Rev. Mark H. Creech
Revelation chapters 6-19 describe the Tribulation period during the end times. After the Church is taken out of the world in what might be called the first phase of Christ’s return, the Rapture, the time of God’s wrath, emerges in three waves of seven: seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls.
There are many titles in Scripture for this period, such as the “Day of the Lord” (Obadiah 15; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:18, 20; Isaiah 2:12; 13:6, 9; Zephaniah 1:7, 14; Ezekiel 13:5; 30:3; Zechariah 14:1), the “Great and Terrible Day of the Lord,” (Malachi 4:5), the “Day of Wrath” (Zephaniah 1:15), the “Day of Jacob’s Trouble,” (Jeremiah 30:7), “The Day” (I Thessalonians 5:4), “Those Days” (Matthew 24:22; Mark 13:20), “The Tribulation,” (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24), “The Great Tribulation,” (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 2:22; 7:14).
Starting in Revelation chapter 6, through 7, and the start of chapter 8, the Lamb of God, Christ, opens the seven seals of the scroll given to him, which is the title deed to the earth. These seven seals and their judgments represent the first half of seven years of what the book of Daniel calls the seventieth week. (Daniel 9:25-27). It is the darkest moment in human history – a time of spiritual apostasy and the rise of a mighty world figure who deceives the masses – a time of war – a time of famine – a time of death – a time of Christian martyrdom – a time of terror when the universe itself is shaken.
In Revelation chapter 8, Christ breaks the seventh seal, and this is what happens:
Silence in heaven for about a half hour? What is this momentary pause that creates a solemn interval where everyone and everything within the heavenly realm is hushed?
Several speculations have been advanced. Some speculate it’s like the calm before the storm. Others contend it’s like that moment of great solemnity when everyone waits silently with bated breath for the Judge to reveal his verdict. Still, others argue it’s a deafening silence generated by the shock of what God is about to do to the prideful rebels who repudiated his grace and mercies. It’s a half-hour of tense expectation, they say.
A Frankfurt prayer from the Sixteenth century says:
Surely all these virtues are rolled into that half hour of silence in heaven. But a better interpretation of the text connects this silence with the following verses:
In The Revelation of Jesus Christ, John Metcalfe offers the best explanation for the silence. He writes:
What a word from God! What comfort for all who suffer for their faith in Christ! What hope that their pleas, holy complaints, and anguish are always heard and answered. These prayers are of the utmost importance to God. They take priority. Just as the four angels were instructed to hold back the winds of God’s judgment upon the earth until the Lord’s 144,000 Jewish evangelists were sealed, God’s dreadful judgments in the seven angels who will blow their trumpets are delayed until the prayers of God’s Tribulation saints are gathered in a golden incense burner as a sacrificial offering on the altar. This golden censer filled with the prayers of God’s servants is mixed with incense, poured out on the altar, and ascends to God’s throne. This golden censer is then taken and filled with fire from the altar and thrown down on the earth. Consequently, there comes a loud rumble of thunder and lightning flashes and a terrible earthquake. In so many words, these prayers have set in motion the coming judgments in the second half of the Tribulation.
The late T.F. Torrance, a Scottish theologian and professor of Christian dogmatics at New College in the University of Edinburgh, wrote:
“What are the real master powers behind the world, and what are the deeper secrets of our destiny? Here is the astonishing answer: the prayer of the saints and the fire of God. That means that more potent, more powerful than all the dark and mighty powers let loose in the world, more powerful than anything else, is the power of prayer set ablaze by the fire of God and cast upon the earth.”
No doubt, many of these prayers offered were imprecatory. Imprecatory prayers ask God to bring judgment to those who despise his ways and his people. These are not petitions for personal vengeance.
The Psalmist David prayed imprecatory prayers. He prayed, “O God, declare them guilty. Let them be caught in their own traps. Drive them away because of their many sins, for they have rebelled against you (Psalm 5:10). He also asked God, “Don’t let them get away with their wickedness; in your anger, O God, bring them down” (Psalm 56:7). David even prayed prayers asking God to deal in judgment with those who had treated him unjustly when he had done what was godly.
Some would say these prayers are beneath the Christian today and no longer proper for a New Testament believer. Nevertheless, making ethical distinctions between Old and New Testament believers is flawed.
David Chilton, in his book, Days of Vengeance, admonishes:
“If our churches were more acquainted with the foundational hymnbook of the Church, the Psalms, instead of the sugary, syrupy, sweetness-and-light choruses that characterize modern evangelical hymnals, we would understand this much easier. But we have fallen under a pagan delusion that it is somehow ‘unchristian’ to pray for God’s wrath to be poured out upon the enemies and persecutors of the Church. Yet that is what we see God’s people doing, with God’s approval, in both Testaments of the Holy Scriptures…Much of the impotence of the churches today is directly attributable to the fact that they have become emasculated and effeminate.”
Certainly, we should lovingly and earnestly pray for the repentance of the unsaved and the enemies of God’s people. Nevertheless, it is not improper to also earnestly pray that if particular individuals or groups callously persist in their sinful ways, if they are hell-bent on spreading their evil to the harm of many others, shamelessly rejecting and ridiculing righteousness – it is righteous to call for God’s judgment on them. It is right to call on God to stop them in their tracks. Out of love and passion for God’s holy purposes, it is appropriate to petition heaven to deal with people who are hardened and arrogant against God – people who persist in defying his objectives in the world. Of course, no one should engage in imprecatory praying before also pouring out one’s heart for the salvation of the wayward.
In the end, the prayers of God’s people under severe duress are of the utmost importance to him. All of heaven bends the ear in silence to hear them. God will respond aggressively to take vengeance on all who despise him and his saints.© Rev. Mark H. Creech
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