THREE VERBS, TWO HORSES, ONE CHRIST​ Revelation 6: 2 – 3

THREE VERBS: OVERCOME, PREVAIL, CONQUER
Consider the following verses: Rev. 3:21; 5:5; 6:2 :

“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”

“But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’”

“And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.”

The first two verses are obviously referring to Christ. He is the Overcomer who grants to all true believers that, as they also overcome, they may sit with Him on His throne. He is also the Lion of Judah who “has prevailed to open the scroll”. He did this by His perfect incarnate life and obedient sacrificial death. Satan tried to deter our Savior from His mission but, praise God, was unable to. His very resistance was used by God for our benefit.

But what about that third verse, that dark picture of the ominous first horseman? Guess what, that’s Christ too! Are you surprised? Or unconvinced? Hopefully this article will convince you of this.

NIKAW, NIKAW, and NIKAW
First of all, let’s comment on those verbs, since that is the first heading. These three verbs are all the same verb, the lexical form being “NIKAW” (“to conquer”). The only significant difference is in the tense; the first two being past tense. The type of action is very much the same: conquering.

So why were different verbs even used? Good question. I believe it was a faulty decision of the translators (and here we can’t just blame modern renditions, but have to go back to before the KJV even). It would have been better to have chosen any one of the three words rendered above (overcome, prevail, conquer) – and then to consistently use that word for all three. That way the reader is much more equipped to make that important connection (“Hmm. ‘conquering’, I remember that from the previous chapters. Could this be the same person?”) As it is, in almost all translations I have seen, the variety of renditions of NIKAW have obscured the unity of thought. * I could just as well have titled this piece “One Verb, Two Horses, One Christ”, but, of course, aside from being awkward, it would have obscured the initial point I was trying to make.

TWO HORSES
Now my point in all this centers especially on that second verse in Revelation 6, since that is the verse many of us have been trained to see as referring either to Antichrist or a fore-runner of him. Yet, if our versions had not covered the tracks so effectively, we should at least have been able to see that this may indeed refer to Christ – which I believe it does.

Why did I write “two horses”, you might ask, since the passage obviously has four different horses? Actually the two horses I bring up for consideration are the first one here and the one that comes in chapter 19:11. That latter passage clearly and plainly refers to Christ, and I know of no one who would say otherwise.

Now let’s try an interesting comparison. See if you can spot the difference:

“and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it” (6:2)
“and behold, a white horse. He who sat on him…(19:11)

Pretty close. But take a look at the Greek:

“kai idou ippos leukos, kai o katemenos ep auton…”

“kai idou ippos leukos, kai o katemenos ep auton…”

Because I don’t know all the keystrokes to render the Greek there are errors in spelling above – if your computer even renders this into Greek – but hopefully you get my point. The Greek in front of me for both passages is identical.

… EQUALS ONE HORSE
Does it not strike you as odd that such an identical phrase should be used for two diametrically opposed persons, Christ and Antichrist? It sure did for me several years back. Personally, it was an “Aha!” moment. Also, I had found out that the belief that Christ (or His Gospel) was spoken of in chapter 6 had actually been the majority opinion for much of Christianity’s history. In the last couple of centuries, especially, the understanding of this passage has been darkened, so much that, whenever someone even mentions the earlier, more positive, interpretation it is dismissed out of hand as being “just plain nuts” (and I am speaking from personal experience).

For the record, my belief that Christ is the first Horseman does not hinge only on the grammatical points raised so far, those points being the same verb used of Christ (NIKAW), and the same phrase used of Christ (Rev. 6:2 and 19:11). Further evidence is found in the rest of Scripture:

1. Christ’s description of His own mission and,
2. Old Testament prophetical passages that foretell the events of Rev. 6.

Christ forewarned His listeners in Matt. 10:34:

“I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother.”

The sword comes wherever Christ’s followers go. As believers faithfully proclaim the Word, through faithful preaching, witnessing, and consistent lives persecution is bound to follow.

Notice the two things that Christ mentions, one He will not bring: Peace. The other He will bring: a sword. With those two facts in mind, take a look at the second horseman:

“Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill [lit. slaughter 2] one another; and there was given him a great sword.”

FORETOLD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Several Old Testament passages describe the victorious campaign of the first Horseman. We will look especially at Psalm 45 and Isa. 41.

(Psalm 45:3- 5 and comment from Hendriksen’s “More Than Conquerors”)

“Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, Oh Mighty One!
Thy glory and thy majesty!
And in thy majesty ride on prosperously
In behalf of truth and meekness and righteousness!
And let thy right hand teach thee terrible things!
Thine arrows sharpened! Nations under thy feet!”

“The LXX has ‘And in thy majesty ride, and bend the bow, and prosper and reign…” 3

The description is no doubt of Christ since the writer of Hebrews says as much (Heb.1:8), going on to quote the next verse:

“”Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.”

Isaiah 41 adds to this description:

“Keep silence before Me, O coastlands,
And let the people renew their strength!
Let them come near, then let them speak;
Let us come near together for judgment.”

“Who raised up one from the east?
Who in righteousness called him to his feet?
Who gave the nations before him,
And made him rule over kings?
Who gave them as dust to his sword,
As driven stubble to his bow?

Here, once again, is the bow that we read of in Rev. 6 (and also without arrows mentioned 4).

