Revelation-Part 20

By: Dr. Robert Thomas; ©2001
Robert Thomas looks at the events surrounding the half-hour of silence mentioned in Revelation 8 and suggests several possible meanings for the pause.

Contents

A HALF-HOUR SILENCE IN HEAVEN: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

We come to the eighth chapter in our study of the Book of Revelation. In chapter 7 we have taken a side-trip to learn about the 144,000 special servants of God and the crowd so large that no one could count how many were in it. We now return to the seal-sequence and the seventh seal that follows the sixth seal at the end of chapter 6. The seventh seal in Revelation 8:1 is next in the chronological sequence of prophetic events signified by the seals: “And when He (the Lamb) opened the seventh seal, there came a silence in heaven for about a half hour.”

The Silence Itself

Suggestions about the meaning of the half-hour silence have included (1) silence at the beginning of the Millennium, (2) a brief cessation in judgment, (3) a temporary suspension of revelations granted to John, (4) a pause in the heavenly praises to allow the prayers of the saints to be heard, and (5) a dramatic pause to symbolize the awe and dread with which the heavenly hosts await the events about to occur. Of these five viewpoints, the last is the most probable in light of the immediate context of chapter 8. The hushed 30- minute expectancy makes the judgments about to be announced more dreaded. The magnitude of human suffering to be announced is about to graduate to a significantly higher level. This cessation of revelatory activity serves notice of that escalation in judg­mental activity.

The structure of Revelation becomes a very important issue beginning with the seventh seal, because that point also marks the beginning of the seven-trumpet series. Relating the trumpets to the seventh seal is vital to an understanding of how the Lamb revealed to John the visional portion of the book—Revelation 4:1–22:5. A “recapitulation” view of that structure holds that the seals and trumpets are chronologically simultaneous. A “tele­scopic” or “dovetailing” viewpoint takes the seven trumpets as composing the seventh seal and hence as chronologically subsequent to the first six seals. The same two viewpoints extend to an analysis of the relationship of the bowl judgments of chapter 16 also, recapitu­lation taking them as simultaneous with the seals and trumpets and telescoping taking the bowls as comprising the seventh trumpet. Later discussion in our series of articles will devote more attention to the relationship between the trumpets and bowls.

The telescopic view of the book’s structure has stronger evidence in its favor. Immedi­ately following the half-hour silence in 8:1 comes the vision of the angels with their trum­pets (8:2). The text assigns no earthly content to the seventh seal except the obvious impression that seven trumpets furnish the content of the seventh seal. The seven angels with trumpets are intimately interwoven with the seventh seal and are an integral part of its action since they are introduced in 8:2 and reintroduced in 8:6.

In addition, the significant increase in intensity of the judgments in the trumpet series compared to the intensity of the first six seals adds confirmation to defining the seventh seal as composed of the seven trumpet judgments. As the seventieth week prophesied by Daniel advances toward its climax with the personal return of Christ, one would expect the outpouring of God’s wrath to become more severe in its consequences for those who rebel against His rule over the earth. This expectation would fit the above conclusion that the trumpet judgments come subsequent to the first six seal judgments.

Additional reasons for adopting the telescopic view of Revelation’s structure relate to the broader context of the book and are too detailed to include in this month’s article, but Excursus 3—“The Structure of the Apocalypse: Recapitulation or Progression?”—at the end of Revelation 8–22 as noted at the end of this article contains a detailed discussion of those reasons.

Sequel to the Silence

John saw seven angels standing before God and receiving seven trumpets at the con­clusion of the period of silence (8:2). Another angel with a golden censer arrived and stood at the altar of incense in heaven where God gave him much incense to offer on that altar. The incense was to benefit the prayers of all the saints (8:3). The altar of incense and the prayers of saints in heaven play a large part in setting the stage for the judgment of God against the world in the closing days just before and including the return of Christ to earth. As noted in an earlier study commenting on Revelation 5:8, incense is a symbol for the sweet fragrance of prayer that God enjoys. The saints whose prayers are associated with that fragrance belong to the future period when saints will become objects of the wrath of the false Christ. The persecuted remnant of that day will cry out to God for vindication. They will suffer martyrdom because of their faithfulness to Christ, and appear periodically in Revelation, praying for God’s judgment against His enemies (e.g., Rev. 6:9-11). In crying out for vindication against their persecutors, these saints in heaven are free from any selfish motives that would possibly affect the prayers of mortals on earth if they were to pray such prayers. Their prayers represent the will of God to judge sin and therefore be­come a part of God’s program in expediting His punishment against mankind. For further details regarding these prayers, see “The Imprecatory Prayers of the Apocalypse” in the section of Revelation 1–7 noted at the close of this article.

