The 7th Seal – Revelation 8:1-6 01/17/21

The 7th Seal – Revelation 8:1-6 01/17/21


As I pondered this week’s passage I was surprised by where the application ended up leading me. The text this week is Revelation 8:1-6, which I invite you to read through at some point. In the midst of all the heavenly activity, in the midst of the power of God and coming judgment, we’re exposed to something rather remarkable. That “something” is the prayers of the saints and God’s response to them.


The thing I don’t want us to lose sight of is that, in the midst of all the amazing things going on, it is Christ’s death and resurrection that remain THE pivotal event in human history. What these two things accomplished are staggering. This act of divine power, wisdom, and mercy, made it possible for fallen human beings to be forgiven and accepted by God. That is something to truly marvel over.


Now, getting back to the Revelation, we find silence reigning; Revelation 8:1. The Hebrew Scriptures often associate silence with divine judgment.[1] There are texts found in the Apocrypha that reference a “primeval silence” at the end of earth’s history immediately prior to the final judgment.[2] Both Babylon and Israel were described as sitting silently in the face of God’s judgment against them in[3] Isaiah 47:5. We find something similar in in Zephaniah 1:7. Silence in the face of God’s judgment is an appropriate response.


But… at the end of the day, we must read these events through the lens of the cross. It was the cross that stood as the first action bringing in the final Judgment.[4] Judgment was initiated as Christ stood as our sacrificial substitute. [5] The result of that sacrifice is that His followers, incorporated into the people of God by faith, are able to “stand” as God’s judgments are consummated on planet earth.[6]


John sees something that seems to be significant, but is not explained; “the seven angels who stand before God”.[7] The fact that the plural definite article “the” (τοὺς)[8] is used suggests that these are a specific identifiable group of angels.[9] It is possible that these seven angels are the seven archangels of Jewish apocalyptic writings.[10] In ancient Jewish writings, angels were often portrayed as executing God’s judgments.[11] The phrase (ἱστάναι ἐνώπιον) in our text, literally “to stand before,” can also mean “to attend upon,” or “to be the servant of,” with the significant possibility that these could be angels who serve or minister directly before God[12] and are therefore a pretty big deal.


It’s interesting that they were not mentioned when the throne room was described back in Revelation 4:5. There were seven “spirits” (πνεύματα) [13] mentioned, but it’s unlikely that these are the same beings. You may remember that many biblical interpreters believe that the Seven Spirits is a reference to the fullness of the Holy Spirit. That is my conclusion as well.


At this point we should be expecting the angels to blow the trumpets, but that doesn’t happen… at least not yet.[14] Following this we have another interlude, as it were, with another angel taking incense from the heavenly altar and casting it to earth;[15] Revelation 8:3-5. Equating prayer with sacrifices was common in Jewish thought and was emphasized in Judaism following the cessation of animal sacrifices when the Temple was destroyed.[16] The word “prayer” is (προσευχαῖς)[17] and means to speak to, or to make requests of, God.[18] It refers to the act of calling on God.[19] This passage indicates that the judgments about to be delivered on the earth are in response to the saints’ prayers.[20]


So we have this angel, apparently not directly associated with the other seven angels and their trumpets, and he’s given something that will be offered up to God as an acceptable sacrifice;[21] Revelation 8:3. The wording is a little awkward, but using Scripture to interpret Scripture, we can conclude that this angels does not mix incense with prayer to offer them up to God. We find that the prayers are the incense offered up to God in Revelation 5:8.[22] Genuine prayers are seen as acceptable sacrifices to God.[23]


The result is spectacular as the silence is broken with peals of thunder, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.”[24] God’s response to the saints’ prayers of faith is to send judgment on the earth.[25] The description in our passage matches the conclusion of the seventh trumpet sounding in Revelation 11:16 and the final bowl of God’s wrath being poured out in Revelation 16:18. It’s reasonable to conclude that these are all three recordings of the same event.


So we see that Revelation 8:3–5 is God’s response to the saints’ prayer for vindication and results in the final judgment.[26] The simple truth is that prayer is one of the most important tactics that soldiers of Christ may employ.[27] Our prayers have the power to move God to action… in His time.


That’s the take-away of this passage. We’ve seen that God is in control. We’ve seen that we are called upon, and equipped, and to be faithful. Now we see that part of that faithfulness is fervent prayer, a prayer that we are now shown will result in God moving heaven and earth in response.


Has prayer become a significant aspect of your Christian walk? If it is not, I encourage you to learn how to pray now, before you find yourself in the fire.

[1] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 446. [2] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 446. [3] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 446. [4] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 446. [5] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 446. [6] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 446. [7] Joseph L. Trafton, Reading Revelation: A Literary and Theological Commentary, Rev. ed., Reading the New Testament Series (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2005), 88. [8]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 8:2. [9] Robert Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Revised, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1977), 172. [10] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 454. [11] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 454. [12] David E. Aune, Revelation 6–16, vol. 52B, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 508. [13]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 4:5. [14] Joseph L. Trafton, Reading Revelation: A Literary and Theological Commentary, Rev. ed., Reading the New Testament Series (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2005), 88. [15] Joseph L. Trafton, Reading Revelation: A Literary and Theological Commentary, Rev. ed., Reading the New Testament Series (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2005), 88. [16] David E. Aune, Revelation 6–16, vol. 52B, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 546. [17]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Re 8:4. [18] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 408. [19] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 284. [20] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 452. [21] Joseph L. Trafton, Reading Revelation: A Literary and Theological Commentary, Rev. ed., Reading the New Testament Series (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2005), 89. [22] Robert Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Revised, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1977), 174. [23] Robert Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Revised, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1977), 175. [24] Joseph L. Trafton, Reading Revelation: A Literary and Theological Commentary, Rev. ed., Reading the New Testament Series (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2005), 89. [25] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 457. [26] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 461. [27] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 463.

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