(This article was printed in Australian Evangel, January 1985)

It is likely that with all we know and experience in the realm of praise and worship in our churches, we have nowhere near enjoyed the full potential of this holy exercise.

We may well regard praise and worship the secret weapon of the Christian faith but, although we have rattled our sabres a little, we have not as yet seen the consequences of worship as enjoyed by God’s people at strategic periods of human history.

The crunch point of Israel’s exodus out of Egypt was the request of Moses and Aaron to the fearsome Pharoah that this mass of slaves should be released to worship their God. Pharaoh challenged the request and offered a number of compromises. Moses adhered tenaciously to the revelation which God had given to him and maintained the request until that pressure brought on such divine action as resulted in the death of Egypt’s firstborn, the ultimate destruction of its military might and the deliverance of the fledgling Hebrew nation.

When challenged by the worshippers of Baal, Elijah made the first strategic decision to build an altar, the symbol of worship. It was upon that basis that he laid the foundation for his confident statement, “let him be God who answers by fire”.

Present World Conditions

The present global conflicts of humanity call for supernatural intervention, an area in which only the Church is qualified to act. Alarming food shortages accompanied by population explosion in under-developed countries, with political confusion and the threat of nuclear extinction in the more affluent countries are part of the “distress of nations with perplexity” as foretold by Jesus. What has the Church to say to this maelstrom of human bewilderment?

The Priority of Prayer

In her better hours, the Church has always believed that “the weapons of her warfare are not carnal but are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds”. In addition to her many visible expressions of evangelistic endeavour and humanitarian works, she has always paid lip service at least to the power and effectiveness of prayer. We are now in the days where these priorities are being put to the test and the revelation of the power of prayer and worship is coming to the top of the list.

Defining Worship

A not-uncommon question when pastors and believers meet is - What is the praise and worship like in such and such a church? In other words, churches are set in contrast with each other as to the standard of praise and worship. But what are our criteria in these opinions? Is it the volume? Is it the length of time in which we stand upon our feet in worship? Is it the technique of the musicians or is it the ability of the leader to put together the right songs so that they flow in unison? What is it? Have we defined ourselves or have we set up standards which forget all about the true criteria of worship which is God Himself and fulfilment of His purposes in the earth?

Worship is not only passive and subjective in its effect on the worshippers - being relaxing, pleasing and enlarging; it is also aggressive, active and positive in that it has an effect on the realm of the Spirit. We may not have a specific objective in worship in that we know exactly what will be achieved, but at least we should have a consciousness of what we are doing and that our worship is first of all God-ward and then man-ward in its fulfilment of the divine purposes.

Historic Precedents

Did the upper room saints know exactly what they were praying for? It is an open question.

Certainly they were obeying the command of Christ in waiting for the promised Holy Spirit, but of the tongues of fire both in their heart and in their mouth, of the rushing mighty wind and the effect upon Jerusalem, they probably knew very little. All they knew was that something had to climax their “continually praising and blessing”. Their worship precipitated the purposes of God in the earth and released the mighty Pentecostal dynamic which is still encircling the world.

Did the group of teachers and prophets at Antioch know what would be the end result of their “ministering to the Lord” as they gathered in prolonged worship? Possibly not. But seeing that they were in direct Pentecostal succession, they knew that there was a purpose in worship toward the living God. What happened? The commencement of the great missionary visitation to the continent of Europe took place when Barnabas and Saul, under divine direction, were separated to that work.

It seems that there is a divine principle which is only released under the impact of earth’s worship. Passive neutrality is impossible to worshipping saints. The issues are too evident. Salvation or judgment? Heaven or hell? Release or imprisonment? Blessing or cursing? Something must happen. We quote Samuel Chadwick as he describes Pentecostal worshippers. “They were intense as they were happy, fiery as they were jubilant, impassioned as they were daring.” These are the people who worship God in the Spirit and cause a crisis in the heavenlies until earth feels the impact.

The Place of Worship in the Apocalypse

Chapters four and six of the Book of Revelation amply describe our proposition. John is suddenly lifted in the Spirit where he sees a throne and One sitting thereon. Straightway he hears a response from groups described as four living creatures and twenty-four elders. We soon learn who these are for they are singing about redeeming blood. Whatever symbolism their numbers may suggest, there is no doubt that they are a redeemed company…not angels, for angels never knew the joy that our salvation brings. The crescendo of heavenly praise is reached when they declare the One on the throne to be the Creator of all things.

Jesus Christ had read from the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth and, after introducing Himself as Jehovah’s anointed servant, He closed the book and commenced His earthly ministry. The Church Age has intervened and it is now time to open the book and loose the seals of judgment. Nobody in heaven is found worthy until one sees a Lamb slain and the cry rings through the heavens, “Thou art worthy”.

The heavenly Lamb now opens the Book and takes up the reading just where He had left off centuries before. The seals are loosed and the judgments fall. The slain martyrs cry from under the altar that their blood might be avenged. The rich men and the strong men cry for the rocks to fall upon them and for the caves to hide them from the wrath of Him that sits upon the throne. What has happened? The altar that has cried for mercy and has been vindicated in the salvation of millions now cries for justice. The altar which saved now condemns. The God-appointed day for judgment by the One whom God ordained has come.

The Lamb Triumphant

Now to the point. What brought to a head this most profound onward step in God’s program? We might say, divine sovereignty and this would be true, but we must also see the power of worship. Certainly the worshippers of the picture are seen as being in heaven, but it is their worship that brings on the divine action. No half-hearted theology with these people. No irrelevancy of Christianity enters their minds. The Lamb is the touchstone of faith. God has set Him forth to be a mercy seat for sinners. Heaven was emptied to provide a sacrifice, and now heaven is filled again as the triumphant One assumes His rightful place and ministers salvation to millions.

Can His Cross be ignored? Yes, but only with eternal consequences. The altar is crying out. The time has come for the vindication of the Man of Calvary before men.

End Time Worshippers

What kind of people are these heavenly worshippers? They are said to be “full of eyes

within”, so they are people of revelation. “They rest not day nor night”, so there is a constancy of spirit about them. They are always on fire in their worship; no desultory fifteen minutes for these people. With one set of wings they fly; they are the Lord’s eagle saints mounting up; they see what others do not see in the rarefied atmosphere of God’s alpine country.

These are the quality worshippers of the end time who have “understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do”. They have no mandate to call for judgment - this is always God’s prerogative, but what they do understand is that worship moves God one way or the other, and in this they are satisfied.