Second Seal: Part 2 of 2 (series: Lessons on Revelations)
by John Lowe
“In the beginning God . . .” (Genesis 1:1). And since God was and is the beginning and the ending, then far be it from me to question God. There are many things I do not understand about prophecy. God’s ways are not our ways and I confess I do not fully understand many things in the Bible. But there is one thing I do understand: “God so loved the whole wide world that He gave Jesus to die for sinners.” And according to the precious Bible, “Jesus died for sinners,” and the invitation is to “whosoeverwill.” Salvation is a gift—by grace through faith, the gift of God, “not of works, lest any man should boast.” I can understand that God loved me and gave Jesus to die for me. Salvation is mine for the receiving. So I will follow what I can understand, and those things that are too deep for me I will wait until I sit at the feet of Jesus and hear Him explain them in words I can easily understand!
Notice—in verse 4: “There went out another horse that was red: AND POWER WAS GIVEN TO HIM THAT SAT THEREON TO TAKE PEACE FROM THE EARTH, AND THAT THEY SHOULD KILL ONE ANOTHER: AND THERE WAS GIVEN UNTO HIM A GREAT SWORD.” Let me point out here that the power possessed by the red horsemen was given to him—he did not have power within himself, nor did he merit the power he demonstrated. The power was given to him by another. Jesus said, “ALL POWER is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18). Therefore the devil, or any one of his cohorts could have any power as long as it was permitted by God. When Jesus was on trial, Pilate asked Him a question, and then reminded Him that he (Pilate) had the power to either crucify or release Him. Jesus answered, “Thou could have no power at all against me except it were given thee from above!” (John 19:11).
The assignment given the second horse and its rider is to “take peace from the earth.” They stand for that destructive strife which sets man against man and nation against nation in a chaos of tragic destruction. There are two backgrounds to this.
• John was writing in a time when destructive strife was tearing the world apart. But in the 30 years before the reign of Herod the Great, 67-37 b.c., in Palestine alone no fewer than 100,000 men had perished in unsuccessful revolutions.
• In the Jewish pictures of the end time, an essential element is the complete disintegration of all human relationships. Brother will fight against brother, neighbor against neighbor, city will rise against city, and kingdom against kingdom (Isaiah 19:2). Every man’s hand shall be against the hand of his neighbor (Zechariah 14:13). From dawn to sunset they will slay each other. Friend shall war against friend; friends will attack one another suddenly (Ezra 4:9; 6:24). Some of them shall fall in battle, and some of them shall perish in torment, and some of them shall be destroyed by their own family and friends. Many shall be stirred up in anger to injure many others, and they shall stir up all men in order to shed blood, and in the end they will all perish together.
There will be a period of peace and progress here on earth immediately following the Rapture; and it will last approximately 3 ½ years. It will be a time when there will be little, if any, bloodshed, from the standpoint of war. During the next 3 ½ years, the devil will be loose on this earth, and nation will rise against nation. The wild passions of wild men will be let loose. There will be a time of wholesale slaughter. The mighty conqueror who will ride the red horse will be a bloody conqueror. He will not go forth with a bow minus the arrow. Power will be granted to him—and also “a great sword.” His conflict against mankind will be unchecked, and blood will run like rivers! This rider of the red horse is commanded to take peace from the earth, and he has the power to assure “that they should kill one another.” He will have the ability to stir up angry passions in men; they will crave blood—and blood will be shed.
We are living in a day of hatred, a day of madmen . . . dictators who do not value human life even as much as most of us value the life of an animal. Jesus asked, “What is man?” If we should ask that question of some of the modern dictators, and if they answered truthfully, they would say, “Man is a living creature, to be destroyed or annihilated if he gets in my way!” Only the Lord Jesus values man with a true sense of value of the personality created in the image of Almighty God. Jesus said “What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
Can you imagine a world where there is peace everywhere? A study was conducted some years ago, which shows that there have been very few years where there was world-wide peace; “peace on earth.” The first conclusion of the study was that wars would cease if the will to make them cease were there. We all know about the horrors of war, the death and destruction it creates, for it is reported on the radio and TV news programs and on the internet (facebook). But since war itself is at the very root of mankind’s social systems, it is not likely that peace will ever be a serious goal. It follows then, that since there will always be wars that hopefully there are some benefits that come from it. Let me give you a few of those benefits. No substitute has yet been found which can better stabilize and control national economies. War, moreover, is the foundation of stable government; every governing body which has failed to sustain the continuing credibility of an external threat of war has lost control of its constituency. War provides a nation with a means of controlling its youth; it provides society with an effective means of dealing with overpopulation; it is probably the greatest single stimulant to scientific research; it has a high social value for dissipating boredom; and it gives the older generation an effective means for controlling a physically stronger and more vigorous younger generation. However, as good as that sounds, we don’t want war, because anything positive that comes from it is greatly exceeded the negative consequences of war.
No wonder God says of mankind that “the way of peace have they not known” (Romans 3:17) and that the Lord Jesus declared, with characteristic incisive analysis, “Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, BUT THE END IS NOT YET. For nations shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24: 6-7).
The human race finds the trappings of war fascinating. It loves the paraphernalia that surround the military. God once sent men a peace offer when the Prince of Peace was born, but men scorned and crucified Him. Until He comes back in power, war must go on until at last war itself is personified, mounted on a blood-red horse, and sent forth with a great red sword to summon men to the terrible wars of the Apocalypse.
Every war is deplorable, and certainly thinking men do not desire war. But this is a different type of slaughter. It will be a state of open, armed, civil rebellion—man against man, fellow against his fellowman, brother against brother, sister against sister, pouring out their vengeance upon each other and spilling each other’s blood as water runs from a faucet. Certainly this is the worst state of war, and it is hard for us to conceive of such a conflict. Yet that is exactly what will happen when the rider of the red horse rides through the earth during the Great Tribulation period.
Complete peace will only come when Christ returns. The picture in Revelation of the coming persecutions and natural disasters is gloomy, but ultimately it is cause for great joy. When believers see these two events happening, they will know that their Messiah’s return is coming soon, and they can look forward to His reign of justice and peace. Rather than being terrified by what is happening in our world, we should confidently await Christ’s return to bring justice and restoration to His people.
The phrase, “that they should kill one another” suggests war within each nation, class wars, religious wars, race wars. All the wars that the world has ever known put together will have been mild when compared with the world-wide reign of terror and slaughter of human lives in that day. “Every man’s sword shall be against his brother” (Ezekiel’s 38:21). These Scriptures depict prophetic scenes, not historical. It is still true that the nation in which there is division between man and man and class and class and hatred based on competitive ambition and selfish desire, is doomed; and the world in which nation is set against nation is rushing to its end.