Revelation 8:1-6 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. When the seventh seal is broken, what does John hear? See Revelation 8:1 (printed below) What do you think is the significance of this?

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (Revelation 8:1)

John informs us that when Christ opened the seventh seal, “there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” The opening of the seventh seal concludes the previous vision of the Breaking of the Seven Seals. The breaking of the seventh and final seal ushers in the eternal rest of God, much like the rest into which God entered following His works of creation (cp. Genesis 2:3). Furthermore, the momentary silence emphasizes the fact that God gives His full attention to the prayers of His people. Thus, the silence John hears is also the silence of attentiveness on the part of God: the Lord is attentive to the prayers of His people. Note: Revelation 8:1-6 is a transition passage, it not only concludes the previous vision of the Seven Seals, it also introduces the next vision of the Seven Trumpets.

2. Describe the scene John relates to us in verse 3 (printed below). What do you think these things represent?

Then another angel, one who had a golden censer, came and stood by the altar. He was given much incense that he was to mix with the prayers of all the saints, and offer it on the golden altar that was before the throne. (Revelation 8:3)

Here we find “all the saints,” that is to say, the entire church of the Lord Jesus Christ, united in prayer. It is implied that what they are praying for is the accomplishment of their redemption and the coming of their Lord and His kingdom in glory (cp. Revelation 6:9-10; Revelation 22:17a, 20; Matthew 6:9-10). The scene presented in verses 3-5 depicts the prayers of God’s people being offered up to the Lord their God.

3. What does John see happening in verse 4 (printed below?)

The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, ascended to the presence of God from the angel’s hand. (Revelation 8:4)

We are told, “the smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, ascended to the presence of God.” By means of this scene we are being visibly assured that the prayers of the people of God are, indeed, ascending into the presence of God and are being received by Him.

4. In verse 3 (printed above under question #2) John saw the angel fill his censer with incense (representing the prayers of the saints). In verse 4 (printed above under question #3) the smoke of the incense (i.e.; the prayers of the church) ascend into the presence of God. Now what happens in verse 5 (printed below?) What is the significance of this?

Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it to the earth, there followed peals of thunder and rumblings and flashes of lightning and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:5)

In verse 5 the angel fills his censer with fire from the altar and hurls it to the earth. We are told that there followed “peals of thunder and rumblings and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” That is to say, the Lord is asserting Himself in awesome power and majesty in response to the prayers of His church, as the worldwide body of believers prays for the accomplishment of God’s purposes, the spread of the gospel, and the coming of God’s kingdom.

5. What is the first thing John saw in this present vision (note verse 2 (printed below?) What does John report that he saw in verse 6 (printed below?) What is significant about the event John saw in verses 3-5 (the scene depicting the prayers of God’s people?)

The seven angels who had the seven trumpets now prepared to sound them. (Revelation 8:6)

As the dramatic silence of expectation fills heaven (verse 1), John observes “the seven angels who stand before God.” Their appearance indicates that a great and marvelous work of God is about to occur; this is all the more emphasized by the fact that to each of these angels is given a trumpet: they are to herald the coming of the Lord and His mighty acts. In verse 6 John observes these seven angels as each one raises his trumpet to his lips and proceeds to sound a blast. Note carefully that between the initial appearance of the seven angels (verse 2) and the sounding of their trumpets (verse 6), there occurs the vision depicting the prayers of the church (verses 3-5). The message is this: the Lord uses the prayers of His people to accomplish His work. One aspect of prayer is that it is the gracious gift of participating with God in the accomplishment of His plans.