Revelation 8:3
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.
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(3) And another angel came and stood at (or, over) the altar, having a golden censer. —The appearance of this other angel has given rise to some questioning, and some strained explanations. Some have thought that by this other angel we are to understand Christ Himself. This is very doubtful: the designation “another angel” (see Revelation 7:2) is against this view. There is really no need to ask who the several angels are: the book is symbolical. The angels are not particular personages, but symbolical of those agencies—whether personal, or natural, or supernatural—which are employed by Him who sitteth on the throne. The angel stood at the altar. The altar mentioned in Revelation 6:2 corresponded with the altar of burnt sacrifice, which stood in the open court in front of the tabernacle or temple. The symbolism of the Apocalypse being so largely built up out of Jewish materials, we need not be surprised to find the altar of incense introduced here. This altar was of gold, and was situated in the holy place. Here the priest was wont to burn incense, while the people outside were praying. We have an example of the custom in the history of Zecharias (Luke 1:8-11). The scene described by St. Luke bears a close resemblance to this, and gives a key to the symbolism. The prayers of the people and the smoke of the incense are ascending together. The angel has a golden censer. The word here rendered censer is used sometimes for the incense, but the epithet “golden” shows that it is the vessel to hold the incense which is intended. The censer is of gold, as was the altar, and as are so many things in the Apocalypse. (See Revelation 4:4; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 15:6-7; Revelation 21:15; Revelation 21:21.)

And there was given unto him much incense . . .—Literally, And there was given to him much incense that he might (not “offer it with,” as English version, but) give it to the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. The incense was to be mingled with the prayers of the saints. The incense was added to give a fragrance to the prayers of the saints, and render them acceptable before God. The action of the angel has been spoken of as though it might give countenance to the erroneous doctrine of the mediatorship of saints and angels. It is only when we persist in viewing symbols as literal facts that there is any danger of such an inference. Dogmas, whose only foundation is in the incidental symbolism of a prophetic book, are ill-grounded. It is a safe canon that doctrinal inferences from metaphors are always to be suspected. The angel here is a mere symbol of a divinely- appointed agency. No personal angel actually ever did what is described here: how could incense mix with prayers? The whole is symbolical of the truth, that the prayers of all the saints need to be rendered acceptable by the infusion of some divine element. The best prayers of the best saints are weak, and polluted and imperfect at the best. The incense which is added to the prayers is not supplied by the angel: it is first given to him, and he then mingles it with the prayers of all saints. It is hard to forget here Him whose offering and sacrifice became a savour of sweet smell (Ephesians 5:1-2). The altar is described as the golden altar—i.e., the altar of incense, as noted above. It is well for us to remember Dean Alford’s caution that we must not attempt to force the details of any of these visions into accordance with the arrangements of the tabernacle. “A general analogy in the use and character of the heavenly furniture is all that we can look for” (Alford, in loco).

8:1-6 The seventh seal is opened. There was profound silence in heaven for a space; all was quiet in the church, for whenever the church on earth cries through oppression, that cry reaches up to heaven; or it is a silence of expectation. Trumpets were given to the angels, who were to sound them. The Lord Jesus is the High Priest of the church, having a golden censer, and much incense, fulness of merit in his own glorious person. Would that men studied to know the fulness that is in Christ, and endeavoured to be acquainted with his excellency. Would that they were truly persuaded that Christ has such an office as that of Intercessor, which he now performs with deep sympathy. No prayers, thus recommended, was ever denied hearing and acceptance. These prayers, thus accepted in heaven, produced great changes upon earth. The Christian worship and religion, pure and heavenly in its origin and nature, when sent down to earth and conflicting with the passions and worldly projects of sinful men, produced remarkable tumults, here set forth in prophetical language, as our Lord himself declared, Lu 12:49.And another angel came - Who this angel was is not mentioned, nor have we any means of determining. Of course a great variety of opinion has been entertained on the subject (see Poole's Synopsis) - some referring it to angels in general; others to the ministry of the church; others to Constantine; others to Michael; and many others to the Lord Jesus. All that we know is, that it was an angel who thus appeared, and there is nothing inconsistent in the supposition that anyone of the angels in heaven may have been appointed to perform what is here represented. The design seems to be, to represent the prayers of the saints as ascending in the anticipation of the approaching series of wonders in the world - and there would be a beautiful propriety in representing them as offered by an angel, feeling deep interest in the church, and ministering in behalf of the saints.

And stood at the altar - In heaven - represented as a temple with an altar, and with the usual array of things employed in the worship of God. The altar was the appropriate place for him to stand when about to offer the prayers of the saints for that is the place where the worshipper stood under the ancient dispensation. Compare the Matthew 5:23-24 notes; Luke 1:11 note. In the latter place an angel is represented as appearing to Zacharias "on the right side of the altar of incense."

