End Game: Part 8, Revelation Hermeneutics – Revelation 8-16

Image from Revelation Diagram blog post by Bob Thune, http://www.bobthune.com/2011/04/revelation-diagram/

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Revelation 8:1, NIV).

At this point in Revelation John has witnessed Jesus open six of the seven seals of judgment seen on the scroll in heaven (Revelation 5:1–5). After the opening of the sixth seal and its consequences, John described the sealing of 144,000 Jewish believers, listed by their tribe. This was followed by a vision of an enormous crowd of people of every possible race and language, worshiping God in heaven (Revelation 7).

Then, the seventh seal was opened.

Now, in Revelation 8:1 there is silence in heaven.

This verse is a pivotal point that affects our understanding of the following chapters–our Revelation hermeneutics (interpretation of the text).

There are at least two ways to read and interpret the remainder of the Book of Revelation.

Some interpret the opening of the seventh seal as introductory or transitional to the seven trumpets. The silence in heaven is an astonished anticipation of the escalation of the severity of judgment about to come upon the people on the earth.

This interpretation views the new series of visions that begins in Revelation 8:2 (trumpet judgments)  and 16:1 (bowls of wrath) as intensified chronological progressions of the seal judgments.

Another way to interpret the half hour of silence is that it does not either include or introduce the seven trumpets or anything else. Maybe it’s just the end of the world and then eternity starts!

With this interpretation we could view the trumpet judgments and bowls of wrath as parallel perspectives–recapitulations–of what has been revealed in the opening of the seven seals. The trumpets (and bowls) could be understood as further developments or different aspects of the same time period as the seals.

That being the case, the descriptions in these successive iterations of apocalyptic judgments (seals, trumpets, bowls) in Revelation provide a sort of spiraling effect so that each septet (group of seven) of judgments is cumulative of the previous series as the descriptions of the apocalyptic events are elaborated and amplified.

Bible scholars generally take one or the other approach–progression or recapitulation–to interpret the book of Revelation. Recapitulation is the lens through which we will view the remainder of Revelation in this series of devotions.

But, it really doesn’t matter if the hermeneutic you subscribe to is considered to be 7 repetitive events or 14 or 21 chronological events–recapitulation or progression.

God wins in the end! God is in control of events in heaven and on Earth now and to the end of time.

With either interpretation Revelation reveals to us that God will transact His righteous judgment on the world and even to the bitter end will give all people the opportunity to choose to live with Him in His eternal Kingdom.

Then, after His judgment is complete He will establish a new world order where Jesus is King and His dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3, NIV).

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15, NIV)


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