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And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. Revelation 8:2–5.


The seventh seal opens in a period of about half an hour of silence. The time of its opening and the duration of the silence are indefinite. We identified the silence as the ecumenical attitude that swept over the church world in general during the 20th century and which still exists today. This spirit has so diminished the effect of the gospel to the point where spiritual and moral values in the world have been reduced to a point of ineffectiveness.

While this is the condition during the approximate half an hour, this condition is not the focus of the seventh seal. The focus of the seal is seven angels to whom seven trumpets are given.


Quiet Ministers


Angels represent ministers or ministries of the church built by the Glorified Christ. We find seven angels, each given a trumpet. The seven angels do not represent seven separate ministries, but a collective ministry called to sound out the messages of the seven trumpets that follow in this chapter through chapter 11.

Notice that verse 2 just says that trumpets were given to the seven angels. Given the condition of silence, this ministry did not know what to do with the trumpets. This is undoubtedly the result of about half an hour of silence in which it was deemed inappropriate to place our view of scripture and religion above someone else’s view. The ministry has become ineffective and reduced to cowardliness in the face of the surrounding spiritual and moral decay. Nevertheless, the Glorified Christ has place trumpets in their hands and He intends for them to sound them out.

While we see the seven angels with the trumpets standing there in the silence being timid and afraid to disturb the status quo another angel appears in verse 3 to motivate these angels to sound their trumpets.


Who Is This Angel?


This angel is different from the others seen here under the seventh seal as he has a golden censer and he approaches the altar, which is said to be the golden altar in verse 3.

What is a censer? Barnes writes that it is “The fire-pan, made for the purpose of carrying fire, on which to burn incense in time of worship.” In the tabernacle and temple worship a priest would carry incense in a silver censer into the holy place and pour out the incense on the golden altar that stood in front of the vail that sealed off the Holiest of Holies in which was the ark and the Shekinah glory of God.

However, the censer this angel has is made of gold, which was carried only by the high priest on the Day of Atonement. Adam Clarke verifies this for us:


This was a preparation peculiar to the day of expiation. On other days it was the custom of the priest to take fire from the great altar in a silver censer, but on the day of expiation the high priest took the fire from the great altar in a golden censer.


This angel enters the seventh seal in the capacity of the high priest of the gospel day. Who is this angel? Hebrews 3:1 tells us, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus. Christ is our high priest. Adam Clarke comments:


Among the Jews the high priest was considered to be also the apostle of God; and it is in conformity to this notion that the apostle speaks. And he exhorts the Hebrews to consider Jesus Christ to be both their High Priest and Apostle; and to expect these offices to be henceforth fulfilled by him, and by him alone.


Barnes gives a lengthy comment of the concepts of apostle and high priest. Briefly, the idea behind the word apostle here is: “THE one sent by God.” Of the high priest he writes:


One great object of this epistle is, to compare the Lord Jesus with the high priest of the Jews, and to show that he was in all respects superior. This was important, because the office of high priest was that which eminently distinguished the Jewish religion, and because the Christian religion proposed to abolish that. It became necessary, therefore, to show that all that was dignified and valuable in that office was to be found in the Christian system. This was done by showing that in the Lord Jesus was found all the characteristics of a high priest, and that all the functions which had been performed in the Jewish ritual were performed by him, and that all which had been prefigured by the Jewish high priest was fulfilled in him.


In the Revelation, angels represent ministers or ministries. How can the Glorified Christ be represented by an angel? In Romans 15:8 we read, “Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers.” (KJV) Christ was a minister, the word here is not the word for angel it is the word diakonos, meaning a waiter on tables and signifying a Christian teacher and pastor. The name Christ conforms to the Hebrew concept of Messiah. Christ as Messiah came to minister to the Jews confirming the promises God made to the fathers. Clarke lets us know that this ministering was the gift of salvation.


Jesus Christ, by coming according to the promise, has fulfilled this truth, by making good the promises: therefore, salvation is of the Jews, as a kind of right conveyed to them through the promises made to their fathers. But this salvation was not exclusively designed for the Jewish people; as God by his prophets had repeatedly declared.


Yes, salvation is not confined to the Jews. In Romans 15:16 we read “That I [Paul] should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.” (KJV) Through the Apostle Paul Christ was ministering also to the Gentiles. Clarke observes:


Here is a plain allusion . . . to the Jewish sacrifices offered by the priest, and sanctified or made acceptable by the libamen[1] offered with them; for he compares himself, in preaching the Gospel, to the priest performing his sacred functions—preparing his sacrifice to be offered.


