Is the Liturgy Biblical? According to the Book of Revelation it Is – Interview on Issues, by Pr. Rossow

Those who resist the historical and liturgical expression of the faith as a human invention would do well to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Book of Revelation. This afternoon at 3 PM Central I will be interviewed on Issues, Etc. concerning a little pamphlet I wrote on the liturgy and the book of Revelation.

A few years ago I ran across a gem of a book called the “The Lamb’s Supper – The Mass as Heaven on Earth.” In this book, the author Scott Hahn, who converted to Romanism from Evangelicalism, joyfully tells of his discovery of ritual and liturgy and how the Book of Revelation is filled with the liturgy, and is even outlined according to it.

I was so moved by the book that I wrote a shorter version of it for my parish that excised the false teachings of penance sprinkled throughout and excised the false teachings of the mass. Overall, Hahn’s general point is edifying and even shocking for those who piously and falsely label the liturgy as a human invention and as unbiblical.

You can listen to the interview for more detail but here are a few highlights. First, the Book of Revelation is outlined according to the liturgy, or should we say, vice versa. It begins with an entrance of the Pastor into a chancel filled with candles. (Rev. 1) It continues with confession with people bowing and crying before God, continuing with the Hymn of Praise, (excerpts showing up in our “This is the Feast”) that follows upon the Absolution of Christ opening the Book of Life. (Rev. 3)  The book then ends with the great banquet feast of eternity closing with the eternal benediction. The book is filled with liturgical rituals and accoutrements such as bowing, waving palm branches, white robes with stoles, candles and even a clear emphasis on exclusivity supporting the closing of the communion rail. (REv. 19-22)

Despite this this helpful little book on the liturgy in Revelation, Scott Hahn is a frustrating mystery to Lutherans for a couple of reasons. First, it is too bad that his conversion out of Evangelicalism led him to Rome instead of to Wittenberg. He could have found all the liturgical richness he wanted with none of the damning teaching of pennance and indelible character if he had happened into a Lutheran Mass instead of a Catholic one on that fateful day that led to his conversion. Truth be told though, in today’s LCMS it is sad that in over half the churches, Scott Hahn would not have found the liturgy.

Beyond that, another frustration about Professor Hann is his latest forray in Romanism –  post-modern, liberal, neo-Thomism. Because I admire his journey, I was delighted to see that he was one of the speakers at last year’s Symposium, but low and behold, I was disappointed to hear that he had crossed beyond his original liturgical devotion into the subtle, neo-Platonic and mystical side of Aquinas. Upon reflection that did not surprise me because there is a subtle undercurrent of post-modern Romanism at the home of The Symposium. That concern will have to wait for another post. For now, we rejoice that the liturgy is not some man-made thing, but is rooted in and based on the very inspiration of the Holy Spirit in his Holy Scriptures.


For the booklet, click here.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Is the Liturgy Biblical? According to the Book of Revelation it Is – Interview on Issues, by Pr. Rossow — 35 Comments

  1. Hahn is an unfortunate example of what I see too often with Evangelicals who become Roman Catholic. Lutheranism is so statistically insignificant in America that it isn’t seen as a serious alternative, which it should be. Lutheranism is a true evangelical catholicism, that centers on the Scriptures and the gospel, while accepting the heritage of the wider catholic tradition of the universal Church. It lacks the rather obvious draw backs of the Roman Church, as well as other supposed forms of “catholicism” such as Eastern Orthodoxy, Old Catholicism, and Anglicanism.

    I did enjoy the “Lamb’s Supper” Book as well. Unfortunately it does declined into moralism towards the end when Hahn discusses what the individual Christian should get out of the Mass. He has written a number of other good books and articles, though he does get a little wacky at certain points.

    If people are interested in the biblical nature of the liturgy, I have an article in the current issue (or perhaps by this time, the one before the current issue- I’m unclear) of Pro Ecclesia where I demonstrate that in Genesis 1-2 and in Revelation the structure of original creation and the new creation are liturgical. Liturgy is therefore not an optional form of worship, but divinely mandated by being built into the very structure of the world as ordained by God.

  2. As a daughter-in-law of strict Catholics, I was introduced to Scott and Kimberly Hahn as models for conversion to Catholicism. Scott Hahn is a gifted and convincing speaker and teacher.

