Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Date: 16 September 2012
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Revelation 16 – Singing a New Song
In heaven, there is music – incredible music. When John was given a vision of heaven, this is what he saw and heard:
Revelation 5:8-9: ... the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp ... and they sang a new song ...
[See also Revelation 14:3: And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
Revelation 15:2-4: And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb: “Great and marvellous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Here the final victory song picks up on an old victory song, demonstrating their connectedness.)]
Do you like music? Who sings in the shower? How do you feel when you are singing? Even when you cannot sing, you may enjoy music because music touches your emotions and is able to express your emotions much better than spoken words. Once, I had David (Challenor) with me in the car and the music was playing – (an upbeat 80s song) – and he turned the volume up and belted out the song – (an old favourite, maybe reminding him of his youth as much of our most favourite music is the soundtrack of our youth) – so that the confined space of the car did feel like a confined space. His enthusiasm and joy of life could not be contained. You had the feeling that he had to sing or his chest would burst with the emotions that were inside. Do you know what I am talking about? At other times, the sheer beauty of music brings us to a point of weeping. I know that Peter Grieshaber loves Haendel’s Messiah – (first performed in 1742, one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music, completed in 24 days of swift composition, known especially for the climactic “Hallelujah Chorus”) – and is known to shed a tear or two at the Hallelujah Chorus or the final Amen Chorus. [Reinhard Bonnke used to crank up the Hallelujah Chorus at the birth of each of his children.]
With our (general) love of music, it is welcome news to find out that heaven is also full of music – (even more so than our constant stream of music from radios, television, sound-systems in shopping centres and our personal media players). Music matters.
James 5:13: Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. [We pray spoken words in trouble but happy people must sing songs to release their emotions. Heaven is a happy place; therefore has much music.]
We consider the following testimonies:
[Harold Armstrong Baker (1881–1971), known as H.A. Baker, was an American author and Pentecostal missionary to Tibet from 1911 to 1919, to China from 1919 to 1950, when forced to leave the mainland, and then in Taiwan from 1955 until his death in 1971. With his wife and co-worker Josephine, Pastor Baker began the Adullam Rescue Mission for street children in Yunnan Province, China. The children in the home, mostly boys aged from six to eighteen, began to have spiritual experiences, claiming to have seen Heaven through a series of visions. These visions were recounted in Baker's book “Visions Beyond the Veil.”]
H. A. Baker: Visions Beyond The Veil: Visions, Minneapolis: Osterhus Publishing House, (12th edition), p29: When in the Spirit, the children were usually lost to their natural surroundings. In many cases, although they supposed they were in heaven, they talked aloud, describing what they saw, thus carrying on conversation that we all could hear. Often they acted out before our eyes what they supposed they were doing in heaven.
H. A. Baker: Visions Beyond The Veil: Visions, Minneapolis: Osterhus Publishing House, (12th edition), p31-32: Angels were always ready to escort the children from place to place throughout the city; angels walked with them and talked with them; angels explained to them the meaning of things they did not understand, even as they talked with John and revealed to him the things of God.
Often in these experiences with the angels our children were given harps and taught to play them and sing as the angels did. They were also taught to blow the trumpets and were taught the music and language of heaven.
When we saw the children, with closed eyes, all dancing about the room in rhythm, we found that in vision they were dancing with the angels in heaven and keeping time to the heavenly music. When we saw them apparently blowing a trumpet or going through the motions of playing a harp, we found that in vision they were joining the heavenly orchestra in the praises of the King. We could not see the heavenly harps or trumpets. We could not see the angels’ joyful dance or hear their song. We could hear only the children singing heavenly songs. It. was a daily sight to find some child off in a corner by himself, lying comfortably on the pine needles, going through the motions of playing a harp. Upon going near, we could hear him singing a new song we had never taught him. Approaching still nearer, we would discover that the words were as strange to us as the tune. The singer was singing in the heavenly choir. His song was the song the angels taught him. The words of the song must have been in the language of angels.
Seeing the children singing in this heavenly angelic choir was a sight not to be forgotten. Sometimes several of them in some place in the heavenly city or its wonderful Paradise would decide to play and sing together. With closed eyes, while fully under the power of the Holy Spirit, three or four of them would get off by themselves. If we were near, we would hear a consultation as to who would play the trumpet and who would sing. After all was decided and everybody was ready, the heavenly hymns began. The trumpeters held their hands up before them and blew as though blowing trumpets. The harpists both played and sang, while those without instruments joined in the singing. In these cases they always sang in languages we did not understand, unless by mutual agreement they decided to sing one of those hymns they “used to sing down on earth.” In that case they sang in Chinese.
The climax of all heavenly joy and wonder was “seeing Jesus” and worshipping Him who had saved them by His blood ...
