Do you remember the ominous dum dum dum dum dum dum in the old movie “Jaws?” When you heard the score, you just knew something bad was going to happen. Setting the mood throughout a movie or play is a task given to the musical score.
But just as effective as music is also silence – especially prolonged silence. It creates an uneasiness difficult to handle and may, depending on the situation, heighten anxiety – just like the dum dum dum dum of “Jaws.” This is the function of thirty minutes of silence at the beginning of chapter eight. Something ominous is about to take place and God is in control. As Leonardo da Vinci once wrote: “Nothing strengthens authority as much as silence.”
The opening of the seven seals brought a vision of martyrs who, having paid the last full measure of their devotion, cried out to God: “How much longer are you going to allow this to go on?” God replied: “A little while longer.” What follows in this chapter are the attempts of God to get mankind to repent and turn to Him. It is very much like the words of Amos 4. In stage after stage, God sends punishments: famine, drought, blight, plagues and war and yet, none of these are effective in getting people to turn to God. “Still,” he says, “you have not returned to me.”
If you don’t think God still sends calamities to get people to wake up, chapter 8 should clinch it for Bible students. But, as it turns out, these calamities are no more effective in promoting repentance in Revelation than they were in Amos (Revelation 9:20-21).
So why do it this way?
It is not to say that the punishments were/are totally ineffective. Some were bound to review their lives and come to God. It is however to say that the majority paid no attention. The disciplines in those cases, rather than be seen as correctives should properly be seen as punishments. But why would God do this, especially when often the innocent (children) also suffer?
Such is the encompassing nature of sin. The suffering of the guilty bleeds over to the innocent. The guilty should be aware that it is not just their own lives they are ruining, but also the lives of others.