Rev 8:3                      The Prayers of All the Saints                               8/7/2005         ßà   

 

  • The Decree of God (Rev 13:8)

 

 

 

 

#1.       Silence in Heaven (Rev 8:1-6)

 

 

 

 

  • Seven Angels and Seven Trumpets (Rev 8:2, Luke 1:19, Ex 20:18, Gal 3:24, 1Cor 15:51-52, 1Thes 4:16-17)

 

 

 

 

#2.       The Content of the Prayers (Rev 8:3-4, Rom 5:19, 8:26-27, Eph 5:30, 1:4, Rev 6:10, 22:20)

 

 

 

 

  • The Presentation of the Prayers (Rev 8:4)

 

 

 

 

  • God’s Answer to these Prayers (Rev 8:5, Isa 66:13-16)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Rev 13:8 (2X).

  • The Decree of God (Rev 13:8)

We have seen in chapter 6 that the Lord Jesus opened the sixth seal, which showed us a vision of earthly upheavals just before the return of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Judge of all the earth. Then, in chapter 7, God showed us two visions. Stepping back in time God showed us one vision of the saints on the earth as represented by the 144,000 servants of God on this earth. And stepping forward in time God showed us the second vision of the great multitude, which no man could number, representing all the saints when they have arrived in the new creation. Simultaneously we also realize that these two visions were an interlude. And so, when we look at chapter 8, we see that this actually is a continuation of chapter 6. We must connect the 8th chapter to the last part of chapter 6. Christ is about to come at the opening of the 7th seal. But the 7th seal will be magnified by the blowing of the 7 trumpets. And the 7th trumpet will be magnified by the outpouring of the 7 vials of the wrath of God. And then shall Christ appear, and the end of time will be upon us. All the events that will be thrust upon us at the opening of the 7 seals, and the blowing of the 7 trumpets, and the pouring of the 7 vials, are events that are let loose by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the 2nd Person of the Triune Godhead who lowered Himself to be the Kinsman Redeemer, but who will now come as the most righteous Judge of all the earth. And it all started with the Lamb taking the Book out of the hand of Him that sitteth upon the throne and opening the seals thereof. These events are not prophecies. This Book was not the Bible. This was not a copy of a Book containing prophecies. This was a Book that symbolically was the decree of God for all creation. This decree was written by God before the foundation of the world, and no one had yet opened it. Only Christ was privileged to open that Book, because we read in Rev 13:8 that He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (2X). He earned that privilege from all that He willingly endured. And so, it was Christ who let the first horseman loose, who represents the progress of the Kingdom of God, victorious over all things. It was Christ who let the second horseman loose, representing wars of the nations. It was Christ who let the third horseman loose, representing social turmoil and tremendous contrasts between rich and poor in this world. It was also Christ who let the fourth horseman loose, representing death and destruction in this world. It was Christ who opened the fifth seal which showed us how His saints have suffered under the hands of all those who hate Christ and His Gospel, and thus these crimes have to be avenged. It was Christ who opened the sixth seal which showed that His vengeance on them that know not God has already begun in the upheavals in the physical universe. Earthquakes and thunderstorms and tornados and hurricanes and floods are not the work of Satan, but are the work of God. And these upheavals in the physical universe will intensify greatly before Christ comes again. All these six seals have already been opened and are already at work since the fall of Adam into sin. God uses all these events to accomplish His goals. And the reason these events accomplish what God intended is because the same events do not produce the same results. Within the elect of God these events result in a softening of their hearts and a turning to God in faith. Within the non-elect these events produce a hardening of their hearts, and an increased hatred of the only true God, and a turning away to idols. Please turn now to Rev 8:1 (2X) and we are going to read the first six verses in this chapter. What these six seals also have taught us is the nature of God, and God’s methods in dealing with sinful mortal man. God is not the benevolent grandfather in the sky who loves everyone and who smiles at our sins. God loves His elect, who are called the righteous in the Bible, and God hates the non-elect, who are called the wicked in the Bible, and there are many more wicked than there are righteous in the world. Here in this prophecy of Revelation we learn who our God really is. Here is where we learn who Jesus Christ really is. And now, in Rev 8:1 the Lord Jesus Christ opened the seventh seal to inaugurate the 2nd coming of Christ. From the content of Rev chapter 8 and following we see that Christ’s 2nd coming is postponed till Rev 19. And thus we realize that these seven seals may never be taken chronologically, as if each following seal-event occurs after the previous seal-event has been completed. No! All these seals have been opened at the same time, since the first sin entered into the world. For the wicked the torment of the death of their body is sufficient to make them cringe and hide behind their idols, the rocks (plural). But for the saints Christ has come the moment their body dies and in their soul existence they will reign with Christ in heaven. Therefore, the opening of the 7th seal cannot presuppose that all that has been revealed with the 6th seal has been finished. Likewise, when we now enter the period of time of the seven trumpets, God takes again a step back in time and shows us in greater detail the coming of Christ as the Judge and the Avenger of crimes of mankind against God. But there is this difference that as time advances, the trumpets and the vials shall force themselves more and more to the foreground and draw the attention of men. The seven trumpets, therefore, do not begin where the 6th seal ended, but rather have begun already with the first seal, only revealing to us different forces at work more in detail, according to the symbolism of the trumpets: Judgment is coming. The 7 trumpets therefore are also inherent to the Decree of God. Christ is orchestrating the events when the 7 trumpets sound.

