A Glimpse at Life Under God’s Daily Anger

A Glimpse at Life Under God’s Daily Anger

Wrath That Lingers

As the old Puritan prayer reads, “From Your wrath, good Lord, deliver us.” Today, such a sentiment seems foreign, even offensive, in our modern church culture. After all, haven’t we matured from the medieval superstition of the wrath of a vengeful God? Isn’t our God of today a God of love, acceptance, and inclusivity? Yet how quickly we forget that the Lord our God remains “a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29), before whom we all must one day stand, regardless of how uncomfortable that truth might make us feel.

The Scripture pulls no punches in revealing the reality of God’s righteous anger unleashed against all ungodliness. Romans 1:8 states, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness of men.” That’s present tense, today. And the word all, means just that, all. Perhaps no verse captures the persistence of God’s anger toward those who continue in disobedience more than Psalm 7:11, which reads, “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.” The word angry means “enraged, indignant, foaming at the mouth in rage.”¹  This describes an attribute of God that is missing in most preaching and Systematic Theology textbooks today. But it is, nevertheless, true. God is angry, even enraged, with the wicked every single day.

So what does it truly mean to have the Almighty actively express His displeasure and anger against you on a daily basis? How does the anger of the Lord manifest itself in the life of someone recklessly pursuing sin’s empty promises and shaking his defiant fist in the face of God? For a sign-seeking generation like ours, could this be the ultimate warning sign from heaven— to have the force of divine wrath rest upon you 24 hours a day? Let’s peer behind the veil into a life living under the cloud of God’s abiding anger.

Life Under the Anger of God

Life Under the Anger of God

Face it, yours is a bleak existence. You awaken each morning under the weight of God’s disfavor pressing down on your soul. His anger seems to fill the very air around you. It’s the first reality that greets you in the morning, and the last thing you think about at night. And all during the mundane activities of your day, His anger is always there, reminding you of your sin and guilt and future judgment and condemnation, leaving you no place to hide.

Hardships and frustrations mount in frequency and intensity, like the birth pains of a woman in labor. Deadlines are missed, relationships strained, and accidents occur almost as if by design. Minor headaches morph into searing migraines. The hand of God’s opposition seems evident as if cursing the very works of your hands. And what faint flickers of hope or joy you find in life are quickly extinguished before they can take root.

In public, you force smiles through gritted teeth. But inside, you’re naked and exposed and petrified beneath the glare of His wrath. Guilt and regret consume your private moments. Your mind endlessly replays past sins, reopening old wounds long since concealed and buried. Your anguished cries of “Why, God?” are met by His silence. Deep in your heart, you know the answer— God is disciplining you for your arrogant obstinance. Yet still, you refuse to bend.

Sleep brings you no escape, only haunted visions of past sins and impending doom. You toss upon a bed of inner anguish. Spiritual oppression grows. Confusion now clouds once simple choices. You descend each day further into bondage, making compromises you once thought unthinkable. An unseen Sovereign now holds your mind and will in shackles. Again, you refuse to repent.

As years pass, the curse inevitably takes its toll— addictions form, your health deteriorates, and your dreams begin to die. Even minor mishaps now leave you increasingly bruised and battered. Relationships crumble, and vocations stall. Your conscience grows calloused and cold, now easy to ignore. And as you feel the walls of God’s chastisement closing in, your life shrinks down to this small, miserable existence. In essence, you hate your life. Yet still, you cling to your sins.

In rare moments, something within you stirs. A faint beam of light peeks through the darkness, revealing fleeting sensations of peace, and flashes of joy and hope you once held dear. Your heart softens for an instant as you consider turning back to God in repentance. But as quickly as it came, the darkness returns, with a vengeance, heavier than before. The wrath remains unchanged. And you continue down the path of judgment.

But somewhere deep down, the fear and dread of facing the Judge arises. You see yourself standing exposed, guilty, in utter shame, ready to receive the eternal payment for a lifetime of rebellion against Him. But, as before, your heart stubbornly resists being broken. Today will not be your day of salvation. The appointed time of reprieve passes again as the freedom offered you is spoken of, yet never chosen nor embraced.

But There is Hope

But There is Hope!

This is but a glimpse of what it is like to live under the righteous anger of the Almighty and to daily grieve the Holy Spirit. This is the existence of one who spites the rich love of Christ who bled for your redemption, to harden yourself like Pharaoh against the word of the Lord, and to refuse to bow the knee when the opportunity still remains. Surely, you must know, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

And yet, take heart and be encouraged. For even under the relentless barrage of God’s wrath, the soft voice of hope and redemption can still be heard. It whispers this condition is not final, and your sentence is not fixed. For there is One who willingly absorbed the wrath of God in your place— Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. And through Him, though your sins be as scarlet, Jesus can make you white as snow (Isa. 1:18).

But all this you know. Now it’s time to humble yourself and receive His gift.

Remember, no further wrath awaits those who place their full faith and trust in Him. As the Scriptures proclaim, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). His love triumphs over wrath, and you can be free of your condemnation by faith in Him. And once you trust and receive Him, your dark night of the soul will give way to the dawning light of God’s forgiveness and joy.

It’s not too late. This sad story doesn’t have to be your story. As long as you have breath in your lungs, the door of His mercy stands open. So turn from going your own way, and enter into the shelter of God’s grace. Allow your heart of stone to be made flesh and stop resisting the gentle promptings of the Spirit. His convictions are not meant to condemn you, but to heal and deliver you. Come to Jesus just as you are. Remember, His yoke is easy, His burden light.

And do it today!


1. Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). In The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (p. 298). AMG Publishers.

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Hearing His Voice Above All the Distracting Noise

Hearing His Voice Above All the Distracting Noise

Practical Tips to Recognize God’s Voice in Scripture

In these uncertain times, many feel uneasy about the state of the world.  With Trump’s continual indictments, the escalating war in Ukraine, inflation, deception from our sacred institutions, the growing apostasy of the church, and the clear warnings from Scripture about the coming troubles ahead, if you’re not careful, all of this can instill fear and depression in you and make you not want to get out of bed.  But that should never be the case.  Our Lord has not left us alone or without guidance.  He promises we will recognize His voice among the others and be able to follow Him, no matter what circumstances we may find ourselves in (John 10:4).

Remember, God wants to speak to us through His Word.  And when we believe that to be true, then His Word becomes more to us than a bunch of stories that happen to people we can’t relate to a long time ago.  Instead, His Word becomes something alive, active, and powerful in our lives (Heb. 4:12).  His Word becomes the channel through which we come to know Him better.  And when it does, when we see the Scriptures this way, they become the greatest blessing of all.

So, let’s look at a few ways we can learn to hear His voice through His Word so that when we come together on Sunday, we can share with others how God has spoken to us and changed our lives.

Keys to Hearing His Voice

The first key to hearing God’s voice is to have a heart of expectancy and grand anticipation.  We must believe the Bible is much more than an ancient, archaic book— it is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training us in the life of righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).  In essence, God’s Word is right and correct about everything it addresses.  And it addresses everything in life.  Plus, God promises His Word will not return void but will accomplish His purposes (Isa. 55:11), which, among other things, is to conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).  So come to the Scriptures eagerly expecting God has something personal to say to you each day— you will not be disappointed.

Second, pray for insight and understanding before reading God’s Word.  Ask the Holy Spirit to open your spiritual eyes and ears to receive His truth.  They are right before you, just under the surface, waiting to be discovered.  But you have to have the desire to seek after them to find them.  Before you read, pray something like this, “Open my eyes, that I may see wonderful things in Your law” (Psalm 119:18).  Then watch the Spirit lead you into all truth as you seek God’s wisdom in His Word (John 16:13, James 1:5).

