Revelation 6:2
And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given to him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) Conquering, and to conquer.—Better, conquering, and that he might conquer. One version has, “and he conquered.” All commentators seem to be agreed that this rider represents victory. The emblems —the crown and white horse—are obviously those of victory. The crown (stephanos) is the crown of triumph. The horses used in Roman triumphs were white. On the white horse of triumph the crowned rider goes forth conquering, and that he might conquer. But who or what is here represented? Some take it to be a mere emblem of conquest, or victory, as the next rider represents war. There is then a harmony of interpretation: the horsemen reveal to the seer that the after-history will be marked by conquests, wars, famines, pestilences. The description, however, seems to demand something more: the expression, “that he might conquer,” carries our thoughts beyond a mere transient conqueror. The vision, moreover, was surely designed to convey an assured happy feeling to the mind of the seer. No picture of mere Roman conquests or world-victory would have conveyed this. Is not the vision the reflex of the hopes of early Christian thought? It is the symbol of Christian victory. It was thus their hopes saw Christ: though ascended He went forth in spiritual power conquering. They were right in their faith, and wrong in their expectation. Right in their faith: He went forth conquering, and He would conquer. Wrong in their expectation: the visions of war, famine, death must intervene. It was through these that the conqueror would be proved more than conqueror. It is, perhaps, significant of this intervening period of trouble and suffering that the rider is armed with a bow. The arrows of His judgments (war, famine) would be sharp among those who refused the sword of His word. For those who will not turn He hath bent His bow and made it ready. His arrows are ordained against the persecutors.

6:1-8 Christ, the Lamb, opens the first seal: observe what appeared. A rider on a white horse. By the going forth of this white horse, a time of peace, or the early progress of the Christian religion, seems to be intended; its going forth in purity, at the time when its heavenly Founder sent his apostles to teach all nations, adding, Lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the world. The Divine religion goes out crowned, having the Divine favour resting upon it, armed spiritually against its foes, and destined to be victorious in the end. On opening the second seal, a red horse appeared; this signifies desolating judgments. The sword of war and persecution is a dreadful judgment; it takes away peace from the earth, one of the greatest blessings; and men who should love one another, and help one another, are set upon killing one another. Such scenes also followed the pure age of early Christianity, when, neglectful of charity and the bond of peace, the Christian leaders, divided among themselves, appealed to the sword, and entangled themselves in guilt. On opening the third seal, a black horse appeared; a colour denoting mourning and woe, darkness and ignorance. He that sat on it had a yoke in his hand. Attempts were made to put a yoke of superstitious observances on the disciples. As the stream of Christianity flowed further from its pure fountain, it became more and more corrupt. During the progress of this black horse, the necessaries of life should be at excessive prices, and the more costly things should not be hurt. According to prophetic language, these articles signified that food of religious knowledge, by which the souls of men are sustained unto everlasting life; such we are invited to buy, Isa 55:1. But when the dark clouds of ignorance and superstition, denoted by the black horse, spread over the Christian world, the knowledge and practice of true religion became scarce. When a people loathe their spiritual food, God may justly deprive them of their daily bread. The famine of bread is a terrible judgment; but the famine of the word is more so. Upon opening the fourth seal, another horse appeared, of a pale colour. The rider was Death, the king of terrors. The attendants, or followers of this king of terrors, hell, a state of eternal misery to all who die in their sins; and in times of general destruction, multitudes go down unprepared into the pit. The period of the fourth seal is one of great slaughter and devastation, destroying whatever may tend to make life happy, making ravages on the spiritual lives of men. Thus the mystery of iniquity was completed, and its power extended both over the lives and consciences of men. The exact times of these four seals cannot be ascertained, for the changes were gradual. God gave them power, that is, those instruments of his anger, or those judgments: all public calamities are at his command; they only go forth when God sends them, and no further than he permits.And I saw, and behold - A question has arisen as to the mode of representation here: whether what John saw in these visions was a series of pictures, drawn on successive portions of the volume as one seal was broken after another; or whether the description of the horses and of the events was written on the volume, so that John read it himself, or heard it read by another; or whether the opening of the seal was merely the occasion of a scenic representation, in which a succession of horses was introduced, with a written statement of the events which are referred to. Nothing is indeed said by which this can be determined with certainty; but the most probable supposition would seem to be that there was some pictorial representation in form and appearance, such as he describes in the opening of the six seals. In favor of this it may be observed:

(1) that, according to the interpretation of Revelation 6:1, it was something in or on the volume - since he was invited to draw nearer, in order that he might contemplate it.

(2) each one of the things under the first five seals, where John uses the word "saw," is capable of being represented by a picture or painting.

