How does heaven see injustice? And how does heaven see judgment when it comes?
I think we find both answers here. Normally, heaven rings with the worship of the cherubim, seraphim, the elders, and all the saints. But when the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was dead silence. Why? Judgment was coming.
Oh, it had already come in part by the opening of the earlier seals. But from here on out, the judgments only grow in intensity and awfulness, as we shall see.
But it all starts with an angel coming with much incense to the altar of God. And he offers it to God along with the prayers of the saints. What prayers? Most likely the prayers we saw in chapter 6; the prayers of the martyrs crying for justice.
At that time, God said, “Wait a little while.”
But now the time for justice had come.
Seven angels are given seven trumpets. And one by one, they are blown.
Again, a lot of this language is fantastic and highly figurative, so it’s hard to know exactly what it’s talking about.
But the hail and fire coming after the first trumpet is reminiscent of the plagues God sent down on Egypt. (Exodus 9:23-25)
That could very well be literal considering that it happened to Egypt. And a third of the earth and the trees are burned, and all the grass as well. The “third” may be literal or not, but considering how they often use that number throughout these two chapters, I think it merely has the idea of a significant number.
The second trumpet is blown and a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, perhaps referring to volcanic eruptions and their after-effects. (There was an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 which destroyed ships and killed marine life).
The third trumpet is blown and a great star fell from heaven making a third of the waters bitter, and killing many people. Whether this is some kind of meteorite, or simply a symbol of something that contaminates the water, I don’t know. Again, this and the death of the those in the sea from the second trumpet are reminiscent of the plague on Egypt when God turned the Nile to blood. (Exodus 7:20-24)
The fourth angel blows his trumpet and a third of the sun, moon, and stars are struck. This is why I says the number 1/3 is probably symbolic. How in the world do you strike a third of the sun. And even if you do, do you really reduce it’s light by exactly one-third? At any rate, like with Egypt, an unexplained darkness falls upon the earth.
And then things get worse, what the eagle calls the three woes. (8:13)
The fifth trumpet is blown, and swarms of locust from hell itself come out to devastate the earth, again a reference to one of the plagues on Egypt (Exodus 10:12-15)
But these are not literal locust. They seem to be demons. Why? Their king is an angel whose name is Abaddon or Apollyon, Hebrew and Greek for “destroyer.”
Second, their attack is not on the plant-life, but on people, to torture them. Third, the attack is specifically on those who are not sealed and protected by God (see chapter 7).
Then the sixth trumpet is blown, and the four angels from chapter 7 that were held back from wrecking destruction on the earth are released. And the picture seems to be that of full-scale war, with a third of mankind being wiped out as a result (an increase from the fourth that were killed in chapter 6 verse 8).
And yet, people do not repent. Rather, they continue in their sin for which they were being judged.
Sometimes people wonder why hell has to be eternal. After all, wouldn’t some, if not all, repent after being sent there? I think we find the answer here and later in chapter 16. And the answer is a resounding no. Despite their suffering, they continue in their sinful attitudes and even curse God.
Is it any wonder that all heaven was silent at the opening of the seven seals?
God does not delight in judgment. But he is a God of justice. And he will not put off the cries of his saints forever. He hears their prayers. And he will bring judgment.
So remember: If you’re a Christian crying out wondering where justice is in this world, God hears. And the time for justice will come.
But also remember that judgment is not something to be taken lightly. Heaven doesn’t. Neither should we.