V11When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.. With the breaking of “the seventh seal” the book is totally open. That means that the time of the end has come, for it was said to Daniel of this book that he had to seal it till the time of the end (Dan 12:4,94But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”9He said, “Go [your way], Daniel, for [these] words are concealed and sealed up until the end time.). That means that the time has come that many prophetically announced events will be fulfilled. With a view to that a deathly silence arises in heaven. It is the silence before the storm that is about to break loose, a silence in which everything and everybody holds his breath with a view to what is going to happen.
That there is mention of “about half an hour” seems to be a symbolic indication for a very short period of time. It is presumably the period in which happens what John sees in the verses 2-42And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.3Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.4And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.. In the following verses the first trumpet judgments are executed.
It is also possible that the “silence in heaven” of half an hour shows something of the mercy of God. God is slow to anger. He doesn’t like to judge, it is an unusual act of His (Isa 28:2121For the LORD will rise up as [at] Mount Perazim,
He will be stirred up as in the valley of Gibeon,
To do His task, His unusual task,
And to work His work, His extraordinary work.
; Lam 3:3333For He does not afflict willingly
Or grieve the sons of men.
). The judgments under the sixth seal have not led to conversion. In connection to that there is a half an hour longer wait. When there is no sign of repentance to be noticed, God has to come into action which implies that the judgments break loose under the trumpets.
V22And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.. While there is, most likely, a deathly silence in heaven, preparations are being made in that silence for the trumpet judgments. John sees “the seven angels stand before God”. That seems to indicate that it is about seven specific angels (the seven angels) who find themselves in an exceptionally privileged position (before God). These seven angels with their seven trumpets form together the judgment of the seventh seal.
Each of them receives a trumpet. No one else than the Lord Jesus could have given them those trumpets. That there is mention of “trumpets” here, means that God speaks with a loud voice through the means of the judgments which are being poured out at the sounding of each trumpet. A trumpet which is sounded is a command for attention.
V33Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.. Then “another angel” comes. That is again nobody but the Lord Jesus (cf. Rev 10:11I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire;; 18:11After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory.), for only He is able to give strength to the prayers of the saints. He came and “stood at the altar”. An altar is an offering place where offerings are brought to God. At the end of this verse it is said that it is a “golden altar” and that it is “before the throne”. The offering place bears the mark of Divine glory (of which the gold speaks). The offering which is offered here to God, is not a bloody offering, but it consists of “the prayers of all the saints”. Regarding the prayers, you read that they are compared with incense (Psa 141:22May my prayer be counted as incense before You;
The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.
). Each sincere prayer is pleasing to God and will be answered by Him.
Because it regards the prayers of ‘all’ the saints, it is nice to consider that at that very moment the prayers will be answered which through the ages have been sent up to heaven by all the saints. But it concerns indeed the prayers of the believers who do not belong to the church. That becomes clear from the fact that these prayers are not related to the throne of grace, but to the throne of judgment.
In the time of the great tribulation the saints cry out to ‘the God of vengeance’ (Psa 94:11O LORD, God of vengeance,
God of vengeance, shine forth!
) to come into action. They ask of Him to judge the ungodly, from which they will be saved. This is again a proof that the church is not on earth anymore, for we are told to pray for those who persecute us and to bless them and not to curse them (Mt 5:4444But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,; Acts 7:6060Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.).
Each prayer only gets its full value to God because the Lord Jesus has a golden censer with much incense in it. The intention of it is also described: “That he might add it to the prayers of all the saints.” Nobody but He is able to give strength to the prayers of all saints (cf. Rev 5:88When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.). He is the true High Priest. Everything you offer to God is only pleasing to God through Him (Heb 13:1515Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.; 1Pet 2:55you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.).
‘Incense’ represents the personal glories of the Lord Jesus, which became visible in His life on earth and His dying on the cross. When you then especially consider prayer, you read of Him that His whole life on earth was ‘prayer’ (Psa 109:4b4In return for my love they act as my accusers;
But I am [in] prayer.
). Therefore His life was a sweet incense to God.
V44And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.. Everything that the Lord Jesus is as a Man to God ascends together with the prayers of the saints to God. It says also distinctly “before God out the angel’s hand”. In this way the involvement of the Lord Jesus with the prayer of the saints is presented greater than when the incense of the altar would be ascending up to heaven.
V55Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.. When the censer is empty, when the prayers have reached their destination, the Angel returns to the altar with the empty censer. He fills the censer with the fire of the altar which He afterwards throws on the earth. Here you see that the Lord Jesus gives as it were the starting signal for the judgments. When the fire is being thrown on the earth, impressive accompanying signals are to be experienced.
