Memory Text: “And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth” (Revelation 14:3).
Introduction: The book of Revelation is filled with symbols and incredible images of beasts and dragons and fire and earthquakes and plagues and armies and frogs and cities and falling stars and so forth. Yet, amid all of this the book contains 24 references in which the word “worship” appears, most of the times derived from the Greek proskuneooe, which means to prostrate oneself to pay homage. The root of the verb is kunein, the Greek term meaning “to kiss.” For the ancient Greeks worshiping chthonic deities, (relating to underworld deities) involved stooping to kiss the earth.
The first reference to the concept of worship occurs in Revelation 1:17 “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid, I am the First and the Last.’ This encounter between John and the Lord sets the tone for the whole book. John’s act of humble devotion and submission is similar to that of Abraham, Job and Daniel, and then God speaks.
Question: Do we need to be more humble in order to truly worship God?
These men were apparently greatly humbled. Their reactions suggest fear, reverence, awe, and, perhaps, even repentance. It was because of the realization of their own sinfulness and not their own unrighteousness.
Raymond Holmes, former Andrews University Professor tells us that John was in an attitude of worship when he received the visions and instructions from the Lord (1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10), when “in the Spirit” he saw and heard what others could not see and hear. This means that in the context of worship, people should expect to receive insight into the Gospel and the Christian life. In order for that to be possible, the focus in worship must be theocentric.
Revelation 4-5 is a perfect example of the portrayal of this theocentric worship in which the worshipers in chapter 4 gather around the throne of God and the focus of the worship is on God the Creator. In chapter 5 the focus is on God the Redeemer. Father and Son are praised and glorified in the most sublime expression of theocentric worship ever to be performed.
Question: What is the message for the church today in these passages?
It provides the church of the last-days a stirring example, and demonstration, of the kind of theocentric worship so badly needed. When such worship is undertaken and experienced by the church, human needs will be met as the God worshiped reaches out in grace and mercy through the Word and touches the hearts and lives of those who seek Him.
There are many worship scenes depicted in the book of Revelation. Considering who those worshipers are or will be, where they are, and what they do, say, and sing; several things are obvious: God protects them, they will never thirst or hunger again, and He gives them permission to stand around His throne and to follow Him wherever He goes.
Holy, Holy, Holy –
Throughout the book of Revelation there are scenes of various beings worshiping the Lord. If you look carefully through the book of Revelation, you will discover that there are many sanctuary scenes. Almost every one of the sanctuary scenes is connected with an example of worship. In Revelation’s majestic service all created beings surrender their crowns to Father and Son (4:10). Creation and redemption, heaven and earth, are bound together in this glorious act of worship. In 4:10 the 24 elders “fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship [proskuneooe] him. . . .” In Rev. 5:14, following hymns of praise, the 24 elders “fell down and worshiped.” A literal translation would be “fell down and prostrated themselves.” ( Rev 7:11; 11:16; 19:4.)
Question: What is the theme of their worship?
Holiness of God: Their worship focuses on the nature, attributes of God. 1Sam.2:2 tell us that “there is no one holy like the Lord.” Is.6:3 – the seraphim were saying “Holy, holy, holy” in their day and these 4 living creatures saying it in John’s day 800 years later! Holiness is summation of all what God is. God’s holiness is His utter and complete separation from evil in any form. This makes Him different from His creation. Even angels can be touched with iniquity as we have seen in Lucifer.
- Power of God: Almighty. El-shaddai. Almighty signifies conquering power; overcoming power. He can do whatever is possible. Can do whatever He wills to do. Having done it He is never tired. Is.40:26-28. Is.46:10.
- Eternality of God: “who was and who is and who is to come.” Rev.1:4,8. Ps.90:2 “from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”
- Creation of God: who worships? 24 elders. Notice “will fall down” – future tense. This is vision of future. Sees what will happen before it does. Fall down before Him: 6x in Rev. Here; 5:8,14; 7:11; 11:16; 19:4. Cast their crowns: have no exalted view of themselves. Lost in love, wonder and praise they take their rewards for faithful service and give them back to Him. They recognize that He is worthy of their crowns, not they! Here ascribing worthiness to God. He has right to redeem and judge His creation. All creation exists only because it is God’s will.
Through this quarter, we have seen themes of praise and worship: The Lord as Creator, the Lord as Redeemer, the Lord as judge. He is praised for His holiness, He is praised for the shedding of His blood, He is praised and worshiped for His power, for His might, and for His honor. He is praised for His justice and judgment and for the salvation He offers.
Revelation gives us many examples of hymns of praise and worship, which have inspired hymn writers down the centuries. Revelation shows us heavenly worship, while the Psalms shows us the earthly worship of a man after God’s own heart. In Revelation there are eight outbursts of praise to God or the Lamb, the first is on the earth (1:5), the other seven are in heaven. The heavenly worship is to be contrasted with the idolatry of the earth dwellers who curse God (16:9, 11, 21) and the beast who blasphemes God’s name (13:6). Revelation is punctuated by outbursts of praise and worship. Usually from those in heaven who say (4:8), sing (5:9), cry out in a loud voice (7:10) or shout (19:1) praises to God and the Lamb. Heaven is a place of singing and worship, and even shouting (19:1). In 5:9 the elders sing a new song, because the Lamb has redeemed men for God, and in 14:3 the redeemed themselves sing a new song that only they can sing. What is quite clear is that the elders and the living creatures are both involved in heavenly worship.
