Revelation 8:5
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.
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(5) And the angel . . .—Translate, And the angel has taken (or, took) the censer, and he filled it from the fire of the altar, and cast it (i.e., the fire or hot ashes which filled the censer) upon the earth. The prayers have gone up, and the sprinkling of the ashes earthward is the symbol of the answer descending from heaven. We may recall the similar action of Moses before Pharaoh, when he took ashes of the furnace and sprinkled it towards heaven, but it descended towards earth, as a symbol of the plague about to fall upon the land (Exodus 9:8-10). The hot ashes are the tokens of the coming judgments. As in the parallel vision in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 10:2), when the man clothed with linen is bidden to “go in between the wheels, even under the cherub, and fill his hand with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and scatter them over the doomed city;” so here the ashes fall—the judgments are at hand

And there were voices . . .—Or, And there took place thunders, and voices, and lightnings, and an earthquake. There is some variety among the MSS. in the order of the words here used. Some place “lightnings” before “voices.” These signs and sounds herald the approach of judgments. God has arisen in answer to the cry of His people. “The earth shook and trembled. There went up a smoke and a fire: coals were kindled at it. At the brightness that was before Him His thick clouds passed, hailstones and coals of fire. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave His voice, hailstones and coals of fire. Yea, He sent out His arrows, and scattered them: He shot out lightnings and discomfited them . . . He delivered me from my strong enemy” (Psalm 18:4-19). It is a solemn thought that we may send up prayers, and the answer may come down a judgment; for often it is only through judgment that true loving-kindness can make her way.

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 the angel took the censer - Revelation 8:3. This is a new symbol, designed to furnish a new representation of future events. By the former it had been shown that there would be much prayer offered; by this it is designed to show that, notwithstanding the prayer that would be offered, great and fearful calamities would come upon the earth. This is symbolized by casting the censer upon the earth, as if the prayers were not heard any longer, or as if prayer were now in vain.

And filled it with fire of the altar - An image similar to this occurs in Ezekiel 10:2, where the man clothed in linen is commanded to go between the wheels under the cherub, and fill his hands with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and to scatter them over the city as a symbol of its destruction. Here the coals are taken, evidently, from the altar of sacrifice. Compare the notes on Isaiah 6:1. On these coals no incense was placed, but they were thrown at once to the earth. The new emblem, therefore, is the taking of coals, and scattering them abroad as a symbol of the destruction that was about to ensue.

And cast it into the earth - Margin, upon. The margin expresses undoubtedly the meaning. The symbol, therefore, properly denoted that fearful calamities were about to come upon the earth. Even the prayers of saints did not prevail to turn them away, and now the symbol of the scattered coals indicated that terrible judgments were about to come upon the world.

And there were voices - Sounds, noises. See the notes on Revelation 4:5. The order is not the same here as there, but lightnings, thunderings, and voices are mentioned in both.

And an earthquake - Revelation 6:12. This is a symbol of commotion. It is not necessary to look for a literal fulfillment of it, anymore than it is for literal "voices," "lightnings," or "thunderings."

5. cast it into the earth—that is, unto the earth: the hot coals off the altar cast on the earth, symbolize God's fiery judgments about to descend on the Church's foes in answer to the saints' incense-perfumed prayers which have just ascended before God, and those of the martyrs. How marvellous the power of the saints' prayers!

there were—"there took place," or "ensued."

voices, and thunderings, and lightnings—B places the "voices" after "thunderings." A places it after "lightnings."

I doubt not but by fire here, is to be understood the wrath of God, often in holy writ compared to fire, poured out upon the Roman empire, or the visible church. Upon which followed great judgments, and confusions, and tumults, expressed here, or ushered in, as before, Revelation 6:1, with

thunderings; which being here more generally mentioned, are by and by more particularly expressed.

And the angel took the censer,.... The golden one before mentioned, the use of which was to take and carry in it burning coals of fire:

and filled it with fire of the altar; of burnt offering, for upon that, and not upon the altar of incense, fire was; the allusion is to the priest

"that was worthy to use a censer (e); who took a silver censer, and went to the top of the altar (of burnt offering), and having removed the coals there, and there took them in his censer, and went down and emptied them into a golden one, and there was scattered from it about a kab of coals;''

for the golden one held a kab less than the silver one (f);

and cast it into the earth: the Roman empire: by "fire" some understand the Spirit of God, and his gifts and graces, which sat upon the apostles as cloven tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost; and which they suppose were now plentifully bestowed on the ministers of the word, to enlighten them, inspire them with zeal, and abundantly fit them for the work of the ministry, in consequence of Christ's mediation and intercession: and others think the Gospel is intended, which is sometimes compared to fire, Jeremiah 20:9, or else those contentions and quarrels which, through the corruptions of men, arise on account of the Gospel, Luke 12:49; though rather by fire here are meant the judgments of God, and his wrath and fury poured forth like fire upon the Roman empire, now become Christian; and so was an emblem of those calamities coming upon it at the sounding of the trumpets; and shows that as Christ prays and intercedes for his, own people, for their comfort and safety, so he will bring down, his judgments upon his and their enemies; see Ezekiel 10:2; and the Targum on it:

and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake; which may be understood either of the nature, use, and effects of the Gospel, speaking to the hearts of men by the sons of thunder, enlightening their minds, and shaking their consciences; the like were at the giving of the law, Exodus 19:16; or rather of those terrors, distresses, and commotions in the world, because of God's righteous judgments, and which particularly will be at the sound of the seventh trumpet, and the pouring out of the seventh vial, Revelation 11:15; the allusion is to the sounds that were heard at the time of the daily sacrifice; for besides the blowing of the trumpets by the priests, and the singing of the Levites, of which See Gill on Revelation 8:2; there was a musical instrument called "magrephah" (g), which being sounded, a man could not hear another speak in Jerusalem: yea, they say it was heard as far as Jericho.

