We are back in the “Revelation to John”, after our summer break. We had last concluded with Chapter 7. After our prayer week it is fitting that we start with the first 5 verses of chapter 8. Since it has been a while since we last considered this book, it is important to revise what we have covered :
In Chapter 6 we considered the opening of the first 6 seals. We saw that these were all about God’s dealings with the world, from the ascension of Christ until the second coming of Christ. These are the times in which we live.
The first seal, the revelation of the rider on the white horse, refers to Christ who rides ahead with the gospel.
The next three seals reveal three riders that exercise terrible judgments on the earth. We have seen these things described in 6:3-8 happening within the history of the world in these last 2000 years.
The 5th seal reveals the existence and impatience of the martyrs for Christ who were killed for the sake of the gospel.
The 6th seal contains the revelation of the events that accompany the second coming and final judgment of Christ (6:12-17) when the people of this world will be in panic, “… hiding themselves in caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb , for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” ( 6:17). Chapter 6 is a glorious and yet at the same time a terrifying vision of the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus who holds both the history and the future of this world in His hand. In the midst of His temporary judgments and in view of the final judgment we are encouraged to flee to Christ, the Lamb of God before the wrath of the Lamb becomes our ultimate judge.
The 7th chapter is a dramatic “interruption” before the 7th seal will be opened in Chapter 8. This chapter answers the question : “What will happen to Christians in this period? “ The answer given is that God’s people (whose righteousness is in Christ) are being kept secure through all these times of tribulation. We have seen that this is true of those who have been killed for the testimony of Christ. They are secure with God . They are alive and waiting until the final judgment and the resurrection ( 6:10-11) when the Lord Jesus will restore all things and when He will exercise His justice . In Chapter 7 we have then essentially a revelation of the eternal security of the saints.
(i) from the perspective of the church in the history of the earth (7:1-8): We note that God’s angels exercise a restraining ministry upon the earth (7:1). We also note that God’s people, His servants are sealed by the angels. They are owned by God. The seal (or the mark) is not a literal mark, but it certainly reminds us of the fact that the Lord knows those who are His (2 Tim 2:19). We also read in Revelation 14:1 that this seal is the name of Christ and of God ( cf. 9:4 and 22:4).  The number 144,000 is symbolic of the entire church, which includes the entire number of believing Jews and Gentiles. It is a symbolic number and it is a fixed number, indicating that God knows the total number of His elect sheep on earth. In Revelation 14:5 the 144,000 are said to be those redeemed from the earth as “first fruits for God and the Lamb.” This makes their identity clear. The Lamb has shed His blood for people from every nation, “from all tribes and peoples and languages…”. ( 7:9)
(ii) From the perspective of the Church in eternity (7:9- 17): Here is the picture of the church triumphant, as she enjoys her heavenly rest from her earthly labor and hardships. This glorious scene of God’s redeemed people becomes yet another occasion for exuberant worship. (vv. 11,12)
The interlude of Chapter 7 reaches its conclusion in v. 13, when a question is put to John. The identity of the great multitude is revealed: “ Who are these?...These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation”. This again refers to the entire church age which will have been a period of great tribulation for the church – such as Jesus had spoken of in John 15:18-21. Now these have become a happy and thankful and therefore a worshipping people . In verses 15-17 we see that heaven is a world of thankful worship. They are finally home from their restless wanderings in this spiritual desert. They are no longer hungry or thirsty. In Christ they are entirely satisfied. There is no more sorrow . The world has now received its just judgment. This fact leaves them speechless, which is where the next chapter takes us.
Revelation 8: 1-5
And so we note that the first cycle of judgment ends quite unexpectedly in the opening of the seventh seal in Chapter 8:1, when John reports, “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” The opening of the 7th seal is the revelation of silence! This silence in heaven contrasts dramatically with the loud praises of the redeemed in heaven (7:10-12). The silence is said to last for half an hour. Heaven is speechless. What is the meaning of this silence? This silence reflects the awe in view of the revelation of God’s awesome judgment in the earth . Heaven’s worshipers are stunned into silence when they behold the judgment of God.
