The Sound of Silence
October 21-22, 2017
So, John has this vision and he's taking in the Spirit, into the realm of Heaven and there's this amazing description of the Throne of God. Now, this is important to distinguish; it's not a dream. Okay? It's not a dream; it's a vision, there's a big difference.
So, John has this amazing vision that's very, very clear, very distinct. By the way, having clarity of vision is certainly-- God has used it over time and you can go back over history and see how God has used specific vision.
Did you know that Abraham Lincoln had a vision, a very, very clear vision of his death before he was assassinated that he heard crying in The White House?
So, he heard this crying. He got up, just find out where the crying was coming from, quite a crowd of people crying.
So, he went down into one area; there was no one there. He went to another area and yet he could still hear the crying and he's walking around because he hears this crying.
So, he goes to another area; there's no one there. He goes to another area; there's no one there.
Finally, he goes down to the rotunda and there he opens the doors and there's a crowd of people and they're crying. So, he goes into this crowd of people and he sees that there's a coffin and then he gets nearer to it and he realizes it's his coffin; that he's the one that's in that coffin.
Yet, he's walking around and it's not a dream; it's a clarity of vision and God was preparing him, of course, because as we know, history unfolded with him getting assassinated.
But this is a vision that God has given to John and it's a clarity of vision that he has because he's given this scene of Heaven and it's an amazing thing what he's been describing for us. The sea of glass like crystal, one seated in the throne on the center is the Almighty, as we would expect, four living creatures. Amazing. We looked at those earlier in an earlier message. If you missed it, you can get the cassette. Then there was the-- I'm just joking about the cassette. We don't do that anymore.
Then there's the 24 thrones with the 24 elders around there and one who was sitting on the throne, the Almighty, had in His right hand a scroll written on the inside on the back. But it was sealed with seven seals. So, a loud voice called out, "Who is worthy to look into the book and to break the seven seals?" But no one was found worthy and John goes weeping as he understands there's no one found worthy.
One of the elders says, "Stop weeping for the lion, from the Tribe of Judah has overcome to us to open the book and to break its seals" So, he says, "So I looked and I behold a lamb as though slain." Then when he took the book from the Almighty, the four living creatures, and the 24 elders, they fell down and they worshipped and they sang a new song; it was a glorious scene in Heaven of worship.
Then, it says, "He begins to break these seven seals and each one of them he's breaking, ushers forth a release of some part or some aspect of the Wrath of God that will be poured out on the Earth during that tribulation period." Those last day events.
Now, it's important for us to understand that the Church that received, these Churches that received this letter would have been so encouraged, it would've been so strengthening to faith to understand that God is sovereign over the nations.
I mean they were there, the church had already suffered under Emperor Nero and now Hadrian is about to bring a great end of persecution. What a tremendous strength of faith this has been to generations to understand that God is sovereign over the nations.
Frankly, today it strengthens our faith to know that God is sovereign over the nations because this world looks like it's falling apart. You start to begin to see that we're really drawing nearer and nearer to those last days.
So, this is like very, very important for us to take hold of and to discern. Now, when you get to chapter eight, the Lord Jesus, that is the lamb who is slain in John's vision. He is now going to open the last of the seals. So, the seventh seal is now going to be opened and when he opens the seventh seal, there is silence in heaven. Okay. When he opens the seventh seal, there's silence in heaven for half an hour, which has led some to question whether woman are going to be in heaven.
But I'm saying that some, not me, not me, some have said that. Note to self; take that out of the notes.
That was just a little bit of diversion. But this silence is powerful. Powerful. Powerful; it's an ominous moment it is-- the silence is powerful. The significance of this is important for us to take hold of. Let's read about it Revelation 8 beginning in verse 1, "When he broke 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 and another angel came and stood at the altar holding a golden censer and much incense was given to him that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne."
"And the smoke of this incense with the prayers of the saints went up before God out of the angel's hand. And the angel took the censer and then he filled it with fire from the altar--" No, so there is the altar, the fire that is on the altar and it's always there.
