The world is constantly at war. Men talk about peace but never truly achieve it. Still, amid the endless economic crises, wars, acts of God and nature, and mankind's cruelty to its own, fragments of peace remain. People still eat together and pray together and live together in harmony most of the time. But in Revelation 6:3-4, John tells us of a day when even that peace will be taken away. War is coming . . . and it will be like nothing we've ever seen before.
The Disappearance of Peace
Revelation 6:3-4; Ezekiel 38-39
Here’s how the history books record it: On July 13, 1977, at exactly 8:37 p.m. lightning struck a power station on the Hudson River, tripping two circuit breakers. A loose locking nut combined with a late upgrade cycle kept the breaker from reclosing and allowing power to flow again. Then lightning struck again and 2 transmission lines went out. Other major transmission lines became overloaded. Approximately 20 minutes later, another bolt of lightning struck; taking out even more transmission lines. Con Edison had already begun dropping the power supply to New York City and surrounding areas, but it wasn’t enough. Thermal overload caused even more problems until at approximately 9:36 pm, the entire Con Edison power system shut down – one hour after the first lightning strike . . . plunging New York City into a total blackout.
People poured into the streets to help store owners close up shop and well as to offer assistance in public places for those in need. Actually, I made up that last sentence. Here’s what really happened.
People by the thousands headed for the streets. Looting and arson erupted. On Broadway street, the rumble of iron store gates begin forced upon and the shattering of glass preceded scenes of couches, televisions, and heaps of clothing being paraded through the streets buy looters who were both defiant and gleeful. The looters began looting other looters, and knives came out . . . thousands were hurt as riots broke out all over the city.
In one night of darkness, 1,600 stores were looted, 1,037 fires were started . . . the cost of damages for one night without light, was more than 300 million dollars.
Adapted from Wikipedia.org/New York City Blackout of 1977
For just one night, the lights couldn’t be turned on in New York and people believed they were beyond the reach of the law and beyond the demands of civility – they evidently thought God couldn’t see in the dark either.
It was actually a revelation of human nature . . . remove the restraining influence of lights and alarm systems and video surveillance cameras and people are capable of great unkindness, abandonment of civility, open theft and even murder.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the blackout of 1977 is just a taste of what will happen worldwide one day yet in the future.
When the restraining presence of the Holy Spirit through the church is removed at the Rapture, the results will actually be far worse than you can imagine.
We have discovered thus far that soon after the Rapture, a man who had already risen to a place of distinction will offer peace and safety for Israel. He is depicted in Revelation 6 as the seals are beginning to open for this 7 year period known as the Tribulation.
John the Apostle sees the Lamb open the first seal of that special scroll – and a white horse gallops forward with a rider who comes representing the culmination of spiritual deception and diplomatic skill – his pseudo peace treaty will promise Israel the peace accord they have longed for, for centuries.
The peace of the antichrist will soon be interrupted by wars breaking out all around the globe and most specifically a coalition of nations’ intent on looting and stealing from Israel – in fact, they will be intent on annihilating the Jewish people from the planet.
Is that desire there today? It is open and admitted. However, it is restrained by the civility of people who defend Israel. Primarily from countries who believe in the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.
However, a day is coming when no one steps forward to defend her; surrounding armies will come to destroy her. And that will be the end, not of Israel, but of them.
With your Bibles open to Revelation chapter 6, let’s watch as Jesus Christ opens the second seal as the Tribulation period continues in its opening days.
Verse 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.
This is where the story turns ugly and remains that way until the true King returns to establish His kingdom.
John MacArthur, Revelation: Volume 1 (Moody Press, 1999), p. 180
One of the four creatures before the throne of God gives the command and the rider on a red horse gallops across the earth.
The color of this horse perfectly fits the nature of terror and bloodshed which will ride on the heels of this horseman.
The word for red is purros (purroV) – you can translate the word, “fiery”.
Fritz Rienecker/Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Regency, 1976), p. 826
This is the color of blood.
This horseman is riding a blood-red horse which will unleash bloodshed and war of all kinds, reaching around the entire world.
There will be mass rioting and killing like the world has never seen and it all begins here and, as Jesus Christ Himself intimated, growing in intensity like the birth pangs of a woman in labor until it climaxes with the Battle of Armageddon as the Tribulation comes to a close.
This is the Book of prophecy . . . this has yet to happen.
Some would say that the rider of this horse was Nero – and the battles that erupt are persecutions against Christians. But that would make this scroll a book of history and not of prophecy, which John the Apostle clearly said it was.
