“And when He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “come and see.” And there went out another horse that was red, and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword” (Revelation 6:3,4).

The second living creature who announces the red horse is like a calf. Calves are a symbol of sacrifice, but under the baleful influence of sin the calf becomes a symbol of idolatry (4: 6-8: Four Living Creatures), and is associated with the tribe of Ephraim. Despite the fact that Ephraim was blessed with the richest blessings of all the tribes, he was one of the two tribes that were leaders in idolatry. Jeroboam, the first king of divided Israel and an Ephraimite, set up golden calf-idols in Bethel, a city in the territory of Ephraim. His idolatry set the pattern for the godless rebellion of future kings.[1]

At the second creature’s bidding to “come and see,” a fiery red horse “went out.” Red is often used as a symbol of sin[2], just the opposite of white: “though your sins be like scarlet (bright red), they shall be as white a snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). This horse represents people who, even though they are written in the Book of Life, are characterized by living in sin, especially idolatry, and as such their names will be blotted out.[3]

It is significant that all of the other three horses simply appeared (“behold, a white horse,” “behold, a black horse,” “behold a pale horse”) whereas the red horse “went out.” The Greek word used here (eksilthe) is the same word that is used in 1 John 2, speaking of the “many antichrists [which] have come.” “They [the antichrists] went out from us, but they were not of us…they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us” (1 John 2:18,19). These verses describe people who make strong claims about their Christian identity, but instead they are antichrist.[4] Likewise the red horse group claim to be Christians, but their lives show them to be false Christians. Naturally their rider is Satan, which can be seen by his activity: he “takes peace from the earth” and causes people “to kill one another”.

These are the tares among the wheat that Jesus warned against (Matthew 13:24-30). Judas was a red horse, as were Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). The theologians and religious leaders who persuaded church councils to allow the worship of icons, relics and saints were red horses, as are the television evangelists who preach a twisted gospel or who are caught practicing immorality or corruption. But much more common are the church members who sleep through the church service and then wreak havoc at the church board meeting, who turn prayer meeting into a gossip session and have adulterous affairs while presenting themselves as being faithful believers.

In modern “Christian” society there are millions of “red horses” who are indifferent to God and have set up idols of wealth, possessions, appearance, power, and reputation that are much more precious to them than Jesus and His kingdom. Although they consider themselves Christians, they have chosen to ignore Jesus and thus they forfeit the eternal life that could have been theirs. But much more tragic are the spiritual deaths that have resulted when red horses actively take the name of Christ and misrepresent Him through false doctrines, unchristian behavior and spiritual hypocrisy, turning honest seekers away from God. According to Ephesians 6:17 the “sword of the Spirit” is “the word of God.” The false, perverted word is a “great sword” in the hand of the devil that he uses through unconverted professed “Christians” to “take peace from the earth.”

Continue to next section: 6:5,6 THE THIRD HORSEMAN

[1] For example, “Jehu did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin, that is, from the golden calves that were at Bethel and Dan” (2 Kings 10:29).

[2] In the Book of Revelation red is a symbol of Satan and his agents: John saw “a great, fiery red dragon…the Devil and Satan” (Revelation 12:3,9). In Chapter 17 “the great harlot…was arrayed in purple and scarlet” and was “sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy” (Revelation 17:1-5)

[3] See Exodus 32:32,33, Psalms 9:5, 69:28, 109:13, Revelation 3:5.

[4] Antichrist in the original Greek can mean either against Christ or instead of Christ.