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 (Revelation 6:4).
Can you imagine a person, full of so-called righteous indignation, riding on a fiery-red horse of zeal while wielding the word (sword) of God? That’s what I see when I read this verse.
How easy it is to become this horseman.
As Christians, we are supposed to be zealous after the things of God, and there is a righteous form of zeal. However, there is an unrighteous form of zeal also.
For many of us, when we are converted to the Christian faith and begin to see how corrupt the world is, even the Christian world, we can become consumed with a desire to do something about it. Without love and wisdom however, we can become overly harsh and condemning. We can become as one who leads people away from Jesus, not to Him. We can begin to use the sword of God to smite our fellow servants. For more, read “Those Who Kill with the Sword.”
The most deceptive form of zealous indignation is one that is cloaked in righteousness, or the justification of righteousness. Those doing such things will think that they are doing the will of God, when in reality, they have fallen for the devices of Satan.
Remember what Jesus said, “many will kill you, thinking that they do God’s service.”
They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service (John 16:2).
Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved (Mark 13:12-13).
This is a dangerous place to be, and very often this is something that comes about after we place ourselves under some kind of false Jesus king as mentioned in the first seal. We have a ruler that seems to be of God, and this ruler has an agenda. He is conquering in the name of Jesus. So, we begin to kill one another with our legalism, hypocrisy, anger, and so on.
Much could be said about this seal. There are many life situations in which we find ourselves killing others spiritually. This can range from being too harsh with someone because of their sin to being too permissive, thereby enabling their sin. We can be full of so-called righteous indignation on either front. We see this today in Christian society.
Take any moral issue that people fight and “kill” each other over today. On both sides you have an extreme. You have the extreme opposition to the moral issue who lacks compassion and patience with those in bondage to sin, then you have the extreme enablers who twist the love and grace of Jesus to basically make sin permissible. Both use the word of God to do so, and both sides are killing the one in bondage to sin because both are following their own “king” instead of what Jesus really has to say about the matter.
And what does Jesus have to say about the matter?
You can consider any form of sin that is rampant and a source of contention today, and the way Jesus would handle it is going to be similar. Sin is not acceptable, no matter what the reason. However, there is a reason and we should be compassionate, because if we were in their place, we would do the same. We are no better, and any good thing in us came from God, not ourselves.
We should approach such a person with empathy and humility, rebuke the sin as a force of destruction in their life, then point them to the One who can forgive and redeem them: Jesus. Jesus can heal them from this sin. He can release them from it, literally.
However, if they will not hear us, then we move on. If the person claims to be a Christian and their sin is causing those weak in the faith to sin also, then they must be removed from us after ample rebuke is given by multiple Christians.
In either case, we should love our enemy and pray that the Lord will turn their hearts to Him. Harsh words harden hearts, never free hearts. Enabling sin also hardens hearts.
There is a middle ground that is righteous in the eyes of the Lord, and though there is a time for being stern and even removing people from us for the sake of others, we always use caution and keep love as the primary motivation. When we use the word of God (the sword) to do so, use it wisely, in context with the full counsel of the word of God, with humility, and with the hopes of persuasion—not murder or condemnation.
How do we overcome this?
We need to get back to What Matters Most. First, get out from under the rule of that “king” that is holding your mind and heart captive. This “king” is usually an idea, or an association of many ideas or social pressures that twist our perspective into something that is not of God, though we might think it is.
If we put Jesus first and ask Him to reveal our blind spots, He will. This process can take time, and it can feel strange at first and even a bit overwhelming as our world-view is turned upside down—or rather—put back in order of how it should be for a Christian.
Over time, we are made free from the “kings” of this world as Jesus takes the reigns of our heart. We will learn how to use His sword righteously, because the Holy Spirit will do the wielding. This I know of personally, and I’m still learning.
As this process takes place, we learn about righteous judgment—and that’s precisely what we will discuss as we look at the third seal.
Again, I want to mention that this is an interpretation of these seals for today, and this pertains to murder in the spirit by those among the Christian faith. In the final days, there will be murder again by those who claim to be of God. If we are doing these things now, what’s to stop us from doing these things then in a time of such great deception? Seek Jesus in truth now and turn away from murderous use of His word. He will forgive us and teach us a better way.
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