Study of Rev. 6:2 - The Rider on the White Horse

Revelation 6:2 "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." ESV

Rev 6:2 "και ειδον και ιδου ιππος λευκος και ο καθημενος επ αυτω εχων τοξον και εδοθη αυτω στεφανος και εξηλθεν νικων και ινα νικηση." KJV

Rider on the White Horse

One of the most frequently asked questions concerning Rev 6:2 is "Who is the rider on the white horse, is it Christ, the Holy Spirit, Satan or the Anti-Christ?"

This will be the topic of this pages discussion.

Much of Revelation contains symbols and other types of representations. How much and what parts of Revelation are to be taken literally and symbolically is very debatable, but most will agree, as do I , that Rev 6:2 is symbolic. Therefore, we will study it from that point of view.

Some of the myths that develop about the first rider come from trying to make conclusions before examining all the evidence, also, by lumping all four horsemen into one picture or event, which ultimately may or may not be the case.

Since each rider comes under its own seal, I will assume that each are not tied to another, therefore I will examine the white horse without regard to the others.

Another aspect I will be considering is the time-period from when this passage was written, which many scholars place about 95 A.D. The imagery and symbols given will very likely coincide with the time it was written.

After a thorough study we will see if we can come to a definite conclusion as to the rider on the white horse.

Symbols

First, I will list all the symbols found in the passage, and then go into each one in more detail. As a rule, I try to find similar uses of the same or similar symbols elsewhere in scripture, preferably from the same book, to see if we can apply a meaning based on usage.

  • White
    • The word "white" is used 17 times in Rev., including 6:2, and in each instance, except maybe 6:2, the term has a meaning of purity or holiness.
      • v1:14 describes Christs hair as white as wool.
      • White robes or clothing are mentioned a few times, mostly referring to the redeemed.
      • v14:14 speaks of a white cloud that Christ sits upon.
      • v15:6 speaks of angles being clothed in white.
      • v19:11-14 We see Christ in heaven riding a white horse, and the armies in heaven were also riding white horses.
      • v 20:11 There is a white throne, and sitting on it we see Christ as the judge.
  • Horse
    • In Rev. Horses were the means (transportation) for the rider to create or carry out a war as in Rev 19, or bring plagues to humankind, as in Rev 6.
  • Bow
    • The Greek word for 'bow' in this instance is τόξον (TOXON), and toxon is used only once in scripture, which is Rev 6:2. Its intended meaning is not necessarily to be understood simply as a part of a weapon, but maybe more of an action of inflicting harm or death.
      • Our modern variant of 'toxon' is toxin, which was a combination of two Greek words, "toxicos" meaning bow and arrows and "toxikon" which was a poison for putting on arrows.
      • The ancient Greek meaning of toxon some say, was based on its crescent shape, others say it comes from a Scythian word that was borrowed into Latin as taxus "yew." Yew being a type of wood that is well suited for making bows.
    • Worth noting is the use of the word Bow, singular, without the arrows.
  • Crown
    • The Greek word for crown in this instance is στέφανος (stephanos), which literally is a wreath. Most translations give this meaning; "a crown, a mark of royal or (in general) exalted rank, the wreath or garland which was given as a prize to victors in public games".
    • These 'crowns' were earned by meritorious deeds or given because the recipients were members of a royal family.

 

Now, let us test the meanings of those symbols against both Christ and Satan to see if they can be applied to either of them, at the same time keeping consistent with other scripture.

The first symbol:

White;

White is completely consistent with Christ and His nature, white is consistent with Christ's Angels and His children the redeemed. (as noted in the above verses.)

However, Satan can and does deceive unbelievers into thinking he is the Christ, he is a pseudo Christ, and so in a sense he gives the appearance of being white.

Horse;

I have read that when an army was victorious in battle, the winning king would ride a white horse as a display of victory.

Bow;

Many commentators have given their interpretation of the bow as a symbol of war or fighting, but the ancient meaning of the word toxon implies something more like a poisonous arrow.

The bow & arrow were the best "high tech' weapons of that time, which were capable of inflicting lethal damage from afar.

The bigger idea is something like, someone walking, or in this case riding a horse, being able to cause harm to someone from a distance, with that person not being able to fight back or resist. With an added element of it being some kind of deadly poison.

This scenario was probably the most feared form of warfare of that time, where you have an extremely mobile adversary shooting deadly poisonous arrows from a distance. The only defense against something like that at that time would be a very well made set of body armor.

Another modern variant of the greek word 'tox'-on is in'tox'icate, or to be drunk or drunkenness. The most common intoxicating drink of that time was wine.

The above summary is completely consistent with Satan, his nature and his methods.

Conversely, I don't think you can apply any of the "bow" meaning to Christ & His nature.

 

Again, worth noting is that there was bow, singular, without arrows.

