What is worship according to the Bible? Revelation 21:3

~ Today’s Scripture Art and blog post were designed to help you learn about worship according to the Bible. You’ll be pointed to what worship looked like at each point of the big picture of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. ~

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Note from Alyson: I have a treat for you today! I am excited to share with you Part One of a speech written by my daughter-in-law, Heather, who you may have already met through our Etsy shop (she is the Customer Service Manager). As you will see, she loves to dig in God’s Word as much as I do! Take it away Heather…

Heather

Worship is a word we likely use often. As Christians, we would probably all say worship is a part of our lives, right?

If a coworker asked “Do you worship?” we might think it was an odd question, but I think we’d all answer yes. We’d tell them about our church, talk about the music on Sunday, and hopefully invite them to join us.

But is it only singing songs? 

What is worship according to the Bible?

What is worship according to the Bible? Answers inside!

We all wonder at some point, “what does what I do on Sunday mornings at church have to do with who I am between Monday and Saturday?”

Worship is not just a component of our lives or a segment of time on Sunday mornings, but it’s deeply connected to who we are as God’s image bearers, and to the gospel of Jesus.

The Bible tells one big story from beginning to end, and it’s often summarized this way: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. So we’re going to look at worship at each of these points in the story.

Revelation 21:3 Scripture Art
*Purchase this ^ printable HERE.

{1} Creation: Uninterrupted Worship

Before God spoke creation into existence, He existed. That may seem obvious to say, but it’s important. 

Before anything else was created, God was. 

Psalm 90:2 (ESV): Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 

So God exists, eternal, unified, glorifying Himself in the perfect relationship of Father, Son, Spirit – the trinity. He was not created, He always was and always will be.

Genesis 1 tells us that this three-in-one God created the heavens and the earth, and lays out this beautifully formed, ordered, abundant world, and tells us it was good. God is a creative, orderly, generous, abundant, life-giving, universe-creating God.

Revelation 21:3 Watercolor Bible Verse

We keep moving through the creation narrative and meet the first humans:

Genesis 1:26-28 (ESV): Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Where is worship in this? 

God doesn’t create the first humans and command them to worship or build a temple. He doesn’t designate songwriters. It doesn’t seem like guitars (or organs for that matter) exist yet.

What does he design them to do? 

Have dominion over the animals, be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.

He gives them work to do. Work that is like his. Orderly, authoritative, cultivating, leading, expanding. 

Adam and Eve in the garden give us a picture of what we are created for. We are made in God’s image, we are like Him, and we have work to do that is in some way like His. He made us to rule, subdue, fill, create, design, and work to expand the goodness of God’s creation.

God wants us to uniquely represent Him to the rest of the world.

In all of the things God had created thus far, nothing else gets this description. Humanity is uniquely in His image – created to reflect what He is like – and what He is like is glorious.

Reflecting what God is like means reflecting His worth, His goodness, His value. Adam and Eve reflecting the image of God in the garden, working to fill and subdue the earth, is the definition of worship – ascribing worth to something.

Worship in the garden was all of life. There was no separation. Work, family, rest, it was all worship because it all pointed to the beauty and worthiness of the One who created it.

Revelation 21:3 Scripture Hand-lettering

{2} Fall: Distorted Worship

As we know, the story takes a sharp turn just three chapters in. In Genesis 3, a crafty serpent comes to the woman and asks “did God actually say?”

Genesis 3:1-6 (ESV): He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 

Eve makes a choice.

She attributes value to something instead of God (in this case knowing good and evil on her own). She believes a lie (that they would not die), and she misbelieves something about God (that he is a liar, that he can’t be trusted).

And notice that she rationalizes. The fruit is desirable – good for food, delightful to the eyes, and would make her wise. More desirable apparently than believing and trusting what God has said.

This is an important point about the way we worship.

We don’t choose the thing that we think is less valuable. Eve didn’t think, “that fruit looks gross, it will cause terrible pain.” She thought, “that fruit looks delicious, it will make me wise, I want that.”

Adam and Eve wanted to rule their own lives, rather than trust God and his definition of good and evil. This is sin, this is idolatry, this is worship of self. 

You might think, no, it wasn’t worship, it was disobedience. She did what God told her not to do.

But think about it – what is disobedience? It’s a confession that my will, my way, is better than yours. That I know better, that I am wiser, that I will be the one calling the shots. In that choice, Eve wanted to remove God from his throne and set herself on it. 

When my 3 year old disobeys when I tell her to clean up her toys, she is asserting her will against mine. She is saying in her heart, “no, mommy, I am in charge. You are not.”

Side note from Alyson: Not my sweet granddaughter! {grin}

The first sin was an act of worship, but not worship of God.
Revelation 21:3 Watercolor Scripture Art

So Adam and Eve’s disobedience – their self-worship – changed things.

Instead of the unbroken fellowship of the garden, humanity is now separated from God, afflicted with sin. Our hearts are now predisposed to sin – to choose self-love and self-worship over worship of God. 

Like everything affected by the fall, worship is now distorted. 

That means our worship is no longer seamless and effortless like it was in the garden. It is all mixed up with our mixed up desires. It doesn’t mean that we stop worshipping – we can’t stop. It’s how we are created. 

We are created by God to be reflectors of His image to the world. To point to His beauty and worth with how we speak and walk and work and laugh and play. So we don’t stop being all-of-life worshippers. But it means that our all-of-life worship is corrupted by sin.

Remember how we defined worship – attributing worth to something.

We can see this if we look closely at our own hearts. To what do we ascribe value? To what do we devote our time, attention, money, energy? What consumes our daydreams?