(3) the language used is not such as would have been employed if he had merely read the description, or had heard it read.

(4) the supposition that the pictorial representation was not in the volume, but that the opening of the seal was the occasion merely of causing a scenic representation to pass before his mind, is unnatural and forced.

What would be the use of a sealed volume in that case? What the use of the writing within and without? On this supposition the representation would be that, as the successive seals were broken, nothing was disclosed in the volume but a succession of blank portions, and that the mystery or the difficulty was not in anything in the volume, but in the want of ability to summon forth these successive scenic representations. The most obvious interpretation is, undoubtedly, that what John proceeds to describe was in some way represented in the volume; and the idea of a succession of pictures or drawings better accords with the whole representation, than the idea that it was a mere written description. In fact, these successive scenes could be well represented now in a pictorial form on a scroll.

And behold a white horse - In order to any definite understanding of what was denoted by these symbols, it is proper to form in our minds, in the first place, a clear conception of what the symbol properly represents, or an idea of what it would naturally convey. It may be assumed that the symbol was significant, and that there was some reason why that was used rather than another; why, for instance, a horse was employed rather than an eagle or a lion; why a white horse was employed in one case, and a red one, a black one, a pale one in the others; why in this case a bow was in the hand of the rider, and a crown was placed on his head. Each one of these particulars enters into the constitution of the symbol; and we must find something in the event which fairly corresponds with each - for the symbol is made up of all these things grouped together. It may be further observed, that where the general symbol is the same - as in the opening of the first four seals - it may be assumed that the same object or class of objects is referred to; and the particular things denoted, or the diversity in the general application, is to be found in the variety in the representation - the color, etc., of the horse, and the arms, apparel, etc., of the rider. The specifications under the first seal are four:

(1) the general symbol of the horse - common to the first four seals;

(2) the color of the horse;

(3) the fact that he that sat on him had a bow; and,

(4) that a crown was given him by someone, as indicative of victory.

The question now is, what these symbols would naturally denote:

(1) The horse. The meaning of this symbol must be drawn from the natural use to which the symbol is applied, or the characteristics which it is known to have; and it may be added, that there might have been something for which that was best known in the time of the writer who uses it, which would not be so prominent at another period of the world, or in another country, and that it is necessary to have that before the mind in order to obtain a correct understanding of the symbol. The use of the horse, for instance, may have varied at different times to some degree; at one time the prevailing use of the horse may have been for battle; at another for rapid marches - as of cavalry; at another for draught; at another for races; at another for conveying messages by the establishment of posts or the appointment of couriers. To an ancient Roman the horse might suggest prominently one idea; to a modern Arab another; to a teamster in Holland another. The things which would be most naturally suggested by the horse as a symbol, as distinguished, for instance, from an eagle, a lion, a serpent, etc., would be the following:

(a) War, as this was probably one of the first uses to which the horse was applied. So, in the magnificent description of the horse in Job 39:19-25, no notice is taken of any of his qualities but those which pertain to war. See, for a full illustration of this passage, and of the frequent reference in the classic writers to the horse as connected with war, Bochart, Hieroz. lib. ii, c. viii., particularly p. 149. Compare Virgil, Geor. 3:83, 84:

continued...

2. Evidently Christ, whether in person, or by His angel, preparatory to His coming again, as appears from Re 19:11, 12.

bow—(Ps 45:4, 5).

crown—Greek, "stephanos," the garland or wreath of a conqueror, which is also implied by His white horse, white being the emblem of victory. In Re 19:11, 12 the last step in His victorious progress is represented; accordingly there He wears many diadems (Greek, "diademata"; not merely Greek, "stephanoi," "crowns" or "wreaths"), and is personally attended by the hosts of heaven. Compare Zec 1:7-17; 6:1-8; especially Re 6:10 below, with Zec 1:12; also compare the colors of the four horses.

and to conquer—that is, so as to gain a lasting victory. All four seals usher in judgments on the earth, as the power which opposes the reign of Himself and His Church. This, rather than the work of conversion and conviction, is primarily meant, though doubtless, secondarily, the elect will be gathered out through His word and His judgments.

