We must ever bear in mind that it is the Lamb who opens each of the seals initiating the judgments which befall the earth and its citizens. See commentary on Revelation 5:5 and Revelation 6:1.
The seventh seal contains the seven trumpet judgments and the seventh trumpet contains the seven bowl judgments.1 The full effects of opening all seven seals include all seven trumpet judgments and the seven bowl judgments: 6 seal judgments + 6 trumpet judgments + 7 bowl judgments = 19 specific judgments in all. At the opening of the seventh seal, 6 judgments (the six seals) have passed and 13 remain (six trumpets and seven bowls within the seventh trumpet). See Literary Structure.
silence in heaven
In the Jewish temple, musical instruments and singing resounded during the whole time of the offering of the sacrifices, which formed the first part of the service. But at the offering of incense, solemn silence was kept.2 Zephaniah revealed that silence would attend the Day of the Lord in response to the solemn occasion where He will prepare a sacrifice and invite His guests (Zep. Zep. 1:7).3 The sacrifice will consist of the men who oppose God and the guests are the birds of heaven who will feast upon them (Rev. Rev. 19:17-18+). This silence precedes the Day of the Lord in its narrow sensethe actual day when Christ returns and physically defeats the armies gathered against him. The Day of the Lord, in its broadest sense, is already in progress. See When Does the Day of the Lord Dawn?
The implication is that when the judgment about to happen becomes visible as the seventh seal is broken and the scroll unrolled, both the redeemed and the angels are reduced to silence in anticipation of the grim reality of the destruction they see written on the scroll. The half an hour of silence is the calm before the storm. It is the silence of foreboding, of intense expectation, of awe at what God is about to do.4Scripture reveals a pattern of silence associated with the recognition of Gods holiness and righteous judgment (Ps. Ps. 76:8-9; Hab. Hab. 2:20; Zep. Zep. 1:7; Zec. Zec. 2:13).5
When Heaven falls silent for half an hour, when all the singing, glorifying, and praising ceases, there will be a deep sense of foreboding. The judgments, every righteous soul knows, must be formidable in the extreme, yet they will shudder in awe at the prospect of having to witness their administration.6
1 A study of Revelation Rev. 8:1+ through 18 indicates that the seventh seal will contain the seven trumpets and the seven bowl judgments.Renald E. Showers, The Pre-Wrath Rapture View (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 54.
2 A. R. Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 8:1.
3 Some understand Zephaniah to be describing silence on the earth, whereas here it is silent in heaven. [Walter Scott, Exposition of The Revelation (London, England: Pickering & Inglis, n.d.), 169n] But Zephaniah says, Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD, which could certainly describe heaven.
4 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 8:1.
5 This silence, nevertheless, has made a good deal of noise in the world, especially among commentators. It would be difficult to find another point upon which there have been so many different and discordant voices.J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), Rev. 8:1.
6 Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 8:1.