As a prophetic summons to first-commandment faithfulness, Revelation is both a call to worship the true God and a call to forsake all false deities. These two aspects are connected, and both appear in sharp relief at the beginning and the end of Revelation, as well as throughout the book. “Worship is so important in the book of Revelation,” writes Mitchell Reddish, “because John rightly understood that worship is a political act. Through worship one declares one’s allegiance, one’s loyalty. . . . [Public worship] is a statement to the world that the church will bow to no other gods.”
(Kindle Locations 954-958).
The most obviously liturgical, or worship-related, aspect of Revelation is its ample supply of texts most likely drawn from early Christian hymns and identified as the music of heaven.
(Kindle Locations 963-964).
The Revelation, of course, contains the lyrics of several songs sung in heaven in honor of God. As we’ll see in the next post, the church has frequently turned to Revelation when writing its hymns.
As a call to join the ongoing heavenly worship of God, Revelation is simultaneously a presentation of the divine drama that is celebrated in worship, and therefore also a summons to enter the story and mission of God, the missio Dei.
(Kindle Locations 1009-1011).
Think about it. When we worship God in our assemblies, we are joining the thousands upon thousands of worshipers in heaven in their worship. It’s not just us. Rather, we join with the angelic throng and the dead in Christ who are in constant worship of God.
The Orthodox like to speak of the dead in Christ as still alive and participating in worship, whereas the Catholics and Protestants tend to think of the dead as dead. The Orthodox are truer to heart of the Revelation.
Just so, when we study the Bible in light of the writings of the dead in Christ — the great scholars of the past — we are in conversation with the part of the church that lives in heaven with God. We sometimes act as though we’re the first people to ever read the Bible or sing a song of praise. We give little thought to the importance of the work of those who preceded us. But we’d not know about Jesus but for the heroic work of Christian men and women who preserved this knowledge and passed it on to the next generation. Like us, they were limited, broken, flawed beings, but we are saved because they paid the price to make sure the next generation heard the gospel — often in the face of brutal, cruel persecution.
Now, if we think in these terms when we worship, worship changes. It’s less about “being fed” and more about joining with the heavenly host to share in the joy of God present throughout the Creation, both heaven and earth.
Or, to think in similar terms, when we enter the assembly to sing praises to God, we join with our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, who were worshiping before we were born and will continue worshiping long after we’re dead.