The rider on a white horse – Revelation 19:11-16

Previously: I fell at his feet to worship – Revelation 19:10

The scripture

 Rev. 19:11 – Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a fiery flame, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knows except Himself. 13 He wore a robe stained with blood, and His name is called the Word of God. 14 The armies that were in heaven followed Him on white horses, wearing pure white linen. 15 From His mouth came a sharp sword, so that with it He might strike the nations. He will shepherd them with an iron scepter. He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty. 16 And on his robe and on His thigh He has a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (HCSB)

Then I saw heaven opened

For a second time in Revelation, John sees both heaven opened and a white horse. But the visions are not the same. In Rev. 4:1, after obeying the command to write to seven churches in Asia Minor, John sees an open door in heaven and is invited to “Come up here” where he is shown what must take place after this. Now, in Rev. 19:11, he sees heaven opened once again and views the climax of these events. In a similar fashion, John has seen a rider on a white horse in Rev. 6:2, and he sees a rider again now. But they are very different riders.

While some commentators argue that the riders in both passages depict Jesus, the differences between the riders indicate otherwise. In fact, the only similarity is that both characters are riding white horses. It’s more likely that the rider in Rev. 6:2 symbolizes the quest of Rome’s neighbors, particularly the Parthians, to expand their empires, leading to war (red horse), famine (black horse), and epidemic disease (pale horse). Or, as futurists contend, the rider depicts the Antichrist of the end times.

Key differences

Let’s look at some key differences:

  • The rider in Rev. 6:2 carries a bow, while the rider in Rev. 19 wields a sharp sword that proceeds from His mouth. With the sword He smites the nations.
  • The rider in Rev. 6:2 is given a crown – a stephanos, or laurel wreath, while the rider in Rev. 19 wears many crowns – diademata, or kingly crowns.
  • Finally, the rider in Rev. 6:2 goes out as a victor to conquer, while the rider in Rev. 19 “judges and makes war in righteousness;” is followed by the armies of heaven; shepherds the nations with an iron scepter; and tramples “the winepress of the fierce anger of God.”

There is little disagreement among scholars that the rider in Revelation 19 is Jesus. The majority view is that this passage foretells His second coming in which He judges the earth and sets things right. However, some contend that these verses describe the victory of the Word of God on earth between Christ’s first and second comings. Those who hold this view point out that nowhere else in scripture is Jesus shown riding a horse. Further, after His ascension into heaven, the angel tells Jesus’ followers that Christ will return “in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven,” that is, without the aid of a beast of burden (Acts 1:11).

Certainly, the Bible – the Word of God – is accomplishing much on earth today. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: “The word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart” (Heb. 4:11-12). At the same time, the Word of God – Jesus – is accomplishing much on earth as well. His finished work on the cross is proclaimed to the nations and results in the plundering of Satan’s goods as people are rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light.

Yet it appears that Revelation 19 describes a more final judgment of the earth’s wicked, leading to the great white throne and the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15) and to the creation of new heavens and a new earth (Revelation 21-22).

“The white horse is a sign of His coming triumph. It was customary for a triumphant Roman general to parade on the Via Sacra, a main thoroughfare of Rome, followed by evidences of His victory in the form of booty and captives (cf. 2 Cor. 2:14). The white horse is thus a symbol of Christ’s triumph over the forces of wickedness in the world, the details of which follow” (J.F. Walvoord, R.B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Rev. 19:11-13).

R.J. Utley writes that John is describing Jesus’ coming as the Jews expected Him the first time – a powerful military general. This is somewhat different from Paul’s description of the Second Coming (the Parousia) found in I Thess. 4:13–18. “For a group of persecuted Christians this is an extremely encouraging metaphor. Interpreters must remember (1) that this is not a full and complete discussion of the Second Coming; (2) that it is clothed in symbolic, apocalyptic language, but (3) that it is true; our God, in Christ, is personally coming again to receive His own and to judge all mankind according to their deeds” (Hope in Hard Times – The Final Curtain: Revelation, Study Guide Commentary Series, p. 129).

The rider on the white horse

Let’s look more closely at 12 ways John describes this rider on the white horse.

