And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.(Revelation 8 :1-3)
The flow of the Revelation given to John goes as follows;
Chap 1 – “Write the things you have seen…”– This is the vision of the glorified Jesus.
Chap 2-3- “…the things which are…” Next are the letters to the churches in her present condition.
Chap 4-5 – We are then taken into the very throne room of God and of the Lamb.
Chap 6-“…and write the things which shall be hereafter…” – The first six of seven seals of judgment are opened that we might see the judgments to come.
Chap 7- The vision of the Divine sealing of 144,000 Jews and then the sight of the uncountable harvest of souls is an interlude between the sixth and seventh seal.
Chap 8 – At the opening of the seventh seal there is silence in heaven for a half hour.
This is profound and mysterious on many levels. Silence in heaven? Time measurements in heaven? What could this possibly mean?
It has been pointed out by other commentators that what we see in Revelation 8 is a large-scale liturgical temple service, particularly the one at the altar of incense.
During the service, the Priests would sing numerous songs, prayers and hymns, until the actual offering of incense upon the altar, which called for absolute and utter silence. Such was the gravity of the service on earth, how much more this one n heaven?
The idea of the altar of incense was that the prayers of humanity are inadequate and unacceptable in and of themselves, for even the best are tainted with sinful motive and self-seeking.
But when mixed with the offering of the one beautiful human life, lived in utter and complete love and devotion to God, as a “Sweet smelling fragrance” to God, such prayers become acceptable to God. In the name of Jesus Christ.
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.(Ephesians 5:2)
Here we see all prayers of all times, not one of them is overlooked. Cumulatively they have asked for the Hallowing of God’s name, and for the Kingdom to come, the will of God to be done, and for forgiveness of sins, and the deliverance from evil.
True the prayers and the Pray-ers have oft been found weak, inadequate and somewhat wrongly motivated, but when mixed into the life of the One who saved them and offered himself to God completely, none of them is wasted, God has regarded all of the prayers of the least saints.
They are gathered into a censor and flung to the earth to bring about the consummation of all things.This is what the silence in heaven anticipates.
Passages in Zephaniah and Habbakuk and Psalms command the silence which marks the gravity of the majestic God.
Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God: for the day of the Lord is at hand: for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.(Zephaniah 1:7)
But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him. (Habakkuk 2:20)
Oh That men would recognize the Holy God, and give Him the glory He is due, while there is yet time! Oh that they could but know His majesty and greatness, and humble themselves, finding refuge in the Son! Alas! We live in a day of lightness, even in the presentation of God by the Shepherds!
Thou, even thou, art to be feared: and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry? Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still. When God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth. Selah.(PSalm 76:7-9)