A fiery red horse (Rev. 6:3-4)

Previously: The second seal (Rev. 6:3-4)

The scripture

Rev. 6:3 – When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4Then another horse went out, a fiery red one, and its horseman was empowered to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another. And a large sword was given to him (HCSB).

This horse is red – some say the color of blood symbolizing the brutality of warfare. Some commentators, like Matthew Henry, who believe the rider on the white horse is Jesus and whose bow is the gospel, now say the rider on the red horse is an unknown soldier who carries out God’s wrath. As Henry puts it, “Those who will not submit to the bow of the gospel must expect to be cut in sunder by the sword of divine justice” (Re 6:3-8). Others associate this horse and rider with the fiery red dragon of Rev. 12:3 or the scarlet beast of Rev. 17:3. Still others say the rider is the Antichrist, who has exchanged his empty bow for a sword and a pseudo earthly peace for worldwide warfare.

In Revelation, the color red is associated with terror, death and judgment, but throughout scripture it has a variety of contexts. It is the color of the earth from which Adam is made (in Gen. 2:7 the letters for “Adam” in Hebrew may also mean “ruby” or “dust” and can also mean reddish in color). It is the color of Job’s face as he weeps in sorrow (Job 16:16). It is the name of the sea through which the Hebrews pass from Egyptian slavery into freedom – a symbol of the blood of Christ through which sinners are redeemed from the slave market of sin and made free. It is the color of linen hangings in the tabernacle, of wine as it gleams in the cup, and of the sky at night or early morning to signal the weather.

As we will see in our journey through the Book of Revelation, the color red most certainly indicates human warfare, as in this verse. But it also tells us of the warfare the Lamb of God wages against the world’s wicked. Most likely, this red horse is not Christ’s and the rider is not the Lamb. But we can be sure that whoever they are and whatever harm they intend is fully orchestrated by the One who holds the scroll in His hand.

Next: Empowered to take peace from the earth