Welcome to a Revelation of Jesus. With this video we will finish the series on the Seven Seals. To set the context for understanding the symbolism of silence in heavenly realms during the hour of trial of the last seal let’s do a quick review.
As we reached the end of the section on the Seven Churches the symbols and Old Testament links showed us that the activity and focus shift from events on earth to the judgment taking place in heaven. This judgment is designed to give the angels and other heavenly beings a chance to review the decisions God has made concerning those whose names are written in the book of life.
As Jesus opens the first four seals, four categories of people whose names were written in the Book of Life are presented for judgment under the symbol of colored horses.
In the fifth seal, the Martyrs are presented as deserving a special place of honor in the judgment. And finally, in the sixth seal, John sees the judgment of three groups who will be alive when Jesus comes: those who will reject Jesus and persecute His followers, the 144,000 who are God’s special messengers during the great tribulation, and a Great Multitude of people from every nation, tribe, and language who respond to the invitation to come out of apostate Babylon and take their place in God’s eternal kingdom.
I would encourage you to watch all of the videos in the Seven Seals series so you can feel comfortable with the concept that right now there is an invisible judgment that is taking place in heaven.
Now let’s look at the Seventh Seal.
It’s only one sentence long. “When [Jesus] opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Revelation 8:1). There have been a lot of speculative ideas floating around about what is going on during the half-hour of silence in heaven. As usual, we want to let the Bible interpret itself.
First, let’s examine the significance of this being the seventh and last seal.
One of the striking patterns of the Book of Revelation is the repeating series of seven—the seven churches, seals, trumpets, thunders, and bowls. In each case, the seventh of the series introduces a theme that is expanded upon in the chapters that follow.
For example, the seventh church ends with Jesus saying, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne” (Revelation 3:21). This is followed by chapters 4-7 in which we see the judgment that makes it possible for the redeemed to sit with Jesus on His throne.
Likewise, the seventh bowl announces the judgment of “great Babylon,” introducing the next three chapters which give details of the judgment of Babylon. The seventh seal that we are studying now mentions “silence in heaven for about half an hour”. According to the pattern, this should be an introduction to what follows, which are 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. We need to find out what hours and silence in heaven symbolize and see how they correlate with the disasters of the Seven Trumpets.
Destructive judgments in the Book of Revelation are portrayed as taking place in a symbolic hour. A good example is the judgment of Babylon. “Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city: For in one hour has your judgment come” (Revelation 18:10).
The judgment of mankind that we have been studying in the Seven Seals also takes place in an hour: “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come” (Revelation 14:7). The most relevant to the Seventh Seal is “The hour of trial, which shall come upon all the world” (Revelation 3:10).
In the book of Job this “hour of trial” is called the “time of trouble”. God asks Job, “Have you seen the treasury of hail which I have reserved for the time of trouble?” (Job 38:22,23). The Greek version of the Old Testament uses the word ora, hour, that Revelation uses for “the hour of trial” in Revelation 3:10 and “half an hour” in the Seventh Seal. The mention of God’s armory of hail correlates with the seventh bowl in which “great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about seventy pounds” (Revelation 16:21).
Some of you can see where I am going with this and wonder why I am assuming that the Seven Trumpets correlate with the Great Tribulation. Let me take a moment to address that.
Clear back in the second Revelation of Jesus video I looked at the models of interpretation. Preterists believe that the trumpets were fulfilled back in ancient Roman times, Historicists expect to see the Trumpets as a review of world history, and Futurists/Dispensationalists want to see how the secret rapture fits in with the Trumpets.
As I mentioned in that video, when we tie ourselves to a model we can end up imposing on the text an interpretation based on our model rather than on what the text actually says. Please bear with me and try to suspend judgment as we look at the transition from the Seals to the Trumpets.
Let me assure you that before we move ahead with the Seven Trumpets we will look carefully at the scriptural evidence to establish the time frame. But for the sake of our study of the Seventh Seal, let me tell you in advance that I believe that the Seven Trumpets take place during the Great Tribulation.
