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Then the angel took the censer [for burning incense] and filled it with fire

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from the altar [of incense]

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and cast it

onto the earth. As a result

there were thunders and rumblings and flashes of lightning

as well as an earthquake.


Then the angel took the vessel used to offer the lives of the saints as an offering to God and filled it

with punishment on account of the ill treatment of the saints and brought its contents to bear violently on the inhabitants of the earth. As a result, there were powerful demonstrations of God’s strength enveloping all the sky and the whole world, as well as a demonstration of His might which shook the very foundations of the earth.



“Fire” represents either purification or punishment; in this case it is punishment. We usually don’t associate punishment with the altar of incense because we are focused on what we are adding to it—the incense, which represents our lives. But God supplies the power (the fire) which makes us pure. That same power is used to punish those who don’t want to be pure.


Likewise, the altar of incense is not usually called on to defend the cause of the just who have been mistreated, however, in this context, that seems to be what is happening. The incense represents the lives of the saints which are dedicated to God and the punishment of the wicked is tied directly to the offering (the lives) of the saints.