United by Worship (Acts 2:1–4, 40–42, 46, 47)
The apostles and early Christian believers experienced a unity that is unparalleled to this day. After Acts recounts the message Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, it tells us that three thousand souls were added to the church. It continues to share that these three thousand people were also in one accord. What was the secret to their unity? Acts 2:42 says “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” What is it that united the early Christian church? To put it succinctly, worship. The time they spent in studying the message of the apostles, fellowshiping with one another, and praying caused them to have a unity that hasn’t existed since.
What was the secret to their unity?
Unity in the Everlasting Gospel (Rev. 14:1–14)
Acts is not the only book that pictures God’s people worshiping God in unity. Revelation 14 is one of the most beautiful chapters in Scripture. It can be outlined in three major sections. Verses 1–5 describe God’s last-day people, who are united in “follow[ing] the Lamb wherever He goes” (NKJV). Verses 6–12 detail God’s last-day message of warning and mercy, which His people are united in proclaiming to the world. The end of Revelation 14 shares what happens when God’s people are united in Jesus and His message: Jesus comes back to take His people home. God’s last-day people, focused on His message and His mission, are able to be united with Jesus in the clouds of glory with all who have chosen to yield to the grace of God.
Unity in the Message (1 Cor. 6:19, 20; Rev. 14:6, 7; 4:8, 11; 5:9–13)
In order to experience the unity that God’s people have in Revelation 14 we must understand the messages that are so central to them. How does the idea of “fear God and give him glory” (Rev. 14:7, NABRE) lead us to unity? When we fear God and give Him glory, we are following the pattern of the angelic hosts who rest not day or night in praising the Lord. When we glorify Him with the words we speak and the way we live our lives, our worship becomes one with the worship of heaven. When we glorify God by joyfully following His will, we are demonstrating that God is, indeed, the only One who is worthy of our allegiance. We deem Him worthy, or worth our obedience—so we “worth-ship” Him. The focus of the first angel’s message is to bring us into unity with God’s order of worship, which unifies God’s people.
Worship the Creator (Exod. 20:8–11; Ezek. 20:12, 20; Luke 4:16; Heb. 10:24, 25)
The injunction given to “ ‘worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water’ ” (Rev. 14:7, NKJV) is a direct reference to the fourth commandment (Exod. 20:11). In this call to worship the Creator, God reminds us to worship Him in the way and on the day He instructed us to in the beginning; namely, on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the sign that God is sanctifying us and bringing our hearts into unity with Him. It is impossible for us to worship God in unity if we are not united with Him. The Sabbath is a time of corporate worship when we are to come together to encourage one another in the faith. This united worship is critical for the spiritual growth and unity of the believers.
Unity in Truth (John 17:17–21)
Why are the three angels’ messages crucial for unifying God’s people? In one of Jesus’ last recorded prayers He focused His attention on the believers’ need for unity. He was about to be crucified and would shortly ascend back to heaven, and He understood that His people must be one in purpose. Unity could exist only as they were sanctified, or set apart from the world, and united with God. Jesus pleads with His Father, “ ‘Sanctify them by Your truth’ ” (John 17:17, NKJV). Jesus knew that if His followers were not sanctified by the truth of His Word, they would never be united. How can we experience unity today? It can happen only as we are united in the true message God is calling us to know, understand, and share at this time: the three angels’ messages. How could we ever be united as a people of God if we are not united in the message He is calling us to take to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people? If we are not united in the great truths of these messages, all unity in our worship would simply be shallow and artificial.
Two United Groups of Worshipers (Rev. 13:1–4, 8; 14:6, 7, 9–11)
Revelation depicts two groups who are united in worship. Chapter 13 tells of one group who is united in the worship of the beast, his image, and the dragon. Chapter 14 describes those who are united in following the Lamb and His final message to a lost and dying world. The sole purpose of the first group is to coerce people to worship the image of the beast (Rev. 13:15), while the second group’s sole mission is to point people to the true worship of the Creator God. The first angel’s message is an urgent call for God’s people to unite with Him in worshiping God in the way He instructed them and not to participate in the divisive worship of the beast. In this injunction to worship the Creator, Jesus is calling His sheep who are not yet part of the fold to unite with His true followers before it is too late. Revelation depicts one remnant group who is completely united in their worship of God. These are the true worshipers who worship Him in “spirit and in truth.”
1. How can we know which group we are united with?
2. Is unity more important than truth?