Right now, this very moment, God is being perfectly praised in the heavens by angels and believers who have already entered His eternal presence. And every time we gather to praise Him corporately, our gathering is a foretaste of this eternal gathering. Our worshipping together shadows eternity.
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:11–12 ESV)
The picture in heaven is one of “myriads of myriads” of people gathering around the throne with “a loud voice,” declaring how worthy God is. It’s an amount beyond calculation—people who have been forgiven because of the slain Lamb of God, Jesus the Christ—a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, each of them declaring the praises of God. Heaven is filled with a people satisfied in the very character of God, not just the benefits He gives.
Church people often make comments that cause one to think they’re not likely to enjoy heaven very much (assuming they’re going). Perhaps you’ve heard someone say, “I’m uncomfortable around people from other cultures.” Hmmm. Heaven might not be their cup of tea then, because it will be forever filled with people from every people group on earth.
Some church people approach worship with an apathetic attitude, as if praising God is boring and unappetizing—a necessary chore before heading out for Sunday lunch and an afternoon of NFL football. Heaven, though, is an eternal gathering of people enthralled with praising God. Someone with no desire to corporately rejoice in Him is not exactly prepping well for the eternal gathering that is to come.
When we and the people in our churches consider whether we really want heaven or not, we must realize that we are not simply asking ourselves if we prefer heaven to hell. Choosing one thing over another doesn’t necessarily mean we love the thing we choose. If given the choice to eat spinach or broccoli, you may choose broccoli. But that doesn’t mean you love broccoli. It may only mean you don’t want to eat spinach. Heaven is not for people who just want to skip hell. Heaven is reserved for those who love Jesus, who have been rescued by Him and who long to praise Him. If someone doesn’t have much use for praising Him now, it’s foolish to think they’re ready for heaven. Those set apart for the eternal corporate worship gathering enjoy the temporary gathering of the Church on earth.
Since our corporate gatherings here are a shadow of eternity, even our imperfect, incomplete expressions of worship as the people of God should foreshadow the perfect response that is to come. A church gathered for worship should embody a sense of awe and anticipation because of the One who has rescued the worshippers.
Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and I are posting questions each month for church leaders to discuss with their teams. The content and questions are based on our book Creature of the Word. You can get the book here and access the monthly audit here.