Every Thought Captive

Worshiping before the Throne

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with One seated on the throne. And He who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven Spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,  
who was and is and is to come!”  

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who is seated on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

“Worthy are You, our Lord and God,  
to receive glory and honor and power,  
for You created all things,  
and by Your will they existed and were created.”  

Revelation 4:1-11

In Revelation 4, the Lord Jesus carries John up into heaven, where he witnesses saints and angels worshiping and singing around the throne of God. There are many things that overwhelm us when we reflect on John’s vision in this chapter: a rainbow like an emerald, flashes of lightning, peals of thunder, and the four living creatures around the throne of God Himself. The most overwhelming aspect of John’s vision, though, is something that we do not often consider.

G. K. Beale, in his commentary on Revelation, writes about John’s vision in chapter 4: “John intended the readers to see what is told of in the vision as a heavenly pattern that the Church is to reflect in its worship” (p. 312). Also, we read in Hebrews 12:22-24, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” The author of Hebrews affirms not only what Beale suggests, but even something beyond it. Here is the wonder of wonders of Revelation 4: when we, the Church, gather in worship, we ascend to the throne of God. We stand before the throne of the living God in the heavenly Jerusalem.

John described being overcome with awe earlier in chapter 1: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet…Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw…One like a Son of Man…When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead.” (from Revelation 1:10, 12, 13, 17). Note that John was in the Spirit “on the Lord’s Day,” on Sunday. John is worshiping on earth, on the island of Patmos, on the Lord’s Day, when he is caught up into heaven, to witness the reality of the Church’s participation in worship in heaven, before the throne of God. And this overwhelms him. He falls down as though dead.

This is our reality as well, and we should be awestruck by it, like John. This is why worship is different from any other time. Sunday morning worship is joyful, not somber, but it is not casual. We do not ascend to “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” to stand in His presence casually or flippantly. The reality of what we participate in should overwhelm us! But what can we do, practically, to treat the time of Sunday morning worship with the (joyful!) seriousness that is required of us?

My younger children have been participating in the Communicant’s Class, over the course of which the curriculum covered the fourth membership vow, “Do you promise to support the church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?” One recent lesson discussed Sunday morning worship: “Because of the significance of corporate worship, it is important that we do everything we can to prepare ourselves for the Lord’s Day worship service. What are some practical steps you can take to help prepare yourself for this special time?” Here are some of the things my family and I talked about. They are not rules, but for us they have been helpful practices.

- Pray for our pastors throughout the week, especially for those who are preaching on Sunday.  
- Pray for our own hearts, to receive God’s Word with humility.  
- Read the Scripture in advance of the service. (The eThis Week and Order of Worship goes online on Thursday afternoon.)  
- Come to church rested and mentally prepared. We try to avoid staying out late, or staying up late, on Saturday night.  
- In the service itself, participate wholeheartedly! Sing loudly and engage in the responsive readings vigorously.  
- Also in the service itself, don’t let yourself become distracted. For example, if you use a Bible app on your phone, make sure to save texting until after the service. Related to this, we don’t use worship as a time to eat breakfast! Finish the cup of coffee before coming into the Sanctuary.  
- If there are other things that try to demand our family’s time on Sundays in a way that keeps us from church, we reprioritize. Again, this is not a rule, but it was for us a helpful practice. We decided, for example, that if there was a baseball game for one of our boys early enough on Sunday afternoon that we would have felt stress having to rush out right after church, we would just skip it.  
- Finally, if something limits our options Sunday morning – a sick child, etc. – we prioritize Sunday worship. We love children’s and youth ministries, and our children participate weekly, but I’m sure they would say with me: if somehow only one thing is possible on a Sunday morning, we choose corporate worship.  

I conclude with Psalm 96. As you read, consider what it means to come into the presence of God in worship, with joy and awe, in light of the reality of Revelation 4. Consider our worship alongside the saints and angels before the throne of God, in His heavenly court.

Oh sing to the LORD a new song;  
    sing to the LORD, all the earth!    
Sing to the LORD, bless His name;    
Declare His glory among the nations,    
    His marvelous works among all the peoples!    
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;  
    He is to be feared above all gods.  
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,  
Splendor and majesty are before Him;  
Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,  
    ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!  
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name;  
Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;  
    tremble before Him, all the earth!  
Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!  
    Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;  
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;  
    let the sea roar, and all that fills it;  
let the field exult, and everything in it!  
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy   
before the LORD, for He comes,  
    for He comes to judge the earth.  
He will judge the world in righteousness,  
    and the peoples in His faithfulness.  (Psalm 96)

About the Author

Photograph of Nathan Davy

Nathan Davy

Associate Director of Music and Organist

Nathan Davy is the Associate Director of Music and Organist at Park Cities Presbyterian Church. He is married to Laura Davy, and they have five children. When not making music he enjoys running, reading, gardening, and playing chess.