Breaking Open the Word: Revelation Ch. 8-9

“The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel.”  - Rev 8:3   from

“The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel.” - Rev 8:3


Sunday, November 11th, 2018 – Revelation Chapters 8 and 9

               “Woe, woe, and again woe to the inhabitants of earth from the trumpet blasts the other three angels are about to blow!” (Rev. 8:13) An apt summary indeed of these two chapters of Revelation, which are filled with plagues, disasters, and beasts too terrifying to imagine!

               We started with some observations from a commentary by Rick Toretto. He interprets the “star fall[en] from the sky to the earth” in 9:1 as a bishop who has fallen into heresy. His false teaching is “the key to the shaft of the abyss” that allows “the angel of the abyss” (vs 11), Satan, to escape and unleash his demonic forces, symbolized by the locusts, on the world. As one Sister observed, this interpretation underlines how false teaching has far more destructive consequences than many think; even the one who is promoting the error can be unaware of how enormous is the evil thus unleashed.  All the more reason, then, to learn our faith thoroughly and to share the truth at any opportunity!

               Another Sister was impressed by the parallels to the Exodus from Egypt in this passage. There are plagues of hail (8:7), water turned to blood (8:8), darkness (8:12), and locusts (9:3) which are meant to encourage repentance. However, like Pharaoh, the “inhabitants of the earth” instead harden their hearts: “The part of mankind which escaped the plagues did not repent.” (9:20) However, unlike the first Exodus, this is not merely a liberation of one nation from another; this is the new and final Passover of God’s people into eternal life. Through all the terrible “woes” suffered by those who try to hinder this momentous event, we hear the cry of the Lord: “Let my people go!”

               Our discussion then turned back to the start of Chapter 8, where the enormous power of intercessory prayer is on display. It is the “incense . . . together with the prayers of all the saints” (8:3) that the angel offers to God that actually sets into motion the judgment of the seven trumpets. Indeed, the theme of spiritual warfare is prominent; as Scott Hahn notes, trumpets were used in ancient Israel for both worship and war.

I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!
— Luke 12:49 (NAB)

 But surely our prayers shouldn’t be focused on bringing destruction and woe to the world, however sinful it may be! One Sister proposed the solution to this problem. Our Lord declared fervently that “I have come to cast fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already ablaze!” (Luke 12:49) We must have the same desire as He did, to set the world on fire with the love of God. Indeed, the “coals from the altar” (8:5) are associated with sacrifice, and it was the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross that showed God’s love most clearly. However, the love of God is not a comfortable, “warm and fuzzy” kind of love; it is a blazing fire that can and will consume all that is not holy. Thus, by praying for this fire to be “cast on the earth,” we are hastening the day of His second coming, where evil will be cast out once and for all.

After the intensity of Chapters 8 and 9, our next stop is the interlude of Chapters 10 and 11, ending with the blowing of the seventh and final trumpet. Next weekend our community will be in retreat to prepare for our annual renewal of vows (please keep us in prayer!) so we will resume our sharings the following week. Thank you for keeping up with us for this Scripture study on the book of Revelation!