Revelation 8:3

3 And another angel came and stood 1at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with 2the prayers of all the saints on 3the golden altar before the throne,

Revelation 8:3 Meaning and Commentary

Revelation 8:3

And another angel came
The Ethiopic version adds, "from the east", as in ( Revelation 7:2 ) ; pointing to the same angel, and who is intended: for not a created angel, as Gabriel, or any other, is meant; nor any mere man, at least not Pope Damasus, who lived in Constantine's time, as Lyra thought; nor Constantine himself, which is the opinion of Brightman, who thinks that his, and the desires of other good men to make peace, and compose the differences occasioned by the Arian heresy, are designed by the incense and prayers; and this being brought about at the counsel of Nice, when the Arian blasphemy was condemned, and truth confirmed, is intended by the ascent of the smoke of the incense with the prayers, out of the angels hands; when there followed upon this great contentions, heart burnings, and persecutions, signified by fire, voices, thunderings and others, have been of opinion that the Emperor Theodosius is designed, and that respect is had to his prayer both in the church, and at the head of his army, before the battle with Eugenius, the saints in the mean while putting up united prayers to God for success, and which was obtained; and this victory was attended with a miraculous tempest, and gave a deadly blow to the Pagan religion. Yet neither of those, but Christ himself, the Angel of the covenant, and of God's presence, is here intended, who appeared in an angelic form; so the high priest in the day of atonement was called (xylv) F18, "an angel", or messenger, to which the allusion is;

and stood at the altar;
either of burnt offerings, and may be rendered "stood upon it"; and so may represent his sacrifice, which had been lately offered up for the sins of his people, he being both altar, sacrifice, and priest; or rather the altar of incense, since mention is made of a censer and of incense, and the smoke of it; and seeing this altar is a golden one, as that was, and is before the throne, as that was before the vail by the ark of the testimony; ( Exodus 30:1 Exodus 30:3 Exodus 30:6 ) ; and so Christ is here introduced as the high priest, advocate, and intercessor for his people, though both altars may be respected in this verse: "the altar" may design the altar of burnt offering from whence the coals were taken in the censer; and the "golden altar" the altar of incense where the coals being brought the incense was put upon them, and offered; and here he "stood" as everyone concerned in the service of the sanctuary did {s}:

having a golden censer;
the Ethiopic version adds, "of fire": for this was a vessel in which were put burning coals of fire taken from off the altar before the Lord ( Leviticus 16:12 ) , and which may denote the sufferings of Christ, he pains he endured in his body the sorrows of his soul, and the wrath of God which was poured like fire upon him; the altar from which they were taken off was typical of Christ: in his divine nature which is the altar that sanctifies the gift, and gave virtue to his blood and sacrifice; and all this being before the Lord may show that Christ's sufferings were according to the will of God, were grateful to him, and always before him; for these burning coals in the censer were also carried within the vail, representing heaven, where Christ entered by his own blood and where he is as a Lamb that had been slain, the efficacy of whose death always continues; and this being a golden censer shows the excellency and perpetuity of Christ's sacrifice and intercession. In the daily service the priest used a silver censer, but on the day of atonement a golden one F20; though at the daily sacrifice there was a vessel used, called (Pkh) , like to a large golden bushel, in which was a smaller vessel full of incense F21, and may be what is here designed:

