SYNOPSIS: The second rider is on a fiery-red horse sent to “remove peace from the earth” by causing men to “slay one another” – Revelation 6:3-4.
The opening of the first four seals is part of a vision that began when John was summoned “in the spirit” before the Throne at the center of the Cosmos. The glorious figure sitting on it held a scroll sealed shut by Seven Seals. The Messiah of Israel, identified as the “slain Lamb,” was the only person in the entire created order who was worthy to open the Sealed Scroll, which he now begins to do.
(Revelation 6:3-4) – “And when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature, saying—Go! And there went forth another, a red horse,—and unto him that was sitting thereon, it was given [unto him] to take away peace from the earth, and that one another they should slay; and there was given unto him a great sword.” – (The Emphasized Bible)
It is the Lamb who opens each of the Seven Seals. In the first four seal openings, four riders on colored horses are sent forth to unleash destructive forces. However, each time the Lamb breaks open a seal, it is one of the “four living creatures” that issues the command for the rider to “Go!”
When the first seal was opened, “one of the four living creatures” commanded John, “Come,” presumably, to observe the event (“and I saw”). The involvement of the “four living creatures” is one of several features that sets the first four seals apart as a separate group from the other seals. With the first seal, the “living creature” who summoned John was not distinguished in any manner from the other three – He was, simply, “one of the four living creatures.”
With the second seal opening, the “living creature” is identified – He is the “second living creature,” presumably, the one likened to a “calf.” Likewise, the third and fourth seal openings result in the command to “come” by the third and fourth “living creatures,” respectively.
(Revelation 4:6-7) – “And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne [are] four living creatures full of eyes, before and behind; and the first living creature [is] like unto a lion, and the second living creature like unto a calf, and the third living creature hath the face as of a man, and the fourth living creature [is] like unto an eagle flying.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The paragraph describing the first four seals makes no attempt to link the animal characteristics of the “living creatures” to anything occurring with the four riders or the destructive forces unleashed by each one. However, it does indicate a close connection between the first four seal openings and the four “living creatures.” And in the vision in Chapter 4, these four were in close proximity to the Throne whence they cried out “day and night, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty,—Who was and Who is and Who is coming!”
All this reinforces the idea that the Lamb, who now reigns securely from his Father’s Throne, is in firm control of the four riders and related events. What is proceeding from the four seal openings is NOT contrary to the will and plan of God (Revelation 3:21 – “As I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne”).
The second horseman rides a “fiery-red” horse (purrhos). The term occurs twice in the book of Revelation; here and in Chapter 12, where it is applied to the “great fiery-red dragon.” On some level, the “fiery-red” color links this rider to the “Red Dragon,” a symbol of Satan in his attempt to destroy the “son” born of the “Woman arrayed with the sun,” and, subsequently, the “seed of the woman” (Revelation 12:1-4).
Also, the “fiery-red” color suggests bloodshed – This rider “takes peace from the earth so that men should slay one another.” The description may point to civil strife, warfare between nations, or both. However, the use of the verb sphazō for “slay” rather than the more generic verb “kill” (apokteinō) suggests a third possibility ([sphazō] – Strong’s – #G4969).
The Greek verb Sphazō often denotes the “slaying” of a sacrificial victim and is so used in the book of Revelation for the “slain” Lamb, and for the saints “slain” by the Beast and Babylon. Furthermore, it is used for the “slaying” of one of the seven heads of the “Beast from the sea” in its attempt to counterfeit the Death and Resurrection of the Lamb.
The same verb is used in the “fifth seal” where John saw underneath the altar the martyrs who were “slain for the word of God.” Note the following passages, especially the last one where “Babylon” is held accountable for “all who had been slain upon the earth.” Similarly, the second rider “removed peace from the earth” by causing men to “slay one another.”:
(Revelation 5:6-12) – “And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, showing that it had been slain,—having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the [seven] Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth…and they sing a new song, saying—Worthy, art thou, to take the scroll and to open the seals thereof; because thou wast slain, and didst redeem unto God by thy blood [men] out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation…Worthy, is the Lamb that hath been slain.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
(Revelation 6:9-11) – “And, when he opened the fifth seal, I saw beneath the altar the souls of them who had been slain because of the word of God and because of the witness which they held. And they cried out with a loud voice, saying—How long, O Sovereign, the Holy and True, dost thou not vindicate and avenge our blood from them that dwell upon the earth? And there was given to them, each one, a white robe, and it was bidden them, that they should rest yet a little while—until the number should be made full of their fellow-servants also, and their brethren, who were about to be slain as even they” – (The Emphasized Bible).
