When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. 4 The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:1-5)
By the time we get to chapter 8 of Revelation, the first six seals have already opened, revealing the war, famine, and plague that will destroy a quarter of the Earth’s population. This was followed by a great Earthquake and shaking of the sky (6:12-17). But the people on the Earth refused to repent, and instead declare war on God by killing true believers in every place on Earth (6:9, 7:9).
So here we see God preparing the seven trumpets which will herald further punishment upon the Earth. These judgments will be worse than the ones that have come so far, yet not as bad as the bowl judgements which will come later. Notice here that an angel prepares these judgments by offering up the prayers of the saints (God’s people) along with the incense before the altar in heaven. God listens to the prayers of the saints, those who have been innocently and brutally murdered for doing what is right, and brings judgment onto the Earth as a result.