Saturday, 24 December 2016 22:59

45. Opening the seventh seal: Awaiting God's judgment * Revelation 8:1

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1 And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

 

The opening of the sixth seal ends in chapter 6 of Revelation. The question raised at the end, of "who is able to stand?" is answered in chapter 7. Chapter 7 also brings the reader to the time of the seventh seal and is an interesting bridge between the sixth and seventh seals. We will study chapter 7, starting with study #46. In today's study, let's continue with the opening of the last seal, on chapter 8, verse 1.

*** Silence ***: Silence is a direct translation from the Greek word sigē. There are a number of possible different interpretations to what this silence actually could be. There could be something true in many of them. But before we look at the possibilities, we must keep in mind that the seventh seal comes after the Second Coming of Jesus (which happens at the end of the sixth seal), and certainly after the sealing of God’s people (Revelation chapter 7).

The Greek word for Heaven used in this verse is ouranō, which can mean: the atmospheric sky, the starry Heaven, or the spiritual Heaven. We must consider that most of the verses using this word, refer to the spiritual Heaven. Regardless of the exact meaning, the action itself of opening the seal happens in Heaven, but its effects could be expected to be felt on Earth. Just as the horsemen were sent out from Heaven to complete their mission here on Earth, the silence of the seventh seal could be viewed in the same manner. The silence that started in Heaven could spread all the way down to our planet.

Amos 8 help us understand one aspect of the situation in the seventh seal. In his vision, he saw a basket of summer fruit, symbolizing the ripeness of God's people. It was time for the harvest. In other words, people were ready for God. We see a parallel to this in Revelation 14:17-20. Jesus explained the parable where He used this analogy of His people being harvested at the end of times (Matthew 13:37-40): “He that sows the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.” In the case of Amos, he was primarily prophesying about the captivity of the Israelites. But the language used and imagery revealed by God are the same used for the end times. In Amos 8:4-14, we see a similar situation of what we saw in the first 4 seals, but from the perspective of those who rejected the message. There was the spreading of the word, it's rejection, famine, and ultimate death. Amos 8:3 says that there would be so many dead bodies, that the songs in the temple would turn to wailings; and the bodies would be cast off in silence.

Another passage of the Bible that sheds some light on what this silence could be is found in Isaiah 47, where it reveals the prophecy about the destruction of ancient Babylon. Isaiah 47:3-5 tells us that Babylon would sit silently in the darkness after her shame had been revealed. She would no longer be called "the lady of kingdoms".

Based on the texts in Amos 8 and Isaiah 47, and in the context of Revelation 8:1 and the seven seals, silence will follow the Second Coming of Jesus. At that time, the armies of the enemies of God will be revealed, defeated and put to death (Revelation 19:17-21). These verses tell us about what will happen to Satan’s allies (the political powers representing the false religious systems), they are cast in the Lake of Fire right after the return of Christ: “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that worked miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.” This text also tells us that the rest of the people, the unfaithful people, will be killed by the sword that comes out of Jesus, which is His truth and His glory (Revelation 1:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10; Hebrews 4:12). They will remain dead until the time they are resurrected again, after the saints have spent 1000 years in Heaven (Revelation 20:5). The full execution of God’s judgement starts at Christ’s return, but ends after the 1000-year period.

Silence could be the contrasting point to the Second Coming, which is described as not only being a very visible event, but also a very loud one, with earthquakes, signs involving the sun moon and stars (sixth seal), and elements melting with fervent heat (2 Peter 3:10-14). The seventh seal would function like a resting period for the sky/Earth. At that time, all eyes will be awaiting God's judgement. In Zephaniah 1:7, we read God commanding that the people await quietly in the presence of the Lord, because His Day is near. In Zachariah 2:13 and Habakkuk 2:20, we see, once again, God telling the people to be silent before the Lord.

There are other views to the meaning of the silence in the seventh seal. Some scholars propose that there will be silence in Heaven because Jesus and all His angels will leave Heaven to come to Earth during the Second Coming (Matthew 25:31). Others suggest that it refers to the period of desolation the Earth will go through during the 1000 years Satan and his angels will be bound (Revelation 20:1-3). Some propose that the silence has to do with the prayers of the saints (Revelation 8:3-4) since the execution of His judgment is the answer to their loud cry in the 5th seal. Others believe that the silence is an allusion to the silence at the beginning of creation, as implied in Genesis 1:2. As we saw in the beginning of the sixth seal, the Earth had been going through the reverse process of Creation. Under this view, the process reverted all the way to a similar point of the beginning of creation.

***About half an hour ***: This period was not revealed as an exact period of time, or a defined number of days. It is “about half an hour”. Symbolically, it means a short period of time. Prophetically, taking 1 day = 1 year rule (Ezekiel 4:6-7; Numbers 14:34; Leviticus 25:8; Luke 13:32), this period is about 1 literal week. For more examples about the 1 day = 1 prophetic year, please read study #20. The Bible mentions some interesting events that lasted 1 literal week. Here are just a few examples: creation (Genesis 1 to Genesis 2:3), the period Noah waited inside the Arc before the rain came on those who were lost (Genesis 7:4), the period Jacob had to wait after marrying Leah in order to marry Rachel (Genesis 29:27-28), the time the Israelites had to wait before taking down the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6:1-5 ), and the amount of time needed for the consecration of the priests (Leviticus 8:33). Many, if not most of these are examples of short waiting periods. Either way, symbolically or prophetically, the period of silence will be a short period, when compared to the eternal life that the saved is about to experience.

*** Overview ***: At the time of the seventh seal, Jesus will have already come, the signs on the sky and the shaking of the Earth will be over. The Earth will be silent, awaiting for God to begin His judgment on the wicked, as the answer to the prayers of the saved (Revelation 6:9-11). There will be silence before the Judge, who left Heaven to rescue His people and cast His wrath on His enemies. The silence before the new creation reflects back on the silence before the first creation. The important thing, however, is not the exact amount of days or hours the silence will last, as the word “about” suggests. The point of the message in the seventh seal is that this will be a short period of time. Eternal life with God is about to start!

 

Summary of the Seven Seals

 

*** 1st Seal - Gospel being spread throughout the world

*** 2nd Seal - Accepting the Gospel may bring about persecution, because the Word of God prevents His true followers from blending in with the people following false teachings.

*** 3rd Seal - Rejecting the Gospel brings about spiritual famine. But even then, God has promised to keep the Holy Spirit and His salvation available for anyone who seeks Him.

*** 4th Seal - A warning is sent out for people to repent and return to the path that leads to life. The opposite direction leads to death.

*** 5th Seal - Those who served and suffered for Christ need to be avenged in the name of the blood Jesus shed in His death. Their martyrdom is a cry for God to deliver His justice on the wicked.

*** 6th Seal - Many signs in the sky and on the Earth announce the imminent coming of Christ. The Earth is going through the reverse process of Creation. The sealing of the faithful people is then concluded. The wicked mourn and cannot stand the glory of God. The Second Coming of Christ happens. He comes in all His glory, on the day of His wrath.

*** 7th Seal - Everyone is silent, awaiting God's judgment in favor of those who chose Him. The wages of sin will be made known and the wicked will be sentenced, in answer to the question raised in the 5th Seal.

   
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