Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Revelation 8:3

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Another angel - About to perform the office of priest.

Having a golden censer - This was a preparation peculiar to the day of expiation. "On other days it was the custom of the priest to take fire from the great altar in a silver censer, but on the day of expiation the high priest took the fire from the great altar in a golden censer; and when he was come down from the great altar, he took incense from one of the priests, who brought it to him, and went with it to the golden altar; and while he offered the incense the people prayed without in silence, which is the silence in heaven for half an hour." See Sir Isaac Newton.

Much incense, that he should offer it - Judgments of God are now about to be executed; the saints - the genuine Christians, pray much to God for protection. The angelic priest comes with much incense, standing between the living and those consigned to death, and offers his incense to God With the prayers of the saints.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And another angel came - Who this angel was is not mentioned, nor have we any means of determining. Of course a great variety of opinion has been entertained on the subject (see Poole‘s Synopsis) - some referring it to angels in general; others to the ministry of the church; others to Constantine; others to Michael; and many others to the Lord Jesus. All that we know is, that it was an angel who thus appeared, and there is nothing inconsistent in the supposition that anyone of the angels in heaven may have been appointed to perform what is here represented. The design seems to be, to represent the prayers of the saints as ascending in the anticipation of the approaching series of wonders in the world - and there would be a beautiful propriety in representing them as offered by an angel, feeling deep interest in the church, and ministering in behalf of the saints.

And stood at the altar - In heaven - represented as a temple with an altar, and with the usual array of things employed in the worship of God. The altar was the appropriate place for him to stand when about to offer the prayers of the saints for that is the place where the worshipper stood under the ancient dispensation. Compare the Matthew 5:23-24 notes; Luke 1:11 note. In the latter place an angel is represented as appearing to Zacharias “on the right side of the altar of incense.”

Having a golden censer - The firepan, made for the purpose of carrying fire, on which to burn incense in time of worship. See it described and illustrated in the notes on Hebrews 9:4. There seems reason to suppose that the incense that was offered in the ancient worship was designed to be emblematic of the prayers of saints, for it was the custom for worshippers to be engaged in prayer at the time the incense was offered by the priest. See Luke 1:10.

And there was given unto him much incense - See the notes on Luke 1:9. A large quantity was here given to him, because the occasion was one on which many prayers might be expected to be offered.

That he should offer it with the prayers - Margin, “add it to.” Greek, “that he should give it with” - δώση dōsēThe idea is plain, that, when the prayers of the saints ascended, he would also burn the incense, that it might go up at the same moment, and be emblematic of them. Compare the notes on Revelation 5:8.

Of all saints - Of all who are holy; of all who are the children of God. The idea seems to be, that, at this time, all the saints would unite in calling on God, and in deprecating his wrath. As the events which were about to occur were a matter of common interest to the people of God, it was to be supposed that they would unite in common supplication.

Upon the golden altar - The altar of incense. This in the tabernacle and in the temple was overlaid with gold.

Which was before the throne - This is represented as a temple-service, and the altar of incense is, with propriety, placed before his seat or throne, as it was in the tabernacle and temple. In the temple, God is represented as occupying the mercy-seat in the holy of holies, and the altar of incense is in the holy place before that. See the description of the temple in the notes on Matthew 21:12.

Uriah Smith
Daniel and the Revelation, 453

Verse 3

Having as it were, in verse 2, brought out the seven angels, and introduced them before us upon the stage of action, John, for a moment, in the three verses last quoted, directs attention to an entirely different scene. The angel which approaches the altar is not one of the seven trumpet angels. The altar is the altar of incense, which, in the earthly sanctuary, was placed in the first apartment. Here, then, is another proof that there exists in heaven a sanctuary with its corresponding vessels of service, of which the earthly was a figure, and that we are taken into that sanctuary by the visions of John. A work of ministration for all the saints in the sanctuary above is thus brought to view. Doubtless the entire work of mediation for the people of God during the gospel dispensation is here presented. This is apparent from the fact that the angel offers his incense with the prayers of all saints. And that we are here carried forward to the end, is evident from the act of the angel in filling the censer with fire and casting it unto the earth; for his work is then done; no more prayers are to be offered up mingled with incense; and this symbolic act can have its application only at the time when the ministration of Christ in the sanctuary in behalf of mankind has forever ceased. And following the angel's act are voices, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake, — exactly such occurrences as we are elsewhere informed transpire at the close of human probation. (See Revelation 11:19; 16:17, 18.)DAR 453.5

