Out Came Another Horse, Bright Red
“Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer. When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!”And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.”
If you have not read my previous missives, please do so before reading this, for it will not make any sense without the context.
We have a huge problem: if the first rider is the Antichrist because he carries a bow and Jesus carries a sword, this red rider must be Christ, himself. Correct? That was the argument one, or several, authors have made. It also is said that it must be a human, notice: “he was given a great sword.”
We cannot have it both ways. We cannot take this imagery to literal extremes or the arguments collapse right before our eyes. One cannot, with certainty, proclaim the rider of the white horse to be the Antichrist because he carries a bow and Jesus carries a sword. That would allude to the second rider being Christ. I don’t think either are the Antichrist, nor do I think it is necessarily Jesus, in the flesh. If we take the imagery to literal extremes and impose our thoughts on the text, then we’re forced into thinking the red horse rider must be Jesus, because he has a sword, and a great one at that; because he is quoted as saying, “I will wage war on them with the sword of my mouth” also.
The problem is our faulty understanding of imagery. The reason we have a faulty understanding of imagery is because we’ve been taught wrong. This book of Revelation was written to the churches in the first century, in an apocalyptic genre. We must read it with their ears and hear it with their eyes. (Now that’s apocalyptic literature!) What if we analyzed the color red. What do we think about,Esau? He had red hair and he sold his birthright for red stuff. Therefore the red horse is evil because; “Jacob I loved but Esau I hated.” The Edomites, Esau’s descendents, which literally means, descendants of red, wouldn’t let Israel pass through their land on Israel’s way to the promised land. However, King David also appears to have had red hair. And he was constantly at war. Maybe the red horse refers to him? Maybe I was taught correctly; a strength overdone may be a weakness after all.
Red, in this case, bright red, represents what it does today, anger and aggression. Literally in the original Greek, it would read, fiery red. There is passion in that. There is aggression in that. Certainly we can see the anger in fiery red. Or, it could be a metaphor for embarrassed… We’ll see which one fits the context best, soon.
Despite what many pastors and preachers theologians and teachers have said and written, the riders of the four horsemen do not have to be literal people. They are an image, used in apocalyptic literature to show the early church first, and then us, events that do, in fact, take place. Will a literal person be on a literal horse? No, but remember that it is the Savior and Creator, Jesus Christ who is breaking the metaphorical seals. He is the Worthy One who has ordained and written the scroll from the beginning. We could search all the Scriptures, noting every time a certain word in this text is used, and it may be very beneficial, yet if we miss the obvious imagery and read words into the text that aren’t there, we are in violation of John’s warning and intent. Studying fervently for future fanfare can also cause one to lose one’s joy. Revelation was not written to the scholarly but to the churches in the first century, and for us. John does indeed write; ‘This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.” However, do we truly believe that John meant 21st century scholarly study or 1st century Spiritual discernment? If it’s the former, that’s cruel to the martyrs that paved the way for us to live in these wonderful times–by contrast of course. But if it is the latter, we need to embrace Revelation as they would have.
That leads us to the cool, flowing waters of Revelation’s imagery. Jesus breaks the seals and with the first seal we see conquest. The rider goes forth, on a white horse to conquer.
The second rider, proclaimed by the second creature, goes forth to wage war. That’s the best definition I have of peace taken away and people killing each other.
I am in agreement with most pastors and preachers theologians and teachers on this point. Most of us stand shoulder to shoulder when looking at the imagery of the Horsemen. The first represents conquest, the second represents war. The difference is that many read more into the text than the context permits.
I hate to be superlatively simple, but if John uses the term Antichrist in his epistles, and the rider of one or all the horses is the Antichrist, why didn’t he say that?
He didn’t say it because that isn’t the intent of the text. At least not yet. Could this be a foreshadowing of the Antichrist? I guess only time will tell. We’ll keep putting in the time and see if the Horsemen and the trumpets and the beast and the false prophet and all the other images in Revelation unfold before our eyes. We may even be able to solve the riddle of 666. Spoiler alert: it is not a microchip. Honestly, how could that possibly fit into the context? Here is wisdom 1st century church, six hundred, threescore and six, figure it out. Give up? It’s a 21st century microchip. (I wrote that thinking of a late 20th century gameshow host saying the words.)
Here we are, two seals have been broken. The first is symbolic of conquest. The second is war. Future war, present day war or past war? Yes.
Don’t lose your joy, The Best is yet to come.