Worship must be the most essential as well as the most important thing in life. If we define it as adoration, submission or obedience, then Adam and Eve fell because their worship took a wrong and disastrous turn. They sinned because they violated God’s command — they abhorred, not adored God and His word; they dismissed His authority, not submitted to it; and they disobeyed His will, not abided in it. Hence, they died. Worship, it seems, equates with life itself.
Same with Cain and Abel. One did not do well in his sacrifice or offering, that is, his inner-worship, and was rejected. His sin: improper or wrong worship in substance or essence. The other did well and was accepted.
Abraham’s offering of Isaac, later on, further defined the real essence and source of worship — faith in the heart. Specifically, it is founded on the unconditional belief that the promise to bless Abraham’s children (and every other promise to humans) would be fulfilled in spite of his killing (or sacrificing) Isaac.
Now, faith, in the case of Adam and Eve, was not an issue at all. Why? Because they saw and talked to God! Where visual confirmation of God’s existence already exists, submission and obedience only need to be nurtured and even tested. They failed on both counts.
In the case of Cain and Abel, faith was likewise a given in spite of lack of visual confirmation. Nevertheless, although they lived outside of Eden, they had to have retained the “visual faith” passed on to them but with the disappointing and abiding presence of sin and death “crouching behind them”; whereas in Eden, life was perfect and sin, although present, seemed far and less aggressive.
The disappointment of the first family may have been too much for Cain, whose offering of his harvest found no pleasure in God. As firstborn, he was expected to be more mature and grounded in the burdens his parents had passed on to them. Perhaps, life outside Eden presented quite an opposite picture of what he had expected from a powerful God. Yes, tilling the ground, planting, caring for the plants and harvesting were tedious tasks; yet picking the best for God was not compared to Abel’s tasks of slaughtering dumb and meek animals as offerings to God. Cain’s attitude in worship as a mere chore or obligation failed to meet God’s standards (a case that often happens today).
Abel, on the other hand, chose the best animal to offer to God. Worship to him was his expression of having served God and his family and given the choice part of what God had given him beforehand. It made his difficult work worth doing and even fulfilling. His entire work as a herder – and his whole life, it follows, for you cannot have a full-grown animal without a year or more of hard labor – comprised his full worship to God. God did not curse Cain for receiving wilted or rotten cabbages but for an unacceptable whole-life offering.
We can say Cain could have done his best as Abel did, but he did not. His patent “hatred” of God and His ways and demands showed through his hatred for Abel, who did as God commanded. Cain had no desire to please God or give due honor and a pleasing worship to God. Certainly, he knew what was required of him, unlike many today who may not actually know but think they worship God properly. Many would-be Abels today actually raise Cain. Ironically, Cain’s act of killing Abel resulted in an acceptable sacrifice of Abel’s life – not by Cain, whose intention was different and the end-result was that of God cursing Cain and the one who would kill him.
So, is there a curse upon those who fail to worship right? It seems so. Again, we see sacrifice as irrevocably and ultimately tied to life – and perfect human life. Anything less is unacceptable. It all comes down to this: Good life, good worship; bad life, bad worship. Good worship brings more life; bad worship brings death.
The Israelites lived under the Law of Moses knowing all these fundamental principles we present. Their only choices were to follow the way of Cain or of Abel. (Looks so simple without all the religious or denominational choices today!) In addition, as beneficiaries of Abraham and the promises he had received, they definitely knew faith in the heart was a basic ingredient of true and proper worship. Yes, all the daily sacrifices and offerings were required; but God still expected them to live according to the fundamental values and principles Adam and Eve, Cain, Abel and Abraham were told to follow.
Is there a “New Revelation”?
So it is with all of us who live outside of Eden and without the temple. Or, without the necessary use of a physical temple. Is there a new or another form of worship given to Christians today? Is there a new revelation we have to wait for in order to finally worship and serve God as the Gospel of Christ teaches? Is this a new definition or concept of worship we present? No!
What many consider a “new revelation” may not actually be a new declaration by God, through His angel or messenger, never before given. It could merely be a fresh uncovering of previously revealed or released knowledge which had been lost, forgotten or misunderstood for so long.