Some, by this white horse, understand the gospel; others, the Roman empire. And by him that sat thereon with a bow, some understand Christ going forth with power to convert the nations; others (and in my opinion more probably) the Roman emperors, armed with power, and having the imperial crown, carrying all before them. So as that which God intended by this to reveal to St. John, was, that the Roman emperors should yet continue, and use their power against his church. Those that understand by the white horse, the gospel, or God’s dispensations to his church under the first period, and by the rider, Christ, (amongst whom is our famous Mede), think, that hereby all the time is signified from Christ’s ascension, which was in the thirty-fourth year after his incarnation, till the time that all the apostles were dead, that is, the first hundred years after Christ (for so long histories tell us John lived). It was the age then current, and so may take up part of the vision of things that were to come. The history of all but forty of those years we have in the Acts, till Paul was carried prisoner to Rome. In this period ruled Augustus Caesar, (in whose time Christ was born, Luke 2:1), Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero, Galba, Otho, F. Vespasianus, Titus, and Domitian, Nerva, and Trajan, ten or eleven in all. They went on

conquering, and to conquer the world. But till Nero’s time, about the year 66, they did not begin to persecute the Christians; nor did Vespasian and Titus much rage, nor Domitian, till he had reigned eight years: so as I leave it indifferent to the reader, whether to understand by the white horse and his rider, God’s dispensations of providence to his church these first years, causing his gospel to prevail much, and conquering many to the profession of it, or the Roman empire, with those that ruled it: what is said is true of both. And I saw, and behold a white horse,.... Representing the ministration of the Gospel in the times of the apostles, which were just now finishing, John being the last of them, who saw this vision; and the "horse" being a swift, majestic, and warlike creature, and fearless of opposition and war, may design the swift progress of the Gospel in the world, the majesty, power, and authority with which it came, and opposition it met with, and which was bore down before it; and its "white" colour may denote the purity of Gospel truths, the peace it proclaims, the joy brings, and the triumph that attends it, on account of victories obtained by it, and which is afterwards suggested: white horses were used in triumphs, in token of victory (n); a white horse, in a dream, is a good sign with the Jews (o); and Astrampsychus says (p), a vision of white horses is an apparition of angels; and so one of those angels which the Jews suppose to have the care of men, and the preservation of them, is said (q) to ride by him, and at his right hand, upon a white horse; but the rider here is not an angel, but the head of all principality and power:

and he that sat on him had a bow; with arrows; the bow is the word of the Gospel, and the arrows the doctrines of it; see Habakkuk 3:9; so called for their swift motion, sudden and secret striking, piercing, and penetrating nature, reaching to the very hearts of men; laying open the secret thoughts and iniquity thereof; wounding, and causing them to fall, and submit themselves to the sceptre of Christ's kingdom:

and a crown was given unto him; by God the Father; expressive of Christ's regal power and authority, of his honour and dignity, and of his victories and conquests:

and he went forth, conquering and to conquer; in the ministration of the Gospel, which went forth, as did all the first ministers of it, from Jerusalem, to the several parts of the world; from the east, on which side of the throne was the first living creature, who called upon John to come and see this sight, as the standard of the tribe of Judah, which had a lion upon it, was on the east side of the camp of Israel; and out of Zion went forth the word of the Lord, which was very victorious, both among Jews and Gentiles, to the conversion of thousands of them, and to the planting of a multitude of churches among them, and to the setting up and advancing the kingdom of Christ; but inasmuch as yet all things are not made subject to him, he is represented as going forth in the Gospel, still conquering, and to conquer, what remain to be conquered: that Christ is designed by him that sat on the white horse, and is thus described, is evident from Revelation 19:11; with which compare Psalm 45:3, though as this emblem may respect the Roman empire, the white horse may be an emblem of the strong, warlike, and conquering state of it; and the rider which a bow and crown may design Vespasian, whom Christ made use of as an instrument to conquer his enemies the Jews, and who, in consequence thereof, had the imperial crown put upon him; and it may be further observed, that though his conquest of them was a very great one, yet they afterwards rose up in the empire, in great numbers, rebelled, and did much mischief, when they were entirely conquered by Trajan and Hadrian, who seem to be intended in the next seal.

(n) Victor Aurel. de Viris Illustr. in Fur Camill. (o) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 93. 1.((p) In Oneiro Criticis, apud Mede. (q) Shaare Zion, fol. 102. 2.

And {2} 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.

(2) The first sign, joined with a declaration, is that because of the sins and horrible rebellion of the world, God will invade the world: and first of all will suddenly, mightily, and gloriously, as if with arrows of pestilence from a distance, beat down the same as Judge, and triumph over it as conqueror.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 6:2. John saw “a white horse, and he that sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given unto him, and he went forth conquering and to conquer.” The entire form is that of a warrior, and that, too, of one victorious, and triumphing in the certainty of victory. All the individual features of the image harmoniously express this. The horses of the Roman triumphers were white.[2017] On white horses, therefore,[2018] appear not only Christ himself, but also his hosts triumphing with him.

