True Worship Begins in Heaven
True Worship Begins in Heaven
We are beginning a series for the next few weeks on the subject of worship. We are going to look at scenes in heaven describing worship, corporate worship scenes on earth and worship in the church. We are entering the very throne room of heaven. We are going to see what John saw. Before we dive into the passage let us consider that we are reading from the book of Revelation; it is the revelation of Jesus Christ to John. Now John has already seen Jesus in human form many years earlier. Jesus came that time, not to judge, but to save the earth. Revelation is the description of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to judge the earth. It has a very simple outline found in Revelation 1:19. “Write the things which thou hast seen (things in the past, chapter 1), and the things which are (what is going on right now, chapter 2-3), and the things which shall be hereafter;( what is going to happen in the future, chapters 4-22)”
We find in this chapter, “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” Judgment begins in chapter six, so what is this chapter all about? This is a prologue to the judgment and John is taken to the nerve center of the whole world. This is the center of the universe, not geographically, but the center from where everything happens. John is one of only two men in the NT who were allowed to see heaven while on earth. Paul was the other one and wasn’t allowed to describe it.
We are going to focus on what John saw. What did he see? I also want to focus on one of the primary purposes of this chapter. One of the purposes is about the judgment of God. It is about to get really bad, chapter 6, but God is in control. Not only is saving God’s work, but judging is God’s work. Second purpose is about glory. God is in stark contrast to the rulers of that day. Nobody on earth compares to God. Third it is about the central activity of heaven: worship. What is it that got John’s attention in that vision? Verse two, “And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.” The central part of John’s vision is the throne of God. This corresponds to the OT when Isaiah said in chapter six verse one, “I saw the Lord sitting upon the throne.” Ezekiel saw a vision of heaven and said, “And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.”
What is the throne representative of? It is representative of the sovereignty of God. What do I mean by sovereignty? Psalm 103:19, “The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his sovereignty rules over all.” What does sovereignty mean? It means that God has absolute authority and absolute power. God’s rule is not going to change. Nobody is going to mess it up. God is going to accomplish His purposes and no little weak man is going to change it. God is sovereign over history. I believe that God caused the fog that protected George Washington’s troops from the British. I don’t know what your opinion of things right now in the US, but as far as I’m concerned we’re in trouble. But God is in control. He made it he sustains it and will control it. “For of Him, and through him, and to him are all things.” God is sovereign over history and God is sovereign over nature. There may be global warming, but we aren’t causing it. He performed miracles which defied the laws of nature. He is in control of redemption and salvation. Jesus was the lamb slain before the world was ever created, we are chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. The worship of God begins with a profound recognition of the sovereignty of God.
APP: How do you face the troubles and the ills and the trials of life? I’m going to tell you; GOD IS IN CONTROL. John saw one that was sitting on the throne. He didn’t say who it was, but you know who it was. The OT prophet Micaiah said in 1 Kings 22:19, “…I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left.” Daniel said the same thing in Daniel 7:9, “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.” Isaiah, Micaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel all said the same thing: it is God who is in control.
But we don’t have any description of the Lord. Revelation 4:3 “And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.” The clear jasper represents the holiness of God in its clearness and the fiery red sardine stone represents the fierceness of the wrath of God. And there was a rainbow in a concentric circle around the throne of God: green as an emerald in color. A rainbow appears in clouds as the storm passes by. Storms were getting ready to brew in chapter six as judgment was about to fall on this earth. Yet the rainbow is a covenant reminder to His faithful that in His wrath, God still remembers His mercy. And when He brings His work of judgment, the end result of that is always to bring peace.
Then the Bible says that around the throne were 24 elders, clothed in white, sitting upon thrones. Who were these elders? They are royalty; they have on robes of white, and crowns of gold. They were called elders and angels are never called elders. Revelation 5:9 “(Thou) hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;” In my opinion they represent the church, the glorified, those of us who have been redeemed by his blood, those of us who will rule with Him for all of eternity.