Adapted from Robert L. Thomas, Revelation: Volume 1 (Moody Press, 1992), p. 426
This is the second birth pang of Matthew 24, predicted by Christ in His Mount Olivet Discourse; this is the unfolding of the first days of tribulation – primarily the first 3 ½ years.
I found it interesting that the Didache – the oldest extra-biblical Christian document known to exist – was rediscovered in 1873. It is basically a commentary on early Christian life and practice, including commentary on scripture.
Most secular and Christian scholars believe it was composed around the close of the first century – in other words, it was written a few years, perhaps a few decades, after the Book of Revelation.
This document reveals that the Christian community living after the temple was destroyed in AD 70 and after the outbreak of severe persecution – and after the writing of this book of Revelation – they believed the events prophesied in Christ’s Mount Olivet Discourse and the seals of Revelation 6 were still entirely in the future – and furthermore, they believed these events would literally be fulfilled.
Listen to a sentence or two from the Didache – a word that simply means, “The Teaching”.
For in the last days the false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied . . . and love shall be turned to hate. For as lawlessness increases they shall hate one another and shall persecute and betray. And then the world-deceiver shall appear as a son of God – a false messiah – and shall work signs and wonders and the earth shall be delivered into his hands; and he shall do unholy things, which have never been since the world began.
John MacArthur, The Second Coming (Crossway Books, 1999), p. 424
This corresponds perfectly with Christ’s words on the Mount of Olives and with John’s vision of these first horsemen – they are yet future.
The preterist and others who believe these events have already occurred have to not only spiritualize the literal fulfillment of these signs away, they have to contradict the oldest record of the church community that taught all these things were still in the future.
Now it’s true that mankind has been able to catalog the ever-present existence of war, somewhere in the world. War isn’t new.
I have read that by the 12th century, more than 2,000 wars were fought. That number increased to more than 13,000 wars by the 20th century. One author estimated more than 10 billion people have been killed in the wars of the human race.
Mark Hitchcock, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Multnomah, 2004), p. 54
When General Dobey, British commander of Malta during World War I, was stationed in Israel in 1916, an aide commented to him on one occasion. He said, “Sir, this is a funny war we’re fighting. The Muslims won’t fight on Fridays, the Jews won’t fight on Saturdays and Christians won’t find on Sundays.” With a twinkle in his eye, Dobey responded, “Well, if you can find four other world religions that refuse to fight on Monday through Thursday, you will have solved the problem of world peace.”
Ibid, p. 53
In the last century alone, 37.5 million died in World War 1; 45 million died in World War II. The Vietnam conflict caused the death or injury to half-a-million soldiers. The wars involving our country and Iraq have brought the death toll to even more.
And we’re not finished. Not just our country which fights for the rights and the peace of people abroad, but from those countries who desire to conquer others and expand their empire.
War and bloodshed stain nearly every page of history.
Listen, four hundred years before John wrote the Book of Revelation, Plato complained, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
Mark Hitchcock, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Multnomah, 2004), p. 54
So how is the red horsemen bringing in anything new? Certainly this is history!
The red horseman signifies a time of increasing world anarchy and disorder and murder. He comes and completely engulfs the world, not necessarily in a World War, or wars between major nations alone, but wars and fighting’s and revolutions and rioting everywhere.
It would be akin to having the French Revolution, the Civil War, World War 2, the Iraq Conflict, the China wars, the African Tribal wars and the Korean conflict all at the same time. And that’s for starters.
John writes of the red horsemen in verse 4, “he is permitted to take peace from the earth.”
This has global implications. The Greek language, ek tes ges (ek thV ghV) – clearly states this is not limited to Israel or the Roman empire – this is the outbreak of war and conflict worldwide.
Thomas, p. 428
The red horseman will ride in and take any vestige or desire for peace from the planet.
He strikes the transformers that have kept the lights of civility and peace burning; he knocks out the power grid of global surveillance system . . . and looting and bloodshed break out all around the world.
I was in the middle of working on my sermon yesterday – in fact, I was at this very point when that thunderstorm came rolling in and lightning struck and all our power went out in our house – my computer blinked off. I sat there in the dark and thought, Lord is this a sign? Do you want me to wrap up the sermon at this point? I didn’t hear a voice, so I took it to mean keep going!
Would you notice in verse 4 again that – “he is permitted to take peace from the earth.” He has to have permission!
As bad as it is . . . as terrifying and bloody as it gets; just as the white horse is on a leash, so is the red horse.
And listen, God is the designer of all judgment and this is the expression, not of the wrath of Satan, nor the wrath of man, even though they are secondary causes; this is the outworking of the wrath of God.
This is His plan.
So the red horseman can gallop as fast as he wants, but there is a fence; a divinely ordained corral to keep him from going any further than God has designed in these days of wrath.
