The 2001 Commentaries

The First Horsemen of Revelation Six

info All commentaries are written by volunteers, readers, or supporters of our Bible translation project. These are not official views of our project; we are not a religious denomination and we do not establish doctrine. These commentaries reflect a variety of views and some disagree with each other.



Editor’s note: While we are not dogmatically claiming the following conclusions to be true, the writer offers compelling scriptural evidences for his views, so we are offering it for your consideration.

Most people are familiar with the ‘four horsemen’ of Revelation Chapter Six. But, what does the first horseman truly represent? Does he represent Jesus, as many Bible commentators have concluded? Our research indicates that he probably doesn’t.

What does the Revelation really tell us about this first horseman? He sits on a white horse, he has a weapon of war, he receives a crown, and he has a great conquering ambition… that’s all. And when we look for similar references in Revelation, the most obvious is Revelation 19:11-16. But when we compare the context there, we notice that (in stark contrast to Revelation 6:2) this reference to Jesus contains an enormous amount of information about him. Note that we are told:

Then I saw the sky open up and {Look!} there was a white horse. The one who was sitting on it was called Faithful and True, because he judges and fights war righteously. His eyes were flames of fire and he wore many royal turbans on his head. He had a name that was written, which nobody knew but him. He was wrapped in a robe that was splattered with blood, and the name he is called is The Word of God. All the armies in heaven were following behind him on white horses, and they were wearing white, clean, fine linen. He had a sharp, long sword sticking out of his mouth that he could use against the nations, and he will shepherd them with an iron bar. He’s [the one who] crushed the grapes with his feet in the winepress of the anger of the Almighty God’s rage. And both on his robe and on his thigh he has the name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.’

The descriptions and the context leave no doubt that this is Jesus, the Lamb of God, who is getting ready to battle the Wild Animal. And when we compare these descriptions, notice how much Revelation 6:2 does not say about the first horseman. For example, it does not say that the he:

1. Carries on war in righteousness

2. Is followed by heavenly armies

3. Is expressing the rage of God’s wrath

4. Has identifying marks on his garments

5.Is identified by one of Jesus’ names.

As the result, all we are left with is that the first horseman is a conquering king who happens to sit on a white horse… and this lack of information about its rider leaves this scripture open to differing interpretations.

Evidence from Other Scriptures

Now, for comparison, let’s see if there are any other scriptures that have white horses in them. Yes indeed, there are, and some that can connect more closely to Revelation 6:2. The book of Zechariah, for example, has much in common with Revelation, and at Zechariah 1:8 we find ‘four horsemen,’ one of which is riding a white horse, as in Revelation. And from the context, we find that these horsemen are associated with the 70-year judgment on Judah and Jerusalem.

Then in another vision, Zechariah sees a different, yet similar scenario. For at Zechariah 6:1-7 we read:

6 Then I raised my eyes again and saw; and {Look!} there were four chariots coming forth from between two mountains, and the mountains were copper mountains. 2 In the first chariot there were red horses; and in the second chariot, black horses. 3 And in the third chariot there were white horses; and in the fourth chariot, horses speckled, parti-colored.

4 And I proceeded to answer and say to the angel who was speaking with me: ‘What are these, my lord?’

5 So, the angel answered and said to me: ‘These are the four spirits of the heavens that are going forth after having taken their station before the Lord of the whole earth. 6 As for the one in which the black horses are, they are going forth to the land of the north; and as for the white ones, they must go forth to behind the sea; and as for the speckled ones, they must go forth to the land of the south. 7 And as for the parti-colored ones, they must go forth and keep seeking [where] to go, in order to walk about in the earth.’

Then he said: ‘Go, walk about in the earth.’ And they began walking about in the earth.

Notice that this scenario also has four sets of horses, yet no one would assume that the white horses are supposed to represent righteousness. So, it seems rather obvious here that the horses merely have different colors for the sake of distinguishing which ones go in what direction.

God’s Four Acts of Judgment

Notice that these horses are again mentioned in the context of the Babylonian exile (Zechariah 6:10)… in other words, in connection with God’s judgments.

