Testifying and Worshiping (Revelation 22:8-9)
The Book of Revelation is drawing to a close, and John needs to establish his credibility. Would you believe me if I told you I saw a beast arising out of the sea and another out of the land? Would you believe me if I told you I had seen a great city descending out of heaven from God?
John, apparently, faced the same problem, and to combat that difficulty, he puts his reputation on the line. But John gets so caught up in the tings he has witnessed that he momentarily forgets a very important lesson.
Let’s examine this passage and think about John’s testifying and worshiping.
John’s Testifying, v 8a
“I John am he who heard and saw these things.”
John wanted his readers to understand that it was he who actually heard and saw these things.
There might have been a tendency on the part of some of John’s readers to think, “Wait a minute; this is just too outlandish to be true.” John says, “No, these things are not too outlandish to be true. I heard them and I saw them.”
John’s use of heard and saw seems to be deliberate. There were times that John heard voices from heaven; at other times, John saw visions (e.g., the New Jerusalem).
But I think that heard and saw really serves here more to establish the truthfulness of what John wrote. John did not just use one sense to experience these wonders, but he used two senses. I wonder if John isn’t saying, “If I’d just seen this, I don’t know if I would have believed it myself. But I saw it and I heard it. I don’t have any doubts.”
John seems to put his reputation on the line here, as well. Notice what he says: “I John am he who heard and saw these things.” He is saying to these churches, in essence, “You know me. You know I would not tell you anything but the truth.”
This brings up an interesting question: “Who wrote the Book of Revelation?” The author of the book simply calls himself John, but that does not necessarily mean that he is John the apostles. Scholars generally refer to the author as “John the seer,” because of the ambiguity in determining the author. Whether or not John the apostle penned these words makes no difference, for the book came from God.
But it does seem to me that John the Apostle is the author of the book. There are many scholarly arguments that can be espoused for the Apostle John’s being the author. Early Christian writers, for the most part, held that John the Apostle was the author of the book. But the most compelling argument for John the Apostle’s authorship, in my view, is that the author simply calls himself John. The author had to be known to the seven churches of Asia Minor, for he simply calls himself John. What other John in church history could have written this book and simply called himself John without any qualifier?
John the Apostle is saying, “Look, I saw and heard these things, and you know that you can trust me.” John seems to have had the reputation among the churches to which he wrote that he could write this and be believed. What about you? Do you have the reputation to be believed in what you say?
John’s Worshiping, vv 8b-9
When John heard and saw these things, he fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to him.
Colossians suggests that some Christians in Asia Minor might have had a problem with giving too much prominence to angels. “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind” (Col 2:18). The Colossians were apparently worshiping the angels and giving reverence to the angels that should have belonged exclusively to God.
When John heard and saw all the angel revealed to him, he bowed down to worship the angel. John was so caught up in what had occurred he seems to have forgotten that his angel was a created being and not worthy of worship.
This episode seems to serve two purposes:
- This demonstrates that apostles are not above sin. This could have encouraged those who read this book: Even John does something unacceptable. This demonstrates that we cannot be perfect.
- This demonstrates that angels are not worthy of worship. The angel’s sharp rebuke would have demonstrated that God does not desire that his people worship angels.
The angel told John, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” The angel rebuked John, because the angel was a fellow servant with John and his brethren the prophets.
This angel was a servant—this demonstrates that angels are servants. Angels are servants of God—Daniel saw “a thousand thousands” ministering to the Ancient of Days (Dan 7:10). Angels are servants of man—“Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?” (Heb 1:14).
He served with John and his brethren the prophet. This angel served with John and his brethren the prophets, in that, as John and the prophets, this angel revealed the will of God. Angels were often involved in revealed God’s will to men. The Jews “received the law by the direction of angels” (Acts 7:53). “If the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb 2:2-3).
The angel is also a fellow servant with those who keep the word of this book. This angel is a fellow servant with those who keep this book in that the angel is also bound to be obedient to God. “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down into hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment” (2 Pet 2:4).
John needed to worship God. John could not worship this angel; the angel was not deity; the angel was not worthy of John’s worship. The people to whom John wrote could not worship the emperor; the emperor was not deity; the emperor was not worthy of worship.
This is an admonition we will need to heed. “Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Ps 29:2). “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker” (Ps 95:6).
You’ll remember the words of Jesus to Satan when the devil tempted Jesus to worship him: “You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall worship” (Matt 4:10). Notice here that Jesus did not say that we could worship God if we chose to do so, if we wanted to do so. Worshiping God is a command: “You shall worship the Lord your God.”
Are you worshiping God as you ought?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.