We have seen in this series of articles that the Evangelical Church of today has fixated on sentimental, experiential, overly-romanticized worship songs, to the detriment of doctrinal and objective worship music. We have examined the historical and theological developments that has led to this imbalance in modern worship, tracing the rise of experiential emotionalism as the evidence of conversion, all tied to an escapist anti-Incarnational view which sees the spiritual and physical aspects of the world as being opposed to one another.
We then spent some time considering the Implications of the central Biblical truths of the doctrines of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation of Christ for our view and exercise of worship, Implications which emphasized the facts that our worship should be both physical as well as spiritual, embodying continuity as well as change, and recognizing that both past and future should equally dictate the parameters of the shape of how and why God wishes to be worshipped.
Recently, we began to examine the implications of the Bible’s glimpses into the Heavenly Worship (Isaiah 6; Ezekiel 1 and 10; Hebrews 12:22-24; Revelation 4-5) and it’s interior logic for redressing the imbalance in today’s Evangelical worship, seeing that the Church actually worships in Heaven spiritually, beyond (yet within) time and space through the Ascended Humanity of Christ, Who is seated at the Father’s Right Hand.
The passages in Revelation all describe, as we’ve seen, the same Place also written of in Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Hebrews: the Courts of Heaven in the Throne-room of God, where the Heavenly Worship eternally takes place in His Presence. These Heavenly glimpses in the book of Revelation, which is one long vision of that worship, contain songs used to praise God by the angels, the elders, and the other redeemed saints, and, like everything else in Scripture, these songs have much to teach us, especially as to the focus and content of our worship.
Last issue, we looked at three of the songs sung in the worship of God, the texts of Rev. 5: 8-10, 14: 1-3; and 15: 2-4, noting that all of these, in balanced fashion, gratefully praised God for Who He is, by recounting the things He has done redemptively for His People, and by recounting what He has done subjectively for His People (i.e., what His action has effected from the perspective, and in the experience of, the Redeemed themselves). This last, of course, is what has dominated the perspective of modern contemporary worship to the near-exclusion of the other categories of worship demonstrated in the Heavenly Worship. This certainly demonstrates that, though these categories include songs from a subjectively thankful perspective, these must be balanced by those which thank God for both Who He is and what He has done objectively for believers.
This is, at the least, an implication that only one-third of our song of worship are to be subjective, as well as demonstrating, as the songs in Revelation do, that the categories can meaningfully be intertwined (indeed, a danger of not including objective doctrinal elements in our music is that our experience of redemption becomes either dislodged from the very objective content that gives it meaning, and/or that it denigrates the importance of the Objective Acts of Redemption Which are the ground of our subjective experience in the first place, as we’ve seen in past articles in this series).
In the last article, we also looked at Revelation 14:1-3, and began to consider the songs in Revelation that are not sung by all the worshippers present in the Heavenly Service, and concluded that that reality implied a justification of both what are generally thought of as performance pieces and instrumental pieces in Christian worship.
We turn now to a consideration of a number of passages in the book of Revelation in addition to Revelation 14: 3, the song of the 144,000 which no one else could sing. Revelation 4: 10 and 11: 16-18 record the worship of the 24 Elders alone. Revelation 4:8 records the worship of the Cherubim, the 4 Living Creatures, alone. Revelation 15: 2-4 records the song of those martyred by the Beast for their faithfulness alone. Revelation 7: 9-10 records the song of a great multitude of the Redeemed from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue, but not by the Cherubim or the 24 Elders. Yet Revelation 5: 9-10 records a song sung by the Cherubim and 24 Elders alone, joined in 5: 11-12 records the song as further joined by “ten thousands time ten thousands, and thousands of thousands” of angels, a song to which every creature on earth and under the earth and in the sea responds in worship in Revelation 5: 13, to which only the 4 Cherubim alone respond with the Amen. Revelation 7: 11-12 records the concerted worship of the Cherubim, 24 Elders, and all the myriads of angels around the Throne.
The perspective of each of these groups of worshippers (Cherubim, 24 Elders, angels, martyrs, the entire Church, and even all creatures) are represented in songs and worship expressions particular to each group, in various combinations, and even altogether. The perspectives of each of these groups is expressed, takes front and center, intertwine to support each other in varied combinations, and even join together in harmonious accord, all of this, the varied songs and worship expressions in differing and concerted perspectives, serving a unified worship in God’s Presence.
This complex and varied, yet unified, worship practice which defines the Patterns of Heavenly Worship in which the Church participates through Christ (Hebrews 10: 19-22; 12: 22-24) is reflective of the God Who is the Focus of our worship, the Triune God Who is Both Unified (One God in Essence) and Diverse (Three Persons Who Each differ from Each Other in Function and Perspective).
This, of course, is deliberate, since God Himself defines the Patterns of His Heavenly Worship, and the varied perspectives of the different worshipping groups reflect the Differing Perspectives and Functions of the Father, Son, and Spirit, which intertwine and interpenetrate, while all the worshipping groups are yet unified in one overarching purpose, the worship of God, reflecting the Unity of God’s Essence and Substance.
This truth should be embodied in our worship today by expressions (songs and verbal responses and actions) which reflect the varied perspectives of those who have been redeemed, the varied perspectives on what the Lord has done (e.g., Who He is, What He has done objectively, and What He has done for us subjectively, as we’ve seen in past articles), all in balanced perspective to represent the Triune God even in the forms of our worship here on earth.