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It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Marvin Rosenthal: The objective of [Rosenthal’s book] is to demonstrate that the Day of the Lord is the time of divine wrath.  It will be recognized as about to begin by the cosmic disturbances associated with the sixth seal (Joel 2:10-11, 30-31; Rev. 6:12-17; cf. Matt. 24:29) and will begin with the opening of the seventh seal (Rev. 8:1).  The Rapture of the church will immediately precede the Day of the Lord.  The Day of the Lord will begin sometime within the second half of Daniel’s seventieth week. . .

The reason for the “silence” in heaven at the opening of the seventh seal is most solemn.  It signals the start of the Day of the Lord’s wrath on the earth.  It will be so awesome that heaven can only observe in silence.  Again, hear the prophet Zephaniah speak to this point:

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 bidden his guests . . .  The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteneth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord; the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.  That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of waste and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.  (Zeph. 1:7, 14-15)

The prophet speaks of silence because the Day of the Lord is at hand and because He has prepared a sacrifice.  Concerning what that sacrifice is, men are not left in doubt.  The Word of God is precise.  It is God’s judgment on the nations.  In a clear Day of the Lord text, the prophet Isaiah wrote,

Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye peoples: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and things that come forth from it.  For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies; he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter [for sacrifice] . . .  The sword of the Lord is filled with blood; it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams; for the Lord hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Edom . . .  For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion.  (Isa. 34:1-2, 6, 8; cf. Rom. 2:3-10)

Here then are two irrefutable parameters.  In Revelation 6, with the opening of the sixth seal and the attendant cosmic disturbance, God’s wrath “is come” – it is about to occur.  In Revelation 8, with the opening of the seventh seal, the trumpet judgments of God’s wrath are beginning to be poured out.  Between the warning that God’s wrath is about to be poured out in chapter 6 and the actual pouring out of that wrath in chapter 8 lies Revelation 7.

In that chapter, two events of paramount importance occur.  The first is the sealing of 144,000 Jews, 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel (Rev. 7:1-8).  The second is the appearing in heaven of a great multitude which no man could number (Rev. 7:9-17),  Who are these two distinct groups?  What do they represent?  And why do they appear at this precise time? . . .

  1. (7:1-8)  The message is clear, urgent, precise, and given as a command: Do not begin pouring out God’s wrath until the remnant of 144,000 Jews are first sealed for protection from that wrath. . . .
  2. (7:9-17)  This great multitude, innumerable, universal, and suddenly appearing in heaven with white robes (purified) and palm branches (triumphant), is the raptured church.  This event occurs immediately prior to the opening of the seventh seal and the outpouring of the Day of the Lord wrath (Rev. 8:1).

Sola Scriptura: The seventh seal is the last of the seven seals which keeps the content of the scroll hidden.  Only now can the content of the scroll be known.  The seventh seal is of the nature of the last three seals.  That is, the wrath of God is in focus.  The fifth seal requests the pouring out of the wrath of God.  The sixth seal announces the imminent outbreak of the wrath of God.  Now the seventh and final seal depicts the actual beginning of God’s wrath in the form of seven trumpet judgments.

J. Hampton Keathley, III: The first parenthesis or interlude dealing with salvation in the Tribulation is now over and the narrative sequence begins again with chapter 8. Remember that the seven seals ultimately contain all the judgments needed to usher in the rule of the Lamb and the kingdom of God. This includes both the trumpet and bowl judgments. With the opening of the seventh seal, the seven-sealed scroll is completely opened and immediately there is silence in heaven. Everything becomes deathly still in heaven. In place of the choruses of the elders, the cries of the angels and the multitudes, all is quiet.

The stillness is so intense that it can be felt. This is a silence of expectancy, for this is the last seal. It is also a silence of foreboding that precedes the onslaught of judgments. It lasts for half an hour (which may be understood just as literally as the other time designations in the book). Silence at this point, after all the vocal expressions of worship previously noted, would be an awesome thing.

Here, then, is a dramatic pause caused by the significance of this final seal, by the intensity of its judgments to follow, and by their final result. The seventh seal contains within its scope all the rest of the judgments of the Tribulation (the trumpets and the bowls) which will restore the kingdom of God to earth.


