Congregational Worship and Spurgeon’s Death

Sitting in front of my desk the gentleman asked, “Barry, is it true that what we will be doing for eternity is worshiping God?” “Well,” I said, “that sure seems to be what the Bible teaches,” briefly referring to Revelation 4-5. “Hmm,” said he, “that sounds boring to me.”

That conversation echoes in my soul louder than most others. I was thrilled he was even thinking about heaven. But he revealed much more than his personal contemplations. He was really saying more about the church than his own doctrine of heaven. I suspect a similar sentiment rests in the majority of church folk.

You see, our frame of reference for heavenly worship is the church’s earthly worship. This man assumed that if he had to spend an eternity doing/experiencing what he did each Sunday morning then he would be eternally bored. Frankly, I agree. If we view Revelation 4-5 through the lens of our typical congregational worship, it leaves little to look forward to. Rather, our jobs seem exciting, vacations refreshing, Little League fulfilling, and gadgets enthusing in comparison. The church’s worship? Yawn. Seeing Grandma again excites me, but singing to Jesus everyday? Where’s the remote?

Do we leave the church’s public worship longing for heaven or the office, backyard or TV? Does congregational worship leave a taste of Revelation 4-5 in our mouths, or an aftertaste of cough syrup (helpful, but not delightful)? Might it help to take our worship “cues” from John’s vision so that we’re not confused when we get there? Do we love singing and praying together as a church? Is the crescendo of our week the Lord’s Supper with the church? Do we not worship the same precious Jesus as the heavenly saints?

A.T. Pierson preached at Metropolitan Tabernacle one week after Charles Spurgeon’s death (January 31, 1892). His text was Revelation 4.1 and his comments will not let me go. Provided below are two excerpts from From the Pulpit to the Palm Branch:

“The central object, and the central glory in the vision of heaven, is God; and if we have not learned to think of heaven as, first of all, not the place where our departed friends, however dear, are gathered, but, first of all, as the place where God dwells, we lack the fundamental conception of heaven. The first thing that John saw, and the first thing to be seen, was the throne of God. The light and glory of that divine presence makes every star grow dim, and fills the whole horizon of heaven and the whole vision of the redeemed” (p77). (See John Piper’s contemporary treatment of this in God is the Gospel, pp15-17.)

“Let us stop to consider a moment, that, if you do not love worship, you never can enter heaven. If you do not love worship, you are unfitted for the main activity and ecstasy of heaven, which is endless ascription of glory and praise to God and the Lamb!” (p81)

Please preach about worship one week after my death. Have church because that’s what I’ll be doing!

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