What comes out of that throne? Flashes of lightning and sounds of thunder. In Exodus chapter 20 the Bible says that when the law was given on Mt. Sinai there were flashes of lightning, sounds of thunder and voices. Later on in the book of the Revelation in chapters 8, 11 and 16 we know that these preceded the final trumpet, bowl and seal judgments. John is given a preview of the firestorm of the wrath of God that will be poured out upon the earth in chapter 6.
What was standing before the throne? First he said there were seven torches, which are the seven spirits. They were "blazing" indicating that they were "burning and fierce" rather than a calm soft one. These torches were used for war. Go back and read Judges 7, read Nahum 2, torches are associated with war. God is ready to make war and the Holy Spirit is His war torch. Now there are not seven different spirits, there is one. In Isaiah 11:2 “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” This is a seven-fold description of the Holy Spirit. Zechariah chapter four pictures the HS as a seven-fold lampstand, from where the Jews get their menorah.
We who know the Lord know that the HS works in quickening and He works in regeneration, and He works in sealing, and He works in baptizing, and He works in filling, and He works in inspiration. But it is very interesting that this is a prelude to a coming judgment. John the Baptist said that when Jesus comes he will baptize with the Spirit and with what? Fire. The same comforter who comforts those who receive Christ will be involved in the consuming work of those who reject Christ. The Spirit of God is involved in the judgment of God on planet earth.
Then the Bible says that before the throne was a sea of crystal clear as glass, transparent. Go back into the OT and you will find a similar scene on Mt. Sianai. Exodus 24:9-10 “Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: 10And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.” And all of these OT passages are consistent with John, John is bringing these together to show us that there is a God and God rules on that throne. Heaven is a world of dazzling unimaginable light. No one on this earth can imagine it or describe it.
There were around the throne four living creatures, obviously not human and have six wings constantly flying around the throne. Isaiah described the same scene and said they were constantly scribing to the Lord: “Holy, Holy, Holy.” You and I are made lower than the angels, and there is no comparison between us and the angels. And the angels said that God was beyond them. God is way beyond them, He is transcendent, he is not like the angels nor is He like man. They said that he was “almighty.” He has unlimited power. Angels have power that is way beyond human beings, but their power is dwarfed by the almighty power of God. They said that God was “eternal.” Even they were created, just like we are, but God is eternal. He has never had a beginning.
What did he see was the response of the 24 elders and all the redeemed to the sight of almighty God? Revelation 4:10-11 “The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever,” Have you ever wondered, what is it that we are going to do in heaven? Have you ever wondered that? People have some strange ideas about heaven: clouds, harps, beaches, and restaurants. What are you going to do in heaven? You are going to worship God. The next question, “Is that all?” Can I tell you, you are not going to want to do anything else You may not get it.
You have to put yourself in a glorified body, without a sin nature, in perfect circumstances and in the presence of God, before you can get it. Remember for a minute the most wonderful worship experience you have ever had, and they are few and far between, and in glory it is 100% all the time. AW Tozer said, “God made us for himself. That is the only explanation that satisfies the heart of a thinking man.” In heaven you are not going to want to do anything else. I have talked with people who have gone to Jerusalem, visited the wailing wall, and saw the temple mount and were just overcome. The temple’s not there, but knowing that one day Jesus would come down to earth and rule from that very place overcame them. Some say they wept, some say they sang, but all said they didn’t want to leave.
Now if someone could get that overcome over there with so much that isn’t even there, how much more are you going to be awed when it is there; when you are going to be in the eternal temple, before the manifest presence of God in a glorified body? John has given us this wonderful picture to represent what ought to be the activity of our lives. Jesus himself said that he wanted us to be true worshipers, and He wanted us to worship Him in Spirit and in truth, and the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
What is involved in worship?
