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A Call to Worship, Part 1

We are called to worship. The only choices we make are who we worship and why we worship.


Revelation 19:1-3 - 1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

 

“Hallelujah!

Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,

2 for his judgments are true and just;

for he has judged the great prostitute

who corrupted the earth with her immorality,

and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

 

Once more they cried out,

 

“Hallelujah!

The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

 

What is worship and why do you worship? Do you worship out of habit, cultural upbringing, or for some other reason?

 

As you know, I grew up in Pakistan, and if you are familiar with Islamic culture, then you would know that there is a call to prayer and worship in Islam five times a day. This call is like a war siren in a country under siege because loudspeakers blast from all directions, “Allah Akbar Allah Akbar” meaning “God is great God is great,” and “Ashadu an la ilaha illa Allah” meaning “there is no god except the One God.”

 

The Islamic call to worship is essentially an Arabic copy of the Shema, the centerpiece of the daily morning and evening prayer services in Judaism which says, “She-ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad,” which means, “Hear o Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”

 

In every religion, there is some sort of call to worship, even in our church, the bells serve as a call to worship.

 

The problem is that people may hear and respond to the call to worship, but they still may not know what worship is, why they worship, and whether they worship out of habit, cultural upbringing, or for some other reason. They need to know that true worship is in spirit and truth.

 

The context of Revelation 19:1-3 was a world that, rather than giving God the worship He deserves, took that worship and directed it toward self, Satan, and the antichrist. It was evident, even to Apostle John’s immediate audience, the first-century church.

 

There was rapid compromise, complacency, and corruption in the church. Revelation 19:1-10 described the scene of heavenly worship to show the church what worship is, and why they should worship because they were called to worship in spirit and truth.

 

The big idea is that we are all made to worship. The only choices we make are who we worship and why we worship.

 

The Bible teaches that we are called to worship God in spirit and truth. However, unless we know what worship is and why we worship, we may never give God the worship He deserves – or worse, take that worship and give it to another.

 

With that in mind, Revelation 19:1-10 gives us three truths about worship that may help us to worship God in spirit and truth—

Rationale for Worship, Reverence in Worship, and Result of Worship. These truths matter because our rationale for worship determines what worship is and why we worship, our reverence in worship demonstrates how we worship, and the result of worship describes what we should expect from worship.

 

To establish a solid foundation for the rationale for worship, we will look at only the rationale for worship in the first three verses of Revelation 19. Next time, we will look at the other two truths about worship.

 

Rationale for Worship

 

Since our rationale for worship determines what worship is and why we worship, by understanding the rationale for worship in heaven, we can develop our rationale for worship on earth. It is like learning from the pros.

 

Verse 1 reads, “After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven crying out.” This is the last time we will see the phrase, “after this.” The first time we saw this phrase was in Revelation 4. There, it changed the scene from earth to heaven.

 

In that heavenly glimpse, with John, we saw the throne of God and witnessed the worship in heaven by the four living creatures representing the entire form of life in the creation and the twenty-four elders representing all believers from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. They worship God day and night and in the last verse of Revelation 4, they sang a song, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” 

 

The rationale for worship for the heavenites, that is, angels and saints, was the worthiness of God as the creator and sustainer. The Old English word for worship, worthship, communicates who deserves it. Only the one who is worth it and worthy of it.

 

In Revelation 19:1, with John, we return to that heavenly scene again after the fall of Babylon— the Satanic, seductive, religious, and material empire. This celebratory worship is full of praise because God is truly worthy of it because whatever He promised came to pass— he said, “do not revenge, vengeance is mine,” and “I will punish the evil doers.” God said, in Matthew 5:10, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Therefore, their emotions carried their praise in a loud voice. In other words, they were so overjoyed that they shouted Hallelujah.

 

When was the last time that you were so overwhelmed by the presence of God that you could not stop yourself from shouting Hallelujah? I tell you— a day is coming when we, with other saints, will no longer worship God in mediocrity, but shout at the top of our lungs, Hallelujah.

 

Verse 1 says “a great multitude.” I believe that is the complete number of saved people including all the martyrs for Christ now and even during the reign of the antichrist. Their worship shows more details about their rationale for worship and the sound of joy as they shout Hallelujah.

 

So they shouted in Revelation 19:1, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.” They praised God for His three unique aspects that made Him worthy of worship.

 

First, Salvation Belongs to Our God. The Greek word used here in our text for salvation is sótéria which means, deliverance, preservation, and salvation. God rescues and delivers us from death and destruction. He preserves us through trials and temptation so that what God the Father saved in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit at the time of our conversion may be saved on the day of judgment.

