Not only does the New Testament develop general themes of Christ’s fulfillment of the tabernacle. It also picks up more specific details, like that of the golden altar of incense. Yesterday, we considered the law and the prophets on this theme. Today, we venture into the New Testament.
4. Christ’s offering is fragrant and acceptable to God. We see this in at least two places in the New Testament.
Ephesians 5:2. Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. In Exodus, “fragrant” always described the incense. Here, we have evidence of Christ’s offering on the golden altar and the sacrifice on the bronze altar.
Hebrews 5:7. In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.
5. The Gospel: We have a God who hears us. In Christ, our prayers get behind the veil. In the nostrils of God our prayers are a fragrant offering because they have the scent of his son. This is seen most convincingly in Revelation.
Rev 5:8. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Rev 8:3-4. Another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, w the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
In both of these texts, the prayers of the saints, are received in the presence of God, because they emit the fragrance of Christ’s sacrifice, as they are always lifted in the name and power and intercession of Jesus Christ. This then leads to our application.
6. Christian Application: Pray. Pray confidently (Heb 4:16). Pray often (1 Thess 5:17). Pray in Christ’s name. More specifically, let me list three points of application.
We do not come before God in our own name. On our own, our works are an aroma of death and dung before God. But in Christ, our prayers are a pleasing scent to God. He delights for you and I to come and speak with him, because he “smells” his Son on us. Thus in Christ, Proverbs 15:8 applies to us.
Proverbs 15:8. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.
Now, you and I are not upright. The law condemns our sin and unrighteousness. But with Christ as our altar of incense, his righteousness covers us, and our unrighteous prayers are covered by his blood. So that, they are pleasing to the Father!
The prayers that the enter heaven are prayers that are effective. The good news of prayers by New Covenant believers is that they are not only empowered and directed by the Spirit, but they are guaranteed to have effect as we pray according to God’s will.
By extension, this means that God does not listen to the prayers of unbelievers. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” That is the perpetual state for those who don’t know Christ.
Because Christ is our fragrant offering to God, when we come in his name before the Father, we will never be turned away. This is a great word that calls us to pray with greater intensity.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss