“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. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. 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. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.” – Revelation 8:2-5.
In our previous article, “The Seventh Seal of Revelation – The Meaning of Silence In Heaven” we explained the meaning of the silence in Heaven as the seven angels who sound the trumpets of judgment during the Day of The Lord, prepare to sound. But before this take place, the apostle John, in his apocalyptic vision described “another angel” who stands at the Heavenly altar before God’s throne. Who is this angel? And what is the purpose of throwing fires in the censer to Earth? This article will explain that it is Jesus Christ making one final preparation before the supernatural, cataclysmic judgments of the Day of the Lord continue.
“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. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.” – Revelation 8:3-4.
“Another angel” in this passage The Lord Jesus Christ. As explained in our article “Is Jesus Christ The Angel of The Lord – Finding Christ In The Old Testament”, there are many instances throughout the Bible where Jesus Christ, in pre-incarnate form is referred to as an “Angel.” The Apostle John, who wrote the book of Revelation, lived to the see the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At the time the Revelation 8 vision, Jesus had returned to Heaven, where He sits at the right hand of God the Father. But Jesus Christ, from His own teachings instructed all believers that He would serve some very specific roles in Heaven – and one of those was as the High Priest in the heavenly temple of God.
The Old Testament High Priest – Foreshadow of The Work of Jesus Christ
Aaron, the brother of Moses, was the first High Priest in the Old Testament. His job was to administer the animal sacrifices which served as a “covering” atonement for the sins of the people of Israel. Among the many special Holy days on the Jewish calendar, the most solemn of all was the Day of Atonement. On this day, the High Priest was to enter the most Holy Place – the special room within the tabernacle where the ark of the covenant resided. God would manifest over the ark on this one day and the High Priest would perform a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the nation for the year:
“And the Lord spake unto Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the Lord, and died; And the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering.
He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on.” – Leviticus 16:1-4.
As The Lord continued His instructions, we see the exact items held by the Angel of Revelation 8:
“And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail: And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not: And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat:
And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness. And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel. And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about. And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.” – Leviticus 16:12-19.
When The Lord initially instructed Moses to construct the tabernacle, Moses was given a supernatural vision of the Heavenly temple. He used this image as the basis of the tabernacle’s design:
“And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it… And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.” – Exodus 25:8-9, 40.
Everything in the tabernacle – including the ark of the covenant, the altar and the golden candlesticks – replicated those same items in the Heavenly temple Moses viewed during his 40 days on Mt. Sinai. And just as Aaron was the only one permitted to enter the Most Holy Place, so too is Jesus the only High Priest in the Heavenly temple.
Jesus Christ Serves As High Priest For All Believers
“Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” – Hebrews 2:17.
The book of Hebrews goes to great lengths to emphasize that Jesus Christ is presently in Heaven making intercession on behalf of all saints who believe (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25). And just as the earthly High Priest made atonement, so does Jesus:
By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death. But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” – Hebrews 7:22-28.
Jesus Christ is the true High Priest of humanity because He is eternal and lived a sinless life. In addition, since Christ offered Himself on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity, He does not need to offer animal sacrifices on a daily basis as the earthly priests did in the Old Testament. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4). The Mosaic covenant sacrifices were a “covering” meant to provide a temporary reprieve of God’s judgment but they did not redeem the people or atone for their sin.
It was only the shed blood of Christ on the cross that could achieve this. And in His majestic return to Heaven, Christ now serves in the Heavenly tabernacle forever, making intercession for the prayers of the saints:
“Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.” – Hebrews 8:1-5.
This passage quotes Exodus 25 and confirms that the tabernacle built by Israel in Moses’ day was a type and shadow of the Heavenly where Christ now reigns in the true Most Holy place.
The Angel At The Altar In The Endtimes
With Scripture’s confirmation that Jesus Christ is indeed the only Heavenly High Priest forever, we can return to Revelation 8:
“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. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. 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.” – Revelation 8:3-5.
This is clearly a picture of the Day of Atonement – and “another Angel” is none other than Jesus Christ – the only One worthy of standing before the Heavenly altar in the true Most Holy Place. As detailed in our prior installment in the Revelation series, at this point in the prophetic timeline, the Church has been raptured to Heaven at the opening of the 6th Seal. On earth, the 144,000 – select Jewish men who will witness the Gospel during the Day of The Lord, have been chosen and sealed with supernatural protection by God. The seven angels who sound the trumpets of judgment during the Day of The Lord were held back for these events and one final intercession by Christ before they unleash more of God’s wrath.
