Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, May 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Revelation 8

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-13

Revelation 8:1-13

The seventh seal … silence in heaven.

The silence of heaven

The silence of meditation. There is a blessing, which we know not yet, in thought. In this busy human life it is hard to think. “The world is too much with us.” It drowns the “still small voice” of God. But in heaven thought will no more be disturbed. There will be no unsolved perplexities, no distracting fancies. The plan of Creation and Redemption will be unfolded. The discords of earth will be resolved in the celestial harmony.

The silence of adoration. When we see God as He is, we shall praise Him as we ought. The cloud which spreads between Him and us shall be done away. We shall enter into that rapture of worship which finds no voice in words. Our soul will lose itself in the infinite bliss of communion with Him who is its Father and its God.

The silence of fruition. All the voices of earth are only so many cryings for something that is not of earth, but of heaven. They are expressions of a Divine dissatisfaction with the limitations of our human life. Is there not something that we all desire and cry out for--to be rich, perhaps, or successful, or happy, or good? And will it not always be a desire, never fulfilled? Could the dearest wish of our heart be granted to-day, another wish, still dearer, would arise to-morrow. Every new day dawns with a fresh purity upon our lives, but in the evening it is stained with failure and sin. We are always sighing for a holiness which is always unattained and unattainable. Nay, the blessings which God gives us do not last long. Over all our life there hangs the shadow of death. We are always dreading to speak that saddest, tenderest word on earth, “Farewell.” There is “silence in heaven,” because there is no loss nor any boding fear of parting still to come. They who live in the Divine Presence are sheltered from the storms of time. They are safe for ever and ever. (J. E. C. Welldon, M. A.)

Thirty minutes in heaven

God and all heaven then honoured silence. The full power of silence many of us have yet to learn. We are told that when Christ was arraigned “He answered not a word.” That silence was louder than any thunder that ever shook the world. Ofttimes, when we are assailed and misrepresented, the mightiest thing to say is to say nothing, and the mightiest thing to do is to do nothing.

Heaven must be an eventful and active place. It could afford only thirty minutes of recess. The celestial programme is so crowded with spectacle that it can afford only one recess in all eternity and that for a short space.

The immortality of a half-hour. Oh, the half-hours! They decide everything. I am not asking what you will do with the years or months or days of your life, but what of the half-hours. Tell me the history of your half-hours, and I will tell you the story of your whole life on earth and the story of your whole life in eternity. Look out for the fragments of time. They are pieces of eternity.

My text suggests a way of studying heaven so that we can better understand it. The word “eternity” that we handle so much is an immeasurable word. Now, we have something that we can come nearer to grasping, and it is a quiet heaven. When we discourse about the multitudes of heaven, it must be almost a nervous shock to those who have all their lives been crowded by many people, and who want a quiet heaven. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Silence in heaven

Are such seasons of quietude--of calm and holy anticipation--needful to be observed there--and shall we wonder that they are appointed unto us here? You will observe that to almost all things there are these parentheses. Nature very seldom does her work without a cessation, where all seems lost and dead. A winter always lies between the autumn sowing and the spring-time shooting. There are very few providences which happen to man without delays, which seem as if they had broken their courses. Promises seem very slow of foot in their travel. And it is generally long to our feelings--after the prayer has gone up--before the answer falls. Peace does not always come quickly--even to the strongest faith. And grace does not succeed to grace--nor to joy--in one unbroken series. Life is full of pause. And these prefaces of God’s works--these introductions--these heraldings of the great approaches--these subduings of soul--these times to make ready: they are only the reflections of that which St. John saw passing within the veil: “There was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.” Let us cultivate the heavenly power of “silence.” Let us pray for the angelic gift of “silence.” It is what we all want. There are many voices--in continuous stream--speaking in the world; some from within, some from without; voices in the sublime and in the lofty things around us; voices in very common things, and every little passing event; but you do not hear them. Why? There is not “silence” enough in the breast. Be more still. Listen for the whispers of God, and ice whether earth, and heaven, and your own heart also, do net talk sweetly to you all the day, and all the night, about spiritual things! I advise every one--who wishes to be a true worshipper, and to improve his communion with God--to exercise complete “silence.” The spiritual life would often be much the better for more of a devout “silence.” May it not be that there is, sometimes, more filial love and confidence in the prayer that does not speak, and cannot speak, than in any oral prayer? And there are some seasons which specially invite the piety of “silence.” Such a time is those early days of deep sorrow: “I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth.” Such a time is the waiting, before we begin some work that God has given us to defer Him--like the wilderness to Moses, or Elijah in Horeb. Such a time is the moment spent with God before we make an answer. Such a time is the few minutes before prayer; or before a service here; or before the Holy Communion. Such a time may be at the gates of glory. For it is a pleasant thing to pass the threshold of eternity “silently.” Does not God--for this very reason--make His children go through--one after another--alone? (J. Vaughan, M. A.)


