It is interesting that even as the judgments of being handed out in the beginning of Revelation 11, there is simultaneously a worship service going on in heaven.
Rev 11:15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
Rev 11:16 And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
Rev 11:17 Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.
Rev 11:18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
This really makes me think about our earthly perspective in perspective as it were. We might not understand what God is doing. In fact, most of the time, I will freely admit that I’m not positive what God is doing. I think that God does open doors and close doors at times to help guide us in the right direction, but I am not Jesus Christ. I do not have that type of perfect sense of following the will of God at all times.
As a result, I don’t always understand all of the judgments of God. I don’t know everything about a situation that God knows. I don’t know the heart of people in the way that God does. As a result, it then challenges me to think about why I am so quick to say that God was unfair in a certain situation. I think that I can play God better than God is God. That is blatantly false.
In the scene in Revelation, even though God is handing down judgments that might not be pleasant for those being judged, there is a worship scene going on. It challenges me to think my limited perspective. I need to be worshiping God even when maybe I don’t know why certain things are happening. Even the judgments of God are just and are therefore something that we can worship Him for.
One thing that I think is going to be fascinating about being in heaven is the remarkable amount of diversity and commonality we are going to find with our fellow believers. In Revelation 7, we find another worship service, and believers are gathered in heaven from all around the world having died throughout the ages.
Rev 7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
Rev 7:10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
As John was witnessing this, he must have been blown away. He was imprisoned on Patmos because he was a Christian. I don’t know if he was imprisoned alongside other people who were Christians as well, but I would imagine that the effect of being imprisoned for your faith makes you feel isolated. Even if there are other Christians around, I am sure that the Roman prison guards were not thrilled if these people began talking about their love for Jesus Christ.
Therefore, from this environment that would seem to feel rather isolating, John was now able to witness a crowd of believers from around the earth who are able to praise God openly and stand in His presence. There will be so much diversity present as Christianity has essentially covered the entire world (although there are still unreached peoples).
I don’t know about you, but it makes me excited. It makes me think about how unique heaven is going to be. On earth, we find so many ways to divide ourselves, but in heaven, even though many of those things still exists, we will recognize that we are still brothers and sisters in Christ. That is what will matter.
Now we get to the fun parts of Revelation. Revelation 4 begins with John being told that these are things which must be. John is now having the chance to see the future, and he is told to write it down.
When he first sees is a worship service with 24 elders and four beasts. Although the identity of the elders is not entirely agreed upon, it seems to make quite a bit of sense that they are actual people from earth who have received crowns. That seems to be a reward for faithful humans as described throughout the New Testament. Therefore, it totally makes sense in context that the humans will be casting down there crowns and worshiping God.
The beasts are somewhat more interesting.
Rev 4:7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
Rev 4:8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
Rev 4:9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
Rev 4:10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Rev 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Why these particular beasts? As soon as the beasts began praising God, the elders began to worship as well. Therefore, it seems that there is something about the beasts that leads the people. This is what seems to lead most of my commentaries to conclude that these beasts are representative of the characteristics of the true church.
The church ideally has the strength of a lion, the steadiness and industriousness of what has often times been translated as an ox or calf, the wisdom of humans and the swiftness of the eagle. When the church praises God continually as described in verse nine, the elders who are already in heaven get excited and worship as well.
There is a worship service going on in heaven to begin the heavenly vision of John. Worship is central to existence in heaven.
Ezekiel 46 lays out the ordinances for how this Temple is to be used. This is the ideal Temple that any human effort to build fell short. It is what I would argue in the model of the ideal Christian life that conforms to the model laid out by Jesus Christ. Now, in Ezekiel 46 it is shown that there should be a significant portion of time reserved for the worship of God.
Eze 46:1 Thus saith the Lord GOD; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened.
Eze 46:2 And the prince shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate without, and shall stand by the post of the gate, and the priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate: then he shall go forth; but the gate shall not be shut until the evening.
Eze 46:3 Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before the LORD in the sabbaths and in the new moons.
Again, if I am interpreting this appropriately, then if this ideal Christian life involves significant worship, shouldn’t we make sure that we give God sufficient worship?
Please don’t misunderstand how I am using the word sufficient. I am not implying in any way that we can confine all of our worship to Sunday morning and forget about the rest of the week. I am not saying that there is some kind of percentage that we can satisfy and then give up on worship for a period of time.
