8:3 THE GOLDEN CENSER
The interpretation that God’s protection is suspended during the trumpets is supported by the next scene—the casting down of the censer. “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand” (Revelation 8:3).
A censer is a small metal container suspended by cords or chains full of burning incense which produces a cloud of aromatic smoke. The censer was used by the priests in the Old Testament temple service. On the Day of Atonement the high priest took a censer of incense with him into the
In the story of the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram at the time of Moses in the wilderness (Numbers 16) it is obvious that the censer represents intercession and protection from destruction. These leaders, along with 250 others, challenged Moses saying that they also should be able to officiate as priests since “all the congregation is holy, every one of them” (Numbers 16:3). God showed His rejection of their rebellious premise by opening the earth and swallowing up the leaders and bringing fire down from heaven which burned up the rebel followers.
Despite the obvious action of God, “on the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the Lord” (v. 41). “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying ‘Get away from among this congregation that I may consume them in a moment’…So Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the Lord. The plague has begun.’ Then Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the assembly…So he put in the incense and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped” (vs. 44-48).
The censer represented the intervention or mediation that protected the people from the destructive judgments they deserved. Those who have refused God’s offer of grace and have continued in sin deserve to be in the hands of Satan, the leader they have chosen, who wants nothing more than to destroy them. Jesus, in His great love and mercy, intercedes for sinners, represented here by the angel with a golden censer. But the issues involved in the great controversy between God and Satan necessitate that someday that intervention will be suspended for a brief period of time. When the censer is thrown down God's protection will be withdrawn ("silence in heaven") and the seven-trumpet plagues will begin.
 2 Chronicles 26:18,19, Hebrews 9:4.
 See chapter 12 for an analysis of the issues and details of the great controversy between Satan and God. Satan's whole point in tempting and harassing God's followers is to get them to misrepresent God and thus prove that God is not worthy of worship and allegiance.