Author: Ron Graham

Book of Revelation

The Silence in Heaven
—Revelation 8:1-5

Times of Tribulation (Revelation 6-11) >Seven Seals >7th seal >Silence before the trumpets

You have now reached Revelation chapter eight where John sees the Lamb break the seventh and last seal of the book described back in chapter 5.

At the breaking of the seventh seal, John sees seven special angels, each of whom is given a trumpet. However, before any of the trumpets are sounded, John hears "a silence in heaven" and sees a quiet vision of prayers ascending to God from his saints, helped by the hand of another angel.

1 Silence of the Seventh Seal

Revelation 8:1

seventh "...the Lamb broke the seventh seal" (Revelation 8:1). This is the last of the seals that were on the book held by the Lamb (Revelation 5:1). We might expect the seventh seal, like the seventh day, to be one of rest. Instead, to our horror, it reveals yet another litany of sufferings!

silence "There was silence in heaven for about half an hour" (Revelation 8:1). This symbolises that Christians may enjoy some respite from suffering and tribulation, as for example did the first Christians after they were persecuted (Acts 9:31). However, in this world, no respite is permanent, and we should be prepared for new problems to arise. And how better to prepare for suffering and trials than to pray? Thus John sees in the silence a beautiful vision of prayers to God from his sanctified people (Revelation 8:3-4).

2 Seven Angels, Seven Trumpets

Revelation 8:2

angels "I saw the seven angels who stand before God" (Revelation 8:2) Elsewhere these are called the "seven spirits" (Revelation 1:4, 5:6). Remember, there are seven churches addressed by the Revelation (Revelation 1:4). Each spirit or angel is a representation of the Holy Spirit's personal work through prophets in each of the seven churches, delivering to them the God-breathed testimony —the gospel or “good news” of Jesus — in times of tribulation. Of course, these seven churches and their angels are representative of all the churches of Christ world wide and throughout the Christian era who follow the gospel of Jesus.

trumpets "seven trumpets were given" (Revelation 8:2) . Each angel receives a trumpet. These trumpets are not sounded until the silence ends. When sounded, the trumpets will represent the preaching of the gospel of Christ in troubled times. Note that these angels and their trumpets are not malicious as some mistakenly interpret them to be. A woe occurs at the time a trumpet sounds, but the trumpet does not cause the woe.

In the last verse a flying eagle laments the three woes that are to come "because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet" (Revelation 6:13). However, I think this is meant only in the sense that the sound of each trumpet must be accompanied by a vision of woe, not that the trumpet sound is the cause of the woe. Because there are more trumpets to sound, there must be more woes to come. These trumpets represent the gospel of hope sounded out in a spoiled and troubled world.

3 Altar and Incense

Revelation 8:3-4

altar "Another angel came and stood by the altar" (Revelation 8:3). In chapter seven, we saw that the altar symbolized the grace of God in giving up his only begotten Son to become a sacrifice for sins. He was "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29, Revelation 6:9). Here again, in chapter eight, the altar appears, representing the grace of God. He succours those who, in their tribulations, share the sufferings of Christ —a concept well explained by the apostle Peter (1Peter 4:1,12-19) and by Paul (Romans 8:16-19). Christians regard suffering as "a messenger of Satan to torment" (2Corinthians 12:7). Job's sufferings, for example, were a persecution by Satan (Job 1:6-12ff). So are ours.

incense The angel was given "much incense" which he in turn gave to the prayers that were on the altar "and the smoke of the incense... went up before God out of the angel's hand" carrying with it the prayers of the saints (Revelation 8:4). This beautiful scene symbolizes the grace of God in providing two intercessors, Christ our high priest, and the Holy Spirit who dwells in us and helps us to pray as we ought (Romans 8:26-27,34-35). When The Son and the Spirit give their intercession to our prayers, those prayers become acceptable to the Father. So we may know in troubled times that our prayers ascend to God. The smoking incense in the vision represents such prayers.

The incense representing the prayers of the saints, and the trumpets representing the gospel of Christ, show the wondrous way in which earth is connected to heaven. We approach God through prayer, and he speaks to us through the gospel. Communication from the Heavenly Father to man, and from man to the Father, is enacted by God's holy people, in their preaching and praying —both being facilitated by the Holy Spirit and Christ the Son.

4 Thunder, Lightning, Earthquake

Revelation 8:5

thunder [ TRANSITION ] The golden censer is now empty and the angel fills it with fire from the altar and throws it to earth. The silence in heaven and the time of quiet prayer suddenly ends with "peals of thunder... flashes of lightning, and an earthquake" (Revelation 8:5) The visions of tribulations are about to begin. The seven angels prepare to sound their trumpets (Revelation 8:6).