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Revelation 8:1–5

“When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (v. 1).

Commentators differ regarding the relationship of John’s vision of the church on earth and on heaven to the seven seals on the heavenly scroll (see Rev. 5–6). John sees the church triumphant immediately after our Lord opens the sixth seal and before He opens the seventh seal (6:12–8:1). Revelation 7’s description of the multitude of believers features greater detail than what we see when the first six seals are opened, so many scholars view chapter 7 as an interlude, a pause before the seventh seal is opened. Others include the vision of believers with what happens in the opening of the sixth seal. Including the vision of the sealed saints on earth and the blessed saints in heaven slightly strengthens the point that God will protect believers from His wrath, since the sixth seal concerns His judgment (6:12–17). However, that point remains true even if chapter 7 is merely an interlude.

In today’s passage, we come at last to the opening of the seventh seal (8:1). Heaven has thus far been anything but quiet, for we have seen the twenty-four elders, the four living creatures, and the departed believers all singing praise to the Lord (4–5; 7:9–12). The silence that accompanies the breaking of the seventh seal, therefore, merits reflection. Zephaniah 1:7 and other texts from the Old Testament prophets call people to silence before the great day of God’s judgment, so the silence in heaven likely has something to do with the coming of the day of the Lord. That judgments follow the opening of the seventh seal would seem to confirm this (Rev. 8:2–13). However, the events of Revelation 8:2–5 indicate that the silence serves other purposes as well.

In keeping with the close association of prayers and incense (Ps. 141:2), John sees angels holding censers filled with incense—the prayers of the saints, which rise before God (Rev. 8:2–4). The silence, then, likely occurs also to facilitate the hearing of the prayers. Our great God is so attentive to the prayers of His people that He is willing to silence heaven to hear them.

The prayers are specifically for judgment on the Lord’s enemies, for when the angel uses the censer to cast fire from the heavenly altar down to earth, signs of divine wrath follow (v. 5). These prayers, in some sense, cause the judgment to occur in light of their connection to the censer and what occurs. In God’s providence, our prayers are powerful and effective.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

We should never doubt the power of prayer in the unfolding of God’s purposes. Here in Revelation, the saints pray for judgment, and judgment happens. Of course, not all our prayers make things happen immediately. However, the Lord does respond to them, and they can effect change in this world. We should pray believing that our prayers matter and that they do effect things.

For Further Study
  • Exodus 32:1–14
  • Proverbs 15:29
  • Acts 9:36–43
  • James 5:13–18

Clothed in White Robes

Four Trumpets of Judgment

Keep Reading Covenant Theology

From the October 2020 Issue
Oct 2020 Issue