Why Billy Graham and I Read Revelation Differently
Revelation 6: 1-2
“. . . when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, ‘Come!’ 2 And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.”
Rev 19: 11-16
11 “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”
Are Revelation 6 and 19 talking about the same rider on the white horse or two different riders?
Dr. Billy Graham thought that the rider in Revelation 6:1-2 is Anti-Christ, while the rider in chapter 19 is Christ. I see both the passages talking about the same Victor — the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dr. Graham points to the differences in the two riders: the first has a bow, the second has a sword. The first has one crown, the second has many diadems on his head. Plus, they are separated by 12 chapters, so there has to be a time-gap between the two riders.
I think the reason why our interpretations differ is deeper. Dr. Graham reads the book of Revelation through a western, ‘linear’ mindset. I think the book’s worldview is not linear. If one has to use unsatisfactory geometric language, than Revelation is ‘spiral.’
Repeatedly, the author first gives the bird’s eye-view of a vision, and then later, he gives us a close up of the same vision, sometimes from a different angle, sometimes even by changing the analogy. So the “lampstand” (the Church) of Rev 1 becomes the city on a hill whose lamp is the lamb (Rev 21: 22-24 and Mathew 5: 13-16).
During our Creative Vacation in Goa (January 4-14) we will read through the entire book and find this non-linear, ’spiral’ approach used dozens of times. For example in Revelation 12. Please read the chapter and answer the question: When did Satan fall from heaven? If he fell prior to appearing in the garden of Eden, why is he still there in heaven accusing the brethren “day and night?” Why is there another war in heaven to throw him out of heaven? (A few months ago we discussed it on FB. To see that discussion, please scroll down below.
So, why does the Conqueror in Rev 6 has a bow, rather than the sword, in his hand?
Well, it is because in Rev 5, John has introduced him as the “lion of the tribe of Judah.” In Rev 6 he expounds that theme from Zechariah 10:
. . . “for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah,
and will make them like his majestic steed in battle.
From him shall come the cornerstone,
from him the tent peg,
from him the battle bow,
from him every ruler—all of them together.
They shall be like mighty men in battle,
trampling the foe in the mud of the streets;
they shall fight because the Lord is with them,
and they shall put to shame the riders on horses.”
In Goa, as we read through the entire book of Revelation, we will consider if Dr. Billy Graham “sees” the Rider of Chapter 6 as the Anti-Christ because the book of Revelation has no Anti-Christ at all.
“The” Anti-Christ is a character in America’s evangelical mythology. American Bible teachers have to “see” him somewhere in Revelation, even if he is conspicuous by his absence.
Is this controversy important or helpful?
In Laussane ’74, in Dr. Graham’s presence, Dr Rene Padilla (or was it Samuel Escobar?) pointed out that American evangelicalism was suffering from “Eschatological Paralysis.” America’s paralyzed democracy as visible in current election in only a symptom of that disease. My objective in stimulating a fresh study of the book of Revelation is to motivate us to get behind the Victor on the white horse.
Prof Vishal Mangalwadi directs the Centre for Human Resource Development in a Unversity in North India. He has authored 20 books and lectured in 40 countries. His exposition of Indian philosophy and Western thought and culture In books such as “The World of Gurus”, and “The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization” are studied at university level.