What Does Revelation Say About God?

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.

The 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.

12 thoughts on “What Does Revelation Say About God?

  1. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these posts. I live in a land where most folks probably interpret Revelation as a road map for the future, so I stick out a bit. Your post on a reading Rev through a modified futurist lens resonated with me most, as that is where I would make camp if held at gunpoint. I can, however, see the appeal of at least a partial preterist reading as well. I must admit also that I’d never really considered the worship of God as a viable them for the book, though in light of the first-century imperial cult it makes great sense. Looking forward to what posts on the subject may come!

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    • I too was surprised to hear that worship was a major theme of the book. However, after reading the first 5 chapters for class, I would have to agree with Grant Osborne. I have found Revelation has many instances where worship is being said through their mouths such as in Revelation 4:8, “Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” But more importantly I think the biggest example we should take about worship in the book of Revelation comes from chapter 3. The church of Laodicea didn’t have the problem with worshipping with their mouth. John’s problem was that they weren’t living for God with their hearts. Revelation 3:15-16 says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” They are appalled with how the people of Laodicea were living their lives. I think that we too are somewhat like the Laodicea church. In my opinion I think that we have gotten to the point where living a luke-warm life is ok. We should take John’s warning to heart and start worshipping God not only with our mouths but with our actions as well.

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  2. You know, one hears stories about the book of Revelation and the end times of the book and all the power and fear that comes from it, I have never really noticed how many times worship has been performed in most of the chapters. I think that it is hard to read Revelation because so many minds are focused on trying to figure out when the rapture comes or what is going to happen specifically when it does, but we are missing out on the things that God wants us to focus on. There are many scriptures and verses that talks about worshiping God (1 Ch 16:29; Ps 95:6) and how we should be praising his name, but never did I make the connection that Revelation would be a book on remembering that we need to worship God in any kind of situation.

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  3. I have to say that when I first think about the book of Revelation, like most people I too think about the end times and the fear and terror of what it all could be. The excitement of what it will be doesn’t exactly hit me in the sense of worship but in the sense of being thankful. I was surprised to read through many passages and finding that there really is a lot of worship in Revelation. There is a lot of worship being professed and said throughout these passages but there are also a lot of passages that make we stop and actually worship such an amazing God. I agree with Erika too though that reading through all of this, it reminds me that God deserves the praise and glory in all situations (Psalm 73:26, Philippians 4:4, Philippians 4:13, 1 Corinthians 10:13). It is hard to read through Revelation without just reading into the end times, and it is hard for others to read it and not immediately read into the end times and like Erika mentioned trying to figure out when they will happen and all the mumbo jumbo about the antichrist, and to just think about how amazing our God is and remembering to fall into worship to him. To read through this now and read how many times there are passages of worship and how many times you read of how great and powerful our God is, why is it so hard to find worship in Revelation?

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  4. I completely agree that the book of Revelation is a book that is supposed to invoke worship of God. Like usual it is always good to look into the context when Revelation was written. The Church was running into persecution and false teachers. The church needed encouragement. I found an interesting statement that might shed some light: “Believers immersed in worship would keep before them “the truth of the Gospel (Macleod p. 200).” With this in mind I see encouragement as the frame of Revelation. This does not downplay the words of Revelation but, it helps me to not get carried away with trying to understand the future through the book. I believe that there are things that help us grow in our understanding of God in Revelation especially with the frame of worship.
    Work Cited:
    Macleod, David J. “The Adoration of God The Creator: An Exposition Of Revelation 4.” Biblitheca Sacra 164.654 (2007): 198-218. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 9 Apr.2012.

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  5. Revelation is a deffinitely a book that I have feared reading, because of its obscureness. It makes sense though to look at it through the lens of worshiping God as opposed to trying to decode the end times. There are things that we can not understand, as they are above us and only for God to know. We need to be ok with not understanding everything. But what we can focus on and somewhat grasp(although not completely) is that God is holy, all powerful, sovereign, and amongst an inifinity of other characteristics,worthy of our worship and praise! “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom”(Psalms 145:3). That is a theme that reoccurs all throughout scripture and should be a strong force in how we live our lives as well…

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  6. I am interested about your comment in class concerning the “Revelation Song”. The writer of that song must have noticed as well the deep and underlying theme of the worship of God. I wonder as well if that passage had anything to do with the passage in Isaiah where he is in the throne room and witnesses the angels singing praise to God non-stop. I think that this type of worship is more like what we will be involved in as we worship along in heaven someday. We sing such songs of worship in church, ones that bring joy and praise, but will this be the same in heaven? It seems more like awe and fear, that bring the people to worship in Revelation and the same being for Isaiah.

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  7. I think Revelations is intimidating to a lot of Christians, and it wouldn’t be the only book or emphasis we place on God as a “destroyer of destroyers”. I’m by no means saying this is what we should do, and while we should acknowledge God’s powers, we tend to overlook them as things to fear rather than look at him as a God to worship. We see a lot of his Old Testament ‘wrath’, and we read about the trials and tribulations, perhaps overlook what messages of worship there are, particularly in the case of Revelations. Yes, it talks about the ‘end times’ and exhibits some scarier parts of God — but all in all, it is a call to worship him.

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  8. Revelation is a scary book to read, it talks a great deal about the end times and it is a lot of information to wrap one’s mind around. But besides talking about the end times Revelation talks a great deal of God, and through that worship becomes a main theme of the book. It is crazy that every chapter has some sort of worship scene to it, but isn’t that what the Christian life is about? To worship God and serve him until Jesus returns, and even then, we never stop worshiping God. God is always worthy of our worship and the book of Revelation affirms that.

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  9. Like many other people mentioned above, Revelation can be a scary book to read. I remember being a little kid and being terrified of the end times and the rapture. But I think that Revelation is viewed as scary because we are often times scared of things that we do not understand. But in the end Revelation is a book filled with passion and expression of God’s love, and ultimately reveals His plan to once and for all restore life.

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  10. The quote that impacted me the most in this article was “The main theological point Revelation makes is that God is worthy of our worship”. The reason he demands to be worshiped is because of his character. I loved what Kayla said when you said “To worship God and serve him until Jesus returns, and even then, we never stop worshiping God”. The resurrection of Christ is really where the eternal power comes from. I do think the book of Revelation can be confusing and intimating for a lot of Christians as a lot of church splitting’s come from disagreements on in the book of Revelation. I guess I didn’t realize how much worship is mentioned in the book of Revelation, I’ve always wondered if we will worship with the same music that we do now in the presence of Jesus.

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