Revelation 8:1–6 (NKJV)
After the account of the great multitude of saints praising and worshipping God in heaven, John moves to an accounting of the seventh and final seal. This seal seems to be a transitional move from the scene around the throne to another series of happenings, this time connected with the seven trumpets rather than the seven seals.
1 When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. 3 Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. 5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.Revelation 8:1-6
6 So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
In this account, John tells of the seventh seal being opened by the Lamb, and the fact that there was a silence for about half an hour. This is an unusual segue, allowing for the image to shift, and the preparation of seven angels to play seven trumpets, standing before God. Another angel was outfitted with a golden censer and stood at the altar. He was supplied with much incense, and was tasked with offering it along with the prayers of the saints, which come before God from the golden altar. The smoke of the incense was thick, and wafted toward the throne alongside the prayers of the saints. The angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and then threw it to the earth. Concurrent with that act was the occurrence of noise, thunder, lightning, and earthquakes. Immediately following this display, the seven angels prepared themselves to sound their call in an orderly fashion. Some schlaors postulate that the silence in heaven is simply a precursor to the rapture of the church and the start of the Great Tribulation. These scholars are commonly called “mid-tribbers” for their belief that the first 3 1/2 years are not actually part of the Great Tribulation, but rather a time of prosperity which leads to the actually tribulation when judgment will fall upon the earth. I do not interpret this passage in that manner. I bleieve that the church will be raptured before the setting up of a world government by the antichrist, and that those killed during the Tribulation are the exception rather than the rule. I am a “pre-tribber.”
The seven trumpets announce seven plagues, that are somewhat reminiscent of the scene in the book of Exodus when God exacts ten plagues on Egypt. They are also similar to the vision of the seven bowls that will be poured out in chapter 15. These plagues will affect one-third of the earth, leaving room for the seven bowls to finish the work of judgment on the earth. The prayers of the saints, perhaps hearkening back to the Tribulation saints under the altar, are offered up by the angel to God. The answer to these prayers is symbolized by the censer being thrown to the earth in judgment. The bottom line is that this story shows the punishment that will come on the earth will be severe, with this being the second stage, after the seal punishments, and then being completed during the pouring out of the seven bowls. This is the wrath to come on the earth for embracing the antichrist and taking the mark of the beast. Judgment now begins.