But why are these verses thus thrown in here? — Answer: As a message of hope and comfort for the church. The seven angels with their warlike trumpets had been introduced; terrible scenes were to transpire under their sounding; but before they commence, the people of God are pointed to the work of mediation in their behalf above, and their source of help and strength during this time. Though they should be tossed like feathers upon the tumultuous waves of strife and war, they were to know that their great High Priest still ministered for them in the sanctuary in heaven, and that thither they could direct their prayers, and have them offered, with incense, to their Father in heaven. Thus could they gain strength and support in all their calamities.DAR 454.1

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The seventh seal is opened. There was profound silence in heaven for a space; all was quiet in the church, for whenever the church on earth cries through oppression, that cry reaches up to heaven; or it is a silence of expectation. Trumpets were given to the angels, who were to sound them. The Lord Jesus is the High Priest of the church, having a golden censer, and much incense, fulness of merit in his own glorious person. Would that men studied to know the fulness that is in Christ, and endeavoured to be acquainted with his excellency. Would that they were truly persuaded that Christ has such an office as that of Intercessor, which he now performs with deep sympathy. No prayers, thus recommended, was ever denied hearing and acceptance. These prayers, thus accepted in heaven, produced great changes upon earth. The Christian worship and religion, pure and heavenly in its origin and nature, when sent down to earth and conflicting with the passions and worldly projects of sinful men, produced remarkable tumults, here set forth in prophetical language, as our Lord himself declared, Lu 12:49.
Ellen G. White
Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 110

In every Christian home God should be honored by the morning and evening sacrifices of prayer and praise. Children should be taught to respect and reverence the hour of prayer. It is the duty of Christian parents, morning and evening, by earnest prayer and persevering faith, to make a hedge about their children. CT 110.1

In the church at home the children are to learn to pray and to trust in God. Teach them to repeat God's law. Concerning the commandments the Israelites were instructed: “Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deuteronomy 6:7. Come in humility, with a heart full of tenderness, and with a sense of the temptations and dangers before yourselves and your children; by faith bind them to the altar, entreating for them the care of the Lord. Train the children to offer their simple words of prayer. Tell them that God delights to have them call upon Him. CT 110.2

Will the Lord of heaven pass by such homes and leave no blessing there? Nay, verily. Ministering angels will guard the children who are thus dedicated to God. They hear the offering of praise and the prayer of faith, and they bear the petitions to Him who ministers in the sanctuary for His people and offers His merits in their behalf. CT 110.3

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Ellen G. White
God's Amazing Grace, 86.1

Another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. Revelation 8:3. AG 86.1

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Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 414-5

The sanctuary in heaven, in which Jesus ministers in our behalf, is the great original, of which the sanctuary built by Moses was a copy. God placed His Spirit upon the builders of the earthly sanctuary. The artistic skill displayed in its construction was a manifestation of divine wisdom. The walls had the appearance of massive gold, reflecting in every direction the light of the seven lamps of the golden candlestick. The table of shewbread and the altar of incense glittered like burnished gold. The gorgeous curtain which formed the ceiling, inwrought with figures of angels in blue and purple and scarlet, added to the beauty of the scene. And beyond the second veil was the holy Shekinah, the visible manifestation of God's glory, before which none but the high priest could enter and live. GC 414.1

The matchless splendor of the earthly tabernacle reflected to human vision the glories of that heavenly temple where Christ our forerunner ministers for us before the throne of God. The abiding place of the King of kings, where thousand thousands minister unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before Him (Daniel 7:10); that temple, filled with the glory of the eternal throne, where seraphim, its shining guardians, veil their faces in adoration, could find, in the most magnificent structure ever reared by human hands, but a faint reflection of its vastness and glory. Yet important truths concerning the heavenly sanctuary and the great work there carried forward for man's redemption were taught by the earthly sanctuary and its services. GC 414.2

The holy places of the sanctuary in heaven are represented by the two apartments in the sanctuary on earth. As in vision the apostle John was granted a view of the temple of God in heaven, he beheld there “seven lamps of fire burning before the throne.” Revelation 4:5. He saw an angel “having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.” Revelation 8:3. Here the prophet was permitted to behold the first apartment of the sanctuary in heaven; and he saw there the “seven lamps of fire” and “the golden altar,” represented by the golden candlestick and the altar of incense in the sanctuary on earth. Again, “the temple of God was opened” (Revelation 11:19), and he looked within the inner veil, upon the holy of holies. Here he beheld “the ark of His testament,” represented by the sacred chest constructed by Moses to contain the law of God. GC 414.3

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