Have you ever had the sense, half-way through the second song of the Praise and Worship set on Sunday morning, that you have no idea what you’ve just been singing? The words were coming out of your mouth and your voice was obliging the appropriate melody, but your heart has no clue what just happened in the last six minutes! It’s kind of like driving down the highway and having the sudden realization that 10 miles have gone by and you’ve no idea what’s just passed!
The fact is, life is full of distractions and sometimes there is so much white-noise going on in our mind when we walk into church on Sunday, we find it difficult to transition into a time of focused worship. But even at our best, we still often consider worship as a finite period of time in our regular Sunday service. Surely there must be more to it. The question, then, is: how can we go deeper in our worship and be transformed by it?
God gives us the answer in His picture of “heavenly” worship in Revelation 5:6-14, where there are three points that challenge how we approach, enter, and engage in worship. And what better place to find a model of “heavenly worship” than heaven itself!
First, heavenly worship Remembers Who Jesus Is (Rev 5:6-8).
As John begins to describe for us in vivid detail the stunning and awesome picture of worship in heaven, before we even get to the music, John reminds us that when we worship, we are in Jesus’ presence and he remind us just Who Jesus Is. Let me summarize his words briefly:
In verse 6, he says Jesus is the Lamb, who is slain. Jesus is our Redeemer.
Also in verse 6, John points out that Jesus is at the center of the throne. Jesus is Lord. He is the One and Only who has complete authority in our life.
In verse 7, John tells us that Jesus took the scroll. Now to understand the implication of this detail, it is important to know that the scroll contains the events that will happen as the Book of Revelation plays out. Therefore, you could say that the scroll contains the future. Jesus holds the future in His hand and everything that occurs comes from His hand. He is sovereign over all. Jesus is our Sovereign King.
Now, what I find particularly interesting in verse 8, is that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders, who as far as we can tell from the text are in closest proximity to Jesus seem to be always aware of Who Jesus is: Redeemer, Lord, and King – and therefore, they immediately fall down in worship of Him. In fact, at this point in the passage, nothing else has happened.
The Lamb hasn’t done anything for them.
He hasn’t spoken anything to them.
He hasn’t halted any catastrophes or provided for any their needs.
Simply WHO Jesus is causes them to worship Him.
So let me ask you:
Are you waiting for Jesus to do something before you enter into worship?
Are you waiting for Him to engage you first?
Do you need to hear His voice? Or see His protection, or receive His provision before you worship Him?
Or is simply the fact that He is the Redeemer – the Lamb who took away your sin and mine – the fact that He is your Lord – the very authority of your life – the fact that He is Sovereign King and in complete control over everything that happens to you and to me … will you worship Jesus simply because of Who He Is?
Second, heavenly worship Rejoices in Who Jesus Is (v. 9-13).
FINALLY! This is when the music starts and we get to hear the songs of praise! Now surely there are some who are eagerly awaiting heaven simply to answer the age-old question: What would Jesus do? Are they singing hymns or praise songs in heaven?! As with all things where Jesus is concerned, however, it seems He is more interested in the heart condition than settling these kinds of questions. And John’s account of heavenly worship does indeed outline two heart attitudes we ought to remember:
First, heavenly worship rejoices in praise that is fervent. In fact, it is down right contagious! We know this because John’s eyewitness account tells us it starts with just a few participants (v. 9) – just the four creatures and the 24 elders! But even though they were few in number, soon (v. 11) there were thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand and eventually (v. 13), “every creature in heaven and in earth, under the earth, everything on the sea and in the sea” has joined with the few to rejoice in Who Jesus is.
You don’t have to be a mega church numbering thousands with a worship band of full instrumentation and a team of semi-professional vocalists in a modern cathedral with the most advanced technological sound system to rejoice in praise that is contagious! Not that there is anything wrong with that picture. The point is, it’s not a requirement! In heaven, worship starts with just a small assembly of believers who are fervently rejoicing in Who Jesus Is. The requirement is of our heart! He wants our whole hearts, soul, mind and strength when we worship, to the extent that our adoration of Him is contagious and others around us are compelled to join!
Second, in heaven, worship rejoices with praise that is focused … on Jesus.
Isaiah 12 says that our worship should give thanks to the Lord. It should exalt His name. He says our praise should make known to the earth the glorious things He has done. John’s picture from Revelation of worship in heaven is a demonstration of Isaiah’s exhortation! Hear the themes of heaven’s focused praise in vs. 9, 12, and 13:
He is worthy.
He is the Lamb who was slain and with His blood He purchased men.
He is on the throne.
He alone receives all power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and praise.
When we worship, the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts are to be focused on Jesus – not on ourselves; not as the result of our emotions or the circumstances in which we find ourselves – but focused on Jesus and Him alone!
When you worship, are you fervently rejoicing in contagious praise that is focused on Jesus and Jesus alone?
Finally, heavenly worship Responds to Who Jesus Is (v. 14)
Up until this point, you might be thinking, “Wow – this passage really is a great picture of what our worship should look like.” But then we get to verse 14 and this is when what we’ve previously been referring to as a noun – our worship – Who and what it is – suddenly becomes a verb – what we do.
Verse 14 – “The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.”
Just like back in v. 8 (as well as throughout scripture: Gen 24:26, Ex 34:8, 2 Chron 7:3, Neh 8:6, Job 1:20, Matt 2:11) the elders respond to Jesus and they fall down. It strikes me as utterly incredible that their response – the falling down – is their worship. Because what happens when you fall down? It surely isn’t good singing posture! No, when you fall down you completely give up control, right? Now that the elders have remembered Who Jesus is (Redeemer, Lord, Sovereign King), and praised Jesus with fervent hearts focused only on Him, their worship is no longer a “thing.” It’s an action of complete surrender.
So, when John tells us the elders fell down and worshiped, we’re no longer talking about music. We’re no longer talking about praise. We’re no longer talking about singing. “Worship” goes from being a noun to being a verb. When we worship in response to Jesus, we are in a state of complete surrender – totally yielded to Him. And it doesn’t end when the hymns and praise music are over. In fact, according to John’s account, in this passage when the music ends, the worship is just beginning.
What does worship of complete surrender look like for us? I surely don’t know the complete answer, but I imagine it laying down every place in our hearts and lives where we would rather listen to our own voice instead of listening to Jesus’ voice. That might include:
- Yielding 30 more minutes under the covers in the morning to spending time in the Word so we will have an answer for our faith or a word of encouragement to anyone who asks;
- Yielding our unsettled nervous feelings of shyness and fear to a boldness to share the gospel with our friends, neighbors, and co-workers;
- Yielding our tired and weary bodies overrun by the busy-ness of our schedules and the endless list of our own chores to walking across the street and helping our neighbor bag up their leaves – just … because they are just as tired as we are.
Yes, perhaps until now, we’ve thought of worship as a finite period of time in our Sunday service structured around ancient hymns and modern praise songs. But I want to suggest that “heavenly worship” – worship like we see here in Revelation – God’s picture of worship – will transform not only our corporate worship on Sundays, but indeed, our entire lives when we let Who Jesus is and the fervent, focused praise of His people so permeate our heart and mind and soul and strength that we respond by living our lives in complete surrender to Him.