1. Preparations in Heaven (Revelation 8:1-6)
The Prayers of the Saints are Refined at the Golden Altar of Incense
3 Another angel came and stood over the altar, having a golden censer. Much incense was given to him, that he should add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. 5 The angel took the censer, and he filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it on the earth. There followed thunders, sounds, lightnings, and an earthquake.
The Lamb of God is deliberate in the carrying out of His judgments. He is prepared to listen to every voice of prayer that reaches Him. Very surely, however, every prayer of ours must first pass through fire, in order that every one of our egotistical, humanistic and short-sighted requests and expectations be consumed. That which remains will only be prayed in the name and spirit of the Lamb.
The task of purifying prayer is not assigned to an archangel, but to another angel. He performs this priestly duty on the golden altar of incense before the throne of God and His Lamb. In the Old Testament this altar of incense, finished in acacia wood and overlaid with a layer of gold, stood just before the veil inside the tabernacle and the temple that separated the most holy place from the rest of the worship area (Exodus 30:1-10). But since the time the veil in the temple was torn in two at the death of Christ (Matthew 27:51) the prototype of the altar of incense in heaven stands directly before the throne of the living God.
At the time of the Old Testament the censors containing incense were lit mornings and evenings, as a symbol of homage the assembly prayerfully offered to God. During these services of incense absolute quiet was demanded in the temple. Therefore, in heaven, too, there was silence for half-an-hour. The living Lord deemed all prayer, spoken out of faith and love, so important, that everything else had to remain silent.
J. A. Bengel wrote that additional censers, which the angels in heaven would receive, were the prayers of angels. These prayers helped lead the way for the plan of salvation and the implementation of God's righteousness and holiness. But the prayers of the angels, too, together with the prayers of the saints, had to be purified in fire in order to be pleasing to God.
It is expressly forbidden for us to worship angels, or to ask help of them, since we have direct access to the Father through Jesus Christ, His Son (Hebrews 1:10 - 2:1; Revelation 22:8-9). The one who asks help from angels or spirits disdains the Father and the Son.
Who are the saints? The term “all the saints” at this point in Revelation encompasses not only the saints living at the time of John, but, also, all the saints which the Old Testament (Daniel 7:18, 21, 22,25; 8:13) as well as the New Testament speak of. The saints are made holy by the blood of Christ, and pray and live in the power of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9:14; 10:14; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:2). Whoever compares the prayers of the Apostle Paul with those of Mohammed will understand the difference between a life from God, and the spiritual death from a religious system of legality!
What remains of our prayers after they enter into the fire of burnt offering? Do not many of our prayers rotate only around us and our families? Some prayers originate neither from the love of God, the Father, nor from the patience of Jesus Christ, His Son, nor from the strategy of the Holy Spirit. They therefore have to be burnt up! All of our prayers need cleansing through the blood of Jesus Christ. Otherwise we become guilty through our prayers.
After all the earthly and all-too human elements of our prayers have been removed there is ultimately only the content of the Lord's Prayer left over! The worship of the Father and the coming of His kingdom, the implementing of His will in us and in heaven, remain the most important themes of prayer.
But we also have the privilege of asking our Father for sufficient bread for each day. This prayer encompasses everything that we ourselves, our families, our churches and our neighbors suffering privation need, for both this life and the next.
The prayer for forgiveness breaks our pride and drives us to offer thanks for the atoning sacrifice of Christ, who died for us and all of mankind. Furthermore, this prayer teaches us to forgive the mistakes of our antagonists, in that we ask God to forgive us only as much as we ourselves have forgiven.
We should consciously pray each day, too, for protection from temptation and backsliding, as well as for salvation from the power and cunning of the evil one.
Every prayer that is in accordance with the Lord's Prayer is pleasing to the Father. Many Psalms and their content fit into this category: (Psalm 1; 23; 32; 51; 90; 91; 103; 104), the prayers of Peter (1 Peter 1:3-5), of Paul (Ephesians 1:3-14), and those of John (Revelation 1:4-6), that taken together represent a school of prayer for the saints. The Holy Spirit, Himself, encourages us to pray: “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15-16).
We should examine our prayers, take time to pray, and ask for the Spirit's leading over our prayers. The Spirit of the Lamb can then draw our attention to the great trials of our brothers and sisters in Israel, in Islamic and Communistic lands, that we might objectively pray for them, as well as offer thanks for them. Both are necessary. A Chinese church elder once said in departing: “Remain faithful, so that we can remain faithful!”
God rejoices over every one of your prayers offered in the name of Jesus Christ, like a father does when his child confides in him. In like manner, we can tell our Father everything that we carry in our hearts (Matthew 6:25-33; 7:7-11).
The parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:2-8) reveals a special promise for those distressed and tormented in the last days. This story, as well as that of the persistent friend (Luke 11:5-13), should train us for unceasing “storm-prayer”.
The Effect of the Saint's Prayers: Immediately after the angel standing at the altar with the golden censer offered up the prayers of the saints, he was ordered to act. He took the same censer, which he had placed on the embers of the incense altar to offer up the prayers of the angels and the saints, filled it with fiery coals from the altar, and threw it to the earth as the answer of God. The prayers of the saints had ascended to God, just like pleasant smelling incense ascending. The Lord can see to it in the shortest possible time that the situation regarding His persecuted and chosen ones gets rectified. Thunder, lightning, voices and earthquakes were the result of the saint's prayers. Already in Revelation 4:5 we saw how lightnings, thunderings and voices proceeded forth from the throne of God.
Our God is original power (El). He is energy, strength and might. No power can exist beside Him. Yet He does not gain victory through brute force, but through love, patience, substitution and mercy. Whenever His sacrificial love is trampled upon and willfully rejected, however, He permits the enemies of God to mutually destroy each other. Earthquakes are God's warnings not to provoke His most severe judgments. He could let high mountains and entire continents sink into the sea, for the Almighty One is Almighty! His love alone is what holds up His judgments. On the other hand, the prayers of the saints at the time of the antichrist and end-time tribulation will hasten His judgments.
Isaiah's vision of the thrice Holy God led the priest-prophet to a self-recognition that caused him to shudder, and drove him to confess his own uncleanness and that of his people (Isaiah 6:1-8). Following that, one of the seraphim took a burning coal from the altar and came and touched his mouth and lips with it to purge his sin and remove his iniquity. Mohammed, on the other hand, never recognized the Holy God in a vision. Therefore, unlike Isaiah, he never came to a heartfelt repentance. He was never broken, and never humbled himself. How does it look for us?
As previously mentioned, there arose in heaven, as preparation for the first trumpets of judgment, an anxious silence, until all of the prayers offered had been heard and examined. The answer of God came with raging storms and a great earthquake, with frightful warnings and last calls to repentance. The theme of the seven trumpet blasts thus became clear: The prayers of the saints are a driving force behind the setting in of the judgments. The cry of those who have been tormented, tortured, and abused, all desiring deliverance, moves the arm of God, just like a mother hurries to save her abused child without any thought of harm or loss to herself. Sharp lightning, shaking thunder, trembling, the cry of voices arousing shudder, are all agents demanding judgment and salvation, which invite church, society and government to repent. Where this call to turn back is not heeded, the all-penetrating seven trumpet blasts initiate the judgment of the Lamb.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, You are holy, but our prayers are still mixed with earthly requests. Forgive us for the ego's influence on our prayers, and teach us to pray in harmony with the pleas of the Lord's Prayer, which Your wise Son taught us. Guide us by the Holy Spirit to pray what pleases and glorifies You and Your Lamb.
- Why should our prayers pass through the holy fire?