SILENCE IN HEAVEN
Father, forgive me that I sometimes attempt to manipulate you. I confess my hunger for recognition. Forgive my selfish, sinful heart.
Read REVELATION 8
The Seventh Seal and the Golden Censer
8 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.
6 Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.
7 The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
8 The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, 9 a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
10 The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— 11 the name of the star is Wormwood.[a] A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.
12 The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.
13 As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!”
- Revelation 8:11 Wormwood is a bitter substance.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Remember that the prayers of all the saints are heard at the throne of God.
Once again, Revelation springs a surprise. The opening of the seventh seal does not bring the end of the story, but triggers a new set of seven, this time a sequence of trumpets. Furthermore, there is another completely unexpected event, ‘there was silence in heaven for about half an hour’ (v 1, italics added). We are still catching the echoes of the ear-splitting songs of praise from the previous chapter, but now the voices of angels and saints fade and a stillness spreads across the courts of heaven.
What can this mean? Earlier we heard ‘those who had been slain because of the word of God’ crying out in prayer: ‘How long…?’1 Now, in the silence, an angel presents ‘the prayers of all saints’ before the throne (v 3, AV). Does the silence suggest that God himself needs quietness to receive the petitions, the anguished cries, and the pleading for the kingdom to come from a suffering church? Does this bring home to us the crucial role of prayer and the seriousness with which the Lord takes the intercessions of his people?
There follow four trumpet blasts, triggering a series of calamities on earth. George Eldon Ladd says that these disasters fall upon ‘a civilization which has chosen to give its allegiance to the antichrist rather than to God’s Messiah, the lamb-like Lion’.2 We must be careful in speaking of God’s judgments, but Revelation does warn that sin and rebellion against heaven have serious consequences. These notes are being written during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Few commentators make a connection between the disease and our way of life. Longing for a ‘return to normal’ suggests that our vocabulary no longer knows the word ‘repentance’.
If times of silence are needed in heaven, how much more important might they be on earth?
Gracious God, I know you answer prayer, perhaps not in the way or time I anticipate. Help me to trust you more when you say no, or wait.
1 Rev 6:9,10 2 George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, Eerdmans, 1972, p123
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