The Seventh Seal and the Golden Censer – Revelation 8
“When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (verse 1).
Is this literally a half hour, or based on Daniel’s missing week, two weeks? The answer is unknown. It might have just been a time long enough to be awkward to John but not long enough to be considered a section of the day.
This is the only place or time silence is mentioned in heaven. Praise or cries for justice are the norm in heaven, but here is a universal pause. One idea is this is a time of preparation or a time for people to repent. It has been suggested this is the “parenthesis of grace.”
Some have suggested it is the “Sabbath” of the church. Others have claimed it is the beginning of eternal peace (Bede, Primasius, Victorinus, Wordsworth). Those who hold to the preterist view variously assign the silence to the destruction of Jerusalem (Manrice), A.D. 312-337 (King), the period following A.D. 395 (Eiliott), the millennium (Lange), and Julian’s decree imposing silence on the Christians (De Lyra).
Other ideas include the time when the Church will be triumphant on earth (Vitringa), the astonishment of Christ’s enemies (Hengtesnberg), and the silence of creation in awe of the catastrophes about to happen (Ebrand and Dusterdieck). The image of silence also comes from the temple worship as incense was offered.
”And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them” (verse 2).
“THE” (article IS in the Greek) reference to the seven angels implies these angels have already been seen in the vision (most likely seven churches). Another thought is these angels are mentioned in places we do not necessarily consider inspired but were readily used by other inspired writers (Paul, Peter, and Jude). An apocryphal writer, Tobit, 12:15 states, “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and who enter the Lord’s glorious presence.”
Wesley stated, “These trumpets reach nearly from the time of St. John to the end of the world; and they are distinguished by manifest tokens. The place of the four first is specified; namely, east, west, south, and north successively: in the three last, immediately after the time of each, the place likewise is pointed out.”
”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 God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, 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” (verses 3-5).
This is “The interposing of which shows, that the prayers of the saints and the trumpets of the angels go together” [Wesley].Thus begins what will be a series of natural disasters and turmoil for the earth. Notice it is the prayers of all God’s people that brings the following events to fruition.
A censer was a cup on a plate or saucer. This was the token and the business of the office. Much incense was given - Incense generally signifies prayer. It is the only place in the New Testament where a censer is mentioned.
A “Triple article” is usedà “the” prayers, golden altar, throne. These three items are pointed out, made specific, and drawn attention to as parallel ideas of importance. The golden altar was in the holy place (outside the curtain) but was considered part of the “holy of holies” (most holy place) behind the curtain. It was the point where the two worlds met regularly. In other words, prayer is where we touch the spiritual world and where we meet with God.
Prayer produces change on earth.
“Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them. The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up“ (verses 6-7).
This trumpet reflects the seventh plague in Exodus 9:19 – 26. The servants of Pharaoh who “feared the Lord” hurried their slaves and livestock to safety. Remember at this point in Revelation, there are those who are sealed that are immune from these events.
The result is that one third of the earth is burned. This strikes at the basis of life itself. Vegetation converts carbon dioxide to usable oxygen. It takes about 700 plants (about 12,000 leaves) per person.
The other idea to point out is the spiritual aspect. Humans tend to “worship” the earth through religion or giving it a place of honor above God. “They traded God’s truth for a lie, and they worshipped and served the creation instead of the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” [Romans 1:25 CEB]. There is a tendency in environmentalism to replace stewardship with worship.
It is important to understand that the language brands the first four trumpets as supernatural events. They are CAUSED events: “hurled down upon the earth,” “thrown into the sea,” “fell from the sky,” and “sun was struck.” They also specifically occur at the trumpet blasts, at the will and timing of God.
”The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed” (verse 8).
At this point a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships are destroyed. The sea covers about 70% of the world’s surface. Scientists estimate 50% to 80% of the earth’s oxygen comes from phytoplankton, 96% of the world’s water is in the oceans, and about 19% of the protein humans consume comes from the sea.
“The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter” (verses 10-11).
Scientists have predicted the eventuality of a meteor hitting the earth. Revelation names this star “Wormwood” which makes the waters “bitter” (poisonous) so “many people” died. Wesley identified this event as the Arian heresy (subrogated Jesus [as a created being] and the Holy Spirit to the Father).
"The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night” (verse 12).
The fourth trumpet affects the sun, moon, and stars. The result may be that one-third of the day and night are gone. This would possibly be four hours. The energy from the sun is necessary for life. As the sun dies the planet dies. Again we see this jeopardizing the environment, especially plant life, as we know it. This also reflects the ninth of the Egyptian plagues.
“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’” (verse 13)!
What could be worse than what we have already seen? Whatever it is has yet to come. An eagle announces a three-fold woe for the last three trumpets. We see the hint of what is worse when Satan is released from the Abyss in chapter 9.