Next, when you read the Scriptures, slow down and take your time.  This is not a race against the clock.  Read them thoughtfully, carefully, and slowly, savoring each word as coming from the lips of God directly to you.  Read the passage once, twice, or multiple times, emphasizing each word as you do, letting the words sink deep into your heart and soul instead of rushing through just to get finished.  And as you meditate on God’s Word, His voice will rise above the noise and distractions of life that seem to demand so much of our attention.  Remember the promise: “Blessed is the man…(whose) delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).

Also, write down the verses, passages, or principles that speak to you so you can later reflect on them and share them with others.  The physical act of writing helps cement God’s words in your mind, making them easier to remember.  And reviewing these key Scriptures regularly, maybe during your prayer times with the Lord, will help train you to discern God’s voice over your own and help you practice what He has revealed to you.

And most importantly, you must put into practice what you are reading and learning from Scripture.  Obedience is the key that unlocks the door of intimacy with God and allows you to hear more of His voice.  Remember the promise of Jesus, “He who has My commandments and keeps them (obedience), it is he who loves Me.  And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and (1) I will love him and (2) manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).  Manifest in this passage means “to make known, to be seen openly, to experience with the senses.”¹  Just think, God will reveal Himself to you to be experienced by your senses, if you obey what He has told you in your times alone with Him and His Word.  Isn’t that the point of surrendering to Him?

How Does God Speak to Us Through His Word?

As we spend time daily soaking in God’s Word, His voice will become unmistakable to us.  Here are some specific ways He speaks through His Word:²

Through Direct Commands: God gives clear instructions in Scripture for thinking, living, and acting righteously.  For instance, the Ten Commandments provide directives on how to follow God wholeheartedly and love others unselfishly, just like He does.  And if God commands us to do something (or to not do something), we can rest assured we are able to follow His command because God would never require us to do what we cannot do (1 Cor. 10:13).  Remember, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, (promise) and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  And God often “directs our paths” by revealing His commands to us in Scripture.  From that point forward, all we have to do is obey.

Through Timeless Principles: God’s Word provides timeless truths and principles we can apply to life’s circumstances.  For example, we have principles like: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39), “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31), and “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).  By meditating on these precepts, we can be better prepared to make wise and prudent decisions based on the will of God and not fall prey to lies and deceit of the evil one (John 8:44).

Through Correction and Warning:‌ At times, God speaks through Scripture to correct wrong or selfish thinking or warn against the sinful choices we are about to make.  His rebukes and warnings are often painful but reveal His loving care and desire for our best.  We must welcome and embrace God’s correction and chastisement to walk in freedom from sin and lusts of the flesh, knowing He loves and delights in us.  “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:11-12).

Through Promises and Reassurance: From Genesis to Revelation, God encourages His people with promises of His presence, power, blessings, faithfulness, peace, protection, and love.  For example, after Joshua’s death, God tells the Israelites, “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).  In a world filled with trouble and strife, God promises to comfort and sustain us in every situation.  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; (why) for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

In all these ways, and countless others, God faithfully speaks through His Word to instruct, guide, convict, encourage, empower, heal, correct, affirm, challenge, and comfort us.  And as we dedicate time to Scripture reading and memorization, we will soon recognize His voice more and more.  As Jesus promised, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

Staying Anchored to Him and His Word

Staying anchored in God’s Word is the best way to hear His voice above the noise of life.  Though distractions and busyness threaten to drown out His voice, as we carve out quiet time to meet with God in the Bible each day, He promises to speak to us.  And when He does, everything changes in our spiritual life.  Not sure that’s true?  Then try it for yourself, and you’ll see. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

God has so much He wants to say to you through His Word.  Simply draw near to Him today with a sense of expectancy.  Open your heart to receive whatever He wants to reveal from His Word.  Allow His living voice to bring you hope, healing, conviction, direction, and purpose.  Choose today to listen and obey His voice above all the noise competing for your attention.  And if you do, you will be refreshed and transformed into the image of Christ.


1. Zodhiates, S. (2000). In The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). AMG Publishers.

2. Actually, God can speak to us any way He chooses, from a “still small voice” in the mouth of a cave (1 Kings 19:12) or through the lips of a donkey (Numbers 22:28-30).  He is God, and He does what He pleases (Psalm 115:3).

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Persecution, Growth, and the Underground Church

Persecution, Growth, and the Underground Church

The Lost Discipline of the Love Feast – Part 4

The parallels between the underground church in China and the early church of the first three centuries are striking.  Both suffered intense persecution, being declared enemies of the state.  Both responded by holding fast to the foundational tenets of their faith theologically and in practice (Acts 2:42).  And both did more than just survive— they thrived.  So much so that Constantine was forced, among other reasons, to issue the Edict of Toleration, and later the Edict of Milan,¹ because of the growing number of believers in the empire.  Scholars estimate that by the end of the third century, over 10% of the Roman population were Christians, not counting a vast number of slaves.²

Fast forward seventeen hundred years and we have the same scene played out in our time, only bigger.  Instead of the persecution by the Roman Empire, we see the grand persecution of the church under Mao’s People’s Republic of China beginning in 1949 when atheism was established as the official state religion.  Soon, missionaries were expelled from China, churches and schools were closed, their property confiscated, and pastors and church leaders were imprisoned or condemned to labor camps.

No longer was there freedom of religion or assembly or the right to worship.  Instead, like the early persecuted church, believers were forced underground to practice their faith.  And the results of China’s state-wide treatment of Christianity was “legendary,” says Paul Hattaway, director of Asia Harvest.  He continues, “For thirty years, they have shown the world how to be the church Christ intended.”³  Some estimates suggest there are more Christians in China than Communist Party members, totaling over 150 million and growing by over 30,000 per day.  In fact, it is reported that over half of all believers in China choose to worship in an underground church than in one approved by the state.  Let that sink in for a moment.

The Underground Church in China

How did this happen so fast?  And how did the underground church in China grow so quickly under persecution when the church in the West has seen decades of decline over the same period?  What are we missing that they have found?  Or what do they know and practice that we have conveniently forgotten?

The history of Christianity in China is marked by periods of rapid growth amidst brutal persecution.  Ever since the communist takeover in 1949, Christians in China have faced oppression from the atheist government and have been forced to worship underground, or in homes, buildings, or barns, anywhere away from the watchful eyes of the state.  Yet the church continues to grow at an astonishing rate, unparalleled in modern history, primarily through underground house churches operating illegally outside of state control.  Through courage, faith, perseverance, and the willingness to adapt to change, these unheralded believers have found innovative ways to live out the Gospel, even in adversity.  The underground church in China may be a prototype of the future church in America.  But we’ll write more about that at a later time.

Believers met in homes, apartments, barns, or anywhere they could gather without being noticed, since public meetings often led to arrest and imprisonment.  Yet, they persevered and adapted, just like the early church.  House churches were free to share their faith as they desired without any state interference.  They could properly train leaders without the government dictating what was taught, much like Bonhoeffer’s “illegal” seminary for the Confessing Church in Finkenwalde.  They could worship the Lord as the Spirit moved, without coming under cultural and governmental scrutiny.  Again, just like the early church while facing Roman persecution.  And their commitment to each other and their faith in the Lord became contagious to a generation seeking something real, something they could believe in— which may explain the rapid growth of the underground church that lived in obscurity and poverty.

But the question for us is not the extent or degree of state persecution the church in China experienced, but what they did to shine so bright during times of great satanic darkness.  How did they allow their light to shine so “they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16)?  What was life like for them in the underground church?  And why do over half of the believers in China today still choose the underground church over the visible state-sanctioned church?

