1] When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2] And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. 3] Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which is before the throne. 4] And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. 5] The the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.
6] So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. (NKJV)
This title has nothing to do with the song originally put out by Simon and Garfunkel in the 60’s, which I remember, and later versions, which I do not know or remember. I’d forgotten about the song when I decided on the title for the post.
So, why this title?
How can “silence” have “sound”? Isn’t silence the absence of sound?
Let me tell you a story. I had a friend in Bible College whose family I would visit every so often. One time in particular I remember. The room they put me up in had the air conditioner in the window. It gets hot in Tennessee. Anyway, this one time it was running, very noisily. As morning drew near, someone turned it off. That was what woke me up, that sudden, deafening, silence.
As we come to our text in Revelation, remember the scene John has set: chorus after chorus, anthem after anthem, shout after shout, of praise, adoration and worship continually being voiced by the multitudes gathered around the throne. Then, suddenly,
there was silence in heaven….
Perhaps for the first time ever.
The sound of silence….
No “background music” to set the scene.
Just utter, complete silence.
Seven angels are given trumpets.
Another angel holding a golden censer approaches the golden altar in front of the throne. He’s given “much incense” to offer “with the prayers of all the saints” on the altar. Then he takes the censer, fills it with fire from the altar and hurls it to the earth, which results in noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.
The seven angels prepare to sound their trumpets.
We don’t often think of heaven as having an altar or censers, but Hebrews tells us that the OT tabernacle was modeled on things in heaven, Hebrews 9:24.
It’s interesting that the prayers of the saints are mentioned twice. And by “prayers,” I don’t think John meant those repetitive, formal prayers recited during church services or repeated during quiet times. To be sure, they can be heart-felt and fervent, but I’m afraid that too often our mouths are saying one thing and our mind is thinking of something else.
When the Lord wanted to convince Ananias that it was safe to go find Saul of Tarsus, He said, “[B]ehold, he is praying,” Acts 9:11. Now, Saul had been a zealous Pharisee before his conversion and, no doubt, like that Pharisee mentioned in Luke 18:11, had often “stood and prayed…with himself,” telling God what a great guy he, Saul, was.
What was the difference? Before, he had simply “said” prayers. Now, he was “praying.” He wasn’t just going through the motions; he had literally been stopped in his tracks.
“The prayers of the saints.” Those prayers themselves are described as “incense” in Revelation 5:8.
Without getting into the typology of the Tabernacle and offerings, the incense offered with the prayers of the saints refers to the merit of the Lord Jesus. It is He who makes them presentable to a holy, righteous and just God. That’s why, in Colossians 3:17, we’re told, Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
John brings up a subject we don’t really think about, don’t even like to think about, apparently. Paul mentioned it in Romans 11:22: consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.
Our society and culture is all over the idea of “the goodness of God.” “God is love” is apparently all the theology many people have. And we are thankful that “God is love,” else we’d all be in trouble.
There is more to God than “love.” That same book that mentioned the love of God also said of God, This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all, 1 John 1:5. “This is the message” – not that “God is love,” but that “God is light,” that is, that He is holy, righteous and just. That is the God with whom we have to do, not this sentimental, grandfatherly type that we seem to have today that chuckles over the foibles and folly of His children. Apart from the Lord Jesus, we ARE NOT His children, in spite of what is commonly believed today. We are His subjects, He is our God and King, against whom we are traitorous rebels who are doing everything we can to dethrone Him. We are the subjects of His wrath. There is coming a time when that will be plain to all, when the inhabitants of the earth will have to acknowledge that wrath, Revelation 6:17.
The truth is, apart from the Lord Jesus there is nothing but wrath and condemnation for the unbeliever: He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. … He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him, John 3:18, 36, emphases added.
That’s true of nations, as well. Psalm 9:17 says, The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. History is littered with the ruins of nations that have come and gone. This country will not be exempt. I’m encouraged by recent events that perhaps God has given us a breather, so to speak, but still, there is abundant evidence that the voice of the enemy has not been silenced, only muted a little. Indeed, those same events may stir the enemy up.
Heaven may seem to be silent for the time being. Life goes on. But there is coming a time, sooner or later, when it will speak loudly and clearly, and finally, to the inhabitants of this world.
We do not rejoice in the idea of judgment. God Himself has no pleasure in judgment. Ezekiel 33:11 says, “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.’ And Isaiah 28:21 calls judgment, His unusual work.
Indeed, God has gone to great lengths to make a way of escape from the judgment rightfully due us.
Seeing a mankind that would universally reject Him, He chose from among these rebels a vast number to be saved. For those who object to such an idea, for Him to have chosen only one to be saved would be more than any of us deserve, let alone the countless multitudes that He has chosen.
Having chosen these otherwise condemned sinners to be saved, God sent His Son to take their place under His wrath. The Lord Jesus suffered what we should suffer, who are by nature children of wrath, just as the others, Ephesians 2:3. Because He suffered, there is no more wrath for us, those for whom He died, Romans 5:9.
But there was still something that needed to be done. Because we were dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1, because we once were alienated from the life of God, Ephesians 4:18, and were alienated and enemies of God, Colossians 1:21, God sent the Holy Spirit: God has revealed them to us through his Spirit, 1 Corinthians 2:10.
Our Lord referred to this work of the Spirit in John 3 as the new birth, a birth not of flesh and blood, but of or by the Holy Spirit. Without this birth, we are unable either to see or to enter into the things of God, John 3:3, 5. Without His work, there is no understanding at all of spiritual truth. Religion, yes, spiritual truth, no.
Oh, there is so much more we could say about this. It’s enough for now to say that judgment is coming.
Only those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ will be spared that judgment.
Have you believed on Him?