“Another came forth, a red horse. To him who sat on it was given power to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another. There was given to him a great sword.”
Out of the opened seal of the book of time and history and the story of the gospel of Jesus Christ, comes the red horse, rampant and blood red, and the rider has a great sword. The rider is none other than the bringer of sin and death into the world, Satan. He is given the power and authority, signified by the sword, to take peace, harmony and happiness away from the earth. It is not the whole planet earth, as signified by the troubles in chapter eight, where only proportions of the earth are ruined by the judgments that fall from heaven with the seven trumpets.
The rider on the red horse brings serious blood shed to human communities. This red horse denotes the time after the glorious victory of the gospel, a mighty gospel that spread like fire across the world with the Apostles and the early church.
The glory and blessing of that time is now plunged into bloody wars and deep persecution due to the hardness of human hearts and the godlessness that haunts our psyche, even when religion takes a hold. The purity of Christianity starts to be contaminated by error and the ideas of conquest with the power of force. So begins wars that claim the lives of thousands upon thousands, and oppress the church of Jesus Christ. The history of that time is full as massacres, and dreadful bloodletting in the name of Christianity and the name of progress.
The judgment of God falls on the enemies of the cross and the blood-letting pours out on Christian people, many who die terribly by the edge of the sword. The rider is the lover of war and stirring up hatred and strife between peoples. He is the hater of humankind and is shot through with jealousy at the provision of spiritual salvation for the human race. He lives for spite and loves violence and bloodshed. Emperors and rulers do his work and much violence stalks the history of humankind from this point. The white horse and the red horse seem to ride simultaneously through human history, since peace always eludes the human community and bloodshed is rife in our world.
“I had a vision in the night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in a ravine; and behind him there were red, brown, and white horses.”
Zechariah has a vision of the rider on the red horse. The world is at peace at this point, for the restraining power of the Spirit keeps the peace, but not for ever. The rider is given the authority to disturb the peace and wreck havoc on the minds and hearts of humankind. The red horse has always waited in the wings for the day when he can rent his wrath and spill out the war which is his nature. This is the meaning of the vision of the rider on the red horse.