Time Within Eternity: Interpreting Revelation 8:1 -- By: R. Larry Overstreet

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 10:2 (Fall 2013)
Article: Time Within Eternity: Interpreting Revelation 8:1
Author: R. Larry Overstreet


Time Within Eternity: Interpreting Revelation 8:1

R. Larry Overstreet

R. Larry Overstreet served as Professor of New Testament at Corban University School of Ministry in Tacoma, Washington. He now resides at Winona Lake, Indiana, and can be contacted at [email protected]

Note: A version of this article was presented at the 64th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on November 14, 2012.

Introduction

What is God’s relationship to time? How does God’s eternality relate to time? Is God Himself temporal or atemporal? Did God create time and, if so, to what extent is He bound to it after its creation? When we are in heaven with God, will time still be measured? These are the types of questions that can come into focus when interpreting Rev 8:1, “When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (NASB). This article proposes to consider the major elements which are inherent within this text as they relate to the relationship between time and eternity. God’s relationship to eternity as well as the relationship of people to eternity will also be investigated.

Common Interpretations Of Revelation 8:1

Most commentaries on Rev 8:1 focus on the meaning of the half hour of silence in heaven. What is its significance? Nine major views are enunciated. Since interpreters consider this issue to be a major problem of the verse, the nine views will be briefly presented and evaluated. The primary purpose of this article, however, is not to focus on why there is a silence in heaven, but how there can be a half hour of silence in the eternal state.

Interpretation 1: Silence Is So God Can Hear People’s Prayers

This view argues that the silence is explained by verses 3–4, “Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.” Charles, for example, writes: “The praises of the highest orders of angels in heaven are hushed that the prayers of all [italics his] the suffering saints on earth may be heard before the throne.

Their needs are of more concern to God than all the psalmody of heaven.”1 Caird agrees with this pos...

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