Having a golden censer - The firepan, made for the purpose of carrying fire, on which to burn incense in time of worship. See it described and illustrated in the notes on Hebrews 9:4. There seems reason to suppose that the incense that was offered in the ancient worship was designed to be emblematic of the prayers of saints, for it was the custom for worshippers to be engaged in prayer at the time the incense was offered by the priest. See Luke 1:10.

And there was given unto him much incense - See the notes on Luke 1:9. A large quantity was here given to him, because the occasion was one on which many prayers might be expected to be offered.

That he should offer it with the prayers - Margin, "add it to." Greek, "that he should give it with" - δώση dōsē. The idea is plain, that, when the prayers of the saints ascended, he would also burn the incense, that it might go up at the same moment, and be emblematic of them. Compare the notes on Revelation 5:8.

Of all saints - Of all who are holy; of all who are the children of God. The idea seems to be, that, at this time, all the saints would unite in calling on God, and in deprecating his wrath. As the events which were about to occur were a matter of common interest to the people of God, it was to be supposed that they would unite in common supplication.

Upon the golden altar - The altar of incense. This in the tabernacle and in the temple was overlaid with gold.

Which was before the throne - This is represented as a temple-service, and the altar of incense is, with propriety, placed before his seat or throne, as it was in the tabernacle and temple. In the temple, God is represented as occupying the mercy-seat in the holy of holies, and the altar of incense is in the holy place before that. See the description of the temple in the notes on Matthew 21:12.

3. another angel—not Christ, as many think; for He, in Revelation, is always designated by one of His proper titles; though, doubtless, He is the only true High Priest, the Angel of the Covenant, standing before the golden altar of incense, and there, as Mediator, offering up His people's prayers, rendered acceptable before God through the incense of His merit. Here the angel acts merely as a ministering spirit (Heb 1:4), just as the twenty-four elders have vials full of odors, or incense, which are the prayers of saints (Re 5:8), and which they present before the Lamb. How precisely their ministry, in perfuming the prayers of the saints and offering them on the altar of incense, is exercised, we know not, but we do know they are not to be prayed TO. If we send an offering of tribute to the king, the king's messenger is not allowed to appropriate what is due to the king alone.

there was given unto him—The angel does not provide the incense; it is given to him by Christ, whose meritorious obedience and death are the incense, rendering the saints' prayers well pleasing to God. It is not the saints who give the angel the incense; nor are their prayers identified with the incense; nor do they offer their prayers to him. Christ alone is the Mediator through whom, and to whom, prayer is to be offered.

offer it with the prayers—rather as Greek, "give it TO the prayers," so rendering them efficacious as a sweet-smelling savor to God. Christ's merits alone can thus incense our prayers, though the angelic ministry be employed to attach this incense to the prayers. The saints' praying on earth, and the angel's incensing in heaven, are simultaneous.

all saints—The prayers both of the saints in the heavenly rest, and of those militant on earth. The martyrs' cry is the foremost, and brings down the ensuing judgments.

golden altar—antitype to the earthly.

And another angel came; by this angel I understand Christ, as do many very valuable authors; nor, indeed, can what is said of this angel agree to any other but him, who is called an Angel, Genesis 48:16, and the Angel of the covenant, Malachi 3:1. Here is a manifest allusion to the order of the Jewish worship; they had an altar of incense, Exodus 30:1, upon which the high priest was to burn incense every morning and evening, Revelation 8:7,8. Whilst the priest was burning incense, as appears, Luke 1:10, the people, were without, praying. Christ is here represented as

having a golden censer. The high priest’s censer amongst the Jews was of brass; but he was a more excellent High Priest.

And there was given unto him much incense; by which is meant the infinite merit of his death, to be offered up by himself (who is the golden altar) with the prayers of all his saints. By all this Christ is represented to us, as interceding for his saints that were to live after this time, during all troubles that were immediately to begin, and to follow on, during the reign of antichrist.

And another angel came,.... The Ethiopic version adds, "from the east", as in Revelation 7:2; pointing to the same angel, and who is intended: for not a created angel, as Gabriel, or any other, is meant; nor any mere man, at least not Pope Damasus, who lived in Constantine's time, as Lyra thought; nor Constantine himself, which is the opinion of Brightman, who thinks that his, and the desires of other good men to make peace, and compose the differences occasioned by the Arian heresy, are designed by the incense and prayers; and this being brought about at the counsel of Nice, when the Arian blasphemy was condemned, and truth confirmed, is intended by the ascent of the smoke of the incense with the prayers, out of the angels hands; when there followed upon this great contentions, heart burnings, and persecutions, signified by fire, voices, thunderings, &c. and others, have been of opinion that the Emperor Theodosius is designed, and that respect is had to his prayer both in the church, and at the head of his army, before the battle with Eugenius, the saints in the mean while putting up united prayers to God for success, and which was obtained; and this victory was attended with a miraculous tempest, and gave a deadly blow to the Pagan religion. Yet neither of those, but Christ himself, the Angel of the covenant, and of God's presence, is here intended, who appeared in an angelic form; so the high priest in the day of atonement was called (r), "an angel", or messenger, to which the allusion is;