Crown;

As already laid out, this type of crown was only given to someone who has earned it by deed or was of royal blood. It was an emblem of honor and respect.

This crown, which was really a wreath, would be given to a royal family member or even prominent citizens who had accomplishments worthy of honor. When the time came for the king to pass on his kingdom and his inheritance, the son, or in absence of a son, another family member who had the most of these awarded 'crowns', would be the one who was most worthy to receive that honor.

Jesus' earthly genealogy has been traced back to King David of the Old Testament, so He is a royal descendent.

Rev. 22:16 "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, [and] the bright and morning star." AV

And one deed that stands out from the rest is:

Phl 2:8-9 "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:..." AV

Therefore, Christ would be the one who deserves this type of crown, He was of royal blood and His good deeds were many.

Satan has neither any good deeds to show nor is of royal linage that would qualify him to be able to receive a crown.

It's true that at one time Satan was the highest of the angels, and angels are sometimes referred to as sons of God, just as are the redeemed of mankind.

However, Christ has the lone distinction of being called the "Beloved Son of God". Therefore, Christ has the lone distinction of being the only one qualified to receive this type of crown. (From the ruling king, namely God the Father).

 

Had;

The word 'had' of Rev 6:2, Greek 'εχων' (Echo), has a wide range of applications, but the intended meaning here is to hold, own or possess. By that, I mean the rider has a hold of, or is in possession of, or has control over the 'bow', (toxon).

The rider does have a bow, but that does not necessarily indicate the nature of the rider, nor is it implied how the rider intends on using it, or if he even does use the thing. The text simply does not go into that kind of detail.

Really, all we see here is a crowned rider on a white horse with a poisonous weapon in his possession riding forth conquering and to conquer.

Conquer & Conquering;

The Greek word "νικων" (Nikon), is used 8 times in scripture, including Rev 6:2, each of the 7 other times the word is translated "overcome", or more literally, (has) prevailed. The sense of the meaning here is, "was the victor", "or has won".

The Greek word "νικηση" (Nikao) is a present tense sense of the same word, nikon, meaning is prevailing, or is conquering.

The idea behind "forth conquering and to conquer", which can be understood "has prevailed and will prevail" or "was victorious and is victorious".

Many have said that a crown is to be given to Satan (sometime in the future) indicating that he will have ruler-ship for a period.

However, the best representation of a king & authority is a throne, not a crown. Kings ruled from the throne, they provided judgement and exhibited their authority by having the power of life & death over their subjects. They ruled over their subjects from a throne, and maintained their kingdoms by the strength of their armies.

 

Another issue that ties in to the understanding of identity of the rider is the time that this event takes place. Again, many have said that the event takes place sometime in the future, but it is my belief is that it has already taken place, and here is why;

If you take one event out of all events that have taken place since creation, I would say that Christ's willing death on the cross is the greatest event of all. That one act alone should earn Him the distinction of having a crown of honor.

When we see representations of Christ in the book of Revelation, shouldn't we expect to see him already crowned?

Victory or Triumph?

Traditionally, a Roman triumph was more than a victory. The Senate (usually) decreed a triumph on the basis of a particularly important win and other criteria.

  • First, the general must be a magistrate with the right of command. Second, he must have defeated a foreign enemy in a just war. Third, it was necessary for the general to bring back prisoners and trophies of the defeated city. He must also have killed at least 5000 men. Lastly, the war must have been brought to an end so the army could take part in the ceremony.

The general (a consul, praetor or dictator) ceremonially entered the city (originally Rome) with captives and booty paraded before him, and his troops behind him. The general himself rode a 4 white horse-drawn gilded chariot and then made a sacrifice to Jupiter (Jupiter Optimus Maximus) on the Capitoline. The general and his friends then enjoyed a public feast.

  • While not identical to a Roman Triumphal celebration, it does have some close similarities.

I will lay out three scenarios for the rider on the white horse;

  • It is Satan and/or the Anti-Christ looking just like Christ in every way, including a false crown, who goes into the world armed with his poisonous weapon of deceit.

 

  • It is the victorious Christ, having just received His crown of honor for following Gods wishes unto death on the cross. Who now goes forth into the world, having Satan, (toxon), a weapon with out arrows, under His control?
    • A possible interpretation of the bow without arrows is, showing that Christ has defeated Satan in battle, but Satan is still alive. The absence of arrows may mean that Satan has been unarmed, or it may also indicate that he has expended all his ammunition in the battle.
    • The bow without arrows may also be a representation of Satan who was captured in battle and is being 'displayed before the crowd', as was common in the Roman Victory celebrations.
  • The third possible scenario is that it is a picture of both Christ or the Holy Spirit and of Satan or the Anti-Christ.
    • The victorious Christ has just risen from the dead and now is ready to go into the world to begin the harvest.
    • At the same time there is the False Christ doing his best to keep the world under his deception.

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