Revelation 22 – Part 4

“Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’” Revelation 22:9

I have known Jesus Christ as my personal Savior for over forty-three years, and yet I still have a lot to learn about what it means to worship Him. Most Christians know they will worship God in heaven, but many of us fail to grasp how thrilling this will be. We may think that worship in heaven will be boring and monotonous.

One reason we don’t look forward to worshiping God in heaven is because of the bad worship experiences we’ve had on earth. We think in heaven we are going to sing a few songs, hear a sermon, eat a snack, and go home, and repeat this monotonous routine throughout eternity. While things on earth can become less interesting over time, including worship services, in heaven focusing on God all the time will be fascinating, not boring! Those of you who know the Lord intimately understand what I am talking about.  

The book of Revelation has a lot to teach us about the worship of God. While one of the primary themes of this book is to inform us of future events, we are told at the beginning of Revelation that its main subject is Jesus Christ. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place.” (Revelation 1:1a). The apostle John immediately alerts his readers to the Source of this book’s information when he writes, “The Revelation of [about or from] Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is the Giver of this revelation, and He is its MAIN SUBJECT.

As the prophetic events have been chronologically revealed in this book, leading up to the return of Jesus Christ to earth to set up His eternal kingdom, we have learned more and more about the Lord Jesus. Our view of Christ has become clearer as He disclosed more of Himself and His redemptive plan in this book. The more we encounter Jesus in the pages of the book of Revelation, the more we want to worship Him! This is what happened to the apostle John.

After the apostle John saw the original angel who spoke to him (22:6; cf. 1:1) and then heard the voice of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ (22:7), he mistook the angel for the Lord Jesus. “Now I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.” (Revelation 22:8). John now resumes addressing his readers in the first person, directly, which he had not done since the first chapter (cf. 1:1, 4, 9). 1 John had personally “heard” and seen “these things” that he had recorded. He was an eyewitness. When John “saw” the angel (22:6) and “heard” the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ (22:7), he may have concluded he was worshipping Christ. 2 The apostle’s strong response further attests to the genuineness of the profound revelations he had received. 3

Immediately the angel corrects John: “Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’” (Revelation 22:9). The angel’s words, “See that you do not do that,” remind us thatthe worship of angels is forbidden in God’s Word (cf. Exodus 34:14; Matthew 4:10; Colossians 2:18). No matter how glorious an angel is or exalted a servant of God is – for that matter – they are never to be worshiped.

The angel reminds John (and us), “I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book.” The reason the angel was not to receive worship is because he is a “fellow servant” of John’s; they both serve God. He also said he served the other “prophets” in addition to John, as well as all believers who “keep” or obey “the words of” the “book” of Revelation.

The angel emphatically says to John, “Worship God!” This is the most appropriate response to all that God has revealed in the book of Revelation. Throughout the book of Revelation, we see that God alone is to be worshiped. In God’s heavenly throne room prior to the beginning of His horrific Tribulation judgments on the earth, the angelic and human inhabitants of heaven are so overwhelmed with God’s holiness, power, and eternality (4:8-10), they fall on their faces saying, “You are worthy, 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.” (4:11).  

After the Lamb and Lion, Jesus Christ, takes the scroll containing the seal judgments from the hand of God the Father in heaven’s throne room, the four angelic creatures and redeemed people from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” worshiped Jesus Christ by singing a new song of praise for His work of redemption (5:8-10). Then an innumerable host of “angels around the throne” now join this group ascribing worth to “the Lamb who was slain” Who deserves “power… riches… wisdom… strength… honor… glory… blessing” to be given to Him at the beginning of His reign on earth (5:11-12). Then every creature, saved and unsaved, angelic, and demonic, will join in giving God the Father(“Him who sits on the throne“) and “the Lamb,” Jesus Christ, “the blessing and honor and glory and power” they deserve (5:13). Then we see the four living creatures and twenty-four elders continue their unceasing worship of God in His heavenly throne room (5:14).

