“And when He had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. 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. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.” Rev. 8:1-6.
We will omit commentary on the second verse, for it has reference to the seven trumpets, a subject which will be given extensive treatment in a separate article. The silence in heaven for about half an hour cannot be the second coming of Christ, as some have thought, for afterward the angel with the golden censer and incense, offered the prayers for the saints from the golden altar.
The Angel With The “Golden Censer”
As in previous discussions, it remains true here as well, that a correct understanding of the book of Revelation requires a correct knowledge of the symbolization, and application of the sanctuary and its services. Here we are introduced to the “golden censer” and the “altar of incense,” items which are strictly used in the Sanctuary for the atonement of sins and the prayer of all saints. The altar is in the holy place, “before the vail,” (Ex. 30:6), just opposite (in front of) the throne that is in the most holy, and it was only to be used by Aaron, the High priest. The two apartments were separated by a vail, and on the day of atonement, the vail or door of the earthly tabernacle was opened, and the high priest went “within the vail,” (Lev. 16:12-14), But let it be remembered that the door (vail) was left open while the high priest officiated, thus the two apartments became one on the day of atonement.
For this reason, the priests were not permitted in the holy place on that day, as they were at other times, for the vail being lifted, the holy place also became most holy. So while the door to the most holy was open, the entrance to the holy was closed. Therefore, the high priest alone used both apartments on the Day of Atonement. (See Lev. 16:17.) Thus the golden altar before the throne, from which the angel offered the prayers of the saints, was, and is, used in both periods – before, and in the time of the judgment. As the entire judicial tribunal (Judge, Advocate, Elders, etc.) were in the temple after the seventh seal had been opened, it is evident that the judgment was still in progress, and that probation had not closed at the time of the “silence;” for after the judgment has ceased and probation closed, no man can enter the temple. (See Rev. 15:8.)
As stated above, the golden censer is only used by the High Priest, therefore in this analysis, the “other angel” having the censer (Rev. 8:3), is a clear symbolization of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest, offering the “prayers of all saints” “before the [judgment] throne” at the mercy seat. This being truth, clearly sets at naught the remotest possibility that the “half an hour” silence points to Jesus Christ at His second coming, for it would be both illogical and unbiblical for Christ to be offering prayers of saints left on earth after His second advent, and likewise without meaning for the Father to accept these prayers long after probation’s gaping doors have been eternally shut. For said Christ, “he that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Rev. 22:11-12).
Had the “silence” of “half an hour” pointed to the coming of Christ, at which time He takes his saints with Him, there would be no necessity for the angel to offer their prayers. Furthermore, it would be unnecessary to “cast” fire, which is the “Spirit” of God (Acts 2: 1-4), from the golden altar to the earth. Again, if the opening of the seventh seal means the coming of Christ, then only those under the six seals would have been considered in the judgment, and there could be no seventh seal, which would show lack of perfection and completeness of the judgment, and of the gospel. It would also be contrary to the number of seals on the book. As the six seals have reference to six periods in which the saints were sealed, the seventh must also apply to a sealing period; otherwise, it cannot be called, the seventh “seal.”
Now let us consider the truth as taught by the last seal. Note carefully the order of each act. The seal is opened, and silence follows, for it reads: “and when he had opened the seventh seal there was silence.” The silence was followed by the angel coming to the altar with the censer after he offered the prayers of the saints. And then he filled the censer with fire, and cast the fire into the earth and again the voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. This is the exact order of each event. After a time the Judicial demonstrations – the voices “saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,” the thunderings and the lightnings, – ceased for the space of half an hour, very definitely indicating that the Judicial proceedings of the first session of the Judgment adjourns, or enters into a “judicial recess,” only to resume again, after the recess had passed.
The “half an hour silence” for Court Recess in Heaven
What made this silence? As the judgment opened, John states: “And out of the throne proceeded lightnings, and thunderings and voices;” and the four beasts “rest not day and night, saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.” (Rev. 4:5, 8.) The voices are continuous day and night while the judgment is going on. But when the seventh seal was opened these voices were silenced for about half an hour. After the angel offered the prayers of the saints and cast the fire upon the earth, the voices resumed. “And there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.” Evidently the judgment, for some reason, had stopped, and half an hour later it resumed. It cannot be otherwise, for, if the judgment were going on, and the beasts and the elders kept silent, it would indicate that there was something wrong – something to which they could not say “amen” and praise God. Therefore, the only proper conclusion is that for some reason the judgment retired for half an hour.