And it is not surprising to me that the next horseman will come, representing a time of great worldwide famine as these wars bring about global economic hardship and deprivation.
Maybe you’re wondering, what happened to peace in Israel?
When the first horseman appeared, he brought peace.
But God now moves in this second seal – the second horseman – the second birth pang to show the frailty and futility of the peace of man – even from this amazing rider of the first horse – the white horse will be initially known as the Peacemaker. He will undoubtedly win the Nobel Peace Prize for that year.
But his peace won’t last. Ladies and Gentlemen, the peace treaties of planet earth will never last.
Out of World War 1 came the League of Nations, but it failed. Out of World War II came the United Nations. It too has failed to keep peace on the planet.
Lehman Strauss, Revelation (Loizeaux Brothers, 1964), p. 158
Historian Gustave Valbert chronicles that from 1500 B.C. to 1860 A.D. European nations alone signed more than 8,000 peace treaties – each meant to remain in force forever. On average they remained in force for 24 months. And just think of all the treaties that have been signed and broken since 1860!
Hitchcock, p. 54
Even though the antichrist has brokered peace with Israel, that peace will be threatened within a matter of months by those who do not wish to see the Jewish nation breath one more breath of air in Israel.
Peace will be disturbed, not because of the antichrist – not in these initial days, but because of the surrounding nations who come to annihilate Israel at the outset of the Tribulation.
One of these wars that break out on the planet during the gallop of this red horse takes place in the Middle Eastern region.
This is what authors call the coming Russian Islamic Invasion – described by the prophet Ezekiel as the War of Gog and Magog.
Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 give numerous details about this coming, predicted battle as nations converge on Israel. Gog and Magog are involved, leading some to believe that this battle takes place at the end of the Millennial kingdom in Revelation chapter 20, since Gog and Magog are mentioned there as well.
By closely comparing Ezekiel’s details regarding a coming war with the battle in Revelation 20, several key differences are easily noted.
In the early battle of Gog and Magog, the invaders are killed by earthquakes and hailstones, among other things.
In the final battle of Revelation 20, the Lord simply brings down one huge fireball to consume all the armies that have marched against His throne.
Furthermore, in the Battle of Magog, the dead troops will be buried over several months time, according to Ezekiel 39:12. However, after the final battle, the judgment of the Great White Throne commences and the dead are raised to stand before God.
Another difference is seen in the fact that the Battle of Gog and Magog concludes with the burning of all the weapons over several years time – time that may very well stretch into the Millennial kingdom.
However, the final battle of Revelation 20 will occur at the end of the 1,000 year reign of Christ – the Millennial Kingdom and weapons will not burn the refuse for 7 years.
In addition to that, after the battle of Gog and Magog life goes on, as normally as it can. However, after the Battle in Revelation 20, life changes almost immediately with the new creation of earth and heaven.
The battle of Gog and Magog is clearly not the final battle in Revelation chapter 20.
There are others who believe this battle takes place in chapter 16 – that the Battle of Magog is the same as the Battle of Armageddon.
I don’t believe it is that battle either . . . for several reasons.
Again, by comparing the two battles, we discover that the Battle of Armageddon takes place during an outbreak of plagues and unrest.
However, Ezekiel clearly states that the invasion of Israel will be at a time when the nation is enjoying peace and rest (Ezekiel 38:8). Gog and Magog march on Israel during a time of security and peace – something Israel hasn’t had since their Babylonian captivity!
In fact, if some country were to invade Israel right now, it would not be a fulfillment of prophetic scripture, because the prophet Ezekiel and Revelation 6 clearly indicate a peace accord first – a time of security before the invasion of Gog and Magog.
Right now every Jewish male in Israel has to sign up for compulsory duty – for 3 years in the military; every female signs up for 2 years. Just read the newspapers . . . this is certainly not a time of peace and security for tiny Israel.
However, a time of peace is coming – brief though it may be. Daniel 9 recorded and Revelation 6 reported the vision of a coming peacemaker who will sign a peace accord with Israel. His white horse has already galloped throughout the earth.
Furthermore, the Battle of Gog and Magog involves 6 allies marching against Israel. The Battle of Armageddon involves all the nations – certainly more than 6.
This early battle of Gog and Magog covers the region of northern Israel while Armageddon covers all the land of Israel.
Another distinctive is that the alliances of Gog and Magog are destroyed; in the battle of Armageddon, many nations are wiped out.
The early war of Gog and Magog fits perfectly the scene prophesied by Daniel – a time of peace, interrupted by a war which occurs at the beginning of the time of trouble – the Tribulation.