Soul-silence often follows great excitement. From the storms of remorse, secular anxieties, arid social bereavements, the soul of the genuinely Christly arises into a “peace that passeth all understanding.”

Soul-silence is often found absorbing worship.

1. The prayers of saints on earth are of great practical interest in the spiritual universe.

(1) They are offerings that are acceptable to its Supreme Ruler.

(2) In rendering them acceptable to God, His highest spiritual ministers are deeply engaged.

2. The prayers of saints on earth exert an influence on the things of time.

Soul-silence often springs from high expectancy. What wonderful things are before us all! Were we earnestly waiting for the “manifestation of the sons of God,” waiting the advent of Him who is to wind up the affairs of the world, how silent should we be! (D. Thomas, D. D.)


The silence of suppression. “While I kept silence,” David says; that is, while I suppressed my sense of sin, and sought to check and coerce the tide of free confession. This is the silence of our fallen nature; our abuse of God’s gift, bestowed upon us for a very different end. If any of us are thus silent to God, let not night close upon us without breaking that silence: if conscience accuses us of sin, let it be heard while it may: if any iniquity of ours is separating between us and God, bring it to Him, and spare it mot, that it may be forgiven for Christ’s sake, and its chain removed from us by His Holy Spirit.

The silence of conviction. First there has been that sullen silence of which we have spoken; the heart locked up, and refusing to empty itself of its secret. Then, many times, the first silence has been broken by prevarications, excuses, and self-justifications, going perhaps even to the length of direct falsehood. Then, in process of time, by patient hearing and inquiry, these also have been broken down: the false tongue has been confuted by the force of truth, and every refuge of lies has at length been swept away. When this is so, then at last there is silence; refreshing by comparison, and, in this life, certainly in young life, hopeful; till it comes, there is no hope, because the soul is still trying to say Peace to itself fallaciously. But now there is silence: now may punishment try its remedial power, being accompanied, as it ever ought to be, with a fall forgiveness. Now, too, may the sinner, humbled in himself, before others, and before God, listen with livelier interest to the assurance of God’s forgiveness, to the comfort of the blood of sprinkling which speaks not to reproach but to console.

The silence of preparation. Every real, certainly every great, work of man is prefaced by a long silence, during which the mind is concentrated upon the object, and possessing itself with that which is afterwards to be produced. What is all study but the preliminary to some work, or else to one’s life’s work? It is not in man to be capable of always giving out, without long processes of taking in. This is the secret of so many barren and unfruitful ministries, that men are trying to dispense with silence: they are altogether in public, never in solitude: they are counting their exertions, instead of weighing them, satisfied if they are always labouring, without forcing themselves to prepare for labour by silent study, by silent meditation, by silent prayer.

The silence of endurance; that of him who with a noble self-restraint refuses to avail himself even of a plea which might avail for his deliverance. He is following the example of One who Himself in the very crisis of His earthly fate exhibited in its fullest glory the dignity and the majesty of silence.

The silence of disapprobation; that silence by which, perhaps most effectively of all, whether in the society of the young or of the old, a Christian enters his protest against wrong, and acts as a witness for the truth. Who has not seen the effect of silence, of a Christian, a consistent silence, upon uncharitable or wicked conversation? Before the presence of disapprobation, however unobtrusive, evil soon shrinks, cowers, and withdraws itself.

The silence of self-restraint, general and habitual, or else special and particular.

The silence of sorrow, and of sympathy with sorrow.

1. Grief may forget itself (as it is called) for the moment in society, and sorrow for sin may spend itself--alas! it often does--in fruitless and only half-explicit confessions and lamentations to man: but these are dangerous as well as vain remedies. In either case, be silent; only add the words, silent before God. Let Him hear all from you, and, to speak generally, none else.

2. I spoke, too, of the silence of sympathy. Who has not suffered from the officiousness of a talking sympathy?

The silence of awe, the silence of meditation, the silence of prayer, yes, the silence of praise.

The silence of death. The silence of death may reign around the bed from which a living soul has departed and on which a dead body lies alone. But it reigned first in the departing soul itself. At what particular point in the illness isolation began, and the presence of friends was no longer felt in the dying, varies no doubt with the nature of the disease, and certainly can by none be defined: but well may it be seen that after a certain point silence and solitude have taken possession, that there is, to all intents, an abstraction from things around, and an absorption in things within. (Dean Vaughan.)


