The Red War Horse of Revelation

The Red War Horse of Revelation
In the book of Revelation there are some terrifying images of violence and bloodshed. There are seals that are broken, and what then pours forth is war and famine and terror. Watching the footage of a 40 mile armoured convoy reminds me of the red horse of war in Revelation chapter 6.

The visions of Revelation describe an unleashing of pent-up aggression and pain; almost as if pride and fear that is bottled up over centuries then explodes onto the earth. This war - senseless and unnecessary as it appears - is like that. An ancient curse that has boiled and simmered has once again taken hold and is manifesting itself in brutality and hubris as the Russian army invade Ukraine. There is history, of course, geopolitical and church history combined - as there is unfortunately in so many parts of the world - that means there is already a fault line that Satan can continue to accentuate. And of course, correspondingly to all this aggression, a deep sense of identity and purpose rises up and out of the Ukrainian people themselves; a desire for justice and righteousness that is inbuilt into us from the Holy Spirit.

The verses in the Bible are there to remind us that this is what happens and will happen. They are not to reassure us that this is all OK and what God wants, because it is clearly evil. But they are there to tell us that God knows about these deeply demonic powers and calls us to open our eyes to the reality of it all. Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24 that this kind of war and tumult would increase in frequency, intensity and regularity. Again, this is not to make us passive, but to call us into a place where we begin to see the spiritual causes of these things in our history, our society and even in our own hearts. And when we see this stuff for what it is, it causes a horror and a desire to repent, intervene and deal with whatever curses are driving us into violence.

The first seal that is opened releases a white horse whose rider wears a crown, carries a bow and is able to conquer. The rider looks the part of a saviour, but conquering is what he is all about. What I find rising in me as I watch the news is the desire to find a strength greater than the aggressors and to crush them. An understandable and in some ways a right response but one that easily gets mixed up in my own humanity, anger and repression. My desire for justice becomes a drive for revenge - an imagination of how I might vanquish my enemy. There’s another rider on a white horse in Revelation 19. This is Christ, who doesn’t wear armour but bears the bloody scars of his own sacrifice. He relies on the word of God and not his reactionary strength. He is faithful and true and lives rightly. He conquers but it is through love and humility, justice and righteousness rather than being an avenger.

For me this vision is a call to prayer: to join in with the family of Jesus all over the world, clothed in the pure linen of their gracious salvation, in intercession and repentance. It is possible to repent on behalf of others, to pray for others, to seek blessing, and to pray for hindrance on those who wreak destruction. This is what it means to hold the sword of the Spirit; and to feel the sword of the Spirit in our own souls, convicting us and causing us to desire holiness and justice with all of our hearts. As I watch and read about this war my eyes are opened once more to the horror of violence - dimmed as they often have been through a life of watching the news or watching entertaining films that are violent. When I think of what is happening to people who are just like me, not very far away, I realise the enormity of it all. I am humbled into gratitude for my own security and a renewed passion for living rightly myself and working for a community that lives rightly, too.

As we watch the prophecies of the Bible play out in our plagued, war torn and famine-flooded world, this is a time for prayerful participation, political action, financial generosity and a reclothing in the white robes of the saints. It is a time for our eyes to be on Jesus and to follow the lamb wherever he goes, knowing that the book of Revelation shows us the inbreaking of the Kingdom in grace and power even as this spiritual battle rages around us.




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