Revelation Lesson 24 - Heaven Hushed
Heaven is silent as God pulls seven trumpets from behind the curtain. What are they for? What do they represent? Find out as Stephen takes us back into his study of John's magnificent vision.
Heaven . . . Hushed
Pastor Bill White wrote about taking a 45 minute drive with a guy he knew – they were in this man’s van – on its last gasp; this man had been arrested several times; his wife had already told him she was gonna leave him. Bill took the opportunity during that ride to talk to this man about the gospel of Christ.
His response was startling. Bill wrote later that after the gospel was presented to him, the man looked at him and said, “You know, my biggest problem is pride. I just can’t humble myself. And you wanna know the reason I can’t give up my pride?” He leaned onto the steering wheel and paused for effect and then said, “Because it’s brought me so far.”
Bill wrote, “I could hardly believe my ears . . . his pride had brought nothing but trouble. Unemployed; his van would be repossessed in a week; his family a shambles; his daughters terrified of him; in fact, he was actually going back to jail a week after I took that ride with him . . . but he was convinced that his pride had brought him so far.”
Citation: Bill White, Paramount, California in 2008preachingtoday.com
Look how far I’ve brought myself.
As tragic and self-destructing as that man’s pride was, he happens to be an illustration of the human race.
Proud . . . defiant . . . obstinate . . . unbending . . . unyielding.
Even in the face of terrible suffering and fractured relationships and financial distress, and problem after problem, mankind will tell you he has come so far – and all by himself.
Even though it’s a mess, mankind will defend their lives and with great pride announce to you, “Look how far I’ve come!”
One author wrote that most people who hear the gospel are so caught up with themselves that they will only eye the Trinity for a possible vacancy.
Adapted from John MacArthur, Leadership Journal, Volume 7, no. 2
That kind of obstinacy and pride is never more evident than during the tribulation, when everyone’s world is crashing down around them and yet they hold to their stubborn rebellion against God who sits upon the throne.
Thus far we have studied the 6 seals and the world madness that unfolded.
144,000 sealed evangelists given special protection who deliver the gospel worldwide brings in a great harvest of souls. Millions are martyred for their faith in Christ.
Meanwhile the world is reeling from the plagues of pestilence and earthquake and asteroid impacts and darkness and famine.
And in spite of all that madness, millions of humans the world over will say, “We will not humble ourselves before God – we’re clinging to our pride and obstinacy – it has brought us so far!”
Listen, they are no more foolish in their pride than that man who works in the office next to you or that woman who lives next to you or that student who sits next to you who’s world is a shambles, who’s relationships are self-serving, whose bank account is never full enough and whose world is never quite secure enough and yet they believe they are doing a pretty good job with their lives and they will even say that they have everything under control.
In fact, if they had an audience with God they would only do so in order to give Him some advice.
Paul wrote of this irony in the unbeliever’s life, “Destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known [yet] there is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:16-18).
We’re about to see in the record of John’s vision the hardening of men’s hearts against the Lamb even further. They are now prepared to follow the antichrist with passion and purpose.
And God tips the scales of His judgment as the 7th seal is now about to be opened. In these final years of the 7 year tribulation, terrifying apocalyptic events of world catastrophe and wrath ever witnessed, will assault humanity and planet earth.
Seven angels are about to make an appearance and seven trumpets are about to sound.
These seven trumpets are actually all part of the seventh seal; the first four are unique in that they occur in rapid succession, if not simultaneously.
Graham Scroggie quoted by Edward Hindson in Revelation: Unlocking the Future (AMG Publishers, 2002), p. 100.
And all of this will occur in the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation period.
Notice the opening phrase of Revelation chapter 8:1 When the Lamb broke the seventh seal.
You need to understand that this final seal – the 7th seal – will actually contain all the judgments of the remaining time left in the Tribulation, and all this judgment is going to unfold with the image of trumpets being blown and bowls being poured out.
The seven trumpets and the seven bowls of wrath are all contained in this seventh seal.
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Remember, the first seal was the white horse and temporary peace.
The second seal was a red horse and a horseman representing war and bloodshed.
The third seal was a black horse representing global famine.
The fourth seal was a pale green horse representing pestilence and death.
The fifth seal were the prayers of martyrs ascending before the throne of God as incense from the golden altar.
The sixth seal was a total eclipse of sun and moon – the sun turning black and the moon blood red.
And now the seventh seal – containing all the rest of the judgments represented by trumpets, followed by bowls which symbolize pouring out of even more wrath to come.