Let us verify that the four horsemen and the four chariots are indeed connected to judgments of God. Please note what is said in Leviticus 26 about what Jehovah foretold would happen to Israel if they chose to ‘keep walking in opposition’ of Him. Among the things that He said He would bring upon them are four judgments, and these keep reoccurring throughout the prophecies. They are:

1.    Wild animals (vs. 22),

2.    Sword (vs. 25),

3.    Pestilence (vs. 25),

4.    Famine (vs. 26).

You will also find them in Jeremiah’s prophecy of Jehovah’s judgment by means of Babylon at Zechariah 6:1-7, which says:

6 And now I myself have given all these lands into the hand of Neb·u·chad·nez´zar the king of Babylon, my servant; and even the wild animals of the field I have given him to serve him. 7 And all the nations must serve even him and his son and his grandson until the time even of his own land comes, and many nations and great kings must exploit him as a servant.’ 8 And it must occur that the nation and the kingdom that will not serve him, even Neb·u·Chad·nez´zar the king of Babylon; and the one that will not put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, with the sword and with the famine and with the pestilence I shall turn my attention upon that nation,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘until I shall have finished them off by his hand.’

And again, Ezekiel prophesies that,

For the reason that it was my sanctuary that you defiled with all your disgusting things and with all your detestable things,’

Then Jehovah would do the following (Ezekiel 5:17):

And I will send upon you people famine and injurious wild animals, and they must bereave you of children, and pestilence and blood themselves will pass along through you, and a sword I shall bring in upon you. I myself, Jehovah, have spoken.

And notice how Jehovah drives the point home by saying (in Ezekiel 14:13)

‘In case a land commits sin against Me in acting unfaithfully,’

Ezekiel 14:21 continues:

 ‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ‘So, too, [it will be] when there will be my four injurious acts of judgment - sword and famine and injurious wild animal and pestilence - that I shall actually send upon Jerusalem in order to cut off from it earthling man and domestic animal.’

So, notice that these four judgments are against a land that sins against Jehovah in acting unfaithfully, defiles God’s Sanctuary with disgusting things, and walks in opposition to God.

Now, in Revelation Chapters Two and Three, the Apostle John reported that during the Lord’s Day, Jesus will find some congregations in a deplorable state. And Revelation 11 mentions that in the Lord’s Day, the state of God’s Spiritual Temple will be checked on and the courtyard outside the Temple Sanctuary won’t conform to God’s standards. So, it is given over to the nations to be trampled for 3½ years.

The Testimony of John

Now let’s go back to Revelation 6 and see how the above information relates to the first horseman… keep in mind that it is best to allow the Bible to interpret itself. So, look at the scripture in its context (Revelation 6:1-8):

1 Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four animals say in a thundering voice, ‘Come on out!’ 2 And at that {look!} I saw a white horse, and the one who was sitting on it had a bow. He was given a crown and he conquered and completed his victory.

3 Then he opened the second seal and I heard the second animal say, ‘Come on out!’ 4 And a fire-red horse came out, and the one who was sitting on it was given a large sword. He was authorized to take peace away from the earth, so [people] would kill each other.

5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third animal say, ‘Come on out!’ And I saw {look!} a black horse; and the one who was sitting on it had a balance scale in his hand. 6 Then I heard a voice that sounded like it came from the midst of the four animals, which said, ‘A quart of wheat for a silver coin and three quarts of barley for a silver coin… but don’t waste the olive oil or the wine.’

7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth animal say, ‘Come on out!’ 8 And I saw {look!} a greenish-yellow horse. The one who was sitting on it was named Death… and the Grave came following him. They were then given the authority to kill a quarter of the earth with the large sword, famines, plagues, and with the earth’s wild animals.

Notice that, after John has seen all four horsemen, he says (Revelation 6:8):

‘And authority was given them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with a long sword and with food shortage and with deadly plague and by the wild animals of the earth.’

So, we see here the ‘four judgments’ of Leviticus, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Notice how the ‘long sword’ corresponds with the second horseman, ‘food shortage’ with the third horseman, and ‘deadly plague’ with the fourth horseman. So, obviously, the remaining of the judgment ‘wild animals’ must correspond to the first horseman. So, the context testifies against the possibility of Jesus being the first horseman.

Who the First Rider Pictures

But, how can the first horseman be a ‘wild animal’ or a ‘judgment?’ Well, we know from Daniel’s prophecy and the book of Revelation that in the Bible, mighty, politically aggressive empires are compared to ‘wild animals.’ If we look at the previous times that God’s four judgments were executed, we should note that besides possible attacks by wild animals, God allowed his people to be attacked by political ‘wild animals’ in the form of the then reigning world power.

This is especially evident in the above-mentioned text of Jeremiah 27:6-8, where Jehovah makes it clear that the people who would not receive judgment through the King of Babylon would be punished through the other three remaining judgments of the sword, the famine, and pestilence. And clearly, the judgment through the King of Babylon is a judgment by one of the wild animals. This shows that such a judgment refers to chastisement by the reigning world power.

