Rev. 8:1, 3-5: “And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.”
We have omitted the second verse, for it has reference to the seven trumpets. The silence in heaven for about half an hour cannot be the second coming of Christ, as some have thought, for afterward the angel with the golden censer and incense, offered the prayers for the saints from the golden altar. The altar is in the holy place, just opposite the throne that is in the most holy. The two apartments were separated by a vail. In the day of atonement, the vail or door of the earthly tabernacle was opened and the high priest went in. But let it be remembered that the door (vail) was left open while the high priest officiated. Thus the two apartments became one. For this reason the congregation were not permitted in the holy place on that day, as they were at other times, for the vail being lifted, the holy place also became most holy. So while the door to the most holy was open, the entrance to the holy was closed. Therefore, the high priest alone used both apartments on the day of atonement. (See Lev. 16:17.) Thus the golden altar before the throne, from which the angel offered the prayers of the saints, was, and is, used in both periods — before, and in the time of the judgment. As the entire judicial tribunal (Judge, Advocate, Elders, etc.) were in the temple after the seventh seal had been opened, it is evident that the judgment was in progress, and probation had not closed at the time of the “silence.” For after the judgment has ceased and probation closed, no man can enter the temple. (See Rev. 15:8.)
Had the “silence” of “half an hour” pointed to the coming of Christ, at which time He takes his saints with Him, there would be no necessity for the angel to offer their prayers. Furthermore, it would be unnecessary to “cast” fire, which is the Spirit of God, from the golden altar to the earth. Again, if the opening of the seventh seal means the coming of Christ, then only those under the six seals would have been considered in the judgment, and there could be no seventh seal, which would show lack of perfection and completeness of the judgment, and of the gospel. It would also be contrary to the number of seals on the book. As the six seals have reference to six periods in which the saints were sealed, the seventh must also apply to a sealing period; otherwise it cannot be called, seventh “seal.”
Now let us consider the truth as taught by the last seal. Note carefully the order of each act. The seal is opened, and silence follows, for it reads: “and when he had opened the seventh seal there was silence.” The Revised Version, Weymouth, the Greek, and the Bulgarian Bibles read the same way. The silence was followed by the angel coming to the altar with the censer, after he offered the prayers of the saints. And then he filled the censer with fire, and cast the fire to the earth and again the voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. This is the exact order of each event.
What made the silence? As the judgment opened, John states: “And out of the throne proceeded lightnings, and thunderings and voices;” and the four beasts “rest not day and night, saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.” (Rev. 4:5, 8.) The voices are continuous day and night while the judgment is going on. But sometime after the seventh seal was opened these voices were silenced for about half an hour. After the angel offered the prayers of the saints, and cast the fire upon the earth, the voices resumed. “And there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.” Evidently the judgment, for some reason, had stopped, and half an hour later it resumed. It cannot be otherwise, for, if the judgment was going on, and the beasts and the elders kept silent, it would indicate that there was something wrong — something to which they could not say “amen” and praise God. Therefore, the only proper conclusion is, that for some reason the judgment retired for half an hour.
What made the interruption and brought about the change? Let us first determine the length of the prophetic half hour’s time. A day in prophetic time stands for a year. (Ezek. 4:6.) One hour is a twenty-fourth part of a prophetic year, and figuring thirty days to a month, it would be about two weeks. Half an hour would be half of two weeks; therefore, seven literal days. Seven days were used for purification. (See Ex. 29:35, 37; Lev. 12:2; 13:4, 5; 1, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 21, etc.) From these references we conclude that the “half an hour” or seven days stand for the purification of the church, pointing forward to the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1-6. But we have a more definite proof, which will clear all doubts.
