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.

26 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!

    • 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.

  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.

  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?

  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.

  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…

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  11. I have always imagined God as the just Judge throughout the book of Revelation. It never really occurred to me that the much more common vision of God throughout the book of Revelation is that of an object who is worthy and deserving of his people’s worship. But where is this attitude of worship coming from? Could it be a reminder for the seven churches to continue worshiping God with all their souls, despite their imminent persecution? Could it simply be a detail of John’s vision, seeing the heavenly host constantly in worship of their God, who is working toward the good of those who love Him? I think it is true that throughout Revelation, much like the rest of the Bible, God is worshiped for being who He is. God is the creator of all things; he cares very much about those of his creation who are faithful to Him; and in Revelation, He is returning to reconcile creation with Himself, and dwell with His people for all eternity! Surely this whole situation is cause to worship God and eagerly await his return, just as John does.

  12. Revelation was intended to be read by the church living in the shadow of the second coming. Revelation encouraged them to be strong and endure until the end and keep the faith in God and push through. God is worthy of our worship and God is superior to us. Revelation is full of worship and people use song and praise to glorify God. People are created only to worship God and know that God is worthy of all worship. Many hymns and popular songs are drawn from Revelation and use that scripture to glorify Him. God is to be worshiped because of his nature of his character. God holds all power and strength. God is creator and he holds all worthiness. God created all things and because of that he is sovereign. Finally, God is described as a just judge. “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever” Revelation 11:15. God is a God that deserves endless praise from his creation. I was surprised to read that Revelation is where most of the worship hymns come from. That is really interesting and cool to me.

  13. Whether we realize it or not, I think the way worship within the church has developed is centered around this theme throughout Revelation that God is creator and the only thing in the entire universe worthy of praise. Tons of worship songs that were popular in the older church as well as ones being written today use language that refers to God as holy, powerful, and mighty, as well as giving Him our “blessing, honor, praise, glory, power, might, wealth, and wisdom” (5:12-13). The best worship songs are the ones that echo this description of God, and this is also incorporated in our liturgy and other readings that happen in some churches. Even the ACTS format of prayer begins with this: Adoration. This should be the first thing that we offer up to God before confession, thanksgiving, or supplication. It is important for us to acknowledge who God is and glorify Him for the things He has done when we worship (corporately or personally). I think it’s interesting that this theme can be seen pretty clearly in Revelation even when a lot of the other imagery doesn’t make as much sense. This is obviously something important for people to know right now, and the other things that are less clear can be researched and interpreted with the confidence that God knows exactly what it means even if we do not.

  14. One of the most important and visible themes in the book of revelation is the fact that, despite there being many crimes and sins that go unpunished here on earth, eventually everyone will have to give an account when they face God in the end. In Revelation 19:11, we are told of the rider on the white horse, bearing the name of “faithful and true”, who in righteousness judges. This is none other than Jesus Christ. There are many correlating and connecting verses, both in revelation as well as other books of the Bible, that reinforce the promise that each and all will have to give an account for their deeds at the end of their earthly life, as well as the fact that each will be judged righteously and fairly before God the Father. Revelation 20:12 tells us that the dead, both great and small (as in how “important” they were considered to be here on earth, or what their status or rank was”, will be judged according to their deeds, good or evil. Again, Romans 14:12 says each one of us will have to give an account for our life before God one day. 2 Corinthians 5:10 say that all will “appear before the judgment seat”, and that we will “receive what is due”. This judgment, although feared by those who reject God, is something that is to be praised by those who do have their names written in the book of life. No one can “outsmart” or “confuse” God as they may have been able to do so with human authorities. The fact that God will deliver a righteous judgment for all is in and of itself a cause for celebration and worship.