John MacArthur, Because the Time is Near (Moody, 2007), p. 151
We’re getting close . . . the trumpets and bowls occur just a few years prior to the return of Christ with the church His bride – already raptured and now with Him – delivered out of and away from this wrath to come (I Thessalonians 1:10).
When this seventh seal is opened there is only about 3 years left before we come back and Christ establishes His literal reign on earth for 1,000 years – we’ll study this in detail later when we arrive at John’s revelation where he reveals incredible sights and sounds of that coming millennial kingdom.
For Christ will fulfill all prophecy in His second coming, just as He did in His first coming and He will sit in Jerusalem – the Son of David, the Sovereign-Messiah, the Shepherd-King.
And, if you dare to believe it, and you can because He promised it in Revelation 20, He plans for us to reign with Him as co-regents in His Kingdom . . . what amazing grace!
Now as this scene unfolds in Revelation chapter 8, you are immediately struck by several dramatic elements.
- The first element is silence.
Notice further in verse 1. When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
Again, this one verse forces us to rethink the issue of time in heaven.
I know the hymn writer wrote, “When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more,” and I really don’t want to be stoned outside the city gates for disagreeing with a hymn writer, but it isn’t true.
Evidently, according to Revelation chapter 8, somebody’s keeping time in heaven.
Add to that the reference to trees in heaven bearing fruit every month (Revelation 22). Someone’s keeping record of days and weeks.
Furthermore, you discover the progression of events – as seen here with an angel blowing the first of seven trumpets after 30 minutes of silence.
And we evidently aren’t always going to be singing before the throne of God because here we’ve been told to stop and watch an amazing scene for at least 30 minutes which indicates there might be other stopping and starting points along the way as well.
I’m struck here by God’s ordering of silence in heaven.
- Up until this point, heaven has been filled with amazing sounds – lightning flashing and peals of thunder (ch. 4);
- creatures before the throne of God chanting “Holy, Holy, Holy (ch. 5);
- the amazing singing of the saints (ch. 5);
- the cries of martyrs before the throne of God (ch. 6);
- and millions of martyred saints in chapter 7 waving palm branches and shouting, “Salvation to our God who sits upon the throne and unto the Lamb.”
Heaven is a filled with praising, singing and praying.
But now, evidently at the command of God, heaven is hushed; in fact, the focus of our attention is riveted on an unfolding angelic scene.
Notice verse 2. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
For 30 minutes heaven is silenced as this scene unfolds.
Have you ever watched a courtroom scene on television – or perhaps been in the gallery yourself – as the foreman stood and read the verdict. Just before he got to the last word which would either be “Innocent” or “Guilty”, there was that dramatic pause. Everyone leaned forward in hushed anticipation.
Adapted from Adrian Rogers, Unveiling the End Times in our Time (Broadman/Holman, 2004), p. 106
That’s the silence of anticipation here.
One author said that this silence was the silence just before the singing of the last Hallelujah in the Hallelujah chorus; that pause before the singing of the final magnificent Hallelujah.
That’s the silence of awe here.
Perhaps you’re a parent of little children. If the house goes quiet, that’s not necessarily a good thing, right? All of a sudden you realize you haven’t heard your child playing . . . that’s probably not a good sign.
It might mean your little 3 year old boy found some magic markers and he’s pretending to be Michelangelo – creating his masterpiece on his bedroom wall.
Or your little girl has somehow opened a cupboard door and she’s inside there – all nice and quiet – with that 2 pound bag of flour and she’s pretending to be Betty Crocker.
Silence in your home is not a good thing. It might be a warning that’s something’s up.
Something’s about to happen on earth. And all of heaven watches this ceremony as 7 angels are given seven trumpets.
I’m struck not only by 30 minutes of silence in heaven, but seven special angels.
- Seven special angels
They were introduced in verse 2, but I want you to notice the use of the article “the” seven angels . . . not just any seven, but ‘the’ seven angels who – notice – stand before God.
Jewish tradition has long held to what they called the “7 archangels of the Presence” and they are named. In scripture, they aren’t named, but the article, ‘the’ with ‘seven angels’ proves their existence as a special class or a specific grouping.
Stewart Custer, From Patmos to Paradise (BJU Press, 2004), p. 96
Add to that the perfect participle translated “stand” – they stand before God – also indicates that they have been in that position before and have been for some time.