1. The “peals of thunders” make clear that God speaks through the judgments.
2. “Sounds” are no rumbling noises at a distance, but horrible deafening blows that make everything shake.
3. “Flashes of lightning” put everything in the light and are blinding.
4. “An earthquake” causes that the earth suddenly is ripped open under the feet and that every hold is taken away.
The fire is taken from the burnt offering altar on which it burns ceaselessly. The burnt offering altar is the place where the burnt offering is consumed by fire, for the benefit of those who are reconciled and sanctified by it. But that same fire is also used to consume those who have no part in the burnt offering. That the fire is put into the censer first, indicates that the following judgments are related with the prayers of the saints and in that way are the answers to those prayers. It is altogether symbolic language in order to clarify the exercise of these judgments.
V66And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them.. Then it is the angels’ turn to exercise their duty. They prepare themselves to sound the trumpets that were given to them. A trumpet announces the judgment, but it also serves as a warning signal, so that people will escape the declared judgments (Eze 33:2-42“Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman,3and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people,4then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his [own] head.). The destruction and siege of Jericho was also preceded by the sounding of trumpets (Jos 6:44Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.). That will also happen when the judgments and the taking possession of the earth will come to pass.
Like often, here also the number seven can be divided in four and three. Just like the first four seals make one whole, the first four trumpets also do. These four are related to the creation, subdivided according to the four domains: the earth, the sea, the rivers and springs of waters, and the sun, the moon and the stars (cf. Rev 14:66And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;). However, it does not regard the whole world, for there is still mention of “the third part”.
V77The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.. When the first angel sounds, “hail and fire, mixed with blood … were thrown to the earth”. “Hail” is a judging power that comes from heaven (Rev 11:1919And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.; 16:2121And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, *came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague *was extremely severe.; Exo 9:23-2423Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt.24So there was hail, and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very severe, such as had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.; Isa 28:22Behold, the Lord has a strong and mighty [agent];
As a storm of hail, a tempest of destruction,
Like a storm of mighty overflowing waters,
He has cast [it] down to the earth with [His] hand.
; Eze 38:2222With pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone.). “Fire” is God's consuming judgment (Rev 20:1010And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.; Lk 16:2424And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’). “Blood”, separated from the body, speaks of death (Rev 16:33The second [angel] poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like [that] of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died.). The fact that hail and fire are mingled with blood therefore means that those judgments will result in death.
The fire does its work and consumes the world wherever there is still a certain order of government (“the earth”). Arrogant powers (“the trees”, Dan 4:19-2719“Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his thoughts alarmed him. The king responded and said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you.’ Belteshazzar replied, ‘My lord, [if only] the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your adversaries!20The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth21and whose foliage [was] beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which [was] food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged—22it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth.23In that the king saw an [angelic] watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, “Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze [around it] in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him,”24this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king:25that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.26And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that [it is] Heaven [that] rules.27Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by [doing] righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to [the] poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’) will be consumed, just like prosperity (“all the green grass”, Isa 15:66For the waters of Nimrim are desolate.
Surely the grass is withered, the tender grass died out,
There is no green thing.
). Grass represents both Israel (Isa 40:77The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
) and the whole human race (1Pet 1:2424For, “All flesh is like grass, And all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, And the flower falls off,). Because of the mention of the green grass, it may probably emphasize that it relates to man in his prosperity.
In this verse “burned up” occurs three times. It is a verb that indicates ‘completely burned up’. It is about being burned to the ground. Although I prefer a symbolic explanation of this trumpet judgment, it is not unthinkable that this judgment is to be taken literally. It seems very difficult to me to consider a literal event in connection to each trumpet judgment. I would like you to ponder on that yourself, without letting your fantasy run free. Of course that also applies to myself. Therefore you need to read even more carefully what I propose to you as a possible explanation.
“A third part of the earth” means that the judgments will strike a limited territory and not the whole earth. It has all the appearances that this “third part” regards to the nominal Christian part, the false Christianity, which very probably may refer to the restored Roman empire or the united Europe (Rev 12:44And his tail *swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.). That is my opinion, because in this part of the world the light of the gospel has shone most clearly. That makes the responsibility of the people who live here even greater than that of other people. And God always begins with His judgment with those who are most responsible (cf. 1Pet 4:1717For [it is] time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if [it begins] with us first, what [will be] the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?; Lev 10:33Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the LORD spoke, saying,
‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
And before all the people I will be honored.’”
So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.).
Now read Revelation 8:1-7 again.
Reflection: What does the power consist of which is given to the prayers of the saints by the Angel?