Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 22, 1971

"How Sweet The Sound..."


"When we've been there ten thousand years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We've no less days to sing God's praise

Than when we first begun."

Mark Twain, cynical about man and skeptical about God, brought the full weight of his enormous talent to heap ridicule and scorn on the "clergyman's heaven" — a horribly boring place in which there was no activity at all except the twanging of harps and the singing of psalms. He commented that it was like pulling eye teeth to get the average Christian to sit through one of these "praise sessions" for a couple of hours once a week. Indeed, he would skip the Sunday services on the slightest pretext and go fishing. And what torture it would be to spend not hours and days, but years and countless thousands of years in the same monotonous, boring exercises!

Twain had a point there. And all too often our hymns (and prayers) have emphasized only the praise and adoration and worship the heavenly inhabitants give to God, with no explanation or reason at all why such worship is given. Is the nature of God such that unending praise and adoration are required? No matter how vain and egotistical a human being might be, there would eventually come a time when he would be absolutely surfeited with the praises being heaped upon him. He might stand it for a day, or a week, or a month — but after a few years even the most inflated of egos would have all he could stand! One most compliment or word of praise would exasperate and offend him.

It was from this point of view that Twain, and other cynics, wrote their dreary descriptions of heaven. Judging God by human standards, they found the idea of "ten thousand years" of constant praise preposterous. And such it would be — if the praise and adoration were merely to exalt and magnify the Creator, with no thought or concern as to the creature.

But what these critics overlook, and the very point of the whole worship sequence, is the effect of worship on the worshipper. It is not so much that God needs to be worshipped, as it is that man needs to worship God for his (man's) benefit. For man becomes like that which he worships. The whole long history of the race has demonstrated this beyond all peradventure of doubt. The warlike Roman soldier became like the Mars whom he worshipped; the besotted winebibber became like Bacchus; the sensualist worshipped Aphrodite or Venus. The evil and cruel gods of the Phoenicians set the standard for the cruelties and abominations of those who slaughtered their own innocent children to appease their gods.

It is true, of course, that men have always tended to make their gods in their own images; but this is a two-way street: they also become like the gods they invent. The worship of any object or being, whether living or inanimate, tends to produce in the worshipper the qualities and characteristics of the being (or thing) worshipped.

The God whom we worship is perfect and is infinite. That he is worshipped in heaven now is very clear from the visions that John recorded in the Revelation. That he will be worshipped through all eternity by the redeemed is both stated and implied in too many scriptures to list. But WHY will he be worshipped? Is it not evident that these acts of homage and adoration will be one way by which the redeemed can be brought more and more into the likeness of their Redeemer? It is not that God needs or desires the worship — but the creature needs (and desires) to become more like his Creator and Redeemer. We cannot really know what Heaven is like; but we do know that the songs and worship of those who are there will serve but to bring all participants into a greater likeness to God.

So, the "clergyman's heaven" is not such a monstrosity after all! There is purpose and meaning to all that is done in heaven, just as there is meaning in every act of God, whether in heaven or on earth.

F. Y. T.