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  • Writer's picturekeithburwell

The White Horse of Revelation 6 is The Church

Whether you are a learned scholar, seasoned theologian, Dispensationalist, or Pre-Trib Left Behind-er, stick with me. See if the following resonates with you as it did with me.

The first question that comes to one’s mind upon seeing the title is “Why would you call the church evil? What do you have against the church?” My response to this is the first point we need to establish before going further. Nowhere in Scripture does it indicate that the 4 horses or even the 7 seals for that matter, are inherently bad or evil.

I know you can look to the next 3 horses, as well as the 6th and 7th seals, and say “Look! It’s all bad! War, pestilence, famine, death, earthquakes!” I would agree it is very disturbing imagery. But let’s look for a second at the 5th seal. [Rev 6:9-11 ESV] 9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

The opening of the first 4 seals had a causative effect on the horses, meaning, as the seals were opened it caused a reaction by the living creatures to then tell the horses to begin their traversing upon the earth. The fifth seal seems to trigger a conversation that results in comforting and clothing of presumed Believers. This action in and of itself, is not horrific, nor is it even a cause of further destruction as one could argue many of the other seals are. Therefore, the very easy conclusion we can come to is that at least 1 of the 7 seals are not inherently evil or destructive. This opens up the possibility that other seals may have similar characteristics.

We can agree that seals 2, 3, and 4 are unleashed and cause destruction. They clearly spell this out in their purpose and authority. Seal 6 explains the destruction of the earthquake it causes and the fear that is associated with it. Seal 7 is the opening volley of the worst of the actions upon the earth stemming from this overall vision.

However, the first seal releases a horse and rider who is described as having a weapon with no ammunition, operating in a color (white) that is throughout scripture reserved for holy things, and only has, because of his release, the conquering of “something”. Nothing is said about bloodshed, violence, death, the grave, etc. Simply- conquering. Therefore, if we remove our bias, or maybe a better way of thinking, if we remove our conventional wisdom (meaning- what everyone else says) and look at it logically, we may find some very different conclusions.

If the Devil Gets Kicked Out, Why Would the Antichrist Be There?

The most accepted interpretation is that this is the end-time figure known as the antichrist. But, again, I believe that people are suspending logic for the sake of the narrative here. If one of the most important characteristics of this individual is that he is a “copy” or one “like” Jesus, then by definition, he is partly born of flesh. His father, we know from the Genesis story, is the devil. [Gen 3:15 ESV] 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."

This raises several issues.

1. If the rider on the horse is partly man, how is he operating within and around the throne of God? Even Jesus, upon His resurrection, said to not touch Him as He had not ascended to the Father yet, or in other words, had not been glorified, a necessary operation for mankind to operate in that realm. [1Co 15:51-54 ESV] 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." It makes no sense that a being that is half human would be riding a spiritual horse.

2. The Revelation of John makes a point to discuss the important event that the devil was thrown out of Heaven. [Rev 12:7-10 ESV] 7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world--he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. If this is such a major event, would it not also be a major event if the offspring of the devil were no longer in Heaven? If it was the devil’s offspring, how are the living creatures able to tell the rider on the White Horse, “Come!” and he does? Wouldn’t there also be a fight to remove him from the presence of God? Wouldn’t there be an announcement of rejoicing when He was “kicked” out of Heaven like his father, the devil?

3. Immediately after Satan is described as coming down to earth, the first beast is shown rising from the sea. This is a completely different image than a “rider on a white horse”. It is literally called a beast. If the intent was to show the antichrist figure as a benevolent, peaceful ruler riding the horse, why would we then see a horrible and frightening image once rising from the sea?

4. If one would say, “But Keith, the White Horse and rider-this is the “spirit” of antichrist, as mentioned by John.” [1Jo 4:3 ESV] 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Then why would it be something “future tense” as John was witnessing it in Heaven? It was said that these things must happen “here after”. Therefore, if John indicated the spirit of antichrist was already present upon the earth (in a letter he wrote prior to his vision of the apocalypse), then the first seal of Rev. 6 could NOT be the “spirit” of antichrist.

Whoever is on the Horse, They are an Overcomer

The Greek word nikao, or overcome/overcomer (conquer), is used 28 times in the New Testament. Who does it talk about in the other references?

· [Luk 11:22 ESV] 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. STRONG MAN

· [Jhn 16:33 ESV] 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." JESUS

· [Rom 3:4 ESV] 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, "That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged." BELIEVER

· [Rom 12:21 ESV] 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. BELIEVER

· [1Jo 2:13-14 ESV] 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. BELIEVERS, BELIEVERS

· [1Jo 4:4 ESV] 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. BELIEVER

· [1Jo 5:4-5 ESV] 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? BELIEVER, BELIEVER

· [Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26 ESV] 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ ... 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’ ... 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ ... 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, BELIEVER, BELIEVER, BELIEVER, BELIEVER

· [Rev 3:5, 12, 21 ESV] 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. ... 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. ... 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. BELIEVER, BELIEVER, BELIEVER, JESUS

· [Rev 5:5 ESV] 5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” JESUS

· [Rev 6:2 ESV] 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. ???