Now, by the way, did you remember that when Moses went up to Mount Sinai and he received, of course, the Mosaic Law. We understand that, but he also received instruction in regards to how to build the tabernacle that was, of course, the model for the temple. But did you know that that actually, the tabernacle and the temple, were actually a model of the real scene of heaven, the Throne Room of God. The temple, that's actually just a copy, a shadow you might say, of the reality that is in heaven.
So, in the tabernacle, there was to be this altar and there was fire on it always; always, always, always it was to have fire. This is a shadow, a copy of the reality of heaven.
So, there is this altar of fire. So, this angel, he took this censer, verse 5, and he filled it with the fire of the altar and then he threw it to the Earth and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake. The seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them. The first one sounded and there came hail and fire mixed with blood and they were thrown to the Earth and a third of the earth was burned up and a third of the trees were burned up and all the green grass was burned up.
We're going to stop right there but what a scene is this that's unfolding before us. You get to the last of the seals, each one of these was releasing these tremendous powerful events of the last days and you think, "Oh, we've got to the seventh one, we're just about finished. Right? Oh, this tremendous display of God's wrath and power is coming to an end. We're on the seventh one, right? It's got to be coming to an end."
No. No. The seventh seal actually brings forth seven trumpets and each of these trumpets are going to bring forth the utterance of God's wrath even further. In fact, when you get to the seventh trumpet, it opens up seven bulls. There's still a lot to go to understand and as we go through these, so much is revealed about God's heart and God's ways.
I. Be Still and Know That He is God
So, let's go through these verses because they're so important, so significant, starting with this silence. Maybe we could capture it this way, "Be still, and know that He is God. There's a time to be quiet."
Now, up to this point and the scene that John has been describing, there's been worship, the four living creatures never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come. Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God the Almighty." They never cease to say.
Then, at one point, the four living creatures, they fall down and the elders, they sing a new song, and then at another point, the angels the myriad of angels, ten thousand upon ten thousand that are outside of that, they're singing this amazing song and there's worship that's filling the Heavens. What a seen, right? Singing glorious worship.
Worship is very important. Worship is very, very, very, important to the church, it's important to the Lord, it's important because your heart is expressive of it and it's powerful.
Never discount the power of worship; it is the Church's gift to have worship. The Holy Spirit inhabits the praises. What a gift that is, right? You come and you're just worshiping and the Holy Spirit is moving. He's stirring people up, right? That's a gift. That is a glorious, glorious, gift that God gives to the church to stir up the love and the faith in the presence of God; it's a beautiful thing; it's a powerful thing.
I was reading an article that Matt Redman, who's a famous worship leader, was telling about a story of some death row inmates in Indonesia and they had been convicted of drug trafficking in that country. That's a death sentence. So, they were on death row, but they had come to faith. I mean authentic come to faith, full-on Christians and they are making a difference in the prison right there helping other inmates strengthening others.
But at one point, the officials decided that they were going to carry out the sentence of execution. Even though there were protests from around the globe, they decided to go ahead and do this execution.
So, they brought these out. I believe there were nine, eight or nine, and they brought them out in front of the firing squad. First of all, they refused the blindfolds and then they turned to face their executioners and then they began to worship. They began to sing. They sang, "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I'm found, was blind but now I see." They finished Amazing Grace and they still hadn't fired. So, they started singing 10,000 Reasons. "Bless the Lord all my soul. And when that day has come, when I've reached the end, still I'll sing your praises for 10,000 years and forevermore." And they executed them.
What a powerful thing because they were praising the Lord and then they stepped into Heaven and they just kept on praising. There's something glorious and powerful about worship but when the seventh seal is broken, there is silence, awesome and complete silence.
No one made a sound. Why not? Because it's too awesome. What is about to happen is so awesome that no one's going to say a thing. No sound is made. They just stand there in awe.
There are some biblical examples of something similar. When Israel entered the Promised Land, the first encounter with the enemy was at Jericho and at the Lord's instruction, they marched around that city six times, one each day, six times.
There's an interesting parallel here; they did not say a word. They were given the instruction. "You march around that city and you do not say a word; there is to be complete silence."