#1.       Silence in Heaven (Rev 8:1-6)

Re 8:1 ¶  And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

Re 8:2  And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.

Re 8:3-4  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.

Re 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.

Re 8:6  And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

This passage speaks of the opening of the 7th seal. It calls us to heaven to see what takes place there. There we find an altar, and trumpets given to angels, and incense, and smoke, and a golden censer, and fire. And when the fire is thrown upon the earth it produces voices, and thunders, and lightnings, and an earthquake. These are all things that belong to this universe. Except for the angels, these are all things that are made from the same 92 elements that this universe is made of. Based on the spectrum of the light that comes to our eyes from the stars in our galaxy, as well as from far away galaxies, all the material in the universe that we can see is made of the same 92 atoms that we have learned to know on this earth. But in the life after this we are not going to have glorified bodies made from this earthly material, because we know from the Bible that the earthly laws of physics are not going to be applicable in the new creation. Presently heaven is a spiritual realm, and thus there are no physical entities in heaven such as an altar, or a golden censer. There will be no literal gold in heaven, because gold belongs in this universe. And thus it needs no further proof that this passage is entirely symbolic in character. But what is the focus of this passage. The central theme of this passage is The Prayers of All the Saints, as we find it in verse 3. Therefore the title of this sermon is The Prayers of All the Saints (2X), and God emphasizes that it is of All the saints. Let us start at the beginning of this passage. There was silence in heaven for about half an hour. What could this mean? We do not have to speculate about it, because we must let the context determine what is meant by this silence in heaven of about half an hour. John saw that there are seven angels standing before the throne of God and they received seven trumpets. But they do not blow these trumpets immediately. They reverently keep silence until something else has been finished. Then another angel comes and approaches the golden altar which stands before the throne of God. He carries a golden censer in his hand, but as yet the golden censer is empty. Then he receives much incense in that censer, and he is commissioned to add the incense to the prayers of all the saints. And then kindling the incense with the fire from the altar he causes the smoke of the incense with the prayers of all the saints to ascend to Him who sitteth upon the throne. He that sitteth upon the throne is pleased with this display of worship in spirit and in truth. After having done that the angel, having caused the perfume of the incense to rise to Him who sitteth upon the throne, uses the same censer to take fire from the same altar and casts it upon the earth, as if this is God’s answer to the prayers of all the saints. And that answer of God is clothed in voices and thunderings and lightnings and an earthquake, while at the same time the seven angels prepare themselves to blow their trumpets. This is the scene that is portrayed here in this passage of verses 1-6. And thus, what can we conclude regarding the prayers of All the saints? We can conclude that the half hour of silence in heaven stands in immediate connection to the prayers of All the saints. It simply means that this is the silence of reverence for the prayers of the saints. It is the hour of prayer in heaven. It is a solemn occasion for these are the prayers of the adopted sons of God. And then we see

  • Seven Angels and Seven Trumpets (Rev 8:2, Luke 1:19, Ex 20:18, Gal 3:24, 1Cor 15:51-52, 1Thes 4:16-17)

Rev 8:2  And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.

