Today: [Revelation 8:] The Prayers that Invoke the Hand of God: In Revelation chapter 8 there is a spectacle of prayers offering before the throne of God. As a result, there is angel activity and seven trumpets sound that brings certain apocalyptic events to pass. Your prayers are much more a part of God’s working than you know as this chapter will illustrate.
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[Rev 8:1-13 KJV] 1 And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. 2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. 3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer [it] with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 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. 5 And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast [it] into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. 6 And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. 7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. 8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; 9 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed. 10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; 11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. 12 And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise. 13 And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!
In chapter 8 of Revelation, we finally see the seventh seal opened after which there is silence in heaven for a half an hour. This silence precedes the unfolding of the apocalyptic climax of the seven seals and their meaning. Is all of this for a future time? What is the context in which we might understand this? There are several viewpoints to consider.
- The Preterist View:
- The Historicist View
- The Futurist View
- The Idealist View
The Preterist View is an interpretation of the prophecies of Revelation as being entirely fulfilled in the timeframe between the birth of Jesus and the establishment of the church under Constantine. This view has been somewhat obscured until recent decades when it has gained traction among Evangelicals.
The Historicist View holds that all the events foretold in the Revelation unfolded in John’s lifetime relating to events specific to the Roman Empire.
The Futurist View advances the thought that the seven seals represent cultural and political forces at work throughout history driving events of apocalyptic significance to an expected end when God will bring civilization as we know it to an end in a final judgment.
The Idealist View rejects all attempt to interpret Revelation in the light of history past or unfolding future events. This perspective limits its perspective on Revelation strictly to imagery and metaphor.
Which view is correct? In some ways, they are all correct up until the point they begin to exclude the other points of view. There were events taking place in the early centuries of the church that could serve to advance the preterist view. Likewise, certain passages on the surface relate specifically to people and groups John was personally associated with and connected to thereby confirming the historicist view. Without a doubt there are aspects of Revelation that have not come to pass thus validating the futurist view which is the view most commonly held by Evangelicals. Lastly, there is metaphor and imagery through Revelation that speaks devotionally to the intimate spiritual life of the believer from the idealist perspective. You have to hold everything loosely and refuse to get dogmatic about something as challenging as interpreting the quatrains of the book of Revelation.
In verse 2 John sees seven angels and seven trumpets. This number appears regularly in Revelation and elsewhere. The number seven in Hebrew is Zayin and derives from a glyph resembling a sword. It is understood to represent completion and perfection in God. It speaks then in a prophetic context as a number representing culmination and ultimate fulfillment.
After the appearance of the seven angels with seven trumpets, John sees another angel with a copious amount of incense that were the prayers of the saints. Here is an understanding of what happens to our prayers after we pray them. We speak of offering our prayers up to God without much further insight into what that means. When you pray, there are angels perhaps one specific angel assigned to you that takes your prayers to the throne room of God. I wonder if the angel ever looks down at the prayers we give him in the censor he holds for that purpose and feels reluctant to take such a pitiful offering into God’s throne room? Are your prayers “much incense” having obtained them at great cost? Or perhaps we picked these prayers up in the clearance aisle of the local big box store that we dashed off in haste because we had something more to do? Did we remember to take the price tag off or did we hurriedly send a quick prayer or two off to God without another thought?
The angel takes our prayers and casts them on the altar of God whereby they produce a large volume of smoke that God receives as a sweet-smelling offering. Can you imagine your prayers becoming smoke on the altar before God and He leans forward on His throne waving his hand to waft the aroma into His face to enjoy its lovely perfume? Would your prayers be something that beautiful or somewhat less than a worthy offering before the God of the universe?
When the angel then takes the prayers of the saints again in his censor this time mingled with the fire on the altar. He first takes the unburned incense to offer up to God and now takes the burning incense from the fire on the altar and casts the same into the earth from whence they came. By this, we understand that every prayer we pray is a boomerang prayer. The prayers we send up will be sent back to us. Will they survive re-entry? Will your prayers sputter out and burn up on re-entry on their way back to you because they were so pathetic in the first place? When the prayers penetrate the atmosphere and return where they are sent there are voices stirred, and thunder begins to roll. There are bolts of lightning and earthquakes. Did God do this? Only by extension through your prayers. We look at God and expect Him to do what our prayers are designed to do. Do I find you praying? What do those voices say? Do you hear the stirring of voices in the aftermath of your prayers? Do you sense the reverberation of supernatural lighting and thunder when you pray? Jesus understood this perfectly reporting to His disciples that He saw Satan as lightning fell from heaven. Why? Because of His prayers. Do your prayers unseat principalities and powers ranged against you? Are you a person of prayer? How much does prayer occupy your day and typify your devotional life?
When the prayers are offered up the angels are stirred to sound. This explains to us the silence in heaven. What was heaven waiting for before proceeding to unfold God’s plan? The silence in heaven was the pause awaiting the necessity of heartfelt prayer. How often do we not feel the presence of God or it seems that God is not moving in our lives? What is He waiting for? Are you praying? Are your prayers a sweet aroma before God because of the faith and humility in which they are offered? Or are they something the angel refused to enter the throne room with because he will not offend God’s glory with such anemic, pathetic prayers that we have filled with our complaint and unbelief?
The first angel sounds and hail and fire are cast on the earth. I prophesied recently to a friend that God was giving her the treasuries of the hail and the snow. I didn’t know what it meant, but she disclosed to me that for over a month God had been speaking to her about using the concept of hail spiritually speaking as a form of spiritual warfare. As a result of the hail mentioned in v. 7, a third of the earth is scorched. Can we equate this to come climactic natural disaster brought on by man’s wasteful ecological neglect? I don’t think it is necessary to do this. Our rationalization as to what these things might mean in a modern context is not required to authenticate what is said. The fact of the matter is it is something that will happen, and we may be witnesses to it in our lifetimes.
The second angel sounds and a mountain burning with fire is cast into the sea. This could be a volcanic eruption, or it could be a meteor. Science is replete with suggestions of past mass extinction events; in fact, mankind seems neurotically obsessed with such a prospect.
When the third angel sounds what is described as a star named Wormwood falls from heaven. This in contrast to the mountain burning with fire in the previous verse may denote the first as a meteor and this second event as a comet or celestial body striking the earth with devastating results. Science has speculated that the comet named the Swift-Tuttle comet might hit the earth in 2126. Such an impact would be 300 times more powerful than any known asteroid impact on the planet in recorded history.
The fourth angel sounds and the world is cast into darkness. This would be the result of a meteor or other impact on the earth of considerable size. It would cause nuclear winter and result in widespread agricultural failure and mass famine.
As horrible as all this is an angel appears in the final verse of our chapter declaring that this is only the preamble for worse things yet to come as the three remaining angels are about to sound. What can we deduce from all of this? Most prominently we must acknowledge that God is a God of judgment. There are natural and spiritual laws relating to compensatory events in our lives personally and in the earth as a whole that God will not suspend forever. The world as we know it will not merely continue to unfold and develop unendingly. There will be a terminus. God will make an end. The same is true in our own lives. Every day that we live, we are moving in temporal cycles of reciprocity toward an ultimate reckoning that we will all give before the throne of God. Toward that end let us pause and reflect with sobriety the adjustments and changes we might need to make in light of these truths.
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