Thursday, 24 December 2020
And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Revelation 8:4
A literal rendering of the Greek is, “And went up the smoke [of] the incense, the prayers of the saints, out of [the] hand [of] the angel, before the God.”
The word “with” is inserted but not necessary. Verse 5:8 says that the incense is the prayer of the saints. There is no reason to deviate from that here. The Douay-Rheims captured the correct sense, saying –
“And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God from the hand of the angel.”
With this understanding, but still using the NKJV as a reference, taking the previous verse together with this one will provide the context –
“Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.” Revelation 8:3, 4
This was immediately after the silence in heaven of verse 1 and the giving out of the seven trumpets to the seven angels who stand before God. In saying “the prayers of the saints,” it is most certainly referring to what was said in Chapter 6 –
“And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” Revelation 6:10, 11
There is a cry for the avenging of the blood of these tribulation saints. The white robe indicates they are saints, purified through their faith in Christ. This verse now begins with, “And the smoke of the incense.”
The incense was first described in Exodus 30 as that being used in the tabernacle. As noted, each ingredient pointed to Christ. It was typical of His life as an offering before God. The incense of His perfect life is now completely mingled together as “the prayers of the saints.”
In other words, the two are as one. What happens to the saints is as if it happened to the Lord. This is explicitly revealed in Acts 9 –
“As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’
5 And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’
Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’” Acts 9:4, 5
Jesus asked, “Why are you persecuting Me?” And yet, Saul had been persecuting the believers in Him. The persecution of Christ Jesus’ people is a direct attack again Him. Likewise, the prayers of Christ to God includes the prayers of His people. This is why the Bible uses the term “in Christ” again and again. There is no separation between the two. In fact, this unity is so strong that Paul says this of believers –
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Romans 8:16, 17
Believers in Christ are so united to the Lord Jesus that they actually become joint heirs with Him as children of God. Understanding this, the result of the prayers for avenging their blood can be nothing less than a sure and decisive response. The outcome is assured as the smoke and prayers “ascended before God from the angel’s hand.”
As noted in the previous verse, the angel (Greek: messenger) is Christ Jesus. He is the Messenger of the Covenant, He is the High Priest, He is found in the censer and in the incense, He is the Avenger of the blood of His people. He is all of these things and so much more. He is the God/Man; the point between the finite and the infinite. This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
The fact that this ascends from the hand (the humanity of Christ) to God (His deity) means that action will be taken. The Lord will respond and avenge, and His judgment will be decisive.
Life application: Our prayers are made acceptable to God, not because they are prayers of any given human beings, but because they are prayers made by believers in the work of Jesus Christ. It is He who makes our prayers acceptable to God. Ephesians gives us this insight when speaking of His fulfillment of the burnt offering sacrifices of the Old Covenant –
“And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Ephesians 5:2
Jesus’ life and work became an “offering and a sacrifice to God.” When we call on Him, we receive life and justification because of what He did. Paul then gives an insight into the prayers being offered by the angel in this verse –
“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.” 2 Corinthians 2:14-16
We, including our prayers, are “the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” As will be seen in the verses ahead, the prayers to God for His kingdom to come, and the requests for His justice to be served, will be responded to. This is because God in Christ is faithful to His people. He will not turn away from giving them justice. He is our near Kinsman, He is our Avenger of blood, and He is the Lord God Almighty. He is JESUS!
It is so wonderfully beautiful to see how Your word fully supports itself in every way. What came from the hand of the prophets and apostles is that which speaks to the work of Jesus Christ. And it is astonishingly fulfilled in every detail in Him. Thank You for Your wonderful, beautifully crafted, and trustworthy word, O God. Thank You and Amen.