and stood at the altar; either of burnt offerings, and may be rendered "stood upon it"; and so may represent his sacrifice, which had been lately offered up for the sins of his people, he being both altar, sacrifice, and priest; or rather the altar of incense, since mention is made of a censer and of incense, and the smoke of it; and seeing this altar is a golden one, as that was, and is before the throne, as that was before the vail by the ark of the testimony; Exodus 30:1; and so Christ is here introduced as the high priest, advocate, and intercessor for his people, though both altars may be respected in this verse: "the altar" may design the altar of burnt offering from whence the coals were taken in the censer; and the "golden altar" the altar of incense where the coals being brought the incense was put upon them, and offered; and here he "stood" as everyone concerned in the service of the sanctuary did (s):

having a golden censer; the Ethiopic version adds, "of fire": for this was a vessel in which were put burning coals of fire taken from off the altar before the Lord Leviticus 16:12, and which may denote the sufferings of Christ, he pains he endured in his body the sorrows of his soul, and the wrath of God which was poured like fire upon him; the altar from which they were taken off was typical of Christ: in his divine nature which is the altar that sanctifies the gift, and gave virtue to his blood and sacrifice; and all this being before the Lord may show that Christ's sufferings were according to the will of God, were grateful to him, and always before him; for these burning coals in the censer were also carried within the vail, representing heaven, where Christ entered by his own blood and where he is as a Lamb that had been slain, the efficacy of whose death always continues; and this being a golden censer shows the excellency and perpetuity of Christ's sacrifice and intercession. In the daily service the priest used a silver censer, but on the day of atonement a golden one (t); though at the daily sacrifice there was a vessel used, called like to a large golden bushel, in which was a smaller vessel full of incense (u), and may be what is here designed:

and there was given unto him much incense; the intercession of Christ is meant by "the incense", which, like that, is sweet and fragrant, very grateful and acceptable to God and also pure and holy; for though it is made for transgressors, yet in a way of righteousness, and consistent with the holiness and justice of God; nor is there any like it, nor should there be any besides it; the intercession of angels, and saints departed, ought to be rejected: and it is perpetual, or will be for ever; see Exodus 30:7; and whereas it is said to be "much", this is an allusion either to the many spices used in the composition of the incense, see Exodus 30:34; the Jews say (w), that eleven sorts of spices were ordered to Moses, and the wise men have added three more, in all fourteen; or to the priest's handfuls of incense, which he took and brought within the vail on the day of atonement, Leviticus 16:12; and which were added to, and were over and above the quantity used every day (x); and even in the daily service the pot of incense was not only filled, but "heaped up" (y); now this may denote the fulness of Christ's intercession, which is for all his elect, called and uncalled, greater or lesser believers, and for all things for them, as their cases be; for conversion, discoveries of pardon, preservation, perseverance, and glorification; and to support this, he has a fulness of merit, which makes his intercession efficacious; for incense was put upon the burning coals in the censer, or upon the fire before the Lord, Leviticus 16:13, signifying that Christ's intercession proceeds upon his sufferings and death: his blood and sacrifice, from whence all his pleas and arguments are taken in favour of his people, and which always prevail: and this is said to be given him, as his whole work and office as Mediator, and every branch of it is; he is appointed to this work, is allowed to do it, and is accepted in it, by him that sits upon the throne: in the daily offering of the incense, one took the incense and gave it into the hand of his friend, or the priest that was next him; and if he wanted instruction how to offer it, he taught him, nor might anyone offer incense until the president bid him (z); to which there seems to be an allusion here: now the end of this was,

that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne; the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions add, "of God"; the prayers of the saints, rightly performed, are themselves compared to incense, being very grateful and acceptable to God, Psalm 141:2; and the Arabic version here renders it in connection with the preceding clause, and explanative of that, "and there was given unto him much incense and much spice, which are the prayers of the saints", as in Revelation 5:8; and at the time of incense the people prayed; see Luke 1:10; and these are spiritual sacrifices, which Christ the high priest presents for the saints, perfumes with the incense of his mediation, and makes acceptable to God, being offered upon, and coming up from that altar which is before him, and which gives value to everything that is put upon it: and they are the prayers of saints, who are set apart by God the Father, whose sins are expiated by the blood of Christ, and who are sanctified by the Spirit of God; who draw nigh to God with a true heart, and call upon him out of a pure heart, and in sincerity and truth; the prayers of such righteous ones, through faith in Christ, avail much with God; and the prayers of all saints are regarded by Christ, and presented by him, whether they be rich or poor, high or low, greater or lesser believers. The Jews often speak of an angel, whose name is Sandalphon, who is appointed over the prayers of the righteous, and takes them and presents them to God (a): so Raphael in the Apocrypha:

"I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.'' (Tobit 12:15)

says he was one of the seven holy angels that carry up the prayers of the saints; and the heretic Elxai, who was originally a Jew, talked of the holy angels of prayer (b): so the Jews say, that God "by", or "through his Word", receives the prayers of Israel, and has mercy on them (c). In the Greek text it is, "that he should give", &c. that is, the "incense", agreeably to the Hebrew phrase in Numbers 16:47, and elsewhere.

