What does Revelation 6:4 mean?
ESV: 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.
NIV: Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.
NASB: 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 people would kill one another; and a large sword was given to him.
CSB: Then another horse went out, a fiery red one, and its rider was allowed to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another. And a large sword was given to him.
NLT: Then another horse appeared, a red one. Its rider was given a mighty sword and the authority to take peace from the earth. And there was war and slaughter everywhere.
KJV: 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.
NKJV: Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.
Verse Commentary:
The rider on the red horse responds to the command to come and receives permission to take peace from the earth. Apparently, a measure of international peace will prevail at the beginning of the tribulation. Paul warned that "while people are saying, 'There is peace and security,' then sudden destruction will come upon them" (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

The "great sword" mentioned in this verse is referred to as megalē machaira in the original Greek. The term machaira could refer to a large knife or a cutting weapon. John's description here calls to mind the gladius, the stocky two-sided sword employed by Roman foot soldiers. Many interpreters take this to mean the Roman Empire is in view in this verse. The Romans had established Pax Romana, Peace of Rome, throughout its empire, however later the empire experienced internal strife and finally collapsed. Then, it was overrun by barbarians.

Others see the reference to war here as more future-oriented, beyond even the centuries following John's writing. According to this interpretation, the war and mayhem symbolized here are part of the tribulation itself. This is the most common, and most consistent interpretation.

The color of the second horse is red, which is the color of blood. It symbolizes slaughter that follows the absence of peace. In this verse, civil war is probably in mind: people slaying one another with the sword. This description of human slaughter following the first horseman seems to rule out the interpretation that Christ is the rider portrayed in verse 1.
Verse Context:
Revelation 6:1–8 introduces John's vision of Jesus, the Lamb, opening the first four of seven seals. He also heard one of the four living creatures issue the thunderous command, ''Come!'' What John saw next was the first calamity to strike the earth in the tribulation: seven years of judgment following the rapture of the church. There is no way to know whether the four horsemen follow each other sequentially or ride forth simultaneously. If they follow each other sequentially, we cannot know how much time elapses between their rides. The judgments appear to belong to the first half of the tribulation. However, some interpreters believe the sixth seal may be an exception.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter typifies the dramatic, heavily symbolic description of end-times events for which Revelation is famous. John sees a series of visions corresponding to Jesus opening the first six seals of the scroll He received in chapter 5. The first four seals unleash four horsemen, respectively symbolizing a world leader, war, famine, and death. The fifth seal reveals the prayers of martyrs pleading with God to avenge their deaths. The sixth seal unleashes massive natural disasters. In response, the people of the world cower in fear, admitting that they are suffering under the wrath of God.
Chapter Context:
The largest section of Revelation extends from chapter 4 to the end and describes events ''that are to take place after this'' (Revelation 1:19). Chapter 5 focused on a scroll containing God's judgment on sin and a search for someone to open it. Only Jesus is worthy to open it. When Jesus took the scroll from God, He received praise from every creature in heaven and on earth. Now, in chapter 6 our attention focuses on the events that transpire when Jesus opens six of the seven seals, one at a time. This process will continue through chapter 8.
Book Summary:
The word ''revelation'' means ''an unveiling or disclosure.'' This writing unveils future events such as the rapture, three series of judgments that will fall on the earth during the tribulation, the emergence of the Antichrist, the persecution of Israel and her amazing revival, as well as Jesus' second coming with His saints to the earth, the judgment of Satan and his followers, and finally, the eternal state. This content, combined with the original Greek term apokalypsis, is why we now refer to an end-of-the-world scenario as ''an apocalypse.''
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