ONE CHRIST
Actually, many people see two “Christs” here, the one at 6:2 being the Antichrist. But why do they do this? Their system demands it, or at least strongly encourages it. Presupposing that Revelation 6 describes events still future, they are confronted with that man on “the white horse conquering and to conquer”. They cannot allow this to be Christ, seeing that there is no time in their futurist scenario where Christ does the things described here with the following horsemen.

But by understanding the conquering of this horseman as already commenced in the first century, Christ (or the Gospel) advancing through the earth, this passage fits much better.

Christ being the Man on the white horse, the first Horseman of the Apocalypse, is a very reasonable interpretation. Aside from being the interpretation of many respected leaders and authors in Christianity throughout the centuries, it has the following evidence on its side:

1. Rev. 6:2 is very similar to Rev. 19:11:

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.”

2. Rev. 6:2 continues the theme of victory of the previous chapters. Notice also that the “crown given to Him” fits well with the crowns “cast to the throne” (4:10) and His receiving of the scroll (5:1-9) and His receiving “power and riches…”etc (5:12).

3. This verse also ties in so well with the Zion-overcoming passages, especially in the Old Testament, some of which anticipate some of these very images here in Rev. 6 (Isa. 41:1-2; Psa. 45:3- 4, esp. in LXX), Zech. 6:11.

I see now that my Bible has at least one unhelpful (supposed) cross-reference to Rev. 6:2, and that is Matt. 24:5! I have since changed that to a crossed-out reference, and I suggest you do the same! This wonderful passage in Rev. 6:2 is not about false Christs. It gives glory to Christ, underlines the intent of the Gospel, and teaches us to think soberly about the cost of following the Lamb wherever He goes.

William Tong, although a futurist, wrote well on this particular passage in his commentary on Revelation (which is part of Matthew Henry’s Commentary of the Whole Bible 5):

“(1.) The Lord Jesus appears riding on a white horse. White horses are generally refused in war, because they make the rider a mark for the enemy; but our Lord Redeemer was sure of the victory and a glorious triumph, and he rides on the white horse of a pure but despised gospel, with great swiftness through the world.

(2.) He had a bow in his hand. The convictions impressed by the word of God are sharp arrows, they reach at a distance; and, though the ministers of the word draw the bow at a venture, God can and will direct it to the joints of the harness. This bow, in the hand of Christ, abides in strength, and, like that of Jonathan, never returns empty.

(3.) A crown was given him, importing that all who receive the gospel must receive Christ as a king, and must be his loyal and obedient subjects; he will be glorified in the success of the gospel. When Christ was going to war, one would think a helmet had been more proper than a crown; but a crown is given him as the earnest and emblem of victory.

(4.) He went forth conquering, and to conquer. As long as the church continues militant Christ will be conquering; when he has conquered his enemies in one age he meets with new ones in another age; men go on opposing, and Christ goes on conquering, and his former victories are pledges of future victories. He conquers his enemies in his people; their sins are their enemies and his enemies; when Christ comes with power into their soul he begins to conquer these enemies, and he goes on conquering, in the progressive work of sanctification, till he has gained us a complete victory. And he conquers his enemies in the world, wicked men, some by bringing them to his foot, others by making them his footstool.”

Excellent comments on a wonderful passage! This is our exalted Christ. Let’s do our parts in this exalted mission, through the power of His matchless grace!

We can start by teaching correctly about this very passage.

FOOTNOTES

1. Another verse that bears on this discussion is John’s only use of this word outside of Revelation. It is found in his Gospel, John 16:33, and has direct bearing on this passage in Rev. 6:

“In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have conquered the world.”

2. “Slaughter”. The choice of word is significant. The generic word for “kill” is APOKTEINW, a word that has a wider range of meaning than this word used here, which is THUW. THUW always refers either to Christ’s sacrificial death, or to the death of believers as they follow Christ. The sacrificial idea is always near the surface. So the death spoken of here in Rev. 6 is killing based on religious persecution, religious reactionism lashing out against Christian testimony. Some other occurrences of this word are Rev. 5:6, 9; 13:8; 18:24; 1 John 3:12. Perhaps the most significant use is the one that occurs just a few verses after this one, Rev. 6:9, describing the faithful believers who died for Christ as “the souls of those who have been slaughtered for the Word of God”.

3. The Septuagint (LXX) was the Greek version of the Old Testament often quoted by New Testament writers.

4. Some writers make too much of the fact that the horseman of Rev. 6:2 has no arrows. But this is merely a figure of speech. Just because we say “bow and arrow” does not require other cultures to express the same truth in the same way. We might speak of a country being invaded as: “Did you hear? There are tanks in the streets of their capitol already!” And yet, what we mean, though we didn’t specify, is that these tanks have ammunition – and an occupying army who knows how to use it. Likewise, Christ with a bow, as shown in the quoted Old Testament passages, though having worldwide blessings for His own, has serious and fatal consequences for His enemies.

5. It is not generally known that Matthew Henry did not write much of the Commentary that goes by his name. Having died before he was able to write any of the portions beyond the book of Acts, the work was finished by other trusted authors, some of them, however, making use of sermon and lecture notes from Henry. One of these authors was William Tong, who did the Revelation and Hebrews portions.

About asterisktom

I breathe, therefore I blog.
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