So for now I’m assuming that “the hour of trial which shall come upon all the world” correlates with the Great Tribulation, also called the time of trouble, and begins with the Seven Trumpets. In our previous videos we saw that there are 4 angels that are waiting to release the winds of strife and bring on the Great Tribulation, but they are restrained until “the servants of God [that is, the 144,000] are sealed in their foreheads”. In the sixth seal, we saw the sealing completed; the next scene is the Seven Trumpets.
To summarize what I’ve said so far: There is a pattern in which the seventh of each of Revelation’s series of seven introduces what follows. This means that the Seventh Seal, “silence in heaven for half an hour” is an introduction to the Seven Trumpets.
An hour in Revelation refers to destructive judgments, and most significantly, “the hour of trial which shall come upon all the world” (Revelation 3:10.). The phrase “Half an hour” indicates that the “hour of trial,” is divided into two parts.
The “half an hour” of the Seventh Seal refers to the Seven Trumpets. The corresponding section in the chiasm is the Seven Last Plagues; they constitute the second half of the hour of trial.
The diagram below illustrates the two halves of the Great Tribulation.
During the first “half hour” of the Great Tribulation there will be “silence in heaven”. There are a ton of theories out there about what silence means, but most of them come under the category of “that makes sense” rather than being based on a study of what the Bible actually says.
First of all, does “silence in heaven” indicate a lack of noise in the heavenly courts, or a perception by the people on earth that God is being silent?
In general, heaven has a lot of sounds. For example, the four living creatures who are “around the throne… do not rest day or night, saying:; ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Revelation 4:8-11). “[John heard] the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” (Revelation 19:6).
Could there be a half-hour period when all these songs of praise will cease?
On the other hand, there are often times when from a human perspective heaven is silent.
For example, David pleads, “Fight against those who fight against me… Attackers have gathered against me… they tore at me and did not cease…. they devise deceitful matters… This You have seen, O Lord; Do not keep silence” (Psalm 35:1-25). In this passage we see that David’s enemies are attacking him and God does not seem to be intervening. David interprets this as God keeping silent.
So what is the perspective here?
Is the Seventh Seal focusing on events happening in heaven or events happening on earth? Remember that when we studied the Revelation timeline we found that the Book of Revelation, like the rest of the Bible, actually has two linear timelines.
One focuses on events happening on earth, as we saw in the study of the Seven Churches that covered the history of God’s people from the time of John until the time of the end. The other focuses on events happening in heaven, such as the investigative phase of the judgment that we have been studying in the Seven seals.
When it comes to the Seventh Seal we have already seen that it is a bridge to the Seven Trumpets. The scenes that are presented in the seals take place in heaven. But with the Sixth Seal we see the focus about to shift from heaven to earth with the release of the four winds. The release is delayed until the sealing of the 144,000 is finished, but by the time of the Trumpets the sealing has already been completed. For example, in the fifth trumpet there is a command to “only harm those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4).
In fact, the trumpets begin with fire being cast from heaven to earth (Revelation 8:5), focusing attention on the earthly events that follow. In the next video we will see even more evidence that with the Seven Trumpets the perspective shifts to events on earth, implying that the silence in heaven is not an absence of sound in the heavenly courts, but rather a perception by those living on earth that God is being silent.
Let’s look in the Old Testament to see what silence in heaven means.
In Psalm 83 David cries out, “Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, O God! Don’t you hear the uproar of your enemies? Don’t you see that your arrogant enemies are rising up?” (Psalm 83:1-4). In this passage David’s enemies seem to be prevailing, and David feels like God is being silent by not intervening to stop them.
In Psalm 50 we find the same dynamic, but directed toward unbelievers: “To the wicked God says:… ‘You hate instruction and cast my words behind you. When you saw a thief, you consented with him and have been a partaker with adulterers… these things you have done and I kept silent… Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces” (Psalm 50:16-22).
In this passage God says that the unbelievers seemed to be getting away with their evil deeds and God did not intervene; He says “I kept silent”. But he warns the rebellious ones who use God’s silence as an excuse to ignore Him that if they do not change their ways He will “tear you in pieces”.
In Isaiah 65 He gives a similar warning in to those who hypocritically pretend to be His followers, “I will not keep silence but will repay your iniquities” (Isaiah 65:6).