[H. A. Baker: Visions Beyond The Veil: Visions, Minneapolis: Osterhus Publishing House, (12th edition), p68: Great tables were spread in Paradise in the midst of its magnificent trees, its wonderful flowers with enchanting fragrance, its glorious birds of every plumage that sang their carols of praise, where all redeemed animal and vegetable creation was one harmonious, spirit-filled, God-praising whole. Here, then, in this indescribable Paradise of God in open spaces were spread the tables for the great Marriage Supper. Angels and the glorified saints skipped about everywhere playing harps, blowing trumpets, singing, and praising the Lord. Some of the children acted out these scenes before us. They hurried to their jewel bedecked home to get their harp or trumpet and joined the spirit inspired music of the greatest of all festival scenes, the climax of all the hopes of the ages. Great companies sang, and danced, and praised the King. Others hurried about preparing the tables or the seats and carrying the golden dishes of food.
H. A. Baker: Visions Beyond The Veil: Visions, Minneapolis: Osterhus Publishing House, (12th edition), p79-80: On earth in our encumberance of this depraved tabernacle there is a song in the soul. In its struggle for expression there are times it seems to break out of its restraint for a second, but as quickly the perfect chord is lost. When God made man He put music in his soul. But the discords of the mud have spoiled the harmony. The lost chord will never be found until it is found in heaven when we are clothed upon with the tabernacle that is from above. The finest, the sweetest, the most perfect music on earth is but a seeking for the lost chords and harmonies the redeemed and the angels sing in heaven. The finest instruments of music that have been made on earth, from the days when the sons of Adam began to “handle the harp and pipe” until the present day, are as mere imitations of the trumpets, the harps, and the instruments upon which “the lost chords” are restored in the golden city and upon which all the music of the liberated soul can find its fullest expression.
Much of the music and the rhythm the Father placed in the souls of His children has since been turned by the devil into evil channels for pleasures of the lusts of the perverted flesh. From the wildest barbarians in the mountain fastness to the pleasure intoxicated wild men of the fashionable ball, men dance in musical rhythm to find sensual pleasure that is of the lusts of the flesh. In heaven, to the tune of music that is holy and pure, the redeemed and the angels dance in “joy” that is beyond all earthly or natural “pleasure” in the rhythm to which the stars are swinging and singing in their orbits.]
[As he is driving home from a minister's conference (1989), Baptist minister Don Piper collides with a semi-truck that crosses into his lane. He is pronounced dead at the scene. For the next 90 minutes, Piper experiences heaven where he is greeted by those who had influenced him spiritually. He hears beautiful music and feels true peace.
Back on earth, a passing minister who had also been at the conference is led to pray for Don even though he knows the man is dead. Piper miraculously comes back to life and the bliss of heaven is replaced by a long and painful recovery.
For years Piper kept his heavenly experience to himself. Finally, however, friends and family convinced him to share his remarkable story.]
Don Piper with Cecil Murphey: 90 Minutes in Heaven, Grand Rapids: Revell 2004, p21-36: When I died, I didn’t flow through a long, dark tunnel. I had no sense of fading away or of coming back. I never felt my body being transported into the light. I heard no voices calling to me or anything else. Simultaneous with my last recollection of seeing the bridge and the rain, a light enveloped me, with a brilliance beyond earthly comprehension or description. Only that. In my next moment of awareness, I was standing in heaven.
Joy pulsated through me as I looked around, and at that moment I became aware of a large crowd of people. They stood in front of a brilliant, ornate gate. I have no idea how far away they were; such things as distance didn’t matter. As the crowd rushed toward me, I didn’t see Jesus, but I did see people I had known. As they surged toward me, I knew instantly that all of them had died during my lifetime. Their presence seemed absolutely natural.
They rushed toward me, and every person was smiling, shouting, and praising God. Although no one said so, intuitively I knew they were my celestial welcoming committee. It was as if they had all gathered just outside heaven’s gate, waiting for me.
The first person I recognized was Joe Kulbeth, my grandfather ... As I try to explain this, my words seem weak and hardly adequate, because I have no earthly terms to refer to unimaginable joy, excitement, warmth, and total happiness. Everyone continually embraced me, touched me, spoke to me, laughed, and praised God. This seemed to go on for a long time, but I didn’t tire of it ...
Everything I experienced was like a first-class buffet for the senses. I had never felt such powerful embraces or feasted my eyes on such beauty. Heaven’s light and texture defy earthly eyes or explanation. Warm, radiant light engulfed me. As I looked around, I could hardly grasp the vivid, dazzling colors. Every hue and tone surpassed anything I had ever seen ... I felt loved – more loved than ever before in my life ...
A holy awe came over me as I stepped forward. I had no idea what lay ahead, but I sense that with each step I took, it would grow more wondrous.
Then I heard the music.
