After the tragic event of September 11th we often heard the question “Where was God?” or “Why did God allow this to happen?” The believer knows that God is still on His eternal throne, that He is sovereign, and nothing happens apart from His direct or permissive will, but for a season He has withdrawn from this earthly scene. He does indeed work on behalf of His own, and otherwise as well, but He acts covertly and His action seen only with the eye of faith. Bloody wars take place among the nations, thousands perish from famine, flood, earthquake and storm, but no voice or action is heard from above. In one of Sir Robert Anderson’s books the opening words are: “A silent heaven is the greatest mystery of our existence.”
What is the answer to this mystery? For two thousand years the heavens have been silent and this is strange when we compare it with Old Testament times. God was then dealing with the Hebrew nation and they saw marvelous displays of His person and power. He brought them out of slavery, making a path through the sea, and for forty years He fed them and led them and brought them into the land of promise with mighty victories over all their foes. Isaiah saw the Lord; Daniel fell at His feet; angels walked to and fro in the land; God fought for His people; heaven was not silent.
When Israel is enjoying the favor of God the heavens are open, but when Israel is in disfavor with God the heavens are silent. Between the two testaments, when Israel was being judged for their sins, there was a period of time which is often referred to as “the four hundred silent years.” God spoke His last word through Malachi and then 400 years of silence. This silence was finally broken by the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Zacharias announcing the birth of John the Baptist. Then Gabriel spoke to Mary, telling her of that Holy One which should be born of her, even the Son of God. Later the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds, announcing the birth of the Christ-child, and from the opened heavens they heard the heavenly host praising God. Heaven was not silent during the earthly ministry of Christ, when He was presenting Himself to Israel as their Messiah, nor was heaven silent after His resurrection and on into the Acts period, when Israel was given opportunity to repent. There were miracles, wonders, signs, angelic visitations, jail deliverances, sudden judgments, etc. The heavens were not silent. However, Acts 28:28 marks a great change. Israel no longer stands as a nation before God. They are set aside for a reason and a season. The reason was their rejection of Christ both in His incarnation and in His resurrection. The season is this present dispensation of the mystery.
After the close of the Acts period we find a great man of God sitting in the Roman prison, but no angel comes to liberate him. An age of silence has begun. A silent God. A silent heaven. This silence has already lasted two millenniums. The nations rage and we see war, sin, suffering and sorrow on every hand. The people of God oft suffer at the hands of their enemies, and we see the ever-increasing and God-defying masses sinning and sinning and sinning. And yet in the midst of it all, God remains silent.
When God turned away from Israel, that nation through which His earthly purposes are to be realized, He then and there withdrew from this earthly scene. C.H.M. wrote “So long as there was any ground of hope in connection with Israel, the heavenly mystery was held back; but when earth had been abandoned and Israel set aside, the apostle of the Gentiles, from his prison at Rome, writes to the Church, and opens out all the glorious privileges connected with its place in the heavens.” God has for a season abandoned earth but we are here as His ambassadors in enemy land and we are asked to walk by faith and not by sight. God is allowing man’s day to run its course and is permitting the full development of the mystery of lawlessness. The mystery of iniquity is working. Soon the whole will be leavened. Man’s day will be replaced by the Lord’s Day. Then …
The Silence to be Broken!
This is promised everywhere in Scripture. The psalmist declared: “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence!” Just as the silence of the 400 years was broken by His first coming, so the present silence will be broken by His second coming. But before He manifests Himself to the world, He will manifest Himself to His own. This is the bright and blessed hope of the Church, the rapture, and it will be the opening rift in the silent heavens. After the Body of Christ has been removed from the scene God will begin to deal again with Israel and the nations. The silence will be broken and God will speak again, not then in grace, but in wrath. The heavens will be opened, not to pour out blessing, but disaster. The judgments of the Apocalypse will be visited upon the world, when the seals will be broken, the judgment trumpets sounded, and the vials of God’s wrath poured out.
Finally, the heavens will be fully opened and the blessed Lord Jesus Christ will return. The Apostle John saw Him as the rider on a white horse, followed by the heavenly armies, and He wrote: “He hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” The silence will be broken. The King will return and have His rightful place upon the throne, with all beneath His feet. Every eye shall see Him and the earth will be filled with His glory. And never again will there be silence, for the lines of communication will always be open between heaven and earth, both as to the millennial earth and on into the new earth.