All of these passages about God’s silence share the same theme: that God sometimes gives those who rebel against Him a period of time in which He is “silent”, in other words, He does not intervene to stop their wickedness. He may even allow them to persecute and attack His followers. But at some point He “will no longer keep silent” in the face of persistent wrongdoing, but will vindicate His followers by repaying the iniquities of their persecutors.
Applying this to the Great tribulation, during the first “half an hour” of the “hour of trial” there will be “silence in heaven” as God gives those who oppose Him and even Satan himself a period in which they will not be restrained. This time of silence correlates with the Seven Trumpets. This seems like a strange thing for God to do, but in future videos we will examine why God allows this.
For God’s followers this will be a time when God may seem to be silent.
Life as they have known it will fall apart. The enemy will seem to be advancing his plans to assert power and dominance, and their prayers for relief will not be answered. Not that God has really left them; Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
During this time they will experience the Holy Spirit empowering them to deliver the powerful messages to accept the everlasting gospel and come out of Babylon. But they will also experience Babylon setting up the image, mark, and number of the beast and the death decree.
As their witness provokes the wrath of Satan’s followers, their prayers will be like that of David, “Do not keep silent, O God!… Don’t you see that your arrogant enemies are rising up? (Psalm 83:1,2). The “silence in heaven” that characterizes the first “half an hour” of the Great Tribulation will be agonizing; think of Jesus on the Cross, whose cry was not because of physical pain, but caused by a sense of separation: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).
It will not just be God’s faithful followers who will be pleading with Him to intervene.
As we saw in the last video, the final Babylon will consist of lukewarm, indifferent Laodiceans who will become desperate and radicalized by the stress and chaos of the Great Tribulation. They will still consider themselves followers of Jesus, and will desperately plead with Him to give them relief from the fearful plagues. But when the tribulation gets worse instead of better, the “silence in heaven” will become intolerable.
Because they have never really had a personal relationship with Jesus and have not allowed the Holy Spirit to transform them, they will be ripe for succumbing to the deceptions that Jesus warned against.
“Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold… false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:11,12,23-25).
This will be a treacherous time, and God’s followers will need to know the scriptures and have a close, trusting relationship with Jesus so that they can recognize His voice and follow His leading. Now is the time for us to learn to walk faithfully with Him in the little trials so that we will be ready for the big trials when then come.
Before we leave our study of the Seven Seals let’s update the timeline to take into consideration what we have learned in this series.
If you haven’t already watched revelation of Jesus 13: Timeline you might want to do so to get the background information. The seals begin with John seeing “a door standing open in heaven” (Revelation 4:1). This phrase links the beginning of the Seals’ chronology to the Philadelphia era, which is the only other place in the Bible where this phrase “a door standing open” (Revelation 3:8) is found.
Next, John hears a voice saying “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this” (Revelation 4:1). This sets the activity on the “in heaven” part of the Revelation timeline. In Revelation chapter four John sees a vision of the heavenly sanctuary; all of the symbols and Old Testament links show that it is a courtroom scene and the judgment is about to begin. In chapter 5 John sees a book sealed with seven seals, which symbolizes the Book of Life.
A mighty angel, Satan, challenges the opening of the book, “proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” (Revelation 5:2). Jesus meets the challenge by presenting Himself as “a lamb as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6), and all of the inhabitants of heaven rejoice, affirming His right to open the Book of Life.
As Jesus opens the seals one by one colored horses appear which symbolize categories of people who will be judged. The living creatures that announce each horse as well as the symbols, colors and riders help us to know what type of people these represent and which will ultimately be granted eternal life.
The fifth seal presents the martyrs, who receive a white robe and a special place of honor in the judgment. With the sixth seal the signs of Jesus’ Second Coming appear, not because this section is portraying His return, but because the people who will be alive at that unique time will have special consideration in the judgment.
As the 144,000 are being sealed, four evil angels with the four winds of strife are restrained until the sealing is completed. Then with the Seventh Seal the scene shifts back to earth as the Seven Trumpets begin. You don’t want to miss the series on the Seven Trumpets. We will be studying events that are going to be taking place soon.
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