... My most vivid memory of heaven is what I heard. I can only describe it as a holy swoosh of wings. But I’d have to magnify that thousands of times to explain the effect of the sound in heaven.
It was the most beautiful and pleasant sound I’ve ever heard, and it didn’t stop. It was like a song that goes on forever. I felt awestruck, wanting only to listen. I didn’t just hear music. It seemed as if I were part of the music – and it played in and through my body. I stood still, and yet I felt embraced by the sounds.
As aware as I became of the joyous sounds and melodies that filled the air, I wasn’t distracted. I felt as if the heavenly concert permeated every part of my being, and at the same time I focused on everything else around me.
I never saw anything that produced the sound. I had the sense that whatever made the heavenly music was just above me, but I didn’t look up. I’m not sure why ...
Myriads of sounds so filled my mind and heart that it’s difficult to explain them. The most amazing one, however, was the angels’ wings. I didn’t see them, but the sound was beautiful, holy melody with a cadence that seemed never to stop. The swishing resounded as if it was a form of never-ending praise. As I listened I simple knew what it was.
A second sound remains, even today, the single, most vivid memory I have of my entire heavenly experience. I call it music, but it differed from anything I had ever heard or ever expect to hear on the earth. The melodies of praise filled the atmosphere. The nonstop intensity and endless variety overwhelmed me.
The praise was unending, but the most remarkable things to me was that hundreds of songs were being sung at the same time – all of them worshiping God. As I approached the large, magnificent gate, I heard them from every direction and realized that each voice praised God. I write voice, but it was more than that. Some sounded instrumental, but I wasn’t sure – and I wasn’t concerned. Praise was everywhere, and all of it was musical, yet comprised of melodies and tones I’d never experienced before.
“Hallelujah!” “Praise!” “Glory to God!” “Praise to the King!” Such words rang out in the midst of all the music. I don’t know if angels were singing them or if they came from humans ... My heart filled with the deepest joy I’ve ever experienced ... Every sound blended, and each voice or instrument enhanced the others.
As strange as it may seem, I could clearly distinguish each song. It sounded as if each hymn of praise was meant for me to hear as I moved inside the gates.
Many of the old hymns and choruses I had sung at various times in my life were part of the music – along with hundreds of songs I had never heard before ...
As I stood before the gate, I didn’t think of it, but later I realized that I didn’t hear such songs as “The Old Rugged Cross” or “The Nail-Scarred Hand.” None of the hymns that filled the air were about Jesus’ sacrifice or death. I heard no sad songs and instinctively knew that there are no sad songs in heaven. Why would there be? All were praises about Christ’s reign as King of Kings and our joyful worship for all he has done for us and how wonderful he is ...
Even now, back on earth, sometimes I still hear faint echoes of that music. When I’m especially tired and lie in bed with my eyes closed, occasionally I drift off to sleep with the sounds of heaven filling my heart and mind. No matter how difficult a day I’ve had, peace immediately fills every part of my being ...
I was in heaven and ready to go in through the pearlescent gate. During that momentary pause, something else changed. Instead of just hearing the music and the thousands of voices praising God, I had become part of the choir. I was one with them, and they had absorbed me into their midst ... Then, just as suddenly as I had arrived at the gates of heaven, I left them.
I look forward to the music in heaven but – coming back to the vision of twenty-four elders sitting on their thrones and wearing their crowns of gold – why would they take harps – musical instruments – to a business session around the throne of God? There were problems to solve – not songs to sing. A mighty angel proclaimed in a loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll [which represents the future with God]” (Revelation 5:3). However, no one worthy could be found until Jesus appeared, took the scroll and began to break its seals (Revelation 5:1-7). This was a momentous time in heaven – the future of the world was on a knife’s edge – this was important business – the sealed scroll posed a problem – the twenty-four elders clearly had a job to do (as they were sitting on their thrones and wearing their crowns) but – again I ask the question – why would they bring harps – musical instruments – to a business session around the throne of God? (It made sense that they carried bowls of prayer – the prayers of the saints – but harps?) We even find out that they indulged in singing a new song (Revelation 5:9).
There is an answer to this mystery. The twenty-four elders – sitting on thrones and wearing crowns of gold – were operating as kings – co-ruling over all of creation – and – (now this is important for us) – there had already been another king who was a prominent musician. In the past, God had found a man after his own heart (1 Samuel 13:14) – his name was David – (God would make him king over his people) – and this David was not only a mighty warrior but also a powerful musician – in due course writing many of the Psalm songs in the Bible – (he wrote about half of the 150 Psalms in the Bible).
We learn something from the way his music first came to prominence. The previous king – Saul of Tarsus – was being tormented by an evil spirit and David – then a young shepherd boy – was called in to bring relief. I read from the Bible:
1 Samuel 16:18: ... a son of Jesse of Bethlehem . knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior ... the Lord is with him.
