Despite the fact the book has a great deal to say about coming events, Revelation is not a roadmap of the future. It is, rather, an exhortation for today. It is possible that people living in the tribulation will pick up the book of Revelation and see the things spoken of being fulfilled in their lives, but the people living at that time will be under a delusion, (2 Thess 2:11) and may not have the spiritual insight to believe what the book teaches. Revelation was intended to be read by the church living in the shadow of the Second Coming bearing up under persecution for their belief in Jesus, in order to encourage them to be strong and endure until the end.

Van Eyck Worship LambThe main theological point Revelation makes is that God is worthy of our worship. There are several scenes of heavenly worship around the throne of God (Rev 5:13, 7:11-12). As Grant Osborne notes, “The primary theme is proper worship of God” (Revelation, 12). When I read that I thought that worship could not possibly be a major theme of the book, but when I reflected on the contents of each chapter, it turns out that nearly every chapter of the book has some sort of a worship scene, song of praise, or doxology. The witnesses to the judgments described by the book respond in praise to God as the only thing in all of creation which is in fact worthy of worship.  It might be helpful to think about how many classic hymns and popular worship songs are drawn from Revelation, especially chapters 4-5.

This theme of worship has to be taken in the context of the Imperial Cult which declared that Rome was worthy of worship and that the Emperor ought to be honored as a God. But the Empire is not worthy of worship, the second beast in Revelation 13 must coerce people to worship the image of the first. The metaphor of Rome as a drunken whore evokes negative images of the honors given to the empire. John boldly declares that it is not the Empire nor the Emperor who is the almighty savior of the world, but the ‘one who sits on the throne of heaven.”

In Revelation, God is worthy to be worshiped because of the nature of his character. He is the one who is thrice-holy (4:8), he is the only being in all of creation that has all power and strength (4:10). In fact, the reason for God’s worthiness is that he is the creator (4:11, 10:6) It is evident that since God is the creator of all things, he is sovereign over them and can use them in what ever way he chooses. In Rev 10:6 even the elements of nature declare to be creator.

God is also described as a just judge who will avenge the wrongs done to his people. This is a dominant theme in the book (6:10, 16:5, 18:20, 19:11, 20:4, 20:12), but is also part of God’s worthiness to be worshiped. When the seventh trumpet sounds in Rev 11:15, the 24 elders fall on their faces and worship God because he is the Almighty God who has begun to reign (11:17). The worship is based on the judgment of the nations: God is the destroyer of the destroyers of the earth! Chapter 11 ends with a theophany reminiscent of Mount Sinai.

I think that this perspective on Revelation as a book of worship will curb some of the more enthusiastic interpretations of the book.  It also brings the book back to the church as a worship texts.  Rather than fearing the strangeness of the book, we ought to worship the awesomeness of our God!

Bibliography:  Eugene Boring, “The Theology of Revelation, “‘The Lord Our God the Almighty Reigns,’” Int 40 (1986): 257-69.