Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for 9.24.11
I’ve noticed that when we (meaning the Christians who I know) talk about our first day in Heaven, we usually describe an experience akin to a family reunion – looking for and finding family members and old friends, meeting our Bible heroes and peppering them with questions, meeting our guardian angels and getting the behind-the-scenes versions of our lives. Don’t misunderstand, that all sounds amazing, and I believe we will get to do all of those things; I’m just not sure any of those things will be our priority.
It just occurred to me that instead of the ecstatically, joyful and noisy scene I just described, our first day in Heaven might be more of a take-our-breath-away kind of experience.
The group, MercyMe, sings a song that asks many of the same questions that I find myself asking when I try to picture my first meeting with Jesus.
“I can only imagine / What it will be like / When I walk / By your side / I can only imagine / What my eyes will see /When your face / Is before me / I can only imagine / … / Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel / Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still / Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall / Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all / I can only imagine / … / When that day comes / When I find myself / Standing in the Son / I can only imagine / When all I will do / Is forever / Forever worship You / I can only imagine / …”
I’m really curious about what our worship will look like in Heaven. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a hard time picturing it with my limited human experience. Will we have structured worship services with opening prayer, special music, scripture reading, and then Jesus will speak? Or will it be more of a concert setting: Jesus steps out and the crowd goes wild? Will we follow Him around like the people did when He was here on earth – wait outside His door all night so we can be the first in line in the morning?
None of those really seem right, do they? They’re all very earthly styles of worship.
What will worship in Heaven look like? The book of Revelation actually gives us several examples. Let’s have a look.
“Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.’
“Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” Revelation 4:8-11
“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’ Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!’ The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 5:8-14
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!’” Revelation 7:9-12
“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 of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.’
“And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.’ Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.” Revelation 11:15-19
Anybody else see a pattern emerging here? There is nothing boring, passive or insipid about the worship described here. Nobody here is sitting in the balcony texting his (or her) friends. Nobody is dozing off or wondering what’s for lunch. The worshipers here have no doubts about who God is and what He has done: He is the Creator, the Messiah, the Lamb, the Redeemer. He is the Eternal Commander who has won the battle between good and evil. No being in the entire universe will ever question His God-ness or goodness ever again.
“Worship is bending low before our Maker, recognizing and acknowledging His holiness and our creatureliness. It is submitting to His sovereignty, responding to His majestic presence.”
Yeah, I’ll “meet you in Heaven, and we’ll hold hands” and sing songs together, … eventually. But at first I’m not sure we’ll even know that anyone else is there. We’re only going to know that our Savior and Redeemer is there and He is going to be the only Person we can see. “Pray that we all will be there.”