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Revelation 5:11 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:57 mins 11 secs

Biblical Worship: Fact or Feeling; Rev. 5:11

Worship isn't a simple doctrine because worship assumes conclusions from various areas of theology. For example, it assumes certain things about the nature and character of God and that is the area of theology proper. It assumes certain things about the nature of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ—Christology. It assumes certain things about the role of the Holy Spirit in this age—pneumatology. It assumes certain things about the nature of man in terms of whether he is totally depraved or not, whether he is constitutionally spiritually dead or whether he is just spiritually weak. And this affects your reasons for why music has developed the way it has, because in the modern evangelical church we too often have an anaemic view of man, an anaemic view of God, and an anaemic view of the cross. All of this affects what has happened in the way church is done on Sunday morning throughout the United States, and we have also exported this through our missionaries so that it is not just a fact of what happens here.

In terms of doctrine Christian music is a major battlefield in Christianity today because it is through music that a lot of doctrine is communicated or taught. More people get their doctrine from what they sing than from what they hear from the pulpit, especially when we recognise how light the teaching is from most pulpits. We see why the content of words in contemporary Christian music in many songs is so light, so weak and so spiritually superficial, because they really haven't been taught enough of the Word to really reflect with any kind of profound thinking on the Word. All of these facets and aspects come together but that is all part of what goes on in worship. So underlying this thinking about singing is the doctrine of worship.

Revelation 5:11, 12 NASB "Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.'"

The author here is alluding to the same imagery that we find in Daniel chapter 7:10 where there is a reference to an innumerable heavenly host surrounding the throne of the Ancient of Days. This apparently is not something that happens all the time in heaven but is one that occurs frequently in heaven. The Greek word for "saying" in v.12 is lego [legw] which is the standard word for saying. It is not the word for singing which is found in v. 9, "And they sang a new song." However, lego is a broad word that can include singing, and when we compare the content of verses 12 and13 with the content of verse 9, if we compare the content of verses 8 & 11 of chapter four with verse 9, we see that the thrust of all of these passages is on singing, they are not simply reciting or chanting these words. Furthermore there is a mention of musical instruments in the passage which suggests that they are singing hymns before the Lord.

They are singing here to the Lamb, not the one of the throne. "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive," and there is an article here in the Greek before the first noun, none of the other nouns have an article, and what this tells us is that the writer is viewing the seven attributes as parts of one composite whole. He is not looking at one distinct attribute but is viewing them as all part of the one whole referring to the Lamb. "…power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." It says that He is worthy to receive these, it is not that He is receiving them at this time for the second person of the Trinity has always possessed these, it is here that He is receiving adoration and worship for His possession of these qualities. Why does John add the conjunction "and" between every noun? Because by adding the "and" it forces us to slow down and to think about each of these attributes. That is part of what we should be doing when we sing hymns: thinking about the words. Words are written in order to guide and direct our thinking towards the person and the work of God the Father or the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The first of these is the word dunamis [dunamij] which refers to ability, power, might, and is a reference to the omnipotence of God, the ability to do exactly what He would like to do. It is similar to the fourth attribute mentioned here, might or strength, the Greek word ischus [i)sxuj]; the difference is that dunamis addresses Christ's inherent power, His inherent omnipotence, as part of His attributes; ischus focuses on the use of His omnipotence. We find these words in conjunction with several of these other attributes that we find here in Revelation 5:12 in the LXX translation of 1 Chronicles 29:11, 12 which is addressed to Yahweh: NASB "Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor {come} from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone."

The second word "riches" is the Greek word ploutos [ploutoj]. It means richness or wealth, the abundance of good. When this is applied to the Lord Jesus Christ it includes not only spiritual wealth but all wealth as befitting a sufficient God, that His riches are in such expanse that there is enough for all for any and every situation and circumstance. It relates to God's power, that it is so vast and extensive that there is no problem of difficulty that we face in life that is too great for the power of God. He is rich in His provision of grace. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:19 NASB "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." It is that sufficiency of God's power and provision that supplies us in every situation.

