SEVENTH SEAL – When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them. (Revelation 8:1-6)
After the interlude of Revelation 7 (up next), the seventh and final seal is opened and initiates the trumpet judgments. This passage also describes the mysterious activities of an angel with a censer full of incense.(1) The opening of the seventh seal is an extremely important event, confirmed by the fact that there was silence in heaven for about half an hour after it was opened.(2) The half hour of silence in heaven echoes Zephaniah 1:7, “be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD, for the Day of the LORD is near,” indicating the Day of the Lord begins with the trumpets.(3)
On the Day of Atonement, the high priest would put incense on the coals in the censer and, with the blood of the sacrifice, enter the holy of holies (Leviticus 16:11–14). But in this scene, the angel put the incense on the altar (presented the prayers before God) and then cast the coals from the altar to the earth. A parallel passage in Ezekiel 10 indicates that this symbolizes God’s judgment. The effects described in Revelation 8:5 substantiate this view. The storm is just beginning (Revelation 4:5; 11:19; 16:18),(4) the birth pains are just beginning.
The events foretold in Revelation and the events foretold in Matthew (the Olivet Discourse) are strikingly similar (see Figure 13.1, below).(5) We should not find these similarities surprising.
Next Up – The Seventh Chapter of Revelation
- Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 8:1–5). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
- Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 950–951). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
- Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 1898). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
- Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 592). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
- Walvoord, J. F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 947). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.