PMT 2014-003 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

White horseIn my previous study I noted that the rider on the white horse could not be Christ. In this one I argue that he probably represents the Roman general Vespasian who was the general Nero commissioned to put down the Jewish war, and whose forces eventually destroyed the temple.

In interpreting the rider on the “white horse” who “went out conquering, and to conquer” (6:2–3) we must keep in mind three fundamental facts:

(1) Revelation’s Hebraic character. Revelation is the most Hebraic book of the NT. For instance, OT persons mentioned include Balaam (2:14), Balak (2:14), Jezebel (2:20), David (3:7; 5:5; 22:16), the four living creatures (chs 4–5; 6:6; 7:11), Judah (5:5; 7:5), the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel (7:5–8; 21:12), Elijah (11:6), Michael (12:7), the Serpent (12:9, 14; 20:2), Moses (15:3), and Gog and Magog (20:8). Corsini (135) also notes that John uses so much angel activity because in the OT “the heroes were angels; they governed the world, they were mediators also of revelation.”

Interpreting Revelation (5 CDs)
by Ken Gentry
Lectures on Revelation discussing its date of writing, preterist interpretation, and leading features.
Very helpful, basic introduction to Revelation. Question and answer sessions.

(2) Revelation’s near-term time constraints (1:1, 3). Revelation repeatedly emphasizes its prophetic events must “shortly take place” (Rev. 1:1; 22:6) for “the time is near” (Rev. 1:3; 22:10).

(3) Revelation’s Israel-judgment theme (1:7). Revelation 1:7 establishes John’s theme of judgment against all the tribes of the Land who were guilty of killing Christ: Acts 2:22, 23, 36; 3:14, 15; 4:8–10; 5:30; Mt 21:33–35; 23:29–34:2; Lk 23:27–31; Jn 19:5–15; 1Th 2:14–16.

Consequently, we might expect that this white horse in the very first judgment vision has something to do with judging Israel. And it does!

This image symbolizes either a generic representation of the Roman army in its victorious march toward Jerusalem, or (most probably) a specific symbol of the Roman general Vespasian who begins subduing Israel in the Spring of 67 (Milton Terry; J. S. Russell; David Clark 55). Vespasian was Nero’s “most experienced general” (Mareille Hadas-Lebel), whom Nero commissions to put down the Jewish revolt. This commissioning elevates the uprising (the Jewish Revolt) to an official war (the Jewish War) engaging a ful-scale Roman military response. It is no longer a local police action under the oversight of the provincial governor, Cesitus Gallus (J.W. 2:17–22 §405–652); it was now an imperial problem.

Josephus considered Nero’s choice of Vespasian as inspired by God (J.W. 3:1:3 §6). As John puts it: he was sent to Israel “conquering and to conquer [nikon kai hina nikese]” (6:2), i.e., conquering in order to gain conquest. In a speech by Titus to his troops he refers to his father Vespasian, noting that “it is usual for my father to conquer [ta nikan ethos]; and for myself” (J.W. 3:10:2 §482). Interestingly, during the Jewish War at Jerusalem itself, the Romans employed massive battering rams, one of them the Jews nicknamed “Nico” (nik ni, “the conqueror”; J.W. 5:7:2 §298–301). This seal involves war and parallels the Olivet Discourse which anticipates “wars and rumors of wars” (Mk 13:7//).

A “bow”is a weapon used for fighting at a distance (J.W. 3:7:5 §151; 5:7:2 §296) and contrasts with the “sword” to follow (6:4). A well-equipped fighter will have both a sword and a bow (Ge 48:22; Jos 24:12; 1Sa 18:4; 2Ki 6:21; 1Ch 5:18). In this first seal the rider on the white horse is distant from Jerusalem: Vespasian’s strategy has him initially subdue Galilean strongholds and villages as he secures the outlying areas in Israel so that he will be in a better position for his ultimate goal: the siege of Jerusalem (J.W. 4).

Neill Faulkner summarizes the Roman strategy: “The Roman strategy continued slow but sure. The plan was still for a methodical reduction of Jewish strongpoints and armed bands, first in the north and west (Galilee, western Golan, Samaria, and the Sharon Plain), and then in the east and south (Peraea and Idumaea), as gradually to confine the revolt to an ever smaller area of upland Judaea immediately around Jerusalem. The successive capture of Sepphoris, Japha, Jotapata, Tiberias, Tarichaeae, Mount Tabor, Galmaa and Gishacala on the campaign of AD 67 had secured Galilee and the Golan. By this time also both Samaria and the Sharon Plain were secure.” Vespasian’s movement toward Jerusalem is calculating, relentless, and sure.

Interestingly, the normal word for a rider on a horse is hippeus (cf. Ac 23:23, 32) which describes the horsemen of Vespasian (e.g., J.W. 3:5:5  §96–97; 3:6:2 §116, 119, 1120, 126; 3:7:3 §141, 144; 3:7:31 §289; 3:7:31 §299; 3:7:32 §310) and Titus (e.g., J.W. 5:2:1 §52; 5:2:2 §55; 5:3:2 §106; 5:4:5 §131; 6:1:7 §68; 6:2:10 §172; 7:1:2 §5) during the Jewish War. But here in this vision the riders are designated as ho kathemenos (“he who was seated upon it”). This wording reflects 4:2 where God is sitting on the throne (kathemenos). J. M. Ford suggests this intentionally draws the two visions together, underscoring the divine providence involved.

Overview of Prophetic Issues (6 CDs)
by Ken Gentry
These messages were given at Ballston Spa Associate Reformed Church in September, 2008. They cover foundational issues for students of prophecy to consider.
They will serve as helpful guides to both preterism and postmillennialism.

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  1. CJ January 9, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    I clearly don’t have the academic cred of Gentry. But here is my uncred opinion. We probably shouldn’t get too tied down in trying to name the specific person on the horse. It does seem wise to prove it is not Jesus. Revelation appears to give general concepts/ideas, to portray realities.

    The white horse and rider is a general concept, and I don’t know if we need to know the name of the rider, or the name of the person who made the bow and saddled the horse.

  2. Kenneth Gentry January 9, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Please note that the saddling of the horse and the craftsmanship employed in making the bow are not mentioned in the text and would be irrelevant to the flow of the narrative. But the rider on the white horse is specifically mentioned.

    Note also that I only see it as representing Vespasian as a probability, not a certainty. In the article I state that it may be “a generic representation of the Roman army.” I do think it is crucial to recognize that it points to something or someone in the first century context of the destruction of the temple. And Rome clearly appears in Revelation. My suggestion fits the relevant era even if my probable designation is not persuasive in itself.

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