Seventh Seal - Silence

OVERVIEW - The seventh seal ended with the seven angels prepared to sound their seven trumpets – Revelation 8:1-6

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash
Among other things, the opening of the seventh seal serves to transition the narrative to the next sevenfold series, the “
seven trumpets.” The literary structures of the seven seals and seven trumpets include common features. For example, both series begin before the “Throne,” include the “seven spirits,” portray the “prayers of the saints,” and include the final judgment scene characterized by “voices, thunder and lightning” - [Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash].

In both series, the first four events are distinguished from the final three, and both have a literary break between the sixth and seventh event when the saints are prepared for future challenges - (the “sealing” of the saints [7:1-17]; the “measuring of the sanctuary” and the “two witnesses” [11:1-15]).

TRANSITION TO THE SEVEN TRUMPETS - (Revelation 8:1) - “And, as soon as he opened the seventh seal, there came to be silence in heaven, as it were half an hour.”

The opening of the seventh seal follows the day of the “wrath of the Lamb.”  The return at this point to the process of opening the seven seals indicates the visions in chapter 7 were parenthetical.

Up till now, events in heaven have been noisy, and the sudden silence is unexpected. This is not complete silence, but the cessation of the “flashes of lightning, thunders and voices.” The phenomena resume when the angel casts coals of fire onto the earth. When they do begin again, they are listed in a different order than previously. Additionally, an “earthquake” is added to the series. The “silence” suggests that activity is halted before the Throne while the prayers of the saints ascend from the altar.

The “half-hour of silence” anticipates impending judgment.  Elsewhere in Revelation, the period of an “hour” refers to the decisive moment of final judgment. In several Old Testament prophecies, silence was predicted to precede the “Day of the Lord.” In the present passage, the first half of the “hour” is set aside, so heaven can receive the prayers of the saints. Subsequently, it is their pleas that cause the trumpets to sound.

The “silence” alludes to clauses from the book of Zechariah, passages used previously to describe the four colored horses of the first four seals. Zechariah saw riders traveling throughout the earth that reported, “All the earth is silent.” Yahweh responded by promising to punish the nations that had afflicted Zion, and to “build my house and stretch a line over Jerusalem…My cities will yet overflow.”

Later, Zechariah saw a vision of a man holding “a measuring line in his hand” with which “to measure the length and breadth of Jerusalem” - Thus, “Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls by reason of the multitude of men and cattle in it.” God exhorted His people to flee from “the daughter of Babylon,” for He was about to judge her. The prophet called on “all flesh to be silent before Yahweh, for he is roused out of his holy habitation” to execute His judgment - (Revelation 6:1-811:1Zechariah 1:7-16, 2:1-13, 6:1-8).

SEVEN ANGELS STANDING BEFORE GOD - (Revelation 8:2) - “And I saw the seven messengers which, before God, do stand; and there were given unto them seven trumpets.

The seven angels sent to sound the trumpets may be the same seven angels that will pour out the “seven bowls of wrath.” They may also be identical to the “seven angels” of the churches of Asia. They were represented previously by the “seven torches of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God” – (Revelation 4:5).

The equipping of the angels with trumpets is the result of the seventh seal. Only at the end of this paragraph do the seven angels prepare to sound the trumpets.

The judgments about to be released on the “inhabitants of the earth” were anticipated in the letter to the church at Philadelphia - The “hour of trial” would arrive to “try them who dwell upon the earth.” The same clause occurred again in the plea of the martyrs under the altar - “How long before you judge and avenge our blood on them who dwell upon the earth?” That plea is about to receive its answer.

THE ANGEL WITH THE GOLDEN CENSER - (Revelation 8:3-4) - “And another messenger came and took his stand at the altar, having a censer of gold: and there was given unto him much incense, that he might give [it] unto the prayers of all the saints, upon the altar of gold that is before the throne. And the smoke of the incense went up with the prayers of the saints, out of the hand of the messenger before God.
The prayers of the saints must be heard before the trumpets sound, just as before the prayers of the saints were heard before the “Lamb” began to break open the Seven Seals - (Revelation 5:8-10).
Two different “altars” are in view - “The altar” and “the golden altar.” When the fifth seal was opened, John saw the martyrs under the altar of burnt offering where the blood of animal sacrifices was poured. In the old Tabernacle, this was located in the outer court. The “golden altar” of incense was placed in the “holy place” or sanctuary proper, just outside the veil that covered the “Holy of Holies.” Thus, in the vision, the action has moved a step closer to the Throne of God.

