There are actually two parts to this section: 1 the opening of the seventh seal, and 2 the golden censor filled with fire thrown onto the earth.
1 And when he opened the seventh seal,1 there was2 silence3 in heaven for about half an hour. 2 And I saw the seven angels4 who stand5 before God, and seven trumpets were given to them6.7
3 And another angel, having a golden censor8, came and stood9 at10 the alter. And much incense was given to him, so that he may offer11 it with the prayers of all the saints12 on the golden alter before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the alter went up with the prayers of the saints13 from the hand of the angel before God. 5 And the angel took14 the censer and filled it with15 the fire of the alter and threw it onto the earth16, and there became thunders, voices, lightning, and an earthquake.
1 It is written that God reveals to His prophets what He is about to do. The opening of the seals serves that purpose and heaven pauses in witness.
2 ἐγένετο (was)
3 There are two good reasons for the silence: 1. awe while waiting on the coming events Mounce** (Pgs. 178-179, 2. the silence prepares for the incense and prayers to be offered as in the OT, sacrifices were made in silence. Osborne*** sees both options. (Pgs. 336-337). Beale* states that the silence represents OT themes where silence represents God’s judgement. (Pgs. 446-447).
4 τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἀγγέλους (the seven angels)
The article τοὺς (the) points to a specific group of angels. There are a few beliefs around who they are. 1. They are the seven angels that appear in 1:20 who are the “guardian angels”/“personified spirits” of the seven churches in Asia Minor. 2. They are the archangels who stand in front of the throne in apocalyptic tradition. The angels are named in 1 Enoch 20:2-8 as Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Sarquael, Gabriel, and Remiel. Mounce** (Pg. 180).
Osborne*** prefers option 2 (Pg. 342), but I tend to like option 1. Up until this point, the only seven angels that have been introduced are the ones that represent the seven churches. If the seven angels here are the same as the angels in 1:20, then that presents a very interesting theme where we see the seven /angels churches placed before God after repenting and re-establishing themselves to God’s full favor (note some of the churches were in good standing already). They now have a hand in carrying out the judgements of God on the unbelievers of the earth! This idea becomes more likely when we see the burning incense and the prayers of the saints rising up in smoke of the golden alter.
5 ἑστήκασιν (stand)
Greek: “have stood”. The verb is in the perfect which says that the angels started the action of the verb in the past, but effects are still being felt. Thus, they are still standing before God.
What God has spoken will not come back void. He speaks of things that are not as though they are. He knows the end from the beginning.
6 There is much OT imagery around the blowing of trumpets. They would be blown in a time of war. They were blown at dedication of the temple. They were also blown before the burnt offering. Seven priest blew trumpets at Jericho. Here, the trumpets are blown to announce the apocalyptic judgements on the unbelieving world. Osborne*** (Pgs, 342-343) and Mounce** (Pg.180).
In this we see the command given to blow the trumpets. When God moved in the wilderness, trumpets would sound to signal Israel and to organize the departure. Here we see God about to move in the last days. The reverberations from these horns echo through the mountains on earth, giving warning of the judgements to come.
7 Another “seven”. The Bible begins with seven days of creation, including the day of rest. The Bible ends with seven appearing repeatedly in the organization and depiction of The Revelation. It shows the completion of a new creation, and a return to the original, eternal state of rest and perfection.
As has been said before, seven communicates perfection and completeness. It is the sum of three and four. Three is the divine number and four is the number of earth. Perhaps implied here is a message that the fulfillment of God’s will is the combining of heaven and earth. The first-fruits of that is the ascension of Christ into heaven. The full harvest will take place when He comes back to a new creation.
16 You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor.
Jesus said to His disciples that the fields were ready.
8 λιβανωτὸν χρυσοῦν (golden censer)
A censer was a bowl that held incense for burning or was used to carry coals from the alter of sacrifice to be used in burning incense at the golden alter of incense in the Holy place. (Mounce** (Pg. 181). It is worth noting that in the LXX, the λιβανωτὸν/censer was the incense itself and is what we know today as frankincense.
