Revelation 8:1

Sermon preached on December 2, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Just before the great tsunami hit Thailand on December 26, 2004 some people recognized the danger. One woman on the beach said that everything was calm but she noticed that the ocean was withdrawing. The water on the beach was flowing out, like when the tide goes out, but it was going out much faster than it would with a tide. She remembered that she had been taught in school that was a sign that a giant tidal wave was coming. She warned others on the beach and many lives were saved because they raced to safety before the tsunami hit.

You've all heard the phrase,

"the calm before the storm".

Sometimes that's exactly what happens. Before a great storm there is sometimes a perfect calm. Sometimes it's a strange calm, eerie, so that people know there's something unusual about it.

Our text describes something like that. We come to the seventh seal and we read, (Revelation 8:1)

"When he opened the seventh seal,
there was silence in heaven for about half an hour."

There is silence in heaven. In a way this silence might seem unusual, in the sense of being anti-climatic. This is the seventh seal. The sixth seal showed us those in rebellion against Jesus fleeing from God's coming. They cry out to the rocks and mountains to hide them from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. Everything seems set for something really dramatic in the seventh seal. There we might expect to see the Great Judgment, or the establishment of the new heaven and the new earth. Instead, we have a surprise—silence. Silence in heaven.

What does this mean? There is no shortage of ideas.
Some see this silence as parallel to the primeval silence that greeted the first creation. So they say that here we have silence before the re-creation of all things. But in Genesis 1 we're not really told about a 'silence' in heaven. But it's an interesting theory. Others say that there is silence in heaven so that the prayers of God's people can be heard. Jewish tradition held that in the fifth heaven angelic beings praise God at night but are silent during the day so that the praises offered can be heard by God. (Beale, Revelation, p. 451) At first that may seem like bad theology—God doesn't need silence in order to hear or consider our prayers. But sometimes symbolism like that drives home an important point—that our prayers are important to God. If you look at verses 3-5 it's clear that this silence is in some way related to the prayers of the saints. Still others see the silence as a dramatic pause because all the seals are now open.

Those theories are all interesting and they all contain elements of truth. In fact, they all point in the same direction and show that

the heavenly host is in awe of God and what He is about to do.

They are standing amazed at God. This does not seem to be merely amazement at His glory, His majesty, His holiness, His purity—and other characteristics for which the heavenly host are always praising God. This silence is something very unusual. It seems tied to what God is going to do on the earth.

How unusual is this silence? It's very unusual. Heaven, the place of God's throne is usually a hive of activity—specifically of praise to God. For example, in Revelation 4:8 we read,

"Each of the four living creatures
had six wings and was covered
with eyes all around, even under his wings.
Day and night they never stop saying:
'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come."

Notice that it says that they never stop praising God. But for this half hour—they stop verbalizing their praise. Except for this half hour—their praise is vocal. Heaven is a very busy place, filled with sounds of praise, of the glory of God.

The praise of Revelation 4 and 5 reminds us of Isaiah's vision in Isaiah 6. The seraphs were flying around the throne and, (verses 3-4)

"they were calling to one another:
'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.'
At the sound of their voices
the doorposts and thresholds shook
and the temple was filled with smoke."

Not only was there the sound of praise—but some of the foundations were shaking and making noise.

Heaven, as it is revealed to us in Revelation is a place filled with the sounds. Most of them are sounds of praise, but there are other noises as well. Revelation 4:5 says,

"From the throne came flashes of lightning,
rumblings and peals of thunder.
Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing."

Rumblings and peals of thunder, the blazing sound of fire—these are the sounds that are heard from the throne.

Not only that, but the sounds of praise are heard throughout heaven. We saw from chapters 4 and 5 that there were ever-widening circles of creatures praising God. We saw how the four living creatures never stop praising God. In 4:9 we read that whenever the four living creatures given glory, honor and thanks to God, the 24 elders fell down before the throne and worship God. They acknowledged His worthiness to receive glory and honor and power because He created and sustains all things. In chapter 5 we saw the Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, taking the scroll. When He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before Him and sang a new song to the Lamb. They praise Him for the salvation He has provided. When they do that the whole heavenly host of angels—ten times ten thousand—respond. They praise the Lamb in a loud voice, singing, (Revelation 5:12)

"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!"