1. He is called Faithful and True (v. 11). These names are in clear contrast to the rider in Rev. 6:2, who speaks “boasts and blasphemies” and who blasphemes God’s “name and His dwelling” (Rev. 13:5-6). “He is faithful and true to his covenant and promise, he is righteous in all his judicial and military proceedings, he has a penetrating insight into all the strength and stratagemsof his enemies, he has a large and extensive dominion, many crowns, for he is King of kings, and

Lord of lords” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Rev. 19:11-21). In contrast to the beast, who is unfaithful and false, Jesus is Faithful and True. “Suffering saints need to be reminded that God is faithful and will not desert them, because His promises are true” (Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Rev. 19:11).

2. He judges and makes war in righteousness (v. 11). The Son of God is neither weak nor aloof. His holiness demands justice. His sovereignty demands warfare against the ungodly who seek to usurp His throne. Some commentators point out that it is appropriate for Jesus to be depicted riding a white horse. Kings ride horses when waging war. Jesus clearly is making war against the world’s wicked people. He rides triumphantly into Jerusalem on an ass, a symbol of peace, but He returns on a steed, an emblem of war.

3. His eyes are like a fiery flame (v. 12). This describes His piercing holiness and His searching judgment that sees all. In John’s vision of the risen Lord in Rev. 1:14, he sees “One like the Son of Man” with “eyes like a fiery flame.” And in the opening lines of the letter to the church at Thyatira, Jesus describes Himself as “the One whose eyes are like a fiery flame” (Rev. 2:18). There is an Old Testament tie here. The angel who appears to Daniel to tell him what will become of the Israelites in the last days has “eyes like flaming torches” (Dan. 10:6). While this is not the pre-incarnate Christ, it is a holy angel who engages in battle in the unseen world and whose appearance strikes fear in the eyes of mortals like Daniel. Perhaps the Jewish readers of Revelation are reminded that God has not abandoned His people, whether they are in exile in Babylon or scattered throughout the Roman Empire.

4. Many crowns are on His head (v. 12). “Monarchs who claimed authority over more than one country wore more than one crown. The kings of Egypt were crowned with the Pshent, or united crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt. When Ptolemy Philometer entered Antioch as a conqueror, he wore a triple crown, two for Egypt, and a third for Asia. John saw Him who was ‘King of kings and Lord of lords,’ and ‘on His head were many crowns.’ Thus, in a beautiful figure, the universal dominion of our blessed Lord is set forth” (Manners & Customs of the Bible, p. 552).

5. He has a name written that no one knows except Himself (v. 12). This reminds us that the Lord has not revealed everything about Himself and His plan. In Deut. 29:29 we’re told, “The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.” From the perspective of other nations, when they see Israel defeated in battle and its people carried into captivity, they assume the covenant between God and His people has been cancelled. But they fail to see that the Lord, who keeps His promises, is working through human history to bring His people to repentance so they will enjoy unending fellowship with Him.

In the letter to the church at Pergamum, Jesus promises the victor a white stone inscribed with a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it (Rev. 2:17). “In this, as in all other respects, the disciple is made like his Lord. The Lord’s own ‘new name’ is to be theirs, and to be ‘in their foreheads’; whence we may infer that His as yet unknown name also is written on Hisforehead; as the high priest had ‘Holiness to the Lord’ inscribed on the miter on his brow.

John saw it as ‘written,’ but knew not its meaning. It is, therefore, a name which in all its glorious significancy can be only understood when the union of His saints with Him, and His and their joint triumph and reign, shall be perfectly manifested at the final consummation” (R. Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, D. Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Rev. 19:12).

6. He wears a robe stained with blood (v. 13). Commentators disagree as to whether this blood is Jesus’ redemptive blood shed on the cross, or the blood of His enemies. Possibly it is both. The passage may refer to His sacrificial death, by which the multitudes in heaven have made their robes white (Rev. 7:14). It also may look forward to His treading the winepress of God’s wrath (Rev. 19:15). We should note that Isaiah records a similar vision in Isa. 63:1-6. There, the Lord comes in “crimson-stained garments,” having “trampled the winepress alone.” He speaks, “I trampled them [the nations that have exploited God’s people] in My anger and ground them underfoot in My fury; their blood spattered My garments, and all My clothes are stained. For I planned the day of vengeance …”