These angel stand by reverently while the prayers of the saints are being offered, and they wait with executing their commission until the prayers of All the saints have been offered. These angels are described as the seven angels that stand before God. They are not angels who now came before God, but they are the seven angels who always stand before the throne of God. This is not uncommon for we read in Luke 1:19, “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings”. And thus we see that Gabriel is one of those angels that always stand in the presence of God. Moreover, they are seven in number, which shows that they have to do with the Covenant of Grace, and with the Kingdom of God of which Christ is the head. They stand before the throne means that they are always ready for special service concerning the completion of the Kingdom of God. To these seven angels are given seven trumpets. What is a trumpet used for in the Bible? A trumpet is used for war. When Israel went to war they had to blow the trumpet. When the enemy was defeated they again blew the trumpet. When the watchman of a city saw the enemy from a distance he blew the trumpet to alert the city of impending danger. On certain feast days they blew the trumpet to assemble all Israel, and at the crowning of a king they also blew the trumpet to let all people know that a king has been chosen. But also God blows the trumpet when He announces something important concerning His Covenant of Grace. For example, in Ex 20:18 we read, “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off”. God announced His standards of righteousness by stating the requirements of the Ten Commandments. But the people were afraid. They drew back from the only God who could save them. In Gal 3:24 God stated that the purpose of the Ten Commandments was to make people see that they are sinners and thus that they should be drawn to Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. We read in Gal 3:24, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith”. God also blows the trumpet when He announces the victory of His battle on this earth. For example, we read in 1Cor 15:51-52,

1Co 15:51  Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

1Co 15:52  In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

That will be the end of time. When the end of this earth’s existence has come, when the cup of His indignation is full, God will gather the remainder of His saints by an event that is called the Rapture. The Lord Jesus Christ shall then descend with a shout and with the trumpet of God, to announce His victory loud and clear, and He will come with all His saints to judge those on the earth. We read in:

1Th 4:16  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel,

and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

1Th 4:17  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

And so shall we ever be with the Lord. No more standing before the judgment throne, and no more fear that some of our sins shall be found out. All sins have been paid and all have been forgiven. And therefore, when we think of the sounding of the trumpet, in general it is an activity in the Kingdom of God proclaiming His gracious presence over His people, but at the same time destruction and judgment over the enemy. Here in Rev 8 and 9 the trumpets indicate especially that God through Christ Jesus is coming to inflict judgment and destruction upon the enemy of the Kingdom of God. Therefore these 7 angels, servants of the Most High, receive power and authority to execute judgment over the unsaved world, the world of evil. Under these circumstances then, what are the prayers of the saints, and especially of All the saints? Let us look again at Rev 8:3. First of all, what is:

#2.       The Content of the Prayers (Rev 8:3-4, Rom 5:19, 8:26-27, Eph 5:30, 1:4, Rev 6:10, 22:20)

Rev 8:3-4, 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.