It is a response. It means to bow down, to prostrate yourself, to reverence someone. We find elders responding to God. Worship doesn’t start with us. It starts with Him. And we respond to Him. And they responded to what it is they saw. Worship requires a vision of God. You can’t worship him if you don’t see him. It is a strange thing to be a preacher. I spend all week seeing God. I stand up here on Sunday and I am about to bust. All I desire is for you to see what I have been seeing. What my preaching has evolved to is to study about God so much, that I begin to worship God and then go tell you about it. AW Tozer said, “God formed us for His pleasure, and He so formed us that we as well as He can in divine communion can enjoy the sweet and mysterious mingling of kindred personalities. He meant us to see Him, and live with Him and draw our life from His smile.”
What is worship? It is the response to the vision of God. The elders saw the glory and splendor of God, and sang with all their might “You are worthy!” Worship is a response to the worth of God. What do fallen men worship? They worship what they can see. They either worship the creation or they worship what they can create from the creation. Worship is always a response to what you see and what you value as worthy.
Let me ask you, “What do you value as worthy?” Is Jesus worthy? Of course He is. But that is not the issue. Do you see the Lord in His glory as He is revealed in scripture? Do you see Him on your knees as you pray? Do you see Him in private as you worship Him?
What is the remedy of impassionate worship? Do you like an impassionate service? What is the remedy of a dead service? It is not an exhortation to be more passionate. If you think about it, that is illogical. You can’t worship in a vacuum. A fresh vision for God. AW Tozer said, “The instant cure for most of our religious ill, would be to enter into the presence of God with spiritual experience. To become suddenly awake that we are in God and God in us.” My experience is that it is being in prayer, and in corporate prayer, and being in services where people are hungering for God. Our problem today is not worship techniques; it is really spiritual blindness. And we don’t get it, because we don’t see it.
So worship is a response to the vision of God and the worth of who He is.
Let’s finish today by asking what was involved in their response?
First, there is a humble adoring submission. What did the elders do? They fell down. The posture for worship for man has always to be downward. The elders fell down before God and they became totally preoccupied with Him. Unless there is a total submission to the Lordship of Christ, then your worship is ludicrous. When you worship God it must be in absolute submission to God. God you are worthy of me giving my whole life in sacrifice to you. Therefore Lord, everything is on the alter: my life, my dreams, my rights, my goals, my health, my future, there is nothing God that when I come to you, I hold onto. God, I give it all to you.
If all the people in our church today would give their lives totally to God, what would happen to our services? It is interesting that the word “godliness” means “to worship well.” Godliness is not something that you do; godliness is something that you are. Worship is not something you do on a day; worship is something you do all day, every day. I read yesterday in my devotions that Peter described godliness in a list of things that we are to add to our faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, endurance, patience and then godliness. It is a mistake to focus on these qualities as the development of Christian character. We have missed Peter’s assertion that these are qualities of the life of one who worships well. In other words I can’t worship well if I am immoral, ignorant, undisciplined and a quitter. So it is not about my character, it is a lifestyle of the perpetual pursuit of God that requires discipline, and requires self-control, requires endurance, and requires making virtuous choices, and requires growing in the knowledge of God, but in the end it is not about me. Worship involves that humble submission to the value of God…they fell down.
Secondly, worship involves a joyful, humble and confessional communication. In other words, what did they do when they worshiped? Something was being said. It came from the heart, sometimes without verbalizing it. You don’t go to a worship service; you go to a service and you worship. We find in these two five hymns of praise and thanksgiving. And the themes run from the sovereignty of God as creator to the sacrifice of God as redeemer. They sang music and so we sing music. Our music on Sunday morning shouldn’t be about how good I am going to feel in heaven. It should be about me at all. It should be about God. Music director, did you hear that? Soloists, did you hear that? Instrumentalists, did you hear that? The worship music in heaven was all about God and our music should be all about God. In the chapter four they sang about the sovereignty of God, and in chapter five they sang about the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ as the lamb. There were ten thousand upon ten thousands, myriads upon myriads. These songs were God-focused; these songs were intense. All the angels and all the myriads were joining in. Music ought to be exciting.
“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” What was the response of heaven, “They fell down and worshiped God.”
May the Lord give us a greater vision of Himself, and then in response in humble submission and in joyful communication of what we believe, may we worship Him in spirit and in truth.