1 Samuel 16:23: Whenever the spirit ... [original: from God] came on Saul, David would take up his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.
These verses give us an important clue that godly music is not just entertainment but releases the power of God to push back whatever is evil – an evil spirit in Saul and in us (for instance) discouragement, guilt and shame. On further investigation, we also discover that David – later as king – also kept singing new songs – whenever a new breakthrough in God was being worked out in his life:
Psalm 40:3: He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.
144:9-10: I will sing a new song to you, my God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make
music to you,
to the One who gives victory to kings, who delivers his servant David. From the deadly sword deliver me; rescue me from the hands of foreigners whose mouths are full of lies, whose right hands are deceitful.
Not only David knew about the power of a new song:
Psalm 96: Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day ... Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity ... Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness. [Cf. Psalm 33:3]
Psalm 149: ... Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people ... May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands ...
Isaiah 42:10-13: Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth ... The Lord will march out like a champion, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies.
Coming back to the vision of heaven – we can observe the same dynamic in the music of the twenty-four elders. They caught sight of Jesus as the Lamb that was slain and they witnessed how he took the scroll. This prompted their singing – the new song – which – like the prayers of the saints in golden bowls (Revelation 5:8) – contributed to the outcome of breaking the seals of the scroll and activating the history of God’s salvation. The twenty-four elders co-ruled with God – (as his junior partners on their small thrones around God’s big throne) – by singing a new song about Jesus which helped to instigate the next stage of God’s blessings for his people.
Revelation 5:9-10: And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
In the Bible book of Revelation – throughout the vision of heaven which John received – the same pattern would occur again and again: The worship of God’s people would instigate the next move of salvation.
Worship (Revelation 11:16-18) contributes to the opening of God’s temple in heaven (Revelation 11:19) and the assurance that “now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God” (Revelation 12:10).
The song of Moses and the Lamb (Revelation 15:2-4) seems to activate the seven last plagues of God (Revelation 15:5-16:21).
The praise of the upcoming wedding of the Lamb (Revelation 19:1-8) prepares the coming down of the bride (Revelation 19:9-21:8).
My former teacher (Dr Joe Strelan) wrote in his commentary on Revelation:
John G Strelan: Where Earth Meets Heaven. A Commentary on Revelation, Adelaide: Openbook Publishers 1994, p96: In short, heavenly worship and dramatic narrative relate as cause and effect: worship sets in motion the divine actions of the narrative. So, for example, the liturgy in praise of the victorious Lamb (5:9-14) is followed by the narrative of the opening of four seals. A liturgical response to these divine activities (6:9-11) leads on to the story of the opening of the sixth seal and the revelation of the protection which is guaranteed to God’s people (6:12-7:8). This issues in further heavenly liturgy, a narrative dialogue, and the liturgical introduction to the next major narrative (7:9-9:21).
This same interplay between dramatic narrative and heavenly worship occurs throughout Revelation. It provides a major clue to understanding the contents of the book.
In case we are still not convinced about this principle of releasing power in worship, another Bible story leaves us in no doubt:
2 Chronicles 20:1-30: After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you ... Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him ...
Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah ... , as he stood in the assembly. He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’” ...
Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendour of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”
As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.
When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah, where they praised the Lord. This is why it is called the Valley of Berakah to this day.
Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lyres and trumpets.
The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.
I also want to share some modern-day examples where worship – new songs – contributes – activates – breakthroughs in God:
Henry Gruver: October 1988: At 10am we began with prayer and I explained the Lord gave my wife a song that would fit in. As she was singing, the glory of God came down in the room. Let me explain if you haven’t experienced this. When the glory of God comes down, this awesomeness comes over you. To some it can be a terrible experience because you’re not physically, spiritually ready for it. If it comes and you’re totally not ready for it, you’ll jump up and run out of the room. We had people there who were in 80’s and couldn’t walk real well. When the glory of God came down, I went out of my seat and flat on the floor, my nose touching the floor. Down deep in innermost being, I was billowing out of my lips, “Holy, holy, holy.” His presence was so awesome that was the only expression I could give that my being felt was adequate for that presence. Same, “Holy, holy, holy,” was billowing around them.
In that presence of His glory that came down, I no more than realized my wife stopped singing and was down there beside me, just enough time to recognize others were on their faces, and instantly I was walking on the streets of gold. I was in a totally different realm ...
I looked and saw flowers along the golden pavement. I’ve never on earth…and I loved flowers as a boy. I’d go out and find wild flowers and put them in Daddy’s flower gardens. In my thoughts I said, “You are so beautiful. I have never seen such colours and beautiful flower, and your fragrance is sweet as sweet can be.” I no more thought that, then the leaves on the stems started clapping their hands. The faces of those flowers turned away from me. [They] turned another direction, and the sweetest singing came out of those flowers and burst forth [in] what I wanted to burst forth with in watching the white raiment. I can tell you words they sang. I don’t have the voice to sing it.
