THE 7TH SEAL (THE RELATION OF PRAYER TO GOD’S JUDGMENT)

(cf. Rev. 8:1-5)

And He broke the seventh seal, Him being Jesus. Jesus breaks the first seven seals, but angels are the instrumentalities for the seven trumpets and the seven bowls. And there was silence in heaven for about 30 minutes. This ‘silence’ has been greatly disputed. Some of the rabbis say that there was silence so the prayers of God’s people could be heard. The saints appear insignificant to evil men, but in the sight of God, they matter. Even great cataclysms are held back when they pray (cf. Jas. 5:16). Some say the ‘silence’ comes from the apocalyptic literature of 2nd Esdras 7:29-31 where ‘silence’ introduces the New Age. That’s possible, but i personally think the Old Testament is the place we ought to go. There are several passages where ‘silence’ is the symbol of the presence of God. “Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord; for He is aroused from His holy habitation.” (i.e. Zech. 2:13; see also Zephaniah 1:7).
“And I saw the seven angels who stand before God,…” – the definite article shows that a specific seven are in mind: Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraquel, Gabriel, and Remiel (cf. 1 Enoch 20:1-7). We see some of these angels of God’s presence from Isaiah 63:9, and a possible allusion in Luke 1:19. “…and seven trumpets were given to them.” – In the Old Testament, trumpets are a way of God communicating to His people, in the sense that trumpets were blown for religious purposes or blown for military purposes (cf. Numbers 10:1-10; Exo. 19:16-19; Jer. 4:5-9; Joel 2:1-3). In the New Testament, trumpets are often associated with the end-time in apocalyptic writings (cf. Matt. 24:31; 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16).

Notice in verse 3 where it says, “Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer;…” – we have no idea as to the identity of this “another angel”, but we observe that John frequently brings a new angel on the scene with the formula “another angel”. Now, this golden censer (The use of the golden censer and the altar of like material signify the value of the prayers) in the altar, is this the incense altar? Yes, because it’s very similar to the account earlier in Rev. 5:8 where the incense is closely related to the prayers of the saints, and the 4 living creatures bring the prayers of the saints to God’s attention. Here, the angels do it by putting incense and the incense was put on the altar of incense and smoke arose to God. You can look in the book of Leviticus over and over as sweet aroma arose to God (cf. Lev. 2:9). Here, it’s the prayers of the saints, and they’re very precious to God. I submit to you God’s people affect God. Hallelujah! You might want to see the beautiful passage of Psalms 34:17 to hear where prayers of His people really touch Him. Notice as it continues, the incense and the prayers went up before God. The fact that it went up from the angel’s hand suggests that prayer is not a lonely vocation as there is assistance involved and our prayers do reach God. Noteworthy also is the mention of the altar in connection to this which signifies that there is something sacrificial in prayer, meaning, all our service and prayers is to be sacrificial.

In verse 5, many people make a very major interpretation point here that judgment comes at the prayers of God’s people, like the souls under the altar we saw in earlier chapters. “Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth;…” – this seems to be very much like Ezekiel 10. I think there are probably 2 altars involved in this heavenly scene, and so these coals here would be taken from the altar of sacrifice and flung down to earth just like in Ezekiel 10. Notice, the angel earlier had the censer for the purposes of intercession, now here he took it for the purposes of judgement > “…and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” The fire came from the very altar on which the prayers of the saints have been offered. This surely suggests that the prayers of God’s people play a crucial role in ushering in the judgments of God. Such is the power of prayer that it sets ablaze the fire of God’s judgment upon the evil world!