and there was given unto him much incense;
the intercession of Christ is meant by "the incense", which, like that, is sweet and fragrant, very grateful and acceptable to God and also pure and holy; for though it is made for transgressors, yet in a way of righteousness, and consistent with the holiness and justice of God; nor is there any like it, nor should there be any besides it; the intercession of angels, and saints departed, ought to be rejected: and it is perpetual, or will be for ever; see ( Exodus 30:7 Exodus 30:8 Exodus 30:34-38 ) ; and whereas it is said to be "much", this is an allusion either to the many spices used in the composition of the incense, see ( Exodus 30:34 ) ; the Jews say F23, that eleven sorts of spices were ordered to Moses, and the wise men have added three more, in all fourteen; or to the priest's handfuls of incense, which he took and brought within the vail on the day of atonement, ( Leviticus 16:12 ) ; and which were added to, and were over and above the quantity used every day F24; and even in the daily service the pot of incense was not only filled, but (vwdg) , "heaped up" F25; now this may denote the fulness of Christ's intercession, which is for all his elect, called and uncalled, greater or lesser believers, and for all things for them, as their cases be; for conversion, discoveries of pardon, preservation, perseverance, and glorification; and to support this, he has a fulness of merit, which makes his intercession efficacious; for incense was put upon the burning coals in the censer, or upon the fire before the Lord, ( Leviticus 16:13 ) , signifying that Christ's intercession proceeds upon his sufferings and death: his blood and sacrifice, from whence all his pleas and arguments are taken in favour of his people, and which always prevail: and this is said to be given him, as his whole work and office as Mediator, and every branch of it is; he is appointed to this work, is allowed to do it, and is accepted in it, by him that sits upon the throne: in the daily offering of the incense, one took the incense and gave it into the hand of his friend, or the priest that was next him; and if he wanted instruction how to offer it, he taught him, nor might anyone offer incense until the president bid him F26; to which there seems to be an allusion here: now the end of this was,

that he should offer [it] with the prayers of all saints upon the
golden altar which was before the throne;
the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions add, "of God"; the prayers of the saints, rightly performed, are themselves compared to incense, being very grateful and acceptable to God, ( Psalms 141:2 ) ; and the Arabic version here renders it in connection with the preceding clause, and explanative of that, "and there was given unto him much incense and much spice, which are the prayers of the saints", as in ( Revelation 5:8 ) ; and at the time of incense the people prayed; see ( Luke 1:10 ) ; and these are spiritual sacrifices, which Christ the high priest presents for the saints, perfumes with the incense of his mediation, and makes acceptable to God, being offered upon, and coming up from that altar which is before him, and which gives value to everything that is put upon it: and they are the prayers of saints, who are set apart by God the Father, whose sins are expiated by the blood of Christ, and who are sanctified by the Spirit of God; who draw nigh to God with a true heart, and call upon him out of a pure heart, and in sincerity and truth; the prayers of such righteous ones, through faith in Christ, avail much with God; and the prayers of all saints are regarded by Christ, and presented by him, whether they be rich or poor, high or low, greater or lesser believers. The Jews often speak of an angel, whose name is Sandalphon, who is appointed over the prayers of the righteous, and takes them and presents them to God F1: so Raphael in the Apocrypha:

``I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.'' (Tobit 12:15)

says he was one of the seven holy angels that carry up the prayers of the saints; and the heretic Elxai, who was originally a Jew, talked of the holy angels of prayer F2: so the Jews say, that God "by", or "through his Word", receives the prayers of Israel, and has mercy on them F3. In the Greek text it is, "that he should give" that is, the "incense", agreeably to the Hebrew phrase in ( Numbers 16:47 ) , and elsewhere.


F18 Misn. Yoma, c. 1. sect. 5.
F19 Maimon. Biath. Hamikdash, c. 5. sect. 17.
F20 Yoma, c. 4. sect. 4.
F21 Misn. Tamid. c. 5. sect. 4.
F23 Maimon. Cele Hamikdash, c. 2. sect. 1, 2.
F24 Yoma, c. 5. sect. 1. & T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 47. 1.
F25 Misn. Tamid. c. 5. sect. 4.
F26 Misn. Tamid. c. 6. sect. 3. Maimon. Tamidin, c. 3. sect. 8, 9.
F1 Zohar in Gen. fol. 97. 2. & in Exod. fol. 99. 1. Shemot Rabba, sect. 21. fol. 106. 2.
F2 Epiphan. Contr. Haeres. l. 1. Haeres. 19.
F3 Targum in Hos. xiv. 8.

Revelation 8:3 In-Context

1 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
2 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne,
4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

Cross References 3

  • 1. Amos 9:1
  • 2. Revelation 5:8
  • 3. Revelation 9:13; Exodus 30:1, 3
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.