How Does The Rider of the First Horse Become Antichrist?

Last night, Paul L. posed the question “How do those who think the first rider in chapter 5 of Revelation arrive at the conclusion he’s the antichrist, in light of the fact that the rider is simply identified as “its rider’?” (paraphrased)

This an excellent question and I think John Walvoord gives us the short answer:

It is inevitable that any exposition of Revelation must have presuppositions based upon a study of the entire Word of God and involving the question as to whether prophecy should be interpreted with the same degree of literalness as other portions of Scripture… The ultimate decision depends upon what evidence is considered decisive. The Revelation of Jesus Christ, 123 & 135

However, commentators do not fall out in predictable categories on this passage. Historicists generally identify the rider on the white horse with the ascendancy of Rome to the pinnacle of its power, with the exceptions of a few who take a preterist view (that it applies to the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.). Idealists generally see this conqueror as the Lord and His gospel going forth throughout the known world and Steve Gregg quotes Biederwolf to the effect that, “Almost all scholars down to A.D 150 took the image as a symbol of the preached gospel and its success.” George Eldon Ladd, a historic premillennialist and futurist, (somewhat surprisingly) adopts this view as well.

So, how do futurists such as Walvoord, Ice, Ryrie and LaHaye arrive at the rider being antichrist? They would place this rider in the great tribulation, following the rapture of the church in Revelation 4 and link him to conquest through “counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders” by the man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:5 -12). Walvoord weighs out the various options and concludes that:

“A more plausible explanation is that the rider of the white horse is none other than the ‘prince that shall come’ of Daniel 9:26, who is to head up the revived Roman Empire and ultimately become the world ruler… He is Satan’s masterpiece and the counterfeit of all that Christ is or claims to be. He is therefore cast in the role of a conqueror…” The Revelation of Jesus Christ, 126

On the other hand, Mounce, Johnson and Salisbury 🙂 are futurists who would see the rider as the personification of “forces opposed to Christians”or government/rule by pagans in the last days (between Christ’s resurrection and the parousia). Ironically, it is the amillennialist Greg Beale who sees the rider as the personification of judgment upon the world and persecution of the people of God. He provides a few pages of exegesis and ends with this summation:

Therefore, the first rider represents a satanic force attempting to defeat and oppress believers spiritually through deception, persecution, or both (so 11:7; 13:7). The image of the rider may include reference to (1) the antichrist, (2) governments that persectute Christians, or (3) the devil’s servants in general… The portrayal is intended by John as a parody of Christ’s righteousness and victory in 19:11-16: Satan’s attempts to be victorious are but feeble imitations of Christ, worthy only for ridicule (as in, e.g. 11:7; 13:1-13). Such attempts are doomed to failure from the beginning because they are ultimately decreed by God to contribute to the establishment of his kingdom and glory (cf. 17:17). The Book of Revelation 377

One final observation from a futurist point of view: Is it not possible that the identification of the rider as a malevolent force or person be a picture of recurring judgments against disobedient Israel in 70 A.D. and a Christ rejecting world throughout history or just prior to a great cataclysm or during “the tribulation, the great one?”


  1. Paul M. Kingery said:

    I have been studying the Bible about the four horsemen of the apocalypse. I was surprised at what I found in scripture. Go to the following site to check this out

    Let me know what you think.


    February 14, 2006
  2. Mike Anderson said:

    Great charts and lists Bo… they really help.

    Thanks, Mike

    February 16, 2006
  3. mishegasmaster said:

    good to see you blogging again bo 🙂

    February 17, 2006
  4. Assorted Babble by Suzie said:

    Bo, I find this so very interesting. Thank you for sharing with me and we need to continue to pray for others to understand what is to come.

    BTW, love the new look to your blog!!
    God Bless you and your family…

    February 19, 2006

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