Seventh Seal
(Sun, Moon, Stars)

v1: What is John expecting at the opening of the seventh seal. If we compare this time to what has been occurring, he was expecting some big event or events. However, at the opening of the 7th seal, there is nothing. There is silence of about 30 minutes in heaven. Certainly, all in heaven know the awe of what is happening and what is about to occur. So there is silence, almost in reverence. An interesting question is what heaven did the silence occur? Prior to this time, there was joy and praising of God in heaven and war and tragedy on earth. Now in heaven they meditate and pray all in quiet; on earth, the people are left to consider repentance before God's judgments continue. Some will turn to God; many will not.

The interpretations of this scripture run wild. Some of the understandings are:
  • In the OT, the prophets and others cried out why is evil coming out ahead (i.e. there was SILENCE IN HEAVEN). This silence could represent the FINAL silence. Remember the Martyrs asked the same question: why they have still not been avenged?

  • This is a "play" on or further description of the chapter 7 stopping of wrath so that God could accomplish something.

  • This could refer to a brief delay in God’s reception of his people’s prayers for vindication (Ps 50:3, 21; 83:1)

  • This could be a silencing of heaven’s praises so that He can receive His people’s prayers (Rev 8:4)

  • Perhaps more likely, it could be a form of awed worship or fear or grief or shame (Hab 2:20; Zeph 1:7; Zech 2:13)

  • Silence could also reflect the end of the present world to form a new world.

  • This could be similar to the delay in time that occurred when Jesus told the church to wait for the Helper to come. They had to wait. Then a great and powerful thing happened (indwelling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost).

However, the historic description of real Jewish life is what I prefer to go to when there is a question. We have said before, the John who wrote this book was very familiar with the Old Testament. Therefore, the language should be understandable by the practices in those days. Jesus, through John, was speaking to the Jews. God would want to speak in a character to understand. This is a very plausible explanation. There was always a period of silent time (approximately 30 minutes) in the Temple during the burning of incense. The silence was meant to be a time of mourning. Since the angels were burning incense, the silence seems to follow understandable traditional thought. John was extremely knowledgeable about worship and was the writer; Christ has always been trying to fulfill the OT teaching. Therefore, this time of silence just follows as the "correct" and final thing to do.

v2: There are some commentators which say the 2nd verse is misplaced during transliteration process. It probably should be placed the before the 6th verse. It is not critical; but, it does not appear to be significant until the 6th or 7th verse. I do not believe the transliteration was incorrect. However, I believe the flow of the text would have been more smooth to us.

At this point, God chooses the seven angels for the next series of actions God is administering on the earth. There is a general thought that the seven angels are the same as the seven spirits in chapter 1 (Rev. 1:4) [scripture] [commentary] The only problem with that is the angels are not otherwise referred to as spirits; the spirits are not otherwise referred to as angels. In my commentary, I do give a possibility the spirits are angels. Both the seven angels and the seven spirits are before the throne.

After the seven seals, there are the seven trumpets. Trumpets were used then, as now, for several purposes. Some of the purposes are to call an assembly together; to bring the hosts of battle; to drive and increase morale of fighting troops. In this verse they are given to the angels to use to announce a series of important events or judgments. These are very important events that will produce great changes in the world.

v3: There is much discussion on who this angel is. However, there simply is not enough information to determine whether it is a special angel (like Michael) or a working angel to whom the responsibility has been given. That angel stands at the altar holding a golden censor (the item that holds and burns the incense). Incense is given to him to burn.

Incense is a mixture of aromatic spices that are burned in connection with the offering of sacrifices. It consisted of four ingredients (one of which was frankincense) “beaten small” and in equal amounts (Exod. 30:34-36). There were "strange mixtures" not according to the above that were not acceptable (Exod. 30:9). The incense used in worship was to be prepared according to exacting specifications and was to be offered only by the high priest (or, in heaven, the God assigned angel). Review the verse 1 commentary above for the place of incense in the context of what is now happening. The burning of incense was also an offering of prayer (Ps. 141:1, 2; Rev. 5:8). In this context, the prayers are going to the people that will be experiencing the terrible things to come. The prayers, of course, are for those unsaved to turn to God.

v4: The wording of this verse may be a little confusing. The smoke of incense was also called incense. This smoke "with the prayers of the saints" went out of the angel's hand. The inference is the smoke may be the "carrier" of the prayers given by the saints to and for the presently unsaved people.

v5: The angel now takes the censor, fills it with fire from the altar and throws it onto the earth. Afterwards, the sounds must have been deafening of thunder, lightning, and earthquake. There also appears to have been voices or sounds of people. Imagine the suffering already (KJV --> "voices"; NASB --> "sounds"). All these points of description seem to point to confusion, commotions, distresses, and miseries. All of this was coming from the people in the wars which were going on.

It appears the censor has been used for two purposes. Just before, it was a sign of prayer. Now it is an instrument of terror. It is almost as if the prayers are now not heard anymore or that the prayers were in vain. This is a very similar thing done as in Ezekiel (Ezek. 10:2). Coals were spread onto a city to destroy the city. Notice the censor is "filled' with the fire (or coals) from the altar and thrown down. This indicates no incense (or prayers) was thrown. Now the suffering really begins with the blowing of the trumpets.

v6: Now the angels prepare to blow the trumpets. They will be blown sequentially, one at a time. Now the plagues and Judgments of the world will be brought about by the releasing of the angels with trumpets. These judgments will drive many to Christ, judge the sinners, and vindicate the testimony of the saints as to God's holiness, judgment, and ultimate triumph.

This all may be late in the first 3-1/2 years of Trib. In chapters 10-14 there appears to begin the Abomination of Desolation (AOD). (starting the second 31/2 years). The trumpets start before.

Observe the amount destruction that God causes on all judgments. He never TOTALLY damages anything during the trumpets. This still shows mercy and opportunities for conversion. But the people on earth appear to get MORE mad (hardened) at God instead of realizing that God is supreme and they should look to Him.

Hab 2-20; Lev 16:12; Num 16-.46; Exod 19:16; 20:18

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