Revelation 8:1-13 Part 4


1)    And when He loosed the seventh seal, silence was in the heaven for    half an hour.

2)    Then I did see seven messengers which had stood before God; and seven trumpets were given to them.

3)    Then another messenger did come, and he was poised before the altar having the golden censer.  And much incense was given to him in order that he would present the prayers of all the holy ones before the golden altar in front of the throne.

4)    And the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the holy ones arose before God out of the hand of the messenger.

5)    Then the messenger took the censer and filled it from the fire of the altar of whole burnt offering and poured into the land.  And there were thunders and sounds and lightnings and shaking.

6)    And the seven messengers having the seven trumpets prepared themselves that they might trumpet.

7)    And the first trumpeted.  And hail was, and fire having been mixed in blood and poured into the earth, and the third of the land burned up, and the third of the trees burned up, and all tender herbage burned up.

8)    Then the second messenger trumpeted.  As it were a great mountain was cast burning into the sea, and the third of the sea was blood,

9)    and the third of the creatures having life in the sea died, and the third of the vessels were utterly destroyed.

10) 10)Then the third messenger trumpeted.  And a great star fell out of the heaven as a torch being burned and fell on the third of the rivers and on the fountains of water,

11) and the name of the star is called ‘the wormwood’, and the third of the waters was made into wormwood, and many men did die from the waters for they had been rendered bitter.

12) 12)Then the fourth messenger trumpeted.  And the third of the sun was stricken, and the third of the moon, and the third of the stars so that the third of them would be darkened; and the third of the day would not be brought to light, nor the night.

13) 13)Then I saw and heard one eagle winging its way in mid-heaven exclaiming in a powerful voice, ‘ouai’, ‘ouai’, ‘ouai those living on the land, from the remaining soundings of the trumpets from the three messengers about to trumpet!’


The last time we addressed this text, we were introduced to some extra-Biblical “inventions” having to do with the items and artifices in the tabernacle.  You might call them “schemes”, or “contrivances”, to promote mystery and intrigue and fear.

At the very best, we can say that the use of the censer (or thurible) in the public worship of our Lord’s Church is a gross mis-appropriation of the text of Scripture.

At the worst, it is just one example of the continuing apostasy in Romanism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Anglicanism.  And we need to pray diligently for a new reformation in all denominations claiming the Trinitarian Faith.  After all, even in its present poor condition, it is our Lord’s Church.

And therefore we will not condemn it (that’s not our place).  It does not belong to us.  However we will judge it – not by our own standards, but by God’s Word.

So, when the Lord Jesus Christ, appearing for His work as Archangel Michael, is poised at the altar before the throne and offers the prayers of His people from His Own hand, the use of the censer as a tabernacle item for sacrifice has become obsolete.  He, Himself, having been sacrificed, is the one-and-only, perfect, sweet-smelling scent in the nostrils of the Father.  And, therefore, all of the ones IN HIM are too.

So the censer, a foreshadowing of that which was to come, passed away when the Son of God became the Offering, the Offerer, and the One to Whom the Offering was made.  He IS the One prophesied in the entire sacrificial system of the tabernacle.  The tabernacle itself was in the likeness of the heaven; and the Christ of God is the One prophesied and foreshadowed in the sacrificial system of that tabernacle.  And He is, now, the High Priest in the heaven.

Therefore the censer (a tabernacle object of “offering”) in its continued use in the Lord’s Church, is an outright denial of the High Priest of the Church!

Not to mention what God the Son does next with the censer!

The censer being now obsolete, so is the altar of whole burnt offering.  The entire tabernacle system of sacrifice now having passed away, and there being no more need for the shedding of blood, the temple on the mount (with all of its paraphernalia), and the city, and the nation were about to cease to exist in the wrath and fury of God.  For Jesus the Christ had offered, from His Own hand, the prayers of His people for the vengeance of God to be poured out upon those who had shed their blood.

So, as Archangel Micha-El stands up for His people (as Daniel was told He would), He now reaches for the censer (now obsolete as a sacrificial item), and He fills it from the lake of fire underneath the throne (the altar of whole burnt offering now transitioning to the obsolete).  And He pours the fire from it into the “land”.

