Heavenly Worship: Here and There
HEAVENLY WORSHIP: HERE AND THERE
God, by his grace, has given his people a final revelation of glory. It is a vision that we desperately need as we find our way through the confusion of this age and prepare for the dark days that will fall upon our world before the coming of Christ in glory. It is possible when reading the book of Revelation to get caught up in the drama on earth, the raging of the forces of evil against the kingdom of God and the fantastic judgments that fall upon them. But to focus primarily on those things is to miss a most significant part of the prophecy, namely, the vision of the fulfillment of God's plan of redemption in glory. After all, it is the vision of glory that inspires the people of God to persevere in their faith, even at the cost of their lives should that become necessary. When believers fix their thoughts on things that are eternal, then they are able to keep everything in proper perspective.
But this glimpse of glory also inspires and directs the people of God in their worship here on earth. As we read these passages, it will become clearer and clearer how worship on earth foreshadows heavenly worship. We do not have to be in the midst of Roman persecution like the early church to appreciate the value of being lifted out of this world in our spirits to realms above. To lift up our hearts to that transcendent glory for even a moment will have a definite impact on the way we worship. If we ever begin to comprehend the risen Christ in all his glory, or faintly hear the heavenly choirs that surround the throne with their anthems of praise, or imagine what life in the presence of the Lord will be like, then we can never again be satisfied with worship as usual. We will always be striving to make our worship fit for glory; and we will always be aware that our efforts, no matter how good and noble, are still of this world and not yet of that one.
Accordingly, we must appreciate that there are several major differences between worship in glory and worship below. For example, in heaven worshippers are in the actual presence of God--they are caught up in the fullness of his glory and respond to that presence with undiminished joy. But here for now, for the most part, we have to rely on the written records of past visions and appearances and on our spiritual perceptions of God's mystical presence. Frequently God reveals his presence in miraculous ways, but it is not glory. Another difference with worship in heaven is that it is with pure angelic choirs and glorified saints. Here on earth it is hard to imagine what worship would be like without human frailties and pride hindering it, but that will be glory. This reminds us of yet another difference. Worshippers in heaven can give themselves completely to praise and adoration, because a number of aspects of worship that belong to this life will no longer be present--confession of sin, prayers of the people, and exhortation to combat evil, avoid idolatry and hypocrisy, pursue righteous living, develop evangelistic endeavors, and address pain and suffering in the world. So the revelation of worship in heaven has been given to us, not only to inform us of how good it will be, but also to remind us of what worship must still do here on earth.
--Allen P. Ross, RECALLING THE HOPE OF GLORY: BIBLICAL WORSHIP FROM THE GARDEN TO THE NEW CREATION. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2006, p. 473-74. ISBN 0-8254-3578-1.
Have a great week,
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
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