Who are these saints? Saints are converted sinners. Saints are all those who have been “Born Again”, and they may be in heaven or they may be on earth. When the people of God on earth die, their body goes into the grave, but their soul immediately goes to live and reign with Christ in heaven. All the people of God are called saints, because they are members of the Body of Christ. We are of Christ, and we are in Him. First of all in a legal sense of the word we are in Him as He is our spiritual Head. God says in Rom 5:19, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous”. Adam was our representative in the flesh. And therefore Adam’s sin brought condemnation to all men. But for those who have become saved, Christ is our representative in the Spirit. Christ’s obedience all the way to the death on the cross, brought spiritual life to all those whose sins were laden on Christ, because we were in Him. All our sins have been forgiven since these were the sins that Christ paid on the cross. And thus we are saints in the most perfect sense of the word. If God has forgiven us our sins, who can lay anything to our charge? Secondly we are in Christ in the organic sense of the word, which means we are ingrafted into Him. We are living members of His body. God says in Eph 5:30, “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones”. The life that is in Him is also in us. There is one body, with one Head, and with one and the same Spirit of life. That one body is the body of the eternal church that is made up of all those who truly have been saved. All believers are members of that body. All that are regenerated by the Spirit of God, which are the same as all whose sins have been atoned for at the cross, are members of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of that body Christ is the head, and the Spirit given to Him is the life of that body. That Spirit dwells in Christ as the Head, and in the saints as members of His body. That Spirit causes faith, hope and love to appear in the life of the saints, and causes all their life to be one in Christ. By that Spirit of Christ we are controlled. By that Spirit of Christ we are also sanctified and walk in newness of life. And thus when we speak of the saints we speak of those who are legally in Christ and who are organically in Christ. Thirdly, from Eph 1:4 we understand that it has pleased God to place us in Christ before the foundation of the world. We read in Eph 1:4, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love”. This decree of God is not based on foreseen faith, for a dead man cannot have faith, but it is entirely based on the good pleasure of God’s will. These then are the saints. Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Romans, Rom 8:26 (2X). And what would then be the content of the prayers of these saints? Not every prayer of the saints is going to be granted as it is requested. You see, here upon earth most of our prayers are very imperfect. We do not always pray as members of Christ’s body. Our requests are often sinful. But those are not the prayers that are to be considered here in Rev 8:3-4. The prayers that are in focus here in this passage are prayers which are surely heard. God says in Rom 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered”. “And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God”. Since we do not pray, or cannot pray, as we ought to, the Spirit of Christ who dwells within us prays for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. That Spirit also knows the deepest longings of all the members of the Body of Christ. And it is of these prayers of the saints, as they rise from our hearts, controlled by the Spirit of Christ who is in us, that the text here in Rev 8 speaks of. And thus it is no great mystery what the saints pray for. What is our highest purpose? It is the perfect fellowship with the God of our salvation, the God who has shown Himself to us as the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, and it is our greatest desire that He may be glorified in all that we do and in all that comes to pass on this earth. And since this God of the Bible cannot be glorified unless the Kingdom of Christ will be complete and perfect, it is our heartfelt prayer that this Kingdom may come quickly and be completed very soon. Is that the prayer of All the saints? Yes it is! The saints who have suffered through the shedding of their own blood also pray for that Kingdom of Christ to be completed soon, so that the crimes against them may be avenged and God may be vindicated, and that His everlasting glory may be established. The prayers of the very young Christians begin with, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done”. And it is this prayer that is here in Rev 8:3-4 presented to the Almighty. This is the prayer that all the saints have in common. This is also the prayer of all the saints who have already entered into glory. We saw in Rev 6:10 that they prayed, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, till Thou judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” They too long for the Kingdom of Christ to be completed quickly and that God will be glorified in all this. This prayer is always heard from the lips of the saints. But this prayer under the influence of the Spirit of Christ will grow more fervent, and more powerful as time draws near for the 2nd coming of Christ, until it really becomes the prayer of the longing quoted at the end of this prophecy of Revelation, where we read in Rev 22:20, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come quickly”. Let us now return to Rev 8:4 (2X). Secondly we would like to know what is:

  • The Presentation of the Prayers (Rev 8:4)

Rev 8:4, And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.

In other words, the angel offers the prayers of the saints in such a way that it is well pleasing and acceptable to Him who sitteth upon the throne. Many questions are often raised about, Who is this that offers the prayers of All the saints unto God? Is this an angel or is it Christ? What altar is this? Is it the altar of incense or is it the altar of burnt offering? Actually, all these detailed explanations are not necessary. The main idea is that prayers are upon the altar before God, and that incense is added to the prayers, thus symbolizing that the prayers now rise to God Almighty. The angel is probably not Christ, since he receives the incense; it is given to him. The main theme is this: In heaven the prayers of the saints are made acceptable unto God, so that they rise before Him and are well pleasing in His sight, even as the vapor of the incense is sweet and well pleasing in His nose. This is the symbolism. What is the reality corresponding to this symbolism? Keep in mind that the Lamb has received the Book with the seven seals. This Book represents the decree of God Almighty as a living force, completing the Kingdom which He has given to Christ. Therefore, as Christ opens seal after seal, He thereby completes and perfects the Kingdom of heaven. All these seals became forces, living forces in the history of the world which would ultimately lead to the perfecting of the Kingdom of Christ. And thus Christ uses the Gospel call. Christ uses the wars between nations. Christ uses the social contrasts in the world. Christ uses the very power of death. Christ energizes the outcry of the souls under the altar. Christ causes the shake-up of the physical universe. To that end Christ also sends forth the angels with the 7 trumpets, who constitute the second part of the seventh seal. And thus it is also with the prayers of the saints. These prayers are included in the Book of God’s decree. God Himself had from eternity decreed that the saints should pray. Before the Kingdom can come, their prayers must be full according to the measure of that decree. Therefore Christ Himself, as he Head of His body, uses these prayers of the saints as forces to bring the Kingdom of heaven unto perfection. He is the Author of these prayers, for we do not pray of ourselves, but through the Spirit of Christ who dwells within us. Christ therefore prays within us through His Spirit. He teaches us. He causes us to pray for the coming of the Kingdom. And thus the prayers of these saints rise to God Almighty, crying for the perfection of the Kingdom of heaven. Christ adds to them the sweet incense of His atoning blood. And on the basis of that atoning blood He presents them to the Father, and says, “Father, I will that these prayers be heard”. When these prayers are full according to the measure of the decree of God, they will be one great outcry of longing, rising from the body of the Savior, and saying, “Thy Kingdom come, O Lord”. This is how the prayers of the saints are presented unto God. Thirdly we would like to know what is:

