Our Incense Before the Lamb

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Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Have you ever thought of your prayers as the aroma of heaven? Holy Week has drawn me again to read Revelation 4–5. Here is a glimpse of life in heaven: In chapter 5, we see God almighty on the throne with a scroll in his hand. The scroll had seven seals. They all had to be pulled off before the scroll could be opened. I think the opening of the scroll represents the final days of history, and the pulling off of the seven seals represents the kind of history we will pass through as we move toward those days.

At first, John wept that there was no one worthy to open the scroll and look into it (Revelation 5:4). But then the elder in heaven says, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals” (Revelation 5:5). By dying on the cross, Jesus had earned the right to open the remainder of redemptive history and lead his people victoriously through it.

In the next verse, the Lion is pictured as “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). Isn’t this a beautiful image of Jesus’s victory on the cross? It is as sure as though a lion had devoured the foe; but the way he achieved the victory was by letting the foe slay him like a lamb!

“Be strengthened and encouraged to pray more often and vigorously, because your prayers are being offered to Christ repeatedly in heaven.”

So now, the Lamb is worthy to take the scroll of redemptive history from God’s hand and open it. This is such a kingly act that the twenty-four elders of heaven (God’s worship council, as it were) fall down before the Lamb in adoration. And they have two things in their hands: a harp and a golden bowl of incense. With these they worship Christ as they sing, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God” (Revelation 5:9).

And do you know what the golden bowls of incense are? Revelation 5:8 says they are “the prayers of the saints.” Does this not mean that our prayers are the aroma of heaven, sweet smelling before the throne of God and before the Lamb? I am strengthened and encouraged to pray all the more often and all the more vigorously when I think that my prayers are being assembled and stored up in heaven and offered to Christ repeatedly in heavenly acts of worship.

Let’s all bless and honor and adore Christ here below with our prayers, and then doubly rejoice that the worship council of heaven offers them again to Christ as sweet-smelling incense before the Lamb who was slain.