While Paul is the human minister, it was actually Christ ministering through him to the Gentiles making them holy through the working of the Holy Spirit.

From the description and action of this angel we are certain that he is none other than the Glorified Christ. Matthew Henry comes to the same conclusion:


It is very probable that this other angel is the Lord Jesus, the high priest of the church, who is here described in his sacerdotal office, having a golden censer and much incense, a fulness of merit in his own glorious person, and this incense he was to offer up, with the prayers of all the saints, upon the golden altar of his divine nature.


Why, then, does the Glorified Christ intervene now in the seventh seal?


Breaking The Silence


Notice who becomes concerned about the silence. It is not the ministry; they have been given trumpets after about half an hour of silence but they just stand there doing nothing about the silence. It really is not the direct intervention of the Glorified Christ as we see it. He appears really at the request of people other than the ministry.

We learn in verse 3 that Christ appears with the prayers of all the saints in the golden censer. After about half an hour of this ecumenical and morally destructive silence, all the saints start praying. They know that only the Glorified Christ can break the silence. If the wrath of the Lamb was necessary to call out His church under the sixth seal, only His judgment can break the silence of the seventh seal. Clarke observes: “Judgments of God are now about to be executed; the saints—the genuine Christians, pray much to God.”

All the saints, the people of God in whatever church they may be, congregations of the true church of God or in the man-made denominations and churches, are grieved and oppressed by this silence and are praying in earnest and with great confidence to our heavenly high priest and head of the church. They call upon the assurance given in Hebrews 7:25, “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” They know it will take more than just another reformation to deliver them from the spirit of the age. It will require the direct personal intervention of Christ.

Remember, the high priest is given a full censer; when the prayers of all the saints fill the censer verse 4 “the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.” Those prayers ascend directly into the presence of the Godhead, the presence of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When God receives the prayers of all the saints He declares that it is time to break the silence. Verse 5, “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.” Matthew Henry suggests the following explanation of what is seen here:


These prayers that were thus accepted in heaven produced great changes upon earth in return to them; the same angel that in his censer offered up the prayers of the saints in the same censer took of the fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth, and this presently caused strange commotions, voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake; these were the answers God gave to the prayers of the saints, and tokens of his anger against the world and that he would do great things to avenge himself and his people of their enemies; and now, all things being thus prepared, the angels discharge their duty.


There were noises, this definitely breaks the silence. What are these things that break the silence? It is reminiscent of the appearance of God on Mount Sinai in Exodus 19:16, “Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.” To break the silence of the seventh seal the voice of God will thunder out and strike illuminating light into His word reminding the Christian world and all professed churches that He is the God of His Word.

The earth of the Revelation is shaken once again under the seventh seal just as it was shaken under the sixth seal. This in effect will be a second Pentecost.


Seven Trumpets


Seven angels were given seven trumpets. What is the significance of these trumpets?

Essentially the trumpet messages are what the seventh seal is about. From the appearance of God on Mount Sinai in the Book of Exodus we learn that the sound of the trumpet is an indication of the voice of God. God in giving the Ten Commandments on Mount Saini was giving 10 moral rules that people were continually breaking throughout history which was the cause of all misery and wrong doing in the world.

As we look to the trumpets of the Revelation, we will see a similarity in purpose for the church. The trumpets are God having us look back through the past of the church to understand why we got ourselves into the mess we are in today under the seventh seal. In these messages God is preparing the church of the Bible for the return of Christ. Jesus in His eschatological discourse on the Mount of Olives prophesied of the things we have learned in our study of the Revelation.


Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:29–31)


The parallels between what Jesus taught here and what we have seen in the Book of Revelation are obvious. We have seen the tribulation resulting from the apostasy of the early church and the low state of the professed church through the Dark Ages. We have seen the Reformation and the Glorified Christ calling His people out only to experience the wrath of the Lamb under the sixth seal. We are now at the point in His teaching where the angels sound the trumpet and gather God’s people together from one end of heaven to the other. This gathering prepares God’s people for the return of Christ but it in no way predicts a date or the time of His coming. Jesus said,


But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Verses 42–44)


In ending our study of the seven seals we begin our study of the seven trumpets. The trumpets are not simply a rehashing of what we have studied. The letters to the seven churches of Asia showed us various conditions that can overtake the church of God at any time in history, whether individual congregations or entire movements. The seals show us the history of the Christian church from the Day of Pentecost to the present day.

The trumpets will show us the why behind these things and challenge us to take a stand to be the church Jesus said He would build and to remain faithful to the time of His coming.

[1] That which is offered in sacrifice.