What is silence? Not the absence, the negation of speech, but the pause, the suspension of speech. Speech is, we all admit, one of God’s choicest gifts to man, for the employment of which man is specially and awfully responsible. Must not something of the like sacredness and responsibility belong to that correlative power--the power of silence? As if to impress this truth upon our minds, Scripture invests silence with circumstances of peculiar interest and awe. Thus, when Solomon dedicated the Temple to Jehovah, after that the priests had arranged all the sacred furniture, and completed the solemn service of consecration, there was silence, and during that silence the glory of the Lord, in the form of a cloud, so filled the whole building that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud. Thus, again, in the text, when the angel “had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.” Very wonderful and mysterious is this instance of silence. It was as though, upon the opening of the mystic seal, events so strange and amazing were to follow throughout the universe, that the very hosts of heaven were compelled to suspend their worship and adoration in order to behold and listen! Now, the first sort of silence to which I would call your attention is the silence of worship, of awe, and reverence. “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Such is the canon for worship laid down by Habakkuk; and it is a canon as much binding upon us as upon those to whom it was originally addressed. When we come up to the house of prayer, there to meet Christ upon the mercy-seat--there to hear His voice speaking to us in the read and spoken Word--there to receive Him into our very souls in the Sacrament of His broken Body and shed Blood--we are bound to observe the silence of awe and reverence. Except when we open our lips to join in prayer and praise to God, our attitude within these hallowed walls should be that of silence, of those who are impressed with the sanctity of the place, and who know and feel that the Almighty God is indeed in their midst. Yes; and it would be well, could we put more of this holy silence into our religious acts. Our religion shares too much in the faults of the age in which we live. It is too public, too outspoken, conducted too much as a business; and so the inner and contemplative element is too much lost sight of. The silence of self-examination, the silence of the heart’s unsyllabled supplication, the silence of meditation on the mysteries of redeeming love--these are forms of silence which every one must observe often who would have the flame of spiritual life to burn bright and clear in his soul. Then, again, there is the silence of preparation. Every great work that has ever been achieved has been preceded by this-the doer making himself ready, by thought and study, for action. Every great achievement, whether in the moral or the intellectual world, has been in a sense like Solomon’s temple--it has risen noiselessly, silently, without sound of axe or hammer. Therefore is that great primary act in religion--the conviction of sin--invariably preceded by deep and solemn silence, while the sinner stands before God self-accused and self-condemned. Therefore, also, is silence ever present at all the more solemn passages of our life. Sorrow--real, genuine sorrow--is ever silent. A cry--a tear--what relief would these be; but they must not intrude into the sacred ground of sorrow, the sorrow of the just--bereaved widow or orphan. And so, too, sympathy with sorrow is ever silent. Idle words, or still idler tears--these are for false comforters, like those who troubled the patriarch Job; the true sympathy is the sympathy of a look--of the presence of silence, not of uttered consolation. And now think of that last silence--a silence that we must all experience, and for which, by silence, we must prepare now--the silence of death. What exactly the silence of death is, none but the dying can know. May we have known what it was, day by day, to be many times alone with that God who must then be alone with us, to judge or else to save. (Charles H. Collier, M. A.)

Silence in heaven

Whatever judgments come down upon the region below, they are seen by the apostle to be the consequences of activities in the region above. No stroke falls on earth that is not directed in heaven. The two worlds move in concert. The time-accomplishments of one world correspond to the time-appointments of another. We have set before us, in unmistakable symbolism, this truth--That in the developments of God’s plans in providence, there are times of comparative quietude, during which it seems as if the progress of things was stayed awhile.

What is intended when we speak of progress being apparently stayed? There are in the Word of God great promises and prophecies which open up a glorious vision for the future days. There have been also great events which have excited in the Church of God the strongest hopes, and which ever and anon form a restful background. To such periods there succeed long years in which either no appreciable advance is made towards the inbringing of the new heavens and the new earth; or if in one direction some progress appears, in another the cause of righteousness seems checked afresh by new developments of error, folly, and sin. The prophets of God are crying, “Flee from the wrath to come.” They long for some manifestation of Divine power to startle man. But no. Man goes on sinning. And our God seems a God that “does nothing” (Carlyle). The thunder is rolled up. The lightning is sheathed. There is a prolonged lull. There is “silence in heaven.” The sceptic makes use of the quietude to ask, “Where is the promise of His coming?” The careless one settles down at his ease, and cries, “The vision that he seeth is for many days to come.” Hollow professors desert in crowds, and go over to the ranks of the enemy. And still--still there is “silence in heaven.” No voice is heard from the invisible realms to break in upon the steady course of this earth’s affairs, or to arouse and convict a slumbering world!

What does this silence mean? What does it mean?

1. Negatively.

(1) It does not mean that this world of ours is cut adrift in space, or that the human family are left fatherless and lone.

(2) Nor does it mean that time is being lost in the development of the plans of God. Catastrophes are not the only means of progress.

(3) Nor does it imply that God is indifferent to the sin which He is ever witnessing. “The Lord is not slack,” etc.

(4) Nor does it imply that God is working on any other plan than that which He has laid down in the book.

(5) Nor does the silence mean that God will ultimately let sinners escape with impunity (Romans 2:8; Romans 2:4).

