Worship in Eternity

One of the great pieces of wisdom I’ve received in my short life has been “Begin with the end in mind.” Now this wisdom isn’t limited merely to the realm of church matters. This idea bleeds over into every sphere, whether it’s your family, or your business, or your home, or even dealing with people in general. Our aim is to be wise stewards of the time and resources that are ours.

Is there a distinctly Christian approach towards this goal? Christians live with eternity ever before them. Even time itself is understood in a remarkably different way according to Scripture. Unlike the cyclical perspective of so many, Christians recognize that human history is progressing towards a specific end, the eschaton, as theologians call it. We are progressing towards that great Day when the Lord Jesus shall return and right every wrong. As we celebrate every Easter, Death’s expiration date is soon approaching.

But how are we to live in light of this Christ-centered end? In light of eternity, the believer is called to live with at least two goals in mind. The first is to long with joy for the return of the Lord. The second is to call all people to repentance and faith in Christ.

The great hope for believers in every age is the return of Christ. Now there are a wealth of views concerning the end of the world. But one unified goal of every believer is for Christ to return in power and glory. This lies at the heart of every service of worship. The act of worship is itself a divine intrusion into the ordinary affairs of our world. In worship, we proclaim the victory of Christ. In worship, we announce that the King of Kings reigns and that His Day is soon coming. This liturgical interruption is broadcasted as a reminder to prepare ourselves for His coming and as His people we are charged to be ready.

In His famous Olivet Discourse, the Lord Jesus Christ concludes His warnings concerning the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (Mark 13:1-31) and points His people towards His Second Coming (Mark 13:32-37). The call to “stay awake” is so well pronounced and is echoed by His own parable in Matthew’s parallel, which occurs after Matthew’s version of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 25:1-13). Christians have a command from Christ to “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matt. 25:13 ESV) We live each day knowing that it may be our last. Christians live then, with a self-conscious awareness of eternity. To use the language of Jonathan Edwards in his infamous resolutions (his self-designed creed): “Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.” (Resolution #17) In other words, Christians seek to live in such a way as to die without regrets.

But how do we pursue this end? We live with heaven before us with a weighty sense of man’s great need. The greatest need every person has today is a need to be reconciled to God through Christ. This broken relationship between people and God lays at the heart of every problem in our world today. It is the believer’s union with Christ which transforms them as individuals, as spouses and children, as parents and employees, and everywhere in between. And so, as believer’s recognize Christ on the throne and Christ soon to come, we commit ourselves to sharing Christ and His message with everyone. But this is not done in isolation, the chief outlet for this Gospel proclamation is in liturgy, that is public worship.

We may find this peculiar in our hyper-individualistic age, but God has saved a people for Himself, not mere segmented persons. He’s building a Temple, not a row of stones. Therefore, we find the dawn of the eternal Sabbath in our Lord’s Day worship as we assemble together. It is within the context of our liturgical acts that we most vividly perceive the divine intrusion come to conquer the forces of darkness.

This is in fact the overall theme throughout Revelation as a whole. As one commentator notes, “At the close of Revelation . . . readers are forcefully reminded that the conflicts and conquests unveiled throughout are fought with spiritual weapons in heavenly places: That is to say, with liturgical weapons from the heavenly sanctuary that has descended to earth.”

As creatures made in the image of God, the final word on every matter is this: Worship God. We worship God as we long for His return. We worship God as we cry out to Him from the darkest pits of our guilt and shame. We worship God as we continue to grow in our trusting and resting on Christ. We worship God as we assemble week-in and week-out in public worship that we might be counted as those committed to the divine liturgy of Word and Sacrament. For in heaven our worship will be anything but a private affair. In fact, it will be the most glorious and wide-spread public affair because Christ will be in our midst forever, and sin banished from us never to return. In short, it is the sum of every hope and dream we’ve ever longed for, expunged from every ounce of selfishness, and purged from any remnant of wickedness. We will be as He is, and will be where He is forever. This is what we long for, and shall one day see. Come, Lord Jesus. (Rev. 22:20)