(Revelation 13:3) – “And [I saw] one of his heads, showing that it had been slain unto death, and the stroke of his death was healed…” – (The Emphasized Bible).
(Revelation 18:24) – “And in her, blood of prophets and saints was found,—and of all who had been slain upon the earth” – (The Emphasized Bible).
Thus, in Revelation, the verb sphazō or “slay” is only applied to the slaying of the Lamb, his “saints,” or to the “slain” head of the “Beast” in imitation of the death of the Lamb. Elsewhere in the book, when men hostile to the Lamb are “killed,” the Greek verb used is the more common apokteinō (e.g., Revelation 9:5, 9:15-20).
The Greek noun translated in English as “sword” is machaira (Strong’s – #G3162), a term for the short sword carried by the Roman legions. It symbolized the Roman authority to impose law and justice, including the authority to execute offenders of all sorts. The same word is applied to the “Beast” when it kills the “saints” with the “sword.” A different Greek noun is used for the double-edged sword wielded by Jesus, the rhomphaia (Romans 1:16, 2:12, 13:1-10, 19:15-21).
The Greek term machaira occurs two additional times; once to refer to the sword-wound received by the Beast, and a second time for the death of the “saints” by the “sword” at the hands of the Beast:
(Revelation 13:14) – “And he deceiveth them who are dwelling upon the earth by reason of the signs which it was given him to do before the wild-beast,—saying unto them who are dwelling upon the earth, that they should make an image unto the wild-beast who hath the stroke of the sword, and yet did live” – (The Emphasized Bible).
(Revelation 13:7-10) – “And it was given unto him, to make war with the saints, and to overcome them…If any-one hath an ear: let him hear. He who is for captivity, into captivity goeth. He who is to be killed with sword, must with sword be killed. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”
Purportedly, the “Beast from the sea” is “slain” by a “sword,” however, it is miraculously “healed.” This mimics the Death and Resurrection of the Lamb. It is used by the “False Prophet” to deceive the “inhabitants of the earth” into giving homage to the Beast. The False Prophet “has two horns like a lamb but speaks as a dragon,” also in imitation of the Lamb (Revelation 13:1-12).
The second rider removes “peace from the earth,” however, he does so in an ironic fashion – By causing the “inhabitants of the earth” to slay the followers of the Lamb. This can only occur when the Lamb authorizes it. Just as he gave the authority for the rider on the “red horse” to remove “peace from the earth,” so, also, the “Beast from the sea” can only attack followers of the Lamb when authorized to do so (Revelation 6:9-11, 13:7).
The “removal of peace” implies war. In the book of Revelation, “war” is waged by the Dragon and its earthly agents, always against those who “follow the Lamb.” Thus, the “Beast from the Abyss” wages war against the “Two Witnesses.” The Dragon and his “angels” fight against “Michael and his angels.” The Dragon inflicts “war” against the “seed of the woman, those who have the testimony of Jesus.” The “Beast from the sea” makes war against the “saints.” The “kings of the earth” are gathered to the “war” of the of the “great day of God, the Almighty.” And “Satan” gathers the nations from the “four corners of the earth” in a final attempt to annihilate the “camp of the saints” (Revelation 11:7, 12:7-17, 13:7-10, 16:12-16, 20:7-10).
In Revelation, God responds to the assaults against His “saints” with a series of judgments, the “Seven Trumpets” and the “Seven Bowls of Wrath,” which culminate in the overthrow of the “Beast” and “Babylon,” and, in the end, the “second death” for all whose names are not “written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Thus, by “slaying” the followers of the Lamb, their opponents succeed only in removing “peace” from the earth and sealing their own horrific fate.
Similarly, the “inhabitants of the earth” thought that by killing the “Two Witnesses” they would end the “torment” they endured from their prophetic testimony. However, the celebration by the nations over their deaths is short-lived. The murders of the Two Witnesses are followed by the sound of the Seventh Trumpet, which will usher in the final judgment and the destruction of “them that destroyed the earth” (Revelation 11:3-19).