That the weapon of the horseman is a bow, not a sword, has scarcely a symbolical significance. The symbol would be distorted if Wetst. were correct in saying that by the bow, with which work is done at a distance, the intention is to indicate that the reference is properly to a victory, occurring at a distance from Judaea, of the Parthian king Artabanus II.,[2019] who made war upon the Jews in Babylon; but if this were the meaning, the entire form of the horseman, which, in the manner proposed, is to represent that king, must have appeared at a greater distance. Arbitrary is also the explanation of Vitr.: “A bow, not a sword, in order to withdraw our thought from Roman emperors to Christ.” If, as by Vitr., importance be laid upon the fact that the bow is pre-eminently peculiar to Parthian and Asiatic warriors in general, and not to the Roman, we dare not find in the bow an emblem of Christ; in order, then, to explain not so much the bow mentioned as rather the supplied darts of the numerous apostles and evangelists through whose forcible preaching Christ won his victory.[2020] Instead of the bow, in Psalm 45:6, the darts are mentioned, and that, too, beside the sword (Revelation 6:4), in a description which may have floated before John.[2021] In this passage, what is ascribed to the bow can indicate nothing further than that the warrior equipped therewith may meet his foes also at a distance.

ἐδύθη αὐτῷ στέφανος. The crown—whose meaning, in connection with what immediately follows, is indubitable[2022]—is given the warrior, because it is to be marked in the beginning directly, by this going forth, that he already goes forth as a νικῶν, and, therefore, that the goal of his going forth καὶ ἵνα νικήσῃ is undoubtedly reached. א has even the interpretation: καὶ ἐνίκησεν.

The true meaning of this passage is suggested by the statement: κ. ἐξῆλθεν νικῶν καὶ ἳνα νικήσῃ, especially in connection with the succeeding forms of horsemen, but also still further in connection with the fundamental idea of the entire Apoc., particularly the parallel passages Revelation 19:11 sqq., where, in perfect correspondence with the harmonious plan of the book, the form of a horseman comes forth still more gloriously, and at the same time is expressly explained. If we regard only the forms of horsemen proceeding from the three following seals, which, according to the unambiguous hints in the text, are the very personifications of the shedding of blood (Revelation 6:4), famine (Revelation 6:6), and death (Revelation 6:8), nothing is nearer than the opinion that even the first horseman is a personification, yet not of Christianity,[2023]—to which not a single feature of the picture leads, even apart from the fact that, except in the person of Christ, a personification of Christianity is scarcely conceivable,—but of victory, or of war on the side of victory;[2024] with which it would well agree, that, in Revelation 6:3 sqq., war should be represented in its other sides and consequences. So, already, Bengel,[2025] Herder, Eichh., Ew. ii., of whom the latter, like Wetst., limits the idea of the horseman to Judaea. According to this conception, De Wette[2026] judges, with entire consistency, that the similar image of a horseman, referring to Christ,[2027] is intended to be antithetical in its relation to the present; there at the end, Christ with his “spiritual victory,” in opposition to the “vain boast of victory” of the warrior here at the beginning. But in the text there is no trace whatever of such contrast; that the victor here represented had, and wished to win, only a vain worldly victory, has as little foundation as it is unsatisfactory for Christ’s victory to be called only a “spiritual” one, as even the external ruin of Babylon belongs essentially thereto. With correctness, most expositors[2028] regard the horseman of the first, identical with that of Revelation 19:11 sqq. The characteristic attributes are essentially synonymous. Yet in the one case we stand, of course, at the glorious end of the entire development of the kingdom of Christ, while here the Lord first goes forth to bring about that end; but just because only he can go forth to conquer, who is already a victor (νικῶν),[2029] even here the form of the Lord is essentially the same as at the end. Since the very appearance of Christ reveals all the visions which proceed from the unsealed book of fate, it is indicated that he guides and determines the course and end of all the events portrayed in the succeeding visions; in the prophetic figures, also, which John beholds, as well as in the things portrayed, the Lord is the beginning and end, the First and Last, who will triumph over all enemies (ἵνα νικήσῃ), as he is already properly victor (νικῶν) over them. To any special victory of Christ, as possibly the results of the preaching at Pentecost,[2030] the νικῶν, even because of the present form, cannot refer; in the sense of the Apoc., as also of the whole N. T., Christ is absolute victor over all that is hostile, just because he is Christ, i.e., the Son of God, who has suffered in the flesh, and arisen and ascended into heaven, or because he is the Lamb of God who possesses God’s throne. The νικῶν presupposing the ἐνίκησα, Revelation 3:21 (Revelation 5:5), and including in itself already the ἳνα νικήσῃ, designates also the true ground upon which believers in Christ are “to conquer,” and can conquer, and have to expect from the Lord a victor’s reward.[2031] Thus the triumphing image of Christ at the beginning of all the visions, proceeding from the book of fate, is in harmony with the fundamental idea and paracletic tendency of the entire Apoc.