    • Saxon,
      I loved how in your post you got right to the point. I think that the world we live in today thrives on the here and now. We literally have no patience for anything. We are a culture that needs everything to happen instantly and it has been to our own detriment. In your comment you talked in detail about how the end of every man is death and that we will all be required to give an account of our lives and how we have lived. But our culture hates the very thought of having to be accountable to a higher power. We just want to do what makes us happy and when someone tells us we can’t we come unhinged. It is so hard for some people to look at the bigger picture and understand that one day they will in fact die and that there is an afterlife they need to be thinking about. I hear people say all the time that they are just living for the moment, and while that is a good thing we need to be mindful of what happens when we die. We need to be telling people about life after death and how they need to be prepared for it.

  15. P. Long’s blog post on Revelation and how it’s descriptions of God, His throne room, and why He is deserving of worship is extremely interesting. P. Long brings to attention to the fact the John wrote the book of Revelation during a time period in which cult-worship was very common and part of the culture. The Roman empire is well known for its worship of emperors and I had not previously made the connection that John makes a point to show worship to God in his writings [possibly] because of this cultural fact.

    P. Long continues expanding upon the aspect of God and His worthiness of being worshiped because of God alone being creator. In writing on John’s descriptions of God’s throne room in Revelation 4, Stuckenbruck writes that John uses more colorful visions of God’s throne and God’s heavenly attendants (Pg. 55). This adds further to the aspect that God, as creator, has beyond imaginable beauty surrounding Him. Merely God being the ultimate creator is what makes Him worthy but than factor in all His love, mercy, grace, patience, and justice towards us, He is undoubtly worthy of worship.

  16. “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!” -P.Long
    I love this quote and it is so true. Knowing this about the book of revelation and actually remembering this will hopefully finally bring this book back into “normal reading habits” of the bible. I think so often believers are afraid to read and study or even preach on the book of revelation. It is a confusing and often times frustrating book to read. But knowing that there are principles to pull out and what they say about God will help us feel a little bit more confident in studying this book. Knowing that this book speaks of a God that is worthy to be worshipped should compel us to read and study this book!

  17. Reading this article was very eye opening for me. I had always just gone along with the popular belief that Revelation is solely about the end times and the judgement of the world. However, if you really read the book carefully and dig deep into what it is speaking to you find a much different theme altogether. As said in this article, the book of Revelation is mainly about the proper worship of God and how he alone is the only one who is really worthy of anyone’s praise. I think that this is so different from what most people believe about Revelation. Throughout history there have been so many empires and people who have demanded the worship of others. But all of them were frauds. None of them were even close to being deserving of any kind of worship. It is a sobering thought indeed to think about how we worship so many things in our lives that are unspeakably undeserving of our praise. I know that for myself I really struggle with worshipping things like sports and music. If you asked me if I worshipped anything besides God I would probably laugh and say no. But when I look at my life I am saddened to see that anything I put in the place of God in my life is a form of worship. God alone is worthy of my worship. And my worship belongs to him alone.

  18. God is so worthy of our praise and deserves everything we have. Our time, praise, money, and many other things. He is so holy and the only thing we need. He deserves our praises and we should always worship him. The book of Revelation talks about God so much especially about how worthy he is of everything. The book of Revelation is about worship too as well. Many of the angels’ praise God for all he has done, and the beasts and elders join in too. “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant and praise is becoming” (Psalm 147:1). God is also bringing judgement down on earth with the seven seals, bowls, and trumpets with the angels. He said he will bring chaos and destruction on the earth when Jesus comes back and brings the people to his kingdom. God releases his wrath on the earth, but only just a little. This shows how all-powerful he is because he contains most of his wrath and even just that little bit of destruction, he releases is a lot for us. We should worship his judgment for he is fair and just and merciful. “For the LORD your God is a merciful God” (Deuteronomy 4:31).