The Battle of Armageddon, on the other hand, climaxes the ending of the Tribulation as the enemies of Israel are wiped out when Christ returns, described in glorious detail in Revelation 19.
For these reasons, and more, the Battle of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38-38 doesn’t match up with the details of the Battle of Armageddon in Revelation chapter 16.
They are clearly not the same battle.
So . . . just what and when is this battle of Gog and Magog?
This terrific battle, prophesied by Ezekiel, fits into this period of temporary peace established by the antichrist as the Tribulation period begins. In fact, it is the only time period we know of where Israel rests in safety and security, following the peace accord offered by the antichrist.
This season of peace and security comes riding on a white horse. The battles that break out, including the Battle of Gog and Magog, takes place during the coming of the red horse.
War and bloodshed around the world give the nations surrounding Israel the perfect opportunity to march against Israel, undeterred by the rest of the world. And they’re right, for there is no mention in scripture of any other nation coming to the defense of Israel.
Who are these 6 nations that Ezekiel prophesied would form a coalition against Israel and at this point, against the antichrist who has pledged to defend her?
By the way, that was not a slip of the tongue. At this point the antichrist is actually a distraction for this coalition – he isn’t feared as of yet as a great warrior. He’s a man of peace – and at this point, he’s in the way of these 6 nations.
The Six Member Coalition of Gog and Magog:
- First and foremost in this coalition is Rosh, which many Bible scholars identify as modern Russia.
Rosh is often translated as a common noun and translated “chief”. However, the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint, translates Rosh as a proper name. So that Ezekiel 38:2 reads, “O Gog, prince of Rosh.”
From all the evidence I’ve studied, Rosh refers to what we know today as the land of Russia. And her prince will be Gog, the ruler of Russia.
John Walvoord/Mark Hitchcock, Armageddon, Oil and Terror (Tyndale, 2007 edition), p. 90
This is the kingdom that will come from the north, as predicted by Ezekiel.
- The next coalition member is Magog.
Josephus, the first century Jewish historian identified that the ancient Scythians inhabited the land of Magog. That helps us identify another northern territory that comprises Central Asia – or what we know today as the former Soviet Union.
Magog might also include modern day Afghanistan. This region alone is currently populated by more than 90 million people. And they are predominantly Muslim.
In fact, the unifying thread of this coalition, should it come together in our generation, is the religion of Islam; a religion that believes Israel is a nation should be annihilated.
- The next coalition member, according to Ezekiel is Persia – or modern day Iran, a country openly anti-Jew.
- The president of Iran said this recently, and I quote, “The Zionist regime (Israel) is heading toward annihilation. This regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm.”
- He said further, “A new middle east will prevail without the existence of Israel.”
- Still again he said, “The Zionists and their protectors are the most detested people in all of human8ity, and the hatred is increasing every day.”
- One more quote, from this man, “Israel is destined for destruction and will soon disappear.”
Even now, ladies and gentlemen, the internal news media of Iran is talking about the preparations for the Great War in which Israel, referred to as the beloved of the West – referring to us – will be conquered. One editorial said, and I quote, “The great war is ahead of us and will break out perhaps tomorrow, or in another few days or months or even in a few years. The nation of Muslims must prepare for the great war, to completely wipe out the Zionist regime and remove this cancerous growth.” End quote.
Quotes taken from Walvoord/Hitchcock, p. 104
The ancient region of Persia is occupied now by the country known as Iran. A country that dreams of wiping Jews off the planet, and their quest for nuclear power is fueled by this growing desire to destroy Israel and all who would defend her.
- The next member of the coalition, Ezekiel says is the land of Cush. Most scholars believe Cush represents the area east of Egypt and west of the Red Sea . . . modern day Sudan.
John Walvoord, Prophecy Knowledge Handbook (Victor Books, 1990), p. 192
This region is extremely anti-Israel and in fact harbored Osama Bin Laden from 1991-1996. It would gladly join in a coalition to attack Israel, if it had the chance.
- The next member of the coalition is ancient Put or modern Libya, another region filled with hostile Islamic extremists and a deepening hatred of Israel.
- The final member of this coalition is the modern land of Turkey, identified by Ezekiel as several kingdoms. Turkey is also an Islamic nation with a growing allegiance to Russia.
Although the Tribulation could be a 1,000 years away, and there is no Biblical reference to anything either hindering the Rapture or forcing it to happen, there is little imagination needed to see the potential of a soon coming invasion by Islamic nations which now virtually surround this tiny state of Israel.
According to Ezekiel’s prophecy, when these nations begin their march toward Israel it will look like the biggest mismatch in history. This is David against Goliath all over again.
