Important New Testament Worship Passages (Part 15) (Conclusion)
Volume 9, No. 9 (September 2014)
20. SCENES OF WORSHIP IN REVELATION (Part 2)
a. A Great Multitude (Revelation 7:9-12 )
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
As in Revelation 5, we see a huge gathering around the throne of God in heaven, giving praise and honor to the Father and to the Lamb. Here the emphasis is on the assembled redeemed and their diverse provenance: from every nation, tribe, people and language. In Revelation 5:9 the angels sang a new song to Jesus, “You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation;” this salvation is celebrated in 7:10. Again as in Revelation 5, the redeemed are joined by the angelic throngs, in their entirety (the elders and the twenty-four living creatures, and “all the angels”). This vast multitude has one focus and one delight: to heap ascriptions of praise upon God (blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, might), in an attempt to express His supreme worthiness.
After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,
“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
Once more they cried out,
“Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying,
And from the throne came a voice saying,
“Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
This scene is from heaven’s perspective, as its inhabitants anticipate the consummation to come on earth, the marriage of the Lamb, and God’s eternal reign over all. Again the theme is praise, for God’s worth and for His righteous judgments (19:2). Once again the great multitude in heaven is shown ascribing “salvation and glory and power” (19:2) to God, falling down and worshiping (19:4), rejoicing and exulting and giving God glory (19:7). But the exclamation which subsumes and focuses these expressions is the Hebrew loan-word “Hallelujah!” (literally Praise Yahweh; 19:1,3,4,6).
Of course, this word is likewise the distillation and focus of the book of Psalms: not only do the last 5 Psalms begin and end with the word; but the concluding doxology of Psalm 150 piles up 13 repetitions of that verb, as the Psalmist calls all creation (“everything that has breath,” 150:6) to extol His “excellent greatness” (150:2).
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
No localizing temple will be needed, no heavenly body for illumination, because the light of the glory of God will finally fill all in all. And that glory will shine through the Lamb, the only lamp needed, the eternal mediator and reflector and instrument of God’s glory. Worship will be direct, face to face, and uninterrupted.
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
John wants to worship the dazzling angel who has shown him such remarkable things. (There is a similar scene recorded in Revelation 19:10.) But the angel insists that, as a created being himself, he is not worthy of worship. Only God, the Creator of all, is worthy of worship. Jesus of course recognized this, as He confronted Satan’s attempt to divert His worship by drawing on Old Testament truth:
“For it is written,
‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.'” (Matthew 4:10)
And so, with two little words, in the last chapter of the Bible, the angel summarizes what is in fact the message of the entire Bible: Worship God. The problem, from the fall on, is not that people do not worship; it is that they worship the wrong things. Paul makes this clear in Romans 1:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:21-25)
The question of the ages, the most profound decision facing every member of the human race, is: Whom are you going to worship? The angel makes it clear to John, and to us, at the conclusion of the biblical revelation, that the only right course is to worship God.