Volume 14, No. 1 (January 2019)
ETERNAL PRAISE AND THE NATIONS
(Revelation 7) (part 2)
Last month we considered God’s heart FOR the nations. This month we will see how that results in:
ETERNAL PRAISE FROM THE NATIONS
John Piper draws some important insights from Romans 15 along these lines. Paul writes there:
For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.
Dr. Piper observes here that the ultimate goal of Christ’s ministry was NOT that the Gentiles might receive mercy. The ultimate goal was that the Gentiles might glorify God for that mercy: that is, that God would receive worship and praise. Piper adds:
Human beings are finally made for God, not mercy. Mercy is a means not an end. Savoring mercy is not the end, savoring GOD for His mercy is the end.
Eternal Praise from the nations is the goal! Praising God for His glory. As we saw in Revelation 22:9, in the last chapter of the Bible, the angel emphasizes that the Bible’s story and message is all focused towards worshiping God.
Paul goes on in Romans 15 to emphasize this point with several quotations from the Old Testament:
As it is written, “Therefore I will praise You among the Gentiles, and sing to Your name.” (Psalm 18:49; Romans 15:9)
And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.” (Deuteronomy 32:43; Romans 15:10)
And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol Him.” (Psalm 117:1; Romans 15:11)
In Revelation 5 we saw that Christ the Lamb is exalted and declared worthy:
for by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
And in Revelation 7 now John sees those ransomed ones and hear them cry out:
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!” (7:9-10)
John sees a great multitude with a single unified message: Eternal Praise to God and to the Lamb.
DIVERSITY IN UNITY
Yet among that great multitude there is also great diversity.
Behind all of our discussions, debates and even conflicts about worship styles and practices—which are indeed found all over the world—a root cause for these differences of opinions is the surprising fact the New Testament gives almost nothing in the way of specific instructions about how we should do worship in our churches. Piper goes so far as to say:
There is no authorization in the new Testament for worship buildings, or worship dress, or worship times, or worship music, or worship liturgy or worship size or thirty-five-minute sermons, or Advent poems or choirs or instruments or candles. . . . Almost every worship tradition we have is culturally shaped rather than Biblically commanded.
This is an amazing insight. Piper is not saying that because our practices are culturally shaped they are wrong: after all, we do need to make decisions about when and where and how we meet, what instruments we use, how often we celebrate Communion, etc., etc. But we need to very, very careful about thinking that the way we do things in our church is the only right, God-honoring way to do them. In areas where the New Testament does not specify (which is most areas), it seems to be allowing us freedom to find ways that are meaningful and helpful in our own particular church context. But it also means we need to be careful about criticizing other churches that may do things a little differently.
In fact, most worship conflicts in our day result from many Christians’ tendency to see their preferred way of doing things as normative, authoritative, non-negotiable practices. Instead we should show grace towards other Christians and other churches whose worship decision smy differ from our own, all the while insisting that there are indeed certain non-negotiable central elements to our worship that are foundational for every church, in every time and every place.
We see a beautiful, God-honoring diversity of worship practices from denomination to denomination, from culture to culture, from country to country. God loves diversity! There can never be too many ways to lift up Eternal Praise to our great God!
There is great freedom, but it is not unlimited freedom: our worship practices must always be within biblical parameters; certain core practices and principles should always govern and guide our worship practices. For more discussion on this key distinction, please see Worship Notes 2.8.
And so in Revelation 7 we have:
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.”
A great multitude (“that no one could number”)
A great diversity: (“all tribes and peoples and languages”)
A great sound: (“crying with a loud voice”)
A great (eternal) praise: (“blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might”)
A great God praised (“be to our God forever and ever”)
As we saw in Romans 15 earlier, Eternal Praise is not just rejoicing in the blessings of salvation, but rejoicing in the GOD of our salvation.
(It’s been said that we come out of a worship service, we shouldn’t be saying “What great worship we had today!” but rather “What a great God we worshiped today!”)
Here in Revelation 7,
the redeemed people cry out 10
and the angels fall down and worship, 11
heaping superlatives 12 (“blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might”—there are no limits to God’s worthiness)
These qualities of God are eternal qualities; they are lifted up in eternal praise (“forever and ever” to the Eternal God of Glory.
is the activity, the business of heaven.
God is to be praised forever and everywhere!
the Lord of glory,
the only One worthy of our worship.
And so, as the angel reminds John, and us, in the very last chapter of the Bible: “Worship God!” (Revelation 22:9)
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:36)