When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (8:1)
As the rightful heir to the universe, the Lamb took the scroll (the title deed to the earth) from the Father’s hand (5:7). As He unrolled it and broke the first six seals, divine judgments were poured out on the earth. But when He broke the seventh seal a unique response occurred: there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. A review of the visions up to this point makes it clear that John had heard a good deal of noise in heaven. Emanating from God’s throne were “sounds and peals of thunder” (4:5). “The four living creatures … [did] not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come’ ” (4:8), while the twenty-four elders added their song of praise (4:11). In 5:2 John heard a “strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?’ ” In response to the Lamb’s taking of the title deed to the earth (5:5–7), first the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders (5:9–10), then an innumerable host of angels (5:11–12), and finally all of creation (5:13) joined in praising God. When the Lamb opened the first seal, John “heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, ‘Come’ ” (6:1)—as he would when the second (6:3), third (6:5), and fourth (6:7) seals were opened. With the opening of the fifth seal came the cries of the martyrs for vengeance (6:9–10), while the breaking of the sixth seal brought the loud roar of a powerful earthquake (6:12). In the interlude between the sixth and seventh seals, an angel “cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads’ ” (7:2–3). Later in that interlude John saw
a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they [cried] out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (7:9–13)
But after all that loudness, as the full fury of the final judgments is about to be released, silence falls on the heavenly scene. The implication is that when the judgment about to happen becomes visible as the seventh seal is broken and the scroll unrolled, both the redeemed and the angels are reduced to silence in anticipation of the grim reality of the destruction they see written on the scroll. The half an hour of silence is the calm before the storm. It is the silence of foreboding, of intense expectation, of awe at what God is about to do.
And silence is the only proper response to such divine judgment. In Psalm 76:8–9 the psalmist wrote, “The earth feared and was still when God arose to judgment.” Habakkuk declared, “The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him” (Hab. 2:20). “Be silent before the Lord God!” exhorted Zephaniah, “for the day of the Lord is near” (Zeph. 1:7). Zechariah 2:13 commands, “Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord; for He is aroused from His holy habitation.”
While eternal heaven has no time, the apostle John who is seeing the vision does. Each minute of that half hour of silence must have increased the sense of agonizing suspense for John. Heaven, which had resounded with loud praises from the vast crowd of redeemed people and angels, became deathly still. The hour of God’s final judgment had come—the hour when the saints will be vindicated, sin punished, Satan vanquished, and Christ exalted. The greatest event since the Fall is about to take place and all heaven is seen waiting in suspenseful expectancy.
Opening of the Seventh Seal (8:1)
1 After the long interlude of ch. 7, the sequence of the opening of the seals is resumed by the opening of the final or seventh seal. This action provides both a conclusion to the seals and a preparation for the seven trumpets. The praises ordinarily heard uninterruptedly in heaven (4:8) now cease in order to allow the prayers of the suffering saints on earth to be heard: “There was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” Even heaven’s choirs are subdued to show God’s concern for his persecuted people in the great tribulation (8:4; cf. Lk 18:2–8). A Jewish teacher states, “In the fifth heaven are companies of angels of service who sing praises by night, but are silent by day because of the glory of Israel,” i.e., that the praises of Israel may be heard in heaven (cited in Charles, 1:223). But in John’s view, heaven is quieted not to hear praises but to hear the cries for deliverance and justice of God’s persecuted servants (6:10). Most interpreters, however, understand the silence to refer to the awesome silence before the great storm of God’s wrath on the earth (cf. Hab 2:20). A kind of Sabbath pause might be thought of here. (The relation between the seals, trumpets, and bowls is discussed at 8:6.)
The seventh seal (8:1)
With God having sealed his people, we are ready for the Lamb to open the seventh and last seal. What will it be? Another horse and rider? Not quite. Are you ready for this?… The seventh seal is silence. Absolute silence in heaven for half an hour! That is the seventh seal.
It may seem strange, but stop and think about the ground we have covered. The sixth seal consisted of God bringing devastating and crushing judgement on the wicked, but that judgement will not strike his own. They are safe because God has sealed them.
What is the proper response to the judgement of the wicked and the salvation of the righteous? Is it not to stand in awe? And that is precisely what we have in the seventh seal—the silence of awe as God’s people contemplate the holy justice of God burning against the wicked and realize that they would have been recipients of it as well had it not been for Christ.
Having come to the end of the opening of the seven seals, we may capture their meaning and message by thinking of them as answers to a question and to an objection raised by the Christians in the seven churches:
Question: Why is our world as it is?
Seals 1–4: Because God has sent and continues to send certain horsemen into the world.
Objection: But some of our people are dying!
Seal 5: They are OK.
Seal 6: The wicked will be judged.
Seal 7: The righteous will be at rest.