Question: Does that make worship the dominant motif in the book of Revelation? Is worship an important part of the message of Revelation?
Paul’s statement, “He will fall down and worship God” (1 Cor 14:25), in the context of a lengthy discussion on worship, seems to indicate that proskuneooe was probably part of the worship of the NT Church. Apparently the disciples worshiped the risen Christ in the same manner prior to His glorification, and there is no indication that He objected (Matt 14:33; Matt 28:9, 17; Luke 24:52).
Question: Why did the Lord’s disciples respond to Him in this way?
Peter Brunner comments, “They saw Him vested with the omnipotence of God. Overwhelmed by this proof of might, they fell down before him and carried out the proskyneses, exclaiming: ‘Truly, You are the son of God!’ The adoration of the risen Lord has a similar background: Now the Lord stood before the disciples as the manifestly divine Lord. The disciples experienced Jesus’ saving power. The revelation of the victor evoked the PROSKYNESIS.” – Peter Brunner, Worship in the Name of Jesus (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1968), pp. 211-212.
Revelation 13 and Revelation 14 –
Worship has been the central theme in the book of Revelation. But the central issue in the great controversy between God and Satan is crystallized in the question of “who should we worship?” The Devil even sought the worship and adoration due only to Deity from Jesus: “All this I will give you . . . if you will bow down and worship (proskuneooe) me” (Matt 4:9; Luke 4:7). After the seven plagues are over, “The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent . . . they did not stop worshiping (proskuneooe) demons, and idols . . . .” (Rev 9:20), and “men worshiped (proskuneooe) the dragon . . . and they also worshiped the beast . . .” (Rev 13:4).
Question: Is not worship the ultimate gesture, sign, testimony acknowledging the dominion of Lord and Lamb? Does the posture reflect attitude and perception?
Such was Daniel’s response when Christ appeared to him. He says, “I was terrified and fell prostrate . . . with my face to the ground” (Dan 8:17-18).
Praise and submission are the most appropriate responses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord through Christ created us, and the Lord through the Lamb redeemed us, so we praise God, adore God, giving all glory to Him as we submit our lives to His lordship. Praise is offered by means of action and language.
Praise is the quality of the relationship between the One worshiped and those worshiping. It involves recognition of God’s holiness, respect for His person, Word and will, and joy in His presence. Giving God glory is the most natural and proper response to His goodness.
Daniel W. Hardy and David F. Ford writes, “The central thrust of the Jewish and Christian tradition is to take up the whole of life into praise of God, making Him central to everything and His glory the goal of the universe.” – Daniel W. Hardy and David F. Ford, Praising and Knowing God (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1985), p. 8.
Commenting again they write, “In the act of worship the believer joins his life with that of Lord and Lamb and together with other believers constructs a “cathedral of sound.” Ibid, pp. 19-20
The theme of worship continues through Revelation 14. These are the glorified, victorious end-time redeemed before the throne, “they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
The words that are spoken, and the praise and worship, all take place in the presence of the Lord and the Lamb as Creator and Redeemer are praised and adored. The words and actions are not directed to humans, but to the Lord. They recount, recite, the mighty acts of Lord and Lamb in creating and redeeming the world. The entire focus is on the Deity, not on the worshipers.
Question: As God’s remnant church, what have we learnt from this lesson on worship in the book of Revelation?
The Bible warns us of the Devil’s desire and his perverted plan: “He opposes and exalts himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, and even sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess 2:4). The church is the temple of God (2 Cor 6:16). Revelation 14 provides us with the picture of God’s response to the foreseen devastating threat. The challenge is universal and comes with “a loud voice” (vs. 7). All people everywhere will hear it. The call is to “worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water” (vs. 7). But there is more. The false church is exposed for what it is and is called “Babylon” the fallen.
Between Revelation 13 and the call to worship in Revelation 14:6-12, there is a vivid description of the true worshipers of God (Rev 14:1-5). The call to worship in chapter 14 is given to the world through a specific people identified in Revelation 14: 1-5. They are with the Lamb, which indicates “triumph over the beast and its image.” – Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7 (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1980), p. 825.
They are identified as God’s people, the redeemed and faithful remnant who have His name written on their foreheads. They sing a new song (vs. 3)! A song of praise, triumph and victory!
The Seventh –Day Adventists are believed to be the remnant church. Therefore, the primary activity of the remnant Church, and its most distinguishing mark, is worship. Seventh-day Adventists are people of submission and of praise. They are a people called out to “proclaim my glory among the nations” says the Lord through Isa 66:19.
Conclusion: All quarter we have been learning about the need of worship. It’s not about what we do few hours each Sabbath but our entire attitude and relationship to God and our fellow beings in worship. It is about living a life of faith, of obedience, and of surrender to the Lord. Worship is about putting God first and foremost in all that we say, all that we do, and all that we think. Worship is how we treat others, how we treat those we love, and those who are hard to love. Worship is about obeying the commandments, about ministering to those in need, about dying to self and proclaiming the gospel to others, says the author.
How crucial it is then that we be ready, not only to stand firm for the truth but also to be able “to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15).
Let us continue to worship Him in ‘Spirit and in truth.’