Revealing Revelation – The Seventh Seal

17Feb11

Rev 8:1 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

With the opening of the seventh seal, we are presented with possibly the oddest of the seals.

Silence!

There are no visions of lightning and thunder, monsters and horses, blood and darkness. Just silence. And a silence that lasts “about” an half an hour. What should the reader make of this utterly different result of opening a seal? There have been many proposals as to what this seventh seal signifies and we will deal with several of them here.

The futurist claims this silent period is a short lived period of relative silence in the normally stormy history of the Roman Empire. This would have lasted from some time around the end of the first century until the death of Constantine in the mid 4th century. other argue this time was from the ascension of Constantine to the throne until the death of Theodosius. The point here is that the cry of the martyrs were silenced after Domitian until the end of the 4th century looking toward the fall of the Roman Empire.

Those that see Revelation as a constant repeating of times of persecution judgment and advance for the church, this is a regular occurrence throughout history in which there is relative calm within the church and in the cultures relationship to the Church.

Futurist assume this relates to a time in the Tribulation of seeming peace that will fool the world into embracing the actions of the Antichrist and lead to his ascendancy as world leader.

The Preterist camp has a few similar explanations as to what this silence represents. The most common and feasible answer is provided by those that see the seals as being a picture of judgment and verdict and not actual events as described in previous posts. This time of silence would be like the foreman of the jury who pauses for effect before the verdict and sentence is read aloud. It is at this point when Jesus has completed the breaking of the seals and now this scroll of judgment can be unrolled and read aloud pronouncing the final judgment on apostate Israel.

This time also coincides with the time in which the angels of the Lord restrain the four winds of judgment from raining down on the city and Temple. This silence may relate to the time of escape for the faithful remnant still residing within the city. This makes sense given it’s placement right after the “sealing” of protection of His faithful in the city of Jerusalem.

Most importantly, it is necessary to understand what the silence may best be referring to. The reader must note that the silence in question here is a silence in “heaven.” This is not a mention of silence on the earth, though it may relate to relative calm and the withdrawal of the Roman army from around the city, but rather a silence in heaven.

The noise previously heard in heaven has been the cries of those who have been killed for the sake of gospel at the hands of the enemies of God and His Church. Their crying out has stopped as the time of the recompense against their persecutors has arrived and they are about avenged.

The timing of the “half hour” may refer simply to a relative short time of calm in relation to the longer time in the book of 3 1/2 years of judgment and tribulation. But one other option may relate to the offering of incense of the prayers of the saints and martyrs spoken of previously and to follow immediately.

The reason an half hour may be in view is because that is the time it took for the priest to perform the act of the incense offering. This solemn, silent ritual involved the priest presenting an offering of incense upon the golden altar while the rest of the Temple remained in perfect silence. This incense was to raise to the heavenlies. This matches what was seen earlier in revelation 5 in relation to the prayers of the saints.

Rev 5:8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints

Now take note as to what these same angels do following the verse we are now considering.

Rev 8:2 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 3And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.

John uses imagery very familiar to the first century reader, especially those aware of the temple rituals and relates it to what was happening in the heavenlies. This makes sense within the confines of scripture as we see in the book of Hebrews the consistent pattern of God showing man in earthly terms and pictures those things which are happening in heaven.

Heb 8:5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”

Heb 9:23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself,

This imagery of the action of the priest delivering the prayers of the people to the Lord through the offering of incense reveals the heavenly action of those prayers being delivered in the heavenlies. These prayers which have been delivered in silence set off again the loud cries of deliverance and, as we will see, sets  of the actual events of judgment against apostate Israel. This time of silence, though, is necessary to set the stage for the forthcoming trumpet judgments. The silences is this great pause and the verdict and sentence is about to be read…

The silence is about to end in a most dramatic fashion!

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