Third, He is wise; He possesses wisdom. This is the Greek word sophia [sofia], but even though it is a Greek word it doesn't have as its primary meaning the nuance of wisdom that is Greek in origin but is the nuance of wisdom that is Hebrew in origin. Greek wisdom often has to do with abstract knowledge that is related to philosophy and logic. Greek thought is not the frame of reference for the writers of Scripture, it was Mosaic thought that was the frame of reference for the writers of Scripture. So they were thinking in terms of Hebrew thought. The Hebrew word was chokmah which has to do with skill of doing something. That is what we see here. It is a skilfulness that is related to who He is. It emphasises the skill of God in devising the divine plan in His conscious and purposeful creation of the universe and His skill of guiding it towards its destiny, the skill of His wisdom which relates not just to the omniscience that lies behind that but the skilful application of that omniscience to all that is.

Fourth, we have "strength," ischus, which relates to the application of omnipotence; that He has the ability to apply His power and we can't divorce that from either a sufficient way in terms of riches or in a skilful or wise way in terms of sophia.

Then the fifth is time [timh] which is the Greek word for honour or respect. This is a vital part of worship. Once of the facets of worship in the Old Testament is the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is not just having a simple respect for God but it is an awe-inspired respect for God, a recognition that failure to apply God's Word results in horrendous consequences of divine discipline and negative circumstances. So there is a sense in which we have a very serious fear about God and the obedience to His Word. That is also an aspect of worship in the Old Testament, that we fear the Lord, we have great respect for Him.

The sixth attribute is glory. Timh, when it is used in conjunction with doxa [doca] in the Scriptures is a part of that doxa, the honour that we have for Him is part of Hid glory. doxa refers to His divine and heavenly radiance. It is related to the Old Testament word which means to be weighty or heavy. The idea is that God ism weighty, that this is serious matter which is profound material, that the person of God is not to be taken lightly but that the study of God's Word is the weightiest of all things. So the word for glory has at its core a semantic meaning, the idea of being very serious, very heavy, that this reflects His splendour, His majesty and His authority. It is all part of the fact that He is unique as the creator God of the universe.

The seventh and last attribute mentioned that is related to the Lord Jesus Christ is blessing, eulogia [e)ulogia]. This is where we get our English word "eulogy" which is not the same thing and has come to mean something quite different from its Greek root. It has to do with a commendation of blessing. We think of a eulogy as something that is said at a funeral or memorial service where we talk about the good things that a person has done in their life, and that has some etymological relationship but in Scripture eulogia has to do with a commendation, a blessing, and is often used for praise. We are not blessing Jesus, we are praising Him, and this would be a better translation.

He is worthy because of who he is as the eternal second person of the Trinity and He is worthy because of what He did as the Lamb. When we see this term Lamb, which is John's favourite term for referring to the Lord Jesus Christ in the book of Revelation it always speaks of His sacrificial work on the cross. When we read an emphasis on the Lamb what is always part of that meaning is that He is the one who is the sacrifice for our sins. The basic problem that man has is sin: man is born spiritually dead, he is separated from God. God is the one who created man and only when man is in right relationship with God can man have real happiness, when he understands the real meaning and purpose of his life, and that begins only if there is new life in place of spiritual death. The term the Bible uses to refer to that is regeneration, and that takes place when a person puts their faith in Jesus Christ. Because He is the Lamb who was slain he is worthy to be adored, to be worshipped, to be honoured because of who He is as summarised in these seven attributes. So as we see in the imagery of Revelation chapter five, John, standing there in the future [future to us] sees exactly what will take place at this point of time just prior to the beginning of the Tribulation.

It is at the point where the Lamb takes the scroll that those who surround the throne break forth singing praise to the Lamb for what He has done. All of the angels join in and begin to sing, verse 12, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." Then in verse 13 every created thing in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea, "I heard saying, 'To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, {be} blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.'"

There are a couple of things we should note about this verse. First, the timing. It is before the opening of the first seal when there are still mostly unbelievers on the earth. When we see "on the earth and under the earth and in the sea" it is not talking about fallen man or fallen angels or any of the creatures who have rejected Christ. This is known as a figure of speech called a merism, a term that uses two extremes in order to talk about the whole or the entirety of something. For example, Psalm one talks about meditating on the Law of the Lord "day and night." The two opposites, day and night, indicate extremities and it is talking about the fact that man should continuously be thinking within the framework of divine viewpoint and what the Word of God teaches. So when there is a statement like this the writer is emphasising that this involves all of the holy angels, the elect angels, all of the Old Testament saints who haven't received resurrected bodies yet, and all of the raptured and rewarded church age believers. So this is a chorus including all of God's creatures, those who are in obedience to Him, men and angels. They sing to Him sho sits on the throne, the title for the Father. Only in Revelation is the Father on the throne; the Son is never on the throne. It is the Father's throne and the Son doesn't receive His throne until the second coming when he receives the throne of David.