Revelation 8:4 notes the rising of the incense before God with the prayers of the saints, but Revelation 8:5 describes angelic action in casting fire from the altar of incense into the earth. The resulting impact on the earth is devastating as the earth suffers the conse­quences of “peals of thunder and voices and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” These comprise the “storm theophany” that produce the frightening effects as already described in connection with Revelation 4:5.

Like the half-hour silence of 8:1, the storm theophany anticipates worse sufferings to come for earth’s inhabitants, the symbolical enactment of which will be represented in the seven trumpet judgments. The scene is now set for the seven angels with their seven trumpets to prepare to sound (8:6).

John in describing his visions has now prepared his readers for the next stage in God’s temporal judgment against a rebellious world. Our earlier discussions have shown how the first six seals have portrayed the outpouring of God’s wrath during the first three and a half years of Daniel’s prophetic, seventieth week. We can only conclude that the opening of the seventh seal, which is comprised of the seven trumpet judgments, reveals to us events of the last half of that week, the period of the Great Tribulation described by Jesus as follow­ing the Abomination of Desolation (Matt. 24:15, 21; see also Rev. 2:22; 7:14).

God’s holiness is so perfect that He cannot tolerate sin in His creation. He must even­tually deal with it, because as the prophet has written, His “eyes are too pure to approve evil” (Hab. 1:13). Revelation gives us a picture of the gradual process He will follow in removing sin from His creation. Of course, any individual has the opportunity to escape this great end-time purging. If he/she places personal trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins, that person will never endure the wrath of God, because Christ accepted that wrath in his/her place. The only sensible course for anyone who has not as yet accepted Christ as substitute is to do so immediately, before God’s wrath begins to fall.

Note: For more details about the seventh seal, the seven trumpets, and the struc­ture of Revelation, see my discussion in Revelation 8–22 (Moody Press, 1995), pages 1-14, 525-543. For more details about the altar of incense and the prayers of the saints, see my discussion in Revelation 1–7 (Moody Press, 1992), pages 517-524. To order either of these volumes, you may contact Grace Books International at (800) GRACE15 or www.gbibooks.com.

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3 Comments

  1. eaglet on March 16, 2016 at 9:54 pm

    Hi John,

    I just want to give you a very important key point in the book of revelation that will somehow give you another idea of the timeline for the book of Revelation. I have been a prophecy student for only six years now and I hope this will not be a cause to ignore my different view on the timeline. I am just hoping that you would help me debunk my view and convince me that I am wrong, My intention is really to find the truth and have this truth shared to others especially during this deceptive end times.

    First of, here is my understanding of the Tribulation period:

    Jer. 30:3-7 does not say that the time of Jacob’s trouble is 7 years.

    The first 3.5 years was already fulfilled by Jesus Christ as described in Daniel 9:27. Through the death of Jesus, the sacrifice and offering was abolished. On the east wing of the temple, the abomination and desolation referred to here is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Daniel 11:31,32 is where the Antichrist will appear at the Temple to desecrate it by his armies, and to set up the abomination and desolation, and this is the one that Jesus warned us of on Matthew 24:15. Jesus confirms His Holy Covenant for 1 seven, the remaining half will be in the future. In the case of the Antichrist, he will forsake and vent his fury on the Holy Covenant for 3.5 years, Daniel 11:30, his version of Daniel 9:27. Remember that Satan will counterfeit all that is prophesied in the end times to make the antichrist appear as the messiah. The 7 years of tribulation view is being promoted by Satan maybe because there will be a 3.5 years fake tribulation and a dummy antichrist.

    In order that I will not somehow offend or create an uproar on this, in case, here is a biblical principle to guide us:

    Matthew 16:15-17
    15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

    Six verses after…

    Matthew 16:23
    Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

    The same mouth that glorified Jesus Christ is the same mouth that insulted Jesus Christ. Most of the time we put ourselves in Peter’s shoes.

    So you see, not all truths or revelation are given all to just one prophecy student. We are all vessels and channels of God’s truth and revelation depending on the nature of our heart’s desires. Let us help one another to put the puzzle pieces together as one Body of Christ.

