The Book of Revelation shows that the true worship that is offered by the angels and heavenly creatures is totally directed toward God, thanking Him, praising Him, acknowledging the attributes of His character and nature. For example, in chapter 4 the living creatures and twenty four elders worship, saying, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11). Any mention of the creature who has received benefit is secondary, with the primary focus on the One who saved them—“You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9,10). But even as they mention the exalted role God has prepared for them (kings and priests!), their the focus quickly shifts back to God—“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ Worship in heaven is a continual anthem of praise.

Some of the attributes of God that are themes of praise in the Book of Revelation are His love, holiness, worthiness, power, creativity, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, might, eternal existence, justice, truth, righteousness, salvation, omnipotence, sovereignty, tenderness, purity, brightness, and grace. These attributes should not be lists to rattle off in prayer; instead, each is a theme of contemplation and praise.

In general, Christians are much more proficient at offering confession, thanksgiving and petition than at offering praise, yet praise is the type of worship that is being offered continually in Heaven![1] Satan, “the ruler of this world,” makes every effort to distract us from praising our Creator so that he can continue to sit on the throne of our hearts and affections.[2] But through praise God's people evict the usurper so that God can sit on His rightful throne—“You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel” (Psalms 22:3).[3]

When we come to God in worship, we expect to receive a blessing. But one of the most astounding teachings of the book of Psalms (in numerous verses) is that when we praise God we are actually a blessing to Him! For example, the psalmist begins Psalm 104 with the words, “Bless the Lord, O my Soul!” Then he goes on to praise the wonderful things about the Lord: His creation, His love and care of His creatures, His plan to bring an end to sin, ending again with “Bless the Lord, O my soul! Praise the Lord!” When we consider that most of what God gets from humanity is insults, misrepresentations, blame for bad situations and requests for favors, it is no wonder that it is a blessing for God to hear someone say something nice about Him. And this is what true worship is all about: acknowledging the truth about God’s goodness and love.

Jesus said, “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23,24). Those who are not filled with the Holy Spirit cannot really worship God. They may go through the motions, and with the right combinations of music, prayers and preaching there may be a level of emotional experience. However, without the Holy Spirit there will not be a true encounter with God.[4]

Jesus said we must worship in both "Spirit and truth," and the truth about God is expressed in doctrines. Today many Christians say that they do not want to talk about doctrine, just about Jesus. But the question is, what Jesus? There are plenty of evil spirits that seek worship for themselves in the name of Jesus. Doctrine is simply a statement of what we believe about God, and without it each person has his own private version of who God is and what He is like. The trinity, for example, is a doctrine that says that Jesus really is God, not just a good man who lived two thousand years ago. Many false doctrines give such a negative picture of God that it is nearly impossible to worship Him in love and adoration. For example, the teaching that God will torment forever those who do not please Him makes it very difficult to love Him. It is no wonder that millions of Christians prefer to worship the mother of Christ, hoping that she will be more sympathetic and will be able to entreat mercy from her Son, who will in turn intercede with the Father. The more we understand the “truth as it is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:21), the more we will be able to break through the cloud of religiosity and enter the presence of God.

Through worship our hearts can be lifted up from the earth and its problems to the heavenly realm. This is the meaning of the invitation, “Come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). One author[5] has given the example of a small child with his father in a crowded elevator. From his perspective the world consists of knees, purses and backsides, and he is getting bumped, squished and stepped on. But when he looks up and cries, “Daddy, lift me up,” he opens the way for a new perspective. This is what worship does— through songs and prayers of thanksgiving and praise we can enter emotionally and by faith into the heavenly realms before the throne of God, and from that perspective we can see that our earthly concerns are not as significant as they seemed. This is the experience of those “who have the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name” who are seen “standing on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, 'Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Your ways King of saints. Who will not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You only are holy; for all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:1,2).

Continue to next section: 15:5 THE TABERNACLE OF THE TESTIMONY

[1] With thanksgiving we enter the door of the heavenly sanctuary, but it is praise that brings us into His presence-- “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4).

[2] John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11.

[3] God places such a high value on human free will that He only sits on the throne of the Church and the individual by invitation. This characteristic of God was illustrated by David, the “man after [God’s] own heart.” Although anointed king of Israel, he refused to try to oust King Saul. Even after his death did not take the throne until Israel invited him (2 Samuel 5:1-5). Later, when his son Absalom claimed the throne, David simply left town and did not return until the people asked him to (2 Samuel 19:9-14).

[4] Chapter 3:22 elaborates on how to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

[5] Tommy Tenney, God’s Eye View, (Nashville, TN, Thomas Nelson) 2002.