· [Rev 11:7 ESV] 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, BEAST

· [Rev 12:11 ESV] 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. BELIEVERS

· [Rev 13:7 ESV] 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, BEAST

· [Rev 15:2 ESV] 2 And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. BELIEVERS

· [Rev 17:14 ESV] 14 They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” JESUS

· [Rev 21:7 ESV] 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. BELIEVERS

The only two times the word nikao references the enemy/ beast is when the two witnesses are killed- which needs to occur for them to fulfill prophecy and be raised up, and the other is when the Beast is given power for 42 months to “conquer” the saints. “Conquering” is a generous word when the one who allows you to conquer also tells you how long it is for (42 months).

Additionally, whatever conquering the beast will do, it is with the understanding that the Dragon has already been conquered by the Saints, evidenced in Ch. 12. [Rev 12:10-12 ESV] 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!"

Therefore, the two instances of the beast “nikao” or “conquering”, do not warrant the rider of the White Horse being that person. What does this prove? It does not prove that the “conqueror” on the White Horse isn’t the antichrist, but for John (actually Jesus) to use the term 13 times in the letters to the Churches just prior to its use in Rev. 6, is a strong argument against it being used of the antichrist figure.

Jesus literally tells the churches that if they nikao, or conquer, they will get rewards, crowns, etc. He says this over and over, yet we are expected to put that aside and assume that the only conqueror is the antichrist, and he is on the White Horse. This is not a logical argument.

Blessings and Curses

There is an overlooked aspect of the church that Paul speaks about in Romans 11. [Rom 11:25-33 ESV] 25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob"; 27 "and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins." 28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. 33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Let me explain this in different terms. If the Jewish people were allowed to obtain salvation through election only, (i.e.- being the “chosen” people and therefore obtain all the benefits of salvation including eternal life, etc.) then they could boast that belief in Jesus would not be necessary. However, if by their initial rejection of Jesus they are in sin, then their reconciliation places them with the same need of grace and mercy shown to Gentile believers. It is their jealousy of the Church which brings them to repentance.

In isolation, this doesn’t seem like an important fact. But we need to go a little deeper into the seals to discover why this becomes relevant. If we look at what is called the Old Covenant, or Mosaic Covenant, we find that it is a conditional agreement between God and Israel. Recall that when God made the covenant with Abraham, He put him to sleep, thereby ratifying the Covenant with Himself so that man could not break it. The Mosaic Covenant was different. As seen in Exodus 19, the people had to answer in the affirmative to enter into the agreement. [Exo 19:8 ESV] 8 All the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.

Leviticus 26 clearly lays out that through obedience to God’s statutes there is blessing. However, it also says that disobedience brings curses. Once the people chose to enter in to the covenant with God, they were accepting responsibility for the curses as well. [Lev 26:14-15, 23-26 ESV] 14 "But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, ... 23 "And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. 25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. 26 When I break your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven and shall dole out your bread again by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.

Three things that God would do if they broke covenant with Him (which they did often) were- Sword, Famine and Pestilence. What are contained within the next 3 horses/ seals of Revelation? Sword, Famine, and Pestilence. So then these spiritual horses sound like God’s agreed upon curses that would befall those who are not keeping in covenant with Him.

“But Keith, we are under the New Covenant. The Old Covenant has no power over the Church.” Well, this is true if one accepts the terms of the New Covenant- Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Paul clearly shows it to the Galatians- [Gal 3:5-14 ESV] 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith-- 6 just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed." 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them." 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith." 12 But the law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them." 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"-- 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

But…this is exactly what was unleashed in the first seal. The New Covenant Church.

By sending out this conquering spirit, God brought jealousy to the Jewish people in order to bring them to repentance and salvation. This conquering spirit continues today as the church grows and brings in new believers. But by being disobedient to the shift in covenant, according to Romans, then Israel is guilty of breaking the covenant yet again. By staying in unbelief, they, along with all other unbelievers must accept the consequences of the curses laid out in Lev. 26. Which is why the next 3 seals are opened.

There was no getting out of the opening of the seals- this will happen. However, it is the choice of the individual whether or not to be affected by the curses. Acceptance of the New Covenant is equal to staying in covenant with God, thereby staying in the blessings of God. Staying in the Old Covenant is tantamount to disobedience of the covenant, thereby acknowledging the acceptance of the curses laid out.

God is simply being faithful to His Word. If we rightly claim that we are to be blessed because He is faithful to uphold His Word, then we need to acknowledge that He is faithful to uphold the curses of His Word. However, because He is filled with mercy and grace, He provided the New Covenant as a way out of the curses that must come upon the disobedient.