What made the interruption and brought about the change? Let us first determine the length of the prophetic half hour. A day in prophetic time stands for a year. (Ezek. 4:6.) One hour is the twenty-fourth part of a prophetic year, and figuring thirty days to a month; it would be about two weeks. Half an hour would be half of two weeks; therefore, seven literal days. Seven days were used for purification–cleansing. (See Ex. 29:35, 37; Lev. 12:2; 13:4, 5; 1, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 21, etc.) From these references we conclude that the “half an hour” or seven days stand for the purification of the church, pointing forward to the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1-6. But there is a more definite proof, which will clear all doubts.
In observance of the Passover, the Lord commanded Israel to celebrate that occasion seven days. (See Lev. 23:5-8.) Surely no one would say that God commanded His people to commemorate that event seven days with no object in view. Israel after the flesh going into Egypt, then out of Egypt to Mount Sinai, the Passover in Egypt on the night when the death angel smote the firstborn of man and beast at the departure of Israel, are types of the church at the present time – the church going out of Egypt – worldliness, the purification of the church, the separation of the tares from the wheat – the fulfillment of Ezekiel 9. (A complete explanation of this subject will be given in a future study on the 144,000.) The Spirit of Prophecy bears witness of this by the following statement: “The Passover was to be both commemorative and typical, not only pointing back to the deliverance from Egypt, but forward to the greater deliverance which Christ was to accomplish in freeing His people from the bondage of sin.” – Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 277. This work will be “fulfilled in the kingdom of God,” (Luke 22:16), an event which is yet future.
Thus the silence of half an hour points forward to this great event for the church of God. Its fulfillment would bring us to the time of the harvest, or as it is called, the Loud Cry of the Third Angel’s Message of Revelation 18 – the last message for the world. Thus, while the five angels with the slaughter weapons are taking away those represented by the tares within the SDA church, there will be silence in heaven for about half an hour (seven days), after which the judgment will resume again for those who shall be sealed in the time of the great harvest–the sealing of the “great multitude,” (Rev. 7:9), which brings the end of the world. Said Jesus: “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” – the purified church of God. (Matt. 13:30.)
They who are to be sealed at that time were seen by John as “a great multitude” with palms in their hands. (See Rev. 7:9.) Hence the scroll has made a turn, and the sealing for those who shall be judged while living has begun. As stated before, the Passover night in Egypt is a type of the purification of the church, separating the tares from the wheat.
The crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites pointed forward to the fulfillment of Isaiah 63. Therefore, the prophet declares: “For the day of vengeance is in mine heart and the year of my redeemed is come.” (Isa. 63:4.)
“Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? [He answers] I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment…. O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servant’s sake, the tribes of thine inheritance. The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while: our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary.” Isa. 63: 1-3, also 17, 18.
The prophet saw Christ Himself returning from the slaughter of the Edomites – the class who were deceiving God’s people in the church, the tares, or adversaries who had trodden down His sanctuary. “Bozrah” means “sheepfold” (Micah 2:12) – the church. He saw His garments stained with the blood of the tares, in delivering His people from their hands. The prophet asked: “Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth the winefat?” The purification of the church makes it necessary for Christ to leave the place of judgment and descend to deliver His redeemed (the 144,000), and this is what causes the judgment to cease, and the voices to be silenced for about half an hour – seven days.
The Spirit of Prophecy bears witness of the same. “The Lord Jesus shall rise up from His mediatorial work in the heavenly sanctuary, and shall clothe himself with the garments of vengeance, and surprise them at their unholy feast; and they will find themselves unprepared for the marriage supper of the Lamb.” – Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 690. Peter, looking forward to the purification of God’s church, and the commencement of the judgment for the living, says: “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17.)
It is the reception or rejection of the message of the True Witness that will fix the destiny of the two classes as described in the following testimony: “I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen, and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the true witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this is what will cause a shaking among God’s people.” – Early Writings, p. 270.
In the earthly sanctuary, the high priest entered the most holy apartment once a year, and on that particular day, every Israelite was to confess his sin. He who neglected to comply with the divine requirements was “cut off” from his people. (See Lev. 23:29, 30.) Thus, during the day of antitypical atonement (judgment, or cleansing of the sanctuary), as set forth in Daniel 8:14, is a day of purification for the camp of Israel, the church – putting away sin and sinners. The earthly sanctuary was a figure of the heavenly. (See Heb. 9:23, 24.) It was instituted with its ceremonial system to point forward to the work of Christ, our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary during the antitypical period – New Testament time. As the sanctuary with all its services, was a figure or type of the true, the heavenly, under the administration of Christ, so the typical Day of Atonement must point out the truth in the anti-typical period – our time.
