Wednesday, August 25, 2021

29. The Revelation: The Second and Third Seals - War and Famine (Rev. 6:3-6)


"When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him." (Rev. 6:3–4)

The world’s attitude of peace and harmony will be shattered as the second horse and rider appear on the scene. As the Lamb broke the second seal, John heard the second living creature summoning the second horseman, saying, “Come.” Immediately “a red horse went out.” Red, the color of fire and blood, depicts war. God’s judgment descends and the false peace led by Antichrist dissolves into war.

Concerning the rider, John first notes that “to him … it was granted to take peace from the earth.” All that happens will be under God’s control. He allows the false peace, and He ends it by bringing war on the earth. Contrary to the teaching of some, the judgments of the tribulation do not reflect the wrath of humanity or the wrath of Satan. They express God’s wrath poured out on the world. Describing this time, Jesus said, “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars.… Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24:6–7). Men will kill one another on an unprecedented scale. While Scripture does not give the details, the advances in modern weapons suggest a terrible destruction.

John also noted that “a great sword was given” to the rider. The Greek word for “sword” here refers to the short, stabbing sword a Roman soldier carried into battle. It was also a weapon used by assassins. The vision depicts a great sword to describe the extent of the war. Antichrist’s false peace will dissolve in battle and revolt.

Antichrist will play a major role in the wars that follow. When wars break out all over the world he will have no choice but to resort to war in order to preserve his power. He will be as skillful at war as he was at promoting false peace (cf. Daniel 8:24). Among his victims will be many of God’s people (cf. 6:9; Matthew 24:9).

Antichrist’s setting up of the abomination of desolation (Daniel 11:31; 12:11; Matthew 24:15) will touch off a massive conflict (see Daniel 11:36–45).

As the head of a Western confederacy, Antichrist will initially portray himself as a champion of peace. He will even appear to bring peace to the troubled Middle East. He will make a treaty with Israel, posing as their protector and defender. Soon afterwards, however, his desire for dominance will provoke rebellion. Antichrist’s attempts to crush his enemies will last throughout the remainder of the tribulation. Finally, when Jesus Christ, returns, Antichrist will be cast into the lake of fire forever (20:10).


"When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.” (Rev. 6:5–6)

As the Lamb broke the third seal, the mighty voice of the third living creature announced the coming of the third horse and rider. John’s use of the word “behold” reveals how startled he was by the rider’s appearance. The color black is associated with famine (Lamentations 5:10). Famine is a logical consequence of worldwide war as food supplies are destroyed. Jesus also predicted this future famine (Matthew 24:7). God has used famine as a means of judgment in the past, but this will be the most devastating famine in all of human history.

The pair of scales the rider carried in his hand pictures the rationing that will result from the famine. Following the appearance of the black horse and its rider, John heard “something like a voice” in the center of the four living creatures. Since the four living creatures were stationed around the throne (4:6), this is likely the voice of God, the One sitting on the throne (4:2–3). God also speaks in connection with the fifth seal (6:11). He speaks here as a reminder that the famine is a direct judgment from Him.

The famine’s severity can be seen in the example given. A quart of wheat is barely enough to sustain one person for one day, while a denarius represents one day’s wages for an average worker. The average worker’s salary will barely provide enough food for himself for each day and not enough to feed his family. Those with families will be able to purchase three quarts of barley for a denarius. That will provide food for their families, but barley was low in nutritional value and often fed to livestock. God cautions people not to waste the oil and the wine. Basic food staples will become priceless luxuries. Olive oil and wine, used in the preparation and cooking of food, as well as the purification of water, will need to be carefully protected.