Whose church is it? Jesus said it Himself. [Mat 16:18 ESV] 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Jesus stated that it is His Church. Therefore, He would launch it when He chose. When did He do it? On Pentecost after He ascended. He told them to wait for the Holy Spirit, which descended in the upper room on Pentecost. This was the birth of the church. Further, the word “prevail” in Mat 16:18 is not a great translation. It should be “withstand”, meaning the gates of hell will not be able to withstand the church. Sounds like a conquering spirit who goes about conquering, doesn’t it? And what do they begin doing on Pentecost? Preaching Jesus to Jews all over Jerusalem, then the rest of Judea, and then Samaria, all with the intent to bring them to salvation through the New Covenant.

Which is where we still are at today. Doesn’t this make so much more sense looking at the 4 horsemen this way? Think about this- who takes the scroll from the Father? The Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. What does this represent? Jesus after the resurrection, right? Have they been standing in Pause mode for 2,000 years? I will grant you that they are in eternity, therefore, we cannot evaluate time the same. But- each of these seals have a causal relationship to events on earth, therefore, we have to evaluate them on a time basis somehow. Therefore, I can’t see Jesus being done with the finished work of the cross and grave and just standing there looking at everyone in Heaven. This is the One they were waiting for! This was the event of the eternity! It was finished! I have to believe that Jesus got to work immediately preparing a place for us, as He said. He took the scroll, He began to undo the seals since He was now able to do, and He opened the first one to reveal the church, which has as a mandate to go out and conquer, which is exactly how the first horse is described.

A Promise Is A Promise

Let me add another rather interesting reference in light of this interpretation. The word used for bow in the Greek is “toxon”. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses the word “toxon” for the rainbow following the story of Noah’s Ark. What did the rainbow represent? A covenant. A covenant to never flood the earth again. So a covenant involving a rainbow, in the shape of a bow, has the same word as the weapon of the 1st Horseman in Revelation- a bow. Toxon. It also doesn’t seem that the bow in Revelation is accompanied by arrows. Therefore, we have a conqueror with a “covenant” as a weapon. [2Co 3:4-6 ESV] 4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

What covenant are we speaking of here? [Luk 22:20 ESV] 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Once we drop any bias that the only explanation is an evil world leader sitting in Heaven waiting and watching Jesus take the scroll from His Father, we can look at the possibility that the first thing that Jesus would do upon ascending to Heaven following His resurrection is to inaugurate the church and signify their ministry through a New “toxon” or New Covenant and a promise to conquer the world. Those that conquer will get a crown. Which brings us to the last point.

[Rev 6:2 ESV] 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. Why is anyone in Heaven awarding the antichrist a crown? Literally in the same scene in which the entirety of Heaven is worshiping the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world and He being the only one worthy of all praise, honor, and glory, there is supposedly a sideshow going on with the antichrist in the corner and he is being given a crown at the same time.

Wouldn’t this devalue the believer’s crowns we are to receive, knowing that the antichrist has been given one as well? Would you want a crown knowing that the antichrist “earned” one too? What kind of prize would this really be?

There is an even stronger clue here eliminating the antichrist from this scene. The crown received by the rider in Rev. 6 is a “stephanos” in the Greek. The crown worn by the beast in Rev. 13 is a diadema in Greek. The difference? Stephanos is the crown given to the victor of a competition- the tangled leaves of the victor’s crown at an Olympic games of old. A diadema is a royal crown- a gold and jewel encrusted crown that is not earned but is obtained through succession based on family genealogy or position. A conqueror would receive a stephanos, not a diadema. These two images which John references cannot be the same entity.

What Can We Conclude?

Viewing the White Horse in Revelation 6 as the Church brings along some key questions that are not insignificant. Consider the following-

  • If the Church is the White Horse, and the Church began shortly after Jesus' ascension, then that means the scroll began opening 2000 years ago.

  • If the scroll opening is "in progress", and the Church is still here on Earth, how should we view the Rapture event?

  • If the Sword, Famine, and Pestilence are fulfillment of curses under the Old Covenant, who is affected by the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Horsemen / Seals?

  • If 1 was opened, have the 2nd through 4th seals already been opened? How would we know?

The logic of having the Church represented by the 1st Seal opens us up to viewing Eschatological events differently than we have before. If the church is described as 1) an overcomer, 2) bringing all Israel to repentance out of jealousy, 3) making the gates of Hades fall, and 4) wearing a victor's crown, then maybe we need to look at End Times Prophecy with a little less escapism and a little more purpose and direction as we approach the time?

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Richard Hirsch
Richard Hirsch
Nov 20, 2023

I have believed Since the 1980’s, when I first read the Book of Revelation, that the white horse represented the church and not the Antichrist. White, in the Bible, has always represented God and the weapon mentioned is the Bible. I believe the seals are already being opened. The white horse is the church using the Word of God to defeat the devil and win souls.

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