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I observe that a lot of people interpret that the rider on the white horse is Jesus Christ.

I used to hold to this view, but when I study the rider in more detail, I am not convinced that the rider is Jesus Christ. I think he could be a representative of Christ.

My reasoning for my view that he may be a representative of Christ is because of the name that he is called, which is the "Word of God" (Rev 19;13). I take the view that the "Word of God" could also mean "The Sword of the Spirit" as recorded in Ephesians 6:17, a chapter which is partly about spiritual warfare.

Ephesians 6:17 (Niv).

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Also, the rider has a "Sharp sword", coming out of his mouth which could also be interpreted as "The Word of God".

Rev 19:11-16

11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron sceptre. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

king of kings and lord of lords.

Why do some people believe that the rider on the white horse is Jesus Christ?

And, if you know: when did this interpretation arise, and to what extent has the interpretation flourished throughout Christian church history?

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    The Revelation is so highly symbolic that I don't think it is meaningful to try to distinguish between "Christ" and "a representative of Christ" in this case. Jan 10 at 14:50
  • @Bagpipes How many hoops did you jump through to arrive at "Word of God" also meaning "The Sword of the Spirit" even without juggling "The…" in or out,? Well beneath that, John Bollinger and Erich seems wholly correct. When you observe that a lot of people interpret the rider on the white horse as Jesus Christ, can you cite a few? Jan 10 at 20:27
  • @ Robbie Goodwin, Yes i can cite a few-that is, the "few" people who have answered my question.
    – Bagpipes
    Jan 14 at 10:35
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The Rider on the white horse of Rev 19 is clearly Jesus Christ for the reasons listed in the appendix below. The sticking point is the title/name, "The Word of God". This title in the Greek is Ὁ Λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ.

Such a phrase occurs about 42 times in the NT an usually means the Scriptures or the Gospel, etc. However, as a Title of a person such a title only occurs in Rev 19:13 and John 1:1, 14, 1 John 1:1, etc, and clearly indicates, "the independent personified expression of God, the Logos" (BDAG) Jesus Christ.

Apart from the English translation, there is no verbal connection between:

  • Eph 6:17 "sword of the Spirit" τὴν μάχαιραν τοῦ Πνεύματος
  • Rev 19:15 from His "mouth a sharp sword" στόματος αὐτοῦ ἐκπορεύεται ῥομφαία ὀξεῖα

Note that the nouns for "sword" in each case are different.

Thus, there can be little doubt that the description in Rev 19, as with more than a dozen other description in the book of Revelation is of Jesus, consistent with it being, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ", Rev 1:1.

Origin

The interpretation of Jesus Christ as the Rider on the white horse of Rev 19 is consistent with the writings of the following:

  • Cyprian: Treatise XII, Book 2, section 2, 3 and 4 [about 250 AD?]
  • Cyprian: Treatise XII, Book 2, section 30 [about 250 AD?]
  • Novatian: Treatise Concerning the Trinity Chapter XIII [about 250 AD]
  • Irenaeus: Against Heresies, chapter XX section 7 [about 180 AD]

Thus, this interpretation is very old and consistent with the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers.

APPENDIX - Identification of the Rider on the white horse of Rev 19

The Rider is Jesus for the following reasons:

  • It is Christ who is Judge, Rev 19:11 compare John 5:22, 9:39, 2 Tim 4:1, Heb 10:30, James 4:12
  • It is Christ who has sword from His mouth, Rev 1:16
  • He has eyes like blazing fire as per Jesus in Rev 1:14
  • The "crowns" are royal crowns, "diadema" as distinct from the victory crowns, "stephanoi".
  • He has a robe dipped in blood signifying the bleeding lamb.
  • He leads the armies of heaven who are the righteous who have their white robes (Rev 19:8)
  • He is "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" compare Rev 17:14, Acts 10:36, Rom 10:12, Col 1:15.
  • He rules with an iron scepter - a clear reference to the Messiah in Ps 2:9

This can only be Jesus Christ, Lord Messiah, the Risen Lamb.