    If we are searching for truth to proved that we are right, there is a certain kind of spirit that guides our understanding of scriptures. But if we are searching for the truth to gain knowledge, wisdom, and freedom, for us and for others too, then that is another kind of spirit.

    Now here is my take on the Half Hour Silence in Heaven which will make an entirely different view on the timeline of Revelation:

    1. 1 John 2:18, Dear children, this is the LAST HOUR; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, EVEN NOW many antichrists have come. THIS IS HOW we know it is the LAST HOUR.
    2. Revelation 8:1,When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about HALF AN HOUR.

    We know that the writer of 1John and Revelation is John the Apostle. It is obvious that John holds the same understanding of what hour was to him both for the above scriptures that he revealed. So is it safe to assume that the LAST HOUR that he is telling us is 2,000 years in duration assuming that the antichrist will appear in our time? Does HALF AN Hour could mean then as 1,000 years? If so, then it could probably mean that the HALF AN HOUR silence in Heaven is the Millennium. What do you think?

    So with this key point, definitely the timeline will be entirely different from the popular and prevailing ones. Please bear with me as I present to you my timeline:

    Seals 1 to 4 begun at Ascencion/Pentecost and continuous on up to the end of Seal 6, which is the great tribulation (As Jesus described that wars, death from wild animals, economic woes, famines, pestilence, earthquakes will continue on before the end). the Bowl Judgement and Armageddon happening at the end of the Great Tribulation. Rev. 6:1-8,13-17 (check the similarity of the words “the island fled away and the mountains cannot be found”)

    Seal 5 begun from death of Stephen up to the last Saint to be martyred in the Great Tribulation. Rev. 6:9-12

    Seal 7 as i explained above, begins at the start of the millennium Rev. 8. The Half Hour silence in Heaven is the millennium, a thousand year of peace on the Earthly Realm and Half Hour Peace in the Heavenly Realm. At the end of the millennium, Satan will be released from the Abyss (Rev. 20:7) to deceive the nations again.

    Trumpets 1 to 4 happens at the end of the millennium, it is the destruction of a third of trees, grass, sea, waters, and a third of the celestial objects are struck.

    Trumpet 5 is when Satan was released from the Abyss and Locust-Like Creatures torturing those who does not have the seal of God on their foreheads (entirely different from those with the mark of the beast on their foreheads which were described in the bowl judgement happening at the end of the great tribulation, while those who are sealed by God were present at the Great Tribulation and lived on through the Millennium).

    Trumpet 6 is Gog and Magog to kill a third of mankind, led by Satan. Ezekiel 38.

    The Angel and the Little Scroll Rev. 10, which is entirely different from the Scroll and the Lamb of Rev. 5, is about PROPHESYING AGAIN by the Two Witness at the end of the millennium. Probably Moses and Elijah could be them, their Spirit indwelt on the two prophet that will be anointed on that time. ( Like John the Baptist having the Spirit of Elijah)

    SOULS under the ALTAR, because they are still on earth/grave Rev. 6:9 (Heaven is my throne and the Earth is my footstool Isiah 66:1), is different from the SAINTS on the GOLDEN ALTAR before the Throne, because they lived on throughout the Millennium Rev. 8:3,4

    The Saints will be the Royal Priesthood during the Millennium Rev. 20:6, Jesus Christ as their King. They were not judged yet but they were given authority to be Judges Rev. 20:4 (like those in the Book of Judges). The Saints will only then become kings over the nations after they received their crowns at the Great White Throne Judgement Rev. 21:24.

    The Two Witness, I believe are the ones who will cause all the plagues of the Trumpets Judgement at the end of the Millennium. (Like during the time of Moses, and again this time the Remnant Israel will go through it again) Rev 11:4-6

    Trumpet 7 is the Great White Throne Judgement, Rev.11:15-19, Rev. 20:11-14 , the second resurrection, where the dead will be judged(sheep and goat, based on Works written in the books that were opened and on the names that were written in the Book of Life), and the saints and prophets judged for their rewards (crowns will be given to them). Judgement Seat of Christ (termed by Paul) and The Great White Throne (termed by John) is the same. Throne and Seat is the same in meaning. (John and Paul, during their time, were not given the opportunity to collaborate on this, given their situations)

    What makes Seven Bowls different from the Seven Trumpet that made it appear happening in two different timelines? Here are my keypoints.

