Revelation 8:1-6

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

 May 7, 1997

Introduction

John has been taken up into heaven, where he has found himself before the throne of God, where God had a scroll with seven seals in His hand.

The Lamb of God came and took this scroll and began to open it up, beginning the process of God's judgment on the earth, redeeming it from sin and Satan.

As the scroll was opened, a seal would be broken, the scroll unrolled a bit, and events would take place either on earth or in heaven.

As the first six seals were broken, we saw the beginning of the tribulation period on earth, with the coming of the antichrist, war, famine, death, Christian martyrs, and signs in the heavens.

But then we hit a break in the action, where God had 144,000 Jewish servants protected with His seal on their foreheads.

We also saw the great multitude of Christian martyrs from the Tribulation standing before God in heaven, worshipping Him.

A Note about Christian Martyrs:

I have been under the impression that though there were some Christians around the world suffering for their faith, that it wasn't really all that bad.

This was in Dr. Dobson's monthly newletter:

I want to share a concern that has received very little national publicity, despite its tragic and disgraceful implications. It focuses on the unprecedented persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters in countries around the world. More than an estimated 160,000 believers were martyred in 1996, and countless others were subjected to unimaginable horrors.1 And the persecution appears to be escalating exponentially.

It was my longtime friend Michael Horowitz who brought these atrocities to my attention a few months ago. Michael, who is Jewish, was among the first to recognize what was happening to Christians and began a frantic campaign to notify the world. He has lobbied lawmakers on Capitol Hill, written editorials and appeared on numerous television and radio talk shows. He also made an impassioned plea on the Focus on the Family broadcast. Here is the way he described the plight of believers in Muslim, Communist and other totalitarian countries today:

"Christians have become the targets of opportunity to the thug regimes around the world, and they are many. What's going on now is monumental, and it's affecting millions, tens of millions, of people. We're talking not about discrimination, but persecution of the worst sort: slavery, starvation, murder, looting, burning, torture."

I asked Michael why he is working so hard to help Christians in far-flung corners of the world, and he said:

"There is a man who lives with us who is the embodiment of Christian faith, and I'm in awe of it. He is from the Ethiopian Evangelical Church where he is the senior pastor. He is trying to get asylum into the United States and is meeting every possible roadblock you can imagine. Here is a man who has been jailed over 25 times for his faith. He's been tortured. On one occasion, he was hanged upside down with hot oil poured on his feet. This is a man of abiding faith who will be tortured again and murdered if he is sent back to Ethiopia.

"But do you know what happened when we petitioned for asylum? The State Department sent a letter to the Immigration Service and said, 'There's no persecution of Christians in Ethiopia.' "

This has been the attitude of the U.S. government despite overwhelming evidence of atrocities. Through the work of Horowitz and others, however, the truth is beginning to penetrate. Members of Congress are becoming alarmed about reports of brutality and murder on foreign soil. A House resolution passed the fourth week of September 1996, saying more Christians have been martyred in the 20th century than in the past 19 combined. The proposed draft of the resolution noted that China's Communist leaders have called underground evangelical and Catholic congregations "a principal threat to political stability."

Dr. Dobson went on to encourage us to write our government to intervene on behalf of Christians around the world.

If these things are going on now, what will it be like for those who become believers after the church is gone in the Rapture?

:1 And when he had opened the seventh seal,

It's now time for the rest of the scroll to be opened up.

The Lamb (Jesus) continues.

:1 there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

It could be that:

1) The events that occur in verses 2-6 are the things that are occurring during the 1/2 hour of silence

2) The events in verses 2-6 happen after the half hour is over.

What's this silence all about?

Who knows? There doesn't seem to be a lot in Scripture to point to. Perhaps we ought to be silent about it too.

It would at least indicate some kind of awe and respect before the Lord at what is about to happen:

(Zep 1:7 KJV) Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD is at hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.

(Zec 2:13 KJV) Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.

(Hab 2:20 KJV) But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.

An interesting parallel:

Chuck Missler has pointed out this parallel in the book of Joshua.

"Joshua" itself is the Hebrew form of the Greek name of "Jesus".

The book is about how "Joshua" leads the armies of Israel to reclaim the land that their ancestor Abraham had been promised.

They are entering into the "Promised Land", and are going to be used to bring God's judgment against unbelieving, wicked people.

Their plan for taking the city of Jericho is interesting.

They broke Levitical law by having the priests and the ark go into battle before them.

They were to march around the city for seven days.

There were seven priests with seven trumpets of ram's horns.

Every day, after marching around the city, they were to blow the horns.

On the seventh day, they were to march around seven times (seven within seven, like seven trumpets within the seventh seal).

On the last time around,

Jos 6:10 And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall [any] word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout.

Only after the last time, did the people break their silence and shout, and the walls came down.

:2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God

In Enoch 20:7 (an ancient book, but not one in the Bible) the names of seven archangels are given (Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Sariel, Gabriel, Remiel)

:2 and to them were given seven trumpets.

In Numbers 10, the Israelites were given trumpets to do several things:

  1. They called the people together (Num. 10:1-8)
  2. Like the "rapture" trumpet would be a calling of God's people together.

    (1 Th 4:16 KJV) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

  3. They announced war (Num. 10:9)
  4. It would seem that these trumpets might be kind of like a declaration of war on the earth.

