When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
I cannot imagine how John must have felt during his vision of being transported into the throne room of God (Revelation 4), where he saw the Lamb of God as the only one who could open the scroll with seven seals (Revelation 5). What a majestic scene that must have been!
As Jesus opened each of those seals, John saw symbolic visions of what would continually happen to Christians throughout history to the end of time (Revelation 6). The first seal symbolically showed Christ leading His saints in their evangelistic quest to save souls (6:1-2), while the second seal figuratively foretold that war and violence would continually take place throughout the world as this happened (6:3-4). The third seal symbolically prophesied that poverty and luxury would co-exist throughout the Christian age (6:5-6), while the fourth seal foretold of the death of many Christians through persecution, starvation, and sickness (6:7-8).
The fifth seal revealed how these martyred Christians want God to avenge their deaths (6:9-11), with the sixth seal revealing how God would do exactly that at the end of time when the enemies of Christianity would flee in vain from the wrath of the Lamb and His Father and ask, “For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (6:12-17). That question was answered by two visions John then saw (Revelation 7): the symbolic 144,000 and the great multitude of disciples of Christ from all over the world, both of whom representing faithful Christians who could stand in God’s presence because their sins had been washed away.
When the Lamb opens the seventh seal (8:1), John then saw a symbolic description of eternity. The 30-minute silence in heaven is not literal as Revelation is a “signified” book (cf. Revelation 1:1). The silence could figuratively represent what waits for Christians in heaven which “has not yet appeared” (cf. 1 John 3:2). It could signify the peaceful rest waiting in heaven for saints (cf. Matthew 11:28; Hebrews 4:1). It could also represent the silence that is needed when one is in the presence of God (cf. Habakkuk 2:20).
John then saw seven angels standing before God who were given seven trumpets (8:2). Just as John had just seen a series of visions in which seven seals were opened (Revelation 5-8), he is now about to see another series of visions in which seven trumpets are blown (Revelation 8-11). Lord willing, future articles will study what those visions can teach us.
The vision of the seventh seal continues as John sees an angel offering incense upon the altar before God’s throne with the prayers of the saints (8:3-4). Altars were used by Old Testament priests to offer blood sacrifices as atonement for Israel’s sins (cf. Exodus 29:11-14). Under the New Testament, all Christians are priests who offer spiritual sacrifices to God (1 Peter 2:5). Having been washed clean by Christ’s blood through baptism (Acts 22:16; Ephesians 1:7), they can directly approach God through penitent prayer to receive continual forgiveness (Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 1:9). Those prayers of His saints are correlated with the incense offered by this angel on the altar (cf. Revelation 5:8), teaching Christians that their prayers smell sweet to God.
John then saw the angel take fire from the altar which symbolizes Christians’ prayers to God and cast that fire upon the earth (8:5). “The earth” is not the literal planet, but joins the biblically symbolic phrase “the world” to represent those who oppose God (cf. Ephesians 2:1-2; 1 John 2:15-17). Earlier when the fifth seal had been opened, John saw martyred Christians under the altar praying to God for vengeance. Their prayers are symbolized in the seventh seal by the altar from whence this fire comes. Thus, the judgment of God against His enemies which results in their eternal punishment in hell will come about in part because God is answering the prayers of His saints who cry out for justice for the wrongs done to them.
To sum up, the opening of the seventh seal gives us a symbolic description of the beginning of eternity. Are you ready for the day eternity begins? Are you ready to come into the presence of God?