During the interlude between the sixth and seventh seal judgments, the apostle John receives a vision of God’s great mercy involving the salvation of Gentiles and Jews from every nation who are taken to heaven (7:9-17). An innumerable group of saved people from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” will be in heaven praising God, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (7:9-10). In addition, 11 All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (7:11-12). Imagine being in God’s throne room with an innumerable group of redeemed people from all over the world together with all of God’s angels falling on our faces because we are so overwhelmed with the goodness and greatness of God!

When the seventh trumpet sounded and the inhabitants of heaven announced the future eternal reign of Christ on earth in the past tense as if it has already taken place (11:15), “the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God.” (11:16).

During the last half of the Tribulation when the beast and false prophet blaspheme the true God and blame Him for all the calamities they are experiencing on the earth, an angel will be sent to nonbelieving earth-dwellers saying, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” (14:7). They are to“fear God and give glory to Him” because the reason for all the worldwide death and disaster during the last half of the Tribulation is that “the hour of His judgment has come” (14:7a). When people on the earth understand why all the calamities are taking place during the Tribulation, they may be more likely to believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life.These earth-dwellers are also to “worship” God because He “made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (14:7b). God is worthy of worship because He is the Creator, and He has the right to judge what He has created.

In Revelation 15, the apostle John has a vision of believers who were martyred during the last half of the Tribulation who are now in God’s throne room in heaven, singing “the song of Moses… and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the nations!’ Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.’” (15:3-4). It does not matter if the songs are old (“song of Moses”) or new (“song of the Lamb”), the purpose of worship is to “glorify” God for His awesome Person (“Lord God Almighty…You alone are holy”) and His “great and marvelous… works.”

Following the destruction of the great harlot (Rome) which caused the people of the world to grieve deeply and be distressed (18:1-24), we see a much different response to Rome’s destruction in heaven (19:1-10). All the inhabitants of heaven are praising God for what He has done to Rome, 1 saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.’” (19:1-2). The “twenty-four elders” representing the church in heaven (cf. 4:1-4) and “the four living creatures” representing angelic beings (cf. 4:6-8), “fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne,” crying out, “Amen! Alleluia!” (19:4). In saying “Amen” (lit., “so be it”), they were giving their wholehearted agreement to the praise already given to God.

This last worshipful scene in heaven (19:1-4) which is contrasted with the mourning that will take place on the earth for Rome’s (“Babylon”) destruction (Revelation 18:9-24), reminds us that God is still worthy of praise no matter what we face in life. All God’s decisions are “true and righteous” (19:2) even when a romance does not blossom as we had hoped, or a job interview does not turn out the way we thought it would. It is important to remember that God is worthy of our admiration and trust even when the effects of sin endanger our families, when pain drives us to our wits’ end, or when misfortune is about to push us over the edge. God gives and He takes away (Job 1:21). He is honored when we return to Him, when we release our worries to Him, and when we rest in Him.

From this survey of the book of Revelationwe learn that in the current heaven, everyone worships Jesus Christ, including all the angels and God’s redeemed people. No one says, “Now we’re going to sing two hymns, followed by announcements, and prayer.” The praising of God is not ritual, it is spontaneous. 4

Alcorn writes, “If someone rescued you and your family from terrible harm, especially at great cost to himself, no one need tell you, ‘Better say thank you.’ On your own, you would shower him with praise. Even more will you sing your Savior’s praises and tell of His life-saving deeds.

“In 2003 when Saddam Hussein’s statues were being torn down in Baghdad, a television commentator said something so striking that I wrote it down. He said, ‘These people are used to coming out in the streets and praising Saddam. If they didn’t, they were punished. He had a policy of compulsory adulation.

“God seeks worshipers (John 4:23). But He has no policy of compulsory adulation. His children’s response to Him is voluntary. Once we see God as He really is, no one will need to beg, threaten, or shame us into praising Him. We will overflow in gratitude and praise. We are created to worship God. There’s no higher pleasure. At times we’ll lose ourselves in praise, doing nothing but worshiping Him. At other times we’ll worship Him when we build a cabinet, paint a picture, cook a meal, talk with an old friend, take a walk, or throw a ball.” 5

People all over the world today “are always striving to celebrate – they just lack ultimate reasons to celebrate (and therefore find lesser reasons). As Christians, we have those reasons – our relationship with Jesus and the promise of heaven.” 6

In the final stage of heaven when King Jesus rules the new heaven and new earth from the New Jerusalem, we read, 3 Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3). In this final stage of heaven, believers will enjoy a new intimacy with God which is impossible in a world where sin and death are still present. God will finally “tabernacle” or dwell among His cleansed and forgiven people, and they will experience perfect fellowship with Him on the new earth.