The Son of God, having completed His Work of sacrificial atonement, is now doing His Work as Micha-El; the censer in the tabernacle is now a cup of wrath; and the altar of whole burnt offering (originally lit from the fire beneath the throne) is now an inundating fire poured out from the throne.  And the trumpeters will then trumpet the very voice of God as the prophetic Word is filled up.

I spoke to you last time about the dearth of words and explanations necessary to do justice to these events.  We even spent time comparing historical and present-day idolatrous uses of the censer with the text of Scripture.  And as “unintentionally funny” as those liturgical machinations are, they are tragic misapprehensions of the text of Scripture and the work of God the Son.  For the Church has become a “mystery religion” in the Name of Jesus Christ.  At least certain parts of it has.

While we struggle for appropriate words and phrases to preach the prophesied Word of God and its contextual and historical fullness here in our text, there are other parts of the Church in delusion and confusion concerning such things as the fiery coals being poured out into the “land”.

The only thing these parts of the Lord’s Church can be commended for is “lively imaginations”, for their “end-times” heresy regarding the work of God the Son extends this event (at least) two thousand years into the future.  And the scenario that is “imposed” on the text terminates the entire creation in fire!  This, too, can only be termed “tragic”.

It seems that the only undertaking deemed “heretical” by some parts of the Church is holding steadfastly to the Word of God and the work of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Please be apprised of the fact that it is the “work” of God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, that is the source (and completion) of our salvation!  And when the Church refuses to acknowledge His work, then it leaves entire congregations and denominations in darkness concerning the work that saves them and confirms them!

In addition to those two “tragedies in process” is this unholy mess we now have called “secular liberalism” which has sunk its fangs into, and wrapped its slimy body around, the society – injecting its poison and squeezing the life out of everything that has anything to do with Christianity.

Tolerance for anything except for the Christ.  He must go.  For He is anathema to secularism.  To secular liberalism, even the two parts of the heretical Church must go, because the heresies are enacted and preached in the Name of the Christ!  To secularists, even the heresies themselves must go.  And even though we are theologically forced to agree with them, we are, at the same time, deeply grieved at the source of those abuses and persecutions of the Church.

Secular liberalism acts and thinks like Christianity is a competing religion!  Even though Christianity doesn’t “compete” with anything (since Christ doesn’t share a seat at whatever table of ideas there might be), the secularist acts like there is a competition… a competition that he can win!

He knows that wherever God’s Word is believed and practiced, the secularist can’t do what he wants.  So he has to eliminate Christianity from the public forum.  J Gresham Machen, in his book Christianity and Liberalism, made that point solidly. 

There is no neutral ground in which Christianity can share world views and responsibilities with secularism, because the table of ideas belongs to the Christ.  And He says to all those who act and think like there’s a competition: “come let us reason together.  I made all of this, and it all belongs to Me… including you.  And here are all the blessings that you will receive should you obey My covenant.  On the other hand, here are the sanctions for disobeying My covenant.  Now. Reason with Me… which do you prefer?”

Well, just like the princes, priests and elders and pharisees of Israel, secular liberals prefer their own religion and work to “eliminate” the Christ, removing Him from the public forum so they can “freely” disobey His covenant.  (And, by the way, it isn’t “free”.  But that’s what they want, anyway.) As the Psalmist quotes the rebels, “let us cut the cords that bind us”.  Please note that the Psalmist then said, “and Yahveh laughed”.

But I want you to see that the secular liberals, as the princes and priests and elders of Israel, have established their own religion.  And, having cognitive abilities given to them by God, they perceive that Christianity is their enemy.  And in order to survive and practice their religion, they must cut off the Christ.  (And I hope you now notice the same motivation that has been in effect since Esau… i.e. to “cut off” God’s Messiah so He doesn’t rule them.  And I also hope you remember that our Lord’s crucifixion was that “cutting off”, and that the covenantal signs of circumcision and baptism reach their fullness at His crucifixion.)

But you see, everything is religious; everything is theological.  The entire creation – including mankind - having been made in the likeness of the heaven… it all shouts the glory and power of Triune God – Father, Son and Spirit.  It’s unavoidable.  All men know God, according to Paul.  So all men naturally worship.  All men naturally have law.

