First Seal: Part 3 of 3 (series: Lessons on Revelations)
by John Lowe
This rider is none other than the counterfeit Christ, known in the Bible as the man of sin, the Antichrist. This is not an Antichrist—John tells us in his epistle that even in his day there were many antichrists (plural)—but this is the man of sin, the devil in flesh. For everything Jehovah God has that is great and wonderful, the devil has the cheap counterfeit. He corresponds to the false Christ of Matthew 24:5: “For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah,' and will deceive many.” This is the first sign, preceding the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem; as there was a general expectation among the Jews of a Messiah; that is, of one that should arise and deliver them from the Roman yoke; in this period of time, many set up themselves to be deliverers and redeemers of the people of Israel. The Antichrist’s method is that of deception. We shall see as we pursue our study that Matthew 24 is a commentary on Revelation 6. The prefix “anti” means “opposite”—and this is the Antichrist (the lie), whereas Jesus was the Truth and the Light of the world. Jesus said, “I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him” (John 5:43). The world that has rejected God’s Christ is ready to receive the devils Christ. And the reason is that the Antichrist does not appear as a villain. After all, Satan’s angels are angels of light. He is not going to have horns or cloven feet. Rather, he is going to be the most attractive man the world has ever seen. They will elect him—for his platform will be world unity and peace—and the world will proclaim him because he has come in his own name. When the Antichrist comes to power, he is going to talk peace, and the world will think that it is entering the Millennium when it is actually entering the Great Tribulation. The Great Tribulation comes in like a lamb, but it goes out like a lion.
The Antichrist will ride a “WHITE HORSE,” and in Revelation 19 the Christ will ride a “WHITE HORSE.” So you see, the personality in verse 2 is a counterfeit—he counterfeits everything Jesus has. Nevertheless, just as men like Nebuchadnezzar and Hitler were instruments in God’s hands, so will it be when the Antichrist appears. God can stir up the heart of a wicked man and impel his fury and in this way display His own power and Glory even as He did in times past (Exodus 14:4; Romans 9:17). No matter what the enemies of God do, in time all will accrue God’s praise, inasmuch as they cannot in any degree prevail against Him. Men are mere puppets in the hands of Almighty God.
This rider of the “WHITE HORSE” goes forth in mighty conquest and he is victorious—the “WHITE HORSE” is a symbol of victory, but he is victorious without bloodshed or slaughter. This rider has a bow . . . but no arrow. In the Bible, when war was fought with a bow and arrow, the arrow was specifically mentioned. Read Numbers 24:8, Psalm 45, Zechariah 9:14. But in the account of this rider on the “WHITE HORSE” not one word is said about the arrow, which is the deadly part of the bow and arrow. This rider has only a bow, denoting bloodless victory.
In the Old Testament, the bow is always the sign of military power. In the final defeat of Babylon her mighty men are taken and their bows—that is, their military power—destroyed (Jeremiah 51:56). God will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel (Hosea 1:5). God breaks the bow and shatters the spear in sunder and burns the chariots with fire; that is, against Him no human military power can stand: “He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire” (Psalm 46:9). He destroys all offensive weapons, so that none may hurt or destroy. So, then, the “WHITE HORSE” and its rider with the “BOW” stand for militarism and conquest. Here, then, is something which has taken men a long time to learn. Military conquest has been presented as a thing of glamour, but it is always a tragedy.
The picture behind this for the first-century readers may have been the powerful Roman legions and their greatest foes—the Parthians who lived east of the Euphrates River, which became the eastern boundary of the Roman Empire. The Parthians rode “WHITE HORSES” and were the most famous bowmen in the world. They had defeated the Roman army twice with their Calvary and their archery. This had caused many to fear an invasion by the Parthians, so Rome eventually had made a treaty with them.
Coming events always cast their shadows before them. This fact will become increasingly evident as the seals are removed. Things happen in the world which foreshadow and illustrate the eventual shape of things to come. It is not surprising that shadows can be discerned in today’s world, shadows cast upon our times by soon-coming apocalyptic events. The days of the Apocalypse have not dawned yet, but enough is happening to enable us to clearly foresee what the judgment age will be like. The rider on the “WHITE HORSE” is not yet in action, for the great Restrainer is still in Heaven, and the book is still sealed. But we can surely see the shadow of this “HORSE” on every hand. We can see the how radically and rapidly ideologies can change the world, and we can imagine what it will be like when restraints are removed and blasphemous propaganda is unleashed upon mankind, spurred on by permission from God’s throne. The machinery for a major worldwide anti-God propaganda offensive already exists, and that machinery is being well oiled and put to the test.
Any person who reads the Word of God, listens to the radio and keeps up with current events, knows that the world is looking for a super-human to lead the nations into world peace, and into the utopia that has been so much talked about in recent times. But Peter tells us that when they say, “Peace and safety,” sudden destruction “cometh upon them.” According to the signs all around us, we surely must be very near the Rapture—the time when Jesus will take out the Bride so that He can turn loose the judgments that are sure to come upon ungodly men.