Just after the opening of the seventh seal (Revelation 8:1) and besides the seven angels who were given the seven trumpets, John saw another angel standing at the Golden Altar or the Altar of Incense, which is before the Throne (Revelation 8:3). In his hand the angel had a golden censor, and he was given much incense to offer to God with the prayers of the saints.
This particular Angel couldn’t be an angelic spirit (Hebrews 1:4), because he seems to be fulfilling the office of High Priest before the Golden Altar in heaven. No one should ever dare assume to take this office to himself by his own authority. Rather, it is to be embraced by the only One who has been appointed to that position by God (Hebrews 5:4-6). This is in keeping with the theme of the book, which is supposed to unveil Jesus to us (cf. Revelation 1:1). Up to now, at the opening of the seventh seal, Jesus had been revealed to us in his Temple as our High Priest (Revelation 1:13; 3:7; 4:3; 5:6; 7:2; 8:3-5). However, from this point on (Revelation 8:6) and until the blowing of the seventh trumpet, Jesus will be revealed as that Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-19; cf. John 6:14; Acts 3:23;). Finally, at the blowing of the seventh trumpet to the end of the Apocalypse, Jesus will be unveiled as the King of Kings, or the Messiah.
As the Angel ministered before the Golden Altar (the Altar of Incense) “the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the Angel’s hand” (Revelation 8:4). At this point one is reminded of the Scripture telling us what God disclosed about his people at the site of the Burning Bush:
Exodus 3:7-10 And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; (8) And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. (9) Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. (10) Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou may bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
It should be understood that the only place referred to as Egypt in the Apocalypse is Jerusalem, the place where Jesus was crucified (Revelation 11:8). Spiritually speaking, Jerusalem **is** Egypt, so any similarities we find in the judgments in the Apocalypse with what was done in Egypt, should be understood as intended for Jerusalem, and a second exodus would be called for, but this time out of the Jewish traditions that held the people of God captive and out from among those who persecuted them. Therefore, the Angel should be understood as sending up prayers at the Golden Altar, similar to what the Lord acknowledged in Exodus 3:7-10, but, instead of Egypt being the enemy whom God judges, it is Jerusalem upon whom his wrath will fall, in so far as Jerusalem is spiritually identified as Egypt in the Apocalypse (see also Galatians 4:21-26, where the son of the Egyptian woman, Hagar, represented the Jews at Mt. Sinai – the Old Covenant).
At this time the Angel filled the censor with the fire that was in the Golden Altar, which is before the Throne and cast it “into the earth” (Revelation 8:5). This means the fire came out from the Lord and was cast either upon the whole earth (all nations) or a part of the earth (one or a few nations). Note that what the Angel does concerns judgment, just as the Lord judged the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, for sending up strange fire before him, i.e. fire not from the altar (Leviticus 10:1-2). The Angel’s work would also be similar to the fire that came out from before the Lord to judge those men who set themselves against Moses and Aaron, (i.e. the Lord’s prophet and the Lord’s the high priest), saying they took too much upon themselves (Numbers 16:1-3, 30-35). Moreover, fiery judgment is come out from the Lord in answer to the prayers of the saints (cf. Exodus 3:7-10), symbolically contained in the censor, which the Angel cast to the earth (Revelation 8:5). The fire accepts and consumes the Sacrifice made to God (Leviticus 9:24; viz. John 1:29, 36; Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 9:28), and stands between the Lord’s disciples and the plague, which is sent out against those who stand against the Lord’s Prophet and High Priest / Jesus (cf. Numbers 16:46).
When the Angel performed his final work out of his office as High Priest, there were voices, thundering, and lightening and an earthquake, all of which indicate the presence of God (cf. Exodus 19:16-20), showing us that God was in the judgment sent out against those who had rejected Jesus as the Lord’s High Priest and Prophet, and, as we shall see later in the Apocalypse, judgment finally came in the form of Jesus operating out of his office as Messiah, King of kings and Lord of lords.