(e) Misn. Tamid. c. 5. sect. 5. (f) Vid. Misn. Yoma, c. 4. sect. 4. (g) Misn. Tamid. c. 5. sect. 6. & 3. 8.

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 8:5. The censer, having offered incense to heaven, is now used to hurl fire upon the earth (adopted from Ezekiel 10:2-7; cf. Leviticus 16:12). As at the close of the trumpets (Revelation 11:19) and the bowls (Revelation 16:18), physical disturbances here accompany the manifestation of God’s wrath and judgment. In answer to the prayers and longings of the saints (Renan, 393), God at last visits the impenitent pagan world with a series of catastrophes (Revelation 8:8-9., cf. Revelation 9:4), which herald the end and also give (though in vain, Revelation 9:20-21) an opportunity for repentance.

Note on Revelation 8:3-5. This episode (in dumb show) of angel and incense, though apparently isolated, is an overture for the series of judgments, of which the successive trumpet-blasts are precursors. The prayers of all the saints, which, like those of the martyrs in Revelation 6:10, crave punishment upon God’s enemies throughout the earth, are supported and reinforced by the ministry of this angel, and answered at once by the succession of incidents beginning with Revelation 8:5. This object of Christian prayers, i.e., the final crisis, when Christ returns to crush his enemies and inaugurate his reign, pervaded early Christianity as a whole. At special periods of intolerable persecution, it assumed under the stress of antagonism as here a more sensuous and plastic form than the ordinary consciousness of the church would have been usually disposed to cherish; yet the common prayer of the church in any case was for the speedy end of the world (ἐλθέτω χάρις καὶ παρελθέτω ὁ κόσμος οὗτος Did. x.). In Apoc. Mos. (tr. Conybeare, Jewish Quart. Rev., 1895, 216–235) 33, when the angels intercede for Adam at his ascension to heaven, they take golden censers and offer incense; whereupon smoke overshadows the very firmament. The intercession of angels on behalf of the saints, a result of their function as guardians, goes back to post-exilic Judaism with its inarticulated conception of the angels as helpful to mankind (Job 5:1; Job 33:23; Zechariah 1:12); subsequently the idea developed into a belief that the prayers of the pious won special efficacy as they were presented to God by angels such as Gabriel, Raphael, Michael, or the seven archangels (cf. Tobit, loc. cit.; Slav. En. vii. 5; En. ix. 2–11, xv. 2, xl. 6, xlvii. 2, xcix. 3, 16, civ. 1). In Christianity this rôle was naturally absorbed by Christ, who alone ratified and inspired his people’s supplications. But the old belief evidently lingered in pious circles of Jewish Christianity (cf. Test. Leviticus 3, 5), side by side with a complete acceptance of Christ’s heavenly function. The latter did not immediately or universally wither up such survivals of the older faith; popular religion tended then as now to be wider at several points than its theoretical principles (as in Origen, Cels. Revelation 8:4; and Tertull. de Orat. xii.). Plato, in Sympos. 202 E., makes the δαίμονες present men’s prayers and offerings to the gods, and mediate the latter’s commands and recompence to men (cf. Philo, de Somniis, i. 22, and on i. 1). See further Revelation 17:1, Revelation 21:9, for a similar state of matters in primitive Christianity with regard to the corresponding function of Jewish angels as intermediaries of revelation.

5. and cast it] Probably cast the censer full of burning coals, but possibly only “scattered the fire,” as Numbers 16:37. The meaning must be, to represent the same instrument as obtaining God’s mercy on His people, and executing His vengeance on His enemies: cf. Ezekiel 10:2.

there were voices, &c.] “Voices” and “thunders” should be transposed. We have similar signs in Revelation 11:19, Revelation 16:18, when the series of the seven trumpets and the seven vials respectively are ended: hence perhaps it is here rather than earlier that we are to look for the conclusion of the visions of the seven seals.

Verse 5. - And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth; taketh the censer, and he filled it with the fire of the altar, and cast it upon the earth (Revised Version). The angel now returns to the altar of burnt offering, whence he takes fire, which he casts upon the earth. This action denotes that God's judgments are about to descend on the earth, and it therefore forms the visible token of God's acceptance of the prayers of the saints, and his answer to them. And there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake; and there followed thunders, and voices, etc. (Revised Version). The manifestation of God's presence or of his judgments is continually accompanied by awe-striking phenomena, such as are here described (see on Revelation 6:12). Revelation 8:5Took (εἴληφεν)

Lit., hath taken. So Rev., in margin.

With the fire (ἐκ τοῦ πυρὸς)

Lit., "from or out off the fire," i.e., the coals or hot ashes. For ἐκ out off see on Revelation 2:7.

Cast it into the earth

See Ezekiel 10:2; Luke 12:49.

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