When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
Thus far in John’s vision of Heaven there has been precious little silence. There has been praise aplenty and conversation with elders and pronouncements of various types and kinds. Heaven is filled with sound, it seems. Right up until The Lamb — Jesus Christ — breaks the seventh seal. After the first six seals have revealed conflict (6:3-4) and famine (6:5-6) and death (6:7-8), martyrs (6:9-11) and generally terrifying events (6:12-16) and the sealing of God’s bondservants (7:1-8) and the appearing of the saints who came out of the great tribulation (7:9-17), what could possibly be revealed by the seventh seal that could cause Heaven to fall silent?
First, a group of seven angels are given trumpets (8:2). It may be something as simple as Heaven falling silent to be able to hear the trumpets. It may anticipation of the judgments about to be meted out.
Second, much incense is given to an angel to add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne (8:3). Two things happen in the wake of this incense being added to the prayers of the saints. One, the smoke goes up before God. Whatever amount of incense smoke the prayers of the saints had already contributed, still more was added. Second, the angel takes fire from the altar and throws it to Earth and this causes lighting and thunder and an earthquake. These things remind me that prayer can quite literally move heaven and earth.
After those two things, the trumpets begin to blast. So what caused the silence?
There are a few verses in the Old Testament that speak of all flesh being silent before the LORD. Some of these even have to do with judgment and the day of the LORD. So it is entirely possible that all of Heaven falls silent in the face of God’s judgment. What, really, is there to say that will make it any less deserved or soften the blow when it falls? There is that possibility.
What follows is speculation and should not in any way be thought of as doctrinal, but I like to think that the silence is because the incense added to the prayers of the saints is a metaphor of the prayers of Christ, just as the prayers of the saints are symbolized by incense. The Bible tells me that He makes intercession on behalf of those who are His and He most definitely prayed for His disciples before going to the cross, so it is not all that far-fetched (cf John 17). If that were the case, then all of Heaven would be falling silent for the prayers of their Savior being added to the prayers of those He redeemed.
Ultimately, I do not know and cannot conclusively say. One thing I can say for certain: Silence is an acceptable response to the things that God does. Sometimes words fail and to simply be still and know that He is God is sufficient.
Father, thank You that even the denizens of Heaven must sometimes just be still. In those times when I am silent, please fill that silence with the knowledge of Who You are. When it is time to speak once more, may my words be true and uplifting and spoken in love. You and I both know I need to improve in all of those areas. Please bridle my tongue so that it speaks as You would have it speak and is silent when You would have it silent. If all of Heaven can be silent, then You are abundantly able to make me silent when I ought to be.