Good evening and welcome to EBible Fellowship's Bible study in the Book of Revelation. Tonight is study #1 of Revelation, chapter 8, and we are going to be looking at Revelation 8:1:
And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
We are continuing to go, verse by verse, in the Book of Revelation. We saw back in Revelation, chapter 5, that God began to speak of a Book that was written within and on the backside and sealed with seven seals. Let me read this, again, in Revelation 5:1:
And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
We spent some time discussing how this Book is the Bible and that God had sealed up His Word until the time of the end, as He had told Daniel, the prophet. In the Book of Revelation we find that “seven seals” are upon this Book and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, begins to remove or open up the seals. Revelation, chapter 6, went into detail as six of the seals were opened. Then in Revelation 7, God was explaining and expounding on His salvation program throughout the New Testament era, the salvation of the “firstfruits” and then of the “great multitude” that were saved at the time of the end, which would identify with the Feast of Ingathering. So, there were the “144,000” (or firstfruits) that typified all those saved during the church age, plus the “great multitude” that typified all those saved during the “little season” of the latter rain.
Now, coming out of that chapter and into chapter 8, we are right back into a discussion of the “seven seals.” This is the “seventh seal” or the final seal. The other six have been opened and we discussed them. At this point, as the “seventh seal” is coming off this Book, the Bible, it would mean that the Bible is now an “open Book.” It is no longer sealed up.
Let me just explain that if you have seven seals and you remove the first seal, well, then the Bible is still “sealed.” And, likewise, that would be true when you remove the second or third or fourth seal, and so on; as long as you have any seals upon the Book, it is still sealed up. You cannot open it until all seven seals have been opened and removed.
Now all the seals are off and the Bible is unsealed and this would, therefore,
identify with the time of the end.
That is the case when we read of the “seventh seal.” Finally, all seven seals are open and now the entire Book is open. This helps us to pinpoint the timing of the language that we find here in our verse, where God is telling us what happens once the seven seals have been removed; that is, the language of the “silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.” The “silence” takes place at the opening of the “seventh seal,” and, therefore, at the opening of the Bible as a whole. Now all the seals are off and the Bible is unsealed and this would, therefore, identify with the time of the end. God said to Daniel in Daniel 12:4: “Shut up the words, and seal the book, to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” The implication is that at the time of the end, God would open up the Word of God to reveal information that was not previously known to His people. That is why He also goes on to say in Daniel 12:10: “None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” If you understand something, you have learned it; you have gained knowledge and your knowledge has increased, but that is not the case for the unsaved people of the earth.
Now let us go back and read Revelation 8:1:
And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
Let us just look at this one phrase at a time. What would it mean when our verse says: “there was silence in heaven”? What does that mean? Again, it would infer that there was not “silence in heaven” before this seventh seal was opened. There must have been some sort of “noise” or some sort of (audible) activity going on in heaven, but now that the “seventh seal” is opened and it is time of the end (and we know these two ideas go together), now the Bible is an unsealed Book; and what God had told Daniel about the end of the world (the appointed time of the end season) was now taking place and, therefore, this “silence in heaven” took place for a period described as “about the space of half an hour.”
Let us look at some verses that show “activity” in heaven, where there is not “silence in heaven.” We read of this in Luke 15 in some of the parables that the Lord Jesus gives us, and it says in Luke 15:3-7:
And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Here, we have an example of God speaking of a sinner that repenteth and that is describing someone that became saved. They were granted the gift of repentance which is all part of the gift of God’s salvation. And there is a reaction or a response in heaven. Heaven is not “idle.” It is not a “disinterested” heaven and we could understand this to mean God and those that serve Him in that glorious kingdom. Heaven is very much concerned about the affairs of the Gospel on the earth; they are very interested in God’s salvation program and when even one sinner experienced the grace of God and God created a new heart within that person and gave him repentance to turn from his sins, then it says: “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.”
