WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION
I counted them—Jesus is identified in the Book of Revelation as “the Lamb” no less than 28 times! “Christ and Him crucified” is the Hero of that last Book of the Bible. None of the 66 books of the Bible so lifts up Christ and Him crucified as this last one! When Jesus explained to John the Baptist that He was “the Lamb of God” who must bear the sins of the world, and then the Baptist baptized Him, young John the disciple must have listened. All of his subsequent writings were imbued with that solemn, holy sense of wonder and appreciation for the infinite sacrifice of the Son of God.
At the beginning of his last book John marvels because He “loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (1:5). He cries his heart out in chapter 5 as he sees there is no one in the vast universe of God who can “open the [mysterious] book, and to loose the seals thereof. . . . I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon” (you can’t understand Revelation without tears, for it was written with tears!). Then one of the 24 elders (humans in heaven!) tried to comfort him: “Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.”
John strains to see the grand entrance on the stage of this “Lion,” but he sees instead a “Lamb as it had been slain.” He hears the 24 elders and the hosts of the redeemed sing unto Him who has “redeemed us to God by Thy blood. . . . Worthy is the Lamb that was slain” (5:3-12). He sees a great multitude at last who “have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14). They stand with the Lamb at last on Mt. Zion “and they sing a new sing before the throne” for “they follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth” (14:1-4). Their souls are captured for eternity by a heart-appreciation for a love “that passeth knowledge.”
You may not be musically minded; but this is a song of experience, a heart-song of identity of self crucified with Christ on His cross, and it’s time for us to begin to “learn” that song now.
“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).
Rev. 1:13: “And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.”
Rev. 1:14: “His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
Rev. 1:15: “And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
Rev. 1:16: “And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
Do you like to fight battles? Or do you like to run away from them? I meet many wonderful Christian people, members of the church, who want peace so much that they refuse to get down in the arena where battles for the Lord must be fought. To tell the truth, they’d rather watch TV than study for themselves to know the truth about the issues in the great controversy between Christ and Satan. But Paul says in 1 Tim. 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith,” and Jude says (vs. 3) that we “should contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” for there are “certain men crept in unawares” who seek to corrupt that faith. And Jesus tells us quite clearly, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Mt. 10:34-36).
Wow! Is this what it means to follow Christ? “But,” says someone, “surely this doesn’t apply to conflicts WITHIN the church!?? The world is full of controversy; I go to church so I can find a place of rest and peace!” Well, I must tell the truth. Revelation 12:17 says that the dragon, the devil, in these last days, is “wroth” with the true church, and has gone to make war with the remnant church, where his most fearful strategy is to make war within the church against the pure, true gospel of Jesus. If Satan can corrupt THAT, he hopes yet to win the war against Christ. So Peter’s advice is exactly what we need today: “Be sober, be vigilant.” “Resist” him “steadfast in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:8). But please be sure that you have your wits about you; that word “sober” means to think carefully lest you end up “resisting” the true work of the Holy Spirit! If you do THAT, you’ve crossed that line beyond which repentance is impossible. The stakes in the great controversy are high; the only place where you can avoid the battle is the grave. And please don’t choose to go there! Get on your knees; study; learn; stay awake; “watch”; and stand “for the right though the heavens fall,” says one wise writer.
Rev. 1:17: “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
Rev. 1:18: “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
Revelation 4:8: “And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, LORD God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”
It seems obvious that his vision was not of materialistic “glory” like watching a video of Queen Elizabeth’s royal grandeur; it was a vision of the character of the Lord, a heart-humbling appreciation of His glorious self-sacrificing love. The cry of “holy, holy, holy” was a revelation of the cross. The young Isaiah was overwhelmed with a humbling sense of his own sinful selfishness in contrast.
Revelation 4:9: “And when those beasts give glory and honor and thanks to Him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,”
Revelation 4:10: “The four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Revelation 4:11: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Revelation 5:8: “And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.”
