"A New Approach to Revelation" by Tricia Tillin (Part Ten)
how the day of atonement Temple service sheds light on the book of revelation: The Service Outlined (2)
The day has dawned and the morning star is seen in the sky, allowing the great sanctuary doors to be opened. All preparations have previously been accomplished; the altars and lamps have been readied and the priests, suitably dressed in white linen and ritually pure, have been allotted their tasks for the day. The lamb has been sacrificed and laid at the altar.
Now the "time of incense" has come - that special event in the Temple service when all the people would gather for prayers. The priest chosen for the honoured task of offering the incense inside the Holy Place, with another priest as his helper, would gather fire from the altar of burnt offering in the Priests' Court along with a vessel of incense and they would then approach the vestibule of the sanctuary.
But before going in, they would do something mysterious which is not fully understood to this day. Perhaps as Christians we can see the real significance of this act as a prophetic indication of what is to come.
Throwing Down the Magrepha
Before entering the sanctuary, while still between the altar of burnt offerings and the sanctuary itself, the priest would throw down the magrepha to the floor. There is no way to use an English word for this item as even Jewish scholars do not know what it was, in reality. The word itself implies a shovel, and suggests the fire shovel used to collect coals from the altar, yet this explains nothing! (See here)
Yet so vital and meaningful was this act that it is described everywhere as THE signal for much activity within the Temple and without it. In the language of the Mishna (Tamid5, 6) "the sound made by the magrepha falling was so deafening at that moment that in the entire city of Jerusalem, no one could hear his friend speaking!" The item thrown down made such an awesome and deafening sound that it startled and alarmed all who heard it.
As far as the Temple service, it served three purposes:
1). When the priests who were outside the court heard the sound, they knew that their colleagues within were about to prostrate themselves before the Divine Presence, and they ran to bow down with them.
2). When the Levite trumpeters and musicians heard it, they knew that the Levite choir was about to enter the Women's Court of the people and stand upon the Nicanor steps. So they too ran to join their brothers.
3). And when the Overseer heard, he separated the priests who had become defiled, and stood them all together in the Eastern Gate. This way, everyone could see that they were impure and therefore could not serve in the Holy Temple. (As before-mentioned.)
However, as far as biblical prophecy goes, and the book of Revelation, this deafening noise is the sign that the next seal has been broken. What happens next is an alarm call to everyone. (And let us be aware that all this has happened BEFORE the actual Yom Kippur ceremonies begin, for we are only now approaching the end of the usual daily morning service which had to be performed before anything else.)
We are as yet in the PRELIMINARY stages of this DAY. Therefore, those affected by the great noise and calamity of Seal Six are calling out "the great day has come!" knowing (prophetically that is) that what follows is the ceremony particular to Yom Kipper, the Day of Atonement, and if their names are not at that time found in the Book of Life, they are doomed for ever.
Rev 6: 12-17 There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?"
War In Heaven
What is causing all this commotion? There is a WAR IN HEAVEN causing this disturbance, and the outcome will be determined not only by the power of God and his holy warring angels, but the effects of the Rapture! When the believers - both dead and alive - are raised to Heaven, there is "no more place" for the fallen powers.
This is the beginning of the end for the Dragon, that ancient Serpent. He is about to be cast out onto the earth along with his fallen angels. The earth, the atmosphere and the cosmos reel as this war takes place, and everyone is terrified - that is, everyone but those who already know the outcome. Hallelujah!
Isaiah 24:20 "The earth is broken asunder, the earth is split through, the earth is shaken violently. The earth reels to and fro like a drunkard and it totters like a shack, for its transgression is heavy upon it, and it will fall, never to rise again. So it will happen in that day, That the LORD will punish the host of heaven on high, And the kings of the earth on earth.…"
The Principalities and Powers Shaken
Do you see how Isaiah prophesied the punishment of the fallen satanic powers that until that day have been allowed to remain in the "heavenlies" - not in God's heaven - but they have been the "powers of the air". Ephesians 2:2 calls the leading ruler the "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience". That is why the final bowl of God's wrath is poured out "on the air" in Revelation 16:17.
Jesus also prophesied of this same event, when he said that the "powers of heaven" would be shaken. Luke 21:26 25 "There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken."
Seal Six leads to Trumpets 1-4
As far as EARTH and MANKIND is concerned there is NO pause between Seal Six and the First Four Trumpets. They are a continuing series of events. (See a graphic representation of these earthly events here.) However, John is trying to describe what he sees both on earth and in heaven at the same time, and to keep in step with the events in the Temple service. Therefore as we read his vision, we encounter pauses and interjections in the timeline.
