THE FIRST SEAL IS OPENED
Rev 6:1-2 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. 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.
In the previous chapter we realize the spiritual importance of the sealed book. Held securely in the hands of God, it was given to His Son, Jesus Christ, the only being having the authority to remove its seals, disclose the prophecy each page contained, and reveal, from these pages, the future of His church, the church of Christ. No doubt, as we study these prophecies, they will be revealed in successive order. In other words, the vision seen by John as the first seal was opened will reveal future events that will be the first to take place, with those portrayed on the following pages revealing events that will occur in times that will take place at a later date.
Also, it should be noted that pages under each seal reveal symbols, that describe events, which are unique and characteristic to the time period in which they take place. With the opening of each seal, John is privileged to see, record, and describe a vision revealing that which had been hidden from the beginning of time, but is now to be disclosed. We must also understand that the visions seen by John are symbolical. We are not to look for, or expect, the vision to result in a literal fulfillment. Rather we are to examine the characteristics of each symbol to determine its spiritual meaning. The appointed time had now come for God's Revelation to His children, the church universal, which was represented by the seven churches of Christ in Asia.
The lesson text opens with the continuation of the vision of heaven being revealed to the apostle John. He saw Jesus Christ, the Lamb, opening the first seal. What followed was a sound he described as the noise of thunder, an awesome, attention-getting voice of one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. The speaker was identified only as one of the four living creatures, or beings (See Rev. 4:6-9). The exact identity is not given, but most bible scholars assume that it was the first, which was described as having the appearance of a lion. This conjecture is based on the fact that second, third, and fourth seals were announced by the second, third, and fourth beast.
Having been invited to see the revelation hidden by the first seal, John beheld 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. In order to understand the scriptural meaning of this symbolical rider, we first note that he was riding a white horse, he was a warrior, he was armed with a bow, wearing a crown, and his mission was to conquer. Although oxen and donkeys were used for agricultural and transportation, horses were thought to only be used for military purposes. Therefore the symbol of the horse represents future war-like battles that would bewaged against the church of Christ, or by His church against the followers of Satan. The fact that the horse is white is also significant - it is the color designating success and victory. The crown that was given to the rider was not that of a monarch (diadema), but a garland crown given to the victor of a battle, or a great achievement (stephanos). Instead of a spear or a sword, this symbolic warrior carries a bow, which was the more usual weapon of war during that age of biblical history. This, then, wasthe description of what John saw when Jesus removed the first seal revealing prophecies that were never before seen by mankind.
Now comes the daunting task of analyzing this symbolic view into future ages of the world, and their affect upon the church of Christ. There is utmost importance in interpreting this first prophecy because its correct analysis will lead us to a more true interpretation of succeeding symbolic prophecies. Before attempting to uncover its true meaning, we must acknowledge the vast number of differing opinions by bible scholars. Some contend that the "Rider of the White Horse" symbolizes Christ and His power of victory. Others say that it is the power of the New Testament gospel message of salvation, or the judgment of the world by Christ Jesus. Spiritual battles, as these views indicate, are by far the majority opinion of this symbol.
However, when we examine the other four horses and their riders it is apparent that they cannot refer to spiritual battles won or lost, or spiritual changes made within the body of Christ. Therefore, they must represent, not prominent individual warriors, but worldly powers and events that are prophesied to come into being, or occur, in future times within the temporal or secular, world. Considering this, it seems that this symbol, the white horse and his rider, foretells things that will have an effect upon Christ's church. Since these symbolic representations probably refer to future events in a chronological order, this would be the first in that order. It is biblically known that the church of Christ had its beginning in the city of Jerusalem, at the precise time that Israel was under the rule of the Roman Empire. That being true, it can readily be assumed that the first enemy of Christ's church would possibly come from this monarchy.
These analytical assumptions seem best suited to reveal the truest possible meaning of these symbolic, and prophetic, visions revealed to, and witnessed by, the apostle John. Therefore, the first seal, which revealed the white horse and its rider, more than likely, refers to a period of triumph and prosperity within the Roman Empire that followed near the end of John's exile on the isle of Patmos, and probably near the beginning of the second century. History reveals these exact conditions existed within this empire, and within the era prophetically foretold that it would take place. The tyrannical emperor Domitian, who captured and exiled John, was succeeded by Nerva as the ruler of the Roman Empire. Under the successful military leadership of his adopted son, Trajan, the Roman Empire expanded to its greatest dominion size and power.
Along with these great conquests, came the greatest age of prosperity Rome had ever known. During the reigns of Nerva, Trajan, Adrian (also known as Hadrian), Antonions Pius, and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, the Roman Empire, according to historians, enjoyed its greatest time of peace, contentment, and economic success. Trajan was the military conqueror, Adrian established peace and reconstruction of the empire, and the two Antonines ruled Rome with a spirit of virtuous wisdom. This period extended from the beginning of the reign of Nerva in 96 A.D. until the profligate, and cruel empero,r Commodus ascended to power in 180 A.D.
Looking back at the symbolism found in the introduction of this study, we noted that the white horse was ridden by a warrior, armed with a bow, and worthy of a crown of victory because of his conquests. These symbols found under the first seal seem to be extraordinarily fulfilled during this period of Roman history. It began soon after the end of John's exile, it introduced Trajan, although ruthless, was one of the world's greatest military conquerors. It was a period of great power and prosperity, and the emperors during this period were Cretans by birth - a race famous for their expertise using the bow, which also fits this portion of John's vision. No other epoch of world history comes close to confirming, and fulfilling, the symbolic nature of the white horse and its rider, which was introduced by the opening of the book's first seal.