Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Soundtrack for Revelation

 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. Revelation 5:13-14

Guest Post by: Abigail McFarthing

If the person at the center of Revelation is Jesus, then the activity at the center is worship. Scenes of worship burst through the clouds of Revelation like sunset rays, illuminating and transforming even the ominous thunderheads of judgment and the hazy fog of "the end times" into things of beauty. What's more, this central activity of worship is something we get to be involved in. We may be waiting for many of the events of Revelation to be ultimately realized in the future, but the worshiping we'll be doing around God's throne has started now!

To help us meditate on the truths of Revelation and join in heaven's worship now, I've created a playlist (with some input from other worship leaders at City Church). Although worship is more than music, the worship of Revelation includes music. So I encourage you to use these songs to help you in your personal times of worship.

As I read Revelation and thought about these songs, several themes emerged which I hope can help guide our thinking as we worship:

  • God is holy (He's completely pure, transcendent, and other than us). More than any other theme, this one shines through the songs on the playlist. "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty" sing the four living creatures (4:8), and we echo their song: see Agnus Dei plus any of the songs with "holy" in the title.
  • God is on the throne (He's the sovereign, reigning Lord of history). God's defining title in Revelation is "Him who sits on the throne" (5:13): "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits upon the throne" (7:10). What a comforting truth for our chaotic lives! Songs that highlight this idea are Behold Our God, We Will Run/He Is Here, Our God Reigns, and Salvation Belongs to Our God, among others.  
  • Jesus is the Lamb (He's the atoning sacrifice for our sins). Thousands upon thousands of angels proclaim, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain" (5:12). Again, this is a key image from Revelation that shows up in worship song after worship song, including See the Lamb of God, Wounded One, Revelation Song, and Overcome.
  • Jesus is the Victorious Judge (He's the conquering ruler of the nations, to whom we'll give an account for our lives). This concept is a little more difficult for us to accept and rejoice in, but it's a major truth of Revelation. "Behold, I am coming soon," Jesus says, "bringing my recompense with me" (22:12). Jesus is not tame-- he's scary... yet he's good. Here are some songs that can help us internalize this aspect of Jesus (also known as "hardcore Jesus" songs... thank you, Val Tracy!*): See He Comes, Storm All Around You, Beautiful Rider, and The Eyes of the Lord.
  • Our response. In light of these great truths about who God is and what he has done, the multitudes of angels and people (and even animals, it would seem) respond with exuberant praise and deep reverence. In the words of our very own Esther Brown: "He is, and so we worship." Here are some of the best "response songs" on the list: Jesus at the Center, Adoration, We Fall Down, and Our God Reigns.
  • Heaven is going to be great! Just as Revelation paints a tantalizing picture of life in the New Heaven and the New Earth, I've added several songs (some of which aren't strictly worship songs) that engage our imaginations and whet our appetite for the worship of heaven: There Is a Day, Heaven Song, Endless Hallelujah, This Is Not the End, In Your City, I Will Rise, and Farther Along.

I encourage you to pick one or two of these themes to meditate on. You can use the Bible, journaling, and/or the songs I've highlighted as a jumping-off point to help you dig into, chew over, and rejoice in these truths about our glorious King.

*"By 'hardcore Jesus' I mean the Jesus that's coming on the fiery steed, and the Jesus who is the only one holy enough to open the seals, and the Jesus with the authority to Judge.  It's not that it's wrong to sing about the Jesus who loves us and forgives every mistake we make, and I'm glad we sing those songs early and often.  But for this series especially, and since we're trying to think of Jesus in a different way, I think it's good to worship the 'scary' Jesus who's coming to open a can of whoop-you-know-what alongside the loving and forgiving Jesus.
"I think there is something awe-inspiring and scary about the concept of 'Behold, the Lion of Judah!' and it's a slain lamb.  A sacrificial lamb is a bloody, violent image, and when I think of Jesus in that way it's weird and uncomfortable and pushes me out of my comfort zone.  But studying Revelation is about embracing the awkwardness of coming to face the Jesus you've built up in your mind and discovering that He's a lot more than you expected. Admitting that you don't quite understand and have zero control over the One who you love and who made you is discomfiting. It's not something that's easy to wrap your head around." - Val Tracy

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