The Significance of Silence
One of the most memorable worship services I attended as a child was a silent Lord’s Supper service. We all sat silently in the sanctuary until the appropriate time when the pastor took a big loaf of bread in his hands, raised it above his head, broke it, and bowed his head in prayer. After he prayed, the bread was distributed, and when everyone had some, he motioned for us to eat. Next, he took a pitcher and poured the juice into a cup. Then, he raised the cup, bowed his head, and prayed. Next, small juice cups were distributed and in silence we partook again. Then, the pastor sat down and for what seemed like half an hour, we reflected in silence on the gift of grace we had received in Jesus. Eventually, one by one, we left in silence.
I remember the service because of its novelty, but also because of the welcomed presence of silence. It was a holy moment where no music or speaking was allowed—only time for silent reflection on Christ’s sacrifice and a visual picture of His broken body and blood poured out for us. The silence helped me contemplate the significance.
I believe the silence in Revelation 8 is meant to call the assembly around the throne to reflection. Revelation 8:1 says, “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” Instead of moving quickly into the scene of judgment and destruction that is coming in the verses to follow, the action stops for thirty minutes. Nothing happens. No one talks. No horn blows.
Perhaps this time was given for all who surrounded the throne to sit silently before the Lord and reflect upon His patient, forgiving character and His desire that none should perish but that all might come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Maybe the silence reminds those present of the severe nature of judgment and the gravity of what is to come. The silence surely helps them contemplate God’s great sadness over the judgment that must come for those who reject Christ as King.
Following the silence, the prayers of the saints rise before the Lord as incense. Included in these prayers are those of the martyrs who call out for Christ to end the suffering of the faithful (Revelation 6:10). Then, the trumpets blow. With each loud blare, judgment is hurled upon the earth. It is a terrible scene of destruction and reckoning.
As we contemplate this passage, we too are called to reflection. We must realize that God’s wrath will come on those who do not submit to Him. And, we must remember that silence before the Lord, while to our modern sensibilities feels awkward and unproductive, is actually a wonderful opportunity to remember God’s great love. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Take a few minutes to silently reflect on the fact that Jesus took the judgment we should bear in order that we may be saved from the wrath that is to come. Thank the Lord for those who have lost their lives as martyrs so that we may know the great message of hope. Ask the Lord to give you urgency and boldness when sharing the message of God’s love with those who do not follow Christ.
Revelation 8:1-5 (ESV):
When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. 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.