Chapter 12

A Ministry Ended and A Discarded Censor

INTRODUCTION

There is very little scriptural evidence to indicate what the throwing down of the censor means. However, we can understand this action better in the context of the times in which the vision was given. While not commanded by God, a ritual was practiced in the temple services in the first century A.D. prior to the temple's destruction in 70 A.D. In this rite, a priest would offer up incense from a censor to God. At the end of this ritual, the priest would cast his censor to the ground, effectively ending his intercessory ministry.* God, was attempting to convey to John a concept which John would understand. The concept of an end to a heavenly intercessory ministry. Then the following questions need to be addressed, what ministry? and who is ministering?

SCRIPTURE

A censor is thrown down

Rev. 8:2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.

3Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. 4The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand. 5Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

Rev. 22:10 [Then the angel solemnly declared] 11"Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy."

Rev. 8:5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

Jesus is our high priest

Hebr. 2:17 For this reason he [Jesus] had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

Hebr. 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.

Jesus is able to understand our weaknesses

Hebr. 4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are --yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Jesus was designated by God to be our high priest

Hebr. 5:1 Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. 3This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. 4No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. 5So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father. " 6And he says in another place, "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." 7During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Hebr. 7:23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26Such a high priest meets our need --one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

Jesus ministers in the heavenly temple

Hebr. 8:1 The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. 3Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. 4If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." 6But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.

Hebr. 9:6 When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. 7But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. 8The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place [or heavenly tabernacle] had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. 9This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings --external regulations applying until the time of the new order. 11When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation.

When Jesus finishes his ministry, he will bring salvation to those who are waiting for him

Hebr. 9:24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. 25Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Hebr. 10:11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.

Hebr. 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

We are called to be priests of God

1Pet. 2:4 As you come to him, the living Stone --rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-- 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 7Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, " 8and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message --which is also what they were destined for. 9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

We will be priests of God and of Christ

Rev. 1:4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father --to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

Rev. 5:9 And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."

Rev. 20:4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

COMMENTARY

Reviewing the questions asked earlier. What ministry? and who is ministering?

From the foregoing scripture texts, it should be apparent that Christ, sometime after His resurrection and ascension, entered into a ministry in the heavenly temple. He pleads His blood before the Father, interceding on behalf of those who seek forgiveness and cleansing for their sins. He offers salvation to all who will receive it. His grace is extended to all. But yet, most of the world refuses to accept His forgiveness for they have no interest in repenting from their sins.

"Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the LORD." (Isa. 26:10)

Finally, God can wait no longer. His appointed time has come. Every individual has had sufficient opportunity to have chosen the way of salvation. Further evidences and signs would bring no more transformed lives. The world's people have had "Moses and the Prophets" (Luke 16:29, 31) and we may add the writings of the Apostles and the Revelation, and chosen to reject them and the Holy Spirit and thus committed the unpardonable sin.

"And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." (Matt. 12:31, 32)

"For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities --his eternal power and divine nature --have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Rom. 1:17-20)

By rejecting the Holy Spirit, the seal of God guaranteeing their salvation, men reject salvation. Further intercession on the part of Jesus in the heavenly temple would be useless.

It is time for Jesus' intercessory ministry to end. He lifts up the censor to His Father, pleading His blood and protection over the redeemed for the time of trial, tribulation and wrath to come. The prayers of the saints (God's true people) waft upward. Every one of God's people has been marked with God's seal and God knows who are His.

With great finality, Jesus hurls the censor upon the earth, signaling the end of His ministry. It is done! He makes the solemn declaration,

"Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy." (Rev. 22:11)

Probation has closed! The opportunity for salvation has ended. No more will the voice of the godly preacher, evangelist or active Christian be heard, pleading with people to repent and be saved.

"The days are coming," declares the Sovereign LORD, "when I will send a famine through the land-- not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it. (Amos 8:11, 12)

The time has come for God's wrath to be poured out on those who have rejected Him. Words of peace and safety are spoken, but events speak otherwise.

While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1Ths. 5:3)

An "unknown" calamity awaits the world. Devastation and trial culminating with the total destruction of the wicked and the redemption of those who are "wise."

But before this, God sends a word of warning to His people,

"Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by." (Isa. 26:20)

And He promises us His protection.

"Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared." (Prov. 3:25, 26)

Are you ready for this? For the outpouring of God's wrath?  It's good news to the righteous.

Luke 21:28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

And it is also the most terrible news ever to the wicked. A time of distress such as has never been, nor will ever be again.

The world stands face to face with an angry God, with no high priest in the form of Jesus to intercede for them.

The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says to the land of Israel: The end! The end has come upon the four corners of the [earth]. The end is now upon you and I will unleash my anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. I will not look on you with pity or spare you; I will surely repay you for your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that I am the LORD. (Ezek. 7:1-4)

The time of wrath begins.

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*The source for this information was Marvin Moore, author and editor of the Sign of the Times magazine.  Marvin Moore had heard this from a Theology professor at Andrews University who had a graduate student in theology who did the research on this subject. 

 

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