As they sang the song, their words turned to prismatic light, and the light moved. It went up this hill, and [from] over this hill came this most beautiful glow. All of heaven glowed, but that [place] had the extra glow. I didn’t see the throne; it was on the other side, but I saw the radiation from the throne. Light that radiated from flowers went to His throne. All of creation, when it gives life and gives honour and praise to the throne that made it, it is regenerated in that manner. As the River of Life flows beneath the throne, so does all life flow from the throne. Everything in heaven is regenerated continually in the presence of His glory. You see perfection of beauty and no degeneration. We are being changed from glory to glory. Here a little, there a little, line on line, precept on precept. To us it seems way too slow. You know the reason for that is because He would that not one would perish.
Back to heaven. I was so filled, I couldn’t hold it anymore. I was filled to the brim with thanksgiving to the Father, and gratitude for all the work He’d done in this person’s life, and the attributes portrayed in that fine linen. Then when I saw these flowers doing this, that did it. All of this began to come out of me in a song. I joined in, but I sang the song of the redeemed. (Rev. 14:3 & D.C. 83:17—those who come to Zion will sing a new song.) The song came from down deep in the inner recesses of my being. None of it came from between my ears, or the top of my head. My ear heard it and said, Yes, yes, yes, that’s right, keep it up! My faculties that could understand were in total agreement with what was coming out of me. I was caught up in doing this when out of my left ear I heard more singing. The person I’d been following stepped off the pavement of gold. The blades of grass his feet had stepped on were singing the same song as the flowers. With every step, the song was louder but yet it was so sweet and so soft. Never once was anything overbearing in heaven. All was in unison and harmony, yet the grass had a different tone, in beautiful harmony.
[In previous times] I walked around the entire country of Wales. I appreciated accapella singing. One night I got into Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church choir with Welshmen. When they sang I stood and balled my eyes out. That came from the Welsh revival of 1904 and 1905. That song is still in their hearts, and it felt so precious to me. I felt honoured in the middle of these men when they sang. It was so real and so precious. The song [heard in heaven] I can’t say was louder and louder, but more significant. The grass was singing, not clapping, but [had] a sweet tone. The same emanation of light was in the song and blades of grass. [It] had light going toward the throne. I’m rippling with joy. I have to keep watching. I’m watching this person. They’re going toward a tree, and it had numerous types of fruit I’d never seen in my life. The healthiest leaves grew on the tree, loaded with fruit from top to bottom. The person walked up to tree, reached their hand out like that, and the fruit gently dropped into their hand. The tree knew the thoughts of that person and freely gave of its fruit. Every leaf of that tree began to clap together. Out of that tree was a massive choir that filled heaven with music of flowers and grass. Like a massive choir in perfect harmony worshiping the Lord, and the tree swayed like it was in a dance, singing unto the Lord. The Word of God says mountains and hills will break forth into singing before you, and the trees and the hills will clap their hands. I stood doing that again until I couldn’t take it anymore. I turned and had to worship the Lord. All of a sudden, I was back down on the floor with my nose to the floor. They said I never stopped crying, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” all that time.
Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt: Jesus Is The Victor, Farmingon: Plough Publishing House 2007, p1-2: It happened one day in Möttlingen, where my father stood in a fierce struggle with spiritual darkness, that he was walking in the countryside with several others from his congregation. He was so weighed down and agitated by the spiritual battle that his heart was ready to burst. Their path lay through a wood and across a large clearing. There they paused and my father said, “Let us sing a song I have written. It will encourage us.” He then recited to them the verse, “Jesus is the victorious King.”
Jesus is the victorious King
Who o’er all his foes has conquered;
Jesus, soon the world will fall
At his feet, by love o’erpowered;
Jesus leads us with his might
From the darkness to radiant light.
The voices of the people rang out heartily. But as they were singing they could barely believe their ears—they noticed that they were not singing alone but that an invisible chorus grew louder and louder around them. It was as though an unseen host of angels was surrounding them and singing together with them. Amazed and elated, they hurried home, where yet another wonderful thing happened. As my father entered the house of Gottlieben Dittus, who had been under demonic oppression and who had been so much a part of my father’s fight against darkness, she sang him the same song. It was as if the invisible singers had gone ahead of them to bring the verse to her.
This verse has become my battle cry and song of victory. True, the battles of that time have quieted down, but they have never ceased. Each year there are new battles, but Jesus continues to be felt daily, not only in our hearts, but also outwardly.
