When we gather together for worship, we ought to come reaching up, starved for God, ready to feast together on the good news that, in the person of Jesus Christ, God has descended to us because we could never ascend to him. Feasting on God’s gospel together through prayer and preaching, sacrament and singing, provides us with the faith, hope, and love we need to be good news people in a bad news world.
We should not, however, only look back to what Christ has done, we should also look ahead to what Christ will do. We remember the past, but also rehearse the future. For, when Christ comes again, the process of reversing the curse of sin and recreating all things will be complete (1 Cor. 15:51-58). The peace on earth that the angels announced the night Christ was born will become a universal actuality. God’s cosmic rescue mission will be complete. The fraying fabric of our fallen world will be fully and perfectly rewoven. Everything and everyone “in Christ” will live in perfect harmony. Shalom will rule.
Isaiah 11:6-9 pictures it this way:
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
For those who’ve found forgiveness of sins in Christ, there will one day be no more sickness, no more death, no more tears, no more division, no more tension. The pardoned children of God will work and worship in a perfectly renewed earth without the interference of sin. We who believe the gospel will enjoy sinless hearts and minds along with disease-free bodies. All that causes us pain and discomfort will be destroyed, and we will live forever.
Until that day comes, we gather for worship not to escape the world’s present reality, but to be reminded by God that this world isn’t all there is. The Bible makes it clear that even though we enjoy one day in seven to “rest” from our earthly activities, there is still a rest that remains to be fulfilled (Heb. 4:9). It is the final rest when every day will be a holy day and a heavenly day.
Until the glory of the Lord fills the earth as the waters fill the sea, until the Kingdom of this world becomes the Kingdom of our Lord and His Christ, every day is not holy. This is why we need Sundays - to give us a one-day taste of our future destiny so we can persevere through the rest of the week.
When we worship together we enjoy and experience an intrusion of “heaven in the real world”-the end time in time. It’s the future being brought into the present. In our worship together, we enter into the very suburbs of heaven and get a weekly taste of what will eventually be permanent and eternal.
I look forward to corporate worship more than any other time of the week because when I am worshiping together with other sinner-saints, my anticipation for the Great Gathering on the last day intensifies. What we do together in worship is nothing less than a glorious rehearsal of what we will experience when the “ultimate assembly” is fully and finally brought together by Christ. Our weekly worship is a foretaste of that day when our feasting will be permanent and our fasting will be over-when we will finally be able “to enjoy what is most enjoyable with unbounded energy and passion forever.”