I want to conclude with Randy Alcorn’s description of worship in this final stage of heaven on the new earth:

“Does this excite you? If it doesn’t, you’re not thinking correctly.

“I find it ironic that many people stereotype life in Heaven as an interminable church service. Apparently, church attendance has become synonymous with boredom. Yet meeting God – when it truly happens – will be far more exhilarating than a great meal, a poker game, hunting, gardening, mountain climbing, or watching the Super Bowl. Even it if were true (it isn’t) that church services must be dull, there will be no church services in Heaven. The church (Christ’s people) will be there. But there will be no temple, and as far as we know, no services (Revelation 21:22).

“Will we always be engaged in worship? Yes and no. If we have a narrow view of worship, the answer is no. But if we have a broad view of worship, the answer is yes. As Cornelius Venema explains, worship in Heaven will be all-encompassing:” 7

“No legitimate activity of life – whether in marriage, family, business, play, friendship, education, politics, etc. – escapes the claims of Christ’s kingship… Certainly those who live and reign with Christ forever will find the diversity and complexity of their worship of God not less, but richer, in the life to come. Every legitimate activity of new creaturely life will be included within the life of worship of God’s people.” 8

Alcorn then says, “Will we always be on our faces at Christ’s feet, worshiping Him? No, because the Scripture says we’ll be doing many other things – living in dwelling places, eating, and drinking, reigning with Christ, 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. We’ll enjoy full and unbroken fellowship with Christ. At times this will crescendo into greater heights of praise as we assemble with the multitudes who are also worshiping Him.

“Worship involves more than singing and prayer. I often worship God while reading a book, riding a bike, or taking a walk. I’m worshiping Him now as I write. Yet too often I’m distracted and fail to acknowledge God along the way. In Heaven, God will always be first in my thinking.” 9

“…Nothing is more fascinating than God. The deeper we probe into His being, the more we want to know. One song puts it this way: ‘As eternity unfolds, the thrill of knowing Him will grow.’” 10

“We’ll never lose our fascination for God as we get to know Him better. The thrill of knowing Him will never subside. The desire to know Him better will motivate everything we do. To imagine that worshiping God could be boring is to impose on Heaven our bad experiences of so-called worship. Satan is determined to make church boring, and when it is, we assume Heaven will be also. But church can be exciting, and worship exhilarating. That’s what it will be in Heaven. We will see God and understand why the angels and other living creatures delight to worship Him.”

“Have you known people who couldn’t be boring if they tried? Some people are just fascinating. It seems I could listen to them forever. But not really. Eventually, I’d feel as if I’d gotten enough. But we can never get enough of God. There’s no end to what He knows, no end to what He can do, no end to who He is. He is mesmerizing to the depths of His being, and those depths will never be exhausted. No wonder those in Heaven always redirect their eyes to Him – they don’t want to miss anything.” 11

J. I. Packer puts it this way: “Hearts on earth may say in the course of a joyful experience, ‘I don’t want this ever to end.’ But invariably it does. The hearts of those in heaven say, ‘I want this to go on forever.’ And it will. There is no better news than this.” 12

Prayer: Gracious God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, we pause right now to thank You for revealing to us future certainties in the book of Revelation which cause us to pause and worship You, our Triune God. Forgive us Lord God for sometimes getting caught up in the moment, like John did, and forgetting the One who deserves our full affection. We can so easily focus on the Gift rather than the Giver when we receive Your incredible blessings. Thank You for rebuking us, like the angel rebuked John, when we take our eyes off You, so we can redirect our focus onto You alone. Regardless of what we face on earth, You are always worthy of our admiration and praise. Your work in creation and redemption increases our sense of Your goodness and grace. Thank You for our eternal salvation. Thank You for the everlasting hope we have in the Lord Jesus Christ who died in our place and rose from the dead so whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life both now and forever. Until we see You face to face, help us to live lives that worship and exalt You for who You are and what You have done. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 252.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1589.