[2017] Cf. in general Virg., Aen. iii. 537 sqq.: “Quattuor hic, primum omen, equos in gramine vidi—candore nivali” (“Here, as the first omen, I saw four horses on the grass—of snowy brightness”). Beside this, Servius: “This pertains to the omen of victory.” More of the same kind in Wetst.

[2018] Revelation 19:11 sqq.

[2019] Joseph., Ant. xviii. 2, 9.

[2020] Against Vitr.; also against Victorin., Beda, N. de Lyra, Calov., etc.

[2021] Inapplicable is the comparison usual with the expositors, of the horsemen of Revelation 6:2-8, with the horsemen and horses of Zechariah 1:8 sqq., and the chariots, Zechariah 6:1 sqq., where neither the forms beheld, in themselves, nor the attached signification, agrees with the vision in our passage. Even the colors of the horses are not the same, much less their meaning (cf. Zechariah 6:6).

[2022] Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:25. Incorrectly Züll., Hengstenb.: “regal crowns.”

[2023] Stern.

[2024] De Wette.

[2025] Whose opinion, as a rule inaccurate, here is given, that he regards the first horseman as the Emperor Trajan. Beng. says expressly: “But Trajan is far too small to be such an horseman.” Yet Beng. finds, even in Trajan, one and that too the first of the “conquerors,” whose dominion and victory are represented by the first horseman: “By the horseman himself is represented a certain kind of worldly career, as throughout all time in government and the state, it is constantly attended by (1) a flourishing condition; (2), the shedding of blood.”

[2026] Cf., already, Beng.

[2027] Revelation 19:11 sqq.

[2028] Victorin., Beda, N. de Lyra, Zeger, Grot., Vitr., Calov., Hengstenb., Ebrard, Böhmer, Klief., etc.

[2029] Cf. Revelation 5:5, Revelation 3:21.

[2030] Grot., etc.

[2031] Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:11, etc.; cf. Revelation 21:7.

As little as the emblem of the bow, does the horse in itself or its white color have any special significance; any exposition that in such matters seeks any thing more than such emblems whereby the entire form of the horseman is characterized as that of a victorious warrior, and which proceeds to a special interpretation of the individual characteristic features, instead of regarding the unity of significance in the entire image, must result in what is arbitrary and frivolous. This is contrary to all the expositors, who understand by the white horse the Church,[2032] and that, too, the apostolic primitive Church, in its purity and peaceful condition prior to persecutions, which are found in the second seal,[2033] as Beda, Andr., Areth., N. de Lyra, C. a Lap., Calov., etc. [See Note XLVIII., p. 234.]

[2032] “Over the church, made white by his grace beyond snow, the Lord presides” (Beda).

[2033] Cf., e.g., Vitr.: “The white color designates that by his providence God will take care, that, at the time indicated by this seal, the Church shall have peace.”

NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR

XLVIII. Revelation 6:2. ἰππος λευκός

Luthardt: “That is, the Word of God, which was the first in the history of N. T. times to pass victoriously through the world, and whose words flew far like arrows, and penetrated the heart (Psalm 45:6).” Alford: “The νικῶν might be said of any victorious earthly power whose victories should endure for the time then present, and afterwards pass away; but the ἳνα νικήσῃ can only be said of a power whose victories are to last forever.… We must not, on the one hand, too hastily introduce the person of our Lord himself; or, on the other, be startled at the objection that we shall be paralleling him, or one closely resembling him, with the far different forms which follow. Doubtless, the resemblance to the rider in Revelation 19:11 is very close, and is intended to be very close. The difference, however, is considerable. There he is set forth as present in his triumph, followed by the hosts of heaven: here he is working in bodily absence, and the rider is not himself, but only a symbol of his victorious power, the embodiment of his advancing kingdom as regards that side of its progress where it breaks down earthly power, and makes the kingdom of the world to be the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ. Further, it would not be wise, nor, indeed, according to the analogy of these visions, to specify. In all cases but the last, these riders are left in the vagueness of their symbolic offices. If we attempt, in this case, to specify further, e.g., as Victorinus: ‘The white horse is the word of preaching sent with the Holy Spirit into the world. For the Lord says, This gospel shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come,’—while we are sure that we are thus far right, we are but partially right, seeing that there are other aspects and instruments of victory of the kingdom of Christ besides the preaching of the word.” If the word “preaching” be limited to public discourses, or even to the public reading and private study of the word, Alford is quite right. But just as the sacraments are only the visible word, and are efficacious because of the word of God joined with them, so every agency for the diffusion of Christ’s kingdom may be reduced to the word of God under some form. Gebhardt (p. 238) regards the rider on the white horse as a personification of victorious war. His objection to the view adopted by Düsterdieck, that the Lamb could not have opened the seals, and at the same time have been represented in what the seal portrays, is not very formidable, and, at most, would not interfere with the conception above proposed of the Word as rider.

NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR

XLIX. Revelation 6:2-8Alford regards the four seals, in their fulness, as contemporaneous, the ἵνα νικήσῃ not being accomplished until the entire earth is subjugated, although “they may receive continually recurring, or even ultimate, fulfilments, as the ages of the world go on, in distinct periods of time, and by distinctly assignable events. So far, we may derive benefit from the commentaries of those who imagine that they have discovered their fulfilment in successive periods of history, that, from the very variety and discrepancy of the periods assigned by them, we may verify the facts of the prevalence of these announced judgments hitherto, throughout the whole lifetime of the Church.”Revelation 6:2. White = royal and victorious colour, cf. the white horse of the Persian kings (Philostr. Vit. Ap. i.). The triumphant figure of the mounted bowman is by no means to be identified with that of the Christian messiah or of the gospel. It would be extremely harsh and confusing to represent the messiah as at once the Lamb opening the seal and a figure independently at work. The initial period of the gospel was not one of irresistible triumph, and matters have become too acute for John to share the belief voiced in Mark 13:10. Besides, the messiah could hardly be described as preceding the signs of his own advent, nor would he be on the same plane as the following figures. The vision is a tacit antithesis, not an anticipation, of Revelation 19:11 f.; the triumph of the world which opens the drama is rounded off by an infinitely grander triumph won by Christ.—νικῶν κ. κ.τ.λ. John was too open-eyed to ignore the fact that other forces, besides the Christian gospel, had a success of their own on earth. What is this force? Not the Roman Empire, as if the four steeds represented the first four emperors (so, variously, Renan, Spitta, Weizsäcker), but a raid of the Parthians (so most edd. from Vitringa to Erbes, Völter, Holtzm., Bousset, Bruston, Ramsay, Scott), which represented war in its most dreaded form for inhabitants of the Eastern provinces. There is no need to find any definite reference to the raid of Vonones (Wetstein) or of Vologesus who invaded Syria in 61–63 A.D. The simple point of the vision is that the Parthians would be commissioned to make a successful foray, carrying all before them. The bow was the famous and dreaded weapon of these oriental cavalry; Νικήτωρ was a title of Seleucus, and νικητής of the Persian satrap. One plausible hypothesis (developed by Erbes) refers the basis of the seal-visions to (a) the triumphs of Augustus and Tiberius, (b) the bloody feuds in Palestine under Caligula, (c) the famine in Syria under Claudius (Acts 11), (d) the subsequent pestilence, (e) the Neronic martyrs, and (f) the agitations of the empire under Galba, etc. (for portents cf. Plin. Ep. vi. 16, 20; Tacit. Hist. i. 4). But a similar collocation of portents is found in the reign of Titus; and apart from the misinterpretation of the first seal, it is arbitrary and jejune to suppose that this prophet’s splendid, free reading of providence was laboriously spelt out from details of more or less recent history.2. behold a white horse] The image of these four horses is certainly suggested by the vision of four chariots (with perhaps four horses in each, and so related to this exactly as Ezekiel’s vision of the living creatures to that in ch. 4) in Zechariah 6:1-8 : cf. ibid. Revelation 1:8. But that passage throws little light on this: it is in fact the obscurer of the two. Here, the colours of the four horses plainly symbolise triumph, slaughter, mourning, and death; we are told expressly who the fourth Rider is: and hardly anyone doubts that the second and third represent War and Scarcity respectively. But about the first there is controversy. His white horse and golden crown resemble His Who appears in Revelation 19:11, Whose Name is called the Word of God: and hence many think that this Rider is Christ, or at least the representative of Christ’s Kingdom. But is it possible that when He has come, the plagues that follow should come after him? or why should the living creatures continue to cry to Him to come, if He be come already? It would be more credible, that the first Rider is a false Christ, just as Matthew 24:5 precedes Revelation 6:6-7. But on the whole it seems more reasonable to suppose that all four riders symbolise the woes before Christ’s coming foretold in the two latter verses: and that the first is the spirit of Conquest:—the description is like that in ch. 19, because there Christ is described as a Conqueror, and here we have a Conqueror who is nothing more. Then what is the difference between the first and the second Rider? Conquest is necessarily painful—it may be unjust and cruel, but it may be beneficent even to the conquered: at least it is not necessarily demoralising to the conquerors, as war becomes, when it sinks from conquest into mere mutual slaughter. This Rider has a bow, that a sword: the first is prepared to fight, and slay if necessary, but he will do so without passion or cruelty—just as it is commonly observed, that fire-arms have tended to make war less brutal, by removing the soldiers from the excitement of a personal struggle.

