What does Revelation 8:4 mean?
ESV: and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
NIV: The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God's people, went up before God from the angel's hand.
NASB: And the smoke of the incense ascended from the angel’s hand with the prayers of the saints before God.
CSB: The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up in the presence of God from the angel's hand.
NLT: The smoke of the incense, mixed with the prayers of God’s holy people, ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out.
KJV: And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.
This verse informs us that the smoke from the burning incense that included the prayers of God's people arose to God. God delights in the prayers of His people. Quoting from Psalm 34, 1 Peter 3:12 says, "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer." It should encourage us to know our prayers please God. Indeed, He invites us to draw near His throne with confidence, "that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).
The tribulation saints will avail themselves of God's invitation to pray, and they will call upon Him for grace and mercy. Their prayers and ours ascend to heaven as sweet-smelling perfume. Even Jesus availed Himself of the opportunity to pray in time of need. Hebrews 5:7 reports: "In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence." His being saved from death must refer to His resurrection. Jesus died, but He conquered death by rising from the grave.
Revelation 8:1–5 describes what happens prior to the seven angels blowing their trumpets. There is rapt suspense throughout heaven between the opening of the seventh seal and the trumpet blasts. As in previous chapters, angels play a key role in performing God's will. So far in Revelation, angels have initiated praise to God and the Lamb, kept the symbolic winds of God's judgment from blowing, and sealed 144,000 saved Jews to keep them safe throughout the tribulation. Now, even as angels prepare to blow seven trumpets that initiate judgment, another angel burns a censer of incense with the prayers of the saints and then fills the censer with fire and hurls it down to the earth.
Revelation 8 tells us John saw seven angels receive seven trumpets. Another angel brought incense and the prayers of the saints at the golden altar, then filled the container with fire and cast it down to the earth. Next, four angels blew their trumpets in succession. The consequences were devastating: hail and fire mixed with blood; a third of the earth and trees were burned up; all green grass was consumed; a third of the sea became blood; a third of sea life died; a third of the ships were destroyed; the water supply became bitter, and many people died. Further, a third of the sun, moon, and stars experienced some kind of blackout, and darkness extended for a third of the day and night.
In chapter 7, an interlude occurs between the opening of the sixth seal and the seventh seal. In the interlude an angel seals 144,000 saved Jews as God's servants. Chapter 8 introduces the second series of judgments, the trumpet judgments. They begin when Jesus the Lamb opens the seventh seal. The trumpet judgments seem to follow the seal judgments without overlapping them. They are more severe than the seal judgments, resulting in catastrophic damage to plant life, salt waters, fresh waters, and light. Even so, this passage warns that the remaining judgments are even worse.
The word ''revelation'' means ''an unveiling or disclosure.'' This writing unveils future events such as the rapture, three series of judgments that will fall on the earth during the tribulation, the emergence of the Antichrist, the persecution of Israel and her amazing revival, as well as Jesus' second coming with His saints to the earth, the judgment of Satan and his followers, and finally, the eternal state. This content, combined with the original Greek term apokalypsis, is why we now refer to an end-of-the-world scenario as ''an apocalypse.''
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