Worship for the Twenty-First Century: The Way Forward, Part 2

(Note: You can read the first installment in this series here.)

Not only does authentic worship acknowledge God’s sovereignty, but authentic worship will also affirm a biblical Christology. In other words, authentic worship will not jus be Theo-centric. We are not Jewish rabbis. We are not merely Hebrew worshippers. We are Christians. And therefore, authentic Theo-centric worship must always be authentic Christo-centric worship as well. And, that is what you find when you study the book of Revelation. We see that this One who is the Christ, this One who is the Messiah, is said to be in verse 5 a promised King, and is said to be in verses 6 and 7 the powerful Lamb. What can you do in his presence but fall to your knees in adoration and worship? Look at verse 5. “But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep.'” It is an imperative with a negative. In essence it says “Stop weeping.” Why? The plan seems to be on hold. God’s sovereign outworking of history seems to be thwarted. It is not going to come to fruition. One of the elders (I believe they represent the redeemed) says to him “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. The Root of David has prevailed.” He has conquered, He has overcome, He has triumphed, and He can open the scroll and its seven seals.

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah, a Messianic title going back to Genesis 49:9-10, reminds us that Messiah would come from Judah, and He will be a king. We are taught in Deuteronomy 18:15 that He will be a prophet greater than Moses. We are taught in 2 Samuel 7 that He will be a Son of David who will reign over a kingdom forever. And then you come to Isaiah and in chapter 7 we are informed that He will be virgin-born. We are told in chapter 9 that He is the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. We are informed in Isaiah 53 that he is the Suffering Servant of the Lord, but also, He is said in chapter 11 to be the Root of David. That is interesting. He comes from David. How then, can He be also the root or source of David? I agree with those commentators who say, though it is implicit, you have here both a declaration of His deity and also the anticipation of His humanity. He both precedes David and He comes from David. The Bible says He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. The Bible says He is the root of David, the very source, of all Messianic blessing. He has prevailed, and he can open the scroll, and He can lose its seals. Yes, He is the promised King, but things are even more wonderful. He is also the “powerful,” and I choose that word purposefully. He is the powerful, Warrior-Lamb. Look at verse 6 as John builds the drama. John begins to add words to his dialog, trying to move us to a crescendo as we focus upon the one that is described in verse 5 as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Who would not want to worship a King of this magnitude; a King of this promise! Verse 6 moves the drama forward. “I looked and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, in the midst of the elders, stood a lamb as thought it had been slain.” This is very interesting. The word “lamb” occurs 29 times in the book of the Revelation. This particular form of the word “lamb” only occurs one other time outside of Revelation, and that is in John 21 where Jesus says to Peter, “Peter, do you love me? Then feed my lambs.” Again, the word occurs 29 times in Revelation. Twenty-eight times it is clearly a reference to the Lord Jesus.

Now, enquiring minds would, I think, want to know, where is the one time that it does not? There is a very instructive lesson that we glean from it. We discover this lesson in Revelation 13:11. Regardless of your eschatology…whether you happen to be in that minority camp of postmillennialists, or you are amillennial, or you are, like me, premillennial, chapter 13 conveys the same crucial truth. In verse 11, you are introduced to a figure that the Revelation calls the False Prophet. Look at how this individual or movement is described in verse 11. “Then I saw another beast,” similar to the beast out of the sea of 13:1-10. However, this one is different. “I saw another beast coming up out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon.”

There are many things when it comes to worship, when it comes to discerning truth, that are inauthentic. There are many things today within the greater Christian world that have the attention, that have the favor, that have the passion of people who are looking for God in all the wrong places. He looks like a lamb, which means what? He looks like he’s a friend. He looks like he is on our side. He might be on Christian T.V. or radio. He might be all over the world smiling brightly, preaching a positive message. People feel bad when they come to hear such a preacher. They come feeling bad and lost. They leave later feeling better. But they are still lost because there has been no gospel. Where there’s no gospel; where there’s no preaching of sin and the need for repentance, the reality of judgment and a blood atonement, there cannot be authentic worship. It cannot and does not take place. These false preachers look good. They may even stand behind a pulpit. They may even stand behind a Bible. They may even reference it from time to time, but the Bible says “do not pay too much attention to how they look. You be discerning and listen to what they say.”

I subject myself to the same judgment. Just because I happen to be president of a seminary, an ordained Baptist minister, standing tonight behind a pulpit and behind a Bible, let me tell you something, all of you students, if what I say is not true to the Word of God, you should reject it and reject me as a false teacher. By the same token, if what I say is true to the Word of God, you are obligated both to believe it and to obey it, not because it comes from me, but because it is true to the Word of God. The Bible says they look like lambs, but many of them speak the gospel of the dragon. They speak and teach and preach a false gospel.

Returning to chapter 5 we observe once more the authentic Lamb and the beautiful, majestic description of Him that rightly compels our adoration, our love, and our worship. John writes in 5:6, “I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain.” Both the word “stood” and the word “slain” are perfect tense verbs. They speak of action in past time that has abiding and continuing results. There was a time in the past when He was slain, and to this day, He bears the marks of his sacrifice. But there was also a time in the past when He began to stand, and He is standing today, and as far as you can look into the future, this Lamb will always be standing. “Slain” speaks of his crucifixion. “Standing” speaks of his resurrection.

But John does not stop there. John then tells us he has 7 horns and 7 eyes which are the 7 spirits of God sent out into all the earth. That is very odd language. It is rather difficult terminology, but be reminded, this is apocalyptic literature. Numbers often are symbolic, as are figures like this. So, for example, if you study the whole of Scripture, you discover that horns can be a symbol of strength and power. Seven is a number that in the book of Revelation, in particular, almost always stands for that which is perfect or complete. So if horns stand for power and seven perfect, put them together and this is the Bible’s way of saying “He is all-powerful. He is the omnipotent Lamb of God.”

The text also says he has seven eyes. What do eyes do? They see. Eyes are the primary means whereby you gain knowledge. Eyes; knowledge. Seven; perfect. Put it together. He has perfect knowledge; He is omniscient; He knows everything.

The last phrase says “and these are the seven spirits of God sent out into all of the earth.” Now, this again is open to debate, though I think the best understanding is simply this. He is speaking of the one Holy Spirit; the number 7 affixed to it speaks of His perfection and perhaps even his fullness. The fullness of the Spirit is perhaps drawing on Isaiah 11:2. When you look at the fullness of the Spirit, where is He? He is into all of the earth. Again this is a beautiful, poetic, apocalyptic way of saying He is everywhere-present. He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.

In other words, if I only had Revelation 5:6, I would know that Biblical Christology requires that I affirm the full, undiminished deity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Whatever it is that makes God, God, Jesus is that in all of its fullness. Therefore, authentic worship is always going to acknowledge and affirm a Biblical Christology of the full deity, perfect humanity, and sacrificial atoning death for sinners of the Son of God. Because He is that kind of God, because He is that kind of King, because He is that kind of Warrior-Lamb, verse 7 resolves the problem of heaven. “Then He came and He took the scroll of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” The Bible teaches that an authentic worshipper will acknowledge God’s sovereignty. An authentic worshipper will affirm a Biblical Christology.

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  2Comments

  1. Benji Ramsaur   •  

    “Whatever it is that makes God, God, Jesus is that in all of its fullness.”

    Amen

  2. John Johnson   •  

    In our worship wars over style we need to be constantly reminded of this tremendous truth, although it seems to get lost. He is so worthy of all our worship and devotion. Appreciate the great word Dr. Akin.

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