In response to that, every creature in heaven, and earth, and under the earth sing praise to God and the Lamb.

Heaven is a place filled constantly filled with the sounds of praise, with the sounds of the glory and majesty of God—with one choir praising God and another choir responding to it's praises.

So this silence should give us great pause. It heralds something important.
It's like all the heavenly host stops. They are in awe of God and what He is going to do.

The fact that this silence relates to what God is going to do is clear from other passages of Scripture that relate silence to the judgments of God on the earth.

In the Bible, silence is often associated with God coming in awful judgment.

For example, in Zephaniah 1:7–10 we read,

"Be silent before the Sovereign Lord,
for the day of the Lord is near.
The Lord has prepared a sacrifice;
he has consecrated those he has invited.
On the day of the Lord's sacrifice
I will punish the princes
and the king's sons and
all those clad in foreign clothes.
On that day I will punish all
who avoid stepping on the threshold,
who fill the temple of their gods
with violence and deceit.'
'On that day,' declares the Lord,
'a cry will go up from the Fish Gate,
wailing from the New Quarter,
and a loud crash from the hills."

God tells them that He is going to come in judgment and that He wants all the earth to be silent before Him. We see this theme in Zechariah 2 as well. The chapter is about God's future judgment on Babylon and how God will make His people safe. Verse 13 says,

"Be still before the Lord, all mankind,
because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling."

In our text this silence is an interlude between the sixth seal and the seven trumpets. The sixth seal had unbelievers fleeing in terror from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. In chapters 8 and 9 we have the seven trumpets which inflict incredible destruction on the inhabitants of the land. The majority of them have to do with 1/3's. When the first angel sounded his trumpet, a third of the earth was burned up. When the second angel sounded his trumpet, a third of the sea turned to blood, a third of the creatures in the sea died and a third of the ships were destroyed. It goes on like that. This is an intensification from some of what had gone before. For example, when Jesus opened the fourth seal, the rider on the pale horse, Death and Hades, was only given power over a fourth of the earth. But with the trumpets, it's an intensification from that. Now a third are affected. God's judgments upon the earth are intensifying. The terrible end for those who are in rebellion against God is fast approaching. Indeed, in Revelation 8:13, between the fourth and fifth trumpets, we read,

"As I watched, I heard an eagle
that was flying in midair
call out in a loud voice:
'Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth,
because of the trumpet blasts
about to be sounded by the other three angels!'"

Those in heaven are silent before God as He prepares to come in judgment.

So the great lesson here is that

you should be in awe of what God is going to do to save His people and make them safe. You should be in awe of His judgments against His enemies.

Now many of these things are mysteries to us. We only know about them in general terms. The details that we do know, the things that are happening today—often they don't make sense to us. So we're not in awe of God. We sometimes actually doubt Him. We're puzzled, perplexed and disappointed in God.

Such should never be. Christians, God is here showing you what great hope and confidence in the future you should have. Who is rousing Himself? Who is acting? Who is saving you? Who is going to set everything right? He is the One before whom all heaven is silent.

Do you stand in awe before God like you should? Or do you profane His name? The command not to take the Lord's name in vain refers to more than what comes out of your mouth. It has to do mainly with your heart, your attitude, your thoughts about God.

A lot of people question God concerning His judgments. God says to them, "Be silent before me!"

One of the implications of this is that what He is going to do is so awe inspiring that any words that we have are inappropriate because they will fall short of the great reality.

I mean, if heaven is silent before God—what does that mean for you? There's no sin in heaven and the heavenly host is silent before Him. How much more, we, who are sinful, who have sinful attitudes, who tolerate sin, who have no idea how despicable and vile sin is—how much more should we be quiet before God and His judgments.

The book of Habakkuk is a book about judgment—judgment on Judah because of the sin of the people. The prophet could understand God's judgment on the people of Judah. Chapter 2 is God's answer to the prophet's question about His judgments on the unjust, the depraved, the idolatrous—and the woes that come upon them. God concluded His reply with these words, (verse 20)

"the LORD is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him."