  19. Again we discuss the topic of Revelation being a book that focuses a lot on the worship and praise of God and not so much on the coming events. Although it does talk a lot about the tribulation, the rapture, and other end times events, it is not supposed to be a road map for us to follow in order to know when everything will occur, because that is impossible. This book is to show how great and deserving God is of our praise and it shows us how we should be living before he does return. In pretty much every chapter of Revelation, there are scenes of praise, singing, worship, gatherings around the throne of God, etc. We see groups of people coming together in honor of our one true God and worships Him because he deserves it. He is our just judge, mighty God, Lord of Lords, and the one who will come again to save us and bring us home to live forever with him. This book should not be read to discourage us or be afraid of the end times, but it should encourage us and motivate us to continue on until the very end. We need to thrive and work hard to witness to people who don’t know Christ as well as grow in our personal walk with God. The letters and the book as a whole was meant to encourage the churches who were being persecuted and needed motivation to continue on, so it is the same for us.

  20. Reading through Revelation we notice how this book describes God. In a sense it’s a little bit scary in the ways that God is being described but I agree with what P. Long says that this book should show how we are to be amazed by God and the things that he can do. We know just how powerful he is and all the things he can do but this book brings to light God in a whole new way. With this being said it might be different in the ways that we view and think of God, but this should open our minds more and to think more about the image of God and just how powerful he is. I think that this article did a great job of opening up my thinking of how I should view and think of God moving forward in my life. we should view God as awesome.

  21. After reading through the book of Revelation, there are many passages that talk about God’s character. The book also mentions (often) different ways that we can and should be worshiping God. I agree with the primary post, that worshiping the Lord is one of, if not the most prevalent theme in the book. Another important area of the book is talking about why God deserves our praise. I think the best reason of course, is that he is the creator of all things. He provides life, hope, health, happiness, and love. So of course we should be praising and worshiping him. He deserves all of the praise that we could possible give him. Your post gives great insight into specific passages of the book where these themes are revealed.
    “the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
    Worthy are you, 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” (Rev 4:10-11) This passage gives us one of the many examples of both giving a reason for us to worship God, and an example of it.

  22. If there is one thing that I have been completely reminded of during the Daniel & Revelation class, it is as you mentioned: Revelation is for the people of today. It is not necessarily a book for the future–though it is about the future–it is a book for today. It is to be an encouragement for the believers of all ages, leading up to the fulfillment of the book. It 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” (P. Long).
    Revelation presents God as the victorious, all-powerful, worthy God that we know He is. As you stated, worship is a major theme of Revelation. God is presented as the One who is always worthy of worship: “it turns out that nearly every chapter of the book has some sort of a worship scene” (P. Long). There are many ways that God is seen as receiving worship; there are many ways that we can give it. As you stated, one of the main ways we worship is because of His worthiness. There are also many other ways, such as: “the nature of his character…thrice-holy…all power and strength” (P. Long). There are so many more ways listed in Revelation, it is almost overwhelming.
    Not only is God seen as receiving worship; unfortunately, the beasts have led some astray into the worship of them (whether that is a person, or an empire). The beasts lead the people into a false worship–a worship that is untrue, and undue. That is the tactic of the beasts, throughout Revelation. They take anything good–anything wholesome, pure, holy–and make it a mockery.
    The Enemy always takes good, godly things and twists them. Instead of focusing on the negatives, we can simply focus on the pure worship of the Lord God.
    Even though Revelation is a bit of a weird read, as you stated so well: “Rather than fearing the strangeness of the book, we ought to worship the awesomeness of our God!” (P. Long) I think that is a great closing statement for the book of Revelation.

  23. This is a great insight into understanding the text! The first things that came to mind are the improper use of the Revelation texts by the stereotypical Christian Facebook conspiracy theorists in an attempt to get me on board with their pyramid schemes. I wonder what kind of interpretation would come from passages that people use to strike fear if we read them in light of needing to worship God. Instead of viewing the right that God has to judge us as impending doom, we ought to see that as a sign of his righteousness and glorified position. So in light of all of the amazing, fanciful, and unbelievable imagery that can be found, we can know that it all speaks to his amazing nature as a creator and sustainer.

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