Bible Study with Jairus – Revelation 8
The Prayers of the Saints Advance God’s Plans for Judgment on the World
In Revelation 7, we learned how Jesus, the Cornerstone, connects the Jewish and Gentile believers and lays the foundation for the New Jerusalem. The construction of the New Jerusalem is one of the themes of the Book of Revelation.
Another theme is that the newly-built body of Christ will judge evil spirits. Paul says explicitly, “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?”(1 Corinthians 6:3) This judgment of angels culminates in the judgment of Satan and his evil spirits, as they are cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10). This judgment is also pictured in the earlier chapters of Revelation, such as Revelation 8. God’s judgment is seen in the sixth seal, as well as in the vision between the sixth and seventh seals. The prayers of the saints are necessary to bring about God’s just judgment on humans and angels.
Why Is There Silence in Heaven for Half an Hour?
When the Lamb unveils the seventh seal, there is silence in heaven for half an hour. Why? Because when the seventh seal is opened, it will unveil seven more trumpet judgments. I believe that these judgments are dependent on the powerful prayers of the saints. The saints must cooperate with God’s sovereignty through prayer so that the Lamb can open the seven seals. The prayers of the saints are a necessary condition for the advancement of God’s kingly work. This is why verse 2 says that when the seven trumpets are given to the seven angels standing before God, they do not blow them right away. Instead, the angel offers up incense, which is the prayers of the saints. Its smoke rises up before God (3-5). Those prayers are necessary to bring about God’s judgment. Only after the incense of the prayers ascends to God do the angels prepare to blow the trumpets (6). Only then does God’s judgment unfold at last (8:7-13). So it is natural to infer that the prayers in verses 3-5 are the driving force for the blowing of the trumpets in verse 6.
Another reason for the silence in heaven is revealed in Revelation 6. God asked the persecuted saints “to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been” (6:11). These slain saints asked God to take revenge on those who had shed their blood (6:10). But after the judgment of the sixth seal was complete, God waited quietly for the prayers of the saints to fill up the golden censer. This was a gradual process. When the prayers of the saints reached the required amount, the next step of judgment occurred, as recorded in verse 5: “Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” Judgment comes from the throne of God, but the prayers of the saints have great power in bringing it about (James 5:16). Prayer can influence God, who sits on the throne, to carry out his judgment on evil spirits and on the world.
Don’t think that the seven trumpet judgments are too cruel. Peter predicts that God will even judge believers: “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And ‘If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’”(1 Peter 4:17-18)
I can say from experience that it is extremely difficult to go through judgment. Years ago, I went through a long-lasting period of God’s discipline, and I learned many lessons of obedience through these times. In the end, I was able to praise God for what he taught me. The author of the book of Hebrews says, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him” (Hebrews 12:5). When we experience God’s discipline, our knee-jerk reaction is to feel discouraged. When my wife and I were experiencing ten years of infertility, a sister was going through the same difficulty at the same time. She had been barren for many years and had no children. One time, she lamented, “For so many years, nothing has gone well for me. Everybody else is having a good life but me.”
Of course, we felt the same way at the time. But I frequently comforted myself with the words of Hebrews 12:11, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” I knew the Lord was disciplining me because of his love: “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Hebrews 12:6). I knew in my spirit that God would use me greatly in the future and in order to prepare for that time, I had to grow in faith and yield my flesh to Him. I had to stop serving Him by my own power. The journey was a slow process. Learning to obey took a long time, and it took even longer to learn to thank God from the heart for His discipline. The process required time, and I kept praying desperately for God’s work.
After ten years of God’s discipline, I had an internal breakthrough. Though I still hadn’t seen God’s blessing outwardly, I had surrendered myself to God inwardly. Even though the external difficulties didn’t go away, and Satan’s attacks often made me burst into tears, I still worshiped and prayed to God from the bottom of my heart. I sang songs and praises to God, even while weeping. At this time, I experienced a miracle in my life. God gave me a miracle baby. In addition, the infertile sister I mentioned earlier also received a son and a daughter.
The judgment of the sixth seal depicts an extremely difficult lesson of God’s discipline. Even the martyred saints struggled to learn this lesson. After this difficult lesson, it took them a while to send enough prayers to fill God’s censor. God was patient with the process. During the half an hour of silence in heaven, he was waiting patiently to begin his spiritual discipline of mankind as a whole.
This is not a wild guess from me, but a lesson that I have learned through my own spiritual experiences with God Himself. Even though God’s word is greater than our personal experience, yet our experiences are necessary to help us better understand His word. We should not only learn His words, but also experience them for ourselves. The spiritual lessons a person learns through experience can help him understand the words of the Bible from a higher spiritual vantage point. In this case, God’s discipline reveals his love and patience.
When Jesus was on earth, he lived a life of meekness and patience. No one can immediately utter words of praise when they are slapped in the face. Most people would complain or even curse. For example, when James and John were rejected by the Samaritans, their first reaction was to command fire to come down from heaven and consume their enemies. But Jesus responded differently. His prayer was full of gentleness: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will” (Matthew 11:25-26). Why? Because Jesus knows the loving nature of God the Father. Through suffering, we can learn about God’s love, patience, gentleness, and meekness.
Watchman Nee says that when a person goes through suffering, he either becomes spiritually stronger or spiritually weaker. No one goes through difficulties without transformation. He says, “A believer can never be the same after passing through suffering. Either he will have his capacity enlarged or he will become more hardened. For this reason, when believers are passing through suffering, they must pay attention and they must realize that maturity in life is the sum total of receiving the discipline of the Holy Spirit.” Through suffering, our hearts become more tender toward God, and we learn more about his attributes. This will equip us to advance God’s work through prayer. This can only be accomplished by the overcomers who win a final victory, represented by the male child in Revelation 12. These overcomers are the ones who will judge evil spirits and the entire world on behalf of the church.
The Transition of Judgment
Another reason there is silence in heaven for half an hour is because all of heaven is waiting with bated breath for a huge transition that is taking place in this chapter. As we’ve mentioned, Revelation 12 is a turning point in the book of Revelation. Revelation 8 is another turning point. The focus of God’s judgment is turning from the house of God to the fallen world!
As 1 Peter 4:17 says, God’s judgment begins with the house of God. We can see this truth in Revelation. God starts by disciplining the seven churches through His letters to the churches. This leads to heaven being opened. John sees God sitting on the throne with a scroll in his right hand. This scroll contains God’s plan for the church, the victorious body of Christ. Although this scroll includes God’s judgment for the world, it mostly focuses on God’s judgment for his chosen people. This is why the saints in Revelation 6 shout, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10) The saints are undergoing God’s judgment, and they are longing for God to judge unbelievers as well.
The vision that follows the sixth seal reveals that a large number of Jews have been saved and that countless Gentiles have turned to Christ. They are the firstfruits chosen by God. Though some people will need further discipline, others have experienced God’s discipline process and have matured spiritually. They now sit on the throne with God, judging the world. So we see that the seven seal judgments are focused on helping the church mature so it can bring forth conquerors. However, the seven trumpet judgments are for unbelievers and are brought about through the prayers of the conquerors. This is the difference between the seven seals and the seven trumpets.
This also points to the reason why heaven is silent for half an hour after the Lamb opens the seventh seal. Times are about to change. Why did God stay quiet 400 years after Malachi’s last prophecy? Times were changing, Jesus Christ was about to be born, and heaven was holding its breath for the coming of the great era. In the same way, even now, “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). After the sixth seal, God is already beginning to reveal his sons. God’s times are changing. His creation is about to be set free. Romans 8:20-21 says, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” All of creation is awaiting the revealing of the sons of God with great anticipation. And after three short chapters, the great production is about to happen in Revelation 12.
My wife went through great difficulties when giving birth to our daughter. Since the delivery didn’t go well, we had no choice but to agree to a Cesarean delivery on the spot. I was full of anxiety at that moment. I prayed to God but got no response from Him. I was restless and kept pacing up and down the hospital corridors. When I saw the doctor pull our baby girl out of her mother and pat her buttocks to make her cry, I was so relieved. How can heaven not be silent for half an hour? The earth has been going through birth pangs. The moment of birth has arrived! The drama is about to unfold! It is so exciting! Just like God waited in silence for 400 years while he was preparing to send Christ at just the right moment, God is also waiting in silence at this pivotal junction in human history. He is filled with awe and is waiting with bated breath!
