Poole on Revelation 8:3: Incense and Atonement

Verse 3:[1] And 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 (Rev. 5:8) the prayers (or, add it to the prayers[2]) of all saints upon (Ex. 30:1; Rev. 6:9) the golden altar which was before the throne.

[Another Angel] The Angel of the prayers of the Church, as it is understood from what follows. Of such an Angel mention is made by the Hebrew Sefer Hasidim,[3] and Tertullian[4] in his work Concerning Prayer[5] (Grotius). Concerning him the Hebrews speak in Elle Shemoth Rabba[6] 21, Individual synagogues pray separately, but when all synagogues have finished all their prayers, an Angel, who is put in charge of prayers, carries the prayers, and makes them crowns, and places them upon the head of God, etc. (Cartwright’s[7] Hebrew Honey-making[8] 3052). They understand Angel here, either, 1. as Angels in general, by whose ministry our prayers are offered to God (Beza in Cappel[9]); which does not satisfy (Cappel): or, 2. as the Ecclesiastical Ministry (certain interpreters in Gravius); or, 3. Constantine the Great (other interpreters in Gravius); or, 4. Michael (Ribera, Menochius), to whom the entire Church was entrusted (Ribera, similarly Gagnæus[10]); or, 5. Christ (Zegers, Gagnæus, Menochius, Cotterius, Cluverus, Forbes, Durham, Gravius, Pareus out of Andreas Cæsarius), unto whom alone square what things follow here (Cotterius). He alone is able to offer the prayers of the Saints, and to give efficacy to them (Durham): He alone is High Priest in the Church (Pareus, Durham). All the rites made use of here have regard unto the High Priest (Durham), who was a type, not of Angels (Cappel), but of Christ (Cappel, thus Durham). Objection 1: Christ is nowhere called an Angel without qualification (Ribera). Response: On the contrary, He is called an Angel in Genesis 48:16, as it appears from a comparison with Genesis 28:15; 32:9, 11, and the Angel of the covenant in Malachi 3:1 (Pareus). Now, Angel here is a designation of His office, not of His nature (Forbes), that is to say, Legate, as elsewhere He is called Mediator, Prophet, and High Priest (Cluverus). Objection 2: This Angel John makes similar to the others by saying, another Angel (Ribera). Response: He is called another, that is, with respect to kind (Pareus). Objection 3: It hinders that incense was given to this Angel (certain interpreters in Durham). Response: Both the Mediatorial office, and the powers necessary for it, are said to be given to Christ. Add that he speaks here of Christ with expressions agreeing with the High Priest on earth, for in heaven there are no altars, incense, etc. Now, in this place the Intercession of Christ is described, which comes between the opening of the Seal and the exhibition of the Trumpets, and the sounding of the Trumpets: it consists of two parts, and has regard to, both, 1. His own people, verses 3 and 4, for whom He reveals His care, and, before He looses the reins of the following evils, He intercedes for them, that God would not impute sins to them, nor allow them to be carried away by the waves of error; but that He would preserve them, lest anything of a nuisance to them should thereupon occur, as in Luke 22:32: and, 2. His enemies, against whom He casts fire, etc., verse 5, and, after He has provided for His own, He commands the Angels to sound (Durham).


[He stood (like the others, for He also in a certain regard is a minister: but He stands in the place of the High Priest [Forbes]) before, etc., ἐπὶ, etc.] Near (or, before [Erasmus[11]], upon [Piscator, Cotterius], in the presence of [Beza, Piscator], close to, as in Revelation 7:9 [Grotius]) the altar (Montanus[12]), either, 1. of Burnt Offering, so that it might be signified that Christ is a Priest, and at that same time that He is the victim offered upon the altar (Piscator). Or, rather, 2. of Incense (Piscator, thus Grotius, Mede’s Works 568, Hammond, Ribera); as show, both, the censer (Piscator), and, that it is next called golden, while that of burnt offerings was bronze (Ribera). The sense: He attended to the Altar, or to God before the Altar (Drusius[13]), as the high priest and advocate of the Church in the presence of God (Cluverus). I interpret the altar here as the worship of God, over which Christ was put in charge in the Church: for there gifts and sacrifices were offered, which were the very height of legal worship (Cotterius). By the Altar he understands pious souls (Clement[14] and Origen[15] in Grotius).

[Having a golden censer (thus Beza, Piscator, Erasmus, Pagnine,[16] Montanus, Castalio,[17] etc.)] By which he understands (Cotterius) Christ’s soul (Cluverus), and body (Cluverus, Gagnæus, Menochius), mortal, which was offered after the fashion of incense (Menochius), as a most pleasant aroma to God (Gagnæus); or, Christ’s precious passion and death (Pareus, similarly Cotterius), by the eternal force of which He Himself appears in heaven before God for us as High Priest, Hebrews 9:24 (Pareus).


[Λιβανωτὸν, etc.] Rightly, as appears from verse 5[18] (Beza); elsewhere it signifies frankincense (Erasmus, similarly Beza, Grotius), as in 1 Chronicles 9:29,