(r) Misn. Yoma, c. 1. sect. 5. (s) Maimon. Biath. Hamikdash, c. 5. sect. 17. (t) Yoma, c. 4. sect. 4. (u) Misn. Tamid. c. 5. sect. 4. (w) Maimon. Cele Hamikdash, c. 2. sect. 1, 2.((x) Yoma, c. 5. sect. 1. & T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 47. 1.((y) Misn. Tamid. c. 5. sect. 4. (z) Misn. Tamid. c. 6. sect. 3. Maimon. Tamidin, c. 3. sect. 8, 9. (a) Zohar in Gen. fol. 97. 2. & in Exod. fol. 99. 1. Shemot Rabba, sect. 21. fol. 106. 2.((b) Epiphan. Contr. Haeres. l. 1. Haeres. 19. (c) Targum in Hosea 14.8.

{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.

(3) This is the great emperor, the Lord Jesus Christ, our King and Saviour, who both makes intercession to God the Father for the saints, filling the heavenly sanctuary with most sweet odour, and offering up their prayers, as the calves and burnt sacrifices of their lips, in this verse: in such manner as every one of them (so powerful is that sweet savour of Christ, and the reliability of his sacrifice) are reconciled with God and made most acceptable to him, Re 8:4. Then also out of his treasury and from the same sanctuary, the fire of his wrath descends on the world, adding also divine signs to it: and by that means (as of old the heralds of Rome did) he proclaims war against the rebellious world.

Revelation 8:3-5. ἄλλος ἄγγελος. The repeated[2418] reference here to Christ[2419] has occasioned the greatest number of arbitrary expedients in the interpretation of what follows: e.g., that by ἜΧΩΝ ΛΙΒ. ΧΡΥΣ., reference is made to the self-sacrifice of Christ;[2420] that the ἘΓΈΜΙΣΕΝ, Κ.Τ.Λ., Revelation 8:5, is to be understood of the fulness of the Godhead, or Spirit, in Christ;[2421] that the fire cast upon the earth is to be regarded as a gracious visitation,[2422] as the power of the gospel concerning Christ’s love;[2423] and the ΦΩΝΑΊ, ΒΡΟΝΤΑΊ, ἈΣΤΡΑΠΑῚ, of the words and miracles of Christ, and ΣΕΊΣΜΟς, of the movement occasioned thereby among the hearers.[2424] The “other angel,” just as the one mentioned in Revelation 7:2, is to be regarded an actual angel;[2425] yet the text gives no more accurate designation whatever.[2426]

ἘΣΤΆΘΗ ἘΠῚ ΤΟῦ ΘΥΣΙΑΣΤΗΡΊΟΥ. The ἘΠῚ does not mean juxta, “alongside of,” and nothing more;[2427] but it designates with evident exactness, that the angel so presents himself at the altar, that he rises above it.[2428]

