Discussion Guide for July 2, 2017
“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.” – John Piper1
This quote by John Piper perfectly frames the theological implications of Revelation 4 & 5.
One of the really cool things about Venture’s student ministry is the number of activities where we give teenagers time to be outdoors and explore creation. Many would not normally take time to explore if it weren’t for our Student Ministry doing it as a group. Almost every Christian I know who spends time outdoors ends up remarking about how the majesty of God is displayed in some of the things he sees. I am often concerned that young people today may be missing out on an awe-inspiring vision of God because they tend to experience life through a small screen instead of in-person.
While nature only fuzzily reflects something of the nature and character of its creator, John found himself standing in the heavenly throne-room of the king of the universe. The experience of John that picks up again in Revelation 4 was not experienced through a screen. It was real, it was live, and it was in-person.
One comparison we can make to John’s vision in Revelation 4 & 5 might be to the Wizard of Oz when the curtain gets pulled back to reveal what is going on behind the scenes. John has been dealing with the situation on the ground with seven churches in Asia Minor, but now he gets to see what is going on behind the scenes on the throne of heaven. The major difference with the Wizard of Oz is that the reality of the wizard is sorely disappointing to what we would have expected. The reality of God’s heavenly throne is infinitely more enthralling and grand than what we could possibly imagine on earth.
We can assume that John was in sensory overload, similar to the throne scenes in Isaiah 6, Daniel 7, and Ezekiel 1. There are also OT allusions to the flashes of lightning and rumblings of thunder in v. 5 and the rainbow of v. 3. The lightning and thunder remind the hearer of the terror that Israel experienced at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19:16-19 and the rainbow reminds the hearer of the faithfulness of God to fulfill his promise in Genesis 9:13-17. The jasper and carnelian are reflective of the majesty of God displayed in the priestly breastplate in Exodus 28:17-18. There is no possible way to catch a straightforward vision of the glory of God the creator and continue to live life unchanged from the way you were living life before.
One of the principle elements of traditional worship is known as doxology. Doxology simply means a proclamation of God’s glory. You may know a doxology chorus that has been passed down to us over at least a millennium.
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise him above ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”
Compare this to the two praise choruses sung by the creatures and the elders.
“Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God, the Almighty
who was, who is, and who is coming.”
“Our Lord and God, you are worthy to receive glory and honor and power,
because you have created all things, and because of your will they exist and were created.”
We may not use these precise choruses, but every week we gather as a church primarily to accomplish the important task of doxology. Wherever Christianity and the church seem shallow and deficient, the root cause is that our understanding of the glory of God is shallow and deficient. The best remedy to encourage the saints or call them to repentance is a picture of the enthroned Creator.
- What are the common elements of doxology?
- How do each of the things that John sees in Revelation 4:2-8 symbolize the glory and majesty of God? (You may want to refer to some of Austin’s sermon notes.)
- Why is doxology central to worship?
- Have you experienced worship where you could appreciate the throne of God? What was that like? Did it make a lasting impact on your life?
- What prevents you from experiencing the majesty and glory of God in your everyday life?
- How can we make the glory of God more central to our daily and weekly times of worship?
- John Piper, “Let the Nations be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions.” (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 17.