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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Before the trumpets sound (Rev. 8:1-5)

The seventh seal is opened by Jesus and is accompanied by a period of silence that lasts for half an hour. What is the significance of the silence? Some commentators have suggested an allusion to a practice in the Jerusalem temple of praying silently before God. There is an obvious connection in the passage with prayer. In the Old Testament, silence was an expression of both repentance and reverence, and was therefore a form of response to God.

We are invited to consider an august moment in heaven. Elevated angels are involved because we are told that the trumpeters are seven angels who usually stand in the presence of God. We can regard them as administrators of his will, and when we read later about the contents of the trumpets we will see that their actions are solemn.

Before they blow their trumpets, another angel appears. He also is very important because the trumpets cannot be blown until he engages in what looks like a priestly activity. Who is this angel? His task is twofold. First, he is to make the prayers of the saints acceptable to God; second, he is to pour out judgement on the earth. Given those activities, it looks as if this angel is speaking on behalf of the Son of God because he is the One who performs those actions. He makes the prayers of his people acceptable and he can send judgement on the earth.

This vision is a reminder that the prayers of saints are made acceptable in heaven. There is not a reason in them why God should listen to them unless he has chosen to do so. We are also told that the prayers need much incense, which is a reminder that their prayers are polluted, and also a reminder that Jesus has a lot of grace to give. Moreover, we are told that it is the prayers of all saints that are made acceptable, which means that the Saviour is able to combine them and to answer them all.

God often functions in a manner that connects divine activities to the prayers of believers. This does not mean that the believers ask Jesus to send the judgements, but it does mean that God regarded judgements as one way to answer their prayers.

The ones making the prayers in the vision were the persecuted believers living on earth around the year AD 90. What power did they seem to have from an earthly standpoint? None. What power did they possess from a heavenly viewpoint? The powerless had power because they had access to the One who sits on the throne. The same is true today.

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