Poole on Revelation 8:1: A Half-Hour's Silence in Heaven

Verse 1:[1] And (Rev. 6:1) when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

[And when He (that is, the Lamb [Durham[2]]) had opened the seventh Seal] The final decree containing seven parts concerning the causes of the siege, and the siege of the city of Jerusalem (Grotius[3]). By some [Grotius and Hammond[4]] it is believed that the first four Trumpets were fulfilled in Judea before the siege of Jerusalem, and are to be understood of the seditions and murders committed there. Which by no means satisfies; 1. thus this would be a History, evidently concerning matters already past, not a Prophecy; 2. thus the seventh Seal would have been fulfilled before the sixth, which they explain of the City besieged and captured; 3. thus these Trumpets are confused with the second Seal, which they themselves take of those seditions and murders. 4. Let them say what sedition is understood by the first Trumpet, what by the second, etc. Now, if they would understand them of seditions in general, they turn the Apocalypse into Chaos. I myself would prefer that the Prophecies of the seven Trumpets be taken literally, both, because no necessity compels us to desert the literal interpretation, from which nothing absurd or contrary to Scripture follows; and, because no explication of a mystery is here added, as in Revelation 1:20; 17:7, 8, neither is it allowable for us to fashion mystical interpretations according to our own will and disposition (Anonymous). Others: A new scene now opens, inasmuch as a new world began after the destruction of Jerusalem and casting out of the Jews. The first six Seals reveals the ruin of these, and the opening of the Church to the Gentiles; the seven Trumpets under the seventh Seal now describe the times following thereupon unto the end of all things, but only generally, for they are treated particularly from the beginning of chapter 12 to the end of chapter 19 (Lightfoot’s[5] Harmony, Chronicle, and Order of the New Testament 157). Others: There were the first six Seals, by which the state of the yet standing and thriving Empire, all the way until the power of Idols went to ruin, was described with its intestine calamities: The seventh follows, τὸ πρᾶγμα, the matter, of which is the Seven Trumpets, by which the calamities of the tottering and falling Empire are unfolded, namely, with God exacting, with that ruin, punishments of the blood of so many Martyrs poured out under Roman auspices. Neither ought the late piety of the Christian Emperors to have obstructed the justice of God, no more than the piety of Josiah, that the Kingdom of Judah, guilty of the blood poured out by Manasseh, might escape the destruction decreed by God.[6] This vengeance was both requested by the souls of the Martyrs in their prayers under the fifth Seal, and promised by God in Revelation 6. Wherefore those prayers the Angel of heaven, the Priest at the Altar of incense (as by custom it was with the prayers of the people made in the Temple), by fumigation transmits to the Throne of God, and those to Him He calls again into memory (Mede’s[7]Works 568). This second Prophecy is to be connected with the sixth Seal at the end of Revelation 6, and the seventh Seal follows most closely upon the sixth Seal, as the sixth upon the fifth, etc., as the thing itself suggests. The seventh chapter was inserted by way of digression, so that it might build the way to what follows. That tempest, signified by the four winds which the Angels were restraining, pertains to this seventh Seal; and as there it was restrained, so here, with the Elect now sealed, it is loosed. Therefore, the connection is thus: After the overthrow of Idolatry in the Empire and world, and fortification of Christianity by public authority, and the casting down of persecutors, etc., John saw heresies pressing the Church and soon about to break in upon it, which were yet restrained at this time, as was already said (Durham).