What is Worship Like in an Underground House Church?

As in the first three centuries, the underground church in China met primarily in homes or other isolated locations, usually at different times on different days of the week.  By meeting in homes, the underground church could share full meals with one another, echoing the agape or love feast practiced by the early church but forgotten for centuries.  Re-establishing the love feast as a foundational aspect of their worship together was one of the first things the underground church did— and they established it for the same reason the Lord instituted the practice in the first place (Acts 2:42).  For them, the love feast served the same purpose it did centuries ago, binding believers together in the intimate spiritual unity and love only a relationship with Christ could bring, while strengthening their joint submission to Christ and each other (John 17:21).

Eating together in their homes allowed members to know each other deeply and care for each other as a family.  Sharing stories, struggles, hopes, and prayers during the feast forged deep emotional bonds vital in keeping the church together while suffering persecution.  Participation in the love feast required sacrificial giving by those with more financial means to freely and joyfully supply the physical needs of those in the body of Christ with less (Rom. 12:4-5).  For poor Christians in house churches in China, the weekly love feast might be the only decent meal they would eat all week.  And the unity, love, selflessness, and care shown through the feast gave them hope and spiritual strength to endure hardship the rest of the week.  Just as in the early church, the shared meal reinforced that believers belong to one another as members of Christ’s body as children of God (Rom. 8:16-17).  It was a tangible demonstration of the family of God caring for its own.  And it is how the church was meant to function from the beginning.  Still not sure?  Then read it for yourself in Acts 2-6.

Both the early church and the underground house churches in China rely on the power of this communal meal to unite them in a steadfast spiritual community— all for one, and one for all as brothers and sisters in Christ.

“What Have You Learned, Dorothy?”

If the greatest revival of Spirit-empowered church growth in the last century has taken place under great trials and suffering of the underground church in China, and if the greatest apostasy and compromise of His church has taken place in Europe and the United States, which have freedom of religion cemented as part of their cultural charter and churches and cathedrals on almost every street corner— and if the underground church went back to the basics of the faith, back to Acts, in practice and belief— then it would appear they may have discovered the Holy Grail of Christian living, of pleasing God, of living the surrendered, sanctified life, which is taking God at His Word and not altering or changing it for tradition or convenience sake.  One long sentence, I know.

And if any of that is true, and I am convinced that it is, then we have much to consider as the church in the West.  There is apparently much we must do as His church that we no longer consider relevant in our version of church today.  And there is much we must stop doing as His church that we should have never started in the first place.  This means everything, and I mean everything, about church and our accepted relationship with Him must be re-examined under the light of His Word and not based on our cherished traditions.

One last thing before closing.  Please don’t think this is all about a meal, far from it.  The meal, the love feast, is just the vehicle God uses to bring us together as one in His church.  It’s not about adding a meal to our crowded Sunday service.  It’s about the meal serving as an opportunity for us to become more like our Lord.  To do that, our attitudes about each other must change.  Our acceptance of fellowship as being nothing more than a surface-level conversation with casual friends over a chicken dinner must change.  We must desire to be more than what we are today if we expect Him to move in our midst.  But I think we already knew that, didn’t we?

Can you see why the enemy worked so hard to remove the love feast from the arsenal of tools the Lord used to create men and women of God in His church?  And can you see why we are in the lukewarm, Laodicea shape we are in today (Rev. 3:16)?

But all that can change.  It doesn’t have to stay the same.

And it can begin with you this Sunday.


1. The Edict of Toleration, issued in 311 AD by Emperor Galerius, granted some rights and tolerance to Christians, ending official persecution, while the more expansive Edict of Milan in 313 AD, under Constantine I and Licinius, provided full religious tolerance and rights to all religions, establishing Christianity as an accepted religion in the Roman Empire.

2. Stark, Rodney. The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History. Princeton University Press, 1996. p.6 – “By a hundred years after the Crucifixion of Jesus, Christianity had achieved significant penetration of the urban centers of the Roman Empire, reaching approximately 6 million adherents by 300 AD, or about 10 percent of the Empire’s population.”

3. “The fortitude of the Chinese house church is legendary. For thirty years, they have shown the world how to be the church Christ intended.” – Paul Hattaway, director of Asia Harvest ministry, quoted in “The Heavenly Man” by Brother Yun (2002).

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Persecution, Faithfulness, and the Love Feast

Persecution, Faithfulness, and the Love Feast

The Lost Discipline of the Love Feast – Part 3

The last few posts talked about the “agape” or “love feast” and centered on it as a fulfillment of the mandate given by the Lord for His church in Acts 2:42.  Just to jog your memory, let me share the four practices the early church devoted themselves to that allowed the Spirit to move in them as He did:

And they continued steadfastly in (1) the apostles’ doctrine and (2) fellowship, in (3) the breaking of bread, and (4) in prayers – Acts 2:42.

But the point often overlooked is these four practices of the early church were not four separate and unique things they did at different times and maybe on different days.  Nor were they separate and individual parts of a combined worship service.  They were the four key elements that made up their worship service, the sum parts of the whole, indivisible from each other and of equal importance.  One practice did not eclipse the others.

Think about our church services today.  When we come together, we are often presented with a bulletin or playbill outlining the separate things we will do during the service and the order in which they will happen.  First, an opening prayer.  Then, some announcements.  After that, maybe some congregational singing followed by a Scripture reading.  Next, the “special music” performed by someone other than the congregation followed by a sermon or message of some sort.  Then we have a closing song, a benediction, and somewhere between these parts, we take up an offering to keep the lights on.  Whew, I get tired just thinking about it.

Persecution, Faithfulness, and the Love Feast

If you come in late, you can check the bulletin and see precisely what is next and what you may have missed.  It’s all linear in nature, first to last, from the opening prayer to the closing benediction, with no surprises.  And the order is cast in stone, printed on paper or projected on a screen, with no deviations allowed.  Each line represents a single individual act of one long play.  And you can clearly see where one act ends and the next one begins.

But that’s not how Acts 2:42 plays out.  In the early church, the four practices the church “continued steadfastly” in were all integrated as one, like a cake baked with four ingredients.  You cannot separate the eggs from the sugar, but the combined result was pleasing and satisfying, as church should be.  During their worship time, they embraced the preaching of God’s Word, and there was a time for prayers, both corporate and individual.  Their entire service centered around a shared, common meal, the agape or love feast, which also included the celebration of the Lord’s supper.

This format the church in Acts devoted themselves to led to their unprecedented spiritual growth in record time.  And the results?  Breathtaking.  Read them for yourself in Acts 2-6.  It looks like we have strayed far from this mark today.

This prompts the question: Why did the church change if God ordained the church to function under the example of Acts 2:42?  Why don’t we do now what worked so well in the past?  What happened to the church “continuing steadfastly” in anything, especially the four abovementioned things?

Persecution, Faithfulness, and the Love Feast

Logic and the Definition of Insanity

During our study of the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, we concluded that each letter prophetically describes church history in advance.  And in each of these letters (or ages of church history), the Lord has something to say to them and us.  Sometimes what He says is good— and sometimes, well… not so good.

When we did an overview of these letters, we discovered two of them the Lord said only good things about (Smyrna and Philidelphia), and two of them the Lord said nothing good about at all (Sardis and Laodicea).  The rest was a mixture of things He both praised and rebuked them for (Ephesus, Pergamos, and Thyatira).  So logically, it would seem we would want to follow or emulate the practices of the church in the ages our Lord only commended and praised, and run far and fast from the methods of the church in the ages our Lord condemned and rebuked, which would be Sardis and Laodicea, the latter being the church age we live in now.  If the following statement is true, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results,”— then the opposite must also be true, “Insanity is expecting the same results yet refusing to do what brought success in the first place.”  For some reason, we embrace this truth in all areas of life, except the church.

