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Previous: Revelation 6

Opening of the Seven Seals 6:1-8:1

The First Seal - Antichrist 6:1-2

Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, "Come and see." 2 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. - Revelation 6:1-2

John reminds us again of the nature of this revelation. Now I saw... It was a vision from God. After all of the heavenly drama about the sealed scroll, and the search for the One who was worthy to open it, he saw the beginning of the long-awaited details concerning the Tribulation.

The first of the vital aspects of this troublesome time was revealed when the Lamb opened one of the seals. As we learned before, this scroll had seven sections, and Jesus, the Lamb, needed to break the seal at the beginning of each portion to reveal the story (see notes on Revelation Chapter 5, verse 1).

The text does not simply tell about this mysterious future, but it springs to life in such a way that the Apostle experiences these events as if he were there-seeing and hearing, and feeling the emotions of the moment. So, he said, and I heard (see notes on Revelation 1:10; 4:1; 5:11, etc.) one of the four living creatures. The opening of each of the first four seals was announced by of one of the four living creatures. These powerful and unique beings were described earlier in this Revelation (Chapter 4, verse 6), and were compared with the cherubim that carried the Throne of God in Ezekiel, Chapter 10.

These most-magnificent of God's creatures defy description, but John tried to express what he heard. This first living creature was saying with a voice like thunder, "Come and see." In the Greek, this is just one word-the normal word for "come," but it is used here as a command and an invitation. This event was worthy of special notice. That, of course, could also be said for the entire Book of Revelation.

In Revelation there is so much to see, but this command is used only with the breaking of these first four seals and the emergence of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."

Naturally, because of the booming voice of the living creature and the vivid vision before him, John wrote, and I looked. What he saw was a white horse and its rider. Victorious kings often rode at the front of their armies on white horses. White is used symbolically to depict purity or goodness. Then John described an important fact about the rider. He wrote, He who sat on it had a bow. This is definitely a picture of a conqueror. However, it is significant that nothing is said about arrows. It could mean that he had the strength to conquer, but did not have to use lethal force, especially at the outset of his career.

Commentators differ on whether this First Seal represents a final world government or the person who rules over it. Both are undoubtedly in view-there will be no great world empire without a powerful leader. But there is no powerful leader without a multitude of organized followers. Therefore this emperor and his government are both in view.

When we analyze Revelation 19 we will see that Jesus will also return on a white horse. However, this white horse of the First Seal is not Christ, but an imposter-the one who is often called "Antichrist." The title "Antichrist" is not used in Revelation, but "The Beast" of Revelation, Chapters 13 to 17, is undoubtedly this heroic person-the "man with a plan," who will be perceived as a messiah figure for a crumbling world. We will learn more about this Beast and an "Unholy Trinity"-Satan, the Beast, and the False Prophet when we get to that portion of the Revelation.

In his earlier epistle, John had said that there were already "many antichrists."

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. - 1 John 2:18-22

Everything considered, the person most prophecy writers call "Antichrist" is "the Beast." But from John's perspective "the false prophet" would also be an antichrist. So, for the sake of accuracy, in this commentary we will usually call this end-times dictator "the Beast."

There are many other biblical names for "the Beast." In Daniel 7:8 he is called another (eleventh) horn that speaks boastfully. In Daniel 9:26 he is referred to as "the ruler who will come." In Daniel 11:21 he is described as "a contemptible person." In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 the Apostle Paul labeled him "the man of lawlessness."

And a crown. . . The crown is recognition of the authority of this emerging world ruler. But, who will give him this power? In all of human history we see that the normal path of empire building was for a great leader to gain respect and authority from his own home territory, and then step-by-step, to conquer nearby tribes, city-states, or even established nations, ever-enlarging his territory.

This crown was given to him. Who would have the authority to give the crown to this world ruler? Historically, less-important rulers have done so as a symbolic gesture of submission, and religious leaders have done it to show approval. But the Bible indicates how the role of kings is ultimately established.

For exaltation comes neither from the east
Nor from the west nor from the south.
7 But God is the Judge:
He puts down one,
And exalts another. - Psalm 75:6-7

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. - Romans 13:1

Thus, even in the case of evil rulers, God is still in control. He may allow an evil ruler to come to power because the people are spiritually rebellious. Even while Moses was leading the Children of Israel, when the people strayed from the Lord, He sometimes let them have their way temporarily so they could learn that they were wrong.

They soon forgot His works;
They did not wait for His counsel,
14 But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness,
And tested God in the desert.
15 And He gave them their request,
But sent leanness into their soul.- Psalm 106:13-15

Actually, the case of King Saul, Israel's first monarch, was a good illustration of this principle. At that point in history the Israelites wanted a king like the other nations around them. God had a better plan, but because the people were so stubborn, He told Samuel, their judge, to go ahead and choose a ruler (1 Samuel 8 - especially verses 19-22). They had to learn the hard way that a king will not necessarily follow God's will. In spite of their mistake, God was ultimately still in control.

It is hard to imagine a time worse than our own generation, when nearly the whole world is in turmoil of one sort or another. Yet there is a dearth of good leadership. When it is time for the Beast to appear on the scene, the citizens of the world will be eager to empower him to deal with the many pressing problems. God will allow him to take control.

And he went out conquering and to conquer. There are both Old and New Testament accounts of a final evil world empire before the Lord returns. We will consider this biblical teaching next.

Next: Revelation 6:2 - Cont.


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