“After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.’ Immediately, I was in the spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne” (Revelation 4:1-2).
Consider with me John’s words as he attempts to describe the transcendent splendor of heaven’s glories, centering his attention where all sentinent beings logically would–on the royal seat and personal glory of the Creator Himself.
The Almighty’s appearance is vividly brilliant, like that of diamonds and deep red carnelian. A rainbow circles His throne “like an emerald,” and amidst the incredible glory of the Lord, celestial beings are worshiping day and night, awestruck to the point of ceaselessly bowing down and rising up again to proclaim, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:1-8).
A profound insight into the possible significance of the recurring actions of the “living creatures” was suggested to me years ago by a friend. One day, as different members of the congregation exchanged reflections on biblical texts that feature worship, he commented on what appears at first to be the creatures’ repeated bowing at God’s throne–as though possibly required by God and rendered in rote and submissive obedience.
While there is no question that God is worthy of all the honor, reverence and adoration expressed by these creatures closest to His throne, my friend noted how God is most highly honored when any creature willingly and voluntarily brings its worship with verbal praise, presenting that worship with physical expression.
“It seems to me,” he said, “that these creatures are not simply exercising a habit as they ‘rest not day or night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”‘ Rather, as they worship, bowing down each time only to rise and look again upon the face of God, their declaration explodes from having seen yet another facet of the glory of God’s beauty and Person. Freshly overwhelmed at what they have just seen, they fall before Him again, only to rise up and capture another view of the wonder of who He is.”
My soul resonates with that insight, which, I am persuaded, is at the heart of the ever-increasing crescendo of praise that springs from these beings and spreads relentlessly around God’s throne–and wherever its revival or restoration is being embraced.
Worship is the core value of the Book of Revelation, whatever else is made of its prophetic pictures. No book of the Bible has had more written about it than this one, but too little notice has been made regarding the way it is laced through with scenes of worship. Beside, and quite frankly preceding, this book’s place as a manual on “last things,” Revelation is a book of intensely practical (not speculative) value, and at its fountainhead is its uniqueness as a source of understanding about worship. Consider these points:
- John falls before the glorified Christ in worship (see chapter 1).
- The Church is called to “hear what the Spirit is saying,” as a worshipful response to the present “word” of Christ to His people (see chapters 2-3).
- Martyred souls gone before us into glory are heard calling from heaven’s altar of worship to the Most High (see chapter 6).
- The Church, delivered from out of the great Tribulation, is heard extolling God and the Lamb before the throne (see chapter 7).
- The dynamic power residing in the cumulative worship (incense) and prayers (intercession) before the throne is witnessed as it prompts God’s acts of judgment (see chapter 8).
- The contrast to worship that honors God is seen as the text reveals the destiny of destruction coming upon those who “worship demons and idols” (see chapter 9).
- Worship appears to play a partnering role in God’s economy, seeming to ignite a release on earth of those things ordained in heaven (see chapters 10-11).
These cover only the first half of this revealed “worship book”–text that introduces us to the awe-inspiring relationship between our worship as His redeemed creatures and God’s response of releasing His will on earth. This is illustrated simply, yet pointedly, in chapters 4 and 5.
As we move through these chapters, we are first “taken up” (4:1) and permitted to witness the spectacle that is God’s throne of glory. The “Holy, holy, holy” of the living creatures becomes the first strains of what will be a progressing crescendo. It begins there and moves to the song of those who witness the arrival of the Lamb. Then, just as the Creator Father is extolled at the beginning of the text, the exaltation of the Redeemer’s Son begins as those around the throne sing, “You are worthy … and have redeemed us to God by Your blood” (5:9).
Yet this is only the beginning. The Spirit’s crescendo of worship is seen in ever-widening, concentric circles. It seems to move across time and around the world until we see a climaxing crescendo of praise by all of creation–those that are in the earth, on the earth, under the earth!
The Book of Revelation, so often subjected to sincere speculation about the time of Christ’s coming, is actually targeting a much loftier and more certain theme: Our call–as individual believers and as the people of God today–is to hear the Holy Spirit’s call.
It is a call to Spirit-filled worship.
It is a call to spiritual warfare.
It is a call to steadfast commitment beyond the paraphernalia and the excitement of worship renewal–a call to the purpose, principles and power with which God Himself has invested the subject of worship. As we so often say, “It’s all about Him!” And that’s true.
But with Him, there is a wonderfully gracious, companioning truth: Worship is His gift for you, too. Obviously not God worshiping man, but God designing worship as a means for His beloved creatures to know Him; to enter into the abundance of His fulfilling and fruitful purpose for us; and to find the high delight of His realized will for us, in us and through us.
Join Jack Hayford April 16-18 at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove for “His Manifest Presence” worship seminar.