The Persecuted Church in Smyrna

During the first two centuries of the church, it faced unbelievable persecution. Jesus said, in His letter to the church of Smyrna¹ (representing the church age from about 100 AD to the Edict of Toleration in 312 AD):

“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” – Revelation 2:10.

The phrase, ten days, points to the ten waves of state-sanctioned persecution the church suffered.²  And the Lord admonished these early Christians to remain faithful, even unto death.  But faithful to what?  To Christ, His kingdom, and the gospel?  Of course.  To their “common salvation” and the “faith which was once delivered to the saints”?³  Absolutely.  To the church practices and disciplines instituted by the Lord in Acts 2 and elsewhere in Scripture for their growth, unity, and power?  Undoubtedly.

And if you read the letter, you will find the Lord characterized the church during this time as experiencing “tribulation and poverty,” yet He called them “rich” (Rev. 2:9). How is that possible? For a church living as foreigners and strangers in this world (Heb. 11:13) without buildings, staff, age-segregated programs, media presentations, multi-campus mega-churches, live-streaming, movie studios, publishing houses, or radio stations, how could they be deemed rich? Simple. They understood Jesus’ words when He proclaimed, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). What the persecuted church lacked in material things, they made up for in spiritual riches— big time.

They were faithful amidst suffering, like Paul and Silas singing praises to the Lord while beaten, bleeding, and unjustly imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:23-25).  They were rich in fellowship (koinōnia), love, and trust in the Lord to “supply all their needs according to the riches in glory of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).  They counted it all joy to embrace the greater blessing of patience that trials and persecution inevitably bring (Jas. 1:2-4).  And they had an eternal perspective, being promised the “crown of life” for their patient endurance (Rev. 2:10).

But don’t let the obvious slip past you.  The persecuted believers also remained devoted to the practices God gave them to foster unity, trust, loyalty, partnership in the gospel, and a sense of oneness and family stronger than blood (John 17:21).  They lived as children of God and as part of the family of God (Rom. 8:16-17).  And all this experience of oneness centered around worshiping the Lord, as strange as it may seem, while sharing a common, communal meal God had prescribed for the edification and sanctification of His church.  It’s hard to believe something so simple as a meal could be so important.

But that is how things are with our God.  Have you noticed?

But What Happened to the Love Feast?

Satan and the flesh operate from the same playbook.  He never changes.  And he is not very original, but quite proficient in his deception skills.  So the enemy starts to attack whenever the Lord institutes something to build His church and strengthen the body of Christ.  And once God speaks, and Satan counters with the question, “Has God indeed said?” (Gen. 3:1), we have a choice.  It’s the same choice offered Adam and Eve in the garden, and it’s the same choice we face every day.  Will you trust and follow the commands of the Lord, no matter how trivial and unimportant they may seem to you at the time?  Or will you trust your own heart (Prov. 28:26), lean on your own understanding (Prov. 3:5), follow your own reasoning (Isa. 55:8-9), and do what seems right in your own eyes (Prov. 21:2)?

In effect, this was the choice presented to the church in the spring of AD 312 when Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Toleration and, not long after, the Edict of Milan.  These imperial decrees granted full rights and freedom of religion to Christianity and soon propelled the once persecuted faith to the most favored status of religion in the Roman Empire.  Not too shabby for a bunch of former rebels who worshiped a dead carpenter from Nazareth who, with the stroke of a pen, were no longer on the Top Ten Most Wanted List.

Now, what will the church do?  Will they follow the practices and purity of their faith that allowed them to thrive during almost twenty decades of persecution?  Or would they run after the wealth and cultural acceptance their newfound notoriety and freedom gave them?  I think you know the answer.  But how the early church came to choose its course of action may surprise you.

Their compromise gave birth to the next of Jesus’ seven letters to His churches, the letter to the church at Pergamos, which, by the way, means “mixed marriage.”  Ah, a fitting picture of the marriage of the pure bride of Christ to the unholy Roman empire, wouldn’t you say?

We will look more into the collateral damage of this unholy union, this mixed marriage, next time.  But one last thing, it was during this phase of church history the love feast met its sad demise.

But more on that next time.


1. The name Smyrna means “crushed, suffering, or myrrh.” Fitting, don’t you think?
2. The ten phases of persecution the church suffered under a succession of Roman emperors are:

Nero (AD 64-68): Nero infamously blamed Christians for the Great Fire of Rome. He subjected them to various brutal executions, including burning them alive.

Domitian (AD 81-96): Domitian saw Christians as political rebels. Under his rule, Christians were exiled, including John, the author of Revelation.

Trajan (AD 98-117): Trajan set a precedent where Christians were not to be sought out but were to be punished if accused and found guilty.

Hadrian (AD 117-138): Hadrian’s policy was similar to Trajan’s, but there was an increase in mob violence against Christians.

Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius (AD 138-180): Christians were seen as enemies of the state and endured great sufferings, including the martyrdom of Polycarp, a disciple of John.

Septimius Severus (AD 193-211): Severus sought to unify the empire under the sun god, leading to increased persecution of Christians who refused to conform.

Maximinus Thrax (AD 235-238): Maximinus targeted Christian leaders specifically, executing many church pastors and leaders.

Decius (AD 249-251): Decius required all citizens to sacrifice to Roman gods, leading to widespread torture and execution of Christians who refused.

Valerian (AD 257-260): Valerian targeted Christian clergy, leading to numerous martyrs, including Bishop Cyprian.

Diocletian and Galerius (AD 303-311): Known as the Great Persecution, it was the most severe, resulting in thousands of Christian deaths, including mass executions.

3. Jude 1:3
4. The letter to the church at Pergamos represents the time from the Edict of Toleration in AD 312 until the recognition of Boniface III as the first Pope in AD 606.

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What Did the Agape or Love Feast Look Like?

What Did the Agape or Love Feast Look Like?

The Lost Discipline of the Love Feast – Part 2

As with most of life, all good things must come to an end.  Some by natural design and others by more sinister means.  We can say the same for the “love feast,” which was a foundational aspect of worship during the church’s first three centuries that met its demise in the most nefarious way.  And as we dig into this further, you might conclude, as I have, that the forces of darkness conspired to rid the early church of a powerful, God-ordained way of forging a group of individual believers into a single voice, a single body, into the body of Christ (Eph. 4:12).  And that way was the “love feast.”

Oh, and the results of that conspiracy?  Well, just look around at the fractured and scattered church today.  I think the fruits are evident, don’t you?

What Is or Was the Love Feast?

As we have shared earlier, the early church was a group of Spirit-filled and committed strangers who were brought together by God’s effectual calling to form more than an organization or religious institution, but a family— the family of God or the body of Christ.  And the Lord gave them the discipline of sharing a common meal together as part of their corporate worship time (Acts 2:42) to facilitate the intimacy and fellowship (koinōnía) needed to become the light of the world (Matt. 5:14).

But the “love” or “agape” feast was more than a simple meal.  It was a time of bonding together, much like a family does after a tragedy.  It was a time to embrace new believers, encourage those struggling in their faith, and rejoice with those with whom God was doing mighty things.  The agape, or love feast, was an opportunity for the church to share the highs and lows of the Christian life as one, while building itself up on the “most holy faith” (Jude 1:20).

During the feast, the older, more mature Believers would share wisdom and what they had learned from walking with Christ longer than the new believers just learning how to crawl spiritually.  It was a picture of what a Christian worship service should look like.  Everyone had a part, and everyone was encouraged to participate.

How is it then, brethren?  Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation.  Let all things be done for edification – 1 Corinthians 14:26.

