And before the throne there was a sea of glass like to crystal: and in the middle of the throne, and round about the throne…
Now, what are the characteristic features, so to call them, of the perfect worship of heaven, which are touched on in the text?
1. It will be a continuous service. There will be no break or intermission on the part of those who join in it. The now that is there is always.
2. It will be united worship — all join and all join alike.
3. The character of the worship will be one and the same.
4. The worship will be "before the throne," i.e., in the conscious immediate presence of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, with all the surroundings of visible glory.
5. The worship will be all-absorbing in contemplation of the Divine glory and perfections. No thought of personal doings or deservings can find place there. There is only the acknowledgment that all are His gifts — all has come from Him — and there is the humble tendering back of everything. "The crowns are cast before the throne" in adoring thankfulness to Him who is the Giver of them all. Worship, as distinct from prayer and praise and thanksgiving, is the conscious lifting up of the soul to God in contemplation of Him, in His Being and acts, whether towards ourselves in particular, or towards our whole race, or in all His works, according to our knowledge of them. We cannot really worship without knowledge — we cannot worship a blank; we must have knowledge of Him to whom we pay homage; and that knowledge must be received into ourselves from without. Thus worship is both a taking in and a giving out: taking in, i.e., receiving, and following out, and expanding, and setting forth before ourselves, who that great Being is with whom we have to do, whose works encompass us, and to whom we desire to draw near, to know better and to hold communion with; and then giving back, as it were, this knowledge at which we have arrived, in acts of adoration and praise, expressed in different ways according to the subject matter as regards Almighty God, in which we may be engaged. The two must go hand in hand: you cannot rightly worship except you have acquaintance with Him whom you worship, and you cannot have this acquaintance without worship. You cannot come at a right knowledge of Almighty God, much less of Almighty God as revealed under the Christian dispensation, except the knowledge acquired and the spirit in which that knowledge is dwelt on and followed up, be with a mind of adoration and worship. And the two (the knowledge and the worship) grow and advance together. Increased knowledge of God carries us on in worship, and fuller worship leads up to fuller knowledge. What is set before us in the text is the type of the perfect worship of heaven, and it is toward this that our life on earth should lead. For man's eternal joy will be in praising God. The power of fully appreciating the love of God towards us will prompt the unceasing praise, and in that unceasing praise will be the joy of heaven. The Divine love, which receives the praises of that innumerable blessed company, will ever fresh inspire their song, will pour into it new depth and richness, and will receive it into the fulness of the Divine life. There is no intermission, there is no end; for God's glory cannot be known in its eternity except by the gift of an eternal power of contemplation and of union with Him. People talk a great deal about places of worship and forms of worship. But do they consider what worship means? They think perhaps of edification by sermons, or of instruction out of God's Holy Scriptures, or of joining in prayers and hymns, or of the good they may feel, or of the things they need to ask, but these are not worship. In all these we look for something for ourselves, something to get. But worship does not mean getting anything, but it means giving something. And what? Money, costly offerings, such things as come by birth, high station, or intellect? Not so; not so, in the truest sense of giving. For these things are not our own. It is of them that the man after God's own heart said, "Of Thine own have we given Thee." Wherein, then, consists that offering which we may more truly call our own than all such things without, though in a sense, and for a time at least, they do belong to us? Something there is, more nearly and more truly our own, which we are to give. That more costly offering, that in which God has delight, is ourselves. We make an offering of our mind, when we withdraw our thoughts from the business of the world, from those things which engross our thoughts and make any lengthened devotion wearisome and distasteful; when we calmly and resolutely set ourselves to mediate on God and things of God; when we try to shut out the distractions of things, and to fix our thoughts upon God, and upon God only, for the time. Again, we make an offering of our heart, which is the seat of the affections, in earnestness of devotion, calling up before us His goodness, His love, His bounties towards us, as well in respect of His gifts in this life as still more for all His gracious and abundant promises for the life to come. Again, as God made the mind, He requires an offering of that; and as He made the heart, He demands an offering of that also; so, too, as He made the body, He requires that the body shall bear part in worshipping Him. This we do by outward acts of worship, bowing, kneeling, singing, and joining in the services of His house. Thus the whole man, body and soul, may take part in worship; after this manner here below preparing for the perfect worship of heaven. And He who invites us thus to worship here will be with us, and make that worship approach little by little towards the perfect worship of heaven.
(R. F. Wilson.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.