The Prayers of the Saints – Revelation 5:8

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.

Revelation 5:8 NIV

In the midst of the throne room described in the previous chapter we see a sealed scroll in God’s hand and a Lamb, Jesus, who is worthy to open the scroll. When the Lamb takes the scroll the heavenly host fall down before him in worship. And as they do so they are holding harps and bowls of incense. I suspect this may be where we derive the imagery of harps in heaven.

But more interesting to me are the bowls of incense. This is one of the few times in Revelation where we are specifically told what an image or symbol means. The incense is the prayers of the saints, our prayers, offered up to God. Incense was offered to God daily in the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple, just outside the Most Holy Place where God dwelled. The picture here is of our prayers to God accomplishing the same purpose, they are a fragrant offering to God. God delights in our prayer, in the time we spend with him. Incense burned continuously before the Lord in the Tabernacle (Ex 30:7-8). And so we should offer up our prayer continuously before the Lord. May the sweet smell of the prayers of the saints fill the throne room in heaven.

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