was given unto him] Apparently he comes into view armed with the bow, but his crown (either that of an honoured soldier or of a king, see on Revelation 4:4) is given to him afterwards perhaps as his title to the dominion he is to conquer. But the phrase “was given” is from Daniel 7:4; Daniel 7:6; Daniel 7:14 : which proves that it is not necessary to suppose that the Seer actually saw some one crown him.

he went forth] Apparently out of the field of vision—perhaps out of Heaven to carry his conquests over the earth.

conquering, and to conquer] He makes war successfully, but his purpose is the securing the victory, not the excitement of the battle and carnage.Revelation 6:2. Ἵππος λευκὸς, a white horse) D. Lange altogether applies these seals to the future, Comm. Apoc. f. 73, where he uses five arguments:

I. From the figures of the seals. I reply, The Past, when rightly explained, agrees with them.

II. From the failure of the reasons on which Vitringa, together with others, relies. I reply, Better reasons both exist in abundance and are brought forward. See on ch. Revelation 4:1.

III. From the parallelism of Matthew 24:6 and following verses with the second, third, fourth, and fifth seal. See fol. 83, 257. I reply, That the end, in Matthew 24:14, denotes the destruction of Jerusalem, is proved by the whole connection of the discourse, and especially by the particle οὖν, therefore, Revelation 6:15, and the question of the disciples, as Mark and Luke represent it. A similarity in the plagues inflicted in each text does not imply that the plagues themselves are the same. See above, p. 135 and next.

IV. From the parallelism of Zechariah 6 with the same seals. See fol. 84. I reply, In Zechariah there is not one horse only of each colour, but there are more, and they too joined to chariots: nor are the colours entirely the same (D. Lange undoubtedly puts paleness for whiteness); nor is there the same order of the colours; nor is there the same road to the four quarters of the world, nor the same expedition. In the first seal he applies the white horse to the conqueror, Christ; in the third, the black to the dearness of corn: in what manner this is parallel with Zechariah 6:6; Zechariah 6:8, cannot be shown.

V. From the connection [of the seals] with the trumpets and vials. I reply, As this celebrated interpreter too much extends the epistles, so he also too much compresses the seals, trumpets, etc. The vials almost exhaust the whole of that space, which he supposes to be represented also in the seals and trumpets. There are four distinct spheres, each of which has its own subject-matter agreeing with the titles, churches, seals, trumpets, and vials; and where they are explained distinctly [as distinct from one another], they obtain an amplitude worthy of this prophecy. In such a manner the true explanation preserves the natural ARRANGEMENT of the book; but if this is once laid aside, there is nothing which the ingenuity of man cannot divide and put together, and congratulate itself on the discovery of the truth. As far as relates to the system of the venerable D. Lange, the little season under the fifth seal, the 42 months and 1260 days in ch. 11, the 1260 days and the short time, and the (1) time, (2) times and half a time, in ch. 12, the 42 months in ch. 13, and the short space in ch. 17, which are periods of times, differing both in every kind of way, and widely and elegantly, are not only regarded by that system as equal, but are also put for one [period], and that a period of three years and a half, and the seals and trumpets are arranged in accordance with that hypothesis: Comm. Apoc. f. 16, 115, etc.: they who shall duly weigh the same, f. 15, 88, 95, 133, 143, etc., will perceive how many things are moved from their place and disarranged by this view. In his Epicrisis, for instance, p. 390, he has not sufficiently weighed my arguments, from a reliance on those things, which he had before written.[74]

