Keeping in mind that the book that Jesus was unsealing in chapter six of the Apocalypse is the same book the Father had given him that would unveil Jesus to his disciples (Revelation 1:1-3), the second seal was removed by Jesus who sat upon the throne (viz. Revelation 5:1-5). When the second seal was broken, John saw the second living being, probably the one who was like a bullock (Revelation 4:7), who then commanded the second rider to “Go!” (Revelation 6:3), and John saw a fiery colored horse, and its rider was given a huge sword (Revelation 6:4). This is the vision, but what does it mean?
Jesus claimed in the Olivet Discourse that there would be wars and talks of war, but the disciples were not to be troubled about such things (Matthew 24:6), because such concern would cause them to be susceptible to deception (Matthew 24:4). Moreover, these things neither signaled the end of the age nor that the time of Jesus’ coming had arrived (Matthew 24:3, 6). If Jesus’ disciples were deceived into being overly concerned over political troubles in their day, they might take up arms in defense of the Jewish nation. Nevertheless, that would have been a grave error, because, as history reveals, it was Jesus, the Messiah, who judged the Jewish nation. Therefore, to take up arms in defense of Jerusalem and the Temple would have been tantamount to rebelling against their Messiah.
Clearly, the Olivet Discourse is all about the struggle of the Jews, not worldwide woes, as is presumed by some subjective critics. Therefore, I have to wonder what the huge sword signifies. Certainly, it doesn’t seem like an ordinary weapon of either aggression or defense. It seems like it is too large for the purpose for which it is intended, so what does it mean? I believe it’s meaning is similar to the first rider’s bow without the arrows. The rider in Revelation 6:4 seems heroic in nature, but is unable to deliver on his promises. The war and discontent he wields could never accomplish his ultimate goal. Jesus said that he who lives by the sword will die by the sword (Matthew 26:52).
It was given the rider to take peace from the earth and to cause men to slay one another. The rider, in the context of the political arena of the first century AD, is depicted as though he were involved in a hopeless effort to restore the Davidic Kingdom. While he was able to make war, he was unable to achieve victory and offer peace and safety in the land. His huge sword was mighty to destroy, but powerless to save.
On the other hand, Jesus said that he didn’t come to bring peace on the earth, but, rather, a sword (Matthew 10:34). In the context of the Gospel the sense seems to be that Jesus wages war in righteousness (Revelation 19:11). Nevertheless, his weapons of warfare are not the same as that of men. Instead, his sword is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and, as was in the case of the false messiahs of the first seal, no weapon used against Jesus’ disciples would prosper (Isaiah 54:17). Notice:
2Co 10:3-5 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (4) (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) (5) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
In contrast to the rider of the red horse, the warfare of Christ is a spiritual battle waged through the preaching of the Gospel. This is how the Kingdom of God is advanced throughout each generation. The Jews in the first century AD believed that the Messiah would come and wage war against their enemies, defeating them and ridding the Jewish nation of its oppressors (John 12:31-34). The great Jewish Messianic hope (viz. the huge sword given the rider of the red horse) of the restored Davidic kingdom would never be realized, because it was, in reality, a kingdom in rebellion against God.
The Davidic Kingdom, in essence, was a kingdom that rejected God as King over his people (1Samuel 8:4-9). Having said that, David was a righteous king, but his righteousness lay in the fact that he often rejected his own authority in favor of permitting God to work out circumstances for his good (cf. 1Samuel 24:6-10; 2Samuel 16:5-14). The kingdom the Jews wanted was a rejection of the original Theocracy the Lord had put in place. It was only in Jesus, who is God, receiving the Davidic Kingdom to himself, that the Theocracy could be restored. This, of course, was done through the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to David. In other words, as David’s descendent, Jesus inherited the Davidic throne, but didn’t reign from Jerusalem. Rather, he reigns from heaven, as in the very beginning of the nation of the Jews, not physically, on earth as Saul’s or David’s kingdom ruled. Theirs was a rejection of the Theocracy! Instead, Jesus restored the Theocracy and rules from heaven, as it had been before the Jews were made a nation.