Friedrich Zuendel: The Awakening, Farmington: The Plough Publishing House 2007, p110: Several memorable personal experiences from the summer of 1844 stayed with Blumhardt for life. Once, while walking back with some fellow ministers from a festival in a neighbouring village, he composed the following verse, which he shared with his companions:
Jesus is victorious King,
Who over all his foes has conquered.
Jesus, soon the world will fall
At his feet, by love overpowered.
Jesus leads us with his might
From the darkness to radiant light.
While singing the verse to a well-known melody, it seemed that hundreds of voices in the nearby woods suddenly joined in, so powerfully that at least one of the men, flabbergasted, stopped singing. Blumhardt, however, went on singing lustily. When he arrived home, he was met by Gottlieben, who recited for him the very same verse he had just composed and sung!
[Friedrich Zuendel: The Awakening, Farmington: The Plough Publishing House 2007, p40-44: ... Around Christmas 1843, from December 24 to 28, the fight finally came to a climactic and decisive conclusion. In Blumhardt’s own words:
It seemed as if all the evil powers that had appeared before were joining forces for a combined assault ... The demon inside Katharina did not make himself out to be a departed human spirit, but an eminent angel of Satan. He claimed that if he were forced to descend into the abyss, it would deal Satan a fatal blow, but would also cause Katharina to bleed to death. All of a sudden, at midnight, a series of desperate howls issued from Katharina’s throat. Lasting for about a quarter of an hour, the cries were gruesomely forceful, and so loud that half the inhabitants of the village heard them. At the same time Katharina started shaking so violently that it seemed her limbs would come loose. The demonic voice expressed fear and despair mingled with tremendous arrogance and defiance. It demanded that God perform a sign to allow it to go to hell with at least some honour, instead of forcing it to abdicate like an ordinary sinner.
Then, at two o’clock in the morning, while Katharina arched her upper body backward over her chair, the purported angel of Satan, in a voice no human throat could make, bellowed out the words, “Jesus is the victor! Jesus is the victor!” Everyone in the village who heard these words understood their significance, and they left an indelible impression on many. The strength and power of the demon now appeared to wane with every passing minute. It grew quieter, moved less and less, and finally left Katharina altogether unnoticed – just as the light of life goes out in a dying person –around eight o’clock in the morning. At this point the two-year-long fight came to an end ... ]
[The same principle of worship releasing power also holds true in the kingdom of darkness – Kim Clement: Spiritual Songs, Saved Souls in: Things They Didn’t Teach Me, compiled and edited by Tom Kraeuter, Hillsboro: Training Resources 1995, p75-75: A well-known Australian punk rock group was in town at the time and heard about my message. I had addressed what I called “Satan’s anointing” in worldly rock music – an anointing that often causes people to undress or become violent. I explained that those things happen because that’s the nature of Satan. Conversely, when we start singing in the Spirit, we start challenging the kingdoms of darkness, and God clothes people with righteousness.
This teaching stirred the punk group to approach me with their own challenge. “We’d like to go on television with you before a live audience,” they said. “We’ll play our music for 30 minutes and see what manifests. Then you can come on for 30 minutes, and we’ll see what happens when you do the kind of singing you speak about.”
My first thought was, “Oh, me and my big mouth!” But instead I responded, “I’d love to!”
So we went on television. Hundreds of people filled the audience, most of them friends of the punk rockers. The group played their music for 30 minutes and, of course, the audience began screaming and dancing. One woman started stripping. Then it was my turn. I played a little bit of music with a jazzy tempo and then began to worship God. The songs I sang were unrehearsed songs of the Spirit.
The Bible says that when Jehoshaphat’s enemies were coming against him, his army sang – and then they sang. The first kind of singing was premeditated; the second was not. The Holy Spirit fell on the soldiers, and the result of their singing was that God was able to manifest ambushes against their enemies. Now God was telling me the same thing: “Hey, you don’t have to fight this battle. All I’m asking you to do is lay down your sword, lift up your voice and praise Me!”
For about 10 minutes I closed my eyes and simply worshiped the Lord. When I opened my eyes again, I saw young people all over the floor weeping and crying. A genuine outpouring of the Spirit had occurred in front of the TV cameras! About 80 people were saved just as a result of that manifestation.]
The new song of Henry Gruver’s wife “triggered” his vision of heaven and the new song of Pastor Blumhardt (and Gottlieben Dittus) “paved” the way for the complete deliverance of Gottlieben Dittus from demons.
Do you want to worship now? Are you encouraged? Singing about God and his glory fills us up with emotions of joy and safety and peace and excitement and – at the same time – as we worship him – God is getting busy to work for us with his power. He loves you. Come and sing. Come and worship. Take the time. Enjoy the music and watch what he does in response to your praise.