2. Positively.

(1) We are not to expect startling providences at every turn of life.

(2) We are to he guided more by what God says than by what we see before our eyes. The book gives principles which are eternal.

(3) There are other sides to, and other forms of, God’s working than those which startle and alarm.

(4) By the silence of heaven God would test His people’s faith, and quicken them to more fervent prayer.

(5) God would thus teach us to study principles rather than to gaze on incident.

What should this silence teach us? And what effect upon us should it have?

1. Let us learn anew to exercise faith in the spiritual power which God wields by His Spirit, rather than in the material energy which shakes a globe.

2. Let us use heaven’s time of keeping silence as a time for breaking ours (Isaiah 62:1; Isaiah 62:6-7).

3. Let the ungodly make use of the space given for repentance, by turning to the Lord with full purpose of heart.

4. Let us lay to heart the certain fact, that, although judgment is delayed, come it will. (C. Clemance, D. D.)

Verse 2

Revelation 8:2

The seven angels … seven trumpets.


1. These seven angels stand waiting before the throne, and till they be called to the service that is subjoined, they go not: teaching men who are so called to wait in like manner for the Lord’s vocation of them, and not to run before they be sent.

2. Those who are thus called have trumpets given them: even so whom the Lord calls and sends out to any work, He furnishes them with gifts meet for the work, which neither man nor angel can have until the same be given them from above.

3. By trumpets the Lord forewarns the world of the judgments to come upon them, before they come, that they might repent: wherein the great mercy of God is seen to the very wicked, forewarning them to flee from His wrath to come.

4. As by the trumpets of these angels He forewarned the world, even so does He yet by the ministry of those who are called angels, and by the trumpets of the law and gospel (Isaiah 58:1). (Wm. Guild, D. D.)

The trumpet-symbol

God has a message for us.

The manner of that message. Such truths as these are suggested by this trumpet-symbol.

1. How urgent! It is no mere matter of indifference, but life and death hang upon it.

2. How warlike! The trumpet-note was emphatically the music of war.

3. How terrible! The hosts of Midian fled in dismay when the blast of Gideon’s trumpet burst on their startled ears. And God’s Word is terrible to those who know Him not. The Bible is a dreadful book to the impenitent man when awakened, as one day he will be, to his real condition before God.

4. How animating to the hearts of the people of God! God’s Word is full of heart-cheering truth to all them that trust in Him.

5. How joyful was the sound when it proclaimed, as so often the trumpet did, the advent of some glad festival, some “acceptable year of the Lord,” the jubilee especially!

6. How irresistible is the trumpet-sound! The lofty, massive walls of Jericho fell down flat before the trumpet-blast. (S. Conway, B. A.)

Verses 3-5

Revelation 8:3-5

Much incense.

The all-fragrant incense

The angel and the altar. It is the altar that stood in the holy place that is here referred to in the third verse, not the brazen altar; it is the golden altar, the altar of incense; the altar of prayer and praise; the altar at which the priests ministered, and where also blood was sprinkled. In what respects it differed from the mercy-seat (at the place of prayer) does not quite appear. At this altar all who are God’s priests, all His royal priesthood, officiate. Here specially they stand, as pleaders with God, as intercessors on behalf of His own or against His enemies. To this altar the angel comes (not one of the seven), and here he takes his stand for a special purpose.

The angel and the censer. He comes to act as priest; a priestly messenger from God.

The angel and the incense. It is no empty censer that he holds; it is not for show that he waves it. Incense is there; incense not his, but supplied by another, though by whom is not said. “There was given him.” It is much incense, or, literally, “many incenses,” out of which were to come innumerable wreaths of fragrant smoke.

The angel and the fire. The angel having emptied the censer of its incense, fills it with fire; the pouring out of the one from the censer being the signal for the coming in of the other into that vessel from which the incense had been poured out.

1. Prayer remains often long unanswered. The reasons for the long delay are often far beyond our reach; but in the end they will be found infinitely wise and gracious.

2. Prayer is not lost. It lies on “the golden altar which is before the throne.” We lay each petition there, as we say, “for Christ’s sake.”

3. Prayer will be answered. Delay will only add to the fulness of the answer, and increase our joy when it comes. And it will come. He is faithful that promised. He cannot deny Himself.

4. The answer will come in connection with Christ’s surpassing excellence. His fragrance is to be cast upon these long-lying prayers, that seem without life or motion, and they shall arise.

5. Prayer is often answered in ways we little thought of. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

Our prayers presented in heaven

The employment in which pious men are stated to engage.

1. Prayer is the habit by which pious men on earth are always prominently distinguished. There is not one in the universe of our intelligent race who is not under obligation to pray. While men in the alienation of unconverted nature violate the obligation, and indulge in passions and in habits which are utterly incompatible with its performance, men on the other hand, who have been the subject of renovating influence, are, from the moment of receiving it, imbued with the principles and with the instincts of prayer.