  5. They announced special times (Num. 10:10)

:3 And another angel came and stood at the altar

"Another angel" - not one of the seven angels.

This is not the altar for the burnt offering, but the golden altar of incense.

We see this at the end of the verse.

I wonder, if the altar mentioned in Rev. 6:9, isn't the same altar? (the Greek words are the same)

Re 6:9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:

Altar of incense

We'll be looking at this on Sunday night when we get to Exodus 30.

This was the place of prayer that God had set up in the tabernacle and the temple.

Every day, a priest would enter the Holy Place, and offer up incense on the Golden Altar, during the "hour of prayer", and thus bring the people's prayers to God.

We see this being done by John the Baptist's father:

(Luke 1:8-10 KJV) And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, {9} According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. {10} And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

:3 having a golden censer

This is the little metal thing that holds the incense and a coal. As I looked into this thing, I found something interesting

Lesson:

The importance of proper prayer.

The Bible says:

(1 John 5:14-15 KJV) And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: {15} And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

It's important that we ask according to God's will.

There can be "good prayers" and "bad prayers".

"Bad prayers" are when ask in our own selfish motives, and not according to God's will.

Bad prayers can have some bad results!

With King Uzziah,

He decided he was going to break God's rules, and offer incense for himself (he wasn't in the New Testament yet, and he wasn't an ordained priest).

2Ch 26:19 But Uzziah, with a censer in his hand for burning incense, was enraged; and while he was enraged with the priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the altar of incense.

Korah's rebellion:

(Num 16:18 KJV) And they took every man his censer, and put fire in them, and laid incense thereon, and stood in the door of the tabernacle of the congregation with Moses and Aaron.

God had the earth swallow them up alive, they were in rebellion against God and His ways.

If this makes you afraid to pray, that's the wrong response.

It ought to make you more serious and more careful when you pray.

Good prayers can have good results!

At the same time as Korah's rebellion, when a plague began to break out on the people,

(Num 16:46-48 KJV) And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the LORD; the plague is begun. {47} And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. {48} And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.

What will you do with your "censer"?

Will you take your praying seriously?

Will you "stand in the gap"?

:3 and there was given unto him much incense,

As we've already seen, in heaven, the "incense" represents prayers.

Re 5:8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four [and] twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours (same word, "incense" in Greek), which are the prayers of saints.

:3 that he should offer it with the prayers

Or, better translation:

NAS - much incense was given to him, that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints

I wonder if the angel is taking the "prayers of all saints" from the 24 elders (who had them in bowls), and then mixing it with more incense?

:3 of all saints

This isn't just talking about people like "St. Peter", "St. Paul", etc.

It's a description that's used of all believers.

It's found 61 times in the New Testament, used of all the believers.

Like:

(2 Cor 1:1 KJV) Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:

(2 Cor 13:13 KJV) All the saints salute you.

Some of us may get the idea in our minds of people with haloes over their heads, or some super select group of people.

But it's used of all those who trust in the Lord.

"saints" is a translation of "hagios", meaning "holy ones"

It's those who have been "set apart" for a special use, those who have been "set apart" for God's use.

When we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, God puts a stamp on us that we belong to Him, that we are for His use only.

He puts His "Holy Spirit" in us.

Eph 1:13 In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

Lesson:

Be Holy.

God desires that if He puts His Holy Spirit in us, that we too be holy.

(1 Pet 1:14-16 NLT) Obey God because you are his children. Don't slip back into your old ways of doing evil; you didn't know any better then. {15} But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God--who chose you to be his children--is holy. {16} For he himself has said, "You must be holy because I am holy."

(1 Th 4:3-8 NLT) God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of all sexual sin. {4} Then each of you will control your body and live in holiness and honor-- {5} not in lustful passion as the pagans do, in their ignorance of God and his ways. {6} Never cheat another Christian in this matter by taking his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before. {7} God has called us to be holy, not to live impure lives. {8} Anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human rules but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

  1. What are the "prayers" mentioned here?

We aren't told, but they might be things like, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done"

They could even include things like David's prayers:

(Psa 7:6 KJV) Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded.

:4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.

before God - the Greek phrase carries the idea of "in the presence of God" or even more literally, "before God's eyes".

Lesson:

Your prayers come before God.

Why do you think He chose "incense" to represent our prayers, and not old cheese?

He loves our prayers.

Jer 33:3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

:5 And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth:

The angel takes a live coal from the altar of incense, and puts it in his censer, then casts it to the earth.

There are some parallels in Scripture:

When Isaiah had his vision of the Lord:

Isa 6:6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, [which] he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:

There we see the coals bringing cleansing.

Ezekiel sees something similar:

(Ezek 10:2 KJV) And he spake unto the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels, even under the cherub, and fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and scatter them over the city. And he went in in my sight.

There, the coals will bring a "cleansing" of sorts, the judgment of the city by destruction.

:5 and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

Voices - phone - a sound, a tone; a voice; speech

When the angel casts fire from the altar of incense before God to the earth, it comes out as sounds, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.

:6 And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

Or, "prepared themselves to trumpet"

As we're going to see, these seven trumpets are the seventh seal, when the seal is opened, it brings about these seven trumpets.

Nested inside the seventh trumpet will be another group of seven judgments, the vials, or bowl judgments.