When was the last time you saw congregation members encouraged to share a teaching, tongue, revelation, or interpretation during a Sunday worship time without that first being cleared by those in charge?  Exactly.  But what a fantastic time that would have been, not constrained by the rules or traditions of men, but singing spontaneous songs and hymns, offering prayers without being asked, and praising God continually for all He had done in the lives of those with you, all prompted and empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit moving in everyone, and not just a few.  Amazing.

Couldn’t Things Go Wrong?

Now, it is true that this type of freedom in worship has its inherent dangers.  We see that in Jude 1:12, where Jude says non-believers, satanic plants, had infiltrated the church, just like they have today, and became “spots in your feast, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves.”  The word translated spots is spilás and means “a rock by the sea or submerged in the sea by which ships are shipwrecked.”  In essence, these people became a hidden reef that could cause great damage to the church due to their selfishness, “serving only themselves.”  It looks like not much has changed in 2,000 years.  But is the fear of abuse or selfishness a reason to scrap something God established for such good?  I don’t think so.

Then, we see the problem with pride in the church.  In Corinth, the people had strayed into factions and groups, favoring those who “have” and rejecting those who “have not.”  In giving his instruction for the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Paul first chastised those who had turned the agape or love feast into something dishonoring to Christ.  And it was this rebuke that gave rise to his instructions (1 Cor. 11:17-22).  You might want to read it yourself.  It kinda stings.

But again, is this a reason to reject the plan of God entirely because some in the church have abused it?  Notice that Paul did not cancel the love feast.  He only regulated it and the Lord’s Supper.  So yes, as with anything, there are inherent dangers.  And this is true of the love feast.  But do you think that when God instituted it along with Bible teaching, fellowship, and prayer, He was unaware of the dangers?  Like maybe they caught Him by surprise?  Or perhaps He made a mistake?  Again, I think not.

So What Did the Love (Agape) Feast Look Like?

According to the New Testament and the writings of the early church fathers, the agape or love feast was celebrated by the early church this way:

The church would gather on the first day of the week to celebrate the Lord and praise Him.  This time, what we would call our Sunday Worship Service, would begin with a common, shared meal— with those who had much sharing with those who had little.

The agape feast and the Lord’s Supper were closely connected, with the feast first followed by the Supper.  Ignatius of Antioch (35-108 AD) wrote: “It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize, or to offer, or to present sacrifice, or to celebrate a love-feast.”¹  This indicates the love feast and the Lord’s Supper were not separate practices for the early church.  They were two sides of the same coin.

During the love feast, those present were encouraged to share, for the edification of the body, what the Lord had shown them or what He had done in their lives, much like our time of testimonies.  There was freedom within the church.  No clergy, laity divide.  Everyone had direct access to the Lord and, therefore, everyone had the opportunity and right to share their relationship with Him.  It was the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers on steroids.

According to church historians, their time began with prayer, followed by a communal meal (love feast) and time of sharing, singing, testimonies, Scripture, and worship.  This was followed by a teaching from the Scripture and ended with the Lord’s Supper.  An offering was also received for the needs of others.  Tertullian (160-225 AD) explains the offering in his Apology, “Our feast explains itself by its name. The Greeks call it agape, i.e., affection. Whatever it costs, our outlay in the name of piety is gain, since with the good things of the feast we benefit the needy.”²

Remember, when the church came together, they were “devoted to” or “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).  These were not four separate activities that took place on different days.  These four God-ordained practices of His church made up their worship service and were sum parts of the whole that were vital in turning the persecuted early church into the men and women of God who “turned the world upside down” for Christ (Acts 17:6).

But What Happened to the Love Feast?

Great question.  And the answer may surprise you.  Remember, whenever God provides His children with something to benefit them, as He did with the four practices in Acts 2:42, the enemy and the flesh work overtime to destroy all God has created.  We see this in every area of life, and especially in His church.

So next time, we will look at the sinister compromise the church made with the secular world for the sake of acceptance and wealth and how the agape feast proved too powerful to be allowed to stand.  So, like most things God gives us for our good, it was set aside for something we want more.  And the unintended consequences for the church (or maybe they were intended) have been severe.

We can learn much about how God intended His church to function rather than how we have decided we want it to be today.  And who knows, maybe God is moving His church from its dependence on repurposed pagan temples back into the homes where it first began.  Perhaps He will reinstitute His love feast among believers and how we worship Him in the future.  Who knows?

But if that is what He is doing, I, for one, am ready for it. Are you?


1.  Letter to the Smyrneans 8.2
2.  Apology, 39.16

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Two Out of Four Ain’t Bad… No, It’s Real Bad

Two Out of Four Ain’t Bad… No, It’s Real Bad

The Lost Discipline of the Love Feast – Part 1

Scripture never leaves us guessing, it always provides an answer or points us in the right direction regarding our life with Christ.  For example, if you want to know how to pray, Jesus lays it out for us in Matthew 6 in a passage affectionately known as the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:5-15).  Or, if you want to know what life is like in the Kingdom of God, Jesus gives us example after example in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).

And if you want to know what It looks like when a group of ordinary believers, like you and me, are infused with the Holy Spirit and become the church (ekklēsía),¹ all you have to do is look at the book of Acts, especially Acts 2:42-47, to discover exactly what this group of Believers devoted themselves to that allowed them to have the results they did (Acts 2:47).  Remember, the book of Acts is more than a history book, giving us a detailed account of how the Holy Spirit moved in their lives back then, but not today.  Instead, the book of Acts is our template, our blueprint— it’s our instruction manual on how God designed His church and how He wants it to function.

So, let’s look at what the early church devoted itself to and see if we can glean some truth for us today.

“Who Are Those Guys?” – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

When the church was miraculously born (you can read about it in Acts 2:1-4), Peter stood and preached a 297-word sermon to many skeptical observers, and over 3,000 of them gave their lives to Christ and were baptized that very day (Acts 2:41).  It was something only God could have done— signs and wonders, confrontational preaching, the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and true repentance and faith (Acts 2:36-40).

But now what?  The 120 in the upper room had grown over 25-fold in the space of a few hours, and the disciples had a logistical problem on their hands.  After all, the knowledge of the new converts about Christ and this new concept of church was limited to what Peter had just told them.  So the Lord set up His discipleship program that is unsurpassed to this day and still serves as our model, if we would stop trying to reinvent the wheel and follow the Lord’s leading.  Let me explain.

Their Results

First, let’s look at the results.  With no formal training, no paid staff, no buildings, programs, or worship bands, without any Christian books, movies, or music, and with no Christian sub-culture, traditions, or history, lost people were added to His church daily.  That’s every day!  And the public attitude and perception of these strange Christ-followers was far more positive than it is in our own communities today. Read it for yourself.

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people (both saved and lost, Jew and Gentile).  And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved – Acts 2:46-47.

We haven’t seen God move like this in a long time, if ever.  And for them, it was an everyday occurrence, something they grew to expect.  Every day there were new believers.  In every worship service, there were new stories to tell about God delivering someone from the bondage of sin and delivering them into the kingdom of light (Col. 1:13).  Can you imagine what those times together as the infant church must have been like?

What Made Them Who They Were

Next, let’s look at who they were.  No, we’re not talking about their race, heritage, education, financial status, or all the things that define us today.  We want to look at what made them different, how they became a people “whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11).  And the one word that comes to mind when you read the account of their lives is this: committed.  Yes, they were committed to the core, single-focused on only one thing: Christ and His kingdom.  Just like the church… er, today.  Right?