2. Prayer thus distinguishing pious men is directed for important and comprehensive objects. It commonly has respect to temporal objects, craving the communication of temporal benefits. But these must always be secondary, and should be desired with a reservation to the Divine wisdom as to whether it will be for our well-being or for our disadvantage to receive them. And then the prayers of the saints, when rightly offered, must not merely be personal, directed to their own welfare, but intercessory, directed to the welfare of others.

3. Prayer thus distinguishing pious men, and directed for important and comprehensive objects, is always attended by peculiar characteristics--humility; a deep conviction of insignificance in the presence of a God so great, and of impurity in the presence of a God so holy.

The manner in which that employment is commended before God. An angel is represented as coming and standing at the altar; “and there was given unto him much incense,” etc.

1. Observe, first, the person. There is satisfactory evidence to identify the Saviour with the angel who is here presented to us. It is He who takes the prayers of the saints and presents them before the throne.

2. Notice the station. He is represented as coming and standing at the altar, “having a golden censer,” and the altar, moreover, is described as “the golden altar.” The Jewish priest could not stand by the altar of incense unless he had first of all offered an atonement for sin: and when there is a vision of our Lord Jesus as the High Priest of our profession standing by the golden altar, the necessary assumption is, that He too had first offered an atonement for sin.

3. Observe the act. It is stated that there was given to Him much incense, that He might offer it, with the prayers of all saints, upon the golden altar which was before the throne. Here, then, is the exercise of the Saviour’s office of Intercessor in identification with the prayers of the saints; and it is a most sublime and a most thrilling thought, that there is no prayer offered in humility, faith, and earnestness, for objects which are coincident with the Word of God, but what is borne upward and presented by the Saviour before the throne of the heavenly Father. And whether prayer be offered in the midnight darkness or in the noontide light--whether prayer be offered in the secret chamber or in the public assembly--whether prayer be offered in the mansion or in the cottage, in the prison-house or in the palace, in the tropics or at the poles, it rises upward, becomes interwoven and identified with the much incense of the Saviour’s merits, and so penetrates into the very holiest of all.

The result in which the employment so commended must terminate.

1. The success of the prayers of the saints is invariable. The success of the prayers presented on this occasion is indicated by the expression that “the smoke of the furnace ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.” The ascent of the prayers, mingled with the incense, out of the hand of the angel before God is intended to signify its acceptance. May we not deduce this fact from the Divine nature of our Redeemer? Is not His will one with the will of the Father? and must not what He deigns to present in His condescension as Mediator before the Father be accepted by the Father in connection with Himself? Then, again, may not this fact be deduced from the value of the atonement which He has offered upon the Cross? Is that defective? Is that presented with doubt and uncertainty in the presence-chamber of the celestial palace? Has it not been sealed by His resurrection from the dead, and by His ascension into heaven and His enthronement in royalty there? Is it possible for the Intercessor to plead His atonement in vain? Then, again, this fact may also be deduced directly from the express declaration of the Sacred Writings.

2. The success of the prayers of the saints shall be manifest. “The angel took the censer and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake”--physical signs and convulsions pronouncing “Amen “to the one delightful truth. (J. Parsons.)

Christ’s work of intercession in heaven

It is a work for the performance of which he is divinely commissioned. “Another angel,” it is said, “came and stood at the altar.” Who this angel was we are not indeed expressly told. However, the work in which the angel who came and stood by the altar engaged, was proper only to one person--to Him who is the High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus. He is another angel, not only distinct from the seven before mentioned who stood before God, but different from them in kind, having obtained by inheritance a more excellent name than they; yet He participates in their name, too, as being like them a commissioned minister of Jehovah. He glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest, but was called of God, as was Aaron. Of Him, as well as of the Spirit, it may be said that He maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God. His mediation in all its parts is the discharge of a trust committed to Him by that very Being against whom we had rebelled.

It is a work for the performance of which He is amply furnished, having the golden censer and much incense given Him to offer. When it is said that there was given to Him much incense, we are not to conceive that the offering was not of that which was His own. In accordance with the symbolical rite to which the vision is accommodated, it might seem to be put into His hands by another. But this act can have reference only to the assignment to Him of His office, or to His being endowed with all requisite qualifications for its discharge. A body was prepared for Him. The Holy Spirit was given Him not by measure. The incense was thus provided, which He was, as it were, to kindle and make to rise to God in sweet odour by His voluntary humiliation.

