First Seal

The Lamb opened the first seal, releasing the rider with a “bow” and seated on a white horse, “conquering” and to “conquer.” 

Immediately after ascending the throne, the “Lamb” begins to open the “seven seals,” starting with the first four. His right to open the scroll is based on his sacrificial death. But the opening of the seals does not yet reveal the contents of the “sealed scroll” itself. Breaking its seals is the preliminary step necessary before the scroll can be unfolded.

Quite possibly, what is presented with each seal opening provides an outline of the scroll’s contents, a “preface” to the document itself.  The scroll is seen not fully “opened” until chapter 10.

The first four seal openings release “four riders” sitting on four different-colored horses, and thus, they form a group distinct from the last three seal openings:
  • (Revelation 6:1-2) – “And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying, as with a voice of thunder, Go! And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and he that was sitting thereon holding a bow; and there was given to him a crown, and he went forth conquering, even that he mght  conquer.


Each “rider” is authorized by the “Lamb” to execute his assigned task - (“it was given to him…”). The “Lamb” himself opens the first four seals, and each “rider” is commanded to perform his mission by one of the “four living creatures who are linked to the “throne” on which the “Lamb” now reigns – (Revelation 4:6-10, 5:7-10).

The order of the four “riders” does not indicate chronological sequence. The contents of all four seals are unleashed simultaneously, and this is indicated by the summary statement in verse 8. Collectively, the four kill a “fourth of the earth.”

The first “rider” sits on a “white horse.” He rides out “conquering, even that he might conquer.” Apparently, the “bow” symbolizes conflict.

One suggestion is that he represents Jesus who conquers his enemies. That idea is strengthened by the later image of the heavenly “rider on a white horse” who defeats the forces of the “beast” - (Revelation 19:11-21).

However, other than riding on a white horse, the two figures have nothing in common. This first rider is given a “victory wreath” or stephanos. In contrast, the “rider on a white horse” wears many “crowns” or diadems. The first rider carries a “bow,” but Jesus wields a “double-edged sword.” Moreover, all four riders are commanded by the “Lamb,” but the heavenly rider is the “Lamb.”


Verse 8 summarizes the effects of all four riders - death, famine, bloodshed, pestilence - Nothing positive results. Since the first rider is a member of this group, he cannot be the “Lamb,” the church, or the proclamation of the gospel.

More probably, he represents a counterfeit Christ, deceivers who subvert the faith of the saints and claim to speak for Christ, the true “Lamb.” This includes groups such as the “false apostles” and “Nicolaitans” described in the letters to the “seven churches” - (Revelation 2:2-62:14-152:20-2113:11-17).

The verb rendered “conquer” or “overcome” is nikaô, the same verb applied to the “Lamb,” to persevering saints, and to the “beast” who “overcomes the saints.” Regarding the latter, the “beast” overcomes believers by killing them - (Revelation 11:7, 13:7-10).

The first rider appears “conquering and that he should conquer.”  The verb has no object; precisely what or who is conquered is not stated.

The church at Ephesus was commended for rejecting the works of the ‘Nicolaitans,’ a compound of niké, “conquer,” and laos, “people.” It has the sense of “conquest of people.” It is related to the Greek verb used for “conquering” by the “rider on the white horse” or nikaô. The “deeds of the Nicolaitans” are attempts to infiltrate false teachings into the church, thereby conquering the saints through deception.


The figure with a bow may have the god Apollo in view (Apollōn).  In Greek mythology, he was an oracular deity linked with prophecy. His image carried a bow and arrow, and he was the patron deity of archers. He was worshipped in the province of Asia and was considered the twin brother of the goddess Artemis (also called Diana of Ephesus).

Due to the similarity in spelling, the name ‘Apollo’ was associated with the verb apollumi, meaning “to destroy.” Later, the “king the angel of the Abyss” is called Apolluōn, a spelling almost identical to Apollōn, and a cognate of apollumi or “destroyer.”

In the Latin language, Apollo was Articenens, the “bow-carrier.” All this suggests a link between the first rider and the god Apollo - (Revelation 9:11).

Most likely, the first rider symbolizes deceivers in the church who “conquer” by deception. They are forerunners of the final onslaught by the “beast,” the “False Prophet,” and “Babylon.” The “beasts of the earth” mentioned in verse 8 reinforce this interpretation.

White” represents purity and righteousness, the “righteous deeds of the saints.” That this figure is riding a “white horse” and wearing a victory wreath means he mimics the “Lamb.” He represents deceivers who work to “conquer” the saints, including the false teachers already active in the “seven churches.”

Deceivers prepare the way for the final onslaught against the “saints” by the “beast,” the culmination of a centuries-long effort to destroy the church through deception and false teachers.



The Word Made Flesh

Language of the New Testament