Summary: “And the elders fell down and worshipped.” The eternal preoccupation of the saints in heaven will be worship. Angels in Heaven worship the Son of God day and night [REVELATION 4:6-8]; and as they worship, the redeemed of the ages will join them.
WORSHIPPING THE LAMB WHO WAS SLAIN
“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, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!’ 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 honour and glory and might forever and ever!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshipped.”
“And the elders fell down and worshipped.” The eternal preoccupation of the saints in heaven will be worship. Angels in Heaven worship the Son of God day and night [REVELATION 4:6-8]; and as they worship, the redeemed of the ages will join them in joyfully worshipping the Son of God [REVELATION 4:9-11; 7:13-17]. The worship that is described, and which we anticipate as redeemed people belonging to the Living God, is neither contrived nor strained. It is natural; it is joyous. That heavenly worship is enthusiastic; it is spontaneous and it is refreshing.
So often we who are Christians are deterred from worship because either our efforts fail to stimulate the intellect or speak to the heart. When our effort to worship becomes forced, or when it is carried out by rote, it ceases to be true worship and becomes a performance. Tragically, few modern evangelicals know what it is to worship; and if they do worship, it is intermittent, occasional, sporadic. Though there may be a fading memory of a time we worshipped, we do not often have either the burning desire to worship as we gather on a Sunday morning or the knowledge that we are meeting the Living God.
As we continue in our Advent series of messages, we will review the worship that we shall present in eternity in order to equip us to worship in time. The study will take us back to a time when Magi brought rich gifts in order to worship the newborn Son of God, before moving us forward to a time when we will joyfully worship before the throne of God.
WORSHIP BEFORE THE SON OF GOD —What is worship? Before proceeding any farther in this message, it will be helpful for us to think about what worship is … and is not. Worship is not a feeling. Though the feelings may be engaged in worship, what is felt follows the act rather than being the act itself. Thus, worship is not ecstasy or contentment, though worship may lead to ecstatic feelings or even to a sense of settled contentment.
Worship is not singing, though singing may be included in worship. The Magi worshipped [MATTHEW 2:11], though there is no indication that they sang. The angels in heaven worship, though they are never said to sing. In the text, we read that he angels (together with the cherubim and the redeemed of heaven) worship, “saying … ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing’” [REVELATION 5:12]. The 144,000 Jewish evangelists sing a “new song before the throne” [REVELATION 14:3]; and those redeemed out of the Great Tribulation “sing the song of Moses” [REVELATION 15:3], and we who are now redeemed will sing a new song [REVELATION 5:9, 10].
There are, among contemporary evangelical Christians, a multitude of people who attempt to worship, but offer what is unacceptable to God. It is possible to have a religious experience, even confess to hearing the voice of God, and yet be lost and therefore offer unacceptable worship. Cain heard God, but he rejected what God commanded. He attempted to worship in his own way, according to his own thoughts, and God did not accept him. It is not experience that saves us; it is the blood of Jesus Christ that saves us.
Worship is not a matter of the length of time we invest in the effort, nor is it whether we are sufficiently solemn or not. Worship is not an issue of whether we recognise the brevity of days allotted on earth and the length of time in eternity. Worship is the spontaneous response of one who is redeemed, of one who recognises God as God and himself as a sinner saved by the mercies of Christ the Lord. Worship is giving to God that which rightfully belongs to Him.
Years ago, I read a marvellous description of worship provided by A. W. Tozer. Tozer was, in the truest sense of the word, a Christian Mystic. He was a prophet who endeavoured to bring his readers into the presence of the majestic Lord of Glory. In a series of messages that were published in a booklet entitled “Worship: The Missing Jewel of the Evangelical Church,” Tozer described worship. His words, delivered before the Associated Gospel Churches of Canada are worthy of our consideration to this day.