He is There and He is Not Silent is the title Francis Schaeffer gave to his book in 1972. Did Francis Schaeffer get it right? Are you sure God is there? Are you sure God is not silent?
Fire rages across the plains of the West destroying thousands of acres of land, incinerating homes, claiming lives—people simply going about their ordinary business, caught off-guard and consumed in the searing heat. Fire ravages the earth, destroying the land, killing thousands. Where is God? Are you sure God is there? Are you sure God is not silent?
Hurricanes sweep across the Southeast, bringing high winds and tidal waves, destroying communities and homes, claiming lives— people simply going about their ordinary business, caught off guard and consumed in the torrent. Where is God? Are you sure God is there? Are you sure God is not silent?
Flooding consumes the South, burying homes and businesses in a watery grave, claiming lives—people simply going about their ordinary business, caught off guard and drowned in the ever-increasing waters. Where is God? Are you sure God is there? Are you sure God is not silent?
Storms thunder across the Midwest—thunder, lightning, tornadoes—destroying homes and communities at random, claiming the lives of many—people simply going about their ordinary business, caught off guard and killed by these onslaughts of nature. Where is God? Are you sure God is there? Are you sure God is not silent?
What about the work of Satan and his minions? Is he not prowling about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour? Is not he not masquerading as an angel of light with the purpose of deceiving many? How many does he sweep into his traps: alcoholism, pornography, abuse, divorce, and on and on the list could go? Does he not torment many a soul? Does he not ruin many lives? Where is God? Are you sure God is there? Are you sure God is not silent?
What about wars and rumors of wars? What about the thousands who lose their lives every year in battle and war? War ravages the earth leaving untold carnage and destruction in its path: bodies charred and strewn across the land, blood flowing in the streets. Where is God? Are you sure God is there? Are you sure God is not silent?
At times, we must confess, it seems there is no purpose to this world. It seems that everything has become chaos and that history continues to march forward with no rhyme or reason. At times, we must confess, it seems that God is not there. It seems that God is silent.
It is that silence that Revelation 8:1 sets before us. “When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” That verse introduces and sets the context for all that follows in chapters 8–11. Chapters 8–11 are set in the context of heaven’s silence. They are set in the context of the silence of God.
Before we consider that silence and delve into chapters 8-11 (which constitute the third section of the book), it is fitting to remind ourselves of the structure of the book. Revelation is divided into seven sections: chapters 1–3, 4–7, 8–11, 12–14, 15–16, 17–19, and 20–22.
It has been our position that these seven sections are parallel. That is to say, each of these seven sections deals with the same period of time, namely the time between Christ’s first coming and His second coming. Each of these seven sections (1–3, 4–7, 8–11, 12–14, 15–16, 17–19, and 20–22) set before us the life of the church, as she lives in the midst of the world between the first coming of Christ and His return.
These seven sections, furthermore, are progressive in nature. They do not merely repeat themselves; there is progress as you move from section to section. Each section is to be thought of as a variation on the theme—each variation bringing us closer to the climax—each variation building up to the conclusion. Each section becomes more intensive, more alarming, more disturbing, more horrific. Did you think chapters 1–3, with their seven letters to the seven churches, were intense? Did you think chapters 4–7, with the opening of the seven seals, were disturbing? Then wait till you hear the blasts of the seven trumpets in chapters 8–11!
Ironically, however, you will have to wait to hear the seven trumpets, for when the seventh seal is opened, there is silence!
That silence is remarkable. Everywhere in the book, it seems, there has been activity: from the Spirit setting before John the vision of the glorious Christ in chapter 1, to the writing down of the words of the Spirit in chapters 2–3; from the worship surrounding the throne in chapters 4 and 5 to the opening of the seals in chapter 6; from the sealing of the 144,000 in the first half of chapter 7 to the worship of the great multitude in the second half of chapter 7. Everywhere in the book it seems, there has been activity! But now there is silence…
In addition, everywhere in the book, it seems, there has been speech: from the voice of Christ Himself, likened to the sound of a trumpet, in chapter 1, to the words which the Spirit speaks to the churches in chapters 2–3; from the individual songs of the four living creatures and the twenty four elders in chapter 4 to the blending of their song in chapter 5; from the cry of the souls under the altar in chapter 6 to the song of the redeemed in chapter 7. Everywhere in the book it seems, there has been speech! But now there is silence… “There was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” What are we to make of that half hour of silence? Certainly, that silence sets the context for all that follows in chapters 8–11. Chapters 8–11 are set in the context of heaven’s silence. Chapters 8–11 are set in the context of the silence of God. That silence, though depicted only in terms of a half hour, spans the entire time period between the first and second coming of Christ. Revelation 8–11 characterizes that time period as a time of silence. Heaven is silent. God is silent. To be sure, He has spoken once in the coming of His Son, the Word made flesh, and He will speak again when Christ, called by the Name, “The Word of God”, returns. But now, between Christ’s first coming and His return, there is silence.
And that is where we live. We live between the first coming of Christ and His return, the very time period that is characterized in our text as a time of silence. Indeed, that is the way it seems, does it not?! At times it seems that God is not there! At times it seems that God is silent! At times it seems as though the whole scene at Golgotha is being repeated: we cry out to God, and there is no answer! We cry out to God, and there is no reply! We lift up our voice to heaven, and heaven is silent! Or so it seems…. Or so it seems….
But things are not always as they seem… We cannot read Revelation 8:1 and leave matters there. We cannot read Revelation 8:1, and end with the apparent inactivity of God. We cannot read Revelation 8:1, and end with the apparent silence of God. We must move on to Revelation 8:2: “And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.”
We must understand the relationship between the half hour of silence and the blasting of the trumpets. These things are not to be read chronologically as though the trumpets blasts follow the half hour of silence. We have already said that the half hour of silence sets the context for the entirety of chapters 8–11, even spanning the entire time period between Christ’s first coming and His return. But now, breaking into that silence comes the blast of the trumpets! The trumpets sound, shattering the silence! The trumpets do not follow the half hour of silence, they shatter the half hour of silence! The trumpets blast into the silence—erupting in the silence— shattering the silence—and yes, even bringing that silence to an end!
Do you see what is going on here?! While it may seem that God is not there, while it may seem that God is silent, the trumpets tell you otherwise. The trumpets blasting into the silence proclaim that God is anything but inactive! The trumpets blasting into the silence proclaim that God is anything but silent! He is there, and He is not silent!
The first trumpet blasts, “And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up” (8:7). The second trumpet blasts, “And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed” (8:8–9). The third trumpet blasts, “And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter” (8:10–11). The fourth trumpet blasts, “And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night” (8:12).
And those are only the first four trumpets. Things will get worse. So terrible will be the sounding of the fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpets, an angel flies through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”
These trumpets, you see, are harbingers. They are warnings. They are meant to sound the alarm. It may seem that God is inactive. It may seem that God is silent. But for those who have eyes to see, and for those who have ears to hear. God is there, and He is not silent. These trumpets have been sounding from the time of Christ’s first coming, and they will continue to sound—with ever increasing loudness—until the time of Christ’s return. And then, the warnings will be over. These trumpets will fall silent, as they give way to the sounding of the last trumpet. Then all will know that He is there. Then all will know that He is not silent.
He is there and He is not silent. Francis Schaeffer heard the trumpet blasts. Francis Schaeffer got it right.
How about you? Do you hear the trumpet blasts? Do you take to hear their warning? Are you ready for the sounding of the last trumpet? From heaven’s perspective, it is only a half hour until it sounds!
Rev. Brian Vos is the pastorof the Trinity United ReformedChurch in Caledonia, Michigan.