He is trying to reveal the HEAVENLY EVENTS, such as the Rapture and the sealing of the 144,000, alongside Seal Six. Reading Revelation sequentially, it gives us the impression of time passing whereas in fact, heavenly events do not occur in literal time.
A Third of Stars Cast Down
John also needs to give us a retrospective in Revelation Chapter 12 and later, when he backtracks on events and gives us a summary in his first "interlude" as I have called them. I have covered those interludes separately. But here we do need to note that as the Dragon (Satan) harasses and torments Israel (the woman) in travail (birthpangs) he casts down with his tail a third of the stars from heaven to earth [Rev 12:4] and the effect is seen in Seal Six and continues into the first four trumpets. The Dragon himself is cast out shortly afterwards.
It is best to read these pages alongside the pictorial charts showing all these events in order. Access them HERE
In Seal Six we are told that the "stars fell to earth as figs drop in a strong wind" and in the first four trumpets we see the culmination of these powers falling to earth as "a third of the stars were darkened and did not shine" (Rev 8:12). This is undoubtedly a spiritual event. Yet, it is true that spiritual events are perceived on earth as physical events - the "great mountain" that is cast into the sea is at one and the same time the Dragon falling from the heavenlies and an asteroid falling into the ocean. It is a fallen star (compare Revelation 9:1). The angelic powers are referred to as "stars" both here and in the Old Testament. (Job 38:7, Is 14:13, Jude 1:13)
Could the event referred to in Seal Six be the shifting of the earth on its axis? That would account - in physical terms that is - for the appearance of stars falling from the sky, the shaking of the earth, the rolling up of the sky, and the fact that afterwards the constellations viewed from earth are different, and a third of them are not seen, from Israel at least. This is just a suggestion, one thought to hold in our minds.
However, after the WAR BREAKING OUT IN HEAVEN and the catching up of the Woman's "male child" (the Rapture) , the devil is thrown down onto the earth, the physical effect of this being a "great mountain cast into the sea". That is what we continue to see in the FIRST FOUR TRUMPETS.
All these events are looked at later, but in REALITY they begin to happen right now. The people of earth are terrified to see that "something" is happening in the heavens, and they have no clue what it is! It happens SUDDENLY and (to unbelievers) without any warning. Just as Jesus said, they are partying, eating and drinking, going about their daily business as usual, when "suddenly" disaster befalls them. (Luke 17:28)
How important then it is to "stay awake" and be aware of the approaching day! How vital to keep our white garments on in readiness, to keep our lamps well lit, and to watch the heavens for the sign of his coming!
Wrath Has Come!
As in the Temple, so on earth, people run at the terrifying sound and sight that occurs. Those who know about prophecy run to make ready for their Day of Redemption, but everyone else seeks cover. They run into the caves to hide from God's wrath. For "The Great Day" - as far as common people are concerned - "has Dawned!!"
This is at one and the same time the most awesome and most terrifying day that the earth has ever seen, and it is the prelude to what Jesus calls "The End". He described these events as the Great Tribulation [or time of trouble] which will never be matched for horror. He promises that it will be "cut short" for the elect's sake. He also promises that all who trust in him will be saved out of it. (See Revelation 3:10):
Matt 24: 21- 33 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. ... (29) Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Compare Revelation 7:1)
The Incense Offered
Meanwhile, to continue the Temple service, the two incense priests mount the twelve steps that lead to the Sanctuary building and they enter the Holy Place. They are preceded by the priest who now completes the task of improving the menorah's wicks. The final portion of the lampstands is cleansed, trimmed and rekindled. Afterwards, he prostrates himself once and departs the Sanctuary leaving the incense priest to his task.
At a signal from the Overseer, the priest gently places the incense on the altar, "like sifting grains of flour" and as the Holy Place fills with smoke he prostrates himself then leaves the Sanctuary.
All those outside are waiting in a reverent hush, just as they did when the father of John the Baptist delayed his exit from the Sanctuary.(Luke 1:21) We have to skip over to Chapter 8 of Revelation to see the silence in which the multitudes await the emergence of the incense priest, in this case the angel.
