on Revelation 8 :1
The seventh seal - This is ushered in and opened only by the Lamb.
Silence in heaven - This must be a mere metaphor, silence being put here for the deep and solemn expectation of the stupendous things about to take place, which the opening of this seal had produced. When any thing prodigious or surprising is expected, all is silence, and even the breath is scarcely heard to be drawn.
Half an hour - As heaven may signify the place in which all these representations were made to St. John, the half hour may be considered as the time during which no representation was made to him, the time in which God was preparing the august exhibition which follows.
There is here, and in the following verses, a strong allusion to different parts of the temple worship; a presumption that the temple was still standing, and the regular service of God carried on. The silence here refers to this fact - while the priest went in to burn incense in the holy place, all the people continued in silent mental prayer without till the priest returned. See Luke 1:10. The angel mentioned here appears to execute the office of priest, as we shall by and by see.
on Revelation 8 :1
And when he had opened the seventh seal - See the notes on Revelation 5:1.
There was silence in heaven - The whole scene of the vision is laid in heaven Revelation 4:1-11, and John represents things as they seem to be passing there. The meaning here is, that on the opening of this seal, instead of voices, thunderings, tempests, as perhaps was expected from the character of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12 ff), and which seemed only to have been suspended for a time Revelation 7, there was an awful stillness, as if all heaven was reverently waiting for the development. Of course this is a symbolical representation, and is designed not to represent a pause in the events themselves, but only the impressive and fearful nature of the events which are now to be disclosed.
About the space of half an hour - He did not profess to designate the time exactly. It was a brief period - yet a period which in such circumstances would appear to be long - about half an hour. The word used here - ἡμιώριον hēmiōrion - does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It is correctly rendered "half an hour"; and, since the day was divided into twelve parts from the rising to the setting of the sun, the time designated would not vary much from half an hour with us. Of course, therefore, this denotes a brief period. In a state, however, of anxious suspense, the moments would seem to move slowly; and to see the exact force of this, we are to reflect on the scenes represented - the successive opening of seals disclosing most important events - increasing in interest as each new one was opened; the course of events which seemed to be leading to the consummation of all things, arrested after the opening of the sixth seal; and now the last in the series to be opened, disclosing what the affairs of the world would be at the consummation of all things.
John looks on this; and in this state of suspense the half hour may have seemed an age. We are not, of course, to suppose that the silence in heaven is produced by the character of the events which are now to follow - for they are as yet unknown. It is caused by what, from the nature of the previous disclosures, was naturally apprehended, and by the fact that this is the last of the series - the finishing of the mysterious volume. This seems to me to be the obvious interpretation of this passage, though there has been here, as in other parts of the Book of Revelation, a great variety of opinion as to the meaning. Those who suppose that the whole book consists of a triple series of visions designed to prefigure future events, parallel with each other, and each leading to the consummation of all things - the series embracing the seals, the trumpets, and the vials, each seven in number - regard this as the proper ending of the first of this series, and suppose that we have on the opening of the seventh seal the beginning of a new symbolical representation, going over the same ground, under the representations of the trumpets, in a new aspect or point of view.
Eichorn and Rosenmuller suppose that the silence introduced by the apostle is merely for effect, and that, therefore, it is without any special signification. Grotius applies the whole representation to the destruction of Jerusalem, and supposes that the silence in heaven refers to the restraining of the winds referred to in Revelation 7:1 - the wrath in respect to the city, which was now suspended for a short time. Prof. Stuart also refers it to the destruction of Jerusalem, and supposes that the seven trumpets refer to seven gradations in the series of judgments that were coming upon the persecutors of the church. Mr. Daubuz regards the silence here referred to as a symbol of the liberty granted to the church in the time of Constantine; Vitringa interprets it of the peace of the millennium which is to succeed the overthrow of the beast and the false prophet; Dr. Woodhouse and Mr. Cunninghame regard it as the termination of the series of events which thee former seals denote, and the commencement of a new train of revelations; Mr. Elliott, as the suspension of the winds during the sealing of the servants of God; Mr. Lord, as the period of repose which intervened between the close of the persecution by Diocletian and Galerius, in 311, and the commencement, near the close of that year, of the civil wars by which Constantine the Great was elevated to the imperial throne.
It will be seen at once how arbitrary and unsatisfactory most of those interpretations are, and how far from harmony expositors have been as to the meaning of this symbol. The most simple and obvious interpretation is likely to be the true one; and that is, as above suggested, that it refers to silence in heaven as expressive of the fearful anticipation felt on opening the last seal that was to close the series, and to wind up the affairs of the church and the world. Nothing would be more natural than such a state of solemn awe on such an occasion; nothing would introduce the opening of the seal in a more impressive manner; nothing would more naturally express the anxiety of the church, the probable feelings of the pious on the opening of these successive seals, than the representation that incense, accompanied with their prayers, was continually offered in heaven.
on Revelation 8 :1
8:1 And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven - Such a silence is mentioned but in this one place. It was uncommon, and highly observable: for praise is sounding in heaven day and night. In particular, immediately before this silence, all the angels, and before them the innumerable multitude, had been crying with a loud voice; and now all is still at once: there is an universal pause. Hereby the seventh seal is very remarkably distinguished from the six preceding. This silence before God shows that those who were round about him were expecting, with the deepest reverence, the great things which the Divine Majesty would farther open and order. Immediately after, the seven trumpets are heard, and a sound more august than ever. Silence is only a preparation: the grand point is, the sounding the trumpets to the praise of God. About half an hour - To St. John, in the vision, it might seem a common half hour.