For six days, they marched around that city in complete silence. On the seventh day, there were seven priests who took seven trumpets and they sounded those seven trumpets. As we know, the story, the city fell but what an interesting parallel because what is about to unfold after this silence is seven trumpets and those, too, have stood against God, those who have rebelled against God. The world is about to fall. They're going to have an encounter with God himself as the Wrath of God is poured out on this. See, this silence is such a powerful thing.
A. Silence can be powerful worship
Now, Psalm 62, "My soul waits in silence for God alone. From Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold. I shall not be shaken." My strength, in other words, is steadfast because I stand. I just love that phrase, "My soul waits in silence." There's an aspect of that, right?
Then Psalm 37, "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Do not fret when men succeed in their ways when they carry out their wicked schemes, refrain from anger and turn from wrath. Don't fret. It only leads to evil." In other words, be still and wait on God to move. Be still. Wait on God to move.
That's a powerful picture for us. I want to read Psalm 46. Like you, let me read it to you, but what I would like you to do is to keep your finger on Revelation 8, an interest-- and find some interesting similarities as I read to you Psalm 46. "God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the Earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea."
Going back to Revelation 8:8, "The second angel sounded and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea." What an interesting parallel. "Though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride." Verse 5, "There will be a great earthquake."
Then verse 4 in Psalm 46, "There is a river whose streams make glad the City of God, the holy dwelling places of the most high. God is in the midst of her. She will not be moved. God will help. When morning dawns, the nation’s made an uproar, kingdoms tottered and He raised His voice and the Earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Come, behold the works of the Lord who has wrought desolations in the Earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the Earth. He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two and he burns the chariots with fire."
"Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations and I will be exalted in the Earth. The Lord of Hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our stronghold." What a great Psalm is that. What an interesting parallel to it all.
So, you go back to Revelation 8, after the silence, and then he talks about the prayers, the incense, our prayers, he's showing now-- before the trumpets that are going to release the Wrath of God, there's like this moment of silence and then the prayers; it's like there's a priority given to prayer.
B. Our Prayers are God’s priority
Our prayers are God's priority. The whole heavens stop and understand the significance of prayers. This incense is added to the prayers of the believers. Prayers are so important.
What are some of the prayers that people have been praying over the generations? You know one prayer? How long, O Lord? How long? I mean you can just imagine back in their day, they prayed it. Today, we have that same prayer, "Lord, how long? Look at what's happening in this world, Lord. How long? How long?" Here's another prayer that many pray over and over, "Thy Kingdom come, Lord. Thy Kingdom."
When you pray that prayer, you're saying, "Lord, reveal to us the events of the latter days even. Your Kingdom come, Thy will be done On earth as it is in Heaven." That prayer is about to be answered in a dramatic way. The Scripture tells us that the prayers of the saints are very important to the Lord. Make no mistake, He's making this clear. The prayers of the saints are extremely important to the Lord.
In fact, 1 Peter 3:12, "The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears attend to their prayer." I love that verse right there. "His ears attend to their prayer." You have the same access to the Throne of God as Billy Graham does. Do you know that? You have the same access to the Throne of God. God attends to your prayer; your prayers.
So, who am I? Who am I? I'm nobody. I'm an insignificant me. Who am I? You know who you are? You're someone that Jesus paid the greatest price to redeem. that's who you are.
Therefore, it's important to recognize that God places great value on your prayers. James 5:16-18, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." Then he uses Elijah as an example by saying-- look, look. Now, listen. Elijah was a man just like us. What is he saying? He's saying you have the same access to God's Throne as Billy Graham. That's what he's saying.
He's saying that Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again, he prayed and the heavens gave rain and the Earth produced its crops. Three and a half years; three and a half years; that's is an interesting number right there because the tribulation period lasts seven years.
C. Incense is added to our Prayers
I don't know about you but I think that's an interesting coincidence. There's an interesting parallels in the Scriptures. Then going back to Revelation 8, he's talking about this person but he says-- notice this part. He says, "The incense is added to the prayers." Verse 3, John saw this angel stand at the altar holding a golden cencer and he says much incense was given to him to add to the prayers of the saints.
It's interesting that the incense is added to the prayers because I think a lot of times; people have the sense that the incense, that is the prayer. The incense is from the altar and it's added to the prayers, which explains a lot.
