So that people would slaughter one another (Rev. 6:3-4)

Previously: Empowered to take peace from the earth (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).

It’s interesting to note John’s use of the phrase “so that.” This rider is given authority to take peace from the earth “so that people would slaughter one another.” Whatever restraint has been on mankind’s natural tendency to hate and murder is now taken away. This could be the Roman peace that crumbles beneath its own weight and gives way to warfare. Or it could be the uneasy peace that has existed between the Jews and their Roman occupiers, giving way to Jewish rebellion and Rome’s crushing response in 70 A.D. as Jerusalem is sacked, the temple is destroyed, more than 1 million Jews are killed and the rest are scattered in the Diaspora. Or it could be a more timeless statement about the sinful tendencies of the human race throughout the church age, despite the spread of Christianity and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. It could even refer to the martyrdom of so many Christians at the hands of the Jews and Romans in the early centuries of the church.

No doubt the early Christians often bristled at the opposition to their faith and freedoms. The Apostle Paul addresses this in Romans 13, urging Christians to live according to high ethical standards, even when human government is far from perfect: “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do good and you will have its approval. For government is God’s servant to you for good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong” (vv. 1-4).

The apostle Peter also touches on this subject in 1 Peter 2:13-17: “Submit to every human institution because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority, or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For it is God’s will that you, by doing good, silence the ignorance of foolish people. As God’s slaves, [live] as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a way to conceal evil. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor.”

One other thought, from a futurist perspective, is that the false peace of the Antichrist during the first half of the tribulation now gives way to widespread warfare. No doubt the days of bloodshed begin not only because the Antichrist wills it to be so, but because the Supreme restrainer of evil – the Holy Spirit – has removed Himself from the earth. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, addressing the false teaching that the Day of the Lord has already come. He comments: “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For [that day] will not come unless the apostasy (or rebellion) comes first and the man of lawlessness (or man of sin / Antichrist) is revealed, the son of destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s sanctuary, publicizing that he himself is God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4).

Paul adds in verses 5-7, “Don’t you remember that when I was still with you I told you about this? And you know what currently restrains [him], so that he will be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; but the one now restraining will do so until he is out of the way …” Futurists contend that this restraining power is the Holy Spirit, Who withdraws to heaven with the saints at the Rapture, enabling the Antichrist to establish a false peace on the earth, only to take it away.

Next: A large sword was given to him (Rev. 6:3-4)