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Worshiping Angels

Worshiping Angels December 9, 2015

Twice toward the end of Revelation, John falls down to worship an angel. Both times, the angel redirects his worship from himself to God. The two scenes look the same, but Austin Farrer notes a progression (A Rebirth of Images).

In the first instance, John  falls to worship, and “immediately the heavens open, and he appears in whom God must be worshipped, riding the white horse, and called Faithful and True” (p. 73; Revelation 19:11). In the second instance, there is no Christophany. Instead, the angel speaks with the voice of Jesus (22:3-5).

Farrer discerns a development that covers a large swath of the book. Jesus appears to John; then the Lamb appears in heaven unsealing the scroll; then an angel brings John the open scroll. Finally, the two angels: “One of the vial-angels steps forward, as it were, out of the frame of the vision in which he has just been seen, to show St John further visions. He shows the seer the visions of Babylon. When he comes to the heavenly liturgy of Alleluias (xix, 1-10) the angel speaks words so divine that St John falls to worship him. The angel forbids him, and the figure of the glorious Christ is manifested as though to claim the misdirected worship.” Then, after the final sequence of visions, “one of the vial-angels comes forward once more to show the vision of Jerusalem. After the vision the angel begins to say things so divine that St John attempts to worship him afresh. He is again reproved: but this time the worship is not directed away from the angel to a visionary Christ whom the angel shows; it is directed as it were inwards to the living Christ in the angel’s soul, out of which the Saviour speaks with his own voice” (74).

Thus Christ and the angel are both presented as revealers, but initially “the relation is negative: the angel is shown to be something very different from the Christ he reveals.” In the last scene, “the negation is overcome: the angel is not, indeed, Christ, but Christ reveals himself through the angel, so that the person of the angel can be, in a sense, discounted, and Christ heard through and in him.” The angel isn’t the Word, but “the Work of God speaks in him.” And in this Farrer sees a clue that “Christ is absolutely present to us here, but, so long as this world lasts, always in His angel” (75).

Or, differently put: “in the consummation of the end, the Great Throne is set in the heart of the redeemed creature, and the heart of the redeemed creature is the manhood of Christ” (72). The living Word of Christ comes to tabernacle among us.


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