Kim Myers, focusing on the significance of the altar of incense, first mentioned in Exodus 30, asserts that this altar symbolizes the prayers of the saints ascending to Jesus Christ, the High Priest and Intercessor, who serves as our Advocate before God the Father. It was at this altar that Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu died for offering profane fire to God. Incense is a type of Christ's mediation on our behalf, burning perpetually on our behalf, making it possible for us to enter God's Throne Room. As God's called-out ones, we are obligated to pray every day, realizing that God's Holy Spirit will articulate the thoughts, untangling our sometimes hopelessly garbled efforts. God the Father will not accept anything which is unholy, but Jesus Christ continually intercedes, praying for us and protecting us from the Evil One. The golden bowls in Revelation 4:1-8 symbolize the sweet-smelling prayers purified by the intercession of our High Priest through His sacrifice on our behalf. We have much work to do as God's called-out ones, sending up incense symbolically as we pray for each other and for God's purpose to be fulfilled universally.
David C. Grabbe: As Revelation 5 opens, the apostle John sees a scroll, sealed with seven seals, in the right hand of God. The only One worthy to open the seals is the Lamb of God. . . .
Martin Collins, reflecting on the foulest smelling item on the earth, namely the Titan Arum flower, emitting the odor of rotting flesh, contrasts it with the wonderful aromas recorded in scripture, sweet aromas from burnt offerings, fragrant incense, symbolic of prayers. If the Israelites were to use this incense for profane or personal purposes, they would be cut off from their people. A righteous man compromises with God's Law, resembles dead flies in perfume. Incense symbolizes the prayers of the saints; sweet aromas are as horrible as the odor of Titan Arum if offered by people in defiance. Our offerings, as our prayers, should remain holy for the Lord, exuding a fragrant aroma.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that only God, not man, can determine whether something or someone is holy or authentic as opposed to profane and strange. God will accept only what He has set apart or designated as holy or authentic, such as the sacred fire in Numbers 16 (symbolizing God's cleansing and purifying power) as well as the fuel and the incense. The 250 men offering strange or profane fire in their censers represented a blatant refusal to accept God and His standard of righteousness. The bronze covered altar made with the censers recovered from the charred remains of the rebels constitutes a stark reminder of the folly at rebelling against holy things, replacing God's standards with human standards.
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