This post is one in a series of posts on a Bible study I am doing titled Heaven by Randy Alcorn and Dave McCleskey. The focus of this study is to get a Biblical view of what heaven is really like.
Today’s study opened my eyes to two very important things related to Heaven. The first was the topic of worship, and what worship will be like in Heaven. If you’re anything like me, the idea of a 24/7 church service for eternity is not that appealing, but Randy Alcorn suggests that perhaps we have the wrong view of worship if that is one of our worries. The second was an analogy of us as Christ’s bride, and specifically of our wedding gown. Allow me to summarize Alcorn’s main points from today’s lesson.
Worshiping Our God For Eternity
In Revelation 4, the Apostle John describes the throne room of Heaven. One of the main aspects of the throne room is the fact that the inhabitants of that room are engaged in unending worship of God, who sits on the throne. Special creatures are commissioned to say “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” (v. 8) day and night, non-stop. And whenever they do this, the 24 elders (who they are, I’m not sure) fall down, place their crowns before God’s throne, and say “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (v. 11). In the next chapter, the lamb of God, Christ Himself, is worshiped by thousands upon thousands of angels, with them singing “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (5:12). If you look at these accounts of worship in Revelation, you can see that they include a lot of bowing, singing, and speaking out on the truths concerning God. This is a great indicator that when we get to Heaven, we will be overwhelmed by a sense of wonder and appreciation of God’s greatness. But does this mean that these activities are all we will do in Heaven?
The answer to that question lies in what you believe the word worship to mean. If worship, to you, is only a church service, then you (like me) probably see Heaven as an unending church service. Perhaps that isn’t appealing to you (it hasn’t always been appealing to me!), but the good news is that, if this is the case, you are taking too narrow a view of the meaning of the word worship. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word translated worship is shachah. It means to bow down or prostrate oneself. In the New Testament, the Greek word translated worship is proskyneō. This word means “to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence” or “to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence.” Both of these terms speak of bowing down, but I don’t think we have to take them to mean that in Heaven, we will be physically bowing down to God every moment for eternity (though we will undoubtedly be doing some bowing). As Lee Campbell pointed out in his essay on the definition of true worship, “these terms refer to a posture of submission and thus an acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty.” So worship isn’t always about a physical bowing posture, as it is a posture of submission in our hearts. We will still be able to do things in Heaven that are not necessarily “churchy,” and be worshiping God at the same time. Alcorn puts it this way:
“We won’t always be on our faces at Christ’s feet, worshiping Him, because Scripture says we’ll be doing many other things – living in dwelling places, eating and drinking, reigning with Christ, and working for Him. Scripture depicts people standing, walking, traveling in and out of the city, and gathering at feasts. When doing these things, we won’t be on our faces before Christ. Nevertheless, all that we do will be an act of worship.”
And on top of this, we can be assured that our worship will not be boring. Again, if you have a church service-view of Heaven, and you have a history of boring church services, you may get the wrong idea of worship in Heaven. But the truth is that worship is more than the boring aspects of our local church – it will include the actual presence of God, and since being with God is what will satisfy the longing of our souls, we’ll have a hard time taking our eyes off of Him.
Christ and His Bride: A Beautiful Wedding Anology
Throughout the New Testament, Christ is portrayed (allegorically) as a bridegroom, and believers who make up the Church are His bride. Ephesians 5:25-27 says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” During Biblical times, there was a period of time prior to a wedding where the bride and groom were separated, and the bride’s responsibility during this time was to remain faithful to her groom. This is true of the current age, where Christ has been separated from the Church, and the Church’s responsibility is to remain pure for Him while we wait for His return (“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:2).
But in Revelation 19, this analogy is drawn upon, and there is a very interesting twist. Verses 7-8 say “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” My study asked me what I thought the fine linen the bride is wearing stands for. My first inclination was that it represented Christ’s righteousness that covers us (since a wedding dress is white, and this signifies purity that we know comes from Christ’s cleansing us of our sins). But the end of verse 8 says “Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.” Although we can only enter the presence of the Lord because of the works of Christ, the wedding gown is made up our acts of faithfulness while we are away from Christ. I found this image to be an amazing motivator to work harder towards obedience to Christ’s commands. During a wedding, a bride grabs everyone’s attention with her beauty (I know mine did!), and part of the beauty is her dress. Our dress will be made up of the things we do for the sake of righteousness while still on earth – prayer, study of God’s word, acts of service, and reaching out to the “least of these.” It caused me to realize that perhaps my gown isn’t quite fit for a royal wedding, and I need to get up and start working harder in service to God’s kingdom. Each act will make up a thread in my gown, and like any good bride, I want my dress to look its best when my groom sees it.
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