The family had saved long for their dream vacation. As they finally entered the plane and sat down, they breathed a collective sigh of relief that said, “Vacation, here we come”— and fell asleep. Six hours later they woke up as the plane taxied to the gate. Just imagine their surprise and shock, however, when they saw men huddling in down jackets against the cold wind. They had bought a trip to the tropics—but had landed in Alaska.
Can you imagine their complete disbelief? Somehow they had gotten on the wrong plane, and nobody had noticed. Instead of balmy breezes and gently swaying palm trees, they faced icy wind and the prospect of early snow.
While we may not get on the wrong plane and end up in a completely different destination, we too can miss history’s most anticipated event. Tired from the long wait, distracted by an overdose of media and entertainment, confused by contemporary approaches to God, Seventh-day Adventists find themselves in the midst of a worship war that threatens to shatter communities and churches. This worship war is not about music styles or instruments. This war goes much deeper, right to the heart of the matter.
Faithful worship characterizes God’s people living in the last days. In fact, the first angel of Revelation 14, flying in midair and proclaiming the eternal gospel, challenges us to “fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water” (Rev. 14:7).
Worship is a major theme in Revelation. God’s people worship the Lamb of God on the throne (Rev. 4:10; 5:14; 7:11; 11:16). Yet it is Satan, the dragon, who demands and commands worship from those living on the earth (Rev. 13:4, 8, 12, 14). He knows that we are committed to what or whom we worship.
So the battle continues every day, all around the globe. Some people worship things. (In the past this was called idolatry, but today we call it materialism.) Others worship people. In 2010 Baylor University professors Paul Froese and Christopher Bader published
America’s Four Gods: What We Say About God—and What That Says About Us. They suggested that, based on a survey of religious views, Americans have four distinct views of God: the authoritative God, the benevolent God, the critical God, and the distant God. Needless to say, our perception of God clearly shapes our worship of God. If God is distant and judgmental (or critical), people tend to worship carefully and liturgically correct. If God is benevolent (which He clearly is) at the expense of authoritative, we may consider God our “buddy.”
It seems, at times, that we have made God in our own image, instead of recognizing that we were created in His “image” and likeness (Gen. 1:27).
A quick review of Israel’s history confirms the close connection between worship and revival. Hezekiah’s Temple reform and restoration are followed by the celebration of the Passover (2 Chron. 29; 30). Nearly a century later young King Josiah begins a major revival in Israel, purging Judah and Jerusalem of its high places, Asherah poles, and other forms of idol worship (2 Chron. 34). Later Josiah reestablishes the appropriate celebration of the Passover (cf.
2 Chron. 35, esp. verse 18).
When we focus upon God, we are refreshed; our priorities get rearranged; we remember who we really are (created beings); we recognize our hapless attempts at shaping our own destiny as self-centered. A straight line leads from revival to renewed worship.
Worship is not only a theological topic on God’s end-time agenda; true worship, as opposed to false worship, points away from us toward our Maker and our Redeemer. Others will be able to see this practically. James describes this concrete element of worship: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).
People waiting for the glorious return of their Master and Lord do not sit idle in monasteries, churches, or campuses, debating the intricacies and timelines of His return. They are engaged in their communities. They serve the homeless; they share material and spiritual blessings with the downtrodden and discouraged; they care for the sick and embrace the dying.
Selfless service challenges us. It often means leaving our comfort zones—those places that feel like home. It emulates the attitude of Jesus, who “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Phil. 2:7). We can see it in Jesus washing the feet of His disciples—including the one who would ultimately betray Him—and we hear Him remind us that we are to follow His example (John 13:15).
Ask any Adventist about worship, and Sabbath is bound to enter the conversation. Adventists love the Sabbath. It reminds us of our origins—a powerful Creator made us in His image and likeness (Ex. 20:8-11). It also tells us something about Paradise lost and God’s way to bring us home—we are sinners in need of a Savior and need to be liberated “out of Egypt” (see Deut. 5:12-15). Creation and redemption are important topics in our worship, and every Sabbath is an opportunity “to remember.”
Sabbath, however, also plays a significant role as we anticipate the Master’s return. Satan’s ability to replace Sabbath with Sunday culminates in Revelation’s end-time scenario, which centers on the true day of worship (Rev. 13:11-17; 14:9; cf. the ability of the little-horn power of Daniel 7:25 to “change times and law” [NKJV]).1 Ellen White predicted: “Those who honor the Bible Sabbath will be denounced as enemies of law and order, as breaking down the moral restraints of society, causing anarchy and corruption, and calling down the judgments of God upon the earth.”
Ellen White’s insightful comments remind us that the day of worship is not a matter of preference, but a life-and-death issue. Our commitment to worship God’s way needs to be based solidly on the prophetic word and the personal knowledge of a Savior who is truly worthy of worship.
The book of Revelation can be a disturbing read. When we focus upon crises, persecution, and God’s opposition, we may feel overwhelmed or afraid. However, “the revelation from Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:1) does not focus only upon the final crisis; again and again it highlights the ultimate joy of worshipping the Lamb who sits upon the throne.
Chapter 7 provides a good example: John looks and sees a great multitude that no one can count standing around the throne. They can’t keep quiet; they can’t stand still. “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (verse 10), they shout; then they worship Him who paid the ultimate price for their salvation. Their joy reminds us of heavenly peace and eternal bliss. Their worship encourages us to stay faithful and ready to serve. Their songs tell us about a future we cannot even imagine. No scorching heat, no hunger pangs, no tears and fears, no loneliness, because “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (verse 17).
Let’s join in their worship today!