In Part Fourteen, we took a brief look at the 144,000 evangelists in Revelation chapter 7 who had a special seal placed on them by God. The Bible tells us that the identity of these 144,000 — in spite of the fact that some religious organizations claim them as their own followers — are in fact Jews who have been set apart for God’s own specially timed purpose.
As we continued in chapter 7, we also took an in depth view of the vast multitude before the Throne of God and we presented substantial evidence that this massive host of people is a combination of all the righteous dead in Christ and those that will be raptured just before the God’s Judgment is unleashed on a wicked Christ-rejecting world during the seven years of The Great Apocalypse.
This brings us to Revelation chapter 8 and the opening of the Seventh Seal. It is not until the breaking of this Seal and the fulfillment of the mysterious incense ceremony detailed in the early part of chapter 8, that the actual Wrath of God begins to be poured out. Up to this point, the earth has merely been experiencing birth pains, albeit, as of late, in ever-increasing severity and frequency. The severity will increase exponentially right up to the opening of the Sixth Seal. That tremendous cataclysm brought about at this event will serve as a powerful, unmistakable, notice to the world that God’s Judgment is at the door. I also believe, as explained earlier in this series, that this is when the great resurrection of the saints and catching up (Rapture) event will happen.
As the Seventh Seal is broken, the actual contents of the scroll are finally revealed — the Wrath of God poured out in the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments. As the Seventh Seal is opened, we find a dynamic shift of events. As per Revelation 6:17, the world knows that the Day of the LORD has now arrived, but has no idea of the magnitude of what is about to unfold.
To this point, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have had permission to oppress and harass the world, as expressed in the six Seals. Now that the first six Seals have been opened, it is time for a transition in which the supernatural realm begins to cross over into the natural world in earnest. Before this begins, however, there will be a unique ceremony in which the High Priest of Heaven solemnly executes the ceremony of incense.
Let’s first of all read the passage:
1 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 to them were given seven trumpets. 3 Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. 5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. Revelation 8:1-5
As we see in the passage above, immediately after the Seventh Seal is opened, there is a silence in heaven that lasts 30 minutes. Seven angels are given seven trumpets to blow — but not until after the ceremony has been completed. A messenger / angel is seen standing by the Altar of Incense. This is the same altar under which the souls of the martyrs cry out for God’s vengeance for their blood spilled for their testimony while on earth (Fifth Seal). What does John see when the Seventh Seal is opened?
In verses 3-5 John saw an incredible majestic scene with a “messenger” beginning to offer incense representing the prayers of righteous believers under the Altar. Spiritual incense which is used for the worship of God, or Frankincense (sometimes referred to as pure incense), is used by the messenger. The golden censer is a fire pan used for this pure heavenly frankincense. Incidentally, frankincense, when it is burned, leaves a pleasant, sweet smell.
In this ceremony, the messenger is burning the prayers of the saints / martyrs under the Altar that is before the Lord on His Throne, and the scent rises up to Him as smoke. As the prayer incense burns, the ashes fall into the coals of fire. The messenger then proceeds to gather fiery coals from the Altar in the golden censer and throw them upon the earth.
To us in our current generation, this may seem like an odd ritual, but it has a parallel in the Old Testament found in Leviticus 16 and has to do with a yearly ritual performed on the Day of Atonement. What was this ritual referred to in the Old Testament? The high priest, after washing himself, put holy garments on and entered the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies). Before the yearly offering of animal sacrifices, however, the priest was to offer incense.
12 Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil. 13 And he shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die. Leviticus 16:12-13
The more one examines the ritual in Leviticus and compares it with the ceremony in Revelation 8, the more fascinating it becomes. These similarities are not well known to most in our generation — even many teachers of eschatology. Both ceremonies are performed before the altar; both refer to a censer; and both refer to incense. Then…the incense is put on the fire, as we see in verse 13 above.
There are more similarities:
- Smoke from the incense rises before the throne of God in John’s vision, and smoke from the incense in Leviticus 16 covers the mercy seat (which is the covering of the Ark of the Covenant).
- In both passages, fire is mixed with the incense. The deeper we look into the passages, the more we see how parallel they are — at least to this point.
This brings up a question. Who is the “messenger”? Several translations say, “angel.” According to Hebrews 9, the high priest of the new covenant is Jesus Christ.
The Greek word “aggelos” which is used and here translated as “angel” is not limited to only being interpreted as “angel”. The word is used to describe a “messenger” who will make a proclamation or perform a task. Jesus spoke of John the Baptist as an “aggelos” in Matthew 11:10. When we compare the tasks performed by the “aggelos” in Leviticus 16 and that performed in Revelation 8, the “aggelos” in Revelation 8:3 cannot be anyone other than Jesus, the High Priest of Heaven — who just opened the Seventh Seal and is about to unleash the Trumpet Judgments upon the earth.
With careful examination and comparison of the Leviticus 16 and Revelation 8 passages, we can clearly see that the judgments cannot be released from Heaven until the ceremony with incense and fire has been completed.
We know that the martyrs below the altar are constantly before the Lord, directly under the altar of incense. We also know from details we are given of the Fifth Seal, that these martyrs are crying out, saying: “How long Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Revelation 8:3 tells us that a large amount of incense (frankincense) is presented to Jesus for offering on the altar. Once this smoke of pure frankincense comes up before the throne, God responds to the request.
