There are two instances in the book of Revelation that a white horse is mentioned. The verse that this study focuses on is And 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. Revelation 6:1
Who or what is the rider on this horse? The dispensational or futurist view of the identity of this personality that sits on this horse is the coming Antichrist. There is another view that the rider of the first horse of the Apocalypse represents a system not a person. For reasons further elaborated on in this study, some believe this horse represents the system known as Catholicism.
Since white is the color of purity and holiness, others believe the rider on the white horse is the Holy Spirit. Here are the reasons I do not feel that this view is correct: A. The other horses of the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse represent war, famine, and death. The idea of this horse being the Holy Spirit simply does not fit the context of the overall text. B. It is Jesus who opens the first of seven seals that release this rider which lead some to believe that this is the Holy Spirit since Jesus had to ascend into heaven so the Holy Spirit could descend. The problem with this viewpoint is that the Holy Spirit descended on earth on the day of Pentecost just a few weeks after the feast of Passover in which Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected. The book of Revelation was written almost sixty years later. Claiming the rider on the white horse is the Holy Spirit does not logically fit the context.
Another reason that I do not believe this is the Holy Spirit is the word translated "crown" in this verse means "laurel" and the "laurel" is what the rulers of the Roman Empire wore. It was Rome who conquered Israel but that occurred in 70 AD before this book was written.
Before we examine who or what the rider on the white horse may represent, let's rule out who the rider definitely cannot be. 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. Revelation 19:11
The rider on this horse is called "Faithful and True" with both words being capitalized. This signifies a proper noun. Verse 13 states "his name is called the Word of God". A study of the first chapter of John clearly identifies the Word, God, and Jesus as being one and the same. The rider on this horse is also armed with "a sharp sword" in verse 15 and verse 16 clearly identifies him as KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
The rider of the first white horse is armed with only a bow and it makes no mention of any arrows. This implies a man or system who comes to power through diplomatic or political means rather than by force. Note that the the rider on the white horse in Revelation 19 had "many crowns" while the one in Chapter 6 has just one crown which clearly shows that these two riders are very different.
According to the book of Revelation, it is Jesus Himself who opens the first seal which bears the rider on the white horse so it would be highly unlikely that the rider on the first white horse would be Jesus.
Dispensationalism or futurism believes the one armed with a bow is none other than the Antichrist himself. The rationale behind this is that the opening of the first seal represents the beginning of twenty-one judgments that will occur in a seven-year time period known as the tribulation. This verse is not the only reason that students of bible prophecy believe this could be the Antichrist. There are several other verses in scripture that clearly talk about a man whom the world will believe is Christ or the Messiah but will find out that he is really Antichrist. This coming Antichrist arises out of the Roman Empire so it makes sense to conclude that the rider on the first white horse is somehow connected to Rome.
What if the seven seal judgments are not confined to a seven year tribulation period? What if they have a longer fulfillment? What if this rider on the white horse represents a system instead of the antichrist? What if the system is antichrist in nature? Could the verse have a double application referring to both the coming Antichrist and a system that seems to be Christian on the surface but at the heart is antichrist? The word anti not only can mean against, it can also mean to substitute or take the place of. This verse could have both a historical application and a future application.
It is said that if you want to understand prophecy scripture interprets scripture so you search the scriptures for an explanation. Is there another place in scripture that talks about the same colored horses as mentioned in the book of Revelation? It is said that the Old Testament points to the New Testament and the New Testament reveals the Old Testament. So we look to the Old Testament for an explanation of the four colored horses and find it in the book of Zechariah.1 And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked , and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass. 2 In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses; 3 And in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot grisled and bay horses. 4 Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these, my lord? 5 And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.Zech. Chapter 6
Note that these four chariots pulled by horses are red, black, white, and a grisled or bay horses. The exact same colors as the book of Revelation. Bible scholars believe these chariots are being released because God is sending judgment on the kingdoms of the ancient world. Likewise, in the book of Revelation, God is sending judgment on the entire earth. Zechariah asked the question, "What are these, my lord?" The answer was that these were four spirits that are unleashed upon the earth to do God's bidding. These four spirits control the affairs on earth. Which brings us to the question: What spirit does the white horse represent?
If the spirit represents the Antichrist, then Antichrist is under God's control as is everyone else whether they want to believe it or not. However, if the the white horse is a spirit that controls world affairs before the Antichrist comes onto the scene, then what world system has great power and influence and is involved in world affairs and politics and is associated with the color white? The answer to this question has to be based on the premise that the seven seal judgments of Revelation have a long range fulfillment rather than being confined to a seven year period or it could possibly have both a long range and short range fulfillment.
The color of Catholicism is white. The Pope wears a white robe, drives a white car, and flies a white jet. White is the color of Catholicism because white represents the purity of the church. Catholicism came to power through politics not war even though there has been war in its history. There is an estimated 1.5 billion Catholics in the world which is slightly less than a third of the world's population. If the rider on the white horse is but one spirit that controls world affairs at God's direction, then Catholicism would be the logical choice of its influence. The Catechism of the Catholic Church does state there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church which makes them a substitute for Jesus whom scriptures teach there is no other name in heaven other than Jesus by which we can be saved. In that sense, Catholicism has the spirit of antichrist.
My personal belief in what the rider on the white horse represents is both the Catholic Church (because I believe the coming false prophet who works with the coming Antichrist will be a Pope) and the coming Antichrist. There is no question this prophecy relates to some aspect of the Roman Empire.
Whether the rider on the white horse is the coming Antichrist, the religious system known as Catholicism, or just the Roman Empire itself, it is God who is calling the shots here and this rider is released to prepare the world for the return of Jesus Christ.