The word "dominion" here is a reference to what will come about as a result of opening the scrolls. The Son will come to establish His kingdom on the earth and that will culminate after the thousand-year rule and reign in the new heavens and the new earth when the Father, Son and Holy Spirit take up their domain upon the earth and sin is no more. So it anticipates what God will do.

Revelation 5:14 NASB "And the four living creatures kept saying, 'Amen.' And the elders fell down and worshiped." There are two different words there that are significant. The word to fall down is the Greek word pipto [piptw] which can mean to fall, to stumble, to trip, but in context when we are involved with worship or obeisance to a monarch it simply means to prostrate one's self. The second word translated "worship" is the standard word that we find for worship in the New Testament, and that is proskuneo [proskunew] which means to bow down, to worship, to show respect, or to prostrate one's self before an authority. That is part of what worship involves. It is when we prostrate ourselves mentally before the authority of God, when we recognise that He is the absolute authority in our lives and we subordinate and submit our thinking to Him. That is the core idea that we find in worship: submission to the authority of God.

Part of the problem that we all run into as believers is that when we first become saved we have loaded up in our minds all kinds of ideas. Some of these ideas are consistent with Scripture, perhaps; some may be far away from Scripture. The Bible says a whole lot of things that we were taught were kind of screwy, and some are hard for us to understand and hard to swallow. They are not comfortable because of whatever our background or training was, and the whole process that we need to understand for the spiritual life is the process of learning to exchange the human viewpoint concepts that we developed before we were saved, and sometimes after we were saved, for those which the Bible says in His Word. Sometimes we won't understand these things the first time we hear them, it is a process of growth. Ultimate where the personal worship begins is in that process of being willing to submit our thinking to the thinking of God. It is because God said it that it is true. We might not always understand it or comprehend the whys and the wherefores, the mechanics and complexities of it, but we know that if it is in the Word of God, that God has said it and therefore it is true, even though our finite little minds may not be able to pull it all together yet. Furthermore, no matter who we are we have all been culturally conditioned in certain ways and so there are always things that come out of our own world context that are comfortable to us and things in the Word of God that may not really seem all that comfortable to us, but that is part of the process of growing. This is what we have to understand when we get into the doctrine of worship.

The churches involved in contemporary worship seem to be growing. They have a lot more young people there and they are growing. What's wrong with numbers? What's wrong with influencing a lot of people? The young people are comfortable, they really like it. What could be wrong with results? That's pragmatism; that's worldliness. The end doesn't justify the means. The issue is what conforms to biblical truth and what kind of singing or worship best fits with the expositional teaching of God's Word.

Words for understanding the basic meaning of worship:

1.  The Hebrew word abad, the basic word that generally means to work, to be worked or to serve, to be in servitude. It is basically a word that has to do with doing something. Deuteronomy 6:13. It has to do with what we call Christian service, serving the Lord.

2.  The word shachah means to fall prostrate, sometimes to be despondent. It has the idea of subordinating one's self to someone in authority. Genesis 22:5, the idea of subordination, and 24:26 the idea of gratitude. In 24:48 it has the idea of praise.

3.  The Greek has proskuneo, the idea of respect for authority; secondly, latreia, which has the idea of what we find in Romans 12:1 of serving God.

Worship is to submit or subordinate my opinions, preferences, thoughts, philosophy of life, finances, politics, emotions, relationships, attitudes, actions, time, priorities to the authority of God's Word. Everything that we do and are has to com into submission to what God has said in His Word. This means that we have to teach the whole counsel of God. God's Word doesn't just address how you can get saved or how you can get eternal life, and how you can pray or how you can have a spiritual life, and how you can solve the problems in your life. That is part of it, but the Bible addresses the entirety of God's creation, giving us a framework whereby can then interact with the world, the creation as God has made it, and develop our thinking in all of these areas within a biblical or divine viewpoint framework. That is part of making our life a life of worship to God. But that is personal worship, and we also recognise the aspects of corporate worship. 

Illustrations