[A silence occurred in heaven (either, in the third heaven, or, in the Church [Cotterius,[8] similarly Durham], namely, militant, which is here described; for there are no changes from uproar to silence in heaven [Durham]) about half an hour, ὡς ἡμιώριον] Almost for half an hour (Beza,[9] Piscator[10]), that is, for a significant space of time (Cotterius): or, for a short time (Gravius,[11] similarly Zegers[12]). Menander[13] also used ἡμιώριον for a minimal space of time, as Pollux[14] testifies. See Tobit 11:14.[15] Below, μία ὥρα, one hour, for a small time, Revelation 17:12; 18:10, 17, 19 (Grotius). Pererius[16] thinks that the seventh Seal consists precisely in this silence, which does not satisfy (Lapide[17]). This silence is not an effect of this Seal, but an attendant (Durham). With reason did I say (which Lawenus[18] ascribes to me) that the Trumpets have a necessary connection with the seventh Seal, which is proven from the context. For, since a certain Vision, exhibiting the matter signified by the Seal, is subjoined to the opening of all the preceding Seals, who would not believe that the same custom is also kept here, and that therefore the Matter or Vision of the seventh Seal is the mystery of the Trumpets? that which Andreas,[19] Arethas,[20] Lyra,[21] Ribera,[22] Alcasar,[23] Viegas,[24] Lapide, Junius,[25] Graser,[26] Brightman,[27] and all hold as allowable; and with reason: otherwise there will be nothing certain in this book concerning order, but anything is able to be placed before and after anything else at pleasure, with no reckoning of the Grammatical sense considered (Mede’s Works 684). Question: What does this silence signify? Responses: 1. I seek no mystery here, but I take it historically of a brief interval allowed to John between the preceding and succeeding Vision, so that he might enjoy a respite from the contemplation of these things, and prepare himself to contemplate new φαινόμενα/phenomena, with the heavenly inhabitants ceasing for a short time from their hymns. Therefore, this pause is to be referred to τὸ πρέπον, the propriety, of the Dramatic action (Pareus[28]). 2. There is an allusion here to the rites of the Temple (Mede’s Works 568, thus Hammond, Lightfoot’s Harmony, Chronicle, and Order of the New Testament), as the mention of the Altar, Incense, and Trumpets shows, all which were appendages of the Temple (Hammond, similarly Lightfoot). While sacrifices were offered, which was the first part λειτουργίας, of the liturgy, the Temple resounded with songs and musical instruments, 2 Chronicles 29:25, etc. But at the time of Incense, all things were silent (to which perhaps there is allusion in Psalm 62:1; 65:1 [Mede]), and the people were praying silently, Luke 1:10, about half an hour, that is, during the entire time of the Incense (Mede, similarly Hammond, Lightfoot). For it is also evident that in the sacred rites of the Gentiles almost everywhere there was Silence because of Reverence. They were calling it a reverential silence (Mede’s Works 568). And among the Ancients it was the custom, as Servius[29] testifies, that while the lamp incenso/burned silence was offered (Mede’s Works 695). If anyone should require also a mystical sense beyond this literal sense, this is able to denote a stupor of the faithful on account of the tremendous judgments now to be inflicted upon the Jews, and at the same time their sympathy with them, etc. (Hammond). 3. [This means:] Those winds were not quieted for long, concerning which it was treated in Revelation 7:1. It is said by the Latins also that heaven is silent when the winds cease (Grotius). 4. It signifies the peace and quiet given and to be given to the Church (Camerarius,[30] thus Pererius, Brightman, Gravius, Cluverus,[31] Durham), either, 1. after the ruin of Antichrist (certain interpreters in Zegers, thus Anselm[32] and Bede[33] and others in Ribera, Pererius); or, 2. at the time of Constantine (Durham, thus Brightman, Gravius), between the cessation of the persecutions and the rise of schisms and heresies, which time was very brief (Durham). For after a few years, Licinius, against engagements, stirred a new persecution,[34] and Arius by his dreadful heresy stirred the greatest tumult by far. With this opinion agrees, both, that it does not appear that the Holy Spirit wished to pass by this benefit of peace, so much to be admired and celebrated by all: and, that this so well agrees both with the preceding, especially with the cry of the Saints under the Altar entreating for vengeance, which Constantine exacted from tyrants, and with the following Trumpets, that is, Heretics. For this quiet of the Church preceded the more powerful heretics, who propagated their errors by political tyranny and dominion, immediately after the end of the Synod of Nicea (Gravius). 5. This indicates an attentive and tacit expectation (Forbes,[35] Lapide, Tirinus,[36] similarly Cluverus); amazement (Cotterius out of Junius, Tirinus), and contemplation of the seven Trumpets and plagues (Lapide, Tirinus), as if of matters great, unusual, and stupendous (Lapide, similarly Forbes), into which both Angels and blessed men were desiring to look (Cluverus); the expectation of which sort of matters effects silent attention. See Job 29:9 (Forbes); Ecclesiastes 9:17; Acts 21:40 (Cluverus). You will say that nothing yet was shown, by which they were able to be stirred. Response: That God pursues the greatest matters, He shows by this proof, that, with the Seal opened, nothing was revealed; but the matter of the Seal God was restraining as if forming a plan and designing the greatest things, etc. (Cotterius). Matters of great moment in general are wont to come forth slowly, and with previous preparation. And certainly God, who is slow to anger, pours out His grave indignation, only as if compelled (Forbes).