In observance of the Passover, the Lord commanded Israel to celebrate that occasion seven days. (See Lev. 23:5-8.) Surely no one would say that God commanded His people to commemorate that event seven days with no object in view. Israel after the flesh going into Egypt, then out of Egypt to Mount Sinai, the passover in Egypt on the night when the death angel smote the first born of man and beast at the departure of Israel, are types of the church at the present time — the church going out of Egypt — worldliness, the purification of the church, the separation of the tares from the wheat — the fulfillment of Ezekiel 9. The Spirit of Prophecy bears witness of this by the following statement: “The Passover was to be both commemorative and typical, not only pointing back to the deliverance from Egypt, but forward to the greater deliverance which Christ was to accomplish in freeing His people from the bondage of sin.” — “Patriarchs and Prophets,” p. 277.
Thus the silence of half an hour points forward to this great event for the church of God. Its fulfillment would bring us to the time of the harvest, or as it is called, the Loud Cry of the Third Angel’s Message of Revelation 18 — the last message for the world. Thus, while the five men with the slaughter weapons are taking away those represented by the tares within the church, there will be silence in heaven for about half an hour (seven days), after which the judgment will commence again for those who shall be sealed in the time of the great harvest, which is the end of the world. Said Jesus: “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” — the church. (Matt. 13:30.)
They who are to be sealed at that time were seen by John as a great multitude with palms in their hands. (See Rev. 7:9.) Hence the scroll has made a turn, and the sealing for those who shall be judged while living, has begun. As we stated before, the passover night in Egypt is a type of the purification of the church, separating the tares from the wheat. The crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites pointed forward to the fulfillment of Isaiah 63. (See “The Shepherd’s Rod,” Vol. 1, pp. 96-103.)
Therefore, the prophet declares the words of the Lord: “For the day of vengeance is in mine heart and the year of my redeemed is come.” (Isa. 63:4.) We quote verses 1-3, also 17, 18: “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment…. O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servant’s sake, the tribes of thine inheritance. The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while: our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary.”
The prophet saw Christ himself returning from the slaughter of the Edomites — the class who were deceiving God’s people in the church, the tares, or adversaries who had trodden down Hissanctuary. “Bozrah” means “sheepfold” — the church. He saw His garments stained with the blood of the tares, in delivering His people from their hands. The prophet asked: “Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth the winefat?” The purification of the church makes it necessary for Christ to leave the place of judgment and descend to deliver His redeemed (the 144,000), and this is what causes the judgment to cease, and the voices to be silenced for about half an hour — seven days. The Spirit of Prophecy bears witness of the same. “The Lord Jesus shall rise up from His mediatorial work in the heavenly sanctuary, and shall clothe himself with the garments of vengeance, and surprise them at their unholy feast; and they will find themselves unprepared for the marriage supper of the Lamb.” — “Testimonies for the Church,” vol. 5, p. 690. Peter, looking forward to the purification of God’s church, and the commencement of the judgment for the living, says: “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17.)
Had the church as a body, or at least the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination accepted the message of reform as presented to them in “The Shepherd’s Rod,” Vol. 1, there would be no necessity for that class to fall by the figure of the five men with the slaughter weapons. It is the reception or rejection of the message that will fix the destiny of the two classes as described in the following testimony: “I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen, and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the true witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this is what will cause a shaking among God’s people.” — “Early Writings,” p. 270.
In the earthly sanctuary, the high priest entered the most holy apartment once a year, and on that particular day every Israelite was to confess his sin. He who neglected to comply with the divine requirements was cut off from his people. (See Lev. 23:29, 30.) Thus the day of anti-typical atonement, judgment, or cleansing of the sanctuary, as set forth in Daniel 8:14, is a day of purification for the camp of Israel, the church — putting away sin and sinners. The earthly sanctuary was a figure of the heavenly. (See Heb. 9:23, 24.) It was instituted with its ceremonial system to point forward to the work of Christ, our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary during the anti-typical period — New Testament time. As the sanctuary with all its services, was a figure of type of the true, heavenly, under the administration of Christ, so the typical day of atonement must point out the truth in the anti-typical period — our time.