Everything about their lives oozed a commitment to something greater than themselves, and their actions spoke decibels louder than their words.  We see, almost immediately after their conversion, they “had all things in common, (to what degree) and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need” (Acts 2:44-45).  How could they freely do this? “It’s easy,” they would reply, “when you have encountered the living Lord Jesus as we have.”

These men and women were driven by a love and commitment to a person, Jesus Christ, that overpowered their fear, even of death.  When the government ordered them not to speak of Jesus under the threat of imprisonment and death, they simply prayed for God to give them more boldness to do just the opposite (Acts 4:29).  And once again, God responded in a way that confirmed their faith (Acts 4:31), just like He does when we come together to pray the same things.  Uh, well, hopefully.

The Focus of Their Devotion

Finally, let’s look at how these ordinary people from different backgrounds and dialects became the fearless, Spirit-filled church we see in the first few chapters of Acts.  What made them into the people they became?  And how did uneducated fishermen and farmers “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) in such a short amount of time when we seem to be on the losing side of the cancel culture wars and have churches on every other street corner across the land?  What did they have that we don’t?  Or what were they committed to that we don’t take seriously?  Let’s look at the last question in closing.

In Acts 2:42, we see the God-designed plan He gave His church to mature believers from spiritual zygotes to men and women of God as quickly as possible.  And His discipleship program comprises four simple things and a commitment to stay focused on them.

And they (what) continued steadfastly in (1) the apostles’ doctrine and (2) fellowship, in (3) the breaking of bread, and in (4) prayers – Acts 2:42.

Now, let’s define some of these words to make sure we understand the depth of what the church was doing back then that produced the results we envy today.

And they (what) continued steadfastly (proskarteréō – to endure, to remain, to persevere in some activity or cause to the point of devotion) in (1) the apostles’ doctrine and (2) fellowship (koinōnía – participation, communion, community, sharing in an intimate association or group), in (3) the breaking of bread, and in (4) prayers – Acts 2:42.

A few of these terms are simple to define.  Others take a little digging.  For example, we would interpret the apostles’ doctrine as teaching from the Bible or preaching a sermon from the word of God. And prayers, those may be public or private prayers, probably both.

Fellowship is a little more difficult.  The word koinōnía means more than a pot-luck dinner on the ground after church, where we talk about NASCAR or the upcoming Super Bowl.  The fellowship the early church experienced was a common commitment to a single goal: Christ and His Kingdom.  They were in partnership with each other; they lived in a family, communal style, where everyone was more concerned about each other than themselves.  They were united as one, which is exactly what Jesus prayed they would become (John 17:21), and they had a shared life with one another.  There were no independent contractors or free agents in the crowd.  They were, to quote the famed phrase, “All for one and one for all.”  This is what fellowship meant to the early church.

And then we come to the phrase “the breaking of bread.”  Often this is written off as simply meaning the church celebrated the Lord’s Supper as part of their worship service.  But in this context, the meaning is a common, communal meal.  We see Luke using the same phrase in Acts 2:46 to describe just that, a common meal taken together in the homes of other believers.  There is no mention of the Lord’s Supper.

And remember, these early Christians were devoted to these four practices.  Devoted.  They “continued steadfastly” in them, without wavering.  Don’t let the impact of that word pass you by.  They were committed to these four activities and realized that in them, teaching, fellowship, communal meals, and prayer, God would meld them together as one and give them the strength to be His light in an ever-darkening world.


But we, for some reason (that I will share with you later), have decided that fellowship can be achieved without a common or communal meal.  The early church simply got that one wrong.  We agree with the importance of preaching, Bible study (apostles’ doctrine), and prayer.  And we, to a lesser degree, agree that fellowship is good and profitable, but not as important as Bible study and prayer.  But when it comes to sharing a meal as part of our time together as His church, well… that seems to have fallen out of vogue, and we would rather not, except on special occasions.

Think that one through.  God gave His church four practices they were devoted to and would not deviate from.  Four practices that became the pillars of their time together.  It was the foundation upon which they built their church services.  Preaching and prayer helped them grow as individual believers.  And fellowship allowed them as individual believers to grow together as one into the body of Christ.  But what about sharing a common meal?  That was God’s way of fostering fellowship in the body of Christ so much that He included it in the four practices, even listing it before prayer.

And it seems foolish for us today to expect the same boldness, intimacy, and results they had in the book of Acts by not following the same game plan God gave us to ensure our success in building His Kingdom.  Maybe we know better?  Or maybe we are more sophisticated and have it all figured out, more than they did back then?  I think not.

Next time we will look even deeper into the importance of the “love feast”² or common meal the church celebrated as part of their worship service and see if we can learn more about God’s plan to build His church from His Word, and not have to rely on what we think is right or feel comfortable with.

It should be a wild ride.


1. Zodhiates, S. (2000). In The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). AMG Publishers.
2. Jude 1:12

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Practical Ways to Apply Revelation’s Praise

Practical Ways to Apply Revelation’s Praise

Praising Him with the Hosts of Heaven

The Book of Revelation contains some of the most vivid and awe-inspiring pictures of God’s divine glory and the worship He rightly deserves.  In Revelation chapter 5, the apostle John has an encounter with the risen and exalted Jesus Christ that highlights specific ways we should praise and worship the Lord.

The setting is the throne room of heaven, where all creation is gathered to worship God and the Lamb.  The scene is marked by majesty, splendor, and reverence as a scroll with seven seals is presented before the throne.  Jesus alone is found worthy to open the scroll, which prompts an outpouring of praise.

John then hears a mighty chorus of voices from angels, the living creatures and the elders, and all created beings praising Christ for His wonderful attributes.  The scene unfolds like this:

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” – Revelation 5:11-13.

This powerful doxology provides a pattern for how we ought to worship Jesus Christ here on earth like He is glorified in heaven.  And by reflecting on each praiseworthy attribute, we gain insight into the proper focus and posture of worship.

Worthy is the Lamb Who Was Slain

The stanza begins with praise for Christ’s sacrifice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.”  Even in the heights of heavenly glory, the focal point of worship is the Lamb and the sacrifice He made for our redemption and salvation.  The angels and elders are caught up not with Jesus’ omnipotence but rather with His sacrificial death on the cross.

This reminds us that at the heart of our worship must be awe and gratitude for Christ’s substitutionary atonement (Heb. 10:12, 1 Pet. 2:24).  As the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus willingly went to the cross to die for our sins so we could be forgiven and reconciled to God (John 1:29, 2 Cor. 5:21).  His victory over sin and death is the basis for our salvation and the reason we have eternal life (1 Cor. 15:54-57, Rom. 4:25).

When we fix our eyes on the Lamb who was slain, it leads us to deep worship characterized by humility, grace, and surrender.  We exalt Jesus not merely for His power but for His merciful redemption.  We worship Him for who He is— the Lamb who was slain for us.

To Receive Power and Riches

The stanza continues with praises for the power and riches that belong to Christ: “to receive power and riches.”  Though Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross, He has been highly exalted and given the name above every name (Phil. 2:8-11).

Seated at the right hand of God, Jesus possesses all power and authority over heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18).  He upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3), and one day every knee will bow to Him as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16).

Not only that, but the inexhaustible riches of Christ are lavished upon us through faith in Him (Eph. 1:7).  Though He was rich in heaven’s glories, He became poor so that we might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).  As adopted children of God, all spiritual blessings are ours in Christ— forgiveness, redemption, wisdom, and grace beyond measure (Eph. 1:3-8).

When we worship the all-powerful, endlessly rich Lamb, it prompts deep reverence and awe for who God is.  We stand in wonder at the majesty and might of the risen Savior.  And our worship should overflow with thanksgiving for the riches of redemption we have in Him.