While the judgment for the living is in progress, every sin must be confessed and put away. Those who would neglect this great privilege will find themselves involved in everlasting ruin – cut off from among their people, the living saints. We now illustrate the difference between the opening of the judgment for the dead as compared with that of the living:
|Event No.||Judgment for the Dead (Rev. 4: 5; 6: 12)||Judgment for the Living (Rev. 8: 5)||Judgment in Seven Last Plagues (Rev. 16: 18)|
A close analysis of the above table will show that both judgments opened in reverse order. While the judgment of the dead opened with an earthquake and ended with voices, the judgment of the living opened with voices and ended with an earthquake. The same will be seen at the close of the Plagues–the finality of God’s judgments upon the living (Rev. 16: 18).
As we have seen, the silence divides the two pre-millennial Judicial sessions, the one for the dead and the other for the living, and the fire from the heavenly altar, the voices, lightnings, and thunderings, descend to earth. These facts, along with a number of scriptures on the subject, besides the remainder of The Revelation, the chapters after the breaking of the seventh seal, prove that the Judgment of the living, the cleansing of the earthly temple, is something which takes place on earth, and not in heaven only!
In summary, therefore, we see that the seals do overlap each other, and that they are not necessarily sequential, thus while the sixth seal brings us up to the second coming of Christ to our world (Rev. 6: 14-17) and the end of sin and sinners, until the final lake of fire burnings, the seventh seal goes back in time and sheds more light on the sealing events under the period of the sixth seal.
That the seals overlap each other is not unique to the sixth and seventh seals alone but is applicable to all seven. Let’s take a closer look: under the second seal we saw the peace-destroying sword of the second rider causing killings and bloodshed in the human family, but this experience was more noticeable under the post-flood world when not only killings took place, but the beautiful earth was now completely destroyed as it lost its Edenic topography to the destructive waters of the great flood. Likewise, the events of the third seal introduced trading amongst the nations, as well as the period of intense spiritual darkness, when even God’s Words were in danger of being meddled with by sinful man (Rom. 1:18-32), but these events continued throughout time, even to our day! The fourth seal and its “death” rider, brought forth destruction to the Christians under Pagan and Papal Rome, similar to the destructive career of the non-descript beast in Dan. 7:7-8, but persecutions and destruction of Christians are still going on in our world today. Next comes the work of the fifth seal which envisioned the “souls” of those slain, during the fourth seal, “under the altar,” and the voice declared that the killing should continue until the time of the judgment. All these events have overlapped each other, but their particular time of concentrated focus was given divine recognition.
It is a matter of principle with the Bible that the Lord gives amplified light on events already explained. For example, in Daniel 2, the great image and the stone did not completely describe the career of the Papacy and the Catholic church during the dark ages, for while we read of iron mingled with clay, we did not see the career of the little horn, yet it took chapters seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven and twelve, to completely treat this subject in an amplified light. The same is true for the seven seals. Indeed, the rest of the Revelation deals with the events occurring under the sixth and seventh seals, simultaneously.
Take for example the Mark of the Beast, the Plagues and the Time of Trouble, these are events affecting the living in our time–the end of the world–under the period designated as the sixth and seventh seals, respectively. Let’s now look on the seven distinct messages of salvation sent from the Eternal to a lost and dying world:
- The Message to and by Adam Gen. 3:16-Enmity between the woman’s seed and the serpent’s seed, and the promise of the true Seed–the Deliverer to come.
- The Message of Noah, Gen. 6-7, come into the ark and be thou saved–the Patriarchs and the Prophets.
- The call of Israel or Message of Moses, and the Sanctuary with its attendant services–The Law and the Prophets.
- The Message of Christ and the Early Christian Church–Matt. 28: 19-20 and Acts 4:10-12.
- The Messages of the Reformation with the Cleansing of the Sanctuary, and the second advent of Christ–the 2300 days of prophecy, Dan. 8:13-14 & Dan.9:22-27, Rev. 10.
- The Third Angel’s Message–The Judgment of the Dead–Rev. 14: 6-12
- The Fourth Angel’s Message–The Judgment of the Living–Rev. 18: 1-5; the Elijah Message (Mal. 4: 4, 5).
“Behold,” declares the Lord, “I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord, Whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple,… But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap.” Mal. 3:1.
Yes, the work of the second Judicial session includes the earthly sanctuary, the church. At that time the Lord’s “fire” is “in Zion, and His furnace in Jerusalem.” Isa. 31:9.
“And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
“And He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.” Micah 4:2-4.
“…then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…
“Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matt. 25:31-34, 41.
“And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, Whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him. Hitherto is the end of the matter….” Dan. 7:27, 28.
“The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.”–The Great Controversy, p. 678.
Author: Garrick Augustus, June 21, 2001