  • God’s Answer to these Prayers (Rev 8:5, Isa 66:13-16)

Are these prayers answered? They certainly are! The answer is given in Rev 8:5,

Rev 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.

The central idea is this: The saints who are praying for the Kingdom of God to be completed, receive a preliminary answer even before the Kingdom has been completed. That is the entire purpose of this passage, to show us that our prayers are not lost in space, but that we can see their answer already here upon the earth. O, we do not see this if we are blind for these effects upon our prayers. We certainly cannot see this if we have never learned to pray as the saints of Christ pray. We do not see this if our prayers still concentrate around ourselves and around our earthly carnal needs. We cannot see the fulfillment of our prayers if we judge the present history of the world in a wrong light.

For example, if Israel had identified itself with Egypt, do you think it would have seen an answer to its prayer in its plagues which were sent upon the land? No! They would have prayed that the Lord would take away these judgments. They would not have understood that the fire had been taken off the altar in heaven and cast upon the land, because their prayers for deliverance had risen to the Lord of Sabaoth. And the same is still true today. If we identify ourselves with the world, we will not recognize the answer to the prayers of all the saints, and we will not see that God is bringing the Kingdom according to His promise. And yet, so it is. The saints pray for the coming of the Kingdom. And these prayers are presented as forces with sweet smelling incense to God who sitteth upon the throne. And the answer which is sent to the earth is the fire of God’s wrath, taken from the same altar before His throne. That fire cast upon the earth reveals itself in omens of judgment and destruction. It reveals the presence of the Judge. Voices and thunderings and lightnings and earthquakes are symbols of judgment. And therefore, this passage of Rev 8:1-6 means to teach us that in answer to the prayers of all the saints for the perfecting of the Kingdom the judgments of the King are sent to the earth. It is through these judgments, it is through great upheavals of war and bloodshed and changes in the physical world, that the everlasting Kingdom will surely come. And for that very reason these judgments are an answer to the prayers of the saints, and they are assuring them: My Kingdom will surely come. It is coming now. It will come till all shall be completed. And My Name shall receive the honor, and the power, and the glory, and the wisdom forevermore. Please turn in your Bibles to the Prophecy of Isaiah, Isa 66:13 (2X). This therefore is the practical lesson we have learned from this passage of Rev 8:1-6. It teaches us that we shall not be disturbed about the judgments of Christ which come upon this world. These judgments are upon the earth now, and they shall increase. They must increase, for in no other way can the Kingdom of God come. Sin and unrighteousness will develop, and must increase. This sin and unrighteousness must be destroyed. And the glory of Christ must be revealed and vindicated, and can be vindicated only by the judgments upon the world. Do not be disturbed therefore by these physical upheavals. And please do not plead with God that He may stop bringing His Kingdom in the way of judgments. God chose to carry out His plan in this way, and we must understand that God knows what He is doing. But Rev 8:1-6 is not the only place where God answers prayer with calamities. For example, what we have learned in Rev 8:1-6 is likewise reflected in Isa 66:13-16. And there we read:

Isa 66:13-14  As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.           And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb: and the hand of the LORD shall be known toward his servants, and his indignation toward his enemies.

Isa 66:15-16  For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.            For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many.

We should not fear when the Lord comes with great calamities, for “the hand of the Lord shall be known toward His servants”. His fire is directed at all the unsaved in this world. But if you should feel that your prayers are not answered, then you know that there is something wrong with your spiritual life. The prayers of all the saints are certainly answered. Bring your prayers therefore in harmony with the revealed will of God. And let your prayers be in the true sense of the word: “Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

AMEN.                 Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.