The Endtimes Censer Will Be For Protection of Those on Earth
Jesus will bring up the prayers of the saints before the throne to make intercession for those who are no doubt loved ones of the just-raptured church. These people may be unsaved, but prayers on their behalf could potentially provide relief and a path to salvation during the Great Tribulation. A foreshadow of this event occurred in Numbers 16. Korah, a cousin of Moses, challenged Moses and Aaron’s selection by God as the earthly leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel. Moses, grieved by this sinful rebellion challenged Korah and his followers:
“Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord? And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face:
And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even to morrow the Lord will shew who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto him: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him. This do; Take you censers, Korah, and all his company; And put fire therein, and put incense in them before the Lord to morrow: and it shall be that the man whom the Lord doth choose, he shall be holy: ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi. And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi: Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them? And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also? For which cause both thou and all thy company are gathered together against the Lord: and what is Aaron, that ye murmur against him? – Numbers 16:1-11.
These men were seeking to take the High Priesthood from Aaron, even though he was the one man designated by The Lord for this role. At the time of their contest, Aaron’s incense was accepted by God while Korah and his rebels were swallowed into the Earth, directly to Hell. The rest were burned with supernatural fire from Heaven. God clearly confirmed his selection of Aaron as high priest and Moses as prophet and earthly leader:
“And Eleazar the priest took the brasen censers, wherewith they that were burnt had offered; and they were made broad plates for a covering of the altar: To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the Lord; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as the Lord said to him by the hand of Moses.” – Numbers 16:39-40.
Despite this, the people of Israel angrily blamed Moses for Korah’s death. This utter ignorance of Korah’s obvious sin, provoked The Lord to unleash his wrath on the whole nation:
“But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the Lord.And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tabernacle of the congregation: and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. And Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of the congregation. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. And they fell upon their faces. 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.” – Numbers 16:41-46.
In the face of a revolt, Moses only had compassion for his people. Knowing God had the power to wipe out the entire nation, Moses commanded Aaron to perform an emergency atonement in the tabernacle – using the censer, fire from the altar and the incense to help stop the judgment The Lord unleashed:
“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. And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed. Now they that died in the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, beside them that died about the matter of Korah. And Aaron returned unto Moses unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the plague was stayed.” – Numbers 16:47-50.
Although almost 15,000 died from the plague, millions escaped death by Aaron offering the incense of atonement and standing “between the dead and the living.” Note that the entire nation revolted but the petition made by Aaron and Moses still saved many from harm. Jesus Christ was the ultimate fulfillment on this through His death on the cross which provides forgiveness for all spiritually dead people who believe upon on Him and receive eternal life. But in Revelation 8, the incense is offered as a final plea for those unbelievers on Earth before the judgment trumpets.
Why Is The Censer’s Fire Cast To Earth?
“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. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. 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.” – Revelation 8:5-7.
After Christ offers the incense with the prayers of the saints, the censer is filled with Divine fire and that fire is cast to Earth. This is indicative of judgment from Heaven, as it was during Korah’s rebellion: “And there came out a fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.” (Numbers 16:35). After the Revelation 8 fire is thrown to Earth there are “voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake,” – which proceed from the throne of God the Father and signify His Presence (see Exodus 19:10-17 and Revelation 4:5).
The four angels who sound the first 4 trumpets – previously told in Revelation 7 to hold off their judgment until the 144,000 were sealed, now have the signal to unleash God’s wrath on the unbelieving world. As explained in our article of the same title – the Day of The Lord is the Biblical term for the final years of supernatural judgment before the Second Coming of Christ (it is also commonly referred to as the Great Tribulation).
And the purpose of the Day of The Lord is to punish the unbelieving world but also carry out the reconciliation of Israel back to God. In addition to unbelievers who have rejected God, the fire from the censer and the first trumpet judgment have a specific target: an enemy that will seek to attack Israel – The Gog-Magog army.
In our next installment we will examine The Two Wars of Gog-Magog.