3. Constable, pg. 253.

4. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 285.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid., pg. 283.

7. Ibid., pg. 284.

8. Ibid., cites Cornelius P. Venema, The Promise of the Future (Trowbridge, UK: Banner of Truth, 2000), pg. 478.

9. Alcorn, pg. 284.

10. Ibid., pg. 286 cites John G. Elliot, “The Praise Goes On and On” (Grapevine, Tex.: Galestorm Music, n. d.).

11. Alcorn, pg. 286.

12. Ibid., pg. 287.

Frequently asked questions about eternal rewards

The Bible teaches that during the seven-year Tribulation period (Rev. 6-19), Christians will give an account for all their work for Christ in heaven (Rev. 4:1-4). While Christians will never be judged to determine their eternal destiny since they already have eternal life (John 5:24), they will face another kind of judgment to determine what if any rewards they will receive in Christ’s eternal Kingdom. In Revelation 4:4, 10-11, “the twenty-four elders” represent faithful (overcoming) believers in heaven who possess “crowns” (rewards) received at the Judgment Seat of Christ and will rule with Christ in His coming Kingdom (cf. 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:10b, 2:26-27; 3:5a, 3:11, 21). This Judgment is to motivate Christians to be faithful disciples who obey the Word of God. This is called the Judgment Seat of Christ.

God wants to reward all Christians for their faithfulness to Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ. “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10). Paul was motivated to live a life that pleased the Lord knowing that he would appear before Christ at the Judgment Seat in the future to determine what if any rewards he would receive (Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 4:5; 9:24-27; Revelation 22:12).

Every Christian must appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ to answer to Jesus for the “good” and “bad” (kakos means worthless, wicked, and evil) things he has done since becoming a Christian. Is this scary for you to think about? Certainly! Even the apostle Paul was afraid to face the Judgment Seat of Christ. He writes, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11). Why would Paul fear the Judgment Seat of Christ? He was afraid of the possibility that his life will be revealed as one wasted and spent in selfishness rather than in devotion and obedience to Christ. Selfish living and wasted opportunities will bring more regrets when Jesus evaluates a believer’s life than most of us care to think about. Knowing this should be sufficient motivation for God’s people to aim to please the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24).

Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about eternal rewards and their corresponding answers:

Q: Won’t all believers be equally rewarded according to Matthew 20:1-16?

A: The point of Matthew 20:1-16 is that all Christians will be rewarded equally for faithful service to Christ. What this means is that the person who faithfully served Christ for the one day he was a Christian will be equally rewarded with someone who served Christ faithfully for eighty years. The amount of time you were a Christian before death or the Rapture does not limit the amount of rewards you will receive, assuming that you wholeheartedly served the Lord during that time. Other passages of Scripture indicate that there will be varying degrees of reward in eternity (Matt. 16:27; Luke 19:11-26; I Cor. 3:8; Rev. 22:12) because each believer will be “rewarded according to his works.” This means that rewards will vary according to varying degrees of good works among believers.

Q: Won’t varying degrees of reward promote jealousy among believers in Christ’s eternal kingdom?

A: Jealousy will not exist among believers in the Lord Jesus’ eternal kingdom because sin will not exist there. Glorified believers will never be jealous because they will never sin (I Cor. 15: 42-57; Phil. 3:20-21; I John 3:1-3). Contentment will characterize their lives in eternity. Therefore, they will be satisfied with what the Lord awards them at the Judgment Seat of Christ. For example, will believers be jealous of the Lord Jesus who will rule over the entire world and possess the wealth of the universe? Will we be jealous of King David who will serve as Jesus’s right-hand man as the prince over the nation of Israel (Ezek. 34:23-24)? Will the apostles be jealous of David who will have more authority than them? Will the citizens of Israel be jealous of the Twelve apostles who will rule over the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28-29)? No, because everyone in Christ’s eternal kingdom will be content. However, they may have regret or shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ if they fail to rule with Christ or they rule to a lesser degree because they squandered the opportunities they were given to serve Christ more in their lifetime (cf. Matt. 22:11-13; 25:24-30; 2 Peter 1:5-11; I John 2:28).

