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Who is the first horseman of the Apocalypse?

"I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, "Come!"  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." (Revelation 6:1-2) 

Is the first horseman Jesus?

  1. He comes at the head of his own judgements
  2. He rides a white horse (Rev 19:11)
  3. He's given a crown (divine passive?)
  4. He conquers emphatically (overcoming, He overcomes) - cf esp Rev 2:26f; 3:21; 5:5 and 17:14

Or is he a counterfeit Jesus - conquering in a bad way?

  1. The beast also conquers (Rev 13:7)
  2. The beast also is 'given power' to do so (Rev 13:7)
  3. The powers of evil often mimic (and distort) the good (the beast speaks like the Lamb - 13:11; the dragon has a seven-fold crown - 12:3)
  4. Christ is not among the four horseman of Zech 1:7-11 - He is the Angel of the LORD to Whom they report (but that's for another post ;-))

 Or is he something else?

I am truly undecided on this.  So let me ask two questions:

1) Who the heck is the first horseman of the Apocalypse?

2) If I'm still asking this question on Sunday (not unlikely!) what should I say from the pulpit?

One thing I'm not keen on saying is 'It's not really important, people can get too hung up on biblical details, especially in Revelation, let me tell you a story about a missionary instead.' 

Anyway, any help gratefully received!


0 thoughts on “Who is the first horseman of the Apocalypse?

  1. The Orange Mailman

    The four horsemen come riding out in succession. We would expect continuity. If the other three horsemen spell doom, the first should fit into this same category. Jesus is the one opening the scroll at the time the rider on the white horse goes forth.

    One of the four living creatures seems to summon this spiritual being into riding forth. "Come!" is the command. The first seal is broken, then the living creature speaks the command, then the rider rides forth.

    As the first horseman is conquering, we see that peace is being taken from the earth (second horseman), food is purposefully restricted (third horseman) and one fourth of the population will die by various means (fourth with death and hell). So this puts the first horseman in a certain context which is a part of the evil which will manifest at the end of the age.

    One popular view is that the first horseman is the gospel conquering the nations. I can't buy it based on the above.

    My view is that each of the four horsemen represent some facet of the beast's (Rev. 13:1) authority. His power to conquer. His power to start wars. His power to impose food restrictions. His power to put to death by various means. There is obviously a supernatural side to this. He could have no power at all if God had not granted it, demonstrated by the four living creatures summoning them to ride forth. And the beast could have no power at all if Satan did not bequeath his entire dominion to this pawn in the end times game. So as peace is taken from the earth, we see Satan working in the hearts of men to stir them to kill each other. Plagues and beast of the earth are summoned by death and hell as well.

    The first horseman, a counterfeit messiah. Supposedly saving the world, he brings its doom. The first seal, to me, overlaps with the miraculous healing of the head of the beast. The world's fascination with the beast is intertwined with his ability to wage war. "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"

    Then again, Nate Saint has a great story, doesn't he?

    Have fun and stay busy - Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  2. glenscriv

    Missy, scholars debate the existence of a Dr Phil motif in Revelation. One interpretive school (the Philastics) claim a whole nexus of McGrawisms beginning in 2nd temple apocalyptic literature and culminating in the 3rd century gnostic 'Gospel of the Talking Moustache'. Their findings will shortly be published in the ground-breaking 'Revelation Gets Real.' I for one am tingling with excitement.

    Hi Orange, thanks so much for all that. Really helpful. I don't think the fact Christ opens the seals decisively speaks against Him being the 1st horseman (He is the Lion then Lamb and the Lamb and Shepherd in very quick succession in Revelation - it is vision not video). But wanting to see the four considered together certainly fits with Zech 1; 6 and with the whole theology of four-ness in revelation.

    To say he's not Christ needs to be accompanied by a good reason for why we don't just let the white horse of 19:11 decide things. But the whole 'false messiah' thing is a good explanation and well backed up by the counterfeit nature of the best in ch13. You might be tipping me Orange. I will continue to think on these things. Thanks again for all the thoughts, really good stuff.

    Dan. Now now, be nice!

    It is interesting that millenial issues come into play here. Post-millers more inclined to see unstoppable gospel progress; pre-millers more inclined to see inevitable tribulations... but what's an a-miller to do?

  3. Missy


    I appreciate that you play along with my game when I use humor to hide my ignorance - and make me laugh more than I did when I began the silly thought.

    The Philastics - you were kidding, right?


  4. glenscriv

    I hope I'm kidding, though there are enough Dr Phil kooks and enough Revelation nuts to make such group plausible don't you think. Can't you imagine the sect's literature "The ancient prophesies spoke of One who would arise and crush self-doubt like a mighty Walrus..."

  5. Justin Moffatt

    Not Jesus!

