Today we look at the second of six themes that Joel articulates-- "Revelation orients all of life around the worship of God." If the Psalms can be said to be the song book of the Old Testament, then in some respects Revelation is the song book of the New Testament. No book of the Christian Testament contains more hymns, more praise and worship than Revelation. The clear focus of the heavenly singing is God and Jesus Christ the Lamb.
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice,
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!"
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,
"To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might
forever and ever!"
And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" And the elders fell down and worshiped (5:11-14).The Westminster Confession states that the chief end of humanity is to love God and to enjoy God forever. Such love and enjoyment is oriented around the worship of God. Paul reminds the Romans that even our very renewal in mind, body, and spirit, is itself worship (Romans 12:1-2). The worship of God becomes true worship only in the context of the transforming grace of God that reorients all of life-- the life of the individual believer and of the ecclesia.
It is important to note that in Revelation worship is never an isolated individual experience. The communion of saints in heaven worship together. The worship of the church each Sunday is a preview, a glimpse of the worship that is to come in glory. As there can be no valid solitary worship of God in heaven, so there cannot be such worship of God on earth. If, at times, individual believers have a worshipful experience that can only make sense in the context of regular worship with the believing community. When we worship on Sunday, the saints on earth prepare and are formed for that grand communal worship in the fullness of the kingdom of God.
The problem, however, is that we human beings tend to drift toward the worship of the wrong things. Green writes,
The opposite of true worship, idolatry, comes in various guises, but always it is a counter to the first command, "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exod. 20:3). One can serve God or one can buy into the possibilities and paths offered by a distracting world, but one cannot do both at the same time. For readers of Revelation, worship is also the antidote to the sin of despair-- that is, the sin of acting as though what we see and fear and experience in day-to-day life were all there is (p. 161).This leads to two problems: that this world is the object of our hope and our destination believing this world is our "genuine home" (p. 162), and that hope is abandoned in the face of unjust suffering. Why are these problems? Because the first forgets that "Babylon" is only a shadow under which we live, and the latter assumes "that Babylon has the last word" (p. 162).
Such surrender to the world is inevitable if all of life is not oriented around the worship of God; for it is God who is "making all things new" (Revelation 21:5).
God is our hope in the midst of suffering because God, not the principalities and powers, gets the last word.
Reading Revelation as Wesleyans #1: Introduction
Reading Revelation as Wesleyans #2: Seeing and Responding to the World