I make another comment about the new songs that people may be singing. As long as I can remember, we have had discussions in church about music and the appropriateness of new songs. When I was child, I was whingeing to my Mum about the old hymns in church. She said that our hymn book was rather modern. However, I checked the dates of composition of the various hymns. They were written in the 1600s, 1700s, 1800s and only a few in the century that I was born. How could a hymn of three-hundred years be called modern? People kept saying to me: “We have about 1000 hymns and songs. Why would we want more?”
The old hymns and songs have value – they come out of great moves of God – they have been given by the Spirit of God – but God is creative and he keeps doing new things – new revivals – new life in the church – and these new things – as in the Bible – come with new songs. In Reformation times, Luther composed some great songs (e.g.: A Mighty Fortress). The Wesleyan revival became a source of powerful hymns and – in more modern times – new songs have come out of the Vineyard movement (John Wimber), the Brownsville revival (the teenager Charity James singing “Mercy Seat” at every altar call), the Toronto Blessing, and now the movement around Bill Johnson and Bethel church in Redding. [See also Hillsongs; Benny Hinn Ministries and the song “Alleluia”; Roy Fields at the Florida Outpouring in 2008; Lydia Stanley with John Kilpatrick at the Bay of the Holy Spirit Revival; musicians around Mike Bickle and the International House of Prayer.] Therefore, let’s get ready for some new songs that come from what God is doing among us. We already have people among us that keep writing new songs (Marty, Kirsty, Tamara). May God inspire them to catch the tune of heaven that is going to release an outpouring of his glory among us.
Worship – singing – new songs – we may understand the concept but what if you don’t feel like making music? What if singing and an expression of joy is the last thing on your mind in the midst of discouragement? A pastor (Bill Johnson) shared his experiences and some practical instructions:
“As a young pastor in Weaverville I had more than my share of ‘Blue Mondays.’ No matter what wonderful things had happened on Sunday, sometimes all I could remember was what had been lacking in the services. My slides into discouragement were fueled by the comparisons I made between my spiritual heroes and myself … John G. Lake, Charles Finney or Rees Howells … The focus on my limitations didn’t help me feel better especially when there were real problems to deal with as a pastor. Betrayal, abandonment, rejection, and accusation all seemed to come with the position. I often felt like there was huge black cloud over me. I had enough sense to know that encouragement and depression were not good things. Although I managed to get victory before the next Sunday … I didn’t know how to live that way. Yet” (Bill Johnson: Strengthen Yourself In The Lord, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2007, p65-66).
“Praise was one of the primary tools that God had equipped me with as a young man to strengthen myself in the discouragement of my early years as a pastor. I could be questioning a million things about my life, but I never had to question whether I was in the right place when I was giving God praise. It became my default when I slid into a fog of confusion and depression. In Weaverville, our home was behind the church so I often went to the sanctuary late at night, put worship music on the sound system, and spent time praising and worshiping God. Sometimes I remained until early in the morning. I danced, shouted, and basically required myself to do whatever I didn’t feel like doing. The Psalmist David wrote, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul.’ He commands his own soul to come into order and give God glory. It’s important that we learn how to bring our soul, and even our bodies into submission to the purposes of God. Back then I would make sure that the intensity of my praise was in equal proportion to the size of the cloud over my head. Every time, there would come a point when something inside of me would shift, and I was no longer making an effort. My mind, will, emotions, and body were completely filled with conviction of what I was declaring to the Lord. I also noticed that the cloud over my head had disappeared and I was alive in God!
I came to understand that the cloud wasn’t just over my head; it was inside it. I mistakenly thought that focusing on my lack and comparing myself to others was a posture of humility. In fact, it was the opposite. Instead of focusing on God’s greatness in my life, I was focusing on myself. I was actually agreeing with the enemy by making my own problems bigger than God’s promises. And my agreement invited that cloud of oppression to hover over me.
The only way to break an agreement with a lie is repentance, which means to change the way you think. In that place of praise, I fed my mind on the truth of God’s nature until it created a new agreement with heavenly reality. When that agreement was established, the reality started to manifest in my emotions, mind, and body. But I also came to understand more deeply why my dad taught us to do what the Scripture said regarding praise. Making an agreement with Heaven actually requires more than repentance of the mind. You need physical proof to make repentance a legally binding reality. By lining my physical body up with what the Word said, I brought my whole being into agreement with the truth. In doing so, I experienced the principle that physical obedience brings spiritual breakthrough. This may seem a little backward to those of us who hate the idea of going through religious motions and desire to be ‘authentic’ in our worship. Physical obedience brings spiritual breakthrough. But the measure of authenticity is not what you’re feeling or thinking. Those things either line up with authentic reality or they don’t. And if they don’t, Scripture tells us that we get there by moving. Some say it’s hypocritical to do something you don’t feel like doing. I think it’s hypocritical to do only what I feel like doing and call myself a believing believer. Right actions release right emotions and right thinking.
