Notes on the Book of Revelation: Chapter 8, Part 1

Albrecht Dürer The Battle of the Angels // Larry Hunt Bible Commentary

Albrecht Dürer The Battle of the Angels

v. 1: I believe the silence of heaven communicates the weightiness of the events that follow by mingling tension and expectation with reverent awe.  However, I do not understand the symbolism behind the length of time (half an hour) that this silence lasts.

v. 2: I believe only one group of seven angels has been cropping up throughout the Revelation: that group is in 1:4, 1:20, and 4:5.

v. 3: The altar here is the bronze altar, the same as the altar of 6:9.  While at this altar, the angel “was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints.”  The angel takes the incense and prayers and burns these before God on the golden altar.  This golden altar is different from the bronze altar where the angel gathered the incense and prayers.  It is the golden altar of incense, which belonged (along with the ark of the covenant) to the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle and temple.[1] The image of the angel offering incense and prayers on this heavenly golden altar, therefore, alludes to the image of a high priest doing the same on the earthly golden altar in the presence of the ark of the covenant.  By analogy, then, the ark of the covenant (also called The Mercy Seat of God) is the earthly representation of God’s heavenly throne.

v. 5: I believe a chronological narrative could be put together at this point.[2]

God puts his seal on the foreheads of his people who are still living on earth and destined to become martyrs under the reign of Beast I (7:1-3).  The symbolic number of those sealed is 144,000 (7:4-8).  The angel with the golden censor receives incense and prayers from the martyred saints under the bronze altar (8:3, 6:9-10[3]).  He takes these prayers and incense and offers them on the golden altar of incense before the throne of God (8:3).  The smoke of the incense rises before God, and he hears the prayers of his martyred saints (8:4).  In their prayers, the martyrs ask God when he will avenge their blood (6:10).  God comforts and honors the martyrs, telling them that their blood will be avenged (i.e., “the great day of God the Almighty”[4] will come) after the proper number of Christians destined for martyrdom has been reached (6:11). Then the cherubim unleash each of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (6:1-8), who have been held in check until now so that other angels could have enough time to place the seal of God on the Christians living on earth (7:1-3).     After this, the angel with the golden censor takes fire from the bronze altar where the martyrs are, fills his censor with it, and hurls it to the earth (8:5).  This act is an ominous prelude to the great day of God the Almighty, causing, among other things, a great earthquake (8:5).  Then “the great day of God the Almighty” (16:14)[5] itself begins.

[1] See note on Hebrews 9:4.

[2] See also 6:2 notes.

[3] I believe the saints in 8:3 are synonymous with the martyred saints of 6:9 because the prayers of the saints in 8:3 are mentioned in connection with “the [bronze] altar” where sacrifices were made and under which the martyred saints are in 6:9.

[4] For a discussion of this day, see notes at 20:4.

[5] For a discussion of this day, see notes at 20:4.


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