Job learned that lesson. Job had all kinds of questions for God. In Job 23:3–4 Job said,

"If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go
to his dwelling! I would state my case before him
and fill my mouth with arguments."

Job was the most righteous man on the face of the earth. How he was suffering! Job thought he had a case against God. But did he? No. Was God treating Job, the most righteous man on the earth, unjustly? No. God couldn't treat Job worse that He deserved. If God did that He would be unjust. But God is not unjust. God always acts righteously.

Job learned his lesson. After God appeared to Job, Job said, (Job 40:4–5)

"I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth."

In Job 42:3–6 Job said,

"[You asked,] 'Who is this that obscures my counsel
without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things
I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
['You said,] 'Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you shall answer me.'
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."

Christians, be in awe of God and His judgments. He knows what He is doing. He is going to defeat His enemies and save you in a manner that at times make your words inappropriate, inadequate. The best thing for you to do is be silent before Him, to be in awe of His works and to meditate on what He is doing.

The second thing you should see about this silence is that it

is closely related to the prayers of the saints.

In verses 3-5 of chapter 8, just a couple of verses after our text, we read,

"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."

In the Bible silence and the prayers of God's people are often mentioned in the same context. We see that here in our text.

If our prayers are related to the silence in heaven I think it has to do with awe that our prayers should be related to God setting all things right.

Our prayers, are they important in the grand scheme of things? Yes. We saw this in the fifth seal. There John saw the souls of the martyrs under the altar. They had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They cried out, (Revelation 6:10–11)

"'How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true,
until you judge the inhabitants of the earth
and avenge our blood?'
Then each of them was given a white robe,
and they were told to wait a little longer,
until the number of their fellow servants
and brothers who were to be killed
as they had been was completed."

What follows is the sixth seal where unbelievers call out to the rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.

Putting these two scenes together it seems clear that God coming in judgment, has to do, in part, with the prayers of the saints. The actions that He is going to take are in response to the prayers of the saints.

Wouldn't this be incredible in the eyes of these glorious heavenly creatures? I mean, what is man? He's a lowly creature. As David asked God in Psalm 8:4–5,

"what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor."

Yet in His wisdom God has tied the establishment of His kingdom with the prayers of His people, lowly human beings. The Kingdom will only come in conjunction with the prayers of the saints. God's judgment will be executed in the context of the prayers of the saints. This is no doubt a matter of amazement to the heavenly host. God has brought His people so close, they are united to Jesus, to the Lamb on the throne. He comes, He acts, in response to their prayers.

Wouldn't this cause the heavenly host to be in awe?

Christians, this means that

you should be in awe that your prayers are so important in the grand scheme of things.

You should be in awe that God holds your prayers so precious. You should be absolutely amazed at that fact.

This also means that
you need to be patient in regard to your prayers. When our prayers aren't answered right away, it can be frustrating. It may even seem like God hasn't heard or that He doesn't care. Those things aren't true.

Rather than thinking in those terms, we need to think in terms of our prayers being like sweet smelling incense to God and that they are going to effect the outcome of all things.

How you should be praying!

God is not ignoring our prayers. They are not unimportant to Him. No, they are precious to Him. In God's dealings with the earth and unbelievers, with His coming in judgment—your prayers are there before Him. Dale Ralph Davis, writes, (The Relationship Between The Seals, Trumpets, And Bowls In The Book Of Revelation." JETS 16, 1973: 154-155)

"the 'silence' conveys the idea that these are awesome moments, a time of reverent suspense, a time of holy and honorable hearing of these precious prayers prior to their final vindication at the parousia…"

Lastly, for those who don't know Jesus. Take note of this.

The punishment of those not in Jesus is going to be so terrible that it is going to make the whole of heaven to be silent.

In our society today there's no awe of God. There's contempt of God. They have the attitude,

"Well, God says in His word that this is a sin. But I don't think it is."

So they sin against God. God is coming in judgment. In heaven that is a cause for a period of long silence. Unless you repent you're going to be cast out into darkness forever. It will be so terrible that, for a time, it will make heaven silent. Don't let that happen to you. Go to Jesus. Ask Him to save you.