The problem with much modern worship is that it just doesn’t seem to go anywhere. People gather (or they don’t) just to gawk. They come as mere spectators rather than has happy participants in the worship of God. They have “come to church” but that seems as far as they are willing to go.
For some of us, however, our liturgies are designed to take us somewhere. Some of us actually think that when we are called to worship we are actually called to come near. We believe that we assemble to worship. We also believe that we assemble in order that we might ascend.
That is, we believe that Christians have an enormous privilege of ascending into heaven in their worship on the Lord’s Day. This consecration, this lifting up, is what happens when the call to worship is given. When John was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” he was caught up into heavenly places. The same thing happens to us—on the first day of every week. “And the smoke of of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand” (Rev. 8:4).
Paul told the Ephesians that they were located in two places. The first was obvious—Ephesus (1:1). But their second location is something he emphasizes strongly throughout the book. They are in Christ, who in turn is at the right hand of the Father in heaven. According to Paul, we were co-crucified, co-resurrected, and co-enthroned “in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:5-6). We read these passages but we individualize them. We go off to heaven in our private prayers and rarely wonder where everyone else is.
Why should we not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Heb:10:25)? Too often this verse is quoted as simply meaning that a man should “go to church.” It means this, of course, but it neglects the riches involved when we go to church with a scriptural heart and mind. This is really a command to not neglect going to heaven in worship. The preceding context makes this clear. We have boldness to enter into the Holy of Holies in heaven (10:19). How holy must that sanctuary be? But because we have this boldness, let us draw near with true hearts (10:22).
In our public worship, we do not come to a mountain that can be touched (12:18), but we do come to a mountain, a heavenly Zion. What happens when a small group of saints gathers together in a clapboard community church somewhere out in the sticks? At their call to worship, they ascend to the City of God, to the heavenly Jerusalem. They walk into an innumerable company of angels in festal gathering. They come to the general assembly of the universal Church, whose names are written in heaven. They come into the presence of God, the judge of all. They gather with the Spirits of just men made perfect. They approach the Lord Jesus Christ the mediator of the New Covenant and the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
When we start understanding what is happening in our worship service, our contemporary flippancy evaporates. Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, we are to have grace so that we can worship Him with reverence and godly fear.
As we gather in the presence of the Living God on the Lord’s Day, He is pleased to use our right worship of Him as a battering ram to bring down all the citadels of unbelief in our communities. Just as the walls of Jericho fell before the worship of God, so unbelievers tremble when Christians gather in their communities to worship the living God rightly. Jesus promised us that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church. It is not often noted that the gates of hell are not offensive weapons. Hell is being besieged by the church; not the other way around. We must learn to see assembled worship as ascended worship. Then we must learn to view that ascended worship as an assaulting worship. The worship of God is a battering ram and each Lord’s Day we have the privilege of taking another swing. Or, if we prefer, we might still want to continue gathering around with our insipid songs, dopey skits, and fire-side chats in order to pelt the gates of hell with our wadded up kleenex.