This idea is basically repeated in the next parable in Luke 15:8-10:
Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and *her* neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
There is joy in the presence of the “messengers” of God and that could mean true believers that are in heaven in their soul existence, it could also include angelic beings and it could be God Himself, as the Lord Jesus is called the Messenger of the covenant. There is joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner that repenteth. It is repeated in this parable and, once again, this is describing the wonderful reaction in heaven when someone became saved.
There is a third example in this chapter, in which the Lord Jesus gave another parable concerning a father that had two sons. One of the sons was “lost,” just as the sheep was lost or the coin was lost. In this case one of the sons was lost – he wasted his substance with riotous living. Then he came to himself and he returned to his father; and that is a beautiful picture of how God works in the minds and souls of those He is dealing with, as He draws them to Himself. Then when this son came home, there was rejoicing and it says in Luke 15:21-24:
And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
They had begun to be merry. It says in verse 25 that when the elder son came and drew nigh to the house he heard “music and dancing.” It was not “silence,” but there was activity. Of course, this is an earthly story to teach us a heavenly meaning. It is something to teach us concerning “joy in heaven.” It is a “noisy” time; it is something that is noticeable, as God rejoices and the Kingdom of God (the angels that are in the presence of God) rejoices over a sinner that is granted repentance of God. This, of course, was going on constantly, throughout the Day of salvation.
However, there was a “break,” as God did lay out His salvation program into “times and seasons” and, Lord willing, in our next study we will take a little time to discuss the “times and seasons” of the different “rains,” which the Lord speaks about in the Book of Joel. There was a time of rain, followed by a period of relative inactivity in the Old Testament, then a time of rain during the church age, followed by a period of inactivity, a time of “silence in heaven.” Silence in heaven would mean that the “joy” or “rejoicing” or the “making merry,” and all the tremendous response of God and all the inhabitants of heaven has ceased because there is no one being saved on the earth. We would say, “no one,” but the word translated as “silence” in Revelation 8:1 does allow for something less than total silence, because of the way the word is used in speaking of Paul, as found in Acts 21:40:
And when he had given him license…
This refers to a Roman ruler that was allowing Paul to speak to the Jews that had wanted to kill him because they thought Paul was bringing Gentiles into the temple. But now Paul is being allowed to speak, and it goes on to say in Acts 21:40:
And when he had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,
Now Paul is speaking to them in Hebrew and they are listening – there is a great silence. And this word “silence” is the word we find in Revelation 8:1. But, in the next chapter in Acts 22, we get a few more details in the next couple of verses. It says in Acts 22:1-2:
Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,)
Then the Apostle Paul went on to make his defense, but since it was said (after they recognized he was speaking to them in the Hebrew tongue), “they kept the more silence,” this would imply there was a greater level of silence and there must have been some “noise” when we read in Acts 21:40 that there was “made a great silence.” So that allows for the slightest bit of activity and, therefore, the slightest bit of “salvation.”
So, when we read in Revelation 8:1: “And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour,” this would indicate that there is not the level of joy taking place in heaven as what would be typical of the early rain when God was saving individuals. He was not saving a “great multitude,” but He was saving more than He did in the Old Testament. But now this early rain has ceased and there was a relative period of inactivity. As a matter of fact, we can state absolutely (without hesitation) that no one at all was being saved within any (corporate) church in the world at the very beginning of Great Tribulation period and the end of the church, when judgment began at the house of God.
Christ departed out of the midst of the churches and the candlestick within the churches went out.
From the beginning of “about the space of half an hour” of silence, no one at all in any church or denomination (whether Catholic or Protestant or independent or house church) were being saved within those entities. That would have been impossible because at the very beginning of this point, the Holy Spirit left the congregations. Christ departed out of the midst of the churches and the candlestick within the churches went out. So it just cannot be that anyone could have been saved in that darkened spiritual condition. The language of “silence,” as we followed it into the Book of Acts, permits the idea of a relative “handful” of individuals that could have been saved during the period of “about a half hour.” (We will look at defining that period of time a bit later.) But if any were saved, it would have been outside of the churches in the world. Perhaps, someone could have heard someone outside of their churches and God maybe saved a “handful.” Now by a “handful,” I mean two or four or six people. The language of the Bible does not allow for very many at all; and it is possible that there were none at all saved. That is also very possible, according to this language.