Many people read the book of Revelation as if they were chewing on wax. They are neither excited nor amazed. Why not? Because they cannot visualize this amazing picture in their spirits. We need to be spiritually enlightened, just like Simeon, to whom God revealed that he would see Christ Jesus with his very own eyes before he died. When he saw baby Jesus, he recognized him instantly and glorified and praised God (Luke 2:26-28). Many other people did not have spiritual eyes to see Jesus, so they did not recognize Him. This led to “the fall and rising of many in Israel” (Luke 2:34) because people could not recognize God’s work.
The Terrible Judgment of God on Unbelievers
The Bible repeatedly warns that God’s judgment on unbelievers in the last days will be great and formidable. Malachi 4:5-6 proclaims, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” These are the final words of the Old Testament, and they uncover God’s principle for the New Testament. God has appointed a day of great terror on which he will judge all human beings, especially unbelievers, with finality. But before that, God will continue to work through His grace and through the Gospel of His Son. He promised to send the Spirit of the prophet Elijah to reconcile people with the Father. The Spirit of Elijah is represented by the Baptism of Repentance proclaimed by John the Baptist. The Lord Jesus says clearly, “But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands” (Matthew 17:12). The Lord Jesus is referring to John, and also alludes to His own destiny.
After the turning point in Revelation 8, the target of the judgment turns to unbelievers. During the transition, God’s grace is still available. However, the hardness of the human heart is incredibly great. Even though a third of the human race was killed after the severe trumpet judgments, (Revelation 9:18), people still worshiped various idols. The Bible says, “They did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 9:20-21). Therefore, God’s hand strikes more harshly, and the judgment keeps getting crueler. It’s not until the great earthquake happens in Revelation 11:13, killing 7,000 people, that humans finally are terrified and give glory to God in heaven. Later, Revelation 12 describes the birth of a male child who will judge Satan. This child is persecuted by Satan, and the curtain opens on the catastrophe of the last three and half years of the tribulation. But even during the great tribulation, people are still getting saved and overcoming sin. God’s grace is still visible and available, even in His judgment.
The Seven Trumpets are God’s Judgment upon Evil Spirits
The ten plagues of Egypt were not only God’s judgment upon Pharaoh, but also God’s judgment on the ten evil spirits they represented. The same principle is found in the seven trumpet judgments of Revelation 8. Here is a fun fact: evil spirits like to live where there is water. Many of the trumpet judgments involve water so that God can judge the evil spirits in the water. Here is a summary of the way God judges evil spirits through the trumpet judgment:
- The first trumpet is God’s judgment upon the earth, because the earth is filled with human beings possessed by evil spirits. The earth is defiled by demons.
- The second trumpet judges the sea. This is God’s judgment upon the evil spirits in the ocean.
- The third trumpet judges the evil spirits in the rivers.
- The fourth trumpet, which strikes a third of the sun, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, is God’s judgment on the head of all rule and authority.
- The fifth and sixth trumpets of Revelation 9 release the locusts from the bottomless pit to torment people. In addition, the angel of the Euphrates River is released to bring in mounted troops to kill one-third of mankind.
In the first trumpet judgment, God judges the spirits that are targeting humans. Jesus says that when an unclean spirit comes out of a person, it is unable to find rest in waterless places, so it returns to the house from which it came. When it returns, it brings seven worse spirits with it, so the person ends up worse off in the end than he was in the beginning. Jesus says the same principle is true of the evil days (Matthew 12:43-45). Humankind is created in the image of God, so evil spirits target humans. They possess humans and try to influence them to commit sins. This is why God’s judgment starts with driving out evil spirits.
However, when the people who have been released from Satan refuse to allow the Lord to enter their hearts, their hearts will be like empty houses. Even worse spirits will take up residence inside them. This is seen in the locusts that come out of the bottomless pit. Those who refuse to repent and break free from evil spirits will eventually be tortured by unclean spirits that are far worse than the original ones. Their situation will only get worse and worse.
We will learn more about the seven trumpets in our study of Revelation 9.
 Watchman Nee, A Seer of the Divine Revelation in the Present Age, Anaheim, CA: Living Stream Ministries, 1991.