There was a particular formula for the incense acceptable to the Lord. Deviation brought death to Aaron’s sons. There is a way to approach the Lord. This was part of the message of temple worship.
9 ἐστάθη (stood)
Greek: “was stood”. It means he was guided or told to stand at the alter.
Everything takes place by the will of the One on the throne.
10 ἐπὶ (at)
11 δώσει (may offer)
Greek: “will give”. Since the imagery takes place at the alter, “will offer” fits the context better and it also carries the force of the subjunctive tense as it follows ἵνα (so that). Zerwick+++ (Pg. 117).
12 The imagery here either makes the incense as the actual prayers or the incense is offered on behalf of the prayers. Either way, the prayers go up before God. This links this passage to 6:10 where the martyrs ask “how long?”
“Figuratively, incense was symbolical of ascending prayer.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
13 When incense is poured on the coals, a cloud of fragrant smoke rises from the alter as a symbol of divine acceptance. Mounce** (Pg. 182).
A pleasing aroma to the Lord...
It is written that God is Spirit and seeks those who worship in spirit. Those who have the Spirit are led by the Spirit. Those who walk by the Spirit do so by the refining fire within, leading and guiding us into all truth.
When our spirit is poured over the fire of the Holy Spirit, we are lifted in worship and into the presence of the Creator. Our life becomes a living prayer.
Beale* sites Psalms 141:2 as a parallel: “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” (Pg. 456).
14 εἴληφεν (took)
Greek: “had taken”.
15 ἐκ (with)
16 An allusion to Ezekiel 10:1-7.
The angels are given the trumpets and the command to proceed.
The fire of our prayer is released.
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
As it is in heaven
NT = New Testament
OT = Old Testament
ESV = English Standard Version
NASB = New American Standard Bible
NIV = New International Version
KJV = King James Version
TR = Textus Receptus (A late Byzantine Greek text of the NT. A
predecessor of the TR was used in the translation of the KJV)
LXX = Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT)
The Greek New Testament with Greek-English Dictionary B. Aland (Editor), K. Aland (Editor), J. Karavidopoulos (Editor), B. M. Metzger (Editor), C. M. Martini (Editor)
(BDAG) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition Walter Bauer (Author), Frederick William Danker (Editor)
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament Bruce M. Metzger
(Kittel) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (VOLUMES 1-10) Gerhard Kittel (Editor), Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Translator)
*The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.).) G. K. Beale
**The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) Robert H. Mounce
***Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) Grant R. Osborne
+Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics Daniel B. Wallace
++An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek C. F. D. Moule
+++Biblical Greek (Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici) Maximilian Zerwick
A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament Max Zerwick (Author), Mary Grosvenor (Author)
Ἀποκάλυψις 8·1 Καὶ ὅταν ἤνοιξεν τὴν σφραγῖδα τὴν ἑβδόμην, ἐγένετο σιγὴ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ ὡς ἡμιώριον. 2 Καὶ εἶδον τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἀγγέλους οἳ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ ἑστήκασιν, καὶ ἐδόθησαν αὐτοῖς ἑπτὰ σάλπιγγες. 3 Καὶ ἄλλος ἄγγελος ἦλθεν καὶ ἐστάθη ἐπὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου ἔχων λιβανωτὸν χρυσοῦν, καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ θυμιάματα πολλά, ἵνα δώσει ταῖς προσευχαῖς τῶν ἁγίων πάντων ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον τὸ χρυσοῦν τὸ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου. 4 καὶ ἀνέβη ὁ καπνὸς τῶν θυμιαμάτων ταῖς προσευχαῖς τῶν ἁγίων ἐκ χειρὸς τοῦ ἀγγέλου ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. 5 καὶ εἴληφεν ὁ ἄγγελος τὸν λιβανωτὸν καὶ ἐγέμισεν αὐτὸν ἐκ τοῦ πυρὸς τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου καὶ ἔβαλεν εἰς τὴν γῆν, καὶ ἐγένοντο βρονταὶ καὶ φωναὶ καὶ ἀστραπαὶ καὶ σεισμός.