Worship in Heaven vs Worship on Earth
As we continue to look at the description of worship displayed in Revelation 4 and 5 in order to learn from heavenly worship what earthly worship should look like, we are going to focus on the second of the five episodes of worship found in these chapters. And this comes from the worship of the four living creatures now joined by the twenty-four elders (which represent the redeemed, both Jew and Gentile) and is described as follows:
Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” – Revelation 4:9-11.
Let’s see what we can learn about worship from this passage.
Worship Involves Ascribing Ultimate Worth to God
The twenty-four elders in Revelation 4:11 declare God alone as worthy “to receive glory and honor and power.” This reveals a fundamental truth about worship – it is rooted in recognizing God’s supreme value and worth. In fact, the word worship comes from an Old English word meaning “worth-ship” or the act of ascribing worth to someone. All creation gets its value from God, yet He alone has inherent worth that does not come from any source outside of Himself. Worship, therefore, joyfully ascribes this unequaled worth back to Him. It is about proclaiming through words, songs, actions, and thoughts that God is worthy of all praise and devotion.
Worship Responds to Seeing God’s Glory and Power
In Revelation 4:11, the elders’ worship is a direct response to the vision of God’s glory flooding the heavenly temple and His sovereign reign from the throne described in verses 2-7. Their worship flows from beholding God’s majesty and power, and not because of any external prompting. No one is leading them in this worship, it comes from within. God’s splendor and sovereignty inherently elicit heartfelt praise and humble reverence for Him. It seems from this passage, worship happens most authentically when God’s greatness is apprehended.
Worship Exalts God as the Source and Sustainer of All Things
The elders’ song of praise highlights God as the Creator – “for You created all things” (Rev. 4:11). Worship glorifies God as the source and sustainer of all things, both seen and unseen. Since God made all things through Christ and “in Him all things consist” or hold together (Col. 1:16-17), our worship should rightfully acknowledge Him as the source and purpose of all of creation since He is supreme over all He has made and is most worthy of our praise.
Worship Calls for Complete Surrender to God’s Authority
The elders casting their crowns before God’s throne illustrates worship as a willful act of submission and surrender to God’s supreme authority (Rev. 4:10). For them, nothing is held back. Their praise and allegiance to Him are total, without exception. Likewise, our worship of Him should also be shaped by recognizing Him as the rightful Lord over every aspect of our lives because true worship bows unreservedly to His sovereignty.
Worship Involves Physical Acts of Reverence
In Revelation 4:10, the elders respond physically by falling down and casting their crowns before God’s throne in humble reverence. From this we learn that worship appropriately includes physical expressions and postures – such as kneeling, lifting hands, bowing down, or laying prostrate before God (note the times in these chapters when the elders fall down before the Lord in worship). Through both our bodies and our spirits, we worship by acknowledging the greatness and superiority of God in concrete, tangible, physical, and observable ways. It appears that our worship should involve reverent physical acts of devotion.
Worship Looks Ahead to the Fulfillment of God’s Plans
The picture of worship in Revelation 4 points ahead to the culmination of God’s redemptive plan in Christ and the creation of a “new heaven and a new earth” where there “shall be no more pain” (Rev. 21:1-5). The elders’ worship is energized and shaped by this promised hope. They celebrate God’s worthiness to receive all glory, honor, and power in anticipation of the day when His reign and kingdom will be established forever. And our worship should similarly connect what God has done in the past with what He promises to do in the future through Christ.
Worship Focuses Entirely on God, Not Us
Finally, in Revelation 4, the elders direct all their attention to God, and not themselves. While worship certainly involves us, it is not about us nor ever has been. Worship is for an audience of One. When we worship we are called to lift our eyes above ourselves and focus completely on glorifying God for who He is and not what we get out of it. God-centered worship brings freedom from self-interest and temptations of self-gratification and self-exaltation.
This magnificent portrait of heavenly worship recorded in Revelation 4:10-11 makes one truth resoundingly clear – worship is all about ascribing worth to our glorious and mighty God. By looking at the example of the twenty-four elders, we gain a biblical model for what heartfelt worship should look like. Our worship, both individual and corporate, must be grounded in God’s supremacy over all things as the Creator and source of life. It should be fueled by seeing God’s glory and responding to the revelation of His character and works. Worship calls us to posture our lives in humble submission to Christ’s authority and engages our minds, hearts, and bodies in joyful praise to God for who He is. As we grow closer to Him in worship may our lives echo this praise: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”
Amen and Hallelujah to our God and great King!