The question started here, as on Revelation 6:9, as to whether the altar is to be regarded an altar of incense,[2429] or an altar for burnt offerings,[2430] will be decided not only from the context in itself, but also from the seeming type, Leviticus 16:12; and Ebrard thus comes to the decision that the altar, mentioned Revelation 8:3 a (ἐπὶ τ. ΘΥΣΙΑΣΤ.) and Revelation 8:5, is the altar for burnt offerings, while “the golden altar” (Revelation 8:3 b) is the altar of incense. But as the question itself is not without an arbitrary assumption, so the answers, also, are without sufficient foundation in the context, into which strange conceptions of many kinds have entered. As to the appeal to Leviticus 16, that passage is essentially different from ours, because it is there said that the high priest, on the great day of atonement, is to take coals in a censer from the altar of burnt offerings, and with it and the incense strewed thereon, shall come, not to the altar of incense in the sanctuary,[2431] but to the ark of the covenant within the holy of holies. Nothing, therefore, is said in Leviticus 16:12, of the altar of incense, so that the analogy of that passage, even apart from a dissimilarity otherwise in the whole and in details, renders any proof impossible that “the golden altar,” Revelation 8:3, is the altar of incense. In general, however, the entire description of heavenly locality, as it is presented in Revelation 4:1, gives us no right whatever for conceiving of the same as after the model of the earthly temple with a holy of holies, a holy place, a veil, different altars, etc., whereby then such conceptions are rendered necessary, as that of Züll., Hengstenb., that in ch. 4 and this passage, the veil before the holy of holies is closed, but in Revelation 11:19 it is opened; or that of Hofm., that we must fancy the roof of the heavenly temple absent, in order to render possible the idea that “Jehovah appears enthroned above the cherubim, yet without a sight being gained of the ark of the covenant.” Entirely arbitrary, also, is the explanation of Ebrard: “that the entire scene, ch. 4, was plainly visible, indeed, at the beginning without the temple, and that later[2432] a heavenly temple appeared, as it were, upon a lower terrace, below and in front of the elevation on which the throne stood.” The description of the scenery, Revelation 4:1 sqq., is destitute throughout of any express representation of a heavenly temple. Such a representation, including the ark of the covenant, appears first at Revelation 11:19,[2433] just where the scene is changed. In the scenery which has remained unchanged from Revelation 4:1, “the altar “becomes noticeable in Revelation 6:9, which, according to the context, must be regarded as having a certain analogy with the altar of burnt-offering, although on this account it must not be considered that the entire heavenly locality, with the throne of God, and “the sea of glass,” appears as the temple. For the article already compels us to identify the altar mentioned in Revelation 8:3 a with that of Revelation 6:9. To infer, however, that, as in Revelation 8:3 a, only τ. θυσιαστ., and in Revelation 8:3 b, τ. θυσιαστ. τὸ χρυσὸυν is mentioned, so in two clauses of Revelation 8:3 two different altars are designated, is a precipitate inference, since it is not at all remarkable that a more definite description is not given until Revelation 8:3 b, where an employment at the altar is spoken of. On the altar, which in Revelation 6:9 appears as in a certain respect having the character of an altar of burnt-offering, incense is burned, whereby a certain analogy with the altar of incense is obtained; but the interpretation is entirely inconceivable, since the altar is regarded as fully corresponding neither with the one nor the other.[2434]

ἜΧΩΝ ΛΙΒΑΝΩΤῸΝ ΧΡΥΣΟῦΝ. Without doubt ΛΙΒΑΝΩΤΌς elsewhere means incense;[2435] but no necessity follows, hence, for writing in this passage, where a vessel for incense is manifestly meant, instead of Ὁ ΛΙΒΑΝΩΤΌς, Ἡ ΛΙΒΑΝΩΤΊς, or ΛΙΒΑΝΩΤΡΊς,[2436] or ΤῸ ΛΙΒΑΝΩΤΌΝ,[2437] of which, besides, the latter form, in its proper sense, cannot be distinguished from Ὁ ΛΙΒΑΝΩΤΌς.


It is arbitrary to adjust[2438] the difficult. ΤΑῖς ΠΡΟΣΕΥΧΑῖς, by erasing the words ΤΑῖς ΠΡΟς Τ. ἉΓ. ΠΑΝΤ. (Revelation 8:3) and Τ. ΠΡΟς Τ. ἉΓ. (Revelation 8:4), or to change it into ΤᾺς ΠΡΟΣΕΥΧΆς,[2439] or without this emendation to explain it in the sense of Grot.[2440] Incorrect, too, is the effort to complete it by substituting ἘΝ, so as to make the meaning: “In the midst of prayers.”[2441] The dat. in Revelation 8:3, in its combination with ΔΏΣΕΙ, is without all difficulty, since it is entirely regular[2442] to express the remote object towards which the giving is directed: “in order that he should give (the ΘΥΜ. ΠΟΛΛ.) to the prayers of all saints.” The significance of this act was correctly described already by Calov.: “that he should give ΤΑῖς ΠΡ., to the prayers of the saints, the same things, i.e., to render these prayers of good odor.”[2443] For upon the ground of Revelation 8:3, the expression, Revelation 8:4, ΚΑῚ ἈΝΈΒΗ Ὁ ΚΑΠΝῸς ΤῶΝ ΘΥΜΙΑΜΆΤΩΝ ΤΑῖς ΠΡΟΣΕΥΧΑῖς Τ. ἉΓ. is to be explained; but not in the mode of Ebrard,[2444] who attempts to interpret it, Ὁ ΚΑΠΝ. ΤῶΝ ΘΥΜ. ΤῶΝ ΤΑῖς ΠΡΟΣΕΥΧ. ΔΟΘΈΝΤΩΝ [the smoke of the incense given to the prayers],—by regarding the dat. here as “standing for the gen. of possession,” after the manner of the Hebrew ל,—for the immediate combination of the dat. ΤΑῖς ΠΡ. with the conception Τ. ΘΥΜ., is contrary to all Greek modes of thought and expression;[2445] but the dat. ΤΑῖς ΠΡΟΣΕΥΧ. can, in its relation to Ὁ ΚΑΠΝ. Τ. ΘΥΜ., depend only upon the verb ἈΝΈΒΗ, as, in accordance with the idea expressed in Revelation 8:3, it must be regarded a dat. commodi: “The smoke of the incense for the prayers rose up,” i.e., indicating their being heard.[2446] The view of Kliefoth, that the incense serves only to carry up the prayers, appears to me not to agree well with the expression, Revelation 8:13, ἽΝΑ ΔΏΣ. Τ. ΠΡΟΣΕΥΧ. And the idea that the prayers are sure of being heard,—not merely rendered capable of being granted,—which Klief. tries to avoid, is nevertheless prominent.