It is a wore which insures the acceptance of the prayers that are offered in His name, and for the blessings of His salvation. The first sincere prayer for mercy and grace which is intrusted to this great High Priest, in the faith that He will bring it with acceptance before the throne, makes the distinction between the sinner who has no part in Him, and the man who, by giving himself to Christ, has been numbered with His saints. He doubtless intercedes for many who yet know not His name, nor have trusted in His grace; and it is owing to His interposition on their behalf that they are not cut off in their sins, but in His time brought to the knowledge of the truth, and to the faith of God’s elect. There is also, we may admit, a direct intercession of Christ for His people, asking for them blessings besides or beyond what they are led to ask for themselves. We often know not what we ought to pray for, what would be really good for us; but He knows what things we have need of; and whatever is necessary to their complete restoration to holiness and happiness, will be included in His requests for those who have an interest in His mediation. But we may learn from the representation here given, that that mediation is not to be conducted in such a way as to dispense with their own prayers.

This work He carries on in behalf of all His saints. No prayer that rises from earth reaches the throne of grace but that which He presents. But none that is offered in His name is forgotten or omitted in the ministrations of this great High Priest. His understanding is infinite. There is room in His heart for all that will come to seek refuge there; among the unnumbered millions that may look to Him for pity and help, and commit their cause to Him, there is not one for whom He will not interest Himself as much as if his case alone engaged His sympathy. (J. Henderson, D. D.)

Practical lessons drawn from the doctrine of Christ’s intercession

It should impress us with a deep sense of the evil of sin. That there is involved in every act of it such daring presumption, and base ingratitude, and brutish folly, and foul malignity, as could not, but for the much incense offered with them by the exalted High Priest, have been otherwise than as a smoke in his nostrils, fire burning all the day, rendering our prayers and services offensive to Him who sitteth on the throne, provoking the eyes of His glory.

It affords us the richest encouragement in prayer. Are you only willing to come to God by Christ, to owe all the blessings you need to His mediation with Him whom you had offended? He is ready to intercede for you, and we know that “Him the Father heareth always.” Often has the voice of human eloquence been roused in behalf of the wretched in vain. It has pleaded the woes and wrongs of the oppressed, to hearts so hardened in selfishness and cruel in hate as to be callous to the most pathetic appeals; but the pleadings of this great Advocate are never unsuccessful. The justice and the mercy of God unite in conceding all that He asks.

It shows us how vain and superstitious it is to trust in departed saints or in angels to intercede for us. Whatever may be our speculations or conjectures as to the acquaintance, which saints in glory, or our departed friends in particular, may have with things done on earth, or the interest they may yet take in our affairs; however fondly we may dream at times that they may be employed, as we are told angels are, in some ministrations in behalf of those whom they have left in this vale of tears, let us feel assured that we need no other advocate with the Father in His holy place on high than Jesus Christ the righteous. Upon Him alone let us depend, to Him directly let us go, and say, in opposition to those who would point us to other intercessors, “To whom else should we go?--He hath the words of eternal life.”

The faith of Christ’s intercession should contribute to render us decided and undaunted in confessing His name and in doing the work to which He calls. Surely you have nothing to apprehend of ultimate loss or injury in the service of this exalted Redeemer! For though you should have to suffer a while for His name’s sake, or after His example, it is that when His glory shall be revealed, ye also may be glad with exceeding joy. And while you have committed to Him the keeping of your souls, you need not fear for aught that may be coming on the earth. He will keep you from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world. Does He not pray for this, not that you should be taken out of the world ere you have fulfilled the course allotted for you, but that you should be kept from the evil, that your faith may not fail, that you may be sanctified through the truth revealed in God’s Word, and so fitted to dwell with Him at last in the mansions He hath gone to prepare for you in His Father’s house. You need not in any case tremble for the interests of His Church; amid the agitations which seem to threaten the overthrow of all human institutions, and the convulsions which shake and affright the nations, these are secure under the protection of her exalted Head. (J. Henderson, D. D.)

Christ’s incense perfuming the prayers of all saints

All the saints are devout and praying persons. This is plainly intimated in the text, where we read of the prayers of all saints. It is an essential part of their character as saints to be so. It is a branch of their daily business to pray to God. The history of the saints shows this. Ever since God hath had a people in the world they have been described as men that “called upon the name of the Lord”; as “the generation of them that seek Him.” It is said that “every one that is godly seeketh the Lord.” The lives of good men in later ages show this. They all practised devotion and recommended it to others. The saints esteem it highly reasonable in itself, that as dependent creatures they should own their dependence upon God; that, as needy creatures, they should seek a supply of their wants from Him; that as sinful creatures they should implore His mercy; and as weak creatures should beg grace to help in time of need.

There are many imperfections attending the prayers of the saints. This is implied in the text, where we read of “much incense” being offered with them. It is supposed they were sincere; else they could not be the prayers of saints, nor would incense have been added to them. But the addition of the incense plainly intimates that they were imperfect and polluted, and of themselves unfit to be received by a pure and holy God.

