Poole on Revelation 8:5, 6: A Neglected and Offended High Priest

Verse 5:[1] And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into (or, upon[2]) the earth: and (Rev. 16:18) there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, (2 Sam. 22:8; 1 Kings 19:11; Acts 4:31) and an earthquake.


[And He took…the censer (now empty [Tirinus], after the incense was offered [Menochius]) and filled it with fire from the altar (namely, of burnt offering [Piscator, Tirinus], or, of sacrifice, which is named after the principal part τῶν ὁλοκαυτωμάτων, of burnt offering [Grotius]: for on that a perpetual fire was kept, not on the other [Piscator]: Others: From the fire which was in other censers placed upon the Altar [Menochius]), and cast (or, threw down [Beza, Piscator], poured out [Grotius]) upon the earth] That is, upon men savoring of earthly things (Cotterius): or, upon the visible Church, which is called the earth, Revelation 7:1, on which are trees and herbs, both green and withered: the same is called a field, or the world, Matthew 13 (Durham). Fire here signifies, either, 1. the Holy Spirit (Pareus, thus Gravius, Cluverus). For, as that sacrificial fire, 1. was heavenly, 2 Chronicles 7:1, 3; 2. was always preserved, Leviticus 6:13; 3. was kindling incense: so the Holy Spirit, 1. is from heaven, 1 Corinthians 2:12; 2. remains with us forever, John 14:16; Isaiah 59:21, neither is to be quenched, 1 Thessalonians 5:19 (Cluverus). The same was poured out in the likeness of fire upon the Apostles, Acts 2:3 (Pareus); and with His gifts He equips both the Church and its members, and especially its ministers, so that they might teach the Gospel with manifest power (Gravius). But this opinion agrees neither with the scope, nor with the following effects, as we shall see (Durham). Or, 2. the anger of God (Grotius, Cotterius, Forbes), who is a consuming fire[3] (Cotterius), whose anger everywhere in the Prophets is fire. See what things are on Mark 9:49 (Grotius). It denotes judgments sent by God upon the earth (Lightfoot’s Harmony, Chronicle, and Order of the New Testament 157), namely, upon Judea, as γῆ/earth is taken in this part of the Apocalypse. Thus fire is scattered out upon Jerusalem, Ezekiel 10:2 (Grotius). By this rite He indicates unto what those prayers had regard, which passing unto God, He had overspread with an agreeable aroma; that is, to obtain vengeance against the Inhabitants of the earth that had killed the saints (Mede’s Works 568). Fire here denotes most grievous and spiritual judgments pour out against the Church: for, to the ascending incense with the prayers of the Saints is opposed a descending fire, as a casting out and rejection of the prayers of others. The fire here taken from the altar denotes divisions and contentions concerning matters, not civil, but spiritual, Luke 12:49, 51-53 compared with Matthew 10:34-36, because of misguided zeal, pride, etc. (Durham). This is the fire of tumults which follow the preaching of the Gospel (certain interpreters in Pareus). To which it is objected that from this fire the High Priest had previously kindled His incenses (Pareus). But the Spirit wished to teach that the same death of Christ comes upon believers unto salvation, and upon the rebellious and profane unto the greater condemnation. Compare 2 Corinthians 2:16 (Cotterius). From one and the same altar and censer, one and the same fire sent sweet incense upward, and devouring wrath downward: this fire warms, purges, and refines the elect; but it burns enemies. From Christ is both the acceptance of the Saints, and wrath against the world, etc. (Forbes). This sign was given to the trumpeters (Forbes, Durham), who were standing, expecting that very thing, so that they might proceed to the execution κατὰ μέρος, by course (Forbes), and introduce the judgments restrained in chapter 7 (Durham).

[And were produced (that is, from the Throne or Innermost Sanctuary of the Temple, Revelation 4:5 [Mede’s Works 568]) thunderings and voices (that is, voices of thunder, or with thunder [Mede’s Works 568, thus Grotius, Hammond], as we said above, Revelation 4:5 [Grotius], so that and might be ἐξηγητικὸν/exegetical in the place of that is; or rather, ἓν διὰ δυοῖν, hendiadys [Mede’s Works 568]: In the place of φωναὶ καὶ βρονται, voices and thunderings, in this place is φωνῆς βροντῆς, the voice/noise of thunder in Revelation 6:1 [Grotius]), lightnings and an earthquake] By these words is described the oracle of Bath Kol, that is, the Daughter of voice,[4] or of thunder, by which God was formerly giving responses among the Ancient people, and He grants the same here to the prayers of the Saints. That is, as God spoke the Law, Exodus 19:16, so also He was as commonly publishing His tenets and oracles with thunder, as in John 12:28; Revelation 4:5; 6:1; 10:3. So also by an earthquake God was granting the prayers of the Apostles, Acts 4:31. In addition, see 2 Samuel 22:7-9, compared with Psalm 18 (Mede’s Works 568). Various outcomes of the preaching of the Gospel are here signified, even indeed the same as were previously signified by the opening of the first, second, third, fourth, and sixth Seal, but in a general way only, as I said; that is, the sermons of the Apostles with abundant success, and thence the consequent persecutions, heresies, etc. (Pareus). By the Holy Spirit charging the world and its sins, voices are made, that is, powerful conflicts; thunders, when men, seized by the fire of the Spirit of God, with the world unwilling, urge the commandments of Christ, as in the case of thunder, fire, enclosed in a cloud, attempts to burst forth by force; lightnings, when miracles and manifest judgments of God shine throughout the world; earthquakes, that is, powerful concussions of empires, etc. (Cluverus). These thunders are objects of terror and words of heavenly rebuke; voices, exhortations; lightnings, flashes of miracles; earthquakes, an enormous tumult and shaking of mortals, by which some are moved to piety, others to infidelity (Zegers). Others: All these things signify that new threats came from God, namely, through many prodigies, which Josephus[5] mentions, and Eusebius[6] in His Chronicle, partly also Tacitus.[7] Thus we also took lightnings and thunderings in the sense of threats in Revelation 4:5. Unto ἀστραπὰς/lightnings you would rightly refer the battle lines seen to rush together in heaven, and the arms glowing red, as Tacitus speaks, the fiery sword, as Josephus speaks, and that by a sudden fire the Temple was illuminated; unto βροντὰς/thunderings and φωνὰς/voices, the voice heard in the Temple, Let us depart from here; unto the earthquake, that the bronze gate opened spontaneously. See Josephus’ Jewish War 6:31, and Tacitus’ Histories 5 (Grotius). Thunderings, etc., are indeed sometimes indications of God heeding prayers, as in 1 Samuel 12:16, etc.; but here they denote some tremendous effect: as it is proven, 1. because they follow the projection of fire upon the earth; 2. because they