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“And when He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Revelation 8:1). One of the striking patterns of the book of Revelation is the repeating series of seven—the seven churches, seals, trumpets, thunders, and last plagues. In each case the seventh of the series introduces a theme which is expanded in the following chapters. For example, the seventh plague (Revelation 16:17-21) announces the judgment of “Great Babylon,” and introduces the next three chapters which give details of the judgment of Babylon .[1]

The seventh seal mentions “silence in heaven for about half an hour.” According to the pattern, this should be an introduction of what follows in the next few chapters, which is the seven trumpets. In other words, there is some sense in which the seven trumpets take place in a symbolic “half an hour,” during which there is “silence in heaven.”

The seven trumpets are a series of severe disasters that fall upon nature and people, often destroying a third of what is stricken. In the chiasm outline they are mirrored by the seven last plagues, and in fact the trumpet plagues seem to be a limited version of the seven last plagues.[2]  By correlating texts that have to do with disastrous plagues or judgments, silence in heaven, and hours (“half an hour”), a pattern begins to emerge.

Plague judgments in the book of Revelation are portrayed symbolically as taking place in one hour. For example, the judgments on Babylon take place in one hour (“Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come” Revelation 18:10, see also vs. 17 and 19). The final judgment takes place in a symbolic “hour” (“the hour of His judgment has come” Revelation 14:7).  Most relevant to the seventh seal is the “hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10). 

This “hour of trial” is called the “time of trouble” in Job 38:23. The Greek Septuagint version calls this the “hour” of trouble, using the same root word (ora) which is used for “hour of trial” in Revelation 3:10 and “half an hour” in Revelation 8:1.

The time of trouble or “hour of trial” seems to be divided into two parts. The seventh seal mentions “half an hour,” and is followed by the seven trumpet plagues. During this period heaven is silent—“there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” Apparently this is a period when God does not intervene, because in scripture, when God intervenes he no longer keeps silence. “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; A fire shall devour before Him…He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people…But to the wicked God says:…These things you have done and I kept silent;… But I will rebuke you… Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver” (Psalms 50:3,4,16,21,22). “Behold, it is written before Me: I will not keep silence, but will repay— even repay into their bosom— your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together” (Isaiah 65:6,7).

In these verses we see a period of silence (“I kept silent”) in which God does not intervene, but during this time He gives the wicked an opportunity to “consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces.” In other words, God sends a powerful warning and a call to repentance before he sends His judgments. This time of silence correlates with the “half an hour” in which the trumpet plagues take place. This is followed by the remainder of the “hour of trial” in which God “shall not keep silence, but will repay…your iniquities”— in other words, the time for repentance is over and God sends His judgments. This correlates with the seven last plagues.

The following diagram illustrates the two parts of the “hour of trial” (also called the time of trouble and the great tribulation).








Continue to next section:    THE TRUMPETS

[1]  The seventh church ends with the statement, "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”  The following chapters show the Father on His throne and the judgment drama that allows humanity to sit with Him on His throne.  Likewise, the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15-19) introduces the theme of the final executive judgment (“The nations were angry and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth” v. 18).  This is followed by chapters 12-20 which explain in detail how, why and upon whom these judgments will be meted out.

[2]  For example, the second trumpet involves a mountain thrown into the sea turning a third of the sea to blood, while the second plague is poured on the sea and it all becomes blood.  The third trumpet falls on a third of the rivers and waters and makes them blood while the third plague is poured on all the rivers and springs and they became blood, etc.

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