The issue is “which god”; and whose law?  Is it the One true God of heaven and earth?  Or, because of outright rebellion, is it something “made up” in man’s imagination that appeases the innate – but fallen – desire of man to worship something and obey something.

But secular liberalism is a religion, not unlike all other false religions.  It has its own deities – the primary one at this time seems to be “gaia”, the personalized, female formulation of the Greek word for “the earth”.

There are worshipful acts of giving, sharing and tolerance – even using Jesus as an example (but only deceptively – when questioned about their practices, and only taken completely out of context).  And those worshipful acts will, in their theology, bring forth a kind of “utopia” on earth.  (That’s an eschatological “hope”, by the way.)

Equality of all creatures on the earth is unquestioned as the first precept of their theology, because all the creatures, having evolved together, have the inherent “right” to exist and to be equal.  And all mankind must share equally in the benefits of mother earth (That’s where the idea of redistribution of wealth comes from.)  Except, of course, they have to have some law, so some men are “more equal” than others, because they get to set the rules.  And law means morality.  But, you see, morality is completely redefined by secularists so as to bear no resemblance to God’s Law.  It is their own idea of what’s moral and immoral.

So secular liberalism has deities; it does worshipful things; it has a theology; it has morality; it even has an eschatology… and it has a sacrament.  And the “host” of that sacrament comes out from the human female body – it’s blood being shed and its life sacrificed in abortion.  And don’t try to take away their sacrament!  It is the uncontestable religious act of secular orthodoxy!

So, as you can see, secular liberalism is not at all “secular”, is it?  It is a religion.  It has all the elements of a religion, and its adherents are all fervent believers!

As we’ve noted previously, every religious system is a perverted copy of Christianity.  As the apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Rome, all men know God because they are, each and every one, creations of His.

Not only are the power and glory of God clearly seen in His creation (since all creation was made in the likeness of the heaven), but, having been made by Him, they themselves are the work of His hands.  And therefore they are without excuse.

Sufficient knowledge is all around them, and even in them according to Paul.  But they will not worship Him as He is revealed.  Instead, they produce a great variety of perversions to replace the Original!  And all the perversions, from the beginning of God’s history, resemble the covenantal creation and salvation revealed by God in His creation and in His Word.

And since it is His decree, and since it is the one and only decree, then mankind has no other options as the starting point for its perversions!  Christianity IS the starting point!  Mankind has no other place to begin!  It has nothing else to abandon; it has nothing else to debase; it has nothing else to corrupt; it has nothing else to desecrate other than the Revelation of the One true God and His creation and salvation of the world!

And that’s why every religion that comes forth from the degenerate hearts and minds of men has all the elements of Christianity – all of them “perverted” of course.  They have to begin there; then pervert it.

And that’s why it is such an “imperative” that the work of second Person of Triune God, God the Son, God the Word, God-man, be heard in the reading and preaching of God’s Revelation.  We don’t wish to participate in a perversion of God’s decree for the salvation of His creation.

God requires faith and faithing, and hope and anticipation, and loyalty and steadfastness, and witness.  And we can’t hope to understand what He’s done unless we hear what He said about the work of the Son.  The Son is the One Who is loved of the Father.  He is the Strong Right Arm of the decree.  He is the One Who is faithful.  His is the work which brings every facet of the decree to its fruition.

Since He has been given all authority in the heaven and in the creation, all His work is of monumental import and interest.  We must know Him and His work.  It is all vital to how we live and how we think and how we address all of our activities.  We have to know the One Who has rebirthed us and IN WHOM we now live.

There’s our task in the text of Revelation.  And that’s where preaching gets really “dicey”, because the words and phrases used just don’t seem to be enough.

Mountains of words pile up all around us, thousands of pages of them – all of which are important; and while most of the Church is either censing a statue of Mary, or reciting the “four spiritual laws”, we are expected to expose the major heresies of the Church and  combat the secular liberalism all around us!  And it’s a daunting task.

And it’s the Word of God – the Gospel of God concerning Jesus Christ and His work that we are to take to the world as we’re going.

