The Weekend Word
The Seventh Seal and the Golden Censer
1 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
- The 7th seal is the consummation of all things.
- Isn’t this amazing that now in the midst of great tribulation (ch 6) we have silence breaking out. We had all of the worship and praise in ch 7 and now silence for 30 minutes.
- The 4 living creatures that praise God all the time (ch 4), the white robed multitude that worships God day and night in his temple (ch 7), the millions of angels worshipping him before his throne (7:11).
- And now they are all silent for 30 minutes.
- This is not a strange occurrence – Zech 2:13 – “Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”
- Habakkuk 2:20 – “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
2 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
- Who are these 7 angels? Here, we must look beyond Scripture to Jewish tradition as recorded in the Jewish apocalyptic writings to identify this group of seven angels. Fortunately, when we do, they are easily identified as the “seven archangels of God.” Two of these archangels are mentioned in Scripture: Gabriel and Michael. The other five names we find in the Jewish apocalyptic writings: Suruel, Raphael, Raguel, Saraqael, and Uriel (Google 1 Enoch 19:1-3, 20:1-7; Tobit 12:12-15).
- The 7th seal opens and the 7 trumpets come forth.
3 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,
- In the Christian life, everything stops for the prayers of the saints. Could it be that the silence was so the prayers could be heard?
- It’s like in the Divine Worship Service at the beginning we say “In peace let us pray to the Lord, Lord have mercy.” And then we offer all these prayers for the people on the earth and the church in the world – because the Lord is coming. “When you come Lord, have mercy.”
- And he does come – in his word – and he does come in his baptism – and he does come in his supper.
- And when he comes in his last days, this is what we say before we take communion “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.
- This is what is happening here in Chapter 8.
- The incense – in the liturgy we say “let our prayers rise for you as incense.”
4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
- Note that it does not say that our prayers rise like incense – they rise on their own with the incense.
- Again, in the Divine Worship Service we pray for the whole church of God – for all the people, for the dying, for those who are grieving, for those who have authority over us. We pray for peace in the world, we pray for our families, our missionaries and our seminaries.
- It seems that in times of great tribulation that many want to seek relief in religious conferences – to find the new strategy. But the true church coming out of this tribulation stops and prays. The church rests in the shelter of the Lord.
- Note also in Acts 2 the disciples devoted themselves to the prayers.
5 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 angel is Christ himself who is in control of the events to take place.
- We have heard this language before – this is Mt Sinai language. When the Lord was present in the midst of his people and there upon the mountain was smoke, fire and rumblings.
- The language here describes the power of prayer. The prayer filled censer is thrown upon the earth and then we see the effect of such prayers – the power of God.
- What does this say to a careless, faithless world? That God is not mocked and that he does hallow his name, and his kingdom does indeed come and his will is done – even as the Small Catechism says “even without our praying.”
- But as the church prays that it may be done among us. This is what God is showing in Ch 8.
So a question to us – Are you /we comfortable asking God to bring judgment on those who persecute our brothers and sisters in Christ? It has been suggested that modern Christians – especially in America – are hesitant to pray this way solely because we know nothing of suffering for our faith in Christ. We are soft on the enemies of God because we have experienced no true injustice in this world. However, in countries around the world today, believers are exiled, jailed, and executed. Their property is confiscated Heb 10:34, and their families are broken apart. To exist in such a society and not cry out for God to enact justice on those who mistreat our physical and spiritual family is evidence of our complete moral bankruptcy.
The Seven Trumpets
- With the coming 7 trumpets we see all of the language that reminds us of the exodus, in particular the plagues.
- The wrath of God that is revealed and executed on unbelieving Egypt and finally culminated in the death of the first born sons.
- The purpose of the Passover was that God protected Israel through it – through the sacrificial death of the lamb. This is no different from the church and the rapture denies both the comparison and the reality.
- The strength of Israel came from the remembrance of what God saved them through – and it is the same for the Church – God saves us through his wrath and tribulation.
- On the night of the Passover God gave a promise – you do this, then here is my promise. When you did it (put the blood on the door post) and believed his promise, you were protected.
- There is life and death here. To believe gives you life – to not believe is to die. It’s like Adam and Eve all over again. Eat from this tree – don’t eat from that tree.
6 Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.
- We are back to the 7 angels of v.2 – still waiting, still in preparation.
- 7 angels and 7 trumpets = that continual completeness we see running through the book.
- Remember, at this time we are still within the 7 seals.
- As we prepare for the blowing of the first trumpet I must remind you how important this is as we will now see this as the language of the tragedies being poured out in the plagues of Egypt that happened in Exodus where God executed his judgment against Pharaoh and Egypt in order to vindicate his name and deliver his holy people.
- Think of God’s people in bondage coming out of that great tribulation.