    Bowls happens at the Great Tribulation / Trumpets happens at the end of the Millennium

    Bowls : Mark of the Beast
    Trumpets: Those who does not have the Seal of God (No mention of mark of the beast)

    Bowls : Beast and False Prophet
    that come out from the Sea/Earth
    Dragon hurled DOWN from Heaven
    Rev. 12 & 13
    Trumpets: Angel(Satan/Beast) of the Abyss (Bottomless Pit) / Beast (Satan/8th King) that come UP
    from the Abyss (Rev. 20) Apollyon, Abaddon

    Bowls : No mention of Abyss
    Trumpets: Abyss mentioned Thrice.

    Bowls : Gog and Magog in Armageddon Ez. 39
    Seven Years of Burning Weapons and
    Seven Months of Burying carried over
    through the Millennium,
    God’s Holy Name made known to Israel
    Corpse given to the Birds
    Trumpets: Gog and Magog Ez.38, Unwalled City,
    People living in Safety, Recovered from War,
    God’s Holy Name made known to the Nations
    No Mention of Corpse given to Birds

    Bowls : Before Armageddon, Dead in Christ/Saints came to life Rev. 16:15,
    the rest of the dead did not come to life Rev. 20:5
    so they were not judged yet.
    This is the First Resurrection
    Trumpets: White Throne Judgement, Rev. 20:11
    Time to judge the Dead and Reward the Saints and the Prophets, Rev. 11:18
    This is the Second Resurrection

    Bowls : Tremendous earthquake, cursed God Rev.16:17-20
    Trumpets: Severe Earthquake, gave Glory to God Rev. 11:13

    I placed the Resurrection of the Dead in Christ and the Rapture of the Alive in Christ in between the Sixth Bowl and the Seventh Bowl. Here are the Key Verses:

    Rev. 21:9 is about The New Jerusalem, the Bride, the Wife (Married already) of the Lamb (this is after the end of the Millennium, and start of the New Heaven and New Earth)

    9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
    (I hope we don’t have another bride in mind, like what pretribbers did to Matthew 24:29,30, making it the second rapture/resurrection, which they say is still an integral part of the first resurrection of Rev. 20. Jesus will get His Bride one time only, not several times)

    Question:
    Why does it have to be ONE OF THE SEVEN ANGELS WHO HAD THE SEVEN BOWLS, be the one appointed by Jesus to show to John the Bride? Why not one of the seven angels who had the trumpets, or Michael, or Gabriel, or any other Angels?

    Answer:
    Checkout Rev. 16:12-15
    12 THE SIXTH ANGEL POUR OUT HIS BOWL on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. 13 Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.

    15 Behold I come like a THIEF! BLESSED is the ONE who stays awake (WISE VIRGINS? AND/OR THE WEDDING GUESTS?) and remains clothed (OIL/HOLY SPIRIT), so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.” Matthew 22

    To make the above more logically valid, here is another scriptures to back it up:

    Rev. 16:17-19
    17 The SEVENTH ANGEL poured out his BOWL into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since mankind has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. 19 The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered BABYLON THE GREAT and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath.

    Rev. 17:1
    17 ONE of the SEVEN ANGELS who had the SEVEN BOWLS came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the GREAT PROSTITUTE, who sits by many waters.

    Please study who is the Bride. Make a comparison on the description of the 144,000 as the Bride and as Virgins in its natural and spiritual sense, then the description of the New Jerusalem in its sense of 12’s. Study also who are the Wedding Guests and who are the Nations that will be ruled by the kings (Saints?) in the New Heaven and New Earth.

    The Book of Revelation is the story of God’s plan of salvation, grace, and justice to humanity in the end times and through eternity. This is where we can truly see the big picture. Match it with Jesus Christ’s Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24. Then the 10 Virgins (144,000/Tribulation Saints?), the Talents of the Servants (Wedding Guests/Dead in Christ?), The Sheep and the Goats (Risen Dead judged, some saved, some thrown in the lake of fire, in the White Throne Judgement/The Nations in New Heaven and New Earth?) in Matthew 25.

    I hope this one makes sense to you, though this one is a new and radical view of eschatology, and I have not encountered of anything like this through my searches in so many prophecy websites I visited. I would appreciate your comment and more importantly, your loving correction of this view.

    Your Brother In Christ,
    Eaglet

    • Soiree on March 25, 2016 at 10:54 pm

      Very interesting. I got you up the 16:12-16.

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