The Old Testament priests would come before the altar in the temple and offer incense and their idea, of course, the idea is adding incense to the prayers of the people. What an interesting parallel? This became a picture of Christ. He intercedes for us and the Holy Spirit intercedes for us; it's like adding to our prayers.
Listen to this great verse, Romans 8:26, "In the same way the Spirit helps our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit himself is interceding for us with groanings too deep for words."
It's like He's adding-- but we don't know how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit is like adding to our prayers, like it's interceding on our behalf. What a picture is that? I love saying Corinthians 2 where he talks about this, he says, "Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us." So, God, right? "Is manifesting through us the sweet aroma--" that's the idea of incense, isn't it? It's supposed to be sweet and it is an aroma. The parallel is not to be missed.
"God leads us in triumph and God manifest through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place for we are a fragrance of Christ unto God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing." You are the aroma of Christ, which is really a beautiful picture because you think about our spiritual bearing without such a thing and we wouldn't smell so good. Right? Without God making us the aroma of Christ, we wouldn't smell so good and some things can really smell bad. I mean I don't want to say anything but some people can smell bad.
I remember when many years ago, we were living in Aloha at one time and I came home one day and I had this strange sense that I could smell something in the house. You know how you get used to your smells and you like don't smell them because they're in the house and you can't tell that they're actually there because you're so used to them? You know what I am saying? But this something was growing, something was increasing and I just had this sense that something was smelling bad and it smelled a little bit like death.
I thought, "Oh, this is not good." Especially because we had guests coming for dinner that night. I thought how unappealing would that be if that's accurate. So, I called my neighbor, literally the neighbor, and I said, "Hey, neighbor, would you mind coming over to my house and smelling our house?"
I said, "Because, you know, we get used to our own smells but I need your fresh nose. Would you come over and tell me if my house smells bad?" And he's like, "Well, sure. What are neighbors for, right?"
So, he comes over and he opens the door and walks in and he goes "[sniffing] Oh, yes. Oh, yes." I said, "What is it? "Something died." I said, "Really?" I looked around I couldn't find it. No mouse or rat or anything and I thought, "What is it?"
Then I started thinking, "Crawlspace," and I thought, "Uh-oh. This is not good." So, I got my hazmat suit on, my garbage bag, and I crawled underneath. Some possum decided to make our crawlspace his final resting place. I had to crawl in there and get as close as you can imagine with a broken shovel and a garbage bag and someone had to do it and I had to put in-- I know.
Because the last thing I want is for our house to smell like death. The last thing we want in our lives is to smell like the death of the world when it comes to our relationship to the Lord.
So, I love this beautiful picture that He manifests in us and through us the aroma of Christ. God is like-- He is changing our character. Do you know that character-- has a smell about it, right?
In other words, there's an old saying in the South. Somebody, let's say, who has a suspicious character, you would say, "There's a skunk in the woodpile." It's an old expression, right? There's a skunk in the woodpile, which is to say there's something going on in that character and he's giving us this picture. He's telling us here, this is the picture of the incenses added to the saints. The prayers of the saints.
So, it's a powerful picture. Psalm 141 "May my prayer be counted as incense before you. The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering. Set a guard, o Lord, over my mouth. Keep watch over the door of my lips." He's changing-- he's helping my prayers. He's adding to my prayers.
Now, it's a good thing that Christ intercedes for us because my prayers, if it was left to me, my prayers wouldn't be so good. My prayers are more like, "My will be done." Isn't that common? Is it not kind of what your prayers are?
Well, commonly, we think, "I want my will." See, I love the prayer of Jesus, "Not my will, your will." But your will.
II. Fire from the Alter Sets Things Right
Now, going back to Revelation and then the next thing that you see is this fire. Right now, He says, "This fire is now going--" "This fire from this altar." It's important to see the significance of it because fire from the altar is going to set things right.
When you see what's happening in the world today, the things that are happening with ISIS. What a tragedy that's befalling the world? Or you look back over history, in Hitler, the tragedy that befell the world or people who do evil things. There's something inside that just cries out, makes-- set this right, Lord. Set things right. There's something that needs to be done about it.
