Will Heaven Be An Eternal Worship Service?
Maybe you’ve been there. A church service that seemingly lasted forever. It left you with a haunting question. Is this what Heaven will be like? If so, do I really want to go there?
If you’ve ever wondered if Heaven will be an eternal worship event, I’ve got good news for you. It will be. I know. That’s not what you hoped to hear. Some of you – even those of you who like worship – don’t think of worship as an activity you want to do every day, all day long. But that’s because we usually restrict our definition of worship to those activities that happen in church.
Worship is not an activity; it’s an attitude. God doesn’t call us to sacrifice animals; He calls us to sacrifice ourselves. Worship doesn’t happen in a particular place; it happens when you are near a particular Person.
The Bible presents a clear understanding of what it means to worship God. At Mt. Sinai, just after God rescued the Jews from Egypt, He gave them two major sets of directives. The first set taught them how to live. It included the Ten Commandments as a summary statement of God’s moral requirements, but it also included laws on virtually every area of their lives. God demanded control over what they ate, what they wore, how they treated one another, who they associated with, and what they did in their bedrooms. They had to decide if they were going to submit to God’s authority. They said “yes” to Him. They submitted.
Through His gift of these laws, God communicated a message. You can’t worship God if you are not willing to submit to His authority in every area of your life. Worship is not singing, or giving money, or listening to a preacher. All of these can be acts of worship, and all of them can be empty expressions of nothing. Worship at its heart is me bowing my head before God, recognizing His Eminence, and saying “yes” to whatever He requires.
The second set of directives was a blueprint for constructing a system of worship. This system had two components – sacrifices and a place to conduct them. God gave explicit instructions for both components. The Jews couldn’t worship God using whatever means or methodology they desired. God didn’t just desire their worship; He wanted them to worship Him in a certain way.
Wherever the Jews went in their pre-Canaan journeys, the place of worship (called the Tabernacle) traveled with them. The Tabernacle, along with the pillar of fire and cloud, represented the presence of God among His people. It was the place designated for worship. The place of worship symbolizing the presence of God traveled with the people of God. Worship was wherever God was, and God was wherever the people were.
When the Israelites finally occupied Canaan, the Tabernacle (and eventually the Temple) stood in Jerusalem. Worship didn’t travel anymore. Now, the people traveled to the place of worship.
Ever since then, people have been traveling to the place of worship where they conduct the activities of worship. For most of us, we don’t call the place of worship the “temple” anymore. We call it a church. And just like the Israelites, we have come to think of worship as a place and an activity instead of an attitude toward a Person.
Even the nations around Canaan thought of God as the God of Israel, the place, instead of the God of the Israelites, the people. Ben-Hadad, the king of the Aramaeans, suffered defeat at the hands of the Israelites. His advisors attributed the defeat to their belief that Israel’s God lived in the hills (1 Kings 20:23). If they fought the Israelites again in the plains, they could defeat Israel’s God. Or so they believed. They were wrong. God was everywhere.
Naaman, a leprous military commander, received God’s healing in Israel. He too came to the false conclusion that Israel’s God was local to Israel’s territory. Before he left Israel, he loaded two of his mules with Israelite dirt so that he could take Israel’s God with him back to his home (2 Kings 5:15-17). He thought he could contain God in his saddlebags.
We do the same thing. Is God in the church building? Yes, but no more than He is in the daycare facility. Though your Bible, your devotional, and the podcast of your favorite preacher can aid your worship, they are not necessary for worship to happen. God’s in your living room, the restaurant, and the gym. He’s even in your car. That means you need to be careful to obey Him in all these places, but it also means any place can become a place of worship.
When Solomon prayed the prayer of dedication for the Temple, he stated what these others needed to know. No house (and definitely no saddlebags) can contain God (1 Kings 8:27). Not even the heavens can contain God. God cannot be localized. David, Solomon’s father, spoke of his attempt to run from God (Psalm 139). He ran to heaven, to hell, to the farthest sea, and into the darkness. The result was the same in each place. God was there.
Though Heaven is God’s home, God doesn’t need a place to contain Him. And we don’t need a place to worship Him. John saw many beautiful things in Heaven each of which reflected the glory of God. One thing he did not see was a temple (Rev. 21:22). There will be no place of worship in Heaven. And yet, every time the Bible gives us a glimpse into Heaven, the first activity the writers describe is worship (Is. 6; Rev. 4-5). That’s because, in Heaven, worship isn’t about a place or activity; it’s about God.
He is the Temple.
“I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” (Rev. 21:22)
When God is present, you don’t need all the worship trappings to worship. You just need Him. Because God is present everywhere, every place can be a place of worship. When we do life’s activities in submission to and adoration of the God who is present, every activity becomes an act of worship.
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)
So, will Heaven be a church service that lasts forever? No. Your level of relief at that answer reflects one of two possibilities. The first is that pastors and churches have done a poor job of presenting genuine worship. It has become common to think of worship as a place and the activities you do there instead of it being the celebration of a Person. Unabashed and unrestrained worship is the natural response when righteous people gain an accurate, full view of God’s majesty. Worship might not excite you because you haven’t seen God’s glory, and you haven’t fully experienced His presence. That will change in Heaven when you kneel before Him.
The other possibility for your reluctance to worship God is your relationship with Him is askew. Either your relationship with God is non-existent, or sin hampers it. You know what it is to be with someone whose presence so enraptures you that you lose all track of time. “It’s been two hours already?” When you’re with someone you love, time doesn’t matter. You want to be there. But with God, you don’t want to be in His presence because He is holy, and you are sinful.
Sin separates you from God. It did for the Israelites too. That’s why God gave them sacrifices. For those times when they refused to submit to His authority, they could bring a sacrifice to the place of worship to receive forgiveness and to restore their relationship.
We don’t make sacrifices anymore. Jesus gave Himself as the final sacrifice for sin. Based on His sacrifice, you can receive God’s forgiveness by placing your faith in Him. Jesus sacrificed His will for you. Now He requires you to sacrifice your will to Him. This is your first act of worship. Once you do that and grow in your relationship with God, worship will no longer be a drudgery. It will become your passion.
No, Heaven will not be an eternal church service, but it will it be a non-stop worship event celebrating God and His bounty forever.
In Heaven, every activity becomes an act of worship.
Whether we’re fishing, talking with a friend, skiing the slopes, or exploring the cosmos, we will do it all for the glory of God.
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