And when He broke the seventh seal,

Remember that the seventh seal contains all of the seven trumpet judgments.  And the seventh trumpet includes all of the seven bowl (vial) judgments.  Thus the events of the Day of the Lord and the outpouring of God’s wrath are in view.  With the breaking of the seventh seal, the contents of the scroll of end time judgments can now be executed.


A.  Location of the Silence = In Heaven

there was silence in heaven

We have just seen in Chap. 7 that heaven is a very noisy place – especially as you draw near to the throne of God with all of the worship and praise that is offered continually.  So this period of silence is especially unique and dramatic.

Sola Scriptura: Lacking explicit explanation wild speculation has abounded about the significance of this period of silence.  The fact that the silence occurs in heaven is important.  Since the creation of the angelic host, the adorers of heaven have continually praised and worshiped the great God of glory.  That stops!  There is only one event at this point in human history that could possibly render heaven silent – the wrath of God.  Restrained since the Flood and promised since Adam, the eschatological wrath of God is about to finally begin.  So dramatic is God’s wrath that all the eternal activities of heaven – praise and worship of the Magnificent – stop!

John Schultz: John gives us no explanation as to the meaning of the silence. A perfect silence of one half hour is a marvelous experience. Even a one-minute silence seems long to us; a half-hour silence must be like an eternity. Lots of emotions can only be expressed in silence. Silence is sometimes more eloquent than sound. The effect of silence lies in combination and contrast. Silence in itself does not express anything. . .

Thomas Constable: It is the lull before the storm, as a few moments of calm normally precede the most devastating destruction of a tornado or hurricane.

John MacArthur: But after all that loudness, as the full fury of the final judgments is about to be released, silence falls on the heavenly scene. The implication is that when the judgment about to happen becomes visible as the seventh seal is broken and the scroll unrolled, both the redeemed and the angels are reduced to silence in anticipation of the grim reality of the destruction they see written on the scroll. The half an hour of silence is the calm before the storm. It is the silence of foreboding, of intense expectation, of awe at what God is about to do.

And silence is the only proper response to such divine judgment. In Psalm 76:8–9 the psalmist wrote, “The earth feared and was still when God arose to judgment.” Habakkuk declared, “The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him” (Hab. 2:20). “Be silent before the Lord God!” exhorted Zephaniah, “for the day of the Lord is near” (Zeph. 1:7). Zechariah 2:13 commands, “Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord; for He is aroused from His holy habitation.”

Robert Mounce: The silence is neither a symbol of eternal rest nor a necessary precaution so God can hear the prayers of the suffering saints.  It is a dramatic pause that makes even more impressive the judgments about to fall upon the earth.  We are reminded of the prophetic injunction, “The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him” (Hab 2:20; cf. Zeph 1:7–8; Zech 2:13).  Although thirty minutes is a relatively short period, it would be an impressive break in such a rapidly moving drama. Apparently the angelic activity of vv. 2–5 takes place during this interval of silence. Trumpets are given to the seven angels before the throne. An angel standing over the altar mingles incense with the prayers of the saints, and taking fire from the golden altar fills his censer and casts it upon the earth. The intensity of the scene is heightened incredibly by the complete absence of any sound.

[Alternate View]

Buist Fanning: After a period of heaven’s silent attention to the prayers of God’s people, seven angels prepare themselves and pour out fiery and destructive judgment onto the earth in connection with the sounding of the first four trumpets. . .

This silence may be associated with Jewish traditions about incense offering in the heavenly temple as the time when the angels of heaven fall silent and God gives special attention to the prayers of his people on earth.  These traditions are found in various rabbinic works as well as in Testament of Adam 1:12 and can be traced back to before AD 70.  The silence is not due to God’s inability to hear human prayers while angelic worship is going on6 but represents instead his attentiveness to his people who cry out to him in prayer. This view fits more naturally into the context of this prelude to the trumpet judgments, since Revelation 8:3–5 connect the judgments to the heavenly incense offering as well as the prayers of the saints.

B.  Duration of the Silence = 30 Minutes

for about half an hour.

John Walvoord: In recognition of the seventh seal’s importance, John says its opening is followed by a half hour of silence in heaven. Though thirty minutes is not ordinarily considered a long time, in this case it indicates that something tremendous is about to take place. It may be compared to the silence before the foreman of a jury reports a verdict; for a moment there is perfect silence and everyone awaits that which will follow.

John MacArthur: The hour of God’s final judgment had come—the hour when the saints will be vindicated, sin punished, Satan vanquished, and Christ exalted.