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In Revelation 6 the Lamb begins to open the seven seals of a scroll. Six seals are opened in this section. After the sixth seal is opened and its judgements unleashed, everyone hides from the wrath of the Lamb. There is then an interlude in which John hears of the sealing of 144,000 and then witness a great multitude before the throne of the Lamb. Finally in 8:1 the Lamb opens the seventh seal; yet when he does the only seeming effect is that there is silence in heaven for half an hour.

What is signified, if anything, by this silence? Is something happening on the earth too dreadful for heaven to make a sound? Is it a long pause, a deep breath before the plunge of the seven trumpets? How are we to understand the seventh seal?

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A little late for the challenge... –  Soldarnal Apr 27 '12 at 20:51
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Revelation is not the most perspicuous book of the Bible.

John Gill has some interesting thoughts on it. He notes that it is false that "this silence the sum of this seal, or the only thing in it". Rather, it probably "includes the preparation of the seven angels to take their trumpets," in verse 2, "though none of them were sounded during this period." Also, some think it encompassing verse three, refering

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 censor, and cast it on the earth.

Others think it was a time of reflection or amazement, he notes. This also has merit; silence can be a profound experience, particularly in the presence of a King, of a great and holy one who is judging the earth in power. John's entire vision is only on the edge of the communicable; it may be that he was unable to express in human language the full meaning of this silence.

In terms of applying the book, some have interpreted this a period of peace in the church. But that gets into deep water where I don't want to go in one little post!

Whatever the precise meaning of the silence, it was certain a time of worship and awe. Sometimes we can benefit from the awesomeness of Scripture even without understanding the precise meaning, particularly in prophecy.

The opening of the seventh seal certainly was not impotent. Matthew Henry writes,

This was to introduce a new set of prophetical iconisms and events; there is a continued chain of providence, one part linked to another (where one ends another begins), and, though they may differ in nature and in time, they all make up one wise, well-connected, uniform design in the hand of God.

The reason that the seventh seal does not seem to have one main thing associated with it is that it introduced the next whole chain of events.

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Having worked to digest the idea of silence in the passages I discussed in this post, I wonder, given the fact that Revelation is something of a patchwork quilt of Old Testament passages, whether this episode in Revelation has a connection to those prophecies. –  Kazark Jun 22 '12 at 1:03
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