And when he; that is, the Lamb, mentioned Revelation 5:6, 7, who took the book out of the hand of him that sat upon the throne, the book of God’s counsels, and had now revealed mysteriously to John what should come to pass (under all the pagan emperors) to the church of Christ, until the time of Constantine the Great, who, (as was said,) about the year 325, had settled the Christian religion, and shut up all the idols’ temples, having conquered the apostate Licinius. Had opened the seventh seal; he cometh now to open the seventh seal, that is, to reveal to John what should be in the succeeding time of the church to the end of the world. There was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour: but before the great evils should break out, which were to come to pass in this time, there was in the church a rest for a small time; for from the year 317, when Constantine bare the greatest sway in the empire, or 325, when he had got a full victory over Licinius, the church had a great peace for a little time, till 339, when the empire being divided, and Constantius having the eastern part, and Constans the western, (both sons of Constantine,) Constantius, being an Arian, (who denied the Godhead of Christ,) began again to persecute the Christians; and after him Julian, who apostatized to paganism. But after him they had a little further respite to the year 395, when Theodosius died, and the Christians’ quiet died with him. I rather choose to interpret this thus, than with those who understand the silence in heaven, of a silence in the third heavens, in allusion to the Jewish order; who, though they sung during the time of the sacrifice, and played upon instruments of music all that time, yet kept silence while the incense was offering. For (as divers have noted) it seemeth hard to judge, that in this Revelation there should be no mention of that short truce which the church had during the reign of Constantine, and for a small time after.

[1] Greek: Καὶ ὅτε ἤνοιξε τὴν σφραγῖδα τὴν ἑβδόμην, ἐγένετο σιγὴ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ ὡς ἡμιώριον. [2] James Durham (1622-1658) was a Scottish Presbyterian divine. He served as a minister and Professor of Divinity at Glasgow. He co-authored the Sum of Saving Knowledge and authored learned commentaries on the Song of Solomon and Revelation (A Learned and Complete Commentary upon the Book of Revelation, Delivered in Several Lectures). [3] Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) distinguished himself in the field of international law, but he was interested in many fields of learning, including Christian apologetics, theology, and Biblical criticism and exegesis. His exegetical talents are displayed in his Annotationes in Vetus et Novum Testamentum. His dual interest in international law and theology caused him to run afoul of civil authorities: Embracing Arminian doctrine, he was imprisoned from 1618-1621 after the Synod of Dort declared against the position. [4] Henry Hammond (1605-1660), a learned divine, served the Church of England as Rector of Penshurst, Kent (1633), Archdeacon of Chichester (1643), Canon of Christ Church, Oxford (1645), and Sub-dean (1648). He was invited to sit in the Assembly at Westminister, but he participated instead in the rising at Tunbridge and other efforts in support of Charles I. He remained a loyal Royalist and Anglican until the day of his death. He wrote A Paraphrase and Annotations upon the New Testament, briefly Explaining All the Difficult Parts Thereof. [5] John Lightfoot (1602-1675) was a minister and divine of such distinction and learning that he was invited to sit as a member of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster. He specialized in Rabbinic learning and lore. He brought that learning to bear in his defense of Erastianism in the Assembly and in his comments upon Holy Scripture. [6] See 2 Kings 22:16-20. [7] Although most remembered for his work on John’s Apocalypse, The Key of the Revelation, and his escatological views, Joseph Mede (1586-1638) treats texts spanning the entire Bible in his Works. Mede was first a student, and then a fellow, tutor, and Reader of Greek, at Christ’s College, Cambridge. The portions of Mede’s Works relating to