Q: How can there be any sense of regret or shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ since the Bible says there will be no more sorrow or pain in heaven (Rev. 21:4)?

A: The Judgment Seat of Christ will most likely take place during the Tribulation (Rev. 4-19) which is over a 1,000 years before the eternal state begins (Rev. 21-22). So the believer’s sense of regret and shame will be temporary and pass away by the start of the New Heaven and Earth (Rev. 21:4).

Q: How long will rewards last?

A: Some Bible students think rewards will be given back to Jesus immediately after they are received. They base this on Revelation 4:10-11. Revelation 4:10-11 does not teach that believers will have to return their rewards back to Christ immediately after receiving them. Notice the word “whenever” in verse 9. The crown-casting in verse 10 is repeated again and again and again. Every time the living creatures say, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 4:8b), the twenty-four elders cast their crowns before the throne. And according to Rev. 4:8b, the living creatures or angels “do not rest day or night…” Casting crowns is an ongoing event throughout eternity. Others insist that our rewards will only last as long as the Millennium, referring to Revelation 20:4-6 where faithful believers will rule for a 1,000 years with Christ. But nothing in this passage suggests that ruling with Christ and other rewards are limited to the Millennium. Instead, the emphasis of the New Testament is that rewards are “imperishable” (I Cor. 9:25) and never fade away (Matt. 6:19-21; I Peter 1:4). If our rewards lasted only a few seconds or even 1,000 years, they would be “perishable.”

The Book of Revelation makes it clear that Christ’s rewards will last beyond the Millennium. Revelation 21 speaks of kings ruling on the earth and honoring Jesus with their rewards (Rev. 21:24, 26). Revelation 22:14 says overcoming Christians will be rewarded with the right to the tree of life and special entrance into the New Jerusalem, both of which will not be on the earth until after the Millennium.

Q: Is it selfish to seek eternal rewards?

A: No, because Jesus commands us to lay up treasure in heaven and not on earth (Matt. 6:19-21). Why? Because wherever our treasure happens to be, that’s where our hearts will be focused. And God wants our hearts to be focused on heaven and that is why we are commanded to invest in heavenly rewards. God knows better than we do what will motivate our hearts for Him. Certainly rewards play a significant role in this. It is actually selfish not to obey God’s command to pursue eternal rewards. Plus, a Christian cannot afford to be selfish in nature, for to do so would disqualify him or her for the eternal reward he or she seeks. Pursuing eternal rewards is one of the strongest motivations for an unselfish and merciful lifestyle (James 2:1-13)!

Q: Do Revelation 2:11 and 3:5 speak of rewards or salvation?

A: The apostle John writes, “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Rev. 2:11) and “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev. 3:5). These two verses use a figure of speech called litotes which makes a positive affirmation by denying its opposite. For example, a mother may say to her children, “If you do your chores, you won’t regret it.” In other words, their reward will be the opposite of regret. Throughout Revelation 2-3, John has been addressing rewards to overcoming Christians. So Jesus is saying that the rewards of faithful Christians will be the opposite of being hurt by the second death or losing an eternal name! It will include wearing special white garments (Rev 3:4-5), ruling with Christ (Rev 2:26-27; 3:21), eating the fruit of the tree of life (Rev 2:7), eating hidden manna (Rev 2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (Rev 2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:14).

This does not mean if Christians do not overcome, they will be hurt by the second death or lose their eternal name. For example, if I said, “All mothers are women,” that does not mean that the opposite is true, that all women are mothers. There are women who are not mothers. Likewise, the opposite of our verse is not true. God will not allow the non-overcoming believer to be hurt by the second death or have his or her name blotted out from the Book of Life! Once a person has everlasting life by believing in Jesus, it can never be taken away or lost (cf. John 6:37-39; 10:28-29; Rom. 8:38-39; 2 Tim. 2:13; 1 John 5:12-13).

By focusing on the Judgment Seat of Christ, Christians will develop a desire to please God rather than people. Because Christ is first in the life of a disciple and could come back at any moment, a disciple should seek to win as many people to Christ as possible and become more like the Judge who will evaluate his or her life at the Judgment Seat.