Chapter 8 of Revelation: Deja Vu

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

What does it mean to be silent before God?

One of the more stunning reminders of the horrors of modern war stands in downtown Berlin in Germany. It is called: Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche (memory church—see right). The church, built between 1891 and 1895 by Kaiser Wilhelm II, burned to the ground by Allied bombing on the night of November 18, 1943, except for the broken west tower. After the war, the people of Berlin built a new church (see below), but left the west tower as a reminder of the horrors of war.

The prophet Zephaniah (1:7).writes: Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is near…

Why is it so hard to remember?

What is most interesting in Revelations 8 are not the four trumpets, it is the reason for the delay in their sounding.

The apostle John writes: And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel (Rev 8:3-4). The prayers of the saints delay judgment.

Do you believe in the power of prayer?

While some observers speculate that these are imprecatory prayers (damnation prayers such as Psalms 69 and 109), the delay of God’s judgment brings to mind the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt 5:44). The prayers of the saints here echo Abraham’s response on hearing of God’s plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah: Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? (Gen 18:23).

Do you think that Abraham believed in the power of prayer?

The trumpets should also be familiar. The trumpet calls echo the plagues of Egypt in Exodus 9:22-25, 7:20-25, 10:21-23, and 10:12-15. For example, God commands Moses: Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt (Exod 9:23). Again, the allusion here is the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24).

Why is it so hard just to be silent before the Lord?


1. What does it mean to be silent before God? (Zephaniah 1:7; Psalm 32:3; Proverbs 17:28)
2. What image comes to mind when trumpets are blown in the bible? (Exodus 19:19; Joshua 6:1-4). How many times is the trumpet blown in Revelations 8 and 9?
3. What plagues do we hear about? (Exodus 9:22-25, 7:20-25, 10:21-23, and 10:12-15).
4. How do these scenes compare with the Olivet Discourse (Mark 13; Matt 24; Luke 21)?
5. What woes come to mind in Revelation 8:13? (Luke 6:20-27; Matt 23:12-30)

Chapter 8 of Revelation: Deja Vu

Also see:

Chapter 7 of Revelation: Heavenly Worship 

Chapter 9 of Revelation: The Paradox of the Cross 

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

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Prayer for Silence and Solitude

Silence of Drug Free School Zone, Photo by Stephen W. HiemstraBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Quiet Lord,

All praise and honor be yours as you announce your presence in silence.

The oceans roar, volcanos explode, and the thunder thunders,

but you sit with us in peace when we are alone,

respecting our silence our hearts,

letting our voices be heard even when we do not speak.

Teach us to be like you.

Do not let us project our anger, our pain, our emptiness on those around us.

Do not let our childish way yield to childish violence.

Let us honor your peace.

Let us mirror your adult attitudes.

That we might one day be adults ourselves.

Through the power of your Holy Spirit and in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer for Silence and Solitude

Also see:

Prayer for Shalom 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

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The Wisdom of God. A Meditation on Alzheimer’s Disease

Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Wisdom of God. A Meditation on Alzheimer’s Disease

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Sometimes we experience God in unexpected places.

How do we minister to those who no longer speak?

God tells Moses in the burning bush:  I AM WHO I AM (Exod 3:14). In the Hebrew, the words are actually:  אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה (Exodus 3:14 WTT).  Literally, this means:  I will be that I will be.  God chooses who He will be.  We like to choose, but often don’t get to.

Notice that God does not tell us that being requires speaking.

If you think about it, we actually spend very little time during our lives speaking much of anything.  Most of us sleep about eight hours every day.  When we are young, we scream, we smile, we laugh, we cry, and we sleep a lot but we do not really say much of anything.  When we are old, we revert to the sleeping mode again.  But like God, we are present, but we are mostly silent.

The silence of God is both a blessing and a curse.

When God is silent, we are able to speak and find our voice.  How would we ever grow as individuals, if God did all the talking?  Our identities would be muted because God is all knowing and all powerful.  But we know that God is not a big talker because heaven is full of singing.  As we read in Revelations, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him saying:   Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created (Revelations 4:10-11 ESV)[1].

Yet, when God remains silent, we perish.  The Psalmist writes:  You have seen, O LORD; be not silent! O Lord, be not far from me! (Psalm 35:22 ESV).  The silence of God comes to us as judgment, in part, because He alone can act to save us from our own folly.

The Apostle Paul writes: For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Cor 1:22-25 ESV).

It seems foolish to us that God would speak to us mostly without words on the cross.  Yet, in not speaking, He said everything.

[1]For Alzheimer’s patients, singing and dancing are startlingly therapeutic.  If you have a relative suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, try singing the Doxology (or any other familiar tune) to them and see for yourself.

Also see:

Brackey: Look for Moments of Joy (

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