichrist; conquering through the power of his personal ambition. This will be a short honeymoon for there is always but a step between every despot and bloodshed. This same rider will be seen in much uglier and grim colors. We must remember that our salvation will never come from any political leader. Our Savior conquered through His death and not through his bow. His crowns are many and everlasting and never will fade away like the things of this life.