Welcome! This is the second post on our study of Revelation chapters 8 and 9. In this post, we’re going to talk about the opening of the last seal, the seventh seal, which brings silence in heaven for half an hour. And then we’re going to talk about the prayers of the saints. It’s all interesting. Keep reading if you want to know more.
Revelation Chapters 8 and 9
Second in an Eight-Part Series
By Karen Thompson
“The Lamb Opens the Seventh Seal”
“The Very Last Hour”
“The Prayers of the Saints”
Rev. 8:1 And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
The first verse of chapter eight describes the opening of the seventh and last seal. We’ve already talked about the opening of the seventh seal in the last chapter, but let’s look at it again: “There was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.” One has a tendency to glide right over this statement without giving it a second thought. Just one little sentence—twelve words. It seems so uneventful, hardly worth mentioning. It is, however, a very meaningful event.
As already discussed, this half hour of silence is symbolic. It symbolizes a very short time of peace that will take place on earth after a time of constant warfare. After Antichrist confirms the covenant of one week of years, there will be some level of peace in the Middle East. There will be a break from the time of wars and rumors of wars.
When warfare comes to an end, the time of peace will allow for a couple of very important things to happen. The first thing to happen during this three and one-half years of peace is that the 144,000 witnesses will be sealed after they receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
The second important thing to happen is the temple will be rebuilt. Eschatologists believe that during this short window of peace, the Jewish people will rebuild the temple. There are a few verses of scripture that indicate the temple will be rebuilt.
Revelation 11:1–2 talks about the two witnesses measuring the temple, saying the Gentiles (Antichrist) will control the city of Jerusalem but they will be forbidden to enter the temple. It’s pointless to forbid someone from entering the temple when there is no temple to enter. In order for this prophecy to come to pass, there has to be a temple!
Then in Daniel 10:27, it talks about the covenant of one week being broken and “in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” In the middle of the week, after three and one-half years, the Antichrist figure will cause the sacrifice and the oblation (offering) to cease. Sacrifices cannot be performed without the temple, so this verse indicates there will be a temple. Antichrist breaks the covenant in the middle of the seven years, so that means the temple will be built before the middle of the seven years.
Lastly, 2nd Thessalonians 2:3–4 talks about how the Antichrist will enter the temple and declare himself to be God: “and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” This prophecy cannot be fulfilled unless there is a temple in which Antichrist can sit and declare himself to be god.
It’s safe to conclude that the temple will be rebuilt in the time of peace. The Jewish people know they will get an opportunity to rebuild the temple. In fact, they are already prepared for this event when it happens. Everything they will need for the temple has already been created. The only thing they lack is the temple itself.
Let’s summarize what happens at the opening of the seventh seal: first, a period of a one-half hour of silence in heaven is initiated. This means heaven’s war machine against Antichrist is suspended for the first half of Daniel’s 70th week. During that time, the four angels are posted on the four corners of the earth holding back the winds from blowing. That means they are restraining Antichrist from breaking the covenant until the 144,000 are sealed. Also, we can confidently conclude the temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt. Finally, when Antichrist breaks the covenant by invading Jerusalem in the middle of the seven-year period, that’s when silence in heaven comes to an end. The four angels holding back destruction to the earth will then administer the first four trumpet judgments.
The Last Hour
Let’s ponder on this half-hour symbolism for a moment. If the first three and one-half years of Daniel’s 70th week are symbolized in heaven by a half hour, then we can assume the last three and one-half years can also be symbolized as a half an hour. Two halves of an hour combined is one hour. One hour. The last hour! The events we are reading about in Revelation make up the last hour of the times of the Gentiles. It’s the last hour in which Israel will be afflicted by Gentile powers—the last hour before our Lord’s millennial reign begins on earth!
Saints’ Prayers Ascend Before God
Rev. 8:2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. 3 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. 4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.
When the half hour of silence was over, John said, “I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets” (v. 2). These seven angels are about to administer the trumpet judgments, but before they sound their trumpets, there was a matter of prayers that needed to be taken care of first. John described seeing another angel come and stand at the altar with a golden censer, a container used to burn incense. The angel was given incense which he mixed together with the prayers of the saints to offer it upon the golden altar which was before God’s throne (v. 3).
This isn’t the first time we have read about these “prayers of all saints.” The first time we read about them was before the seven seals were opened. After the Lamb took the book with the seven seals out of the hand of God, the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of them had golden vials “full of odors which are the prayers of saints” (Rev. 5:7–8). In chapter five, we are made aware of the prayers, but they had not yet been offered up to God. It’s in chapter eight where we see these prayers being offered up to God before the trumpet judgments are poured out.
The angel standing at the altar with a golden censer was given much incense to burn in his censer to offer it with the prayers of the saints. John said, “The smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand” (v. 4). The smoke of the incense lifted the prayers of the saints before God. We aren’t told specifically what the saints had prayed about, but it is obvious that the subject of their prayers had to be relative to the events happening in Revelation. Their prayers were most likely similar to the prayers of the Christians we see under the altar of God when the fifth seal was opened. These Christians were killed because of their faith. They prayed to God, asking Him to avenge their unjust murders, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10). When the prayers were offered to God, the next thing that happened was the administering of the trumpet judgments. The trumpet judgments were poured out in response to the prayers of the saints.
Let’s pause and think about that for a moment. The prayers of the believers are mentioned twice in the events of Revelation. It’s a powerfully significant statement to the importance of prayer. In these few verses of scripture, we get a glimpse of how interactive our prayers are with heaven. The saints prayed and God responded. Consider this: If no one had prayed, would God have responded to the events happening on the earth?
We see such an incident in Ezekiel when there was no one to stand in the gap in prayer and the result wasn’t good. The book of Ezekiel talks about how the Lord was disturbed about how the people of the land were behaving. Their behavior was provoking Him to wrath. When He saw the vile behavior of the people, he “sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” He was looking for someone to stand in the gap between Him and the people, someone that would pray a prayer of petition on behalf of the people. But, alas, He couldn’t find even one man to stand in the gap for his country. As a result, the Lord said, “Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads” (Eze. 22:29–31). The Lord wanted to show mercy, but apparently, He couldn’t unless someone petitioned Him for it.
John Wesley is often quoted for having said, “It seems God can do nothing unless someone prays.” And that sentiment is certainly scriptural. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 it says, “If my people… shall humble themselves and pray … I will heal their land….” God healing their land was conditional on their humble prayers. Also, in Isaiah, the Lord called upon watchmen (people of prayer) to not stop entreating Him until Jerusalem becomes a praise in the earth: “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Isa. 62:6–7). They were told not to stop praying until He made Jerusalem a praise in the earth. There are many such scriptures that reflect the truth of how God waits for the petition of men before He acts. In that regard, these two references in Revelation about the prayers of the saints are both educational and inspirational at the same time!
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