1 When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. 4 The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. 5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. ~ Revelation 8:1-5
Today, we transition into Revelation 8 and the scene is in heaven where one could hear a pen drop after the seventh seal is opened. When we are silent and waiting, something great inside us keeps on growing, and the silence communicates a much greater degree of anticipation. Silence is not simply the absence of noise because constructive silence creates interest and moves the suspence forward. Silence gives space for God to speak to our hearts.
In Psalm 46 we read, “Be still, and know that I am God.” As those who live by faith in the Lord Jesus, we need the silence of heaven to see the God of the Bible with our hearts. It is in this context that God can best make Himself known to us. The climactic events that will follow this silence will end man’s control and Satan’s rule on the earth. This thirty minutes of silence will be all the more effective at giving those on the earth yet another opportunity to come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The first five seals introduced us to false peace, war, famine, death and vengeance as illustrated by the prayer of the martyrs. And by the time we have gone through the first five seals, hundreds of millions of people across the earth have been killed. Then, the sixth seal gives beginning to the day of the Lord which is the day of God's judgment upon the rebellion of all who oppose God.
Following the opening of the seventh seal there is silence in heaven for about half an hour. This silence comes as a dramatic contrast to the eruptive worship that has been going on in heaven up to this point. Millions of angels, hosts of redeemed humans, and other heavenly creatures have been crying out before the throne of God, and singing His praises. But now, suddenly everything stops, and there is total silence. It is the silence of mystery, the silence of intense anticipation of what is about to happen.
This half hour of silence is the silence of expectancy, the silence of awe and wonder. The margin of suspenseful expectancy seems to us to be brief, but it will seem to be very long for those in heaven and on earth when it happens. Some have even suggested that it is a brief half hour for a few more on earth to repent before the next wave of judgment hits, a brief half hour of merciful suspense.
In v.2 we read, "And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them."
With the opening of the seventh seal, we are introduced to seven angels who have been given seven trumpets to sound. These seven angels, probably archangels, are given the task of sounding these trumpets. The trumpet was the most significant of all the musical instruments of Israel. It's used more in the Bible than any other musical instrument. Twice as many times as a harp and it played a role in the meetings of Israel. When these seven trumpets are sounded, they will result in God's judgment.
In v.3 we read, "Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne."
Many identify this angel as the Lord Jesus Himself. The reason is that in the Old Testament, while Israel was traveling with God through the wilderness, they were led by a great angel called "the Angel of the LORD." Most Bible scholars feel that it was an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ, leading His people through the wilderness. Since Israel is in the forefront again in this book of the Revelation, it would make sense that the Angel of the LORD appears again in connection with the nation of Israel.
This merely underscores the great desire of God to reveal Himself to man. His heart is for us and His heart is only seen by the willing. God desires to connect deeply with each of us through the redemption of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. He pours out His unlimited mercy and compassion, not desiring anyone to perish. From the very moment we received the gift of the Lord Jesus, we received not only His forgiveness but also His perfect righteousness. The Lord Jesus makes us right with God, all at once and for eternity. This is the gospel.
In v.4 we read, "The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand."
Before the angels blow their trumpets another dramatic scene is recorded. Another angel presents the prayers of God's people. In the Scriptures, incense is analogous of the prayers of God's people. In Exodus, the tabernacle contained two altars, one in the outer court was the bronze altar where animals were sacrificed and offered to God for the forgiveness of man's sin.
Then there was the golden altar, much smaller, in the holy place in front of the Holy of Holies. The priest would take a coal from the altar of sacrifice, put it in a little incense burner, a censer that had a little bowl attached to a rope or a chain, and he would walk from the outer court into the holy place where there was the altar of incense. He would put the coal on that altar, sprinkle incense on it, and the incense would rise up as a sweet aroma into the nostrils of God, as it were, a picture of the acceptable prayers of God's people.
David used this idiom, "Let my prayer come before You as the offering and sweetness of incense." And here, it says it's mixed with the prayers of all the saints. Notice it says that they are the prayers of all the saints. All of the prayers past and present are wrapped up and are presented successfully to God who answers them all. There's no prayer uttered by a child of God that is not answered.
There are times when it feels like God is cruel, deferring our hope while fulfilling everyone else’s. God is not in the business of ignoring our prayers. He is waiting to perform miracles in our lives. There are often other pieces which need to come into play for the miracle to come to fruition. And, the patience we display in these moments adds to the outcome of the miracle.
We tend to treat our relationship with God how we treat our relationship with people. We think if we are in God’s good graces, He’ll answer our prayers with a "yes," but when we are not, the answer will be a resounding "no." Our performance-driven relationships can often shape our view of God. But He does not act like us, and His way of thinking is far beyond ours. Sometimes, God will answer our prayers in ways that are the complete opposite of what we had anticipated. This can devastate us, especially when we think our request is in alignment with scripture and His will. It’s difficult to think that His "no" is based on His loving-kindness and our eternal good. This is when we must wrestle and go deeper with Him to be at peace with the situation, but this does not mean that there is no blessing in response to our prayers. And, we must be careful not to mistake a "no" with a "not yet."
In v.5 we read, "Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake."
The seventh seal is God's answer to the prayers of His people for the termination of sin and death. The seventh seal contains all of God's final judgments, and this is described here by way of an earthquake when the angel throws the fiery censer to the earth. Wickedness is the target, and it will be destroyed, and the Lord Jesus Christ will be exalted. At this point, one of the greatest events since the fall of Adam will come to pass. It is so fitting that heaven stands in utter stillness, all of its praise is absolutely silent. The hour has finally come. Those who have long been persecuted will be vindicated, and Satan will be conquered.