Besides, the activity of the angel, described in Revelation 8:3-4, in no way establishes the inference of an angelic intercession,[2447] in the sense of Roman-Catholic dogmatics. In the first place, it is in general impracticable to transform the individual points of Apocalyptic visions directly into dogmatical results; and then, in this case, the function ascribed to the angel, just as to the twenty-four elders in Revelation 5:8, is in no way properly that of a mediator, but of a servant.[2448] The incense, therefore, which he gives the prayers of saints, has first been given him; the angel thus in no way effects it by himself, that the prayers brought by his hand are acceptable to God, but the prayers of the saints can be received before God, even without any service of the angel, just because they proceed from saints;[2449] and that now they are carried before God as a heavenly incense-offering by the angel, to be heard and immediately fulfilled, lies also not in his own will, but in that of God, who in the seventh seal is just about to execute his judgment, and from whom himself comes the incense, whose perfume, indicating the hearing of the prayers of the saints, ascends from the hand of the angel as the ministering spirit,[2450] or the fellow-servant of the saints,[2451] who are themselves priests.[2452]

ΚΑῚ ΕἼΛΗΦΕΝ, Κ.Τ.Λ. The angel had put down his censer after he had poured its contents (Revelation 8:3) on the altar,[2453] while the smoke ascended (Revelation 8:4). Now (Revelation 8:5) he again takes it into his hand for a service that is new, but inwardly connected with what has happened in Revelation 8:3-4; from the same fire of the altar which had consumed the incense, he fills his censer, and then casts these glowing coals, taken from the altar, upon the earth;[2454] in consequence of this, there are voices, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake, the signs of the Divine judgment now breaking forth, as the seven angels also, as soon as the noise breaking the heavenly silence rises from the earth, make ready to sound their trumpets (Revelation 8:6). The inner connection between Revelation 8:5 and Revelation 8:3-4 has been correctly described already by C. a Lap.: “Through the petitions of the saints, praying for vengeance upon the godless and their persecutors, fiery vengeance, i.e., thunderings, lightnings, and the succeeding plagues of the seven angels and trumpets, are sent down upon the godless.”[2455] The idea has been suggested by Ebrard, that the fire of judgment is that “in which the martyrs were burned; “this is not once said in Revelation 6:10, although in this passage the idea is positively expressed that the fire which was cast upon the earth is from that whereby the incense was consumed, so that the judgment, therefore, appears to be a consequence of the heard prayers. For hereby, also, the chief contents of the prayers of all saints, and not merely those of martyrs (Revelation 6:10), are made known. They have as their object that to which all the hopes and endurance of the saints in general are directed, viz., the coming of the Lord,[2456] and the judgment accompanying it; the martyrs also in their way prayed for this.

[2418] Cf. Revelation 7:2.

[2419] Beda, Vieg., Zeger, Vitr., Calov., Böhmer.

Revelation 8:3. Between royalty and ritual the scenery of the Apocalypse fluctuates. It is assumed (as at Revelation 6:9), after Revelation 7:15 perhaps, that heaven is a temple, although this is not expressly stated till Revelation 11:19; nor is it homogeneous with the throne-description in chap. 4. λιβανωτόν (“incense,” ἅπ. λεγ. N.T.) is used by mistake for the classical λιβανωτρίν (LXX, πυρ[ε]ιον or θυίσκη) = “censer,” as already in an inscription of the second century B.C. (Dittenberger’s Sylloge Inscript. Grace. 588156) λιβανωτίς is employed by confusion for “frankincense”. Golden censers (1Ma 1:22) and golden bowls (φιάλαι) were among the furniture of the temple (1Es 2:13). On prayers as an offering, see Acts 10:4. The symbolism is borrowed from the temple-ritual; when the saucer of incense had been emptied over the burning coals placed on the altar of incense, the people bowed in prayer, as the fragrant cloud of smoke rose up. Wellhausen’s deletion of 3 b, 4 as a gloss is therefore unnecessary. John is consoling the church (cf. on Revelation 6:10) by the assurance that their prayers for the coming of the kingdom are not breathed in vain.