 

God saved the souls of the saints on earth and saved them from His judgment as well. Verse 2 starts with their declaration that “for his judgments are true and just.” The martyrs of Christ, victims of injustice and evil, and survivors of persecution think God’s judgments are true and just because God finally destroyed the power of Satan and avenged His people.

 

Even deeper than that, it's about their salvation. Christian faith is not about revenge but about salvation. Last week another Christian Pakistani man accused of blasphemy was tortured and burned alive by a Muslim mob. Though the Lord will not let them go unpunished, Christians in Pakistan are not seeking revenge. They are praying for the mob’s salvation. Only through salvation can they turn away from hating God’s people.

 

Paul, on the subject of suffering in 2 Timothy 1:8-9 writes, “8 share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”

 

Titus 3:5 says, “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

 

God’s judgments are true and just because as Romans 8:30 says, “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

 

The truth is, no one escapes God’s judgment— not even one, not you and not me. Sin must be punished no matter how small or big it is. So, if I will not pay and you will not pay, then who will pay for our sins?

 

God cannot simply say “Hey, I am God. I love you so therefore, I will suspend my justice and let you go unpunished.” No, that would make God loving but also unjust. This means that there has to be a punishment, or else God cannot be just and true. Therefore, God took the punishment on Himself in the person of Jesus which made God just and justifier. This is the idea of penal substitutionary atonement which God accomplishes through the twofold process of expiation (making atonement) and propitiation (Jesus gave Himself as offering that turned aside God’s wrath). We will look at those next time.

 

The bottom line is that every sin will be punished because all sin must be punished. Either the sinner will pay with eternal damnation or let Christ bear it for him or her. The saints in heaven knew “the judgements of God are true and just” because in Jesus, they were judged and declared saints.

 

This rationale that our salvation belongs to God only is the only rationale that can draw the true worship that God desires from us—  worship in spirit and truth.

 

Second, Glory Belongs to Our God. Revelation 19:3 continues, “for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” In Revelation 17-18, through the seductive means of the religious and materialistic world, she tried to steal what belonged to God and masses of people fell for it. Not only did they not offer God the worship He deserved; they directed their worship to the beast and their worldly desires.

 

God’s glory is almost impossible to put into human words. It is all that He is: Holy, Perfect, Brilliant, and infinitely Beautiful, etc., etc.

 

Isaiah 6:3 says, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!

 

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

 

Glory belongs to our God.

 

Third, Power Belongs to Our God. Revelation 19:3 reads, “Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” Smoke means that it is destroyed and it is done forever.

 

Satan’s power through the antichrist and the false prophet caused the world to rationalize the worship of the beast and the killing of God’s people. Now God’s power is proven to be the ultimate power that trumps Satan’s power— the perfect rationale to worship God.

 

And they cried out Hallelujah again.

 

Yesterday, I was talking to a couple, and I shared that since I grew up in a Pentecostal household, I have a better appreciation and understanding of denominational differences between Baptists and Pentecostals. I believe both can learn from each other about what worship is and why we should worship.

 

By and large, the Christian tragedy of worship is that we neither know what worship is nor do we know why we worship. For some, the rationale of worship lacks understanding of salvation, glory, and power that belong to God and for others, it lacks its celebration. Some are all emotions, and others have none.

 

The application is that worship should involve and engage our whole being: our emotions, minds, and will. We see that in the heavenly model of worship. Their loud voices and crying out tell us that their whole being was involved and engaged in the worship of the only one who is worthy of worship. Therefore, it starts with our rationale for worship which determines what worship is and why we worship.

 

I want you to imagine the pain of a mom or dad who never sees any response to their unconditional love for their children. They give and give but never receive any words of love, gratitude, or trust in return. Or if they do, it does not come from the heart. This is how God must feel when we fail to engage our whole being— our emotions, mind, and our will— in worshipping Him.

 

The action step to take is to examine your rationale for worship. Your rationale will determine what worship is and why you worship and whether you worship out of habit, cultural upbringing, or for some other reason.

 

My appeal is to learn to worship God in spirit and truth rather than out of habit, cultural upbringing, or for some other reasons. Only then, is our whole being, that is, emotions, mind, and will, would engage in worship every time we worship God.

 

You are called to worship. The only choices you make are who you worship and why you worship.

 

Study Questions

 

1.       Why was the multitude in heaven rejoicing? Compare Revelation 19:1 with Revelation 18:20.

 

2.       What does Hallelujah mean?

 

Deeper Study Questions

 

1.       Do you believe you will be a part of the multitude heard in Revelation 19:1-2? If yes, what makes you so sure?

 

2.       What is worship to you personally, and why and how do you worship God?

 

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