The eternal gospel in the first angel’s message
The heavenly message, proclaimed by the first angel, is to resonate throughout the world, urgently appealing to all to fear, give glory, and worship the Creator (Rev. 14:7). Worship takes us to the core of the cosmic conflict, challenging us to worship the Creator and not the fallen cherub (cf. Matt. 4:9), whose intent is to permanently dislodge God from a portion of His creation. In the conflict, worship is the acid test.
WORSHIP—A DISPLAY OF LOYALTY TO THE LAMB
The Greek verb translated “to worship” in Revelation 14:7 is proskuneo, literally meaning “to bow down” or “prostrate oneself.” When applied to humans, it designates an act of homage, but when God is the object, the verb designates the bending down of both the body and the inner being as an expression of the dislodging of our fallen self in order to find in Him wholeness of being, the center and goal of our life. Worship points to two important attitudes.
WORSHIP AS CONFESSION OF FAITH
Before the throne of God heavenly beings fall down and worship God, declaring, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things” (Rev. 4:11).¹ They confess that they worship God the Creator and invite humans to join them in worship. The act of worship is fundamentally a confession of faith in God, whom we declare to be my Creator. This confession of faith is, through the Spirit, deeply rooted in our inner being and is verbalized through word and action; the bending of the self in absolute submission (cf. Rom. 10:9, 10). In fact, worshipping the Creator has much to do with life, for He is the source of our life. Consequently, worship is being at home, for we are in the presence of our Father, who through a loving act of creation gave us life. This explains why in the Bible only those who are alive can praise the Lord (Ps. 115:17, 18). Created life sees the One who is life and bows down in gratitude and love before Him. This type of worship is not something we do occasionally, but it is life that lives constantly in the presence of the Lord and that walks humbly before Him.
John also sees heavenly beings fall down before the Lamb in worship declaring, “Worthy are You [the Lamb] . . . ; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). Worship is a confession of faith in Christ who as Redeemer has made us new creatures (John 3:7; 2 Cor. 5:17). Redemption assumes that God’s original creation was damaged by the fallen cherub and that humans drifted away from home. Then the Son of God descended to a planet of self-centered creatures to bring them back home (cf. Isa. 53:6), to their Source of life. Lost life, restored to us through Christ’s saving work, confesses before the universe that He is our Redeemer by bending our fallen self before Him in grateful worship.
CONFESSION OF LOYALTY
Worship is a confession of loyalty to God as Creator and Redeemer. It is taking God’s side in the cosmic conflict, and consequently it is an act of rebellion against the powers of evil. Like the three friends of Daniel (Dan. 3:16-18), and Daniel himself (Dan. 6:10), the followers of the Lamb are not intimidated by the dragon. Since creatures do not possess life in themselves, they are incapable of preserving their own life, much less the life of other creatures. Therefore worshipping the fallen cherub, as an expression of loyalty to him, is choosing death. God’s loyal people have “the perseverance of the saints” and “keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). Worshipping God as Creator and Redeemer is manifested in their life by persevering in their obedience to God’s commandments and in keeping their faith in Christ as Redeemer.
The commandments mentioned in Revelation are primarily the Decalogue (Ex. 20:1-17). The call to worship God is an invitation to obey the first commandment (Rev. 14:7); the warning not to worship the image of the beast invites us to keep the second commandment (verse 9); and the condemnation of the beast for speaking blasphemies against God’s name requires obedience to the third commandment (Rev. 13:6). The imperative to worship God “who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and the springs of waters” (Rev. 14:7) uses the language and ideas found in the fourth commandment (Ex. 20:11), pointing to its importance for the question of whom to worship. “Had the Sabbath been universally kept, man’s thoughts and affections would have been led to the Creator as the object of reverence and worship, and there would never have been an idolater, an atheist, or an infidel.”²
The Sabbath is not only a memorial of Creation but a memorial of the One who, through Christ, created everything. It is indispensable for the dragon to set aside this memorial permanently. This explains how “the Sabbath question will be the issue in the great conflict in which all the world will act a part.”3 At the present time the rejection of the Sabbath commandment takes at least two basic forms. The first comes from apostate Christianity through the dismissal of the seventh day as the biblical Sabbath and the promotion of Sunday observance. The second comes from the world of the study of natural sciences. The theory of natural evolution removed from the consciousness of many scientists and other scholars the existence of a transcendental and yet personal Creator God—the Sabbath as the memorial of the Creator was ignored. According to them, there is no Creator and there is no need for Him, because everything we see is the result of random and purposeless natural processes. Many Christians have tried to harmonize natural evolution and the Christian faith, arguing that God created through a long evolutionary process consisting of struggle, suffering , survival, and death. This God does not resemble at all the loving biblical God who is Creator and Redeemer. It is in this context that the first angel calls all to worship God; it is a matter of life or death.
The conflict is on, and the fundamental concern is clearly identified: who is worthy of worship? Only God, who through Christ created everything and through the Lamb redeemed us, is worthy of worship. Only the very fountain of life can create and re-create life through redemption. This we confess to be true as we bow down before God and the Lamb and worship.
Questions for Reflection:
- Consider this statement from today’s reading: “The act of worship is fundamentally a confession of faith.” How can this concept inform our worship?
- Why is it important to understand the connection between worship and Creation?
- How can we creatively and engagingly relate the first angel’s message to people living around us who believe in evolution?
¹ Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations have been taken from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
² Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 438.
³ The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, ed. F. D. Nichol, rev. ed., Ellen G. White Comments (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1980), vol. 7, p. 979.