    I've never understood that it could be Jesus.

    The shock on these horsemen is that
    A. They come even though Jesus is on the throne, and
    B. That *Jesus* is opening the scroll and that 'bad' things take place.

    What does it call for?

    Patient endurance on behalf of the saints (Rev 13:10), for Jesus is Lord even (and maybe especially) in judgment.

    Glen -- don't explain the images away! Let them live!

  6. glenscriv

    Hi Justin, thanks for visiting. Interesting first comment on a blog: 'Not Jesus!' ;-)

    I'm not as *sure* he's not Jesus. He certainly looks like Jesus (cf 19:11; Ps 45:4f; the Overcomer language of Revelation). And I think you probably have to say, given the similarities, he's *meant* to look like Jesus. And then the only other plausible suggestion is that he's meant to look like Jesus but isn't - therefore a counterfeit Christ (anti-Christ?) And maybe that's your suggestion given your referencing Rev 13, but I'm still not fully convinced either way.

    Your advice to let the images live is well said. On Tuesday I was in a group giving feedback on someone's sermon. One criticism was that there were no illustrations. And yet the sermon was on John 10 and the whole thing was an extended unpacking of what Christ as Shepherd and Christ as Gate meant! The preacher did a great job letting the images live, yet even well taught fellow-preachers lamented that there weren't alternative images conjured up by the preacher (illustrations that would no doubt have obscured the images Christ has left for us).

  7. The Orange Mailman

    "What's an a-miller to do?"

    Simple. Convert to Pre-Mill. (smirk)

    Just kidding, Glenn. Hey, some fairly heavy-weight Pre-Millers have endorsed the first rider as being the preaching of the gospel. Read a couple of excerpts from Ladd.

    "Most interpreters insist that the first horseman must be understood consistently with the other three; and since the other three are evil powers of destruction and death by which God executes his judgment, the white horse must be similar in kind."

    "One of the main difficulties with this interpretatation is that it does not do justice to the white garb of the rider and the white horse on which he rides; and in the identification of the other three horsemen the color is of great significance."

    "The course of the age is not to be one of unrelieved evil when God's people are surrendered helplessly and passively into the hands of hostile powers. While the Kingdom of God will not be established until the return of the Son of man, the age will be one of tension: tension between evils which characterize history and afflict particularly the followers of Jesus, and the active and aggressive proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom by those same disciples.

    This truth is well portrayed by John in the vision of the white horse. The rider is not Christ himself but symbolizes the proclamation of the gospel of Christ in all the world. The details with which the first horseman is decribed do not weaken this conclusion. A bow is often used in Scripture as a symbol of divine victories. "Thou didst strip the sheath from the bow, and put arrows to the string.... Thou didst bestride the earth in fury, thou didst trample the nations in anger. Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, for the salvation of thy anointed" (Hab. 3:9, 13; see also Isa. 41:2; 49:2-3; Zech. 9:13; Ps. 45:4-5). The crown is a symbol whose meaning is expressed in the words "he went out conquering and to conquer." This does not necessarily mean complete and utter conquest, but it does mean that the proclamation of the gospel will win its victories. It will be preached effectively in all the world; and in spite of an evil and hostile environment characterized by human hatred, strife, and oppostition, the gospel will make its way victoriously in all the world."

    In spite of my high esteem for Ladd, I stick with my previously explained view. BTW, I agree that there are times when a figure appears more than once throughout Revelation. But there are pockets of chronology which seem to gel together. In this particular place the Lamb (Jesus) is opening the scroll. Once the sixth seal is open we know that the inhabitants of the earth are in terror, Rev. 6:15-17, one reason being that they see Jesus coming, Matthew 24:30, which Matthew 24:29-31 parallel to that passage. So they see Him coming at the sixth seal, which is something new at that point. So it's not rock solid, but I would still contend that Christ here is breaking the seals whilst His living creatures are summoning these spiritual beings to ride forth.

    Have fun and stay busy - Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  8. MrOrange

    Man made the Bible. Many say Guided by the hand of God,but still made by man.
    You have to question specific passages to come to terms with how man has altered and continues to alter/edit/revise the bible to be able to stand back and formulate your own view.
    An example would be the assumption that God gives man free will and then imposes restrictions out of the blue,such as Suffer not a witch.
    Why give free will,then say " BTW...Do not have anything to do with this person, avoid them/kill them/drive them out.

    Women are subservient to men in the bible. Again, another tell tale of mans intervention into what is viewed as a factual telling of religiously significant history

    Do not mistake yourself. I know there is God and I serve. I,however, serve without the limitations of trying to mold my life,views and actions through a book that has been eviscerated over the last 3500 years.

    My take on this question is simple.

