and the Golden Censer
8 When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. 4 The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. 5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
As we continue to see the Revelation given to John being translated to the seven churches, we get to the seventh seal. And within the seventh seal, there are seven trumpets given to the seven angels. We see the book of Revelation is like the peeling back of an onion. Again we see again the significance of the number "seven". Seven is the number of completeness, and with each unveiling of another aspect of the end times, the time of judgment becomes more complete.
And as we will see with the seven trumpets, each announcement of judgment is more severe. Interestingly, we see the prayers of the saints rising up like incense to the throne of God. This censer is filled with fire, and then thrown to the earth. Some think this is a sign of the justice of God is response to God's saints praying for restitution, especially those martyred for their testimony.
As each of the four trumpets are sounded, 1/3 of different parts of God's creation are destroyed. First, it is the earth, then the seas, the waters, and finally the sun, moon and stars. We see this is comprehensive, yet only only third of each is affected. This leads us to believe this is only a partial, not complete judgment. As we will see with the next three trumpets, the judgments are much more comprehensive and severe.
In this part of the Revelation, we see God's judgment beginning to happen. Notice God hears the prayers of the people as they rise up to him as incense. Sometimes we get weary of praying, especially in matters of justice for the wrongs done to us or others. One of the comforting thoughts when we see such gross evil be carried out in our world, or against us, is one day there will be judgment for those who don't repent of their evil ways.
It is interesting when we see someone do this evil, we want justice to be served. After all, they deserve it. A part of us is not at rest until such judgment occurs. This is especially true when someone loses a loved one to someone else's violent act. It is not until judgment happens that they can move on with their lives.
Yet, when it comes to our own bad actions, we would prefer mercy to justice. Of course, I don't want to compare our every day sinful behaviors with homicidal maniacs. But the fact remains when it comes to people we despise, we want justice, but for ourselves or people we love we want mercy.
My point is a lot of the book Revelation is about judgment during the end times. God has been patient for a long time and now is the time for judgment. So the final question I would ask you is would you want a God who wasn't judgmental? Meaning one that just lets evil happen and there is never a righting of wrongdoing. But we will see as well that in the end grace does prevail over judgment for those who turn to God and His Son for mercy.