Empowered to take peace from the earth (Rev. 6:3-4)

Previously: A fiery red horse (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).

The rider on this fiery red horse is empowered, or granted, or literally “given” the authority to take peace from the earth. This, of course, implies that there is some level of peace to be taken. If you take a preterist view and confine the events of Revelation to the Mediterranean world of the first centuries of the Christian era, this peace would be the Pax Romana, or Roman peace that ran roughly from the third decade B.C. until 180 A.D. and resulted in the Romanization of the Western world. Some preterists, who confine the events of Revelation to a pre-70 A.D. time frame, say the peace that is lost is among the Jews, who rebel against the Romans and engage in petty infighting.

Historicists generally refer to this loss of peace as referring to the period from the accession of Commodus (A.D. 180) to Diocletian (A.D. 284), a time of civil wars and bloodshed in the Roman Empire. Futurists, however, see this peace as the first 3 ½ years of the tribulation, during which the Antichrist (the rider on the white horse) lulls the world into a false sense of security. And spiritualists argue that the fiery red horse represents war in general. In all cases, there is agreement that peace – whether regional or global, and whether stable or shaky – exists and is about to be removed.

Determining whether the peace is regional or global depends largely on one’s interpretation of the word translated “earth” in verse 4. The Hebrew use of the word in the Old Testament “is ambiguous in so far as it sometimes expresses this wider meaning of ‘earth’ (i.e. so far as the Hebrews knew it) and sometimes only ‘land’, a more restricted area. In the accounts of the Flood (Gn. 6–9) and of the division of speech (Gn. 11:1) each meaning has its advocates” (D.R.W. Wood and I.H. Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed., p. 285). The use of the Greek word in Revelation is taken by some to mean the entire inhabited earth, and by others to be restricted to the Roman world or even Israel and its surroundings. In some cases, one’s view may be driven more by a particular view of Revelation – preterist, futurist, etc. – than by anything else.

Next: So that people should slay one another (Rev. 6:3-4)