The book of Revelation was written during a time when emperor-worship unified the Roman Empire. The emperor was viewed as a divine figure, to whom temples, altars and priesthoods were dedicated. Emperors were worshipped, honored, respected and served at any cost. Because he rejected emperor worship, John was banished to the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:9-11). From Patmos John urged first century Christians to worship the true God and not the emperor, and he recorded this message in the book of Revelation.
The Greek verb to worship, proskuneo (Strongs #4352), occurs 60 times in the New Testament and 24 (40%) of these are in the book of Revelation. It’s the main book about worship in the New Testament. In this way, the book of Revelation is like the book of Psalms, which is the main book about worship in the Old Testament. In Revelation, worship describes homage or reverence towards God, or a person or an idol or an angel. This shows that if we don’t worship God, then we will worship someone else or something else. Who will we worship? The true God or Satan who is the power behind all false gods? This is important because it determines our eternal destiny.
The book of Revelation is framed with worship – it’s in the first and last chapters. After John sees a vision of the glorified Christ, he “fell at His feet as though dead” (Rev. 1:17NIV). This was an act of worship. After the final vison, John “fell down at the feet of the angel who had been showing” the visions to him (22:8). But the angel tells him to “Worship God” instead (22:9).
In Revelation, worshippers serve (7:15; 22:3), praise (19:5), and offer thanks (4:9; 7:12; 11:17). And they fall down (in worship) before God (4:10; 5:14; 7:11; 11:16; 19:4) and Christ (1:17; 5:8, 14).
The book of Revelation shows us who to worship and who not to worship.
Don’t worship angels
Angels are messengers from God. On two occasions when John received visions, he bowed down to the angel associated with them (19:10; 22:8). But he was told not to worship the angel. Jesus is superior to angels (Heb. 1-14). And Christians at Colossae were warned not to worship angels (Col. 2:18). So, don’t worship angels.
It is evident in the book of Revelation that there is a cosmic battle for our allegiance and worship. The true God and the victorious Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) continually reign and are being worshipped behind the scenes by angels and the redeemed in heaven, even during times when Satan seems to have his greatest impact. But Satan deceives the world into worshipping false gods and idols (12;9; 13:2-4; 20:2-3). 46% of the instances of The Greek verb to worship proskuneo in the book of Revelation refer to false forms of worship. In the end, Satan and his followers will be judged and cast into eternal punishment (20:1-4, 15). So, don’t worship Satan, who is an angel who rebelled against God.
Don’t worship heroes
Revelation describes political and religious leaders that oppose God’s people and God’s purposes (13:1-18). They are called beasts. And they deceive many people into worshipping them (13:4, 8, 12, 15; 14:9, 11; 19:20; 20:4). Paul also warned about worshipping and serving created things rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:25). We are not to worship saints, prophets, political leaders, religious leaders, or Mary, the mother of Jesus. So, don’t worship human heroes, no matter how great they are.
Don’t worship idols
An idol is anything we worship instead of the true God. Anything we want more than God. Anything we rely on more than God. Anything we give a higher priority than God. And anything we look to for greater fulfillment than God. In Revelation idols are described as “the work of their hands” and “idols that cannot see or hear or walk” (9:20). In those days it referred to images and statues, which people were urged to worship. It was like when some of the Jews (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) told the king of Babylonia, “we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up“ (Dan. 3:18).
Idolatry also refers to false gods such as materialism, naturalism, wealth, power, selfish ambition, self-indulgence, self-esteem (pride), recreation, and pleasure. And Paul said that it includes, “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed” (Col. 3:5). Idols can also be “good” things that we’ve elevated in importance. For example, our children, spouse, physical attractiveness, money, job, or friendships. And technology.
Revelation also says that worshipping idols is equivalent to worshipping demons (9:20). This means that Satan is the influence behind idolatry. So, don’t worship idols. Instead let’s turn away from idols “to serve the living and true God” (1 Th. 1:9).
So the book of Revelation says not to worship angels, Satan, heroes or idols. These are false (counterfeit) gods. But what does it say about worshipping the true God?
Worship the true God
In Revelation we learn about what worship is like in heaven. It’s mostly corporate (the redeemed and angels), not individual. Vast numbers of people and angels worship God together (5:11-12; 19:1, 6). And it’s God-centered – directed to God and Jesus Christ. Here’s three examples of this worship.
First, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (4:11). So, let’s praise and worship our God as the great Creator.
Second, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (5:9-10).
And at this time the angels said, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise” (5:12)!
So, let’s praise and worship Jesus as the great Redeemer/Saviour/Rescuer. His death and resurrection enabled people from around the world to have their sins forgiven so they could be reconciled with God. This is the greatest example of unconditional love.
Third, “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (15:3-4).