the Apocalypse: Key of the Revelation 520-720, Remains of Some Passages in the Apocalypse 721-752, A Paraphrase and Exposition of the Prophecy of St. Peter, 2 Epistle, Chapter 3 753-766, The Apostasy of the Latter Times, a Treatise on 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 767-856, Daniel’s Weeks Explained, Chapter 9:24, etc. 857-874, Regnum Romanum Est Regnum Quartum Danielis, Chapter 2:40; Chapter 7:7, etc. 875-881, Revelatio Antichristi, seu de Numeris Danielis 1290, 1335, Chapter 12:11, 12 882-892, Miscellanies of Divinity (including, Hieronymi Pronunciata de Dogmate Millenariorum, De Nomine Antichristi, Commentationes Minores in Apocalypsin, Summary Exposition of the Apocalyse) 1087-end. [8] Matthieu Cottière (c. 1580-c. 1650) was a French Huguenot minister at Tours. He wrote Apocalypseos Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, Expositio Perpetua atque Apodeictica. [9] Theodore Beza (1519-1605) served as Rector of the Academy and Professor of Theology in Geneva. He was the colleague, then successor, of Calvin. Having issued a Greek New Testament, Beza later published his Annotationes in Novum Testamentum. Additionally, he authored a number of notable theological works, such as Tractationes Theologicæ and Summa Totius Christianismi, as well as poems and contributions to the Huguenot metrical psalter of Clement Marot. [10] John Piscator (1546-1626) was a learned Protestant divine. He held the position of Professor of Divinity at Herborn (1584). His German version was the first, complete and independent, since that of Martin Luther. Through the course of his career, his views changed from those of the Lutherans to those of the Calvinists, and from those of the Calvinists to those of the Arminians. He remains widely regarded for his abilities as a commentator. He wrote Commentarii in Omnes Libros Veteris et Novi Testamenti. [11] Gerhard Gravius (1598-1675) was a German Lutheran; he served as pastor at Hamburg. He wrote Tabulæ Apocalypticæ. [12] Nicholas Tacitus Zegers (d. 1559) was a Flemish Franciscan exegete. He wrote Scholion in Omnes Novi Testamenti Libros (1553), Epanorthotes, sive Castigationes Novi Testamenti (1555), and Inventorium in Testamentum Novum, a concordance (1558). [13] Menander (342-291 BC) was a Greek playwright. He wrote more than a hundred comedies, but they survive only in fragments. [14] Julius Pollux (second century AD) was a Greek grammarian and rhetorician. Only his Onomasticon, a dictionary of Attic phrases and an invaluable source of information concerning classical antiquity, survives. [15] Thus the Latin of Tobit 11:13, 14: “Then Tobias taking of the gall of the fish, anointed his father’s eyes. And he stayed about half an hour: and a white skin began to come out of his eyes, like the skin of an egg.” [16] Benedictus Pererius (1535-1610) was a Spanish Jesuit. In addition to his Commentariorum et Disputationum in Genesim Tomi Quattuor, in which he addresses many of the great difficulties in Genesis, he wrote one hundred and eighty-eight disputations on Romans (Disputationes in Epistolam ad Romanos), one hundred and eighty-three on Revelation, and twenty-three demonstrating that Mohammed was not the Antichrist of Daniel and Revelation. [17] Cornelius à Lapide (1567-1637) was a Flemish Jesuit scholar. His talents were employed in the professorship of Hebrew at Louvain, then at Rome. Although his commentaries (covering the entire Roman Catholic canon, excepting only Job and the Psalms) develop the four-fold sense of Scripture, he emphasizes the literal. His knowledge of Hebrew, Greek, and the commentators that preceded him is remarkable. [18] Daniel Lawenus was a friend of William Ames, said to be of Franeker. He wrote Danielis Laweni Stricturæ in Clavem Apocalypticam, to which Mede responded with Josephi Medi Responsio. Correspondence between Ames and Mede on Lawenus’ work appears in Mede’s Works. [19] Andreas (563-637) was Bishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia. His work on Revelation is the oldest surviving Greek patristric commentary on the book, which preserves older traditional material. [20] Arethas of Cæsarea (ninth century) was a Greek Orthodox bishop and scholar. He compiled a scholia on the