The First Horseman of the Apocalypse -- By: Zane C. Hodges

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 119:476 (Oct 1962)
Article: The First Horseman of the Apocalypse
Author: Zane C. Hodges

The First Horseman of the Apocalypse

Zane C. Hodges

Although the book of Revelation has always provided a fertile field for differing interpretations, few—if any—of its prophetic visions have received more widely divergent explanations than that of the first of the famous four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Among the numerous interpretations advanced by expositors, two viewpoints in particular are remarkable for their extreme divergence. On the one hand, the first horseman of the Apocalypse has sometimes been identified as Christ, and on the other hand as Antichrist. Obviously, it would be impossible to choose two identifications more diametrically opposed than these.

The oldest known interpretation of the first apocalyptic rider of Revelation 6 is undoubtedly that of Irenaeus (d. 202), whose teacher, Polycarp, had known the Apostle John face to face. In his work Against Heresies Irenaeus leaves no doubt as to his view of the matter when he states, “For to this end was the Lord born…of whom also John says in the Apocolypse: ‘He went forth conquering, that he should conquer.’“1 In this, Irenaeus has found some followers among modern commentators,2 but others, while close to this view, have tended to impersonalize the vision to a greater or less extent.3

The opposite view, that the rider represents the future Gentile world-ruler, or Antichrist,4 is of special interest for the present discussion because of its popularity with many—if not most—dispensational expositors.5 It seems to prevail in dispensational literature. Yet despite this fact, it is the contention of this study not only that the older view that the rider is Christ is correct, but that this view harmonizes more consistently with the dispensational system revealed in prophecy.

The Horseman and Biblical Imagery

At the outset, it is important to observe that none of the symbolic elements of the first horseman are found elsewhere in Scripture specifically applied to that coming world-ruler who is often spoken of as Antichrist. Whatever applications are made to him from this vision must, therefore, be made purely by analogy with facts elsewhere revealed about him. In sharp contrast to this, every feature of the vision is found elsewhere in Scripture in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ and hence the interpretation which identifies the rider with Him has roots far deeper in Biblical symbolism. This in itself n...

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