THE SECOND SEAL: THE FIERY RED HORSE AND ITS RIDER (6:3-4). This rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword. The conquest that began peacefully turns to bloodshed.
Historicists relate this seal to the period from the accession of Commodus (A.D. 180) to the accession of Diocletian (A.D. 284). This was a period of civil wars and bloodshed in the Roman Empire. Others believe it refers to Judea being deprived of all tranquility.
Preterists believe the second horseman represents the loss of peace from the land of Israel with the Jewish Wars (A.D. 66). Zechariah predicted this as a consequence of the Jew’s rejection of the Messiah (Zechariah 11:10-14).
Idealists see the fiery red horse representing war in general. Some understand the red horse to be the persecution of the Church based on Jesus words:
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34).
Futurists say the color of the horse suggests bloodshed, and speaks of a time of war that comes upon the earth as the Tribulation progresses. Though wars and rumors of wars are characteristic of this present age, it is apparent a series of wars precede the coming of Christ. Some identify the rider on the red horse as Russia, with Arab allies in the Middle East, attacking Israel (Ezekiel 38; Daniel 11). Others associate the large sword with nuclear weapons. It seems more likely a large sword indicates the authority to kill.
THE RIDER of all four horses might be the Antichrist in different phases of his conquest. He will break a covenant of peace in the Middle of the Tribulation. It is possible that the four horses and riders only convey world conditions during the Tribulation.
When diplomacy fails to achieve the Antichrist’s goal of being worshiped as God, peace will be taken from the earth. He will attempt to force Jews, Muslims, Tribulation saints, and atheists to bow down to his image and embrace the Babylonian mystery religion of the last days. It will be a repeat performance (to a far greater extent) of the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar when three Jews refused to bow to the image erected by King Nebuchadnezzar on the plain of Shinar (Daniel 3). It is evident from the opening of the next two seals that the “fiery furnace” will be worldwide.
FIERY RED. The first occurrence of red in Scripture divulges that Esau came out red at birth and the last mention of his name characterizes him as godless (Genesis 25:25; Hebrews 12:16) The last usage of red in the Bible is associated with an enormous red dragon, the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray (Revelation 12:3. 9). Red symbolizes what is godless as well as blood, terror and slaughter. Fiery to red pictures inflamed fierceness.