There is nothing new, as Solomon said. “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.” (Eccl. 9:1) Everything has been done and seen by God; and everything has been shown by God to humans or, at least, to His prophets. Enoch wrote a book detailing all the hidden things of God, past, present and future. So, nothing is really new. Not even revelations. What the prophets Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel and the Apostle John wrote were but a retelling or clarification of what had already been revealed a long time ago to others. Some meanings may remain hidden, unknown or covered in a mystery until now; but it does not mean they present new fundamental ideas never before known or understood.
Just because a thing is still in the future does not mean it is new. A “new” Tesla car model to be released in the market next year may already exist as a plan, as a prototype or as a finished product still to be mass-produced. So is a newly-bought home; people built it for months and was bought and lived in for the first time. And even before the house became a house, all the components used to build it already existed in the same form, structure, chemical or physical state they were in before and, likewise, after they came together as a house. A carbon atom that formed the steel bar in a column already existed as a carbon atom when it was mined as an ore from beneath the earth. The bright red paint on a fence may have been red pigments harnessed from plants and processed in a factory to make gallons of pure red paint.
Perhaps, the fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium and other heavier elements to produce light can be deemed as one of the few physical processes that produce “new” things (as in Creation): new matter and new light — or energy that renews and sustains life on Earth. Every dawn, in that sense, is a new beginning, a new refreshing and a recreation of the very first day. Other than this wonderful yet often-neglected blessing and reminder from our Creator, all else is old and grows older.
What we consider as new may be our own initial experience of things already existing or done in the past. Only the appearance seems new, products of human invention and creativity, not divine creation. As such, they will decay or rot. A cellphone may seem a recent innovation; however, it does not mean humans or other beings never communicated through long-distance means. Why then does prayer work – or for that matter, why does revelation exist at all? Phone bills could be the only “new thing” made by humans, if ever.
What about Prophecies?
In terms of future events, we will not fully know and understand the exact time and meaning of such events and the people involved. God has kept some things hidden in the dark – as mysteries, although dimly recognizable by those who diligently seek and humbly inquire of God. Yes, we can say the people involved will be “new” beings or persons who had never lived before and the events are new interactions of peoples, things and places that we have never seen, heard or experienced before. In that sense, some things seem new. However, the judgments and values of God remain the same. A wicked heart will enrage Him, while a humble heart will touch Him to listen and to care. Murder will always be against His basic spiritual nature or principles. Mercy will always move Him to mercy as well.
So, to live or act as if God will change His judgments and His attitude toward sin would seem like forcing God to be what He is not. Meaning, we want Him to be a new being who will not make righteous judgments or not render punishment to the disobedient. Some who have faith in Him may want Him to adjust to their distorted ways of seeing the Gospel that is totally unfounded in the plain testimonies of the first believers. “New” or modern secular ideas or humanistic tendencies now replace the simple and unadorned concepts or ways of understanding the revealed Word, as originally delivered by the Holy Spirit.
Forms of Revelation
Revelation then could come in the form of knowledge or teaching from God, such as the exact words of Christ “revealed” verbally or personally by Christ Himself or through the “putting back into memory” of those same words through the inspiration (breathing) of the Holy Spirit, as in the case of the Apostles when Christ left them after His ministry on Earth. Secondly, revelation could also come in the form of events or occurrences in the past, the present or the future. The first example would be the story of Creation revealed to Moses which he wrote down. The second would be that of Mary receiving the angel’s message that she is being filled by the Spirit to conceive the Son of God, as recorded by the gospel writers. Lastly, future events, such as the vision of New Jerusalem given by the angel to John which he also wrote down, show us what is still to happen.
So, looking at it closely, we can already see that any revelation of any form (knowledge and events, or a combination of both) which people may consider “new” may have already been revealed in the distant past and declared only for the first time to a person, a group or a nation. What Isaiah revealed about the Messiah centuries ago was already known, accepted and believed upon by so many people long before it came to pass. So it is with the writings and visions of Apostle John. It is a way for God to prepare people as well as to convince them of His power to make things happen. Moreover, He shows the ultimate scheme of things in the heavenly abode so that we can have a way to believe, live and relate with others according to His intentions. And His intentions, if He reveals them to us now, show us how we can also live accordingly in the present.