Robert L. Thomas, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1995), p. 7
You remember that the New Testament describes a number of different classifications for angels:
- Cherubim (Genesis 3:24)
- Seraphim (Isaiah 6:2)
- Archangels (I Thessalonians 4:16)
These seven are more than likely archangels – a high ranking class of angel given this incredible task of announcing the judgment of God.
It’s interesting that when Gabriel announced to Zacharias the news of the coming Messiah, he introduced himself rather uniquely as “Gabriel who stands in the presence of God.” (Luke 1:19).
It’s fascinating that the same angel who announced the triumphant birth of the Lamb is now about to sound a trumpet announcing the terrible wrath of the Lamb of God.
Listen, this is something you and I are going to witness first-hand. This is our future. We’ve been raptured and are in the presence of our Lord.
We’ve been hushed and are now watching Gabriel and probably Michael and 5 others who’ve never been mentioned, place trumpets to their lips, ready to sound them to the ends of the universe.
That struck me too . . . 7 trumpets.
- Seven trumpets
In the ancient world, the trumpet was used more as an instrument of announcement than of music.
Custer, p. 97
In the Apostle Paul’s day, the Roman army was called to gather for battle by the first trumpet while the last trumpet which made a deeper sound signaled them to end the battle and come back.
I believe this was Paul’s use of the phrase “the last trumpet” in I Corinthians 15:52. It is the trumpet call for the believer to end the battle; you don’t need your weapons anymore . . . your commander has called you home.
The last trump can also be understood in the Jewish feast of Trumpets. The Jewish practice involved blowing trumpets at this feat each year. During the ceremony, ther was a series of short trumpet blasts of various lengths, concluding with the longest blast of all, called the “tekiah gedolah” – or the last trump.
Judaism connected this last trump with the resurrection from the dead.
Paul could also have had this thought in mind when he wrote to the Thessalonians about the trumpet call of the rapture – he wrote, “For the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout and the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God., and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up (the Latin word is rapturo – or raptured) caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. (I Thessalonians 4:16-17)
So whichever way you want to understand the trumpet of God related to the rapture – through Jewish or Roman culture – it holds great significance to the truth of the coming rapture as a call to end the battle or a call of resurrection.
Throughout scripture, the trumpet was also sounded in relation to God’s law and judgment.
At Sinai, when God descended to give the Law, the trumpet sounded long and grew louder and louder (Exodus 19:19).
Before the walls of Jericho fell, the priest blew seven trumpets to warn the inhabitants for six days and then on the seventh day blew the trumpets and the wall came tumblin’ down (Joshua 6).
The prophets connected the sounding of trumpets with the Day of the Lord and His terrible wrath (Zephaniah 1:16 & Zachariah 9:14).
These are the trumpets of Revelation 8; unleashing further warning, but primarily unleashing great judgment.
Listen, if these events are just around the corner, you will either hear the trumpet call home – as a believer in Christ, or you will hear the trumpet of judgment as God unleashes His wrath in the greatest, most terrifying measure ever unleashed on planet earth.
I exhort you to believe in Christ – and ready yourself for the trumpet of God that ends your battle on earth; I advise you to escape the trumpets of angels that signal the wrath of God on earth.
In this opening scene in Revelation 8,
I’m struck by the silence of heaven;
By these special angels;
By these seven trumpets;
- Finally, I’m struck by these saints prayers ascending to God.
Notice verse 3. Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer (a little fire pan); 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. 4. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. 5. Then 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.
This can only be understood in light of the Old Testament system of worship.
Incense played a part in symbolizing the prayers of the believers ascending to God.
After the sinless lamb was offered, two priests would take hot coals and ashes from the golden altar as they entered the Holy Place, just outside the Holy of Holies. One priest filled his golden saucer – or censer – with grains of incense. The other priest would place hot coals from the golden altar into a golden bowl. The incense would be sprinkled on top of the coals and the smoke would waft upward, a pleasant aroma, ascending as it were to the throne of God. During the solemn ceremony, silence would pervade the outer court as people prayed.
Adapted from Hindson, p. 99 & Thomas, p. 10
This is a dramatic scene – we’re watching this unfold.
Then the angel in this scene takes the censer and casts it toward earth to signify the judgment of God is about to be unleashed.
Heaven is hushed as the prayers of the saints waft their way to the presence of God.
One author suggested the precious thought that it’s as if the prayers of the saints are about to go up to God; and it may be that everything halts and hushes in heaven so that the prayers of the saints may be heard.
William Barclay, The Revelation of John: Volume 2 (Westminster Press, 1976), p. 40
Well, God doesn’t need it quite in heaven for Him to hear prayers from earth. But we can say that the prayers of the saints are given His fullest attention in this awe-inspiring ceremony.
