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Revelation 8:3

another angel
Because of the intercessory service of the angel, some see him as Christ (Isa. Isa. 53:12; Rom. Rom. 8:34; John John 17:15-24; Heb. Heb. 7:25; 1Ti. 1Ti. 2:5; Rev. Rev. 8:3+).1 But it seems unlikely that the second person of the Godhead would be denoted simply as another angel—as if more-or-less on a par with the other seven which are to sound trumpets. There is also a contradiction if He Who opens the seal in verse 1 is the Lamb Himself. The explanation that this is Christ supposes that the Lamb opens the seventh seal and then puts down the scroll to take upon Himself an entirely different role—that of offering the prayers of the saints with incense.

Because of his priestly work, some identify him as the Lord Jesus Christ. That identification is unlikely, however, for several reasons. First, Christ is already identified in the heavenly scene as the Lamb (Rev. Rev. 5:6+; Rev. 6:1+; Rev. 7:17+), distinguishing Him from this angel. Second, while the pre-incarnate Christ appeared as the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament, Jesus is nowhere identified as an angel in the New Testament. Third, the reference in verse Rev. 7:2+ [Rev. Rev. 8:2+] to the seven actual angels defines the meaning of the term in this context. The angel in verse Rev. 8:3+ [Rev. Rev. 8:3+] is described as another (allos ; another of the same kind; cf. Rev. Rev. 7:2+) angel like those in verse Rev. 7:2+ [Rev. Rev. 8:2+]. Finally, everywhere He appears in Revelation, Jesus is clearly identified.2

Here the angel acts merely as a ministering spirit (Heb. Heb. 1:4), just as the twenty-four elders have vials full of odors, or incense, which are the prayers of saints (Rev. Rev. 5:8+), and which they present before the Lamb.3

incense . . . offer it with the prayers of the saints
On the day of atonement, Aaron was instructed to take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar and put the incense on the fire which would form a cloud which would cover the mercy seat—where the Lord’s presence was. This cloud served as a protective separation from God’s presence “lest he die” (Lev. Lev. 16:12-13). The cloud shielded Aaron from the presence of God. Elsewhere, when a plague had broken out among the people, Aaron was instructed to take a censer with fire and incense among the congregation to make atonement for them. Just like the prayers of the saints, this act of Aaron’s was described as intercession (Num. Num. 16:46-48). In the Millennial Kingdom, incense will be offered to God worldwide (Mal. Mal. 1:11). Previously, the twenty-four elders (and possibly the living creatures) were said to hold “golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev. Rev. 5:8+). See commentary on Revelation 5:8. The prayers of the saints are intercessory and also include petitions for justice, such as those of the martyrs under the altar at the fifth seal (Rev. Rev. 6:10+).

These are undoubtedly the cries of believers in the Great Tribulation against their persecutors and all who blaspheme God and Christ in that time. Their prayers, affirmed by the heavenly incense which God has provided, show that He is in agreement with the cries of the saints as they come into His presence, from which the seven trumpet judgments will be released. There is a sense of anticipation as these prayers rise before God. They will shortly be answered; God’s wrath and His people’s prayers are connected.4

upon the golden altar
The writer of Hebrews informs us that the earthly tabernacle was but a model of a greater reality in heaven (Heb. Heb. 9:11, Heb. 9:24). There were two altars in the plan of the tabernacle, a larger altar of burnt offering (sacrifice) outside the holy place and a smaller altar of incense within the holy place (Lev. Lev. 4:7). It is upon the altar of incense in the heavenly temple that the prayers are offered (Ex. Ex. 30:1; Luke Luke 1:11).

Notes

1 “We are satisfied that the angel-priest is Christ—our great High Priest. The service at the altars proves it—for both the brazen altar and the golden altar are referred to. No mere creature could add efficacy to the prayers of saints. . . . Further, the action recorded at the altars is of mediatorial character—one between suffering and praying saints on earth and God—and as Christianity knows of but ‘one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus’ (1Ti. 1Ti. 2:5), the proof is undeniable that the angel-priest is Christ.”—Walter Scott, Exposition of The Revelation (London, England: Pickering & Inglis, n.d.), 171. “This angel casts fire into the earth; and Jesus says of Himself: ‘I came to cast fire into the earth; and what could I wish if it were already kindled?’ . . . This angel offers the prayers of all the saints, and renders them savoury before God. Such an office is nowhere in the Scriptures assigned to angels proper, but is everywhere assigned to the Lord Jesus Christ. There would seem to be strong reason, therefore, for supposing that this Angel is really the Jehovah-Angel, and none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.”—J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 184-185.

2 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 8:3.

3 A. R. Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 8:3.

4 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 8:4.

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