7. His name is the Word of God (v. 13). The Word of God “indicates His incommunicable Godhead, joined to His manhood, which He shall then manifest in glory” (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, Rev. 19:13). Warren Wiersbe comments: “’The Word of God’ is one of the familiar names of our Lord in Scripture (John 1:1–14). Just as we reveal our minds and hearts to others by our words, so the Father reveals Himself to us through His Son, the incarnate Word (Rev. 14:7–11). A word is made up of letters, and Jesus Christ is ‘Alpha and Omega’ (Rev. 21:6; 22:13). He is the ‘divine alphabet’ of God’s revelation to us…. Just as the Word was the Father’s Agent in Creation (John 1:1–3), so the Word is His Agent for judgment and consummation” (Wiersbe, Rev. 19:11).

8. The armies in heaven follow Him on white horses, wearing pure white linen (v. 14). Note that John sees more than one army, indicating that both angels and saints accompany Jesus. Old Testament passages such as Zech. 14:5, and New Testament references such as Matt. 13:41; 25:31; Luke 9:26; and 2 Thess. 1:7 make is clear that angels play a key role in the Lord’s return. In addition, His saints appear with Him as He executes judgment upon the earth’s wicked and establishes His kingdom (see 1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Thess. 1:10). Angels in scripture sometimes are depicted wearing white (John 20:12), and the saints are clothed in white robes signifying both the righteousness of Christ and their good deeds (Rev. 6:11; 7:13-14; 19:8; see also Phil. 3:9). It should be noted that some commentators exclude angels from this heavenly host, citing Rev. 17:14, in which these armies are “called, chosen, and faithful,” terms never used to describe angels.

9. A sharp sword comes from His mouth, so that He might strike the nations with it (v. 15).

It should be clear to us this is figurative language describing the powerful spoken word of our Savior. The word translated “sword” is rhomphaia and is used of an unusually long sword, or even a spear, indicating a piercing action. John may be referring to Isa. 11:4 in which a future Davidic king will “strike the land with discipline from His mouth, and He will kill the wicked with a command from His lips.” John also draws from His description of Jesus in Rev. 1:16 in which a sharp double-edged sword proceeds from His mouth. And He may be referencing Heb. 4:12 in which the word of God, sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrates as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and is able to judge the thoughts and ideas of the heart. No doubt, the spoken word of Christ, which has the power to create (see Gen. 1:3 ff; John 1:3; Col. 1:16) also has the power to judge.

10. He will shepherd them with an iron scepter (v 15). We have encountered the rod of iron before. Rev. 2:27 quotes the Messianic prophecy in Ps. 2:9 – “and he will shepherd them with an iron scepter; he will shatter them like pottery.” And Rev. 12:5 tells us the woman’s (Israel’s) Son “is going to shepherd all nations with an iron scepter.” This symbolizes Christ’s justice as He rules the earth. “The word shepherd may be a reflection that, as Christ will tenderly shepherd His people, there is another side to that role – shepherding the unbelievers among the nations with an iron scepter” (HCSB Study Bible, p. 2215). While the Lord entrusts all people with the ability to make real choices for which they are held accountable, those that rebel against God and persecute His people will not be permitted to perpetually harm the saints or blaspheme their Creator.

11. He will trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty (v. 15). This reference is rooted deeply in Old Testament imagery. We see it in Isa. 63:2-3 (as a future Davidic King judges the nations); Jer. 51:33 (as God punishes Babylon); Lam. 1:15 (as God judges Judah); Joel 3:13 (as the Lord judges the nations). We also see the imagery in Rev. 14:14-20, where Christ, or an angel, harvests the earth’s wicked. The color of crushed grapes vividly depicts the blood that is shed when Christ comes in power and glory to take vengeance on those who reject Him and revile His people.