    I fail to understand how people can give a personal view based on limited knowledge.
    Distributing ignorance to further propagate ignorance, as has been done for centuries, should have been nipped in the bud in these modern times. Sadly this is not the case.

    Ask yourself " Who is the Lamb".
    Do not jump forward and say Jesus.
    Read....REALLY read. Then understand a few simple things.

    What your reading was rehashed from a compiling of Myles Coverdale's Bible or Tyndale-Matthews Bible which were used to make The "Great Bible" which was used as a setting for The Bishops Bible which was where King James got his initial foundation for what was scripture and what was not and revised it and stamped it as his own..

    Sounds pointless, I know, but this was all accomplished in 33 years, these multiple variations, of which the final variant was Bishops, which was 43 years later re-written,re-compiled and re-distributed as God's Word....according to a king that is :)

    The 1st "English" translation of the Bible, all 80-books,was in 1395...before then, the Anglo-Saxon version, 935...500 years, no changes to the bible.What a miracle in itself.

    I could go on and on, 33+ changes to the bible since Moses delivered the 10 commandments, the actual beginning of the bible as far as man views it, all of them originating from Hebrew/Latin/Greek/Aramaic. A multitude of words do not even translate into English at times, yet our best guesses are tossed in anyway.

    Since the lamb is a contextual being, who is the lamb ?
    Jesus is the Shepard, we are the sheep. God is God ( Not Jesus )

    Jesus speaking
    Luke 18:19 "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone."

    John 10:11, "I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."

    John the Baptist labeled Jesus as the Lamb.God did not nor did Jesus himself.

    I would like to add here, and many will sign,laugh or be amazed, I have always felt John was insane.The man was doom and gloom. He utilized fear to convert people to follow the ways of "God". I cannot tell you how many people think, even preachers I have met, that Baptism was something John started....Ignorance is not bliss, it is a blight :) John labeled Jesus the Messiah. not Jesus. John Baptized Jesus, which I found odd as well due to the meaning behind the ritual.

    Anyway, I digress.

    The Lamb is believed by MAN to be Jesus. If you believe Jesus was the Son of God and you believe that Jesus acted in the context of a lamb,symbolically, and gave his life to allow the forgiving of Sin, then you must believe Jesus is the Lamb spoken of in the passage Revelation 6:1-2

    If you DO NOT believe that Jesus was the Lamb of God ( A silly and backwards title IMO) then the person/animal described is a mystery.

    A side note. Archus was not used in the initial Bible, but we still have Archus appearing 500 years later and then Bow in the English versions. Funny huh ?

    The "bow"described in modern versions is not a weapon. It is a standard. A banner/flag....I am still amazed at how people keep getting that mixed up.

    Read,question,explore,educate, then you can make your own opinion. Just remember, religious Ignorance is the cornerstone of forcing one's opinions onto others :)

    Good day

  9. dark rift 2012

    First Horseman is the Antichrist and brings Pestilence = virus. It should arrive no later than July 12, 2009. (1260 days before the end of time and Final Judgement). The mass graves are already dug.

  10. dark rift 2012

    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.

    Revelation 6:1-2

    May God be with us all. The beginning of the end is around the corner. Change your lives into Spirit. Amen!

  11. SanctusLatro

    Well, sorry to burst your bubble Dark Rift, but there hasn't been the Pestilence Horse yet. So when's he coming?

  12. Si

    Piggy flu was about that time SanctusLatro...

    Jan 12 2013 for the end of the world? What's the basis for the precise date. And only 8 days before the next possible US presidential change...

  13. jackyboy

    the first rider is alive. white rider heritage signified by his bow. he lives in west. he is a warrior but doesnt kill. he is a leo. his given name means lord or lords (there are only so many names), and his heart is given to a love who holds the name of God. he comes from a cultural group known as the king of kings. he will get at least two crowns and his influence on the world is through his sharp tongue. it will make the way for the red rider.

  14. Wesley

    It couldn't be Jesus, I don't remember it being possible for fictional characters to exist.

    Your mocking of "Philastics" being possible is the definition of ironic, when your religion itself is just as laughably preposterous. You follow words from a book without knowing the real author, no it's not god, your essentially following an olden day Harry Potter. Just a popular bit of fiction, taken too seriously. Our nature as humans is to question, when our questions fall on deaf ears we explain them away with nothing more than a wanting to feel as if we really matter in this big cycle. A way to feel purposeful and secure in all our choices despite being mere specks of dust in time.

    There is no god, we have no influence on anything if you put it to scale, mathematically speaking we don't even exist our affect is that small. Go out and do something productive instead of sitting on your knees praying, then maybe you could actually make the tiniest of differences in this endless loop we politely label life.

  15. Glen

    Hi Wesley, you speak of Jesus being a fictional character? Now there's a bold leap of faith!