Hence, the Law of Moses, including all the ceremonial requirements, was but a picture of the reality of God’s love and the corresponding spiritual (not ceremonial, to be specific) demands or expectations on the individual. The Gospel, therefore, contains no room for any legal, social, cultural, political or ceremonial prescriptions that we might impose on any person in order to say that he or she has properly accepted the message and, in return, has been accepted by God as well. Yet, such prescriptions abound and cause confusion and even deter many from “acquiring faith”.
Revelations Have Fixed or Established Meanings
Not only is there no new revelation, revelation has an essential and specific message that remains unchanged throughout generations. For those who have never heard or read Scriptures, spiritual knowledge or events would appear as new or impossible, even absurd. And even for believers, simple, truthful explanations of old teachings and events may appear as “new” or “wrong”. This is the bane of divided religions spawned by people who have not received revelation from the Holy Spirit but from the spirit of the world. (I Cor. 2:7-16) Secular, humanistic, philosophical, materialistic or scientific understanding of scriptures diminishes the pure and pristine message of the revealed Word. Every “new” (alternative) understanding or view of scriptures, thus, produces another distinct religion or denomination. Hence, the thousands and thousands of partitions of the One True Gospel of Christ into every “new” and possible variation of the message, ad absurdum.
What we end up seeing is a so-called New Gospel, a New Way, a New Order that many people are led to believe and accept as the final or ultimate truth for our new, modern world. With science and technology now leading the way to this total makeover of Christ’s message, we have finally lost track of the “primitive state” (the old path or the already established “new and living way” – Heb. 10:20) of the Gospel that no matter how much one points out the inconsistencies, people will no longer go back to the infant-stage or early simple or natural practices of the firstfruits of the Kingdom. This takes a bit of explaining which we will contrast with how we have come to define and practice worship today.
How We Lost the Essence of Worship
Worship, in general, has become a corporate or shared act that has essentially minimized and even removed the greater importance of personal or individual worship. What once was an act of devotion to God by an individual (e.g., Cain offering his harvest sacrifice, Abel offering animal sacrifices, Noah offering burnt sacrifices with his family, Abraham offering Isaac and David praising God with his psaltery while tending his flock) eventually became a formal, ritualistic act done by priests in the temple. Although that paradigm came from God and was a necessary tool for uniting the nation Israel and to show His glory through that nation, it never removed the original concept and practice among God’s children to offer their sacrifices and gifts individually; that is, everyone had to provide the materials for the priests to burn or offer daily to God at the temple. There was no corporate program or formal worship, like the ones we have now, conducted where all believers gathered at one place, except on special occasions, such as inauguration of the temple or its rebuilding. All the rest of the annual feasts (Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles) were done by families in their homes. Individual worship or family devotion remained the paradigm; and that is what we have lost in the long history of faith and worship.
Hence, today, “breaking bread in . . . homes” has become an anachronistic idea in a world where “partaking the Lord’s Supper” only happens in church buildings during a ceremony (and never happens anywhere else – no, not even in so many homes anymore — or in any other way other than church-prescribed). People have thoroughly forgotten and have fully misunderstood the record that those early disciples were eating ordinary or plain simple meals together where they ought to be eaten – at home or anywhere they met! Moreover, and this is the most incredulous twisting-of-meanings-and-events of all, the “rite” no longer feeds or satisfies people with food the way those agapes always did in the past. The Lord’s Meal has become a religious prop, not a real proof, of God’s complete spiritual salvation and His full manifest or physical blessings. A “meal” you eat before lunch or supper is certainly not a meal. The true Lord’s Meal, love-feast or agape IS!
There is no new revelation. And, it follows, no new interpretation of any revelation, no new basic message of Christ. If ever there is, it is a clarification of things we thought were already closed in meaning. Look again at the idea that worship requires an act we perform with other people in a certain way and at a certain place. Many today feel obliged to fulfill that duty by attending mass, a worship service or a church gathering. But what did Christ say? Go into your room and pray; for God will hear and reward you. Or as John beautifully closes the whole idea in a real, future (and eternal) time: There will be no need for a temple (or church, chapel or cathedral, i.e., “places of worship”) in New Jerusalem because God is the temple Himself. Wow, that seems new to many of us building-bound worshipers!
What is the Assembly for?
