Summary: Thanksgiving and worship are intimately related. Without a thankful heart, there can be no worship. But what do we know of worship? Let’s explore the worship of the redeemed in heaven to learn about worship and thanksgiving.
“The twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshipped God, saying,
‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
and begun to reign.
The nations raged,
but your wrath came,
and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
and those who fear your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.’
“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.”
One of the darkest descriptions of a culture imploding with its own arrogance is provided by the Apostle to the Gentiles in the opening words of his letter to Roman Christians. Paul writes, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Take special note of the next verse, the first overt expression of rebellion against God and His reign. “For although they knew God, they did not honour Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” [ROMANS 1:18-21].
According to the Apostle, giving thanks to God is equated with honouring Him. Gratitude to God arises from the knowledge of His goodness, His grace, His mercy and His majesty. An individual that does not give thanks to God will not—indeed, cannot—honour Him as God. The individual that does not worship Him as God will never be thankful to Him as God. Worship and gratitude are intimately connected, each demanding the other.
If we fail to express gratitude toward the Creator, we demonstrate that we are incapable of worshipping Him as God. If our gratitude is reduced to mere formality, occasionally grunted out before we wolf down a meal, we have already been co-opted by the world in which we live. Certainly, expressing gratitude in prayer is both good and necessary for the child of God; however, it is not merely in speaking the words that we reveal our gratitude, but it is in the way in which we live out our lives, and especially in the worship we offer before the Living God.
Throughout the Apocalypse, we witness worship expressing gratitude to God that is offered by redeemed saints in Heaven. How unlike worship now! It often seems that worship is a performance and that the emphasis is upon how we feel. However, the emphasis in Heaven is upon service to the Living God. In other words, in Heaven worshippers are less concerned with their performance than they are with the One who is worshipped. Now, we are concerned that our performance is not polished or that we sing off-key; there, our focus will be entirely on the Father and on the Son as we glorify them for who they are and for their mercies to us. Now, our concern is how others may judge our efforts at worship; there, our sole concern will be to honour the Living God. Stifling worship, we also stifle gratitude. Regardless of how we feel about God, if we are ungrateful, we cannot worship; if we are truly grateful, we cannot help but worship.
THE WORSHIPPERS — “The twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshipped God.” The aged Apostle had been exiled to the barren Isle of Patmos. While worshipping on the Lord`s Day, John met the Risen Son of God who gave him what he describes as the Revelation of Jesus Christ [see REVELATION 1:1, 10]. He saw and heard the Risen Saviour, who gave Him a message for seven churches situated in the Roman Province of Asia [see REVELATION 1:11-3:22].
After receiving these messages, John was transported in the Spirit to Heaven, where he witnessed an unveiling of future events. The book that he wrote provides an outline of history so that no Christian need be ignorant of the plan for God either for this world or for mankind.
Shortly after John began to write of what is happening upon arriving before the throne, we are introduced to the worshippers. John writes, “I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.