Wisdom, Strength, and Honor

The doxology continues with praises for Christ’s wisdom, strength, and honor: “to receive…wisdom and might and honor.”  In His deity, Jesus possesses the very wisdom and knowledge of God (Col. 2:3).  No one counsels the Lord or instructs Him (Isa. 40:13-14).  His knowledge is perfect, His judgments are flawless, and His ways are unsearchable (Rom. 11:33-36).

Not only is Christ all-wise, but His strength is without limit.  He spoke the universe into existence (Gen. 1:1-3, Psalm 33:6).  He upholds and sustains all of creation by His mighty power (Heb. 1:3).  He stills storms (Mark 4:39), heals diseases (Matt. 4:23), casts out demons (Luke 4:35), forgives sins (Luke 7:48), and conquers death (1 Cor. 15:54-57).  Jesus exemplifies the perfect strength that arises from true meekness (Matt. 11:29, Phil. 2:7-8).

Because of who He is and what He has accomplished, Jesus alone deserves all honor and praise.  He is the King of Glory (Psalm 24:7-10).  The Son is to be honored just as the Father is honored (John 5:22-23).  When God the Father speaks from heaven, He commands us to worship and glorify His Son (Matt. 17:5; 2 Pet. 1:16-18).

So the right response when we grasp Christ’s divine wisdom, limitless strength, and complete honor is to fall down in worship before Him.  Our worship should magnify and echo the honor and glory that belong to Him alone.

Glory and Blessing

The doxology goes on to praise Jesus for the glory and blessing He receives: “to receive…glory and blessing.”  Though Jesus laid aside His heavenly glory to come to earth, He now reigns in magnificent splendor at God’s right hand (Heb. 2:9; 12:2).

Myriads of angels and saints surrounding the throne erupt into praise for the glory and majesty of the Lamb (Revelation 5:11-14).  All things were created for His glory (Revelation 4:11).  So our worship on earth should resound with praise for His divine glory.

Not only is Christ glorious beyond measure, but He lavishes spiritual blessings upon us as His people (Eph. 1:3).  His grace abounds to us, and His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:23).  All good gifts come from His hand (James 1:17).  He supplies our every need (Phil. 4:19), protects and guides us by His Spirit (Psalm 32:8, Isa. 58:11), and gives eternal life to all who believe (John 3:16, 1 John 5:11-12).

As those immeasurably blessed by Jesus, our worship should overflow with thanksgiving.  We should continually exalt Him for who He is and all He has done for us.  And our grateful praise should echo the blessing, honor, and glory due to His name.

To Him Who Sits on the Throne

The crescendo of praise builds as the voices proclaim, “To him who sits on the throne.”  Here our worship focuses on Jesus’ position of highest authority as the exalted King now seated on the throne of heaven (Rev. 5:6-7; Heb. 12:2).

The crucified and risen Lamb who redeemed the chosen unto God now reigns as the sovereign Lord over all (Rev. 5:9-10).  Though He walked the earth in humility (Phil. 2:8), Jesus now rules the universe in divine majesty.  He is the King of Kings whose kingdom will endure forever (Rev. 11:15).

When we worship Christ as the enthroned Lord, it should prompt awe and allegiance as we join the heavenly chorus in deep reverence for His reign.  And when we bow down before His supreme authority as citizens of His unshakable kingdom, our worship should magnify the reigning Christ who sits on the throne forever and ever.

He Lives Forever and Ever

The chorus reaches its peak with the climactic praise, “Blessing and honor and glory and power
be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!”  Not only is Jesus enthroned in heaven, but He lives and reigns forever.  Though He was crucified, He conquered death and rose in mighty triumph.  He is the Firstborn from the dead who lives eternally (Rev. 1:18; Rom. 6:9).

The risen Lamb who was slain now lives forever as the enthroned King.  His years will never end (Heb. 1:8,12).  He holds the keys of Death and Hades (Rev. 1:18), and His dominion is everlasting.

When we worship Jesus as the living, eternal King, it should move us to persevere and endure suffering with hope.  No earthly trials or struggles can dethrone Him and all enemies will be put under His feet (1 Cor. 15:25, Heb. 10:13).  And our hope and worship declares with the faithful martyrs that Jesus is “the ruler of kings on earth” who is alive forevermore (Revelation 1:5, 18).

Earthly Application

As those ransomed by Christ’s blood, you and I are called to join the heavenly chorus in worshipping Jesus as revealed in Revelation 5.  When the church gathers, how can we echo this heavenly praise?

First, our worship must revolve around Christ as the Lamb who was slain (Rev. 5:12).  We should exalt Him for His atoning sacrifice that brought us forgiveness and eternal life (Rom. 3:24-25, John 10:10).

Second, we should stand in awe of Jesus’ divine power as we praise Him for the riches of His grace (Phil. 2:9-11, Eph. 1:7-8).

Third, we need to honor the Son for His perfect wisdom (Col. 2:3), matchless strength (Isa. 40:28-29), and complete worthiness of our worship (Rev. 5:2).

Fourth, our worship should resound with praise for the glory Jesus possesses (John 17:5) and the blessings He pours out on us because of His grace and mercy (Eph. 1:3).

Fifth, we should bow down before Christ as the sovereign King seated on the throne— the Lord of lords who rules the nations (Rev. 19:16).

And finally, sixth, we proclaim with joy that Jesus is alive forever as the eternal reigning King (Rev. 1:18).

May our worship as God’s people faithfully reflect the heavenly praise found in Revelation 5.  And may it enlarge our vision of the glory, wisdom, power, and love found in our risen Savior and Lord.

Worthy is the Lamb!

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Learning to Praise Christ from Revelation 5

Learning to Praise Christ from Revelation 5

Magnifying the Lamb

In Revelation 5, we find a divine pattern for praise and worship laid out through John’s glimpse into the heavenly throne room. As the Lamb takes the scroll to unleash God’s plans for returning the kingdom to the King (Rev. 5:7), the inhabitants of heaven erupt in exultant worship focused wholly on Christ. As we seek to praise God with the type of worship He desires (John 4:23), this passage offers a template to shape our adoration of the One worthy of all blessing, honor, and glory.

Singular Focus: Centering on the Lamb

John directs our attention to the central figure of the Lamb as the anchor point of praise. The myriads around the throne— living creatures and elders representing all God’s redeemed— turn their worship toward “the Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 5:12) and no one else. Their hymns exalt the redeeming blood of Christ, His unmatched worthiness, and His supreme authority over all things. In this heavenly chorus, Jesus alone takes the spotlight.

As we lift our songs of praise to Him on earth, Christ must also occupy the principal position. Our praise falls short if we fail to magnify the Son. “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36). Likewise, our worship must be focused on the rightful role of Jesus at the center of our redemption and the center of our lives. Anything less is not true worship.

Proclaiming the Gospel: Singing of Christ’s Sacrifice

The content of the chorus in Revelation 5 focuses intensely on the Person and work of Christ. The elders praise the Lamb for this one momentous act: “For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (5:9). Their words retell the old gospel story of Jesus sacrificing His life to redeem those who are in bondage as slaves to sin. He willingly shed His blood to pay redemption’s price for undeserving sinners like you and me to experience grace, mercy, forgiveness, and eternal life.

Our praise should likewise overflow with celebrating what Jesus has accomplished for us. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). As we declare the wonders of the cross through word and song, we echo the truths surrounding our salvation. Our worship proclaims the lengths Christ went to save us and the sufficiency of His atonement. And this alone is worthy of an eternity of praise from His redeemed people.