So, this helps us to identify the apocalyptic rider of the white horse in Revelation 6:2. The rider receives a crown, which is a sign that he will become a king during the Lord’s Day. This effectively rules out the Anglo-American world power, since they already are in power before the Lord’s Day began. The only remaining candidate is the leopard-like ‘wild animal’ of Revelation 13:2, 7, where we read,

2 Now, the wild animal that I saw looked like a leopard, but it had feet like a bear and a mouth like a lion. And the dragon gave it power, a throne, and great deal of authority.

7 Then he was allowed to battle with the Holy Ones and to conquer them. And he was given power over every nation, people, language, and ethnic group.

So, as part of God’s judgment, He will then allow ‘the wild animal’ to attack those who call themselves His people and conquer them, both the faithful and the unfaithful. For, this is what happened during the last days of Jerusalem. It (those claiming to be His people) was attacked and destroyed, and true Christians were severely attacked, persecuted, and even killed by the then reigning world power, Rome.

The Wild Animal is the Eighth King

In Revelation 12, the Apostle John had described how the great dragon, the Opposer, is cast out of heaven. Then in his rage, he bundles all his power on earth into one world government in order to be able to control the whole earth and persecute God’s people. He effectively gives the ‘wild animal’ its throne, thereby bringing into existence the eighth king or the eighth world power that incorporates into itself all previous political powers:

And the wild animal that was but is not, it is also itself an eighth [king], but springs from the seven, and it goes off into destruction. — Revelation 17:11.

We have seen that this ‘wild animal’ becomes king during the Lord’s Day, and it will conquer not just God’s people, but it will receive authority over every nation on earth. Thus, it can rightly be said that, as the ’wild animal,’ the first horseman will go ‘forth conquering and to complete his conquest’ (Revelation 6:2). And in the wake of his ride will follow the destructive forces of the other three judgments: war, famine, and deadly plague, symbolized by the riders on the red horse, the black horse and the pale horse.

In the light of this, we cannot find any beauty in any of the four horsemen. Instead of the whiteness of the first horse being a sign of the ‘righteousness’ of its rider, it seems that the white color is a reference to it being a deception of the Opposer, as the scripture in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 indicates:

14 And that comes as no surprise, because even the Opposer keeps turning himself into a messenger of light, 15 so it’s nothing special that those who serve him keep turning themselves into servants of righteousness. However, their end will reflect what they’re doing.

Yes, the Opposer has always sought to mislead the world and deceive them into thinking that he is a bringer of light… indeed, a bestower of knowledge and a force to enlightenment. It is therefore to be expected that his servants will also present themselves as enlightened people who have the best in mind for all mankind, even wanting to bring about world peace. How benevolent!

What though, has been the result throughout history when world powers imposed their ‘peace’ on other nations? Did the ‘Pax Romana’ or the ‘Pax Brittanica’ lead to world peace, or were they just an excuse and cover for the world powers’ ambitions of world domination?

It should not surprise us that the eighth world power would use the same pretext of ‘Peace and Security’ for all mankind in order to establish a global tyranny.

The First Horseman Reaches the End

When the eighth king has gained control over the whole world, the Slanderer’s victory will seem almost complete. But in order for the first horseman to finish his conquest, the Opposer will gather all the kings of the earth to do battle with the Lamb, Jesus Christ, for Revelation 17:10-14 says:

10 And there are seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other hasn’t arrived yet. But when he gets here, he will only be allowed to stay for a little while. 11 However, the wild animal that was but isn’t, is an eighth king that comes from the seven, and it goes off into destruction.

12 ‘Now, the ten horns that you saw represent ten kings who haven’t received a Kingdom yet, but they will be authorized to be kings for one hour with the wild animal. 13 However, they’ll just have one idea in mind: To give their power and authority to the wild animal. 14 Then they will go and fight against the Lamb. But, because he’s the Lord of lords and King of kings, the Lamb and those who are with him (the called, elected, and faithful) will conquer them.’

This is where the first horseman will end its ride, when in a final battle with God’s Son, the Opposer’s newly installed one world government will be conquered and destroyed forever. Nevermore will competing political powers be allowed to cause conflicts of war. Under God’s own Kingdom, the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Anointed will bring about what human efforts could not establish: Peace and Security for all mankind and to all eternity!

All commentaries
























Our Bible translation

Check out our Bible translation project.

arrow_circle_right View our Bible

The 2001 Mailing List

Keep up-to-date with our project and receive interesting tidbits of Bible-related information.

arrow_circle_right Sign up