We are told to worship God with everything we have. Psalms 150 is a good one for this. We praise God with whatever we have, and we praise him for being all that He is. We do know that God is awesome, and we do know that worship is an important part of our Christian lives. Sufficient worship is all-consuming worship.
In Jeremiah 32, we receive more prophecy about the fall of Judah the hands of the Babylonians which is remarkably accurate, but we also get a kind of recap of why this entire situation was coming to be.
Jer 32:30 For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the LORD.
Jer 32:31 For this city hath been to me as a provocation of mine anger and of my fury from the day that they built it even unto this day; that I should remove it from before my face,
Jer 32:32 Because of all the evil of the children of Israel and of the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Jer 32:33 And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction.
There are a few things to point out about this one. First, it wasn’t just the fact that the people were thinking evil things, but they were actually doing them. We certainly need to control our thought lives, but they were going even one step further. We all tempted, but we need to resist that, and apparently the people of Judah were not doing that very well.
A second important point is the fact that God was angry. We like to “sanitize” our image of who God is, and we sometimes wipe out the parts that we don’t think are so easy. However, this anger is a part of the character of God. It is a part of the Biblical account, so we cannot deny it. People violate His will, and while He certainly is forgiving, it is not as if He loves being sinned against.
Finally, the last point I want to emphasize is this idea of teaching. When the people were taught, they were not listening. In other words, the effect of the teaching was entirely lost on them because they were not actually involved with it and trying to apply it to their lives. How often can we do this in church today? Will that happen this morning?
The people of Judah obviously had a lot of things wrong with the culture, and I think we would have to be oblivious to not realize that many of these things happening in our society today. We need to control temptation, actually realize who God is and receive instruction from the Lord of all eternity.
Isaiah 56 gives hope to those who didn’t feel like they were “eligible” to worship God. Remember that we are still talking about prophecies concerning Jesus Christ here, and this is a prophecy of what the church is going to be.
Isa 56:3 Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.
Isa 56:4 For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
Isa 56:5 Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
Isa 56:6 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
Isa 56:7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
Isa 56:8 The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.
I think that there is something interesting to take note of here. God said that His house is going to be called a house of prayer for all people. That is true. Anybody can come to God, but notice that there are conditions.
The people who are going to be brought are the people who are doing the things that God wants them to do. I am trying not to emphasize works-based salvation, but I also want to respect the fact that Christianity is not just fire insurance. God doesn’t need our works, but the evidence of a transformation that comes through a relationship with Christ will manifest and demonstrate that power of God.
Yes, there is no doubt that anyone can come to God. There is no one that is beyond forgiveness, but it needs to be a choice you commit to. You can’t continue in all of your sin according to this passage. Sure, you might sin occasionally because no one is perfect, but reading these verses made me think about how you don’t just put on the name. You put on a new life.
God has spent a lot of the book of Isaiah demonstrating how He is different than all of the other gods created by human hands, and chapter 46 is another step in that direction.
Isa 46:5 To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?
Isa 46:6 They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship.
Isa 46:7 They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble.
Isa 46:8 Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.
I think this is a very important point. There is a reason that there were not giant God statues in the tabernacle. There are reasons that even though we might have statues of Jesus, we don’t worship the statue. God is more than the statue, but in the case of these other idols, that statue was what they had.
They commissioned that the statue would be built out of gold and silver, and then they carried it around until they found the right spot to put it down. Then, the people would worship it. That was the entire experience.
God is so much greater than that. It isn’t like we can pick up God, move Him into our church, put Him down and worship Him. If we limit our worship of God to only the worship of a statue of God (which would be really interesting because I don’t know how you represent the Trinity in the statue), we are missing out on a large part of what makes God God. We are trying to use human means to represent His power, glory and majesty. That simply can’t be done anywhere near adequately.
I think that it is important to remember the difference here. Other people were worshiping such limited gods. The God of the Bible was and is so much greater.
In Isaiah 16, we find out the prophecy regarding the people of Moab. It doesn’t seem to be overly optimistic, but there was one thing I noticed about the people of Moab that is something we are equally as guilty of today in the United States at least.
Isa 16:6 We have heard of the pride of Moab; he is very proud: even of his haughtiness, and his pride, and his wrath: but his lies shall not be so.