Recognition of True Authority: Falling Before the Lamb

When Christ appears, John sees the twenty-four elders prostrate themselves before the Lamb in recognition of His supreme authority (Rev. 5:8). Their posture confesses His worthiness to take the scroll and break its seals ushering in the tribulation, which initiates God’s plan to return the kingdom to the King, His Son. Physical bowing accompanies their words of praise. So too, our praise must be rooted in our submission to Christ’s lordship over all creation and the church. Remember what the future holds: “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). Therefore, our worship must submit to His sovereign reign as we honor the King in a way pleasing unto Him.

Freedom and Expression: Harps and Incense

Heaven’s chorus employs musical and artistic embellishments to create a tapestry of praise worthy of the Lamb. The elders hold harps and golden bowls of incense “which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev. 5:8), and the strings and sounds intertwine together to craft a symphony of adoration for the One worthy to take the scroll (Rev. 5:5-7). Our earthly praise should likewise incorporate creative elements to enrich our worship. As Paul says, we can teach and admonish “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16; see also Eph. 5:19). Artistic gifts can deepen our worship, but the gifts cannot be the focus of our worship. That belongs to the Lord alone.

United Community: Saints and Angels in Harmony

The epic anthem in Revelation 5 comes not from a solo heavenly voice, but from the blended chorus of the community of faith. Elders and living creatures together raise the new song to the Lamb (Rev. 5:9). Their combined voices testify to the multiethnic diversity of the redeemed united in Christ. So much so, that in Revelation 5:13, we see “every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them” praise His name together. By God’s design, those who praise the Lamb in heaven will come from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9) showing to the world that our shared identity united under Christ’s blood (John 17:21) is greater than any of our cultural or racial differences.

Our Future Hope: His Victorious Reign

As the elders praise the crucified Lamb, they proclaim that His blood-purchased saints from every nation will be made “kings and priests to our God” and will “reign upon the earth” (Rev. 5:10). Their victory song bursts with joy and hope in the sure promises of God to be fulfilled in Christ. Our praise should rise from the same assurance that the Lamb who secured our redemption will consummate His kingdom and usher us into glorified life with Him forever. Remember, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” (Rev. 21:4). Our worship should flow from hearts anchored in this future hope because “These words are true and faithful” (Rev. 21:5).


As we seek to praise God with the type of worship He desires (John 4:23), Revelation 5 stands as a guide for us to emulate, both privately and with other believers. The heavenly chorus before the throne sets a pattern for our earthly worship. With Christ at the center, the gospel on our lips, reverence in our hearts, unity among all brethren, and confident assurance for the future, let us lift our heartfelt hallelujahs to the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16). May our worship resound with the same elements that adorn the praise before the eternal throne. And in this way, we can join our voices with the unending hymns that magnify the Lamb who alone is worthy. “To the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Tim. 1:17).

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Revelation 4:10-11:  Worship Him Who is Worthy

Revelation 4:10-11: Worship Him Who is Worthy

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!

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The Rising Crescendo of Praise in Heaven

The Rising Crescendo of Praise in Heaven

Praise and Worship in the Revelation

In Revelation 4-5, God graciously grants us insight into John’s amazing vision of the throne room of heaven.  Around God’s throne are four living creatures and 24 elders, who continually break out in spontaneous praise of God the Father and Jesus Christ.  Their praise builds in a stunning crescendo over these two chapters, giving us a picture or template of how we too should worship our glorious God both privately, in our time with Him alone, and corporately with others in church.

Let’s look at each of these five instances of praise and see what we can learn about how to truly experience God in our private and corporate worship.

What Worship Looks Like in Heaven

We Worship Our God Who is Holy

The first statement of praise comes from the four living creatures, who “do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!'” (Revelation 4:8).  The threefold repetition of “holy” highlights God’s supreme holiness and unmatched perfection (Isaiah 6:3).  As we begin our time with God, reflecting on His utter holiness humbles us, reminds us of His greatness, and causes us to approach Him with reverence and awe.  We should meditate on verses about God’s holiness like 1 Samuel 2:2: “No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You.”

We Worship Our God Who is Worthy
The second statement is from the 24 elders, who “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 4:10-11).  Focusing on God’s worthiness helps us realize we owe everything to Him as our Creator and Sustainer (Col. 1:17).  As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “Our chief purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  We glorify Him by proclaiming His supreme worth.

We Worship Our God Who Redeemed Us by His Blood
The praise reaches a new height when the Lamb (Christ) takes the scroll from the hand of the One on the throne.  The four living creatures and twenty-four elders break out in a new song of praise, highlighting Christ’s worthiness to open the scroll because of His sacrificial death on the cross.

“You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” – Revelation 5:9-10.

As we reflect on Christ’s atoning sacrifice for us, we cannot help but praise Him for redeeming us with His shed blood.

We Worship Our God for His Attributes
The crescendo continues building as countless angels now join the living creatures and elders, praising the Lamb with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive (1) power and (2) riches and (3) wisdom, and (4) strength and (5) honor and (6) glory and (7) blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).  Meditating on Christ’s seven-fold worthiness elevates our worship as we focus on His worthiness and not on our own merits or accomplishments.

We Worship Our Triune God
Finally, every creature in heaven and on earth joins the chorus: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).  Our praise should likewise recognize that both the Father and the Son are equally worthy of our worship.  We glorify the Triune God – Father, Son, and Spirit – as three persons yet one God, worthy of all blessing and honor and glory and power.

As in Heaven, So on Earth

Just as praise builds to a beautiful crescendo in Revelation 4-5, so too should our personal and corporate worship move through recognizing God’s supreme holiness, praising Him for His creative power and sustaining worthiness, exalting Christ for His redemptive work, and fully celebrating the infinite worth of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This pattern takes us deeper into the presence of God.  Our worship should echo the powerful praise resounding ceaselessly in the throne room of heaven, never stopping day or night!  As we worship, may our hearts and minds be filled with God-glorifying praise, culminating in the ultimate crescendo of forever praising the infinite worth of our glorious God.

Going Deeper: Practical Tips for Worship Based on Revelation 4-5

The following are some practical tips to help us apply the examples of worship modeled in Revelation 4-5 to our own times of personal and corporate praise so that our lives might resound with worship worthy of our infinitely glorious God.

•   Focus on God’s holiness and perfection.  Spend time meditating on verses about God’s holiness like Isaiah 6:3.  Approach Him with humility, awe, and reverence.

•   Reflect on God’s worthiness and His work as Creator.  Read passages like Psalm 104 that highlight His creative power.  Praise Him for giving you life and sustaining you

•   Dwell on Christ’s sacrifice for your redemption.  Sing songs and hymns about Christ’s death and resurrection.  Thank Him for His incredible, undeserved grace.

•   Consider Christ’s seven-fold worthiness from Revelation 5:12.  Reflect on His power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and blessing.  Let this elevate your praise.

•   Worship the Triune God equally, just as all creation does in Revelation 5:13.  Glorify the Father, Son, and Spirit in prayer, song, and meditation.

•   Let your worship build and grow.  Follow the pattern of increasing crescendo modeled in Revelation 4-5.  Don’t rush your time with God.

•   Worship together with other believers.  Praise God through prayer, Scripture, song, testimony, praise, communion, and fellowship.

•   Be consistent in worship.  The four living creatures worship God ceaselessly day and night.  Set aside regular worship time.

•   Express your praise through song, Scripture, prayer, writing, service, giving, and any means that honor God.  Use your unique creative gifts He gave you to praise Him.

•   Above all, worship in “spirit and truth” (John 4:24).  Engage your mind, will, and emotions fully as you glorify your worthy God.

May our worship, both personal and corporate, echo the powerful praise surrounding God’s throne. Let’s honor His infinite worth with an ever-increasing crescendo of praise.

And let’s begin today and continue together this Sunday.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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