12. He has a name written on His robe and on His thigh: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (v. 16). This is Christ’s exalted and victorious name. In Rev. 17:13-14 this name is meant to contrast that of the beast, who receives power and authority from the kings of the earth – to no avail; “the Lamb will conquer them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings.” This name also brings to mind references such as Dan. 2:47, in which Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges, “Your God is indeed God of gods, Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries.” It also harks back to the words of Moses to the Israelites in Deut. 10:17: “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God.” The apostle Paul also used this title for Jesus in 1 Tim. 6:15: “He is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, the only One who has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light; no one has seen or can see Him, to Him be honor and eternal might.” R.J. Utley writes, “It is interesting to note that this phrase in Aramaic adds up to 777, in contradistinction to the number of the beast, which is 666. Ultimate perfection versus ultimate imperfection” (p. 132).

Next: The beast and his armies defeated – Revelation 19:17-21

4 comments

  1. Dean

    I can agree that alot of people mistake the white horse in Revelation 6:2 being the same in Revelation 19:11-15, if you will but notice in Verse 13-“And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood:and His name is called The Word of God” The blood here is not the blood of Jesus nor of His enemies, but the blood of them that were slain for the word of God,and for the testimony which they held,Revelation 6:9-11 Notice in Verse 11those that were slain for the word of God,and for the testimony which they held.were given white robes,these are them in Rev 19:14,they come with Christ Jesus to avenge their blood on them that dwell on the earth Rev 6:10. As for the white horse in Rev 6:2,You know white is also known as a sign of peace,the rider on the white horse shall come peacefully and by flattery. Therefore white does not always identify’s one as a conqueror, but one that comes in a time of peace.Therefore the antichrist to better to deceive people and nations and multitudes, is to come peacefully and properly to be Christ like. You know many people take this white horse and him,to be a man of war,all because he is to come conquering and to conquer, however this is false,for this rider to come Christ like he will not come with war,as many people are taught,the rider which is the antichrist means he shall come Christ like,Thereby the antichrist shall come peacefully and with flattery, deceiving to deceive people and nations and multitudes that dwell on the earth by great wonders and miracles which he had power to do in the sight of men.Notice also that a Crown was given unto him, Note that a Crown represent Loyalty and honor, many people’s and nations and multitudes, shall give Loyalty and honor unto him,As to how can a person be conquered without using deadly force, If a person is giving another their loyalty and honor, there is no conquering to be done,they haved already pledge their obedience unto him,by their loyalty and honor to him.Alot of people will ask,who is the antichrist? You know in Isaiah 14:12-17,herein you will find the name Lucifer,unto which God gave and then God gave also to Lucifer the name Satan,which also he is called,the old serpent, Devil, Wicked one,the lawless one, death,antichrist, man of sin,Son of perdition, the beast which comes up out of the earth.the angel of the bottomless pit, king of the bottomless pit. All these names God gave unto Satan as the Great deceiver. Therefore Satan is thee antichrist that thinks to stand in the place of Christ Jesus to counterfeit by deception to deceive people and nations and multitudes into believing that he is Christ Jesus. This is Satan’s whole agenda tobgo forth conquering and to conquer, that is to go forth deceiving and to deceive by deception peoples and nations and multitudes by those great wonders and miracles which he had power to do in the sight of men.Notice Revelation 6:2 he had a bow,but no arrows, the antichrist (Satan) has no need of arrows. For the antichrist (Satan) arrows are his deception to deceive people and nations and multitudes into believing that he is Christ Jesus.Notice in Ephesians 6:16-“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the Wicked one” You know who the Wicked one is? This being Satan.In 2Thess 2:1-4,Notice Verse 4-“Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God,or that is worshipped: so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God,shewing himself that he is God. Many people have ask.who is this? Let’s go to the book of Isaiah you shall find Lucifer better known as Satan,speaks very boldly of exalting himself above God and to sitteth in the temple of God shewing himself to be God.Isaiah 14:12-17, read also 2Thess 2:4, these two are in parallel of each other. That in these two you shall find the man of sin the Son of perdition is non other than Satan himself.

  2. Faithful

    The rider in Revelation 19:11-16 is Christ Jesus the Lord, But however the rider in Revelation 6:1-2 is Satan he comes deceving and to deceive.

  3. Faithful

    The rider on the white horse in Revelation 6:2 is satan, which he has a cheap imitation bow, all things that Satan has is just a cheap imitation counterfeit of what Christ Jesus has.

  4. Gary Walton

    Very well written. Will you consider writing about IHOP and the controversy of the MoBap pastors conference?

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