The Angel with the Golden Censer, Revelation 8:3-63. another angel] In Tobit, l.c. it is the seven Angels themselves who present the prayers of the Saints before God: but, though the detail varies, the passages agree in assigning a priestly work to Angels on behalf of God’s people on earth.

at the altar] More literally, on the altar, R. V. “over the altar.” The golden altar of Incense in the Tabernacle was only a cubit square and two cubits high (Exodus 30:2), and we have no reason to suppose that the analogous one either in the first or the second Temple was larger: perhaps we may gather from 2 Chronicles 5:5, that the altar in the first Temple was identical with the one in the Tabernacle. But the altar of burnt-offering was rather a large platform than what we commonly imagine an altar (see 1Ma 1:59, where the small Greek “idol altar” stands on the “altar of God” as its basement—it cannot be substituted for it): in the Tabernacle it was 5 cubits square, in Solomon’s Temple 20, in Zerubbabel’s probably the same, and in Herod’s 50 according to Josephus, 32 according to the Mishna. In the Temple at any rate, the height of the altar was such that the officiating priests had to come up upon a ledge surrounding it (and such an ascent is contemplated in Exodus 20:26). Probably here, though the Angel is offering incense not burnt offering, the Altar where he officiates is conceived as rather of the larger type: see on Revelation 6:9.

censer] Plainly the sense here, though the Greek word properly means “incense.”

offer it with] Literally, give (i.e. add) it to the prayers; and if the literal translation requires a gloss, that of the A. V. can hardly be the right one. Apparently the image is, that the prayers of the Saints are already lying on the Altar, and the Angel, in modern liturgical phrase, “censes the holy things.” Thus disappears the supposed theological necessity for identifying this Angel with the Lord Jesus: “the prayers of all saints” are presented by Him and by no one else, as is implied in Revelation 5:8-9; where the incense is the prayers of the Saints, not something added to them. But here the Angels offer their own worship, as it is “given to them,” in union, perhaps in subordination, to those of the redeemed. The prayers here spoken of are those of all saints, not of the Martyrs exclusively: still, it is well to notice that the Altar where we offer our prayers is apparently the same where they poured out their lives, Revelation 6:9.

Revelation 8:3. Καὶ ἄλλος ἄγγελος ἦλθε, καὶ ἐστάθη ἐπὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου ἔχων λιβανωτὸν χρυσοῦν· καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ θυμιάματα πολλἁ, ἵνα δώσῃ ταῖς προσευχαῖς τῶρ ἁγίων, κ.τ.λ., 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 [simultaneously] with the prayers of saints, etc.) Respecting the angel who offers the prayers of the saints, the Hebrews, in Elle Shemoth Rabba, sect. 21, speak after this manner: When the Israelites pray, they are not all found to pray altogether, but each synagogue (or congregation, בנסת) prays separately, first this synagogue, then another; and when all the synagogues have finished all their prayers,

אותן עטרות ונותנין בראשו של הק״ ב״ה״ שנא׳ עדיך בל בשר יבואו ואין עדיך אלא עטרה שנא׳ כי כלם כעדי תלבשי׃

The angel who presides over the prayers, bears all the prayers which they have prayed in all the synagogues, and forms them into crowns, and places them (instead of נותנין I think that נותנן should be read) on the head of God S. B., as it is said in Psalm 65:2, all flesh shall come as thy crown (for עדיך is so explained in that passage, as is more plainly apparent from what follows; whereas in reality it ought to be explained, to thee): but the word עדיך denotes nothing but a crown, as it is said, Isaiah 49:18, and thou shalt clothe thee with them as with a crown.—Christopher Cartwright, in Mellif. Hebr., lib. iii. c. 8. Therefore the Hebrews say that there is an angel who presides over the prayers of their assemblies: the Apocalypse only says, that there is an angel who offers incense, while the saints pray: ταῖς προσευχαῖς, Revelation 8:3-4, is the Ablative case, denoting accompaniment, as Romans 11:11; Romans 11:30-31, τῷ αὐτῶν παραπτώματι, τῇ τούτων ἀπειθείᾳ, τῷ ὑμετέρῳ ἐλέει. We have noted down more examples from other quarters at Chrysost. de Sacerdot., p. 514. There are some who here understand σύν: you might as conveniently understand ἐπί; but neither of the two is necessary. Nay, rather the Ablative case put absolutely, ταῖς προσευχαῖς, has greater force. The incense of the angel, and the prayers of the saints on earth, are simultaneous: but the prayers of the saints are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, not through the angel. [See what is the character of genuine prayer. It is the prayer of saints, which the incense of the angel accompanies, and Christ Himself renders acceptable in the presence of the Father. Dost thou then pray in such a manner, that thy prayers may come as a memorial before GOD?—V. g.] Under the name of angels, Thummius, in adm. de Error. Wigel, p. 280, affirms that created angels are pointed out in the New Testament, and especially in the Apocalypse: and in this very passage this is acknowledged by Nic. Selneccer in his Commentaries on the Ap., by L. and Andr. Osiander, by Beza, Hogelius, p. 277; also by Chemnitius, Part iii. Exam. Cone. Trid., f. 189, whom on this account Melch. Kromajec. in Ap. p. 111, praises, and Arnd. de V. C. i. ii. c. 35. To these are to be added D. Joach. Lange and Dimpelius. The liturgy [divine service performed] in heaven, with its effect in the world, is here set forth.—ἐπὶ τὸ) A skilful variety of cases: the angel stood ἐπὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου, by the said of [near—at] the altar; and offered the incense ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον, upon the altar.