An assembly is a mere assembly or gathering of God’s children. It is neither the defining moment nor the final determinant of worship to God. Why did God hate the offerings and sacrifices of the Israelites? Because their hearts – hence, their lives – were not right before God. Lives, faith and deeds can never be set right in the assembly through merely listening to preaching, singing hymns, praying as an assembly or fellowshiping with other believers. A genuinely vibrant and healthful life can never be acquired or bought in hospitals or clinics! Yes, we all need healing and refreshing through some process of learning, conversion and transformation; and that can be done anywhere in many various natural or ordinary means common to all humans. A simple, humble home will suffice; so will a simple, humble heart focused on God.
Many athletes spend numerous lonesome hours building up their bodies and perfecting their skills; but their performance or proficiency is measured by garnering medals at the crucial moment, not by the cheers they receive or the money they can earn. For worship to be genuine or acceptable, we need to realize that the “medal” is not given to those whose attendance in churches, masses or rites is consistent but to those whose hearts were fully trained in and on the Lord, 24/7 – night or day, fair or stormy, with or without a cheering team watching. It is out there in the homes, the fields, the streets, the offices, the malls, the hills and the seas that true and proper (and acceptable) worship occurs and is expected by God. He never demanded temples, cathedrals, buildings and auditoriums in order to see and hear the noise of praise from believers and to count how many there are doing so everywhere and in many forms of rituals and ceremonies. What impresses humans does not impress God. What humans clap to He often abhors.
What and Where is the Temple Now?
So, do we then leave or destroy our churches and temples because God Himself is the temple in New Jerusalem? Or is the need for a temple or any building a superfluous addition to the idea and act of worship? Because if we go down to the real concept of worship (“offering of a pure living sacrifice that is acceptable to God” – Rom 12:1), we should all be living continually in a temple or a church building to do that! Or, at least, design our homes to make it look like a “church”. But what does a “church” look like? Look into the mirror or into people’s faces. Doing so brings us closer to home; so, why not just make you heart the final place where God will reside? You as His temple. Here and now! Why wait for New Jerusalem? Is that precisely the “new revelation” we fail to see or accept as it is? Why ever did God give us this vision of the perfect city, the perfect place for His chosen ones – not just any nation or ethnic group – which we fail to comprehend? Why ever did God give us this vision of what is in eternity? Just to impress us?
We easily pass over this vision of New Jerusalem as merely an ideal concept, a utopia or a distant reality that only solitary, detached old prophets living in the wilderness try ram into our brains; and so, we discard its meaning, its very essence or any significance in our lives now. What John “revealed” and what it means to us now is so unreal and even surreal that we think it must have nothing to do with our distorted, corrupted and cursed existence and reality. Twelve foundations of the most precious gems in the world holding up the City Foursquare! Gigantic gates, each made out of asingle pearl! Come on, this vision trumps all and every fairy tale or CGI-savvy Hollywood movie there is.
Until we read and believe what John wrote (that God Himself is the temple), we will not learn how to worship Him as He is. Is this a new way of viewing God? For whatever it means, it has no basis in reality and in our conception of the “church”, of the “gospel” or of “faith”. It defies all historical, theological, scientific, philosophical and literal explanation. We simply say: Spiritual or heavenly things must be taken simply as true, as real and as certain. Or: Secret things belong to God! Yeah, our God is so secretive and so inscrutable, we assume even His revelations are also incomprehensible. Yet the vision of New Jerusalem was not one of the prophecies “classified” or kept secret by John. The beauty and splendor of New Jerusalem could not be any clearer and more specific than how John described it. Streets of gold? Why, if God allows us to live in a city with 24-carat-gold streets, would that be a cheap or disappointing reward for you? Would that make God less-powerful? Just the absence of contractors or engineers who shave-off quality roads in order to make bigger profits would be a welcome Heaven-on-Earth for me!
Do we feel like privileged believers expecting God to overdo Himself when we finally receive His promised rewards? Do we take all His revealed words as ripe with fantastic or impossible ideas that even our wildest imaginations must be insufficient to attain? Just as we avoid staring at the Sun lest we become blinded by its brilliance, we reserve the right not to take visions as they really are – or close to the true reality. Hence, even in our lives, we have concocted ways to house God’s teachings (literally, at that) because that is the only way we know how and not according to the ways already gloriously revealed and fully practiced by the early disciples.