The context of this passage is God’s judgement of the ungodly. So, let’s praise and worship God as Judge of all. He is pure, holy and just. He’s the one who will right all the wrongs. He judges rebels and rewards His servants. And He is to be praised for His righteous judgements.
The book of Revelation is full of corporate praise and worship like, “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory” (19:6-7)! And, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever” (5:13)!
The redeemed will worship God throughout eternity. They “are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple” (7:14). And they will worship and serve God forever (22:1-5).
People were made to worship. Bob Dylan sang, “you’re gonna have to serve somebody”. We worship either the true God or we worship a counterfeit. So, let’s worship the true God and not false gods. Let’s worship Him based on the patterns of heavenly worship depicted in Revelation. He’s the great creator, the great redeemer and the great judge.
Written, December 2017
How many winners can you remember from past Olympic Games?
The opening ceremony of last September’s Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia was an extravaganza beamed around the world. It had a cast of 12,700 performers backed by a crew of 4,600. These Olympic Games were described by the media as the biggest event ever staged on this planet.
The ceremony commenced with 120 horse riders charging around the stadium with flags flying. Then simulated sea creatures floated and swirled above performers in an ocean of color. This was followed by a rapid tour of Australia’s history beginning with more than 1,000 indigenous people performing their traditional dances. Next, fire was symbolized, followed by plants and animals unique to Australia. Then European settlers arrived bringing farming and industrialization followed by immigrants from all continents to form the multi-cultural society that is Australia today. Finally, workers built an enormous bridge and the finale included the word “Eternity” which is on the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
After this, athletes from 200 countries paraded into the stadium accompanied by a marching band. They were obviously happy to represent their nations and compete in the Games. One athlete from Paraguay held a banner saying “I finally did it.” This expressed the relief and excitement of making the Olympic team after years of dedicated training to attain the required standard of performance.
The heroes of the Olympics are those who won medals. In fact, a theme song during the Games was titled “Heroes Live Forever” which conveyed the thought that these sporting champions would always be remembered. But how many winners can you remember from past Olympic Games? Memories fade and disappear, and even the world we live in will not last forever (Lk. 21:33; Heb. 1:10-12).
There were images of past heroes, now stricken with illness. Muhammad Ali, who once claimed to be “the greatest,” now suffering from Parkinson’s disease, and another past gold medalist now afflicted with multiple sclerosis, held the Olympic torch on her wheelchair. And research on ex-soccer players published recently in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that half of them suffered from chronic arthritis, anxiety and depression.
The Bible teaches that our souls live forever and that Christians will live in God’s presence forever (1 Th. 4:17). This future reward is called “eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13). It is a gift from God. However, those who refuse God’s gift of salvation through Jesus will be punished with everlasting destruction and be separated from God forever (2 Th. 1:8-9).
Follow The Rules
A game consists of the rules by which it is played. An Australian athlete was upset when she was disqualified near the end of the 20 kilometer walk, and some teams failed to exchange the baton correctly in the relay races. Several competitors failed drug tests, and at least four medal winners were stripped of their rewards and expelled from the Games for doping. A swimmer warned that drug use was the biggest threat to the Olympics and called for stricter controls. The failure to follow the rules was not always evident to spectators. Likewise, the Bible says that not all those who behave like Christians will get to heaven. Some will be told by Christ “I never knew you” (Mt. 7:23). The critical test is whether they did the will of God, which includes confessing their sins and receiving Christ as Lord and Savior (Mt. 7:21; Jn. 6:29).
More To Life
Today’s hero is often tomorrow’s “has been.” And there is much more to life than success. The Bible warns against selfish ambition and desire for wealth (1 Tim. 6:10). After all, how do you benefit if you become the most successful person in the world but destroy your future in the process (Mt. 16:26)? Nothing is more important in life than getting right with God so we can spend eternity with Him (Phil. 3:8). The next most important thing is to live for Christ and serve Him by looking after the interests of others (2 Cor. 5:20; Phil. 2:3-5).
As the Olympics are multi-national and multi-cultural, they are often linked with the need for peace. But the world’s greatest need is for peace with God.
Now Is The Time
Athletes had to perform at the required time and place in order to compete for a medal. Past performances did not count and there was no guarantee that they would qualify for the next Olympics in Athens, Greece in 2004. Similarly, life is brief and we don’t know for certain what will happen tomorrow (Prov. 27:1; Jas. 4:14). There was a reminder of the brevity of life during the Games when Juan Antonio Samaranch, the president of the International Olympic Committee, was called home to be with his seriously ill wife, who died before he could get there.
Proverbs 27:1 tells us, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Last year’s Olympics certainly verified this in many ways. Matthew 16:26 asks this rhetorical question: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” The lives of now-forgotten Olympic medalists certainly remind us of this. And James 4:14 warns that “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Trust the Savior today because “now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). You may not get the opportunity tomorrow.