Isa 16:7 Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab, every one shall howl: for the foundations of Kirhareseth shall ye mourn; surely they are stricken.
Look at all the pride here. The people of Moab are even proud of their pride. All of the emphasis here is that they were basically overflowing with pride, and verse seven reminds us that that is not a good thing.
I think we have a hard time with this today. We are taught that it is very good to be proud of yourself. On some level that’s true. We don’t want a generation of people who have absolutely no self-esteem. It is an important part of the Christian message to realize that each individual human has intrinsic value because of the fact that God gave it to him or her.
However, it is easy to go farther than that. It is easy for us to become overly prideful and to think more of ourselves then we ought to. We begin to take credit for everything that goes on in our lives, and we begin to slip ourselves into the spot that God should occupy.
That is a problem that Moab had, and it is a large reason that God brought judgment. They needed to be woken up and needed to realize that they cannot do it on their own. We need to remember that in our lives as well.
In Ecclesiastes 6, we are back to the problem of vanity and worthlessness. Today we have strong words for people who aren’t able to enjoy what God has blessed them with. It kind of follows from what we talked about yesterday. God has given us things for us personally to enjoy.
Ecc 6:3 If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.
Ecc 6:4 For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness.
This man has a lot of reason to be very happy. He has been blessed with a large family, and he has lived many years. Those are great things, and they are gifts from God. However, this guy doesn’t have his soul filled with good. The translation is a little bit awkward, but after reading the alternate translations for this word, it is more kind of like if his soul is not satisfied with the good in his life. In other words, he doesn’t realize what he has and has not been enjoying it.
Basically, he might as well have not been born. That is certainly a strong charge, but I think the point is well taken. God has blessed us in so many ways. There are good things all around us, and we need to be grateful for them. If we miss out, that leaves us with a pretty empty life. The enjoyment that we could have had simply wasn’t good enough. We were looking somewhere else or simply did not want to enjoy what we had been given for some reason.
I guess the obvious application for all of us is that God is good. However, it is really important for all of us to not be like this man. We don’t want to miss everything good that God has given us. Otherwise, we will have a very tragic life.
It is interesting how it seems like the Bible always had the tradition of preservation. The accuracy with which the scribes were able to copy the Bible was remarkable. They obviously held the Bible in very high regard and did not want to corrupt the message whatsoever.
We generally talk about this in AD-times. We generally have these discussions in apologetics to defend the reliability of the gospel and the historicity of the person of Jesus Christ. These types of discussions help establish the fact that we can trust what the Bible says as an accurate historical document at the very least.
However, I came into Proverbs 30 today, and I came across a very similar sentiment.
Pro 30:5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
Pro 30:6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
Even at this point in history, there was the understanding that it was important to make sure that the word of God remained pure and unspoiled by humans. It is interesting to see the logical proof that can come out these two verses.
- The word of God is pure.
- The words out of humans might not be pure.
- We want the Bible to be pure (implied).
- Therefore humans should not add to the word of God.
I know that I added an implied premise in there, but I think you can certainly get that from the tone of the passage.
Even this early in history, there was this idea that the word of God was something different than the word of humans. Even if humans have ideas that they think might be good to add to the Bible, notice the counsel here. What if you added something to the Bible that was wrong? Humans apparently are not always right. That would entirely ruin the purity of the document if we start adding what we want to add to it.
I think the practical application for us is that we need to not add things to our personal interpretation of the Bible. Very few of us are going to be copying Bibles by hand, but when we read the Bible, we want to be very careful that we don’t bring outside baggage into the text.
For example, let’s say that I think it is really important for there not to be any rock music in church. I don’t believe that at all, but for the sake of argument, I know there are people that hold that position. That is obviously a stylistic preference on my part. I simply don’t prefer that type of music, and I don’t think that it helps the atmosphere that we ought to have in church.
I should not elevate that to the level of a Biblical doctrine though. Why? It is not in the Bible. I can certainly cherry pick verses out of context to try to defend my position, but that’s the kind of thing we’re talking about trying to avoid here.
The Bible is the most important book in the world. As a result, we need to respect it for what it is and not add in things that we really want to be there based on our personal preferences. There was obviously a purpose behind it, and that purpose was not to have us jump in the middle and mess with it.