And here in our text we find Him in His work as High Priest of the Church in offering the imprecatory prayers of the saints before the throne directly from His hand; and we find Him proceeding with all authority in the heaven and in the creation by bringing the sanctions of the covenant upon the continually-apostate nation of Israel.

For He takes the censer (which is of no more use as a sacrificial utensil) and fills it with fire from the stream of fire from beneath the mercy seat (the altar of whole burnt offering now of no further sacrificial use); and He pours it (casts it) into the land.  And there were thunders and sounds and lightnings and shaking.

Listen now to the prophet Isaiah as he is made aware of the sanctions of the covenant against Jerusalem in the coming siege.  In this passage the city is called “Ariel”, which means Lion of God.  This is from chapter twenty-nine:


1)    “Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt!  Add year to year; let feasts come around.

2)    Yet I will distress Ariel; there shall be heaviness and sorrow, and it shall be to Me as Ariel.

3)    I will encamp against you all around, I will lay siege against you with a mound, and I will raise siegeworks against you.

4)    You shall be brought down, you shall speak out of the ground; your speech shall be low, out of the dust; your voice shall be like a medium’s, out of the ground; and your speech shall whisper out of the dust.

5)    Moreover the multitude of your foes shall be like fine dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones like chaff that passes away; yes, it shall be in an instant, suddenly.

6)    You will be punished by the LORD of hosts with thunder and shaking and great sound, with storm and tempest and the flame of devouring fire.

7)    The multitude of all the nations who fight against Ariel, even all who fight against her and her fortress, and distress her shall be as a dream of a night vision.


(11: And it shall be to you as a scroll that has been sealed…)


It was a hundred and fifty years later, of course, when the prophet Daniel had the “night vision” and was told to seal the scroll until the end.

But Isaiah was given a view of the final siege of Jerusalem and its destruction and burning.  And God’s perception of His decree describes the burning as coming directly from beneath His throne.

Please remember that the fire in the altar of whole burnt offering of the tabernacle was originally lit (and perpetually burning) directly from the fiery lake under the mercy seat in the heaven.  And then Moses was told that that same fire from the altar was to fill the censer before the veil in the holy place.  And in that place, in that censer, and with that fire and upon that table with the blood of the sacrifice on its horns, Israel’s prayers were to be offered to God.

So both altars in the tabernacle were burning with fire directly from the heaven.  And on those occasions when men took their own censers and burned incense in them on their own (having kindled new fire for the burning), God’s anger turned on them and they were destroyed, for it was called “strange fire”.  In other words it wasn’t the original fire from under God’s throne.  Therefore it was false worship – worship of some other god, an imaginary one.

Only the fire in the tabernacle, coming directly from the lake of fire in the heaven, foreshadowed the work of the Son of God.  He was the One foreshadowed in the altar of whole burnt offering, for He was the sacrifice, being inundated in the fiery wrath of God; He was the One foreshadowed in the high priest burning the special incense from the fire from the altar of whole burnt offering. 

And any other incense, in any other censer, in any other place, and with any other fire, was idolatry.  It was all about the Person of God the Son and His work.  There is no salvation in any other.  Any other worship is a perversion of His Person and His work.  And it brings forth the wrath of God, which has already been poured out upon the Christ at His baptism/circumcision on the cross.  So any other burning of incense, any other censer, any other location, and with any fire other than that directly from the heaven, brings terrible sanctions from the throne, for it doesn’t honor and glorify God the Son and His work.

The prophetic Word is filled with instances in which Israel burned incense in other places and with other fire, perverting the Revelation of God the Son and His work.  And therefore bringing revelations of the wrath of God to come.

Listen to a couple of them.  This is from Isaiah chapter sixty-five:


5)    These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all the day.

6)    Behold, it is written before me:  "I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their bosom

7)    both your iniquities and your fathers’ iniquities together, says the LORD; because they burned incense on the mountains and insulted me on the hills, I will measure into their bosom payment for their former deeds."

8)    Thus says Yahveh:  "As the new wine is found in the cluster, and they say, 'Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,' so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all.

9)    I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and from Judah possessors of my mountains; my elect shall possess it, and my servants shall dwell there.”


