New Testament Worship
Once the Temple is destroyed, there is a valid question on where and when one is to worship God. Before His death, Jesus gave the answer:
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them (Matthew 18:20) [ESV]
21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (John 2)
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4)
The believers do not need a physical Temple because when they gather in His name, Jesus is in their midst, and, after His resurrection, His body is the Temple. From the perspective of the Old Testament, this new Temple implies (more likely, demands) the divinity of Jesus.
In their book, Unveiling Empire; Reading Revelation Then and Now, Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther make this observation:
One of the greatest differences between Revelation and other New Testament texts is Revelation's portrayal of numerous scenes of liturgy and worship. The Gospels never show the followers of Jesus in prayer, although Jesus prays regularly...teaches his followers how to pray...and harshly criticizes hypocritical prayer of the Jerusalem elite...Similarly, Paul refers many times to his own prayer and offers advice to his communities on how to pray and conduct themselves during worship...as do the other epistle writers...Revelation, though, like the work of a good novelist, shows rather than tells its audience how to offer prayer and worship.
Revelation's importance to worship is affirmed by the use of προσκυνέω, the word for worship:
1 Corinthians 1
Forty percent of the use occurs in Revelation. If the Fourth Gospel was written by the same John, those two works account for almost sixty percent of the use in the New Testament.
As Howard-Brook and Gwyther note, Revelation describes worship taking place and, not surprisingly, has seven scenes of worship (4:2-11; 5:8-14, 7:9-17, 11:15-18, 14:1-4, 15:2-4, and 19:1-8). As these occur in heaven, they provide a "worship handbook" given mostly by narrating both the who and the how of worship. These scenes can serve as models for how worship on earth should be conducted and from the scenes it is clear worship may include but is not limited to falling down or prostration before the one being worshipped. In other words, worship cannot be narrowly defined as a physical act of obeisance.
In addition to providing examples on worship, Revelation includes specific didactic instruction on the "dos" and "dont's" of worship. The "dos" are described with more than "God:"
Do Worship Do Not Worship
Him that lives forever (4:10, 5:14) Devils and idols (9:20)
Him that made heaven, and earth, and the The dragon and the beast (13:4)
sea and the fountains of water (14:7) The image of the beast (13:15)
The beast (14:10-11)
Angels or fellow bondservants (19:10, 22:8-9)
If all which Revelation has to say about worship is considered, then these are the final words:
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Revelation 19)
8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” (Revelation 22)
There is no need to speculate on the identity of "God" because the seven heavenly worship scenes described who is being worshipped. God is:
- Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb (5:8-14; 7:10-11)
- Our Lord and His Christ (7:15-18)
- The Lamb (14:1-5)
As this is done in truth and Spirit, all three persons of the Godhead are present.
Moreover, worship is described as being given to one who is described by their actions: one who judges and whose ways are just and true and who is the one all nations will come before and so forth. The New Testament attributes these actions to the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, based on the New Testament, Jesus is being worshipped in heaven for His actions.
There is no way to understand the message of worship in Revelation other than the Lamb is to be worshipped as God. Effectively Revelation describes the Trinity not by theological discourse, rather by describing the heavenly worship of God.
1. Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther, Unveiling Empire; Reading Revelation Then and Now, Orbis Books, 2001, p. 197.