(3) When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” (4) 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.
We could assume that war was coming by the idea of the rider on the white horse. By the opening of the second seal war is in full swing and it is a bloodbath of the color red. This bright red horse is given authority from God to take away peace and people began to slay one another. The information given here is unique, it does not speak of a certain nation against another certain nation, but of people slaying each other. This is an interesting idea which is illuminated in the “Wars of the Jews” by the historian Josephus, who was a Jew living in the time of Revelation. It is manifested in his work that we are not dealing with just a war between Rome and Judea, but of Jewish sedition verses Jewish sedition. We must go back and read the history if think it was the Romans slaying the Jews; now of course that happened too, but the history of that time gives the impression that the Jews slew more Jews than anyone else! The rebel sects were so divided that they made war with each other and with any Jew that sought for peace.
Take peace from the earth. The word “earth” is the Greek word ge; it could refer to the earth as a whole but is often used for certain lands, depending on context. As for its use here, it could work both ways. The center point of this war was certainly in the land of Judea and not earth. However, this affected the whole earth too, as the Jews were throughout the earth (Acts 2:8-12).
He was given a great sword. This was no small quarrel, it would be great. Jesus impressed upon us the exceeding greatness of those days when he said “there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22). Sounds to be like the rider on the red horse was certainly “given a great sword.”