What we know is that something drastic had changed and God’s program of evangelizing the world through the churches had come to an end. The church age had ended and the Holy Spirit had departed from the churches and the “abomination of desolation” (another name for Satan) had entered into the “holy place.” The “man of sin” took his seat in the temple. All of this language is really describing the same thing, this “silence in heaven,” in this beginning period of time, but why does it say “there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour”? No – not exactly a half hour, but it was “about” half an hour. That means it could have been less or, perhaps, more, than half an hour. We will see that the idea of less than “half an hour” fits best with the language of the rest of the Bible. It is said to be “about the space of half an hour,” because the Great Tribulation period itself (the entire period of God’s judgment on the churches) is called “one hour.” We read this, for instance, in Revelation 17:8-12:
The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
Now you might recognize some of that language and that is why I read a few verses leading up to verse 12, where it mentions the “one hour.” The name “beast” is the title that God assigned to Satan exclusively for his time of rule during the Great Tribulation period, which is typified as “one hour.”
It is the “last hour,” as we read in the parable of the workers in the vineyard that were hired at three-hour intervals, except for the special situation of those workers that were hired at the “eleventh hour” (and the work day is only twelve hours), so there is a difference that occurs at the end of the day for the final hour. That hour between the eleventh and twelfth hour, or that “one hour,” is representative of the entire Great Tribulation period. We have learned that the Great Tribulation actually worked out to be a full 23 years – a full 8,400 days in length – beginning on May 21, 1988 and continuing until May 21, 2011. That 23-year period is what is referred to as “one hour” wherein the “beast” ruled and Satan had taken his seat as the “man of sin” reigning in the temple (the churches and congregations of the world).
And that is why God speaks of about “half an hour” because the spiritual condition that had come upon the world at the beginning of the Great Tribulation (and remember, this was the point at which all seven seals were removed at the “time of the end,” the beginning of judgment on the house of God), was one of “silence in heaven,” because virtually no one was being saved anywhere on the earth for “about the space of half an hour.”
Yet, it was not God’s plan to allow that spiritual condition to continue throughout the entire Great Tribulation period, or else He would have said there was “silence in heaven for the space of one hour,” if He had not planned to save anyone during the Great Tribulation. But, actually, He had a plan to save a “great multitude” of souls, as we just finished reading about in the previous chapter. There was a great multitude from every nation and tribe and tongue that came “out of great tribulation.” They were saved during that period of time, so that is why God had to bring about a change after “about a half hour” of that horrible judgment in which virtually no one was being saved and He sent forth the “latter rain” to bring in that final harvest of souls that would identify with the Feast of Ingathering – and this would be that “great multitude.”
This is why God says in Matthew 24:21-22:
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
Do you see what God is saying here? He is speaking of the Great Tribulation and He is saying that unless the character of those days be shortened (that is, if the silence in heaven continued throughout the entire hour), then He could not save that “great multitude,” and, therefore, He just “shortened” those days and finished His salvation program through the outpouring of the “latter rain” and the deliverance of that great multitude of souls from all the nations of the world. This is referring to God’s program outside of the churches; He never shortened the judgment upon the churches themselves. What happened to them at the very beginning of the Great Tribulation, as there was also “silence” in the churches and spiritual darkness, continued (in this condition) throughout the 23-year period of the Great Tribulation. None of the great multitude came from within the churches.
But outside of the churches, in the world, God brought about a vastly different scenario. He changed the condition from “silence” to there being “great joy in heaven” over numerous sinners that were granted repentance as God saved a great multitude from around the world.