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  • Thanks for reading and positive estimation of my answer on this a bit, I would say, superfluous-ish question, for the passage is so evident. I also up-voted your post which is sound and informative! Jan 10 at 6:30
  • Very useful research with regard to Irenaeus (circa 180 A.D.) While on earth our Lord and Saviour was known as Jesus. But he has many other names and titles. Chapter 19 is about crediting Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Lamb of God, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The entire book, from start to finish, is "The Revelation of Jesus Christ".
    – Lesley
    Jan 10 at 17:32
  • @Dottard +1 Very well-written answer. :)
    – Rajesh
    Jan 11 at 0:57
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I’m not saying that your postulate is an impossibility but it seems unlikely that this passage refers to a representative of Christ instead of Christ himself for the following reasons:

  1. The theme of the book from Rev 1:1 is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Why introduce a new Jesus-like representative here?

  2. The description of the rider is similar to the description of Jesus by John in Rev 1:14-16: “his eyes were as a flame of fire”…” out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword:”

  3. Robe dipped in blood implies that this is the sacrificial lamb who shed his blood. And yes it could be someone else who dipped his robe in the blood of the lamb but why introduce this potential confusion without any lead in or follow up?

  4. The crowns imply Kingship. Yes they could be the crowns of the saints mentioned for faithful servants but who would leading this charge? Not one of the angels for sure. They were the mediators of the Old Covenant. Peter? Paul? It is much simpler to understand the rider leading the armies of heaven as the Lord Jesus Christ whom God has exalted. Eph 1:20-23 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 ¶ And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

  5. The allusion to having a name which no man knows but himself is reminiscent of Philippians 2:9 where it says: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:“

Finally I would ask myself two simple questions:

  • What evidence is there that John is introducing a new cosmically positive character in the middle of a book whose theme is dedicated to the appearing or presence or revealing of our Lord Jesus?

  • What motivation do you find for seeking out a less obvious, more obscured, if you will, explanation to an event that has a very simple, clear exegesis?

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    Very nice answer. I would add that the ruling with an iron sceptre could very well reference Ps 2 (as indicated certainly in the NIV, which I have open). This Psalm refers to “the Lord and his anointed” and is of course famously used by Peter to proclaim Jesus as Lord. Secondly, the rider on the white horse metes out harsh judgement. The only one worthy in Rev to do this, is Hesus (cf. 7-sealed scroll). Thirdly, this administering of judgement would be the work of a victorious king in ancient times. If the king’s servants did his bidding, the act of would still be accredited to him. Jan 9 at 20:05
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    Also, how about: "He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself." If it's not Jesus, then Jesus or God the Father would know the name. Jan 10 at 15:38
  • @Dottard, Faithful and True ( Rev19:11) ,It is the first and only time this name of Jesus appears in Scripture. so how does John 1:18 (in your comment ),refer to Faithful and True?
    – Bagpipes
    Jan 14 at 10:31
  • @Bagpipes - my apologies - I should have quoted John 1:14 which say that Jesus was "full of grace and truth".
    – Dottard
    Jan 14 at 10:38
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He cannot be anybody else than the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an allusion to Exodus 23:21 about the Angel who can judge and in whom is the Name of God*, for this Angel has not His angelic name but only God's Name, thus is God, and that's why can judge, for no angel has this prerogative, and this nameless Angel is equated to Christ in His pre-incarnate state by Paul (1 Cor. 10:4).

Here also, in Apocalypse, if this Rider can judge, then He cannot be a creature, but possessing divine authority, like the Angel/Christ in Exodus 23:21. Furthermore, if only this rider knows His Name, then He cannot be any angel or any creaturely envoy of God, for God will definitely know his name as that of a creature; but since He is God, then nobody can know but Himself, together with co-eternal Father and the co-eternal Spirit, the Name which is in Him, for this is the name of God, and all Three - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - have one and the same divine name of God, as Matthew also affirms: "Baptize in the Name (singular "name" not plural "names") of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19).

*Septuagint translator, evidently to mitigate the divinity-status of this nameless Angel consciously writes not as to make mirror translation from Hebrew, which would be ἐν αὐτῷ ("in Him"), but ἐπ᾽αὐτὸν ("upon Him"))

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