Summary: We co-labor and co-reign with God in the coming of His kingdom through prayer.
[Read this first verse and then just sit down and have 1 minute of silence].
1 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
SILENCE IN HEAVEN
Right now, all of us just experienced one minute of silence. And my guess is that we were all at least a bit uncomfortable with that. So just imagine what a half hour of silence in heaven must have been like, especially compared to the jubilant worship that we looked at last week at the end of chapter 7.
So why this silence in heaven? Is it, as Wes Shoemaker suggested on Monday morning, proof that men will arrive in heaven a half hour before women? Or is there another, more significant reason for the silence? In order to answer that question, we need to take a few moments to review the last several weeks of our journey.
You’ll remember that in chapter 5, God is seated on His throne with a scroll in his right hand. That scroll, which is sealed with seven seals, contains God’s plan of judgment and redemption and also serves as His last testament and will. Although John knew the nature of the contents because of the writing on the outside, it is not until all seven seals are removed and the scroll is opened that the contents are completely revealed and the associated actions completed.
We’ve also noted that there is at least some degree of recapitulation or parallelism between the seals, trumpets and bowls. The most convincing evidence of this overlap is the consistency among the descriptions of the seventh in each series which includes peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
Although there just isn’t any way to diagram the relationships between the seals, trumpets and bowls on a nice neat timeline it does appear that these three series look at the same events from three different perspectives, something like this:
I’m hesitant to even go so far as to use this diagram, but as long as it’s clear that I’m not attempting to show the exact timing of the individual seals, trumpets and bowls in relationship to each other, then perhaps this is of some value. Another way to look at it would be something like this.
So why the silence in heaven when the seventh seal is opened? First of all, it is the fulfillment of several Old Testament prophecies regarding the Day of the Lord. We’ll move from the more general to the specific:
Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.
Zechariah 2:13 (ESV)
But the Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth keep silence before him.
Habakkuk 2:20 (ESV)
Although both of those passages clearly connect silence with the Day of the Lord, they don’t tell us a whole lot about the reason for the silence. But this passage from Zephaniah gives us much deeper insight into the reason for the silence:
Be silent before the Lord God!
For the day of the Lord is near;
the Lord has prepared a sacrifice
and consecrated his guests.
And on the day of the Lord's sacrifice -
“I will punish the officials and the king's sons
and all who array themselves in foreign attire.
On that day I will punish
everyone who leaps over the threshold,
and those who fill their master's house
with violence and fraud.
Zephaniah 1:7-9 (ESV)
The reason for the silence is now clear. God is about to bring the Day of the Lord to its final culmination and pour out His final judgment upon the ungodly. When the seventh seal is opened, God’s plan of judgment and redemption is revealed in full and everyone in heaven – the 24 elders, the four living creatures, the great multitude and all the angels - is rendered silent by what they see. This is the ultimate calm before the storm.
To me, this is further evidence that the seals, trumpets and bowls are not chronological. In a moment, as we examine the first four trumpets, we will see that they are limited and certainly not the kind of final judgment that would render all of heaven silent. So it seems unlikely that the silence that accompanies the opening of the seventh seal could occur prior to the events pictured by these trumpets.
As amazing as the silence in heaven is, what is even more amazing is what gives rise to the unfolding of the Day of the Lord. Once again, just as we saw with the first five seals, we are reminded of…
THE POWER OF PRAYER
Let’s continue reading in verse 2:
2 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 3 And 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, 4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. 5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.