There is absolutely no way Israel can survive.
The antichrist is powerless to stop the invasion. Israel cannot defend herself. He can only watch from his rebuilt palace in Iraq – his newly built Babylon, which interestingly enough, is not a part of the coalition. It is strangely absent – why? – because the antichrist is still offering peace to Israel.
But these countries offer no peace – they finally have their chance to destroy the Zionist regime and wipe the people of God’s promise off the face of the land.
Ultimately, Satan can only hope that they will finally succeed in destroying the potential for Israel to welcome her Messiah back to the land of promise.
Israel can only wait and tremble and these armies march toward her.
But then . . . Ezekiel writes of God’s response, “But on that day, the day that Gog shall come against the land of Israel, declares the Lord God, my wrath will be roused in my anger. For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I . . . [will act]. (Ezekiel 38:19)
Several things happen in quick succession, according to Ezekiel’s prophecy:
- First – an earthquake (38:20)
- Then – the coalition will turn on one another (38:21)
- Then – plagues, torrential rain and hailstones (38:22)
- Finally, a fire will sweep over the armies, destroying these kingdom.
Imagine, in a matter of a few hours, Russia will be decimated, as will Iran, Libya, the Sudan and the proud armies of the eastern people who fight against Israel.
There is little doubt in my mind that the antichrist will claim the victory as his own doing and further entrench himself as the leader in that part of the world, claiming to be the Messiah for the entire world. But that’s another study.
Now, before we close the book on the red horse and the horseman of war – the disappearance of peace the world over, one question comes to mind in most people in our country who study passages like these.
There is no sign or sight of any western ally – defending Israel in these scenes. America, Great Britain, France . . . none of the allies that normally step up to defend Israel will appear to fight for her.
What happened to America?
The short answer is simply, “we’re not told”.
But with great caution, let me suggest a few possibilities.
- It could be that the rapture decimates so many key leadership and economic positions in our country that the country is still scrambling to pull on its boots when this coalition marches on Israel.
- It could be that America has become so multicultural and pluralistic that it no longer has a national sense of respect for the Bible and the God of Abraham along with any future desire to protect Israel. That doesn’t take much imagination does it?
- It could be the fact that this Middle Eastern coalition shuts down the flow of oil to the west and America is unable to purchase fuel to mount an army due to an energy and oil crisis.
- It could be that America is so preoccupied with its own internal rioting and fighting as this red horse races throughout our country as well; race riots, economic strife, union wars, perhaps some form of civil war . . . it could be that our military is currently engaged in trying to bring order to our own country that it can no longer engage in warfare abroad.
- It could be that America is no longer America . . . perhaps it’s divided into sections owned and ruled by different world powers.
It could be the effects of the rapture; a lack of interest in God; a fuel crisis; internal rioting and distraction; the breakup of the nation as we now know it.
Or, it could be something entirely different that we cannot even imagine in our generation.
We don’t know why America doesn’t rush to defend Israel, we only know that it doesn’t.
And for me, that is a sad day as it relates to my country.
Ladies and Gentlemen, today the world is a powder keg like never before. We have more ways to kill entire people groups than ever before:
Omar Bradley once wrote of our generation, “We are in a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.”
Sam Gordon, Revelation: Worthy is the Lamb (Ambassador, 2000), p. 154
Ladies and Gentlemen, this red horseman could have come riding in at the end of the first century – there was nothing prophetically preventing it from coming.
The church was waiting.
He might not ride across the planet for another 2,000 years, if God designs it. There isn’t anything to force him to come now.
But you would have to admit, if you put your ear to the ground, you can almost hear the rumbling of the hoof beats of the red horse. More than ever before in world history, the stage seems perfectly set for the coming of this horseman.
Which leads me to say that right now the most important peace treaty you need to know about isn’t the peace treaty between the antichrist and Israel. It isn’t between some nation that may last for a year or two.
You need a peace treaty that lasts for eternity. It is the peace treaty between you and God, signed by the blood of Christ which justifies and cleanses those who will believe in Christ alone.
You sign the peace treaty by placing your faith in Christ’s work on the cross – believe in your heart that God raised Him literally, physically from the grave – believe that He even now intercedes – believe that He is coming back one day . . . so that you can say with Paul the Apostle, Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1, 2)
This is the peace treaty between you and God, through Christ.
There is no lasting peace apart from The Prince of Peace.
Isaiah the prophet wrote, “For unto us a child is born; to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called:
Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Sign the peace treaty with the only true Messiah – Jesus Christ. And this Prince of Peace will establish peace between you and a God . . . and that peace . . . His peace . . . is everlasting.
His peace will last from this time forth and forevermore.