WORSHIP IN REVELATION
Worship is a key element in the book of Revelation. However, there have been a plethora of claims and arguments made concerning their function. While it would be impossible in such a short paper to cover all of the different views, I will provide a few for the sake of promoting discussion. Fiorenza argued that the hymns of Revelation were intended to promote political struggle. G.K. Beale stated that the heavenly worship in Revelation was intended to be patterned by the Church on earth. Osborne asserts that the hymns are strategically placed in order to draw attention to two things: the majesty and sovereignty of God, and the worship of his people, heavenly as well as earthly. Still Bauckham says that the worship of Revelation has a polemical significance in that it “sees the root of the evil of the Roman Empire to lie in the idolatrous worship of merely human power, and therefore draws the lines of conflict between the worshippers of the beast and the worshippers of the one true God.” Bauckham understands the significance of this polemic to flow from the Jewish and early Christian importance of worshipping the one God and creator.
Fiorenza’s position seems to be problematic in that she solely focuses upon what she sees as liberation elements within the Apocalypse. In addition, the context of the hymns and their heavenly imagery would suggest that John would have not considered earthly political struggle to be of primary concern. Beale, Osborne, and Bauckham’s positions seem to have valid argumentation from the vantage point of context and history. Beale’s argument is the weakest of the three but it might be significant to take seriously the connection that he makes between the tabernacle of Moses and the worship scenes, especially considering the exodus and wilderness imagery found in Revelation. The imagery of the slain Lamb of God standing in the middle of the throne while being flanked by elder worshippers is very similar, if not identical to, the Eucharist. Could John have been drawing upon early Christian practice as well? Osborne seems to corroborate Beale’s argument while also touching on Bauckham’s sovereignty motif. Bauckham seems to recover Fiorenza’s position without the need to place primary importance upon political struggle; instead he is concerned with the sovereignty of God and Christ.
Like Bauckham, I believe that Revelation intends to convey theology. I also believe, with Beale and Osborne, that John intends his readers to learn from and emulate the more perfect worship that takes place in the heavenly realm. It would seem illogical that the early Church would receive this book as truth and not seek to pattern their behavior after the divine reality that it represents. I think that in a sense all of the positions mentioned contain truth. John certainly intended the worship presented to be a polemic to the worship of Rome and the beast. However, this does not seem to be his primary purpose or message in these scenes. The primary purpose seems to be, to borrow from Wilson’s motif, a message concerning the sovereignty of God which points to ultimate victory for his worshippers. This is not to say that the worship is limited to this aspect but simply flows from it.
. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Revelation: Vision of a Just World, ed. Gerhard Krodel (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), 103.
. G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 312.
. Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 236.
. Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993), 59.