This second seal is intimately connected with the first. As already stated, Antichrist will be on the scene until the very end. While the successive seals are broken, he is still riding forward on his grisly career of carnage and world conquest. But now we are ready to view the contents disclosed by the breaking of the second seal. What comes next? When the white horse rider goes forward, many will be tempted to think that peace has finally come. The whole world will accept Antichrist’s flatteries and welcome him with open arms. Laodicean Christians will believe that the long-awaited Millennium will begin if once this man is placed at the head of world politics. But what is the follow-up to his receipt of power? We shall soon see.
(6: 4) “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 unto him a great sword.”
The breaking of the second seal results in the unloosing of the second horse of judgment. We do not not need to interpret this vision, for the interpretation is already given us by John himself. The red horse is war; and its riding forth will issue in a period of tumult and devastation among the nations, such as we have never seen. The period of false peace ushered in by Antichrist will soon be shattered, and a declaration of war issued. Whether the war will be universal, or to an extent localized, we are not given to know. Other portions of the prophetic record must help us out.
Going back to Christ’s Olivet Prophecy, we read of what shall occur after the rise of false Messiahs. “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matt. 24: 6). When Christ says “the end is not yet,” He means that these signs which had given must precede the telos, or Great Tribulation. The sign of the telos will be the “abomination of desolation” which shall occur precisely in the middle of Daniel’s seventieth week, as the Scriptures declare (Dan. 9: 27; 11:31; 12: 11).
From the commencement of the sunteleia onward, we are to expect “wars and rumors of wars” as well as a rising of “nation against nation.” The kingdoms of the world will be absorbed into Antichrist’s universal empire, and the Roman empire revived. This must happen before the Great Tribulation can occur. In Revelation 17 John saw a vision of a whore arrayed in purple and scarlet, riding a beast with seven heads and ten horns. These heads represent kings whose empires will be subdued and consolidated into the conglomerate beast of Revelation 13. It was revealed to John that five of the heads had (at that stage of the vision) already fallen, whilst a sixth was in control. The seventh (Antichrist) had not yet come. We’ll later find that this vision, which gave John a glimpse into the end of this age, will have its fulfillment immediately before the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week. Therefore, it must correspond to this same period played out under the second seal.
Now we see that when the red horse goes forward, “peace is taken from the earth” and many will be killed with the sword. This denotes bloodshed, which is why the horse is described as red. But let us understand that, unlike other wars we’ve witnessed throughout history, which trace their cause to the lusts that war in our members (James 4: 1), these will proceed directly from the throne of God. Recall the words of Christ: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10: 34). The succeeding context, in which our Lord quotes from Micah 7: 6, reveals that these perilous times will be characterized by familial disputes and internecine divisions. These are connected with a foregoing decline in moral character. See Micah 7: 2-5. Verses 7 and 9 of Micah’s prophecy, however, make it obvious that they will immediately precede the time when Christ will bring salvation to His people. Therefore, Matthew 10: 34 refers to the “end of the age.”
It will sometimes be asked, what age Christ was referring to when he gave us these signs of what would come to pass? It is generally believed, and on indisputable evidence, that the age is none other than the “present evil age” which began after the flood and has continued ever since. Some (especially Preterists) claim that the age was the “Mosaic Age.” However, the loose way in which the term “age” is sometimes used leads many into error of believing that “all these things” are “past fulfillment.” Many, through failure to study the Scriptures, do not know that there is a marked difference between an “age” and a “dispensation.”
An “age” (Gr. aion) is always defined in regard to its particular mode or manner of living–its physical characteristics, if you will. Whereas a “dispensation” has respect to a prevailing principle of Divine administration–whether it be innocence, conscience, law, or grace. When the term “this age” is used in the New Testament, it will be seen in all cases to refer to “this life,” or the present natural order of things (see Luke 16: 8; 2 Tim. 4: 10). Because of its moral characteristics, it is evil (Gal. 1: 4); and the Gospel (even this word which we preach) promises deliverance therefrom. So when Christ speaks of the “end of the age,” He is pointing to the close of this present world-period, elsewhere called “man’s day” (1 Cor. 4: 3).
The period during which the ceremonial law remained in force, however, was not an age, but a Dispensation. This is vitally important to keep in mind. The “present evil age” was just as much current when the Sinaitic Covenant was ratified as it was when the Jews were dispersed in A.D. 70, and as it still is today. The Mosaic economy was marked by an administration of law; whereas the Ecclesiastical economy is marked by that of grace. When the principle of administration altered in A.D. 30, there was a change of Dispensations, but not of ages. There is no such thing as a “Mosaic Age.” And the failure to discern this simple but all-essential principle has led not a few to dash themselves to pieces on the rocks of Preterism, Historicism, and other theologies which fail to “rightly divide the word of truth.”
Now we’ve already seen that the breaking of the seals have to do with that same time-period of which Christ spoke in His Olivet Discourse; a time which would begin with the rise of false Messiahs and close with His own second coming in glory. The period embraced by these two end-markers is termed the “consummation of the age.” And the prophecies relative to this period will all have their fulfillment during the close of this present order of human existence. Because our Lord’s predictions do not pertain to principles of administration, but to the culmination of the present mode or character of human life, we must be cautious in forcing passages to fall in with a theory of past fulfillment. Since the Olivet Prophecy relates to the end of the age, and not to the close of a Dispensation, it is therefore entirely future.
That said, we proceed to look at the effects of this “great sword.” As in our last study, we found a “key” in Jeremiah 27 relating to the “first seal,” so in Jeremiah 25 we’ll find another key pertaining to this one. In Jeremiah 25: 15-33 we have a vivid description of this second seal. We can’t help but believe that when Antichrist steps on the scene, the troubles will begin in Jerusalem and gradually work their way outward throughout the entire earth. In Jeremiah’s prophecy, the wine cup of Jehovah’s fury is sent to all nations, starting with Judah, and then passing on to those of the entire habitable earth. The last to drink of this cup of fury will be the “king of Shesach” (Jer. 25: 26)–that is, the king of Babylon–otherwise known as Antichrist (cf. Isaiah 14: 4).
The result of this passing of the wine-cup of Jehovah’s fury is then outlined in verses 31-33: “A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the Lord hath a controversy with the nations, He will plead with all flesh; He will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth. And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground.”
This hellish scenario will issue directly from the throne as a punishment of the inhabitants of the world for their wickedness. Read Isaiah 13: 11: “And I wil punish the world (tebel= inhabited world) for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.” As the age progresses in moral corruption and unbelief, we find ourselves hurtling forward toward an eventual fulfillment of these prophecies. We have already seen the rise of Messianic figures. And although wars and rumors of wars have been a characteristic mark of this dispensation, we know that the rise of a personal Antichrist will issue in a war the likes of which mankind has never yet seen. What must we do, but pray that calamity be averted, or the judgments postponed, that men may seek the Lord their God and obtain mercy and forgiveness? As we see the age drawing to a close, let us continue to preach the Gospel of grace to all nations, and remain fervent in our endeavors, while we wait for the “salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1: 5).