Revelation 6: The rider on the blood-red horse takes away peace
According to a recent Pew Research Survey, in the U.S., 39% of people believe “we are living in the end times.” Most people in America, however, 58%, say that they don’t think these are the world’s last days.
However, anyone with even a scant knowledge of Bible prophecy can easily see world history is moving us closer every day to the return of Jesus Christ. How can we be sure this event will happen?
John F. Walvoord, former president of Dallas Theological Seminary, answers the question, saying:
“Because approximately half of the prophecies of the Bible have already been fulfilled in a literal way, it gives a proper intellectual basis for assuming that prophecy yet to be fulfilled will likewise have a literal fulfillment. At the same time, it justifies the conclusion that the Bible is inspired of the Holy Spirit and that prophecy goes far beyond any scheme of man but is instead a revelation by God of that which is to come to pass.”
Consider carefully. If every prophecy concerning Jesus’ first coming was fulfilled, couldn’t we logically expect each prophecy concerning his second coming also to be fulfilled? Not one prophecy of Scripture has ever been wrong. Many have already been remarkably fulfilled. Some await fulfillment, but none has ever been shown to be erroneous.
The book of Revelation is prophecy. The book provides a figurative landscape showing all of history to the last tick of the world’s clock. Those who seriously study the book find its insights reveal Christ, “who was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 1:4). Its contents show what God has done in Christ, what God is doing in Christ, and what he plans to do in Christ.”
We would all be wise to know and heed its message.
In Revelation chapter 6, the apostle John is in Heaven. He has witnessed Jesus being given the title deed to the earth, which he redeemed for humanity after Adam, man’s representative, forfeited his place as Vice Regent over it. This title deed is a scroll with seven seals, and when each seal of the scroll is broken, a new chapter in God’s plan for the culmination of the end is disclosed.
When the first seal was broken, John said he saw a rider on a white horse, crowned for conquest with a bow and no arrow, which indicates a powerful and persuasive ruler who will win the nations by diplomacy. This imposter fronts as a messiah who brings peace and prosperity but is in league with the devil himself, and his tranquil reign is short-lived.
When the second seal is broken by the Lamb of God (Christ), John says:
“I heard the second living being say, ‘Come!’ Then another horse appeared, a red one. Its rider was given a mighty sword and the authority to take peace from the earth. And there was war and slaughter everywhere” (Revelation 6:3).
The second rider is mounted on a blood-red horse. In his hand is a “mighty sword” and the power to take away peace from the world. This horseman is war, murder, and terrible bloodshed.
Why is there so much war throughout humankind’s short existence? In his classic book, The Christian Attitude Toward War, the late Reformed minister, and author Lorraine Boettner explains:
“’Whence come wars and whence come fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your pleasures that war in your members? Ye lust and have not: ye kill, and covet, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war; ye have not, because ye ask not.’” In these words, James (4:1,2) gives us the divine appraisal of human nature and the real causes of wars. Lust, covetousness, inordinate love of pleasure, and the friendship of the world, he says, are at enmity with God.
“In an ideal world, there would be no sin, and therefore no war. But we do not live in an ideal world. We are living in a world of deep unrest, a world into which sin has entered with devastating effect. Although it is not a popular doctrine today … the Scriptures teach clearly and repeatedly that we are members of a fallen race. They teach that as a result of Adam’s sin, every person born into this world enters it not in a normal but in an abnormal spiritual condition and that the primary cause of quarrels between individuals and wars between nations is unregenerate, sinful human nature. So long as men’s hearts are filled with sin, it is vain to expect them to live together in peace and harmony. War is only the outward symptom of a disease that is much more deep-seated. And while we rightly do all in our power to treat the symptom, it is vain to expect any real or permanent cure until the disease itself has been brought under control. God does not prohibit war because he does not prohibit the consequences of sin. War is not an isolated and separate spiritual or religious problem, but merely a part of the much greater and more central problem of sin.”
It’s been calculated that out of the past 4,000 years, humans have been at peace with one another for only 268 years. It’s estimated between 150 million to a billion people have been killed in war. As many as 108 million were slain in the 20th century alone.
According to Isaac Davis, in an article published in 2015 titled, “The 239-Year Timeline of America’s Involvement in Military Conflict,” Davis argues four facts about America’s military conflicts should be considered. He says:
“1. Pick any year since 1776, and there is about a 91% chance that America was involved in some war during that calendar year.
“2. No U.S. president truly qualifies as a peacetime president. Instead, all U.S. presidents can technically be considered ‘war presidents.’
“3. The U.S. has never gone a decade without war.
“4. The only time the U.S. went five years without war (1935-40) was during the isolationist period of the Great Depression.”
David concludes: “As the world moves closer and closer to an official beginning to World War III … it is important to realize that the U.S. state and the American people are simply not equipped or conditioned to pursue and realize peace.”
It’s exceedingly sad, and we may not want to admit it, but it seems war is part of humanity’s DNA.
The late W.A. Criswell, the former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, points out there are two Greek words for “sword.” One is romphaia, the kind of sword a soldier uses in battle. But another Greek word is machaira, which is like a short dagger or a knife. Machaira is the Greek word translated as “sword” in Revelation 6:3.
“A machaira was the kind of knife with which to cut the throat of an animal or a man. [The significance of this is] the red horseman represents not only nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom, but, more nearly, the terrible slaughter of class fighting and party fighting, as in civil war,” writes Criswell, “The fighters ambush in the night; they assassinate in the day; they murder at twilight and at noontime, and everyone lives in fear of his life. There is murder and bloodshed everywhere. The red horseman bathes the earth in blood.”
There have always been wars, both significant and minor. God has never had to inflame people to kill each other. Nonetheless, as David Chilton contends in Days of Vengence, God only needs to order his angels to stand down and peace will be taken away. He writes:
“In a sinful world, why are there not more wars than there are? Why is there not more bloodshed? It is because there are restraints on man’s wickedness, on man’s freedom to work out the consistent implications of his hatred and rebellion. But if God removes the restraints, man’s ethical degeneracy is revealed in all of its ugliness.”
Through the centuries, numerous “Christs,” frequently perceived saviors, have risen to power and brought about peace, wealth, and opulence. But eventually, like all charlatan leaders, their lies are exposed and control starts to falter. Civil war breaks out, or worse still, nations are plunged into bloody conflict. These circumstances foreshadow, portent, or encapsulate in miniature that great day of God’s coming wrath when he will remove all restraints and the “man of sin,” also called “the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3), the Antichrist is revealed.
The Antichrist is the deceptive rider on the white horse who comes and negotiates worldwide peace under his administration. The masses will flock to him. And shortly after that, the rider on the blood-red horse will ride, taking peace from the entire world, and the blood of the human race will run as never before.
In his wrath, God will say to the world; you rejected my Son, the Prince of Peace, so now you will be deprived of peace. You scourged his body with the blood-letting whip, the cat o’ nine tails. Broken and bleeding, you stripped him bare and, in his humiliation, nailed him to a tree, Calvary’s Cross. Everyone who has never been washed in his atoning blood for the forgiveness of their sins has his blood on their hands, and, therefore, the blood of all the earth shall be required for this injustice.
Won’t you repent of your sins and surrender to Christ, and be saved from the wrath to come?
Rev. Mark H. Creech is Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He was a pastor for twenty years before taking this position, having served five different Southern Baptist churches in North Carolina and one Independent Baptist in upstate New York.