Tabernacle in the Wilderness
The “
fire of the altar” points to the presence of the two altars. In the Tabernacle, fire was taken from the altar of burnt offering to light incense that was offered on the “golden altar.”  Fire burned constantly on the former, not the latter.

The angel added a vast amount of incense to the “prayers of all the saints” to ascend together from the golden altar. The prayers offered here were added to the earlier pleas from the fifth seal. The incense represents the prayers of the saints. Previously, the “golden bowls full of incense” were identified as “the prayers of the saints.” The “golden altar before the throne” locates the scene before the Throne where the “Lamb” took possession of the “sealed scroll” - (Revelation 5:8).

The sounding of the trumpets borrows imagery from the fall of Jericho in the book of Joshua. Israel marched around the city as the priests blew their trumpets. Previously, the church was portrayed as Israel assembled to journey to the Promised Land, with twelve-thousand males “from each of the twelve tribes of Israel - (Revelation 7:1-8Numbers 1:1-16, Joshua 6:1-27).

As the final “hour” approaches, the church is assembled on the border of another Promised Land and poised to bring down the walls of another “great city.”  On each of the first six days after entering the land of Canaan, the men of Israel marched once around Jericho led by seven priests carrying seven horns. The people kept silent during the first six days - (“You will not shout or let your voice be heard”), so Israel marched around Jericho in silence, except for the blast of trumpets by the priests. On the seventh day, she marched around the city seven times, the priests blew the seven horns, and the people shouted as one, causing the walls of the city to collapse - (Joshua 6:9-22).

This background becomes more apparent at the end of the series of seven trumpets.  Before the seventh and final angel sounded his trumpet, “at that hour, a great earthquake occurred and a tenth of the city fell” - (Revelation 11:13).

In Revelation, it is not ancient Jericho, but the great city “called Sodom and Egypt that falls, elsewhere identified as the “great city Babylon.” When the seventh trumpet sounded, “loud voices” were heard, God’s kingdom was consummated, the dead were judged, and the heavenly sanctuary appeared along with the “Ark of the covenant” - (Revelation 11:8-19).

The martyrs under the altar were told to wait for the full number of witnesses to be assembled. Now, “the prayers of all saints” actualize the anticipated judgments on the “inhabitants of the earth.” There was no call to wait any longer, and judgment was about to be unleashed on the “inhabitants of the earth.”

FIRE CAST INTO THE EARTH - (Revelation 8:5) - “And the angel at once took the censer and filled it from the fire of the altar and cast onto the earth; and there came to be claps of thundering and voices and lightnings and an earthquake.

The casting of fire onto the earth symbolized the execution of God’s judgments. The “thunders, voices, flashes of lightning and earthquake” point the reader to the earlier vision of the Throne. An earthquake is added to the series, and here the three phenomena are given in reverse order from the vision of the Throne. These same noisy events occur at the end of each of the sevenfold series - the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls - (Revelation 11:15-1916:17-21).

The reversed sequence marks the end of the seven seals and the commencement of the seven trumpets. The added earthquake signals an intensification of things in response to “the prayers of all the saints.” The earthquake links the passage to the sixth seal (“great earthquake”), the seventh trumpet, and the “seventh bowl of wrath” - (Revelation 6:12, 11:13-19, 16:18).

In each sevenfold series, the visual and audible features intensify as the end approaches. Since each series ends in a scene of final judgment, they are not in chronological sequence, and most likely run concurrently.

SEVEN ANGELS PREPARE TO SOUND - (Revelation 8:6) - “And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves, that they might sound.

Thus, the seventh seal ends with the seven angels prepared to sound the seven trumpets. The next several chapters will describe how the “great city” is encircled and conquered by the “Lamb” and his saints, and what parts they play in its overthrow.




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