    You speak of not even mathematically existing (by comparison with the vastness of time and space I imagine), of being on an endless loop - but nonetheless you want to 'do something productive' and you've written to a fellow-virtually-non-existing being on the endless loop of life exhorting him not to trust in Jesus but instead to 'make a difference.'

    You have a very odd philosophy Wesley. Very odd indeed. It sounds completely irrational and unliveable to me. 'Making a difference' when you virtually don't exist??? Trying to change a Christian's mind when, by your reasoning, they don't really exist either???

    I hope you can see that everything in you wants to disbelieve the ludicrous story you tell about being 'specks of dust in time.' You speak, act and feel as if you matter a very great deal - which you do, Jesus was born, bled and died for you! - but you tell me we don't really matter. You encourage me from across the planet to also share your beliefs in meaninglessness - very evangelistic, I commend you - but you think we're both on an endless loop together, dwarfed into insignificance by the universe.

    I don't think you actually believe what you're trying to sell. And I think you'll only be happy when you drop the ridiculous protestations of meaninglessness and take seriously the Person of Jesus. He is drawing you into a much more meaningful story and giving you a place - a place you clearly want. You clearly want to matter Wesley. And you do. You don't matter to the universe, but you do matter to Jesus. Pick up a Gospel this Christmas and do some investigation. Send up a prayer to God and say "If this stuff's true, show me." And read.

    Happy Christmas :)

  16. Betsi

    We were studying this in Bible Study recently. I was very uncomfortable at first with the first horse representing the antichrist. However, after reading Matthew 24, Jesus himself spoke of the signs of the end of the age.
    Read Matthew 24:3-9. The four riders come in order, with the first being alluded to as "Watch out that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,a’ and will deceive many".
    Followed by war, famine, and death.

    Check it out... pretty interesting.

  17. light5

    god sent 1 horsemen to conqueter in the name of god.....he will win......thats why hes given a crown..............lucifer sent his horsemen to destroy is victory......famine and war......god sends death to collect at the end.....before he comes down.....and he will

  18. Chris W

    I appreciate that this was 3 years ago and I still don't think it's clear cut. But I tend towards it being Jesus. In fact, I think that all of the riders symbolise Jesus and the horses symbolise the church. As per James B. Jordan,

    White horse = evangelical conquest (the gospel saves sinners)
    Red horse = Interpersonal conflict (the gospel causes division & drives families apart - Matt10:34-36)
    Black horse = Sacramental power (the gospel exposes the religious bankruptcy of the world - the foodstuffs mentioned are sacramental - 2Chr2:10)
    Pale horse = Kingdom conflict (the gospel judges the present order of things - physical conflict between God's people and the world)

  19. Jordan

    If you read on in revelations, yes it will tell you that Jesus comes on a white horse. BUT he has MANY crowns not just one, and he will be using the sword out of his mouth, not a bow. Its pretty simple that its not Jesus.

  20. jonathan de los reyes

    the first horseman is the man with the sevenfold instruction written in enoch chapter 90 verse 10. He is the man written in matthew 24:45,the faithful and wise servant.

  21. Phil

    Benny Hinn is clearly the first horseman. Why else does he wear white? I think we need to be careful of Christians becoming obsessed with this. It does not really make a difference to a desperate dying world who needs to know Jesus and our responsibility to them. The fact that there are so many different speculative interpretations does little but result in justifying to non-Christians that Christians don't know what they are talking about.

  22. samuel

    In chapter 6 God reveals to apostle John and the churches that Lord Jesus himself is the one who grants permission to everything on the world and anything happens in the word, including the persecution of the saints are only under the permission granted. (as we see in the history of Job's life).
    The first permission granted to mankind is to rule over everything on the face of the earth.(Gen 1:28 ...fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”)
    In the apocalyptic vision, John is brought to see the hour Lord granting that permission to the first man.
    The apocalyptic vision to the question, who gave permission to take away peace from mankind and why wicked men killing saints of God, is depicted as the man on the second horse.
    There in no authority on earth that is not granted by Lord jesus Christ.
    Thus goes the permission to take control on grains, food, materials and so on.
    Then it was shown to apostle it is on God's permission itself man is made rulers over nations, and to fight wars but see, God has made sanctions that no king can distroy the total mankind on the face of the world, but only upto one forth of the total population, no floods or disaters too cannot distroy more than a one forth. It is in tune with the covenant of rainbow on Noah's time.

    By wich verse, anyone assume that the four horses are ONLY for the end time?
    In the end time we come to see man fighting win and succeed, because God has given the permission, but that sanction was for the man without sin. Yes, when a man come sinless he would be one winning and succeeding. We see that winning horseman at the end of the picture.(Rev 19)

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