Visionary Worship in the Epistles

Featuring Worshipedia Posted on May 17, 2010

Paul, commending to the Philippians Christ‘s attitude of humility, declares that his obedience even to death on the cross has led to his exaltation; God gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11). Here, in words partially borrowed from Isaiah (Isaiah 45:23), Paul portrays the universal sweep of the covenant as all people swear allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ; the word confess (exmologe) translates Isaiah‘s nishba‘, which means to swear an oath of covenant faithfulness. In 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 Paul speaks of the veil of Moses, which conceals the glory (doxa) of God. But when a person turns to Christ, the Spirit of the Lord removes that veil, so that we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord‘s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory …  (2 Corinthians 3:18). Paul goes on to refer to the Christian‘s inward experience of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). That worship is the background for this thought is clear when we recall that the manifestation of the glory of the Lord was a high point in Israelite worship, reflected in many of the psalms and in other passages, such as the account of the dedication of Solomon‘s temple; the Sinai covenant was initiated by just such a manifestation or theophany. 

The writer to the Hebrews also carries covenant worship into the visionary realm, declaring that his readers have come not to an earthly place of meeting with God but to the true and spiritual Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant …  (Hebrews 12:22-24). In such language the distinction between the earthly assembly (panguris, festival gathering) or worshiping church (ekklsia) and the heavenly city of God, the angelic Jerusalem, is lost; the concepts merge as one and the same new covenant reality. 


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