I was mistaken—I thought Jesus is identified in the Book of Revelation as “the Lamb” only 24 times; but I counted them last night—no less than 28 times! “Christ and Him crucified” is the Hero of that last Book of the Bible. None of the 66 books of the Bible so lifts up Christ and Him crucified as this last one! When Jesus explained to John the Baptist that He was “the Lamb of God” who must bear the sins of the world, and then the Baptist baptized Him, young John the disciple must have listened. All of his subsequent writings were imbued with that solemn, holy sense of wonder and appreciation for the infinite sacrifice of the Son of God. At the beginning of his last book John marvels because He “loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (1:5). He cries his heart out in chapter 5 as he sees there is no one in the vast universe of God who can “open the [mysterious] book, and to loose the seals thereof. . . . I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon” (you can’t understand Revelation without tears, for it was written with tears!). Then one of the 24 elders (humans in heaven!) tried to comfort him: “Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book and to loose the seven seals thereof.” John strains to see the grand entrance on the stage of this “Lion,” but he sees instead a “Lamb as it had been slain.” He hears the 24 elders and the hosts of the redeemed sing unto Him who has “redeemed us to God by Thy blood. . . . Worthy is the Lamb that was slain” (5:3-12). He sees a great multitude at last who “have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14). They stand with the Lamb at last on Mt. Zion “and they sing a new sing before the throne” for “they follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth” (14:1-4). Their souls are captured for eternity by a heart-appreciation for a love “that passeth knowledge.” You may not be musically minded; but this is a song of experience, a heart-song of identity of self crucified with Christ on His cross, and it’s time for us to begin to “learn” that song now.
Revelation 5:9: “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
The world has sometimes heard lovely music, but none so glorious as that song of praise to the Lamb who had been slain. His love went to the farthest boundary of hell itself to search for human souls that were lost. That love has conquered. The lost has been found.
Not one of the countless multitude who sings this chorus sings from fear every heart is bursting with wonder and praise, genuine adoration for Him who emptied Himself in a sacrifice so complete that it has unveiled to the gaze of all created intelligences for all eternity the depths of the infinite love of God. We can sense in our hearts that beginning pulse of eternal life if we long to join in that song.
That which inspires this glorious song, we can even today begin to study—the cross of Christ. In Christ glorified, the redeemed will ever behold Christ crucified.
Revelation 5:10: “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
Revelation 5:11: “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;”
Revelation 5:12: “Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.”
Revelation 5:13: “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”
Revelation 5:14: “And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.”
At last there will be no trace of rebellion or enmity left in God’s great universe. Every creature will join in this worship of the Father and of the Lamb. Since Satan and those who serve him will never agree to join in such a song of praise to Christ, it is clear that these verses look forward to the time when sin and those who have stubbornly clung to it will have come to their end in the lake of fire.
Is God worthy of such endless devotion? If all we knew of Him were the evidences of the greatness that we see in His creation, we would gladly say yes. But far beyond His majesty and power evident in the things that He has made stands that cross with its amazing disclosure of His self-sacrificing character.
The Book of Revelation surpasses all other earthly books in that it recognizes this ultimate reality—this that no earthly science or philosophy can approach.
Revelation 7:9: “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;”
There’s a fascinating link between the Book of Revelation and the Gospel of John that intrigues many people. The former tells of God’s final “Voice from heaven” that will sound in the heart of a vast number around the world to “come out of Babylon, My people.” They will respond in that last hour, symbolized as “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and tongues,” who hear the Voice because in some way they already “follow the Lamb [the crucified Christ] wherever He goes” (18:3; 7:9; 14:4). They are already responsive in their confusion to each nuance of divine leading they can sense. They love truth.
The link with John’s Gospel is in 10:1-16 where Jesus lets us in on His secret: He has people everywhere who are His hidden “sheep” who “know His voice” and respond whenever He can find a human agent to proclaim the truth so clearly that honest people recognize that “Voice.” To borrow Luther’s rude phrase, these who proclaim the gospel don’t “taste of the dish” (would you serve your guests from a dish that still has the remnants of its former cooking sticking to it?). When our preaching is marred by “self,” we repulse rather than attract these “sheep.”
The presence of self-love seen in the agent constitutes the “messenger” “a thief and a robber” “climbing up some other way” into the Christ’s “sheepfold.” His true sheep run as fast as they can the other way (they “flee from a stranger”). And possibly the church wonders why they are not winning more souls, and why their efforts to “lighten the earth with glory” seem so stymied.
The picture in the Bible is clear: God has faithful people buried in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, yes, maybe all the “isms” of the world, including (it must be!) atheism who are not heart-satisfied where they are; they hunger for something they haven’t yet found. When truth and that truth-seeker meet, nothing in earth or heaven will keep them apart forever after.
The challenge to God’s “remnant church” of these last days is: clear away the self-confusion that muffles the sound of that “Voice from heaven.” What’s on God’s agenda for His church is thrilling.
Revelation 7:10: “And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”
Revelation 7:11: “And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,”
Revelation 7:12: “Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 11:15: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
Revelation 11:16: “And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,”
Revelation 11:17: “Saying, We give thee thanks, O LORD God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.”
Revelation 11:18: “And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.”
Revelation 11:15: “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.”
There’s an often-overlooked aspect of the great third angel’s message that creates a vacuum in our heart experience. Its absence nurtures lukewarmness—that vague sense of spiritual futility.