So, when the trumpets sound, fire; hail and fire from heaven as the Wrath of God is poured out and fire sets things right. How important is fire? You know what that Scripture says in Hebrews 12 that our God is a consuming fire. When God spoke to Moses out of the fiery bush, it was God speaking out of fire.
In the Old Testament, when they would offer an offering, it was fire from heaven that would consume it. As I mentioned, the altar in the temple and the tabernacle must always have fire, always have fire. What a picture of God in that fire.
Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist is speaking, "As for me," John said, "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to remove his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." Which is what we're now seeing described here in the Book of Revelation.
Also, it is fire from the altar that is added to the incense, it takes fire to make incense what it is. There's really deep things to consider. So, then this angel, he takes the fire from the altar, puts it into the golden incense, burning-- the golden incense with the burning incense and he hurls it to the Earth by prayers being answered. How long? Time has come. How long, O Lord? Time has come. Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Time has come.
A. The trumpets declare victory
Then these trumpets, and then the angels begin to sound their trumpets. All of that leads up to now; the sevenfold trumpets. Trumpets are important in the Scriptures. I mean you could just do study after study of these amazing aspects that he's revealing to us. Trumpets declare victory. God used the sound of a ram's horn and then later trumpets made of silver throughout their history. The sound of a trumpet was used to signal the troops.
But interestingly, he also said, "Sound the trumpet in the days of battle. Sound the trumpet as a call to the Lord that He might help in the days of trouble." Sound the trumpet. I like this beautiful picture.
The trumpets signal the year of Jubilee when all debts were canceled and all slaves were set free. The sound of the trumpet, it will call the Church to meet the Lord in the air at the rapture. Remember that? 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, "For the Lord himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the Trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first and then we, who are alive and remain, will be caught up." There's that phrase that is interrupted into the Latin as "rapturo," "Caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so, we shall always be with the Lord."
B. God answers prayer in greater measure
From the trumpet sound, right? So, he talks about that it's-- he takes the sensory and he throws it to the Earth and these trumpets begin to sound; it's like the answering of this prayer. God answers prayer in the greatest of measures. As you see here, that when the trumpet sounds, he pours out the wrath, answers the prayer of the saints. How long? How long, Lord? Time has come.
Some might wonder, does God hear prayers today? You see the significance of prayer here. Does God hear prayer today? The answer is absolutely yes. God attends to the prayers of the saints and that it's important for us to recognize that God, in his sovereign hand, has decided to move through the prayers of His people.
In His sovereign administration, He has decided that God is good-- this is how He had set it up, that God is going to move through the prayers of His people. Therefore, how important are prayers? It's important for us to recognize.
1 Corinthians 2:9, "As it is written, things--" Listen to this. This is a great verse, "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, which have not entered even into the heart of man all that God has prepared for those who love Him." Its like, "Oh, you have no idea." He answers prayer in greater measure. You have no idea.
One of the greatest examples of this has to be and we're about to enter the Christmas season. One of the stories, of course, that we love is the Priest Zacharias who is attending in the temple, this time it's his turn. He's in the temple and serving. As we know, this angel, Gabriel, comes and he tells him that God has heard his prayers because he and his wife have not had a child, she is barren, she's now an old woman, and yet, she is still barren.
How long have they been praying? A long time. So, Gabriel comes, "God has heard your prayers. You'll have a boy, but not just any boy. You've waited a long time for God-- God's going to answer your prayer in greater measure than you have ever understood. Not just any boy, he's going to be the forerunner of the long-awaited, promised Messiah and you will call him John."
To me, it's this beautiful picture that God answers for more than you can even imagine, things which the eye has not seen, ear not heard, well it's not even entered into the heart of man all that God has prepared for those who love Him. You have no idea. God's going to do-- just wait. He says, "You just wait. God will do far more--"
Well, here it is, Ephesians 3:20, "Now, unto Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond." Could he say any more clearly? He is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works within us. To Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."
God is attending to our payers but it may seem like God is tarrying. God's timing is way better than our timing. We're just impatient. Our problem is we're impatient. But God's answers are far greater. We need to understand that God attends and you can see from this--