In fact, His actions are seen in direct relation to the prayers of the saints.
Frankly, I think this will be one of those unrehearsed moments in heaven that will mean so much to every one of us who will be there.
We will be there.
We will see the drama of prayers long unanswered, but not forgotten. They have been reserved for this time.
Frankly, we don’t know if these represent the prayers of those martyred in chapter 5 or beyond them.
They may very well represent the prayers of all the saints of all time –
every cry out to God;
every frustration uttered to His throne;
every praise given to His glory;
every surrender uttered by His children;
every impatient request for His will;
every longing uttered for relief;
every anguished cry for His will;
every plea for justice and equity;
every hope breathed to God in prayer
– all of it – God heard all of it.
Every need you ever uttered in prayer – He heard.
He may have denied the answer for His reasons known only to Him.
I remember when my twin sons were 6 years old they began to pester me every Sunday after church. We’d get into the pickup truck and they’d ask me to let them drive. There were convinced they could do it too. I remember one of them – at age six – saying, “Daddy, we can do it together. One of us can push the pedals and the other one can steer . . . we can do it”. “No you can’t . . . it’s my truck.”
God may deny the answer . . . He may delay the answer . . . He may disguise the answer . . . that is, it is answered but in a different way – in fact we might not even notice He answered.
Can you imagine the prayers for righteousness and justice and for the power of God to be seen . . . none of those prayers were ever answered until now . . . when we’re in heaven.
And we will stand here, mouths closed, hearts beating, awe inspired as we see a dramatic demonstration to that fact – that God never ignored one request.
And in this moment in Revelation chapter 8, if we haven’t gotten it yet, we’ll get it here; the greatest issue of prayer was not the request in prayer, but the relationship by means of prayer.
And what we needed most was not something from Him, but Him.
One of the most beloved hymns of the church, which we sang earlier is entitled, I Need Thee Every Hour. Many of our hymns are written by pastors, church leaders, theologians. We’ve sung for centuries the lyrics of Martin Luther and Isaac Watts and John Newton.
But this dearly loved hymn which so well expresses the heart of us all who care to admit our deep need every hour for God was written by a wife and mother of three children, living through the challenging, stressful days of the mid-1800’s in Brooklyn, New York.
Her name was Annie Hawks. In her retirement she would write 400 more hymns, but this one, written at the age of 37, is the only one we’re still singing today – the lyrics summarize it all.
Robert J. Morgan, Then Sings My Soul: 150 Hymn Stories (Thomas Nelson, 2003), p. 179
I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine, can peace afford;
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.
I need Thee every hour; stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.
I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide or life is vain.
I need Thee every hour, most Holy One,
Oh, make me Thine indeed, Thou blessed Son.
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.
Annie Hawks, I Need Thee Every Hour, 1872
Ladies and Gentlemen . . .
- This scene in heaven reveals to us that prayers long unanswered had been heard all along.
- Prayer unexplained by God’s silence, are now experienced by God’s swift justice.
- Prayers that seemed good and right at the time were delayed until God’s time was good and right.
- Prayers that we assumed were worthless to God have taken priority over all other worship of God.
- Prayers that returned us nothing but silence, are featured in the silence of heaven.
Verse 6, And the seven angels, who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them.
They were ready . . . these seven archangels are prepared . . . they’ve been ready for centuries.
God’s time piece said “Now!”
Gabriel . . . here’s your trumpet . . . sound it out unto the furthest reaches of the universe – through every crevice and corner of earth.
The Apostle John will give us front row seats for the playing of seven trumpets of seven archangels.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the greatest, grandest prayer we could ever pray is, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
In the meantime, as we wait for His will – not only for the future of the world, but the details of our lives here and now – we admit to this Sovereign King our deep need for Him.
We join Annie Hawks in saying,
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now my Savior,
I come to Thee.
Pray . . . silence . . .
May these moments of silence on earth and the hush of our hearts in your presence Lord infuse us with courage that you’ve heard in the past; and you hear in the present; and you will hear in the future every single prayer from the heart and lips of your people. And the silence on earth while we waited for some assurance that You did, will one day be replaced by this silence in heaven – a holy hush – a memorial hush of all the hosts of heaven and all the saints, as we watch the living drama unfold that reveals to us that you indeed heard our prayer. You heard. You hear even now. And you will act according to your Divine purpose and you will move heaven and earth to fulfill Your will on earth, as it is fulfilled in heaven.
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