So, as we take an overview of the entire ceremony, it is clear that God’s vengeance is withheld until Heaven’s High Priest, Jesus Christ, offers those requests for vengeance on the incense altar and the incense smoke comes up before God, the Father, on the Throne.
Just as the tearing of the veil of the Temple at the crucifixion of Christ provided a new and living access to God’s Throne of Grace for believers, so the incense offering by Heaven’s High Priest on the Golden Altar before God’s Throne initiates the unleashing of God’s vengeance on a wicked, Christ-rejecting world. At that point, vengeance will no longer be held back, and the seven angels with the Trumpet Judgments will be released by Jesus to begin blowing their trumpets.
Note: It was God Himself who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” We find these words in Romans 12:19, but it is a quote from Deuteronomy 32:35.
We can come to another conclusion in the matter; in fact, a confirmation, that all the preceding events, starting in Revelation 6 through the first few verses of Revelation 8, bring us to the actual beginning of the Apocalypse. Daniel’s 70th Week (7-year duration of the Apocalypse) does not start with the opening of the 6 Seals of Revelation 6, but rather, with the completion of the incense ceremony performed by Jesus Christ Himself in Revelation 8:3-5.
As has been discussed in previous writings in this series, the first five seals are part of the progression of history from the first century up to our present generation. The Sixth Seal embodies within it a number of unfolding catastrophes, including a world-wide earthquake, cosmic meteor storm, and much more. This is also, I believe, when the Resurrection / Rapture event will happen.
What makes this a paradigm shift?
There are several important contrasts we can deduce between the events attributed to the opening of the Seals as opposed to those that unfold as of the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments.
- When Jesus, while on the Mount of Olives, was asked by His disciples about future events leading to His return and the end of the age, Jesus gave them a nearly identical list of coming events as we find in the first five Seals. He even went so far as clarifying in Matthew 24:6 that these things would happen, but, “the end is not yet.” After continuing his list of coming events, He went on to add in verse 8, “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (or birth pains in some translations). The birth pains, or the beginning of sorrows are to come before the end, whereas the unleashing of the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments definitely come after The Day of God’s Wrath has begun.
4 And Jesus answered and said unto them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. Matthew 24:4-8
Those birth pangs have increased in both frequency and intensity — especially in the last few years.
- With the opening of the Seals, Spirit Beings are allowed to go out throughout the earth in order to influence and oppress the human race, whereas the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments are carried out at God’s command to angels that are specifically chosen to blow the Trumpets and pour out the Bowls, as made clear in the passages below. (Incidentally, Spirit Riders roaming the earth, much like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, are also mentioned in the Old Testament Book of Zechariah 6:1-8).
So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. Revelation 8:6
Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous; seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete. Revelation 15:1
The angels pour out their specified Trumpet and Bowl Judgments on the earth from Heaven, whereas the spirit beings of the first four Seals go out into the earth itself to complete their tasks.
- It is clear that there is an obvious contrast in the reaction of the human race to the catastrophic results when the Sixth Seal is opened in Revelation 6:15-17, and humanity’s reaction to the outpouring of the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments, as is shown in the passages below:
15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16 and said to the mountains and rocks. Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him, who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of His wrath has come and who is able to stand? Revelation 6:15-17
15 But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. 16 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. Revelation 9:20-21
They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds. Revelation 16:11
And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great. Revelation 16:21
Humans show some degree of humility at the opening of the Sixth Seal, whereas the reaction of the world to the plagues resulting because of the release of the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments shows no humility whatsoever, nor any realization that the plagues are because of man’s unrelenting wickedness and the rejection of Jesus Christ. Could it be the “spirit of delusion” that God said He would send because of mankind’s insistence on total rejection of Jesus as Messiah, is what brings about the contrasting reaction?
- All that happens to the inhabitants of Earth through the opening of the first five Seals, can be explained by things that have been happening throughout the history of mankind as naturally happening events — and they are continuing today. The Trumpet and Bowl Judgments, however, are clearly supernatural events.
The supernatural events will become quite obvious as the veil between our 3-dimensional reality and that of the supernatural world is removed. Earthlings will experience extreme plagues of blood and fire from the cosmos and the disturbance to the natural orbits of heavenly bodies in our solar system. There will be the release of demon spirits by the hordes, ‘other-worldly’ fallen creatures, and even the temporary return of ancient giants to the surface of the earth. There will be many hyper-normal events including unnatural darkness and global destruction such as the human race has never seen, nor ever will again.
So, what is the bridge between the colossal Sixth Seal cataclysm and the beginning of the unleashing of God’s Wrath in the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments? It is the unique ceremony of incense at the Golden Altar before God’s Throne. The outpouring of God’s Wrath will be withheld until this ceremony has been completed. Until then, God patiently waits for people to recognize they have lost their way and fallen into great error — error of such consequence that it affects the eternal destiny of every human being on earth.
There is only one bridge between a holy God and fallen man, and that is the God-Man, the one and only true Messiah, Jesus. The price paid on Golgotha’s hill at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the only remedy to bring fallen humanity back into a right relationship with God BEFORE the great and terrible day of God’s wrath begins. This is why Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). NOW is the day of salvation.
Forever in His Service,