On Earth, Part II2
Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints … And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake (Revelation 8:3-5).
Yes, we started with a big chunk of Scripture just above—and we’re cheating just a wee bit, reading on ahead from our primary passage in Revelation 7 into the next chapter.
We mistakenly think of heaven and earth as disconnected; Scripture presents them as interconnected. No, heaven is in no way dependent on earth; earth is entirely dependent on heaven. But when Scripture speaks of God’s Kingdom, which it does all the time and in many ways, it always presents them as overlapping, interlocking realities. God’s intention from before Creation was that heaven and earth would be one, unified, in harmony, at peace. Sin “divorces” earth from heaven; the cross and resurrection of Jesus, and the coming of the Holy Spirit bring reconciliation, “re-marriage,” if you will.
We see in Revelation 7 this great multitude that no one can number, made up of people from every racial, ethnic, national, tribal and language group—a beautiful picture of what the “marriage” of heaven and earth will look like. This mighty company is joined in throne-centered, God-centered, Lamb-centered worship. Take a few moments to study the words they sang.
Then we see where this worship (Revelation 7) is going, into a kind of divine chemistry that changes worship into prayer (Revelation 8:3-5). And those prayers are gathered by heaven, spiced with incense, set on fire—and thrown down upon the earth! The worship of the great multitude rises up before God, who then sends their prayers down upon the earth. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
The result of these prayers? Peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake … does this sound anything like what we are experiencing these days?
Could it be that what we are now experiencing is in fact, somehow, mysteriously, the early signs of God’s answers to our prayers and the prayers of “all the saints” through many years? What happens if we try to see pandemics, unrest, difficult questions, even divisive conflicts as (partial, preliminary!) answers to our prayers, as the rumbling, thundering and quaking that we have in fact been praying for each time we have prayed, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”?
If what we are now experiencing is somehow God’s answers to our prayers … what should we be praying next, praying now?