It is the intercession of Christ which renders the prayers of saints acceptable to God. These Christians prayed themselves, and Christ, having the golden censer full of incense, intimates that He prayed likewise, offering His own prayers with theirs and for them. He seconds and enforces their petitions. He intercedes that those sinful defects which cleave to their prayers may be pardoned and excused, and their imperfect services accepted of God. These prayers of Christ are enforced by a just, proper, and effectual plea; even His own merit, His perfect righteousness and obedience, even unto death, which are so pleasing to God, that, on that account, He grants mercy to men. His intercession is founded on what He hath done and suffered; so that He hath a just claim to be heard, asking nothing but what He hath already purchased for His people, and God, by His promise and covenant, stands engaged to bestow. Now to this intercession of Christ it is owing that the prayers of the saints are acceptable to God. Application:

1. They who do not make a serious business of prayer are not saints.

2. The intercession of Christ will not excuse the neglect of prayer, or the allowed defects of it.

3. How glorious and how amiable doth Christ appear as an intercessor!

4. What deep humility becometh the greatest saints.

5. Let us fix our dependence on the intercession of Christ for the acceptance of our prayers. (Job Orton, D. D.)

Fire of the altar.

Fire from the altar

Fire is the great consumer. It always bespeaks wrath, torture, and destruction to the wicked. It is the common figure of Divine terribleness toward the guilty--one of the great agents in the administrations of the great day. And when the sublime Priest-Angel of heaven turns His fire-filled censer on the earth, we have come to the day that shall burn as an oven, in the which all the proud and ungodly shall be as stubble to the devouring flames (Malachi 4:1). This fire is taken from the altar. It is one of the fearful characteristics of God’s gracious operations, that they heighten the damnation of the disobedient and the unbelieving. It is not Adam’s guilt, for there is full remedy in Christ against that. It is not the condemnation in which the gospel finds them, for it comes with a full and everlasting reprieve. But here is the mischief--that when the great and costly salvation of God is carried to them they despise it and make light of it, and go their way as if it were nonsense or nothing. Out of the very altar of sacrifice, therefore, comes their damnation. It is the saving word refused, which is a savor of death unto death in them that perish. Perdition is simply abused or perverted grace. It is the same censer, filled with the same ingredients, only turned dawnward in the case of those who believe not. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)

Verses 6-7

Revelation 8:6-7

And the third part of the trees was burnt up.

Restricted judgment

In wrath the Lord ever remembers mercy. In the sounding of four of the seven angels this idea is most prominent. Afflictions of various kinds are seen to rest upon the earth, but they are confined in each case to one-third. It is not a final overthrow, nor is it a vision of destruction. In the disturbance of the material world is portrayed the upheaving in the spiritual. The judgments are chastisements--a part suffers for the good of the whole. The eye is plucked out to save the whole body. Here a portion--a third part--suffers that the whole perish not. These restricted judgments or chastisements of the Lord have their great use.

In awakening the attention of men to their spiritual condition. Truly a voice as of a trumpet.

In stimulating to repentance.

In the prevention of further sinfulness.

These chastisements have their final use as disciplinary processes in advancing righteousness. That which applies to the individual life applies also to the life of tribes and nations of men. To these the present passage relates. Judgments on “the third part” are designed to be corrective and admonitory to the whole. (R. Green.)

Verses 10-11

Revelation 8:10-11

There fell a great star from heaven.


1. By the fall of this star from heaven, we see that apostasy from the truth in pastors is a Luciferian sin, and they thereby are like unto him.

2. Where saving grace is not, all other gifts and endowments soever will never avail to preserve from apostasy, and make one to persevere.

3. As there are no personal gifts, so there is no place or succession that is personal only thereto, that can privilege from apostasy; for here we see a star for light, and in heaven for place, yet to fall from heaven.

4. We see it is not small stars, but a great star that falleth from heaven; whereby we see whom Satan most assaulteth, viz., those that are in primest places and of most excellent gifts.

5. From shining as a heavenly star, by apostasy, we see this star turns to be only as a burning earthly lamp: whereby we are taught what a change sin and apostasy maizes from the better to the worse, as in this star from heaven to earth, from standing to falling, and from shining to burning only; by fiery ambition and bitter contention like wormwood, hating most of any the professors of that truth which formerly they held. (Wm. Guild, D. D.)