Zephaniah spoke of silence in connection with the day of the Lord: “Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near.”
Habakkuk did the same: “But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.”
The first cycle of “seal judgments” is now complete. God has brought final judgment upon all those who have rejected Christ – His Son- the Mediator and Saviour for all who would believe in Him. History as we know it, is over! The great judgment has taken place – and now the choirs of heaven cease their singing. All creation stands in awe of him who is seated upon the throne. There is nothing left to say. God has brought all things to their appointed end. Silence!
THE SEVEN TRUMPETS
 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. The vision of the 7 seals now gives way to the vision of the 7 trumpets, but before that happens we read this :
 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne,  and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
Note the reference to the prayer of the saints. We have seen this before in 5:8 . This is an astonishing bit of information, for it makes much more of prayer than you had perhaps imagined. What do we learn here?
(i) We learn that the prayers of all the saints appear before the throne of God (vv. 3 & 4)
(ii) The prayers of the saints set in motion the judgments upon the earth (v.5)
The prayers of the saints here are rising before God from the hand of the angel. They are a “pleasing aroma” to God as were the offerings of the OT that were brought with a sincere heart. Prayers are associated with sacrifice. You give up time to pray. These then are the prayers that are truly according to God’s will, offered with Christ’s help (Rom 8:24) and the Spirit’s enabling ( Rom. 8:26,27) . They, like the smoke of incense ( 8:4) are a pleasing aroma to God.
What do these prayers accomplish? I remind you of something very important which we learned from our recent study of the Lord’s prayer in Luke 11. Jesus taught us to pray in the first place: “Our Father in heaven , hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come…” (Luke 11: 2). Prayer occurs against the background of a world in sin and in need , in which Satan deceives gullible , naïve people, in which he distorts and dilutes truth, in which he distracts us from true worship by tempting us with respectable idols of our time, and in which he seeks to destroy Christian testimony and of course the Christian church.
The Christian man and woman sensitive to these things, see these things and they strongly desire that God’s Name would be honoured in all the world. They desire that Satan’s power and this earthly mess would be soon substituted by the glorious rule of the great King .
Here is the question : Do you not think that God intends to honour this prayer ? Remember Proverbs 15:8 : “ …the prayer of the upright is acceptable to Him.” Do you not think that sooner or later this must happen? Well, here it is. Here is the revelation and the promise that God hears this prayer, and that in time He will do what He already told you to pray for .
The next question is this : How will He answer this prayer ? Verse 5 gives us the answer.  Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. This is the picture of the final judgment , of which the OT prophets had spoken , and of which the Lord Jesus had spoken .
Remember that in pleading with God that He would vindicate His Name and His cause would require such answers , and that is what the vision of the 7 trumpets is all about – in fact it is what the visions of the seals, trumpets and bowls are all about . This is the reason why this insight about prayer is found here. The prayers of the saints play a necessary part behind the bringing about of the judgments of God. Yes, it is terrifying to an unbeliever (and it ought to be) , but this is so encouraging to every believer who is sick and tired of this ungodliness . Our prayers are more powerful than all the evil that is arrayed against us. Our prayer is the fuel that sets ablaze the fire of the judgment of God. The prayers of the martyrs ( see 6: 10- 11) are being answered . The final judgment of which Sodom and Gomorrah was a foretaste has now become a reality , and the words of our Lord Jesus have come true :
“ I came to cast fire on the earth…” (Luke 12:49)
 For other uses of the Spirit’s sealing see: 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13f; 4:30.
 Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” - Note – a seven fold acknowledgement of God and His attributes for which the church worships Him .
 A term often used in connection with the burned offerings of the OT in Exodus , Leviticus and Numbers .
 E.g. Matthew 24:29-31