Because we are created to worship with our lives, like Adam and Eve did in the garden, we will always be worshipping – ascribing worth and value to something in the way we live, work, rest, parent, speak, dress, shop, and play. 

The problem lies in the fact that because of sin, we are not always worshipping rightly.

Revelation 21:3 Calligraphy

{3} Redemption: Jesus Worships

God could have ended the human project there, but he desires to be our God and us his people, so he shows mercy. God’s grace extends opportunities to worship rightly again. 

God also knows that it is for our good that we worship Him alone.

When we worship Him rightly, we share in that eternal, overflowing, self-giving love that defines His character. When we worship lesser things, we become twisted and broken. God is mercifully, incredibly committed to the good of his people and to His glory, and that means redeeming right worship.

So the story goes on (and I’m fast forwarding here) and God sets apart Israel. He gives them the temple and instructions to worship, actions of faith that God would provide salvation from their sin, all pointing to the one day fulfillment in Jesus. 

Throughout the story we hear a refrain, repeated over and over – I will be their God and they will be my people.

God is on a mission to bring back his image bearers into life lived with Him for His glory and their joy; to put an end to worship of other gods and of self.

But at every turn they continue to worship false gods, and God continually, mercifully calls them back to true worship. They continue to fail, and God remains committed to restoring them to Himself. 

What is worship according to the Bible? Revelation 21:3

As we read the story we are disappointed over and over again. Each broken covenant and every story of Israel’s idolatry leaves us desperate for someone who will worship God alone!

The hero of the story is God Himself. 

Jesus perfectly worshipped the Father in His life, took the punishment for our idolatry on the cross, and then defeated death and sin so we could worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

The way Jesus worships the Father is with his whole life, the true and perfect image of God …

  • Jesus is the true and better Adam, rejecting the lie of the serpent in the wilderness. (Matt 4:10)
  • He fulfills the law and the prophets (Matt 5:17) in His life by loving God and loving people (Matt 22:36-40)
  • His death pays the penalty for our sins (Romans 5:6-11), perfectly fulfilling the sacrificial system that always pointed to our need of a savior (Hebrews 10:1-10)
  • He was raised, defeating death, sin and satan for us. (Romans 6:5-11, 4:25) and giving us unprecedented access to God (Hebrews 10:19-23)

All of Jesus’ life on earth was worship. And by his grace, that is the record He makes available to us. Not the misplaced worship you and I do every day.

Because of Jesus, God is pleased with our worship. 

Not only do we have Jesus’ perfect record of right worship, but we have incredible access to a holy God.

We, who every day fail to worship God rightly, are invited into His presence because of the work of Jesus.

The gospel is beautiful because we are so completely undeserving and also so completely loved and accepted because of Jesus.

Revelation 21:3 Bible Verse Art

{4} Restoration: Endless Worship

Miracle of miracles, the story isn’t over! Not only are we saved from the punishment of our false worship, but we are given new hearts that actually can worship rightly! 

The Holy Spirit dwells with us now to enable us to worship God over our idols. 

Even that truth is worship.

What was the point of the temple? It was the place that God would dwell with his people. Because He is holy and we are not, there were layers and layers of separation between God and the people. There had to be blood and sacrifices to allow just one person to draw near just once a year.

But the fact that the temple existed meant that God desired to dwell with his people and would make a way to do that. But now?

God actually DWELLS IN US. 

Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV): In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. 

The Holy Spirit is a guarantee – a deposit – God’s very presence that assures us that we will one day be fully in His presence.

But the Spirit with us now is not the end. He is the promise of future fulfillment – One day Jesus will fully and finally make all things right, putting an end to sin so that we wholly worship God with all of our lives.

That picture comes to a conclusion in the book of Revelation which is jam packed with worship. 

  • Revelation 4 – God seated on his throne, glorious, constantly receiving worship
  • Revelation 5 – Only Jesus is worthy to open the scrolls of God’s plan of redemption
  • Revelation 7 – Every nation, tribe, and tongue gathered to worship the Lord!
But let’s spend a little time on the last two chapters, because they summarize this whole story and how it comes to completion.

Revelation 21-22 describes the new Jerusalem, a garden-like city, where people live all of life with God for His glory and their joy.

Revelation 21:2-3 (ESV): And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

Revelation 21:3 Watercolor Scripture Art

This is what all of human history is moving toward.

Revelation 21:22 (ESV): And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.

We don’t have a lot of detail about what this New Jerusalem will be like, but we know a few things. 

  • It’s a city – a place of people, community, and work!
  • It’s like a garden – abundant, beautiful, cultivated
  • It’s a temple – all of our life there is worship to God.

Sometimes we get this idea that heaven will be lots of singing. Possibly floating on clouds, playing harps, eating grapes.

It sounds kind of boring. 

But the Bible’s description of the new heaven and new earth are vivid.

It’s a restoration – a perfection really – of God’s design in the garden. 

What did He create Adam and Eve to do? It wasn’t to float on clouds. They were gardeners. City builders. They were to rule, subdue, fill, create, design, and work to expand the goodness of God’s creation, as well as reflect His beautiful, glorious image to the rest of the world.

So even though we don’t get a lot of detail, I think it is evident that we will worship God with our lives. I’m sure we will sing – I think it will be the natural response for many of us when we see his glory fully – but I also think we’ll have work to do. 

And it will all be worship.

The restoration of worship at the end of time is in a garden-like city that is also a temple where life is lived with God, unto God, for His glory and our joy. Endless worship.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

**Now read Part Two of this series: Why Worship Matters

*My prayer for you is … that this blog will inspire you to open your Bible every single day to seek God’s face and write His Word on your heart – because HE’S the key to lasting heart change!
See worship at each point in the big picture of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration!

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