Divine Retribution and the Prayers of the Saints
In the Book of Revelation, the seven seals lead to seven trumpets, which lead to seven bowls of wrath. Interludes are dispersed among these, but we should not miss the way judgment hastens towards the end.
The seventh seal is broken and “there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” This brief period of silence heightens our senses. We are in suspense as to what will happen next. It is a divine stoppage of time as the Almighty reminds all of creation that He is the One seated on the throne, and that all things, including time itself, answer to His beck and call.
Then we see seven angels standing before God equipped with seven trumpets to exact judgment when the time comes. But before that time, we witness something truly beautiful. Before the altar stands an angel with a censor to offer incense with the prayers of the saints which rise before God. It is truly comforting to know that our prayers rise up before God as sweet-smelling incense. Our prayers seem to bless His very heart as He listens to His children. Then suddenly, in the midst of this serene and peaceful scene, the angel fills the censor with fire and casts it upon the earth as a prelude to the seven trumpets that are about to sound.
We heard the martyrs cry out for justice in 6:9-11, and a just cry it is as they plead to the Almighty for vindication. One may read of such cries for vindication in Luke 18:7-8 and James 5:4, of the joy of the saints when the wicked are overthrown (Exodus 15:1-21), and in many of the psalms. Here, we read how fire is cast upon the earth from the same censor that offered incense with our prayers. God is ready to deliver His people and judge the earth. For the love they have shown the world, they have received nothing but hate. God pities their travail in the land of their misfortune, He yearns for their return from the place of their exile, and He is filled with righteous anger over their sufferings at the hands of their enemies. It is time to vindicate His chosen ones, to rescue them from further injury, and to execute divine retribution upon an inhospitable world.
And yet, God only harms one-third of the natural elements at the blast of the first four trumpets. It’s as if He were saying to the world, “Wake up! Three more blasts and time shall cease.” But as we see throughout Scripture, and especially in Revelation, God’s grace only serves to harden unbelievers and render them inexcusable.