Heavenly Worship in the Past
Celestial worship is a subject that looks back to the dawn of creation and continues for an unbroken eternal day. As we dare to consider this subject, we acknowledge that we dabble at the edge of a vast ocean.
As God alone is eternal, we conclude that prior to any creation there was no worship in heaven. Since the worshiper is inferior to that which he worships, God reserves severe rebuke for those who worship an image (Psa 115).
Surprisingly, the Bible tells us why angelic beings were created but not when. Thrones, dominions, principalities and powers were created in heaven (Col 1:16). At the creation of earth, angelic hosts were already there. Witnessing the omniscient genius of God, they worshiped (Job 38:7). Worship is voluntary and, sadly, there was a time when heavenly worship was blemished. Lucifer, the anointed cherub desiring the worship God received, fell from lofty heights. In spite of this, unfallen angelic beings unceasingly worship God in heaven (Isa 6:2-3).
Turning His attention to the human race, God desired that planet earth be filled with true worshipers. Again, Satan moved to rob God of that worship. Tragically, Adam stooped to the sin of bowing to the devil. Thankfully, we read of the “second man … the Lord from heaven” (1Cor 15:47 KJV), whom angels worshiped at His incarnation (Heb 1:6). Once again, the devil moved, tempting Christ to worship him. Christ’s response? “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt 4:10 KJV).
Heavenly Worship in the Present
How humbling it is that heaven’s interest is upon earth. Angelic beings take interest in the gospel (1Peter 1:12) and worship in the presence of God over one sinner that repents (Luke 15:10). In Christ alone, we take our place as “true worshipers” (John 4:23).
True worship begins on the grounds of new birth. Just as Israel, a redeemed people, was called out of Egypt to worship, we, too, are called out of this world for the glory of God. For Israel, God had a divine center for the nation to offer sacrifice. In this dispensation, we also have a particular and unique place for corporate worship: the local assembly – a place of divine choice, where divine authority is known, with divine persons in the midst (Matt 18:20; 1Cor 3:16; 2Cor 6:16). The writer of Hebrews instructs us that there we move in the holiest of all. One has well said, “The place of our gathering is not the place of worship.” While we gather literally on earth, we worship in the very throne room of God!
On the isle of Patmos, no human restraint could prevent John from being in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. In the majestic presence of God’s Son, he “fell at his feet as dead” (Rev 1:17). Overcome with fear, with his face to the earth, John records, “He laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen” (Rev 1:17-18 KJV). Have you ever, at the Breaking of Bread, found your thoughts on things of time and sense? Beloved, let us lift our sights beyond this world and fix our gaze upon Him, who “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2 KJV). Moving in the holiest of all is the believer’s highest privilege on earth.
Heavenly Worship in the Future (Rev 4-19)
While we presently walk by faith, we anticipate that great day when we shall be instantaneously transformed and transported to meet the Lord in the air. What will it be to behold our Savior for the first time? What anticipation to hear His voice, see His face and be changed into His likeness! As we contemplate this, let us remember that we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. At that great event, Paul tells us we shall worship – “every knee shall bow … and every tongue shall confess to God” (Rom 14:11 ESV). Perhaps that which I thought worthy of reward will disappear in a puff of smoke, and things I lightly esteemed, openly rewarded. Those who placed themselves first shall be last, the humble exalted, crowns distributed, “well done’s” heard and position in the kingdom granted. The result will be worship with open confession of the Lordship of Him that sits in all His supremacy. The judge of all the earth has rightly assessed!
Finally, with exceeding joy, we enter the very presence of God to join the anthem of worship. Twenty-four elders clothed in white, with crowns of gold upon their heads, surround the throne of God. In this breathtaking scene, four beasts before the midst of the throne rise in an unbroken symphony of worship concerning the sanctity, plurality and eternality of the Godhead (4:8).
On earth, thousands of years of human wreckage are strewn across the sands of time. Ultimately, sin will have reached its climax, dispensations of men will have come and gone, and none will have found the answer to the universal problem. With Christians raptured and every restraint cast to the wind, the tide of God’s judgment waits, held back until there can be found One to take the reins of universal government. Upon the throne, God extends His right hand, which contains a book, entitling the recipient to such a position. The cry goes forth, “Who is worthy to open the book and to loose the seals thereof?” (5:2 KJV). Heaven waits with bated breath. Celestial, terrestrial and infernal spheres are scanned, but not a movement is seen from the creation! Sobs of sorrow ring from the portals of that blessed place. Is there no one who can put a final end to the raging swell of evil and usher in a righteous reign of global peace?
To the throne steps He who fulfils ancient prophecy and from whom the very kingdom originates. With the marks of death upon Him, He stands before the throne in resurrection power. He is omnipotent (seven horns) and omniscient (seven eyes – Isa 11:1-3), the blessed person of our Lord Jesus Christ! Crowns are cast before Him and worship ascends to God for the work of creation (4:11), redemption (5:9-14), salvation (7:9-12), reclamation (11:15-17) and tribulation (19:1-6).
Finally, John sees that “the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready … Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb” (19:7-9 KJV). The commencement of the Millennium arrives and God will have His original intention – a world of worshipers! As we contemplate such a future, let us worship.