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Inappropriate Worship

Revelation 22:8-9
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, 'Don't do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!' (NIVUK)

In contrast to the unalterable truth of the revelations from the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 22:6, 18-19), John includes a personal comment about his own failure to respond rightly to the visions he had received. In case any reader is in doubt that John was the observer and recorder of all the revelations, he added his name to the end of the manuscript as he had at the beginning (Revelation 1:1,9). It was Jesus who personally authorised John to see and hear God's awesome plans for the future (Revelation 1:17-19), and although He instructed angels to escort John through many of the dramatic scenes, angels are not God and must never be worshipped.

However the experience of witnessing the future, and being commanded to write it down, overwhelmed John. In his vision, he saw himself falling face down in front of the angel in awe and worship. Perhaps it was a human instinct, in the same way that we might bow to a superior. But it was wrong. And it was not the first time. In Revelation 19:9-10 we read, "Then the angel said to me, 'Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' And he added, 'These are the true words of God.' At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, 'Don't do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.'"

How could John's heart have been so wrong to make the same error twice? He had been 'in the Spirit' (Revelation 1:10) and chosen to communicate God's plans for the end of the world, but he was severely rebuked twice. On both occasions his inappropriate worship was preceded by the promise that Christ is coming for His church, and also an affirmation that the words were true and from God, yet he worshipped the messenger rather than God who sent the message. The angel explained again that all God's messengers were just servants, be they angels or prophets or the myriad of unnamed believers through history who obey God's Word. No servant is greater than his master (John 15:20): no angel has more honour than a believer; and no messenger of God is greater than the people who receive the message with joy.

Colossians 2:18 reminds us that those who worship God's angels are not godly: they are self-inflated and spiritually conceited. It is wrong to worship angels. It dishonours the Lord and is idolatry. It is sobering to realise that 'angel' simply means 'messenger', and is the name given to the leaders of the churches (Revelation 2:1,8,12,18; 3:1,7,14). While it is right to obey God's servants and to submit to their authority (Hebrews 13:7,17), it is wrong to elevate them to anything more than being a servant of God. Equally, although we often feel unworthy, we too are servants of God … as the angels are. Worship is reserved for God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and nobody else. You may love those who brought you to Christ, appreciate those who taught you from the Scriptures, admire their faith and seek to follow their example. But they are just servants. Do not worship them. They may bring you God's Word but they are not God. Just like you, and John whose heart could get carried away in inappropriate worship, they are sinners saved by grace. Do not worship them, that would be idolatry. Instead, pray for them to be faithful messengers of God's Word.

Communicating God. Thank You for reminding me of my potential for idolatry in worshipping Your messengers. Forgive me for worshipping the great and the godly instead of praying for them to be faithful to Your Word. Help me to learn to worship You in spirit and in truth, encouraging all Your people to be Your servants; presenting Your Word to the church and the world, and living by it with Your help. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams