Over the last two decades, inter-tribal warfare has spread all over the world with a new ferocity. Tribes which have lived together in an uneasy peace have gone to war with each other. Old disputes which have been festering for hundreds of years have come to the surface. The new generations are turning weapons onto their neighbours to settle the old grievances

The protagonists are often using weapons supplied by the USA and the USSR to their cold-war allies They are often led by ruthless warlords who have received their training abroad (1 Kings 11:14-28).

The tribal groups who go to war are quite closely related. They have often intermingled through marriage. This adds to the bitterness of the struggles.

These ethnic wars were prophesied in the second seal of Revelation 6, which brings the advance of the Red Horse.

When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, "Come!" Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword (Rev 6:3,4).

This is a description of a terrible time of warfare on earth. Peace disappears and men slay each other. The world has experienced times of war right through history, and even in this last century, there have been many wars. However, the war described here will be worse than anything experienced before. This is signified by the fact the horseman is given a very large sword. The events described here will be widespread in their effects. Peace will be gone from the earth.

To discover the significance of the red horse, we must understand the meaning of the colour red from the scriptures. Red is the colour of Esau and his descendants, the Edomites. Esau was red when he was born (Gen 25:25). The name Esau comes from a root meaning "to press or to squeeze". The word Edom, which is the name given to the nation which he founded, comes from a root word meaning "red".

The life of Esau and the experience of Edom is the key to understanding the rider on the fiery red horse. Their history is a story of conflict between two families or tribes who live together in the same land. It started with the conflict between Esau and Jacob. It continued when Edom obstructed Israel on its return from Egypt to the promised land (Num 20). The conflict between Israel and Edom continued until both nations were conquered by Babylon.

The rider on the red horse had a large sword with which to take peace from the earth and make men kill each other (Rev 6:4). Esau was told that he would live by the sword (Gen 27:40; Num 20:18).

The spiritual forces released by the rider on the fiery red horse can be discovered by reading the story of Esau and Jacob. The same spiritual forces continued to work between Edom and Israel.

The grievance will often be the result of deception (Gen 27:36). The dispute may relate to a disagreement over the inheritance of land (Gen 25:54). One tribe may have dominated the other, but they will become restless and cast off their yoke (Gen 27:40). They will have held onto a grudge from the past, consoling themselves for many years with the thought of killing the other They will make a vow to obtain revenge (Gen 27:41;Num 20:20). These situations will be characterised by:

  • bitterness (Gen 27:34)
  • revenge (Gen 27:41)
  • fury (Gen 27:44)
  • betrayal of former friends (1 Samuel 22)
  • retaliation (Ez 25:12)
  • concealment (Jer 49:10)
  • lack of wisdom (Jer 48:7)
  • rebellion against parents (Gen 28:9)
  • grief (Gen 27:35)

In many cases, the war will begin with a guerrilla army fighting against government forces (Gen 25:27). They will be so ruthless that they will inspire great terror (Jer 49:6). They will plunder with glee and with malice in their hearts (Ez 36:5), often shedding innocent blood (Joel 3:19). Amos said of Edom:

He pursued his brother with a sword,
stifling all compassion,
because his anger raged continually
and his fury flamed unchecked
(Amos 1:10).

This is a good description of what the fiery red colour of the red horse represents

Zechariah indicates that each of the horsemen will ride in a different direction. However, he gives no direction for the red horse. This indicates that it will go all over the world. When the horseman is released, this kind of warfare will spread all over the world.

The Red Horse is a different kind of Spiritual Power, which tries to break up the power of the government-spirits and the dominator spirits that control them.

In some places, the first horseman (Islamic Advances) will have an influence first. This is the case in Bosnia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Islamic groups are fighting for dominance. In many of the other states, which formed out of old Soviet Union, various ethnic groups are struggling for freedom. This is the second horseman at work. His influence will become much more evident in the next few years.

These ethnic disputes will become so common, that the resources of the United Nations will not be able to cope. The rider on the fiery red horse has already ridden forth. We have already seen how the UN has been powerless in Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Syria.

The rider on the fiery red horse could even reach New Zealand. Certainly there is sufficient bitterness and anger over land for him to work on here.

The sword is a symbol of war. These events will destroy the peace of those who, like Isaac, have been complacent in their plenty and putting the pleasures of life before faithfulness and obedience to God (Gen 27:30-32).

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