What’s missing: the third angel’s message is a Day of Atonement idea—something new in 6000 years of human history. It’s the Good News of justification by faith in the light of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary—glorious truth beyond what our dear brother Martin Luther (in all his godly sincerity) could grasp in his day.
One clear-thinking writer said that as the third angel pronounces his fearful warning in Rev. 14:9-12, he is pointing to the Most Holy Apartment of the heavenly sanctuary: “Here [is where there is] the perseverance of the saints; here are [found] they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” They have “followed the Lamb” in His final ministry! And the Bible supports that profound insight, because the whole of Revelation chapters 12 onwards is built upon the awe-inspiring change in the heavenly administration when the seventh angel blows his trumpet in ch. 11:15: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ . . . . And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament”—clearly, the opening of the final phase of Christ’s high priestly ministry in the Most Holy Apartment.
In past ages, Christ’s ministry was preparing people to die. What’s He doing now? Preparing a people for translation at His second coming. Life now is serious business; let’s cooperate with Him. Let’s stop “resisting Him in His office work.”
Revelation 15:1: “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.”
Revelation 15:2: “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.”
Revelation 15:3: “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”
Revelation 15:4: “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.”
Revelation 19:1: “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God:”
It may be that you seem to be the only follower of Christ in your family or neighborhood. Here is encouragement. Although it may seem that God’s people on earth are only a minority, there is “a great multitude” in the universe of God, a far greater majority, who are loyal to Him. A nation sends its ambassadors to another nation’s capital. He and his staff are a minority there; yet he can never forget the mighty nation which he represents and which stands behind him. As a follow of Christ, we are ambassadors to this world.
The word “alleluia” in Hebrew word means, “Praise the Lord.” It is not because He has conquered by force of arms that the “great multitude” of heaven praise the Lamb for His victory. He has conquered only through truth and righteousness. This glorious victory was won when Jesus died on His cross and rose again. Therefore, this song of praise is not offered in the way that weak, selfish sycophants would praise an earthly ruler or tyrant in order to obtain favors, but in wholehearted sincerity. Glory and honor belong to the One whose unselfish love for sinners is the most amazing sacrifice of eternity.
Revelation 19:2: “For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.
Why is it that since Jesus died for the sins of the world, the world has not become better but has become worse? Why is it that the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants have not been changed by Christ?
The whole world would indeed have been saved by the religion of Christ had it not been for the work of a clever enemy who interposed himself and hindered His work. This enemy is spoken of in the Bible as the “Antichrist,” one who fights against Christ in the most wicked and deceptive way possible, that is, by pretending to take the place of Christ (see 1 John 4:1, 3). There is no way that an enemy could do one greater harm than to impersonate him and write damaging letters in his name. Even one’s best friends might find it hard to keep their faith in him!
The “great harlot,” Babylon, has done that very thing. Satan has spoken through her in the name of Christ, and countless millions of uninformed people have been deceived. Many have openly despised Christ because Babylon has misrepresented Him, and millions of others have supposed that they are following Christ when in reality they are being led to fight against Him on the side of the Antichrist. This is why Babylon has “corrupted the earth with her fornication.”
Revelation 19:3: “And again they said, Alleluia And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.
Revelation 19:4: “And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.
Revelation 19:5: “And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.
From the introduction onward, we have seen how the final end-time crisis will center around the question of worship. The issue of worship is not a small matter. The eternal destiny of souls hangs on it. This crucial truth becomes more apparent in what unfolds in Revelation 13 and 14.
“And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name” (Rev. 14:11).
“And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God” (Rev. 22:8, 9).
An angel is a wonderful being, but he has no desire to be worshiped. King Herod proudly accepted the worship of the multitude when they shouted, It is “the voice of a god and not of a man!” knowing full well he did not deserve it (see Acts 12:21-23). The angel immediately sets John on his feet and assures him that he is only “your fellow servant.”
The angel knows no pride such as Herod yielded to. What a pity when a man or ruler wants to be worshiped by his fellow men! Few are as humble as this angel who directs the glory to God. No one who wants to be worshiped or praised can long enjoy the respect of others.
All who “keep the words of this book” share in the rewards to be enjoyed by John and his fellow prophets. God is generous in giving out rewards. Even “he who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward” (Matt. 10:41). To “receive” the messages of the Spirit of prophecy is simply to welcome them into the heart.
Revelation 19:10: “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Although angels are glorious beings, we must not worship them. Neither should we worship or even praise any human being. The angel declares himself to be a “fellow servant” with us, in captivity to the love of Christ. The angel is happy that he has the privilege of belonging to the same group to which John belongs, those who have the “testimony of Jesus.” You know how happy you are if you are on speaking terms with the prime minister or president of your country. Those who have the “testimony of Jesus” are those to whom He speaks.