Apocalypse. [21] Nicholas de Lyra (1270-1340) was born to Jewish parents, but he converted to Christianity. He entered the Franciscan Order and became a teacher of some repute in Paris. His Postilla in Vetus et Novum Testamentum demonstrate remarkable ability and a commitment to the literal sense of the Scripture. [22] Francis Ribera (1537-1591) was a Spanish Jesuit scholar, most remembered for his commentary on Revelation in which he advances the Futurist scheme of interpretation. [23] Luis de Alcasar (1554-1613) is said to be the forerunner of modern preterism. He spent forty years writing Vestigatio Arcani Sensus in Apocalypsi, a massive, nine hundred page commentary on Revelation. [24] Blasius Viegas (1554-1599) was a Portuguese Jesuit exegete. He wrote Commentarii Exegetici in Apocalypsim (1601). [25] Francis Junius (1545-1602) was a Huguenot divine of great learning. He suffered the varied fortunes of his people; but he had the opportunity to study in Geneva, and he was eventually appointed Professor of Divinity at Leiden (1592). He labored with Tremellius in the production of their famous Latin Version of the Old Testament. He is also remembered for his disputations with Jacob Arminius. [26] Conrad Graser (1557-1613) was a German Lutheran theologian. He wrote Historia Antichristi Magni (1608), Apocalypseos Explicatio (1610), and Explicatio in Caput 9 Danielis (1614). [27] Thomas Brightman (1562-1607) was educated at Queen’s College, Cambridge, and served as Rector of Hawnes, Bedfordshire. He was a Puritan divine of some reputation for learning and piety. His A Revelation of the Apocalypse was highly esteemed in its day. [28] David Pareus (1548-1622) was a Calvinist, serving the Reformed Church as a minister, churchman, and professor. He wrote a commentary on the whole Bible, and it was held in high estimation among the Reformed. His Commentarius in Epistolam ad Romanos was burned publicly at Oxford and Cambridge in 1622 by order of the Privy Council of James I because of his comments on Romans 13 in which he upholds the right of resistance to tyranny. [29] Maurus Servius Honoratius was a fourth century Roman commentator on Virgil. [30] Joachim Camerarius the Elder (1500-1575) was a German Lutheran classical scholar, who served as a professor at Nuremberg, and later at Leipzig. He assisted Phillip Melanchthon in the preparation of the Augsburg Confession, and engaged in efforts to mediate between Catholics and Protestants on behalf of King Francis I of France and Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II. He wrote Commentarius in Novum Fœdus. [31] Johannes Cluverus (1593-1633) was a German Lutheran Pastor and Theologian; he wrote Diluculum Apocalypticum. [32] Anselm (c. 1034-1108) was Bishop of Canterbury, most remembered for his articulation of the satisfaction theory of atonement. He wrote Enarrationes in Apocalysim Sancti Joannis Apostoli. [33] Bede (c. 672-735), known as the Venerable Bede, was an English monk whose fame rests largely on his ecclesiastical history of England (c. 731). He wrote many other works, including commentaries on the Pentateuch, Kings, Esdras, Tobias, the Gospels, Acts, and the Catholic Epistles. His interpretive work is characterized by his commitment to the tradition of the Fathers and by his use of the allegorical method of interpretation. [34] Valerius Licinianus Licinius (c. 250-325) reigned as Emperor from 308-324. In 313, he and Constantine jointly issued the Edict of Milan, granting religious freedom to Christians. However, about the year 316, he purged his court of Christians, and from then until 320 he began to persecute Christians, forbidding bishops to assemble or even communicate, and prohibiting Christians to meet for worship, decreeing that Christian assemblies must meet outside the city walls in the open air. [35] Patrick Forbes (1564-1635) was educated at Aberdeen and St. Andrews. Although puritanical and inclined to Presbyterianism, he accepted the call to serve as Bishop of Aberdeen (1618); later he became the Chancellor of the University (1635). He wrote Commentarius in Apocalypsin. [36] James Tirinus (1580-1636) was a Flemish Jesuit priest. His abilities as a commentator are displayed in his Commentaria in Sacram Scripturam.