"In the Jewish Temple, musical instruments and singing resounded during the whole time of the offering of the sacrifices, which formed the first part of the service. But at the offering of incense, solemn silence was kept ("My soul waiteth upon God," Psalms 62:1 ; "is silent," Margin; Psalms 65:1 , Margin), the people praying secretly all the time." [Matthew Henry's Commentary of Revelation.]
The Mystery of the Half Hour of Silence
Revelation 8:1 "When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour." How often have I studied this passage, and failed to understand why the silence in heaven lasted half an hour. Nothing in prophecy is arbitrary and nonsensical. There must be a reason for John's statement, but before seeing the Temple setting I could not understand it. Now however, all is revealed.
To jump ahead a little, the great multitude [see below] of ordinary worshippers has assembled in the outer court to join in the daily service. As far as the people in the Temple are concerned, activities are progressing behind the thick wall dividing their Court and the Priests' Court, but apart from their knowledge of the scriptures and familiarity with the Temple services, they are not sure of the exact timing.
They have been alerted to the incense priests entering the Sanctuary, by the great noise of the falling Magrepha. Thereafter they need to WAIT in hushed silence for their prayers (the incense) to be offered to God and accepted. It is a recorded fact of the Temple service that the whole process of collecting the fire from the altar, offering the incense, and re-emerging from the Sanctuary took THIRTY MINUTES. During this time, the musical and vocal praises in the Temple ceased, and the people stood in an awed silence! For half an hour.
"In Exodus 30 we find the detailed specifications of all each priest had to do twice a day. The time usually allocated for that rekindling of the coals, and refilling the incense spread on the coals was 30 minutes. So in Revelation 8 we are seeing an allusion to the prayers of the saints illustrated in the Tabernacle Incense Offerings". [Source]
The Seventh Seal: The Book is Opened: "Let all people be silent before Yahweh, now that He is stirring from His Holy Dwelling." -Zechariah 2:17 "But Yahweh is in His Holy Temple: Let the whole earth be silent before Him." - Habakkuk 2:20 The angels and the elders cease their songs of praise and a deep and profound silence falls in heaven. Some scholars believe that this passage is a reference to the length of time it took for the High Priest to take the fire from the bronze altar that is in the outer court of the Temple and then to enter the Holy Place and to use the altar fire to burn incense on the golden altar in front of the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant had been kept and then to return to where the people were assembled to give them the priestly blessing. The whole procedure took about 30 minutes. (Lev. 16:13-14; Lk 1:10, 21). To give you a more complete picture of this part of the Temple service, let me quote from Alfred Edersheim's excellent book, "The Temple: Its Ministry and Services", page 167:
"Slowly the incensing priest and his assistants ascended the steps to the Holy Place, preceded by the two priests who had formerly dressed the altar and the candlestick, and who now removed the vessels they had left behind, and, worshipping, withdrew. Next, one of the assistants reverently spread the coals on the golden altar; the other arranged the incense; and then the chief officiating priest was left alone within the Holy Place, to await the signal of the president before burning the incense. It was probably while thus expectant that the angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias (that is, Zechariah - Luke 1:8-11). As the president gave the word of command, which marked that 'the time of incense had come,' 'the whole multitude of people without' withdrew from the inner court, and fell down before the Lord, spreading their hands in silent prayer. It is this most solemn period, when throughout the vast Temple buildings deep silence rested on the worshipping multitude, while within the sanctuary itself the priest laid the incense on the golden altar, and the cloud of 'odours' (5:8) rose up before the Lord, which serves as the image of heavenly things in this description." [Source]
The Name of the Lord upon His PeopleTheir particular tasks completed, the priests all line on the twelve steps of the Sanctuary. They turn towards the people in that area, lay down the utensils they had been using, raise their hands and recite the blessing. Part of this blessing has a direct relevance to Revelation:
Number 6: 23-27 Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them.
I Shall Put My Name Upon Them
Here we see the Temple priests giving the blessing to the people. They are making a sign with their hands that uses the Hebrew letters for the blessing (See this page for an explanation) How fascinating therefore that at the precise moment the priests "Put My Name upon the children of Israel" that we find in the book of Revelation (7:4) the angels doing exactly that!
Hear the blessing given in English and Hebrew along with the sound of the trumpet:
In this short pause in events, we read in Revelation Chapter Seven that the full consequences of Seal Six are held back, along with the trumpet judgements, so that the Remnant of the tribes of Israel can be selected and sealed to protect them from what is to come.
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© 2014 Tricia Tillin-Booth. All rights reserved. Birthpangs Website: http://www.birthpangs.org/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.