[74] νικῶν, conquering) Shortly after the publication of the prophecy, the Roman Empire breathed nothing but victories.—V. g.Verse 2. - And I saw. The usual introduction to a new vision, or a special feature of a vision (see on Revelation 4:1). And behold a white horse. The whole vision appears to be founded on that of Zechariah 1:8-12. White is always typical in the Revelation of heavenly things (cf. Revelation 1:14, "His hairs were white;" Revelation 2:17, "a white stone;" Revelation 3:4, 5, 18; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 6:11, and Revelation 7:9, 13, "white garments;" Revelation 14:14, "white cloud;" Revelation 19:11, 14, "white horses;" Revelation 20:11, "white throne"), and indeed in the whole of the New Testament (cf. Matthew 17:2; Matthew 28:3; John 20:12; Acts 1:10), the only exceptions being Matthew 5:36 and John 4:35. The horse, throughout the Old Testament, is emblematic of war. Among the Romans a white horse was the symbol of victory. And he that sat on him. On a consideration of the whole of the visions attending the opening of the seals, it seems best to interpret this vision as a symbolic representation of the abstract idea of the Church as a victorious body. In a similar way the following appearances are typical of war, famine, and death. Some interpret the rider to mean Christ himself a sense not materially different from that given above, since by the victory of Christ the Church collectively and Christians individually are enabled to triumph; and in his body, the Church, Christ triumphs. This appearance is repeated, with additions, at Revelation 19:11. The revelation thus begins and closes with an assurance of victory. God's end is attained in a mysterious way. Many trials and afflictions are to trouble the earth, but through all God is working to bring his Church triumphantly through the struggle. And what is true of the Church as a whole is true of each individual soul. Those to whom St. John wrote could not understand, as many now do not understand, for what purpose God permitted them to suffer. For such St. John's message is intended to be a support; not, indeed, by removing present troubles, but by declaring the final victory of those who endure to the end. Thus, then, as a preparation for the woes to be revealed, and as an encouragement after disclosing the prospect of prolonged trial, the vision of the Church triumphant is vouchsafed, both at the beginning and the end of the Revelation. Bisping and others understand the vision ass personification of war; Bengel and Reuss consider that it means conquest, or a particular conqueror (Vespasian and Trajan being denominated), just as in Jeremiah 21:7 and Jeremiah 32:36 the King of Babylon is connected with war, famine, and pestilence. Elliott, with others, interpret the rider as meaning the Roman empire, just as the ram (Daniel 8:3) signified the Persian, and the goat (Daniel 8:5) the Grecian empires. Todd sees in this appearance a particular aspect of Christ's second coming. Victorinus, following Matthew 24 in his exposition of the seals, sees in the first seal the Word of the Lord, which is like an arrow (cf. Hebrews 4:12). Andreas sees in the first seal a vision of the Church's triumph over Satan in apostolic times; and similarly, in the second, the martyrdom of Christians in the age immediately following. Bode believes the seals to foreshadow the future history of the Church. Wordsworth, after St. Augustine, expounds the first seal as the advent of Christ and the Gospel, and the following ones as depicting subsequent troubles of the Church, which are specified. Had a bow. The bow and arrows are used as signs of power by Old Testament writers. In Zechariah 9:13 we have, "When I have bent Judah for me, filled the bow with Ephraim;" in Habakkuk 3:8, 9, "Thou didst ride upon thine horses and thy chariots of salvation; thy bow was made quite naked;" in Psalm 45:5, "Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies." The general idea of the vision is perhaps taken from Zechariah 1:7-12 and 6. And a crown was given unto him, In Zechariah 6:11, quoted above, we have a parallel passage, "Make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest; and speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the Man whose name is The Branch." The crown is στέφανος, as in Revelation 2:10 - the crown of life, the crown of victory. And he went forth conquering, and to conquer; came forth conquering, and that he may conquer. This is the key to the whole vision. Only of Christ and his kingdom can it be said that it is to conquer. All earthly empires are more or less temporary in character; only of Christ's kingdom shall there be no end. A strife there must be between the powers of earth and the powers of heaven; the gospel did not inaugurate a reign of earthly peace, but the end is not doubtful; Christ and his Church came forth conquering, and that they may conquer finally, whatever earthly trials may intervene. White horse

For white, see on Luke 19:29. Horse, see Zechariah 1:7-11; Zechariah 6:1-8. All the figures of this verse are those of victory. The horse in the Old Testament is the emblem of war. See Job 39:25; Psalm 76:6; Proverbs 21:31; Ezekiel 26:10. So Virgil:

"But I beheld upon the grass four horses, snowy white,

Grazing the meadows far and wide, first omen of my sight.

Father Anchises seeth, and saith: 'New land and bear'st thou war?

For war are horses dight; so these war-threatening herd-beasts are.'"

"Aeneid," iii., 537.

So Turnus, going forth to battle:

"He spake, and to the roofed place now swiftly wending home,

Called for his steeds, and merrily stood there before their foam

E'en those that Orithyia gave Pilumnus, gift most fair,

Whose whiteness overpassed the snow, whose speed the winged air."

"Aeneid," xii., 81-83.

Homer pictures the horses of Rhesus as whiter than snow, and swift as the winds ("Iliad," x., 436, 437); and Herodotus, describing the battle of Plataea says: "The fight went most against the Greeks where Mardonius, mounted on a white horse, and surrounded by the bravest of all the Persians, the thousand picked men, fought in person" (ix., 63). The horses of the Roman generals in their triumphs were white.

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