As I come to Your Word, Lord, allow me to see what You want to teach me.
"And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake." (Revelation 8:4-5).
The incense offering was a temple ritual in which the priests would sprinkle incense on the altar. The rising smoke and aroma signified the prayers of the people being offered up to God. This sacred custom is reflected here, but we wee that as the prayers ascend, God's judgment begins to descend.
To understand why this angel would take fire from the altar and fling it to earth, we must first consider the purpose of an altar. The altar was where the sacrifice was made, and the sacrifice was to receive the judgment. When Jesus died upon that altar called the Cross of Calvary, He took the fires of God's judgment. And because the fire fell on Jesus, it need not fall upon us. But if you refuse Jesus' sacrifice for you, then the fire must fall upon you. The fire is going to fall. It's just a matter of where and when it will fall.
Here as the seven trumpets are poised to sound, we see the fire about to fall on an unrepentant world. This world that will not receive the Lord Jesus is about to absorb the thunderbolts of God's wrath. The angel of the Lord reaches into the altar, which is both a place of salvation and judgment, takes the very fire of that altar, and hurls it out upon the earth. The foreboding noises and stormy rumblings that follow portend the fearsome, frightful events about to happen.
Then we see the blowing of the first four trumpets, and fiery judgment begins raining down upon the vegetation (v. 7), the seas (vv. 8-9), the fresh water (vv. 10-11), and even the heavenly bodies (v. 12). But these are only physical things receiving the blows of God's wrath. The remaining trumpet blasts will bring the most woeful repercussions of all, as the judgment fires are poured out upon men themselves.