Brilliant bitterness

Commentators say that the star Wormwood of my text was a type of Attila, king of the Huns. He was so called because he was brilliant as a star, and, like wormwood, he embittered everything he touched. A more extraordinary character history does not furnish than this man, Attila, the king of the Huns. The story goes that one day a wounded heifer came limping along through the fields, and a herdsman followed its bloody track on the grass to see where the heifer was wounded, and went on back, further and further, until he came to a sword fast in the earth, the point downward as though it had dropped from the heavens, and against the edges of this sword the heifer had been cut. The herdsman pulled up that sword and presented it to Attila. Attila said that sword must have dropped from the heavens from the grasp of the god Mars, and its being given to him meant that Attila should conquer and govern the whole earth. Other mighty men have been delighted at being called liberators, or the Merciful, or the Good, but Attila called himself, and demanded that others call him, “The Scourge of God.” The Roman Empire conquered the world, but Attila conquered the Roman Empire. He was right in calling himself a scourge, but instead of being “the Scourge of God,” he was the scourge of hell. Because of his brilliancy and bitterness, the commentators might well have supposed him to be the star Wormwood of the text. Have you ever thought how many embittered lives there are all about us, misanthropic, morbid, acrid, saturnine? The European plant from which wormwood is extracted, Artemisia absinthium, is a perennial plant, and all the year round it is ready to exude its oil. And in many human lives there is a perennial distillation of acrid experiences. Yea, there are some whose whole work is to shed a baleful influence on others. There are Attilas of the home, Attilas of the social circle, Attilas of the Church, Attilas o! the State, and one-third of the waters of all the world, if not two-thirds of the waters, are poisoned by the falling of the star Wormwood. It is not complimentary to human nature that most men, as soon as they get great power, become overbearing. The more power men have the better, if their power be used for good. The less power men have the better, if they use it evil. Some of you are morning stars, and you are making the dawning life of your children bright with gracious influences, and you are beaming upon all the opening enterprises of philanthropic and Christian endeavour, and you are heralds of day. Keep on shining with encouragement and Christian hope! Some of you are evening stars, and you are cheering the last days of old people. But are any of you the star Wormwood? Do you scold and growl from the thrones paternal or maternal? Are your children everlastingly pecked at? What is your influence upon the neighbourhood, the town, or the city of your residence? I will suppose that you are a star of wit. What kind of rays do you shoot forth? Do you use that splendid faculty to irradiate the world or to rankle it? Are your powers of mimicry used to put religion in contempt? Is it a bunch of nettlesome invective? Is it fun at others’ misfortune? Then you are the star Wormwood. Yours is the fun of a rattlesnake trying how well it can sting. But I will change this, and suppose you are a star of worldly prosperity. Then you have large opportunity. You can encourage that artist by buying his picture. You can improve the fields, the stables, the highway by introducing higher style of fowl and horse and cow and sheep. You can endow a college. You can build a church. You can put a missionary of Christ on that foreign shore. But suppose you grind the face of the poor. Suppose when a man’s wages are due you make him wait for them because he cannot help himself. Suppose by your manner you act as though he were nothing and you were everything. Suppose you are selfish and overbearing and arrogant. You are the star Wormwood, and you have embittered one-third, if not three-thirds, of the waters that roll past your employes and operatives and dependents and associates. Are we embittering the domestic or social or political fountains, or are we like Moses, who, when the Israelites in the wilderness complained that the waters of Lake Marah were bitter and they could not drink them, their leader cut off the branch of a certain tree and threw that branch into the water, and it became sweet and slaked the thirst of the suffering host? Are we with a branch of the Tree of Life sweetening all the brackish fountains that we can touch? What is true of individuals is true of nations. God sets them up to revolve as stars, but they may fall wormwood. Witness Thebes, Tyre, Nineveh, Babylon, and Imperial Rome. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

An angel … saying Woe … to the inhabiters of the earth.--

The body and the bird

“And I saw, and I heard an eagle, flying in mid heaven Woe, woe, woe, for them that dwell on the earth!” The true reading of the text is given in the Revised Version. It was not “an angel flying,” but a solitary eagle or vulture, that St. John saw. Hovering high overhead, a mere speck in the sky, and its harsh cry sounding as if it uttered over and over again the ominous words, “Woe, woe, woe!”

This eagle has often been seen. It has long hovered over and at last descended upon:

1. Corrupt communities.

2. Corrupt men. Many imagine that the great laws of God will be, no doubt, fulfilled amid nations and Churches and other bodies of men, but they will not take note of individuals.

It is good that it should be seen. In the physical world, if there were no scavengers, no agents whereby what is corrupt and corrupting could be rendered harmless, life could not go on.

Men sometimes think they see it when they do not. Poor Job--his friends, his comforters, would have it that his dreadful sufferings were judgments of God upon him.

Men often fail to see it when they might and should.

1. The bird may be invisible. It may be so far up in the sky, so far away, that our limited eyesight cannot travel so far, it is out of our range.

2. It may be restrained. God is “long-suffering, not willing that any should perish.”

3. It may have already descended, and be doing its work, and you not know it.

4. If it come not now, it will fasten on him the moment he reaches the next world’s shore. Ah, yes l if a man have made, is soul carrion-like, the eagle of judgment will find him sooner or later in trouble; from without or within, here or yonder--there is no escape. Remember, then:

(1) They are fools who make a mock at sin.

(2) Turn from it, and pray for the heart to love and dread the Lord, and to diligently live after His commandments. (S. Conway, B. A.)

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Revelation 8". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/revelation-8.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Ads FreeProfile