Revelation 6:3-4

The Second Seal—the Rider on the Red Horse

This post will discuss Revelation Chapter 6:3-4.  In the first two verses of the chapter, the first seal was broken by the Lamb, Yeshua, revealing the rider on the white horse representing the Roman Empire’s present-day (for John) high water mark, which soon began to wane and unravel.  Picking it up in the third verse we see that a pattern emerges, first found in verse 1 and is repeated in verses 5 and 7—Yeshua breaks a seal and then one of the four living creatures invite John to “Come”:

3 When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.”

When He broke—each time Yeshua initiates the process; John is then invited by the living creature to see the result.

Second living creature—second of four, stationed around the throne of the Father.  To be covered in an upcoming commentary on Chapter 4.

4 And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.

A red horse—representing the next phase of the Roman Empire, the era of bloody conflict.  Red in the Bible represents struggle, warfare and murder.  The first occurrence of the word is used to describe Esau, a hunter, at his birth in Genesis 25.  The violence of shed blood shows up in Genesis 4 with the killing of Abel by Cain. 

It was granted to take peace from the earth—After the crest of its influence and territory in 116 A.D., the Empire began its slow decline.  In 180 A.D. the youthful Commodus succeeded his father Marcus during an era of unprecedented peace; there was no potential competitors to remove nor enemies to punish; he was elevated to the imperial throne at the acclamation of both the Senate and the Army. The barbarians had been granted an honorable peace, resulting in near universal joy.  This was all soon to end.

Men would slay one another—Emperor Commodus was assassinated in 193 A.D., beginning an era of almost incessant bloodshed and war lasting from 193-284 A.D.  During this period there were 32 Emperors, with constant civil war.

A great sword was given to him—the sword was the symbol of Imperial power and authority. Emperors would present swords to head of praetorian guards/governors (See Romans 13:4: “Governors bear swords not in vain”). There were power struggles that literally began tearing the Empire apart.

The four horseman are symbolic, not literal—these weren’t/aren’t four actual beings, angelic or demonic, riding white, red, black and green horses across the Earth.  They are representative of the slow motion collapse of the great power of John’s day—the Roman Empire.  Eventually this Empire will die, only to be insidiously reborn in an image of its former glory, this time in religious garb.

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