The opening of the second seal 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.

A common suggestion is that the rider on the fiery red horse is the Soviet Union or Marxism. However, neither of these have done sufficient damage in the world to be the rider on the red horse. We will not understand the identity of the red horse by looking at current events. To discover the significance of the red horse, we must learn the meaning of the colour red from the scriptures

Red is the colour of Esau and his descendants the Edomites. Esau was red when 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 advance of the rider on the fiery red horse represents an outbreak of inter-tribal warfare in many nations all over the world. Tribes which have lived together in an uneasy peace will go to war with each other.

Old disputes which have been festering for hundreds of years will come to the surface. The new generation will turn weapons onto their neighbours to settle the old grievances. They will often be led by ruthless warlords who have received their training abroad (1 Kings 11:14-28).

The tribal groups who go to war may often be quite closely related, as were Israel and Edom. They will often have intermingled through marriage. This will add to the bitterness of the struggles.

A good example of what will take place is the war that has taken place in Rwanda. This country, which seen as one of the more, beautiful, peaceful and plentiful in Africa, was torn apart and destroyed by inter-tribal war. When I prayed, I heard, "Look at Beirut Somalia and Bosnia if you want to see what the world will be like". In each of these situations, terrible destruction has been caused by inter-tribal conflict. The rider on the fiery red horse may have already ridden forth. We may be seeing the start of his work in these countries.

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 everywhere.

I suspect that we have already seen the second horseman at work in Beirut, Somalia, Bosnia, and Syria. More recently we have seen him at work in Fiji, East Timor, Indonesia and the Solomon Islands. Rising ethnic conflicts are becoming endemic in Southeast Asia. They first struck Southeast Asian island states, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, where religious and ideological guerrilla wars also have an ethnic component. This ethnic conflict epidemic has now spread to Indochina. Ethnic unrest has become violent in central Vietnam. Laos and Myanmar already have ethnic-based insurgencies.

Multi-ethnic states of Southeast Asia are poised to struggle with new ethnic conflicts that will hurt their economies and possibly pose a danger to their territorial integrity.

In some places, the first horseman will have an influence first. This is the case in Bosnia and Indonesia. In Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Islamic groups are fighting for dominance. In many of the other states, which formed out of the 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.

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.

These disputes will become so common, that the resources of the United Nations will not be able to cope. We have already seen how the UN has been powerless in Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Syria.

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

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