IX. THE SEVENTH SEAL—SILENCE IN HEAVEN
"And when He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them."
At the time that the seventh seal is opened, all noise stops. (The whole universe is silent; even the throne is silent.) This is because the age is about to change. "And I saw the seven angels who stand before God." The angels are standing, while the twenty-four elders are sitting. The seven angels have instruments in front of them. Hence, some have thought that Gabriel should be one among them (cf. Luke 1:19). The trumpets are for warfare (1 Cor. 14:8; Amos 3:6; Exo. 19:16). The heavenly will is ready for the sounding of the trumpets, but God has to wait for something to be accomplished before He will issue the command. God has to wait for His sons to express their sympathy towards Him; that is, He has to wait for the prayer of Revelation 8:3-5. Mr. Gordon said, "Prayer is the tracks for God’s will to run on."
X. THE SCENE IN HEAVEN
AFTER THE OPENING OF THE SEVENTH SEAL
A. Revelation 8:3
"And another Angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer, and much incense was given to Him to offer with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne."
The "another Angel" is the Priest; this is the Lord Jesus. The prayers of the saints are offered to God through the incense of this "another Angel." No Christian can offer up prayer by himself. There must be the incense, which is the merit of Christ’s work, the fragrance of Christ. The believers’ prayer must be joined to the fragrance of Christ before it can reach God.
Why does this verse call the Lord an angel and not a priest? Hebrews 2:16 says, "Assuredly it is not to angels that He gives help." Hence, the Epistles show us that, in the Lord’s relationship to us, He takes the position of a man. Hebrews 2:17 says, "He should have been made like His brothers in all things." Because He is a man, He can draw near to man. His being the "Angel" implies that He is higher than man. In Genesis 18:2, 16, and 22, the Lord is described as a man who drew near to Abraham. However, in Genesis 19:1 He came to Lot as an "angel," showing that He was apart from man. Later when He was helping Lot, He appeared as a man again (Gen. 19:10, 12, 16). Revelation 8:3 says that the Lord is "another Angel." This means that the age has changed; He is no longer the Son of Man of the age of the gospel. He has now become "another Angel," yet He is still a priest. The saints here are in the midst of tribulations.
In the Old Testament, the incense had to be lit with the fire from the altar; no strange fire could be offered up. The altar is a type of the Lord’s cross. The incense is our prayer. Hence, one can only come to God through the merit and the redemption of the Lord’s cross. Prayer cannot be offered up with strange fire (fire that is not from the altar). Hence, without the cross, there can be no prayer.
B. Revelation 8:4
"And the smoke of the incense went up with the prayers of the saints out of the hand of the Angel before God."
"The smoke of the incense." The incense is lit, and the smoke of the incense signifies the Lord’s merit. Only smoke will ascend. Without the Lord’s incense, no prayer can ascend to God.
C. Revelation 8:5
"And the Angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar and cast it to the earth; and there were thunders and voices and lightnings and an earthquake."
"And there were thunders..." This is God’s answer to the prayers. Although we do not know the content of the prayers, we know what the prayers are about from the fact that they are answered. The prayers of the saints here correspond with the cry from underneath the altar of the fifth seal; they are the prayers of those who ask to be avenged (Luke 18:1-8). "The Angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar and cast it to the earth." It is cast back to the same place from whence it came. That which is cast to the earth is God’s judgment.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 16: Study on Revelation, Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)