|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
8:1-6 The seventh seal is opened. There was profound silence in heaven for a space; all was quiet in the church, for whenever the church on earth cries through oppression, that cry reaches up to heaven; or it is a silence of expectation. Trumpets were given to the angels, who were to sound them. The Lord Jesus is the High Priest of the church, having a golden censer, and much incense, fulness of merit in his own glorious person. Would that men studied to know the fulness that is in Christ, and endeavoured to be acquainted with his excellency. Would that they were truly persuaded that Christ has such an office as that of Intercessor, which he now performs with deep sympathy. No prayers, thus recommended, was ever denied hearing and acceptance. These prayers, thus accepted in heaven, produced great changes upon earth. The Christian worship and religion, pure and heavenly in its origin and nature, when sent down to earth and conflicting with the passions and worldly projects of sinful men, produced remarkable tumults, here set forth in prophetical language, as our Lord himself declared, Lu 12:49.
Verse 1. - And when. Καὶ ὅταν, instead of καὶ ὅτε (as in the other seals), is read in A, C, and gives a certain indefiniteness which does not belong to any of the rest (Altbrd). Οτε is, however, found in א, B, P, Andreas. He had opened the seventh seal; he opened. As in the case of the other seals, the silence accompanies the opening (see on Revelation 6:1, 3, 5, etc.). This completes the number, and sets the roll free (Revelation 5:1). The contents of the roll do not, however, become visible, nor are they portrayed otherwise than by the silence of half an hour (see on Revelation 5:1). There was silence in heaven; there followed a silence (Revised Version); a silence became; i.e. where there had not been silence previously, owing to the praises set forth at the close of Revelation 7. This image may have been suggested by the silence kept by the congregation without, while the priest offered incense within, the temple (cf. Luke 1:10). This thought, too, may have led to the following vision, in which the angel offers incense (ver. 3), and in this souse the vision of the trumpets may be said to have grown out of the seventh seal, though a similar act precedes the visions of the seals (see Revelation 5:8). But in no other way is there any connection between the two visions; the events narrated under the vision of the trumpets are not an exposition of the seventh seal, but a separate vision, supplementing what has been set forth by the seven seals. The silence is typical of the eternal peace of heaven, the ineffable bliss of which it is impossible for mortals to comprehend, and which is, therefore, symbolized by silence. In the same way the new name is left unexplained, as something beyond the knowledge of man in this life, and reserved for the life in heaven (see on Revelation 3:12). It is the sabbath of the Church's history, into the full comprehension of which man cannot now enter. The interpretation of this seal varies with different writers, according to the view taken of the vision as a whole. Bede, Primasius, Victorinus, Wordsworth, agree in considering that it denotes the beginning of eternal peace. Those who take the preterist view variously assign the silence to
(1) the destruction of Jerusalem (Manrice);
(2) A.D. 312-337 (King);
(3) the period following A.D. (Eiliott);
(4) the millennium (Lange);
(5) the decree of Julian imposing silence on the Christians (De Lyra), etc.;
Vitringa thinks it relates to the time when the Church will be triumphant on earth; Hengstenberg, the astonishment of Christ's enemies; Ebrard, the silence of creation in awe at the catastrophes about to happen; and Dusterdieck, similarly, the silence of those in heaven, waiting for the same events. About the space of half an hour. Most writers are agreed that the half hour represents a short time. But if (as we have indicated above) the silence is typical of the eternal rest of heaven, how can it be short? Possibly the answer is that the shortness refers to the time during which the seer was contemplating this aspect of the vision. He had now arrived at the end; the fate of the Church had been in some measure foreshadowed, and the final assurance is peace in heaven. That part of the fate in store for the Church cannot be expounded by the seer. He is permitted, as it were, to visit the threshold for an instant, and then he is called away. His message is not yet complete; he is summoned to receive yet further revelations. But may not the half hour signify "a long time"? The seer, in his vision, after beholding a succession of events, experiences a pause - complete silence for the space of half an hour. This time would appear almost interminable in such circumstances; and the phrase may therefore be intended to express "an exceedingly lengthened period," such as a stillness of such a length in the midst of numbers would appear to St. John. Here, then, closes the vision of the seals. The first four, prefaced by the assurance of final victory, deal with events more immediately connected with this life, and explain to the suffering Christian of all ages that it is part of God's eternal purpose that he should be exposed to persecution, trial, and temptation while in the world, and that such suffering is not the result of God's forgetfulness or heedlessness. The last three seats refer to three sets of events connected with the life hereafter. The fifth shows the security of those who have departed this life; the sixth portrays the safe gathering of God's own, and the fear and condemnation of the unjust at the judgment day; the seventh affords a prospect rather than a sight of the eternal sabbath of heaven, undescribed because indescribable. The whole is thus completed; the seer is called away to review the ages once more - to behold new visions, which shall impress more fully, and supplement, the truths which the visions of the seals have, in a measure, revealed.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And when he had opened the seventh seal,.... That is, when the Lamb had opened the seventh and last seal of the scaled book:
there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour; not in the third heaven, the seat of the divine Being, of angels and glorified saints, where are hallelujahs without intermission; but in the church, which is oftentimes signified by heaven in this book, and where now the throne of God was placed, in that form as described in Revelation 4:4, or rather in the Roman empire: nor is this silence the sum of this seal, or the only thing in it; for it includes the preparation of the seven angels to take their trumpets, though none of them were sounded during this period. This space of time some think refers to the time which elapsed, while the angel, who had incense given him to offer it with the prayers of saints, did so, and took fire off the altar with his censer, and cast it on the earth: and while the seven angels had their trumpets given them, and they were preparing to sound. Others are of opinion that this was only a pause, a breathing time for John between the former visions and seals, and the following; nothing being said or done, or anything exhibited to him during this interval; but he was at leisure to reflect on what he had seen, and to prepare for what was to come. Others understand it of the amazement of the saints at the judgments of God, which were coming upon the Christian empire, and of their quiet and silent preparations for these troubles and combats, both within and without, they were to be exercised with; see Zechariah 2:13. Others have thought that this refers to the state of the saints after the day of judgment, when there will be an entire cessation from persecution and trouble, and when the souls under the altar will have done crying for vengeance; but this will be not for half an hour only, but to all eternity; nor will angels and saints be then silent. Rather this is to be understood of that peace and rest which the church enjoyed upon Constantine's having defeated all his enemies, when he brought the church into a state of profound tranquillity and ease; and this lasted but for a little while, which is here expressed by about, or almost half an hour, as the Syriac version renders it; for in a short time the Arian heresy broke out, which introduced great troubles in the church, and at last violent persecutions. The allusion is, as in the whole of the following vision of the angel at the altar, to the offering of incense; at which time the people were removed from the temple, from between the porch and altar (l), to some more distant place; and the priest was alone while he offered incense, and then prayed a short prayer, that the people might not be affrighted lest he should be dead (m): and who in the mean while were praying in a silent, manner without; see Luke 1:9; hence the Jews say (n), that the offering of incense atones for an ill tongue, for it is a thing that is introduced "silently", and it atones for what is done silently, such as whisperings, backbitings, &c. and they call (o) silence the best of spices, even of those of which the sweet incense was made.
(l) T. Tab. Yoma, fol. 44. 1. Maimon. Hilchot Tamidin, c. 3. sect. 3.((m) Misn. Yoma, c. 5. sect. 1.((n) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 44. 1. & Zebachim, fol. 88. 2.((o) T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 18. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Re 8:1-13. Seventh Seal. Preparation for the Seven Trumpets. The First Four and the Consequent Plagues.
1. was—Greek, "came to pass"; "began to be."
silence in heaven about … half an hour—The last seal having been broken open, the book of God's eternal plan of redemption is opened for the Lamb to read to the blessed ones in heaven. The half hour's silence contrasts with the previous jubilant songs of the great multitude, taken up by the angels (Re 7:9-11). It is the solemn introduction to the employments and enjoyments of the eternal Sabbath-rest of the people of God, commencing with the Lamb's reading the book heretofore sealed up, and which we cannot know till then. In Re 10:4, similarly at the eve of the sounding of the seventh trumpet, when the seven thunders uttered their voices, John is forbidden to write them. The seventh trumpet (Re 11:15-19) winds up God's vast plan of providence and grace in redemption, just as the seventh seal brings it to the same consummation. So also the seventh vial, Re 16:17. Not that the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven vials, though parallel, are repetitions. They each trace the course of divine action up to the grand consummation in which they all meet, under a different aspect. Thunders, lightnings, an earthquake, and voices close the seven thunders and the seven seals alike (compare Re 8:5, with Re 11:19). Compare at the seventh vial, the voices, thunders, lightnings, and earthquake, Re 16:18. The half-hour silence is the brief pause GIVEN TO John between the preceding vision and the following one, implying, on the one hand, the solemn introduction to the eternal sabbatism which is to follow the seventh seal; and, on the other, the silence which continued during the incense-accompanied prayers which usher in the first of the seven trumpets (Re 8:3-5). In the Jewish temple, musical instruments and singing resounded during the whole time of the offering of the sacrifices, which formed the first part of the service. But at the offering of incense, solemn silence was kept ("My soul waiteth upon God," Ps 62:1; "is silent," Margin; Ps 65:1, Margin), the people praying secretly all the time. The half-hour stillness implies, too, the earnest adoring expectation with which the blessed spirits and the angels await the succeeding unfolding of God's judgments. A short space is implied; for even an hour is so used (Re 17:12; 18:10, 19).
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