But why is it right to sing, shout, dance and leap? Why does God seem to want these radical expressions more than silent, awed reverence? While there is certainly a time for the latter, acts of celebration get way more press in the psalmist’s descriptions of how we approach God. The reason – God is a God to celebrate. His every action and thought toward us are extravagant expressions of His love, kindness, goodness, and delight in us; and He gives it all not only to bless us for a moment, but to invite us into the deeper blessing of knowing Him. He delights in us, so He wants us to delight in Him. He rejoices over us with singing [Zeph. 3:17], so He wants us to rejoice in Him with singing. When we give to Him what He gives to us, we step further into relationship with Him, deepening our heart-connection with the source of life.
Not only that, but when we do what He is doing, aligning our bodies as well as our spirits and souls with what He has said, there is a release of His nature that flows to us in that place of intimacy. The Holy Spirit is the most joyful person in existence, and joy is one of the primary expressions of His kingdom in our lives (see Romans 14:17). His command to ‘rejoice always’ is really an expression of His desire for us to have joy! He is simply telling us how to receive it. We not only rejoice because we have joy – we rejoice in our pursuit of joy” (Bill Johnson: Strengthen Yourself In The Lord, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2007, p67-71).
This pastor experienced that expressive praise (raised hands, shouting and dancing) was a positive act – a physical demonstration – of repentance, fed his mind with the truth of God’s awesomeness and – finally – attracted new life in God whereby his depression was pushed out of the mind and heart. Why not try this yourself? [I may share here the experiences at our Prayer Watch. Many a time, people sit down on a Friday night – (dispersed in the building) – and show low energy responses to the worship music. This tired and half-hearted approach never seems to “work”. We are not getting into the presence of God (the “Holy of Holies” in contrast to the “Holy Place” and the “Outer Court”). As we stir ourselves up – as we align ourselves with the truth – the breakthrough in worship comes.]
However, I close with the story of someone that was too deep into depression to get into worship by discipline:
[This version of the testimony from http://www.thequickenedword.com/rhema/TheBurdenBearers.html:] This song was given to Joe King in 1992, who lost his wife, his job, his health, his money, his friends, due to receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. He had a chance to keep it all but only if he renounced what the Lord had given him, but he remained faithful. As a result, he became suicidal, hopeless and wanted to die.
That above information was prophetically given to Graham Cooke in a meeting and Graham prophesied that the Lord would come to him in the night and sing a song over him that would save his life. And it would save the life of countless lives and become a classic song on earth and heaven. Three nights later he woke to the Presence of the Lord and many angels filling his room. He heard the audible voice of the Lord sing this song over him [and the angels singing and a full orchestra], and his heart melted, finally broke and cried, and then healed. The Lord told him to go downstairs and write the song. After he wrote the chords, he heard the Lord sing the words to him one more time as he wrote them down.
I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU
I loved you long before you met me
And then you gave your life to me
But should one day you turn and walk away
I will always love you
I will always love you
I will always love you
Yes I will, I always will
My love will never cease towards you
But should I have a change of heart
It is because my heart has ceased to beat
When all around you seems in darkness
When you have plumbed right to the depths
No pit is so deep I’m not deeper still
And when the day has almost ended
When evening comes and walls you in
When there is no one else to comfort you
Here are my arms for you to cling to
Here are my wounds where you can hide
Here are the tears that I have cried for you
My love is constant as the sunrise
As changeless as the stars of night
My child, as sure as the returning tide
Words and Music by Joe King ©1994 Alliance Media
Licensed courtesy of CopyCare Pacific Pty Ltd
In Joe King’s case, it was Jesus who sang the new song over him and activated his healing of depression. We will hear this song in a minute and then sing ourselves another song. Music matters. There is singing in heaven – as we sing on earth – and it is the privilege of God’s people – just like the twenty-four elders on their thrones – to rule and reign by praising our God. Jesus – the Son of God – set us free. “With his [original: your] blood he [original: you] purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” We belong to God and not to darkness. Praising him is not so hard. God is so good. Our praises activate his power. Amen.
[Another testimony – Gerda Mayer: received steroid injections into her throat as treatment against (breast) cancer => lost her singing voice => years later, one Sunday morning at a service in Hahndorf, taken along by eldest son – she asked him about the “heavenly” sound that she heard – he did not understand what she meant but she kept repeating her amazement at the “heavenly” sound – later the son realized that she referred to the singing of tongues of various church members whose voices blended “heavenly” => one of the church members prayed for Gerda to receive the gift of speaking in tongues (very lovingly stroking the neck) => later at home, Gerda received the gift but the gift came in the form of singing – God had restored her singing voice in the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues – otherwise, she still cannot sing => much joy and encouragement ... => the speaking came later still ... ]