And also listen to the prophecy of Jeremiah in chapter forty-four:


20) Then Jeremiah said unto all the people, to the men, and to the women, and to all the people which had given him that answer, saying,

21) The incense that you burned in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, you, and your fathers, your kings, and your princes, and the people of the land, did not Yahveh remember them, and came it not into his mind?

22) So that Yahveh could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations which ye have committed; therefore is your land a desolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, from this day.


Now hear from chapter seven of Jeremiah regarding the “pouring out” of the fiery wrath of God upon Israel:


16) Therefore pray not for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear you.

17) Do you not see what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?

18) The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.

19) Do they provoke me to anger? saith Yahveh: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces?

20) Therefore thus saith Yahveh GOD; Behold, my anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched.


And lastly, there is a stream of fire coming from under the throne of God.  It is a stream of glory and righteousness and justice that pours and burns the nation that has so perverted that glory and righteousness.  And we read that in Ezekiel chapter thirty-eight.  Listen carefully:


19) For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel;

20) So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the land, and all the men that are upon the face of the land, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.

21) And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith Yahveh GOD: every man's sword shall be against his brother.

22) And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.

23) Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am Yahveh.


Just as our text reads, the messengers which have been given the trumpets stand ready; then God the Son (appearing as Michael) presents the imprecatory prayers of the saints, begging for God to avenge them; then He pours coals of fire and brimstone from under the throne upon the land; then there are all the prophesied thunders, sounds, lightnings and shakings from the throne; then the trumpeters sound the voice of God from the throne.

And as the “trumpet-messengers” sound the voice of Yahveh in the heaven, all of these things in the passages we just read begin to occur just as prophesied.  We’ll take those up one-by-one through those verses in John’s letter next Lord’s Day.

But just let me spend the last minute or two concerning the subject of deception.  Deceivers seem to be everywhere, some even in the Church.  (As the apostle said, they are there for the purpose of manifesting the faithful!)

But nowhere in all of Christianity is there more deception than with the work of God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  And much of the time you can’t tell whether they are just “deceived”, or whether they themselves are cunning deceivers!

But we are saved by the work of Jesus the Christ of God.  His work is the Gospel of God, without which no man can be saved.  All of this that John saw, and that we’re hearing, is the Gospel of God concerning His Son.  And as Paul said, it is the power of God into salvation for all who are faithing. 

Our Lord’s work did not terminate at the resurrection, you see!  And John’s letter to the Churches manifests a distinct clarity with regard to Jesus’ continuing work after the resurrection and ascension; and that work is abounding and manifold, as we’ve seen and heard.  His appearances and His pursuits are numerous, and they pervade the entire text of the Revelation; and they are precisely written as John sees Him exercising all authority in the heavens and upon the earth and filling up the prophetic Word!

All of those who “omit” these things that John has seen and heard that our Lord has already done for His elect people and for His creation are either terribly deceived, or they are clever and crafty deceivers.  It’s one or the other.

And the only way for us counter all of the complexities of deception is with the Word of God.  There’s not much that you or I can do about it on our own.  But our Lord can… by His Word.  Just remember that the Gospel is the power of God.  Not the preacher; not the teacher; not the witness… it’s the Word.  Holy Spirit loves the Word.

Now.  Having said all of that, I’ll stop with a non-Biblical quote from an eye-witness of the 70AD siege and destruction of Jerusalem and the entire nation of Israel.  As the fiery coals from under the throne are poured out into the land; and as the thunders and sounds and lightnings and shakings from the throne come forth; and as the trumpeters begin to sound the mighty voice of God, here’s a little bit of what one commander in Israel’s military wrote.  This is from Josephus, of course, as he relates for history the “scorched earth” method of Commander Titus of Rome:

“The countryside, like the city, was a pitiful sight, for where once there had been a multitude of trees and parks, there was now an utter wilderness stripped bare; and no stranger who had seen the old Judea and glorious suburbs of her capital, and now beheld utter desolation, could refrain from tears or suppress a groan at so terrible a carnage.  The war had blotted out every trace of beauty, and no one who had known it in the past and came upon it suddenly would have recognized the place, for though he was already there, he would still have been looking for the city.”

As we’ll see as we go on, this was only the beginning; many more sorrows, and much worse, lay ahead.