Verse 3. - And another angel came. No particular angel is specified. Some writers, unable to accept the passage as meaning that the Church's prayers are offered by means of an angel, prefer to believe that Christ himself is indicated. (Thus Bede, Elliott, Primasius, Vitringa.) But, besides that the difficulty has no real existence, the same expression occurs in Revelation 7:2, where there is no doubt of its meaning. Moreover, in no passage of the book is our Lord represented under the form of an angel. With regard to the office of the angels, Alford remarks (while supporting the view that the word here bears the ordinary signification), "They are simply λειτουργικὰ ππνεύματα, and the action here described is a portion of that their ministry. Through whom the prayers are offered, we all know. He is our only Mediator and channel of grace." So also Wordsworth, "The angel is not here represented as giving efficacy to the prayers of all saints, but as taking part in them. There is a communication of prayer between all saints (namely, the saints departed, and the saints on earth), and the holy angels in heaven." And stood at the altar. The Revisers, accepting the reading of א, B, C, Andreas, adopt over the altar. The Authorized reading follows A, P, 1, 17, 36. Alford remarks, "Απί with genitive, not simply juxta, not ante, but super; so that his form appeared above it." The altar has been already mentioned (Revelation 6:9). If the view there taken be correct, and the brazen altar of sacrifice intended, the two altars mentioned in this verse are not identical; the second represents the golden altar of incense which stood before the veil (Exodus 30:6), but which now stands before the throne of God, the veil having disappeared. This view seems to be the correct one. The second altar is distinguished from the first by the addition of the qualification, "which was before the throne," as well as by the epithet "golden" - facts which are not mentioned in connection with the throne alluded to in Revelation 6:9. The order of events followed here, though not given in minute detail, resembles the ceremony of the Jewish worship. In the temple, the priest took burning coals from off the brazen altar, and proceeded to the altar of incense, on which to burn incense (Leviticus 16:12, 13). There appears to be a kind of progression in the insight which the seer affords us of the heavenly worship. In Revelation 4:1 a door is opened, and St. John sees into heaven; he is, as it were, without the sanctuary. In this place he is permitted to advance in his vision within the sanctuary, and to observe the golden altar. In Revelation 11:19 and Revelation 15:5 the most holy place is disclosed, and the ark of the covenant is seen. Alford and Dusterdieck believe only one altar is here mentioned, and identify it with that of Revelation 6:9. De Wette, Hengstenberg, Wordsworth, think one altar only is intended, and that it is the altar of incense. Bengel, Ebrard, Vitringa, support the view given above. Bossuct says the altar is Christ, to whom the angel brings incense, that is, the prayers of the saints. Having a golden censer. The word λιβανωτός is found only here and in 1 Chronicles 9:29 (LXX.). In the latter place it is rightly rendered "frankincense;" but the meaning here evidently requires "censer." It is described as of gold, in the same way that all the furniture of the heavenly realms is described in the Apocalypse. And there was given unto him much incense. Apparently following the analogy of the temple service, the first angel brings in his golden censer fire from the brazen altar of sacrifice, and now there is "given unto him," by another angel, incense to burn at the golden altar of incense. (For incense, see on Revelation 5:8.) That he should offer it with the prayers of all saints; add it unto the prayers of all the saints (Revised Version). The prayers are to be incensed, so as to (typically) render them pure and acceptable to God. Upon the golden altar which was before the throne. That is, probably, the altar of incense, distinct from the altar mentioned earlier in this verse (see above). Revelation 8:3At the altar (ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον)

The best texts read θυσιαστηρίου, which justifies the Rev., "over the altar." For altar, see on Revelation 6:9. Interpreters differ as to whether the altar meant is the brazen altar, as in Revelation 6:9, or the altar of incense, as in Revelation 9:13. There seems to be no reason for changing the reference from the brazen altar (see on Revelation 6:9), especially as both altars are mentioned in this verse. The officiating priest in the tabernacle or temple took the fire for his censer from the brazen altar, and then offered the incense upon the golden altar.


See on Revelation 5:8.


See on Revelation 5:8.

Offer it with the prayers (δώσῃ ταῖς προσευχαῖς)

Lit., should give it unto the prayers. Rev., add it unto the prayers. So that the prayers and the incense might ascend together. Προσευχή is always used of prayer to God.

Golden altar

The altar of incense. Exodus 30:1-6; Exodus 39:38.

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