Revelation Rule #4: It's All About Worship

Monday, October 1, 2018

(This post is part 5 of my 8 part series on interpreting Revelation faithfully. You can read the other posts in the series here.)

Revelation Rule #4: Worship is a major theme.
"Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty
who was, and is, and is to come."
(Rev. 4:8)
If you had a traditional upbringing in the church like I did, you may have sung some hymns based upon Revelation and not even realized it: "How Great is Our God," "Holy, Holy, Holy," "O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing," "Worthy is the Lamb," "Agnus Dei," "Victory in Jesus," "Crown Him With Many Crowns"... these are just a few.

You might even recognize a few modern worship songs as well: "You are Worthy," "Lion and the Lamb," "The Earth is Yours," "We Fall Down," "Break Every Chain."

This is because worship is a major theme in the book of Revelation.

Last week we discussed Rule #3, where understanding the circumstances under which John was writing greatly helps us understand Revelation. Briefly put, the Roman Empire in John's day was caught up in a dangerous, blasphemous ideology that asserted Rome's status as a sovereign, divinely-appointed nation and her emperors' status as gods. In John's world, Rome demanded ultimate allegiance and even worship. Worship was political. Given this cultural background (Rule #3), it only makes sense that Revelation would be filled with songs of praise and liturgical readings.

It is precisely because worship is a political act that Revelation calls God's people to declare her allegiance to the only One who is worthy.

Revelation is counter-worship. Through its hymns and doxological (praise) responses, Revelation counters all the false claims the Roman deities made about their sovereignty and power. John shows God's people how to publicly worship by returning honor and praise to the one true God.

Much of Revelation centers around the Throne, where Jesus, the slaughtered Lamb, is glorified for overcoming death. The reign of God begins now, not somewhere in the distant future. For John's listeners, this would have been incredibly good news. Caesar may have his little throne, but God is ultimately the one who has divine power.

And because of this, Jesus, and Jesus alone, is worthy of our worship.

When we worship, we don't just give God honor; we strip strip honor from everything that is not God. By declaring Jesus "worthy," we are declaring that everything else is "not worthy."

Worship is a declaration of where our ultimate allegiance lies. It reminds us to resist yielding to powers that are intrinsically anti-God. And it invites us to into the story and mission of Jesus.

 What worship songs inspired by Revelation have you sung? How do you think that understanding Revelation as "counter-worship" helps our interpretation of it?

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