“And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and hee that sate on him had a bowe, and a crowne was giuen vnto him, and hee went foorth conquering, and to conquere.”
1611 King James Version (KJV)
6:2 And I saw, and behold a white horse, and he that sat on him had a bow - This colour, and the bow shooting arrows afar off, betoken victory, triumph, prosperity, enlargement of empire, and dominion over many people. Another horseman, indeed, and of quite another kind, appears on a white horse, #Rev 19:11|. But he that is spoken of under the first seal must be so understood as to bear a proportion to the horsemen in the second, third, and fourth seal. Nerva succeeded the emperor Domitian at the very time when the Revelation was written, in the year of our Lord 96. He reigned scarce a year alone; and three months before his death he named Trajan for his colleague and successor, and died in the year 98. Trajan's accession to the empire seems to be the dawning of the seven seals. And a crown was given him - This, considering his descent, Trajan could have no hope of attaining. But God gave it him by the hand of Nerva; and then the east soon felt his power. And he went forth conquering and to conquer - That is, from one victory to another. In the year 108 the already victorious Trajan went forth toward the east, to conquer not only Armenia, Assyria, and Mesopotamia, but also the countries beyond the Tigris, carrying the bounds of the Roman empire to a far greater extent than ever. We find no emperor like him for making conquests. He aimed at nothing else; he lived only to conquer. Meantime, in him was eminently fulfilled what had been prophesied of the fourth empire, #Dan 2:40|, 7:23, that he should devour, tread down, and break in pieces the whole earth.
Re 6:2 And I saw, and behold, a white horse. Let the reader note particularly what John saw, and then remember that it is symbolical, and that instead of looking for a literal fulfillment, we are to ask the meaning of the symbols. There are several features of the vision that fix our attention: (1) The horse; (2) his white color; (3) the armed warrior; (4) his crown; (5) his bow; (6) his mission. It is certain that none of these features would have been named if they did not possess a significance. What do each of these symbols mean? I will consider them in order: (1) THE HORSE. He was never used by the Jews or Orientals as a beast of burden. The ox and the ass were devoted to that office, and the horse was reserved for war. Whenever the horse is mentioned by the prophets it will be found in connection with warlike employments. That the horse is always associated with war can be seen by consulting Job 29:25 Ps 76:6 Pr 21:31 Jer 8:6 Eze 26:10. Hence this symbol points to a period of war, though it alone does not declare whether the conflict is carnal or spiritual, is triumphant or disastrous. (2) THE WHITE COLOR. As there are three more horses in succession under the three following seals, each of different colors, the color must have a meaning. White must have a different significance from red, or black, or pale. What is indicated by the color of the first horse? White is the color of prosperity, of happiness, and triumph. Whenever a Roman General was given a triumph his chariot was drawn by milk-white horses. In Re 19:11 the Mighty Conqueror who wears many crowns is seen riding on a white horse. Commentators are agreed that the white horse signifies prosperous, victorious wars. (3) THE RIDER. His significance is due to his arms, his crown, and the white horse he rides. It is enough to state here that he represents either some conqueror, or a conquering age. (4) THE CROWN. "A crown was given to him". This crown is not "the diadem" ("diadema") but the "garland crown" ("stephanos"). The last was the crown given as a reward for victory in battle, for great achievements or for victory in games. The Hero of chapter 19 wears many diadems, kingly crowns (Re 19:12), but this rider wears the garland crown, the "stephanos". It is important to note this distinction. (5) THE BOW. He is armed with a usual weapon of war in that age. The bow may signify that the rider is a great, warlike figure, or there may be a special significance in the fact that he is armed with a bow instead of a sword or spear.