The Seventh Seal: ‘The Rest is Silence’ (8:1)
Seal 6 covered the end of history; and though we have learnt to beware of treating the sequence of John’s visions as the historical sequence of the events they portray, it is hard to imagine that Seal 7 would cover anything other than the events which follow the end of history. When Seal 7 is actually broken open, however, there is silence—a silence which confirms our interpretation of Scene 2. For in this scene Christ is revealing to John what will be the experience of the church in the world; so concerning what will happen after the end of the world, he naturally at this point has nothing to say. There is a seventh Seal; that is, there is another world to come; but the revelations dealing with it are reserved for later Scenes. Meanwhile we are to learn that the church need never expect to be preserved from the common ills of mankind, as long as this world endures; but that God is still on the throne, Christ is still at the centre of all things, and his people are indestructible.
So begins a half-hour of silence. In terms of actual history and eternity, half an hour is nothing. But in terms of a drama depicting them, it is a lengthy interval, in which John can meditate on Scene 2 before Scene 3 begins.
8:1 Jesus the Lamb opened the seventh seal on the scroll, just as he had broken the other six (6:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12). What happened next is best described as a “dramatic pause”—silence in heaven for about half an hour. This surely mesmerized John. The living creatures, the elders, and all the angels—who had without ceasing praised God from the beginning of their creation—now fall silent, perhaps for the first time. Something major is about to happen This is the eerie calm before the storms of judgment blow.
John will not describe his vision in terms of the Judgment Scroll because the heavenly scene shifts from this point on. What he sees and hears better described as angels blowing trumpets rather than as reading the contents of a scroll. Another way to think about this is that the seven trumpet judgments (and seven bowl judgments of chapter 16) are what is written on the scroll. After the seventh seal is broken, the scroll unrolls to reveal its contents
1. And when he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
The seventh seal follows the sixth one and is separated by the interlude of chapter 7. The two seals have a common purpose, namely, the portrayal of God judging the unbelievers. Notice that the sequence of the first four seals pictures horses and their riders. The fifth seal reveals the souls under the altar asking God to avenge their spilled blood. And the sixth seal depicts the wicked calling on the mountains and the rocks to cover them from the wrath of God and the Lamb. The seventh seal is a continuation of the sixth seal, but now there is a period of silence “either preceding or following the final judgment.”
Throughout the Apocalypse, John contrasts the bliss of the saints in heaven and the horror of the wicked when the wrath of God strikes them. This contrast is evident in the second half of the preceding chapter that describes the lot of the redeemed (7:9–17) and in the verses that reveal the lot of God’s enemies on the Judgment Day (6:12–17).
“The opening of the seventh seal, however, cannot follow the sixth in chronological sequence, because the content of that seal portrayed the final day of wrath (6:12–17).” The message of both seals relates to the same event, namely, the judgment of the wicked.
The structure of Revelation shows an ever-increasing, spiraling emphasis on the coming judgment. John pictures the wicked meeting their end when they face the wrath of God (6:17). Then in the interlude of chapter 7, he portrays the sealing of the 144,000 who, triumphing over their tribulation, enter the presence of God. Chapter 8 begins with a period of silence in heaven that is awe-inspiring with reference to God judging his enemies. God hears the ascending prayers of the saints and punishes the wicked. This theme occurring again and again imparts a telescopic structure to the Apocalypse. The recurring theme of the Judgment Day appears at the end of every cycle of the seven churches, the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven plagues.
“The unity of John’s book, then, is neither choronological nor arithmetical, but artistic, like that of a musical theme with variations, each variation adding something new to the significance of the whole composition. This is the only view which does adequate justice to the double fact that each new series of visions both recapitulates and develops the themes already stated in what has gone before.”
And last, the background to the silence in heaven in the presence of God comes from the Old Testament prophets (Hab. 2:20; Zech. 2:13). That silence expressed in human terms of cosmic time, “half an hour,” is not an empty period but is a time of the outpouring of God’s wrath. The time references that John mentions have little relevance in Revelation, because not chronological time but the abiding principle of time is significant. The silence observed in heaven is an awed hush while God executes justice.
8:1The seventh seal on the scroll (5:1) is opened, finally allowing it to be unrolled. Silence in heaven for about half an hour seems to mark a brief but significant break between the unsealing of the scroll (6:1–8:1) and the trumpet judgments (8:6–11:19). This silence is broken only by a heavenly offering and “the prayers of all the saints” (vv. 3, 4). It is, however, the eerie silence before the storm as all of heaven awaits the coming judgment.
the opening of the seventh seal (8:1)
8:1. The opening of the seventh seal is a most important event, confirmed by the fact that there was silence in heavenfor about half an hour after it was opened. The contents of the seven trumpets indicate that they differ from the seven seals. W. Graham Scroggie states, “The trumpets, therefore, do not double back over all or some of the seals, but lie under the sixth seal, and proceed from it” (The Great Unveiling, p. 111). He also holds that the bowls of the wrath of God (chap. 16) “do not double back over the seal and trumpet judgments” (p. 112).
C.A. Blanchard holds the same position: “The series of three sevens are really included in one series of seven, that is, the seven trumpets are included under the seventh seal and the seven bowls are included under the seventh trumpet, so that we have in fact a single series in three movements” (Light on the Last Days, p. 58). The seventh seal accordingly is important because it actually includes all the events from 8:1 through 19:10.
8:1 — When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
Some of God’s judgments and works are so awesome that the only appropriate response is reverent silence. “But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence fore Him” (Hab. 2:20).
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 Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Re 8:1). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.