The Final Heavenly Reality Defines True Worship – in Spirit and Truth
Did not the apostles already teach that here on Earth we are the temple of the Holy Spirit? Was that a “new revelation” from Paul during his time? Perhaps. Imagine if one of the Old Testament prophets said that. Surprise! They actually did and were murdered! Even Christ was accused of blaspheming when He said the Father and He were One. That was no different from His first public confirmation of Isaiah’s prophecy by actually reading it and fulfilling it at that moment: The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me . . . to preach the gospel to the poor! (Luke 4:16-20) So, John was not saying anything new at all. He was revealing the real meaning of what Christ and the Apostles already believed and taught. This simply means his revelation is the final heavenly state or order of things which we can already apply in a spiritual manner. How?
We say this: If in Heaven God is the Temple Himself (we worship the Temple there) – and He should be! – why should we not then be His temple here on Earth (we worship Him in our own personal temple)? The Lord is in His holy temple . . . . What more do we need to do beyond this? Organize and raise so much money? Register a property and call in people to call in more and more people so that we can build a bigger structure, a basilica, a monolith, ad infinitum! This is not new. It has been done before. The simple truth is: God hates our offerings and sacrifices because our hearts are not full of His truth and His Word. Like the idolatrous Israelites, we have allowed evil spirits into His original temple. Hence, God destroyed the temple, never to rise again. What God has destroyed, no one can rebuild. For He has built a better and an everlasting City in Heaven, New Jerusalem where the Temple is the Lord and the Lamb!
Why did Christ not go to the Temple as often as the rest of the Jews? Why should He? He had no sin to sacrifice or offer in propitiation for any offense. Besides, He is the Temple and the Object of True Worship. And that was what He was trying to show and teach to the people all the while. When He died, the veil in the Temple split, thus, opening the way to the Holy of Holies for all who believe – that is, His heavenly grace. Yet, even today, we do not understand the real significance of this event. For that is also the very reason why He destroyed the temple and scattered the whole nation of Israel. The place, the city and the former pride of His chosen people were given up in favor of the salvation of the entire world. Moreover, as we can see, the whole world itself will be given up in favor of the coming New Jerusalem where the saved will dwell. How obvious these things appear now from this perspective.
If God then is the Temple in New Jerusalem, how and where do we worship today? As we have been saying all along, the vision is God’s way of telling us: WE DO NOT NEED A TEMPLE! Here on Earth, we have our body and our life as His temple; we offer them to Him as our pure and acceptable worship, as Abel and Abraham did. In New Jerusalem, we will share openly our spirit and our life with God, our Temple; He offers Himself to us as our ultimate reward, final rest and eternal refreshing. (Isaiah 28:12) When Christ offered Himself to the Father as sacrifice, it was His ultimate expression of love and worship on our behalf. When the Father (like Abraham) offered His Son as sacrifice, it was His highest expression of love and service on our behalf. What do we offer as our pleasing sacrifice then? Excellent love and pure life-worship. Thus, we live with Him and share in His glory now and for Eternity. Is that not what He had wanted in Eden? If that is not simple and clear enough, we must be as hardheaded as the Israelites.
We are God’s temple here and now! Or we should be, if we only knew how. That is what He wants and what He intended doing when He created humans. Everything that God does happens in the real temple now and there in your life, not anywhere else; and it is also His ultimate goal in Heaven. How you respond and behave according to His work and leading (not that of any other person or group) determines how you appreciate what is in store for you in New Jerusalem even before you reach it. But we have lost that vision, knowledge and wisdom. The gift – that is, the Holy Spirit Himself — dwells in the heart of the obedient believer. We all know that; but we act as if we do not. What the prophets revealed in ancient times is wide open for all people to see and dig into for understanding. Those truths are all old revelation but containing new or refreshing revelation (“they are new every morning”) in the sense that we need to apply their essential meanings into our lives and into what we have haphazardly and witlessly involved ourselves in. This revealed wisdom also passed on by God to the prophets will allow us to perfect our work and our offering of life to Him in truth, simplicity, sincerity and humility of spirit.
This is what worship in spirit and truth means. Until we understand and accept this “old-new” meaning of worship, believers will never attain true freedom and unity.
God’s Word is truly a bottomless mine of treasures. Read it more.
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