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Last week, we talked about how the book of Revelation has a lot to say about worship in heaven, and how it ought to serve as a model for our worship today. In chapter four, we saw that true worship involves praise, prostration before God, paying God the honor He is due, and proclaiming His mighty acts. Today, in chapters five and nineteen, we’ll see more elements of worship that should be part of our spiritual lives as well.
8 When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
10 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”
If your church is like mine, then you often spend more time talking about people on your prayer list than you do actually praying for them. That’s why I instituted the prayer bowl. Instead of talking about these prayer needs, we simply fill out a prayer request card before the worship service. When I lead the congregation in prayer of supplication, I take these cards from the bowl, along with our printed prayer list, and just pray. Our prayer shouldn’t be a gossip session, but incense lifted before the throne of God.
Churches ought to have music like there is in heaven. Yes—there are harps in heaven (and I imagine a thousand other instruments as well) that people use to make melody and harmony before the Lord. Just as the living creatures sang (and still sing) a new song, our music should always be new in our hearts. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t cherish the old songs of the faith—but when we sing them, they should be current and fresh and meaningful in our souls, not dutiful dirges that we sing simply because the music director demands it. And, of course, it means that we should welcome new songs in our worship services, vibrant expressions of worship that reflect the styles of younger generations and old.
Imbedded in this new song is proclamation of the Gospel—of what God has done and what we must do. The Lamb who was slain to redeem His people has now given us a mission to the rest of humanity. What would worship be without a reminder to the people that they have a task to perform? Our job is not simply to come to church and worship, but to engage in service, to be a kingdom and priests and ministers to the children of God.
Verses 11-14 describe “myriads of myriads, thousands of thousands” of angels praising God.
“And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying,
“To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
14 And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
When we worship the Lord, we join in the song of the angels, and raise the cry of all creation, blessing God and recognizing His authority over all. This word “Amen” is a continuous chant in heaven. It’s an unending word of submission that means, “Let it be,” declaring God’s sovereignty over the universe and over our individual lives. And it’s not simply a word of submission, but a gesture of prostration and obedience to God. So too, our ‘Amen’ ought never to just be the end of our prayers—instead it should be the way we continuously live our prayer throughout the day.
Chapter nineteen shows the final scene of worship in the book of Revelation.
After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying,
“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; 2 because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants [a]on her.” 3 And a second time they said, “Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever.” 4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And a voice came from the throne, saying,
“Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.” 6 Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying,
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
Four times in the first six verses, a great multitude and the living creatures shout, “Hallelujah!” This is a compound word, which is a shout of command for the people to give a hallel to Yah. A hallel is a foolish, crazy, exuberant exclamation of joy. It’s an enraptured outburst of praise and worship. Yah is simply an abbreviation of God’s name—Yahweh. Like David who danced before the Ark, those who shout hallelujah ought to be undignified before the Lord, giving their all to Him in celebration.
In verse five, heavenly worship reflects the fact that all people are equal in God’s kingdom. “And a voice came from the throne, saying, ‘Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.’” People of all social statures are alike in God’s eyes. All are servants of God. As it is in heaven, worship in our churches should reflect egalitarianism among the Lord’s people. No one is less than another, and no one is more important.
Revelation’s final word on worship is verse seven, where the redeemed say, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” Worship is the way we prepare ourselves to meet the Bridegroom when He comes. It’s our garment of praise that makes us ready to be with our Beloved. Each Sunday when we come to church, and each day in our private time of worship, we prepare ourselves like a bride for the Lord.
Worship on earth ought to be modeled on worship in heaven. It means preparing ourselves to meet our Master. When we worship the way the saints in heaven and angels do, we clothe ourselves in beauty as we await the coming King. Worship means singing and shouting, submitting to God and serving humanity. I pray that worship in your church and in your heart is genuine, and that you live your ‘hallelujah’ and your ‘amen’ every day.