    I have also thought, not to any deep degree, that our liturgy is like the worship in Revelation. Pastor Rossow, any chance of you sharing the “shorter version” of your pamphlet? Maybe details will be given on the Issues segment.

  3. This is nothing less or more than “The Straw Principal”.
    This is how we taught, each class, PH attended about Asthma. You can live a while, w/o food or water…but not long at all.

    Challenge, find one of those little red swizzle straws or a McD’s size, now plug your nose, with your fingers, & try to breath, it’s not about how long ya can, it’s about how long in, your thoughts, tell ya it’s time, your own flesh tells ya, it’s time to panic. It’s isn’t long.

    That, is what this is. We are spoilt, we forget how long those had to travel, to just get to hear anything preached, taught, or the Sacraments, administered. The left, doesn’t corner the market of forgetting. So do we, at times.

  4. Pastor Rossow,

    Could you please supply a reference for this statistic: “Truth be told though, in today’s LCMS it is sad that in over half the churches, Scott Hahn would not have found the liturgy.”

  5. wine,

    It is based on personal experience. You could do your own test via church websites if you wish. I am being generous. I would say that well over 50% of the services conducted in LCMS churches in any given weekend are not the liturgy from the hymnal.

  6. What?!? Are we so hurting for confessional Lutherans in the world that Concordia Theological Seminary had to invite a papist to speak at its 25th Annual Symposium on Exegetical Theology. I mean, it’s not like we don’t have any Tiber-wading Lutherans in the Missouri Synod.

    Perhaps, in an analogous manner, the American Chemical Society should include some alchemists to speak at ACS conferences, or the AMA should have some witch doctors or protégés of Josef Mengele speak at their conventions (oh, wait… they probably already include some people from HHS).

    The liturgical debauchery in some Missouri Synod churches is not going to be corrected by ‘playing theological footsie‘ with Romanists.

  7. @9 CarlVehse,

    So, to have someone outside the synod speak at the seminaries is new? Hardly! It’s a good thing because those seminarians can “hear from the horse’s (read false teacher) mouth” what he needs to beware of, no?

  8. Dean,

    The Tiber River runs through Rome. “Crossing the Tiber” means going over to the Vatican, thus converting to Catholicism.

  9. Thanks Pr. Rossow, I understood that much, but what does that look like? Someone who fancies genuflecting, incense, etc.? Things that many consider RC? Or is it meant that there are Lutherans who actual concur with Roman doctrine and are then wolves in sheep’s clothing?

  10. No, it refers to actual conversion, publicly. Google it and you will get a lot of interesting stuff.

  11. @Dean Wruck #12: “What’s the definition of a “Tiber-wading” Lutheran?”

    Today it might refer to a Lutheran with a more-than-curious personal interest in such things as episcopal polity, aspects of Mariolatry, avoiding references to the Antichrist, chancel-prancing, hyper-ritualism, the Apocrypha, Romish titles and rankings, mitres, birettas, crosiers, as well as a Lutheran who would like to wear these or these. This is not a definitive definition. 😉

  12. Carl Vehse :
    @Dean Wruck #12: “What’s the definition of a “Tiber-wading” Lutheran?”
    Today it might refer to a Lutheran with a more-than-curious personal interest in such things as episcopal polity, aspects of Mariolatry, avoiding references to the Antichrist, chancel-prancing, hyper-ritualism, the Apocrypha, Romish titles and rankings, mitres, birettas, crosiers, as well as a Lutheran who would like to wear these or these. This is not a definitive definition.

  13. @Rev. Jason Harris #18

    After reading “The Rule of SSP” I have to ask: what’s wrong with anything they’re doing? Embracing the spirit of the Confessions is a bad thing? Embracing the Christian tradition of 2,000 years past on to us is a bad thing?

    @Carl Vehse #16

    What’s wrong with episcopal polity? It’s rather historic and Biblical. I think some pastors from the ELDoNA have written some essays explaining its historicity and biblical roots. The Apocrypha? Really? No explanation of mine would suffice on any of this so I’ll just stop. Why is embracing historic Lutheranism and catholic tradition looked down upon as being a Papist and in need to be put on a personal watch list? I don’t get it.

  14. @T Rossow #15

    Yes, you can find lots of interesting stuff — like this article in the professional journal of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis:

    Atlantic District President David Benke wrote a glowing tribute to a prominent LCMS clergyman who forsook his Lutheran identity and pledged allegiance to the pope. If you find that disturbing, then sit down before you consider that our own seminary published it in their official, professional journal. I’m reminded of the reading (Luke 3:19-20) about how, after doing so many scandalous things (like taking his brother’s wife), Herod added this to them all…

  15. @Dean Wruck #19

    What’s wrong with episcopal polity? It’s rather historic and Biblical.

    If by Biblical you mean that an office of bishop as having authority over pastors is a commandment of Christ, I’d have to say no. In the NT, the single office of pastor-elder-bishop is clearly shown. The three titles for one office each emphasize an aspect of the office, but the three titles do not signify three different offices.

    We do have freedom to arrange the polity of the church by human agreement, so long as it is an agreement and not a domination, and so long as those in supervision do not pollute the pure Gospel. While we have the freedom to use the term bishop for an overseer of pastors, that is not the best choice because it tends to confound the word’s uses biblically and conventionally. We ought to reserve the biblical term in its biblical meaning, and choose a different term for conventional meanings. A term like district superintendent, or such, is better for a conventional office that arises by human agreement exercising our freedom. This helps keep clear in everyone’s mind that the authority of the DS arises from freedom and agreement, not from a command or institution by Christ.

  16. @T. R. Halvorson #23
    It’s absolutely true to say that “In the NT, the single office of pastor-elder-bishop is clearly shown.” But, I’m not sure that’s germane to the discussion. It is also clear in the NT that the Apostles, and some of the pastors they appointed (1 Tim 1:3) had rather a lot of doctrinal authority over others. Perhaps it’s dangerous to argue from silence, but I don’t know of a letter back from the Corinthian church telling Paul to butt out, that they would do as they liked w/ the Lord’s Supper (and while were at it: stop imposing your Hebrew morality on the Greek churches.) There’s no evidence that the result of the Council of Jerusalem was seen as a suggestion to be endlessly debated in hopes of getting a more “Missional” replacement to St. James. The Apostolic Church had some profound problems, but it appeared to be under Apostolic authority in a way that our Synod is not. How many times have we affirmed closed communion in binding Synodical votes? How’s that working for us? Ditto for syncretic worship, and the list goes on. We don’t look or act like an Apostolic Church, we look and act like a liberal association of free congregations.

    I’m afraid you’re stuck w/ me, I’m not wading anything, but I think I do understand why folks swim the Tiber. I don’t think they leave looking for a more works-centered doctrine of justification, or a more Aristotelian view of the real presence. They leave looking for a Church that looks and acts like an Apostolic Church. They leave looking for leaders that act like churchmen under authority and not politicians or AMWAY salesmen. (And though it may not be consistent, I get the impression that they often take our monogistic justification, and less cluttered doctrine of the real presence w/ them when they leave.) There is more pure Gospel in the Western Liturgy, even w/ the Medieval Roman additions, than in any “Law-Gospel-Law” Sermon I’ve ever heard a LINO CoWo rebel preach, and way more than in the lame American Neo-Evangelical “liturgies” that accompany them. A bunch of our congregations are less Lutheran than the Pope, and that should freak us out.

    Advent Blessings+,
    -Matt Mills

  17. Pastor Rossow,

    Thank you for writing this. As an Orthodox Christian and former Lutheran, it resonates with me. I told a friend recently when he indicated he thought worship should be “Bible-centered,” “read the Book of Revelation with the worship service in mind. Then come to an Orthodox Divine Liturgy and tell me if anything looks familiar.” Lutherans have this as well, and I’m pleased to see you point it out. “With angels and archangels and all the company of heaven” seems to fit quite well with what St. John shows us in the Scriptures.

  18. Great liturgical tour of Revelation. Our congregation returned to full liturgy about a year and a half ago. What a blessing! Even when my sermons fall short, the congregation remains immersed in Christ crucified, the Gospel, etc. Each week is a feast of Jesus and the Cross! No one can EVER claim they need to leave because of the ” I’m not being fed” excuse. My two cents!

  19. If you answer the question “Is the liturgy Biblical?” in the affirmative, are you saying that the liturgy is therefore commanded by God? God gave a lot of commands regarding “worship” in the OT, not so much in the NT. Does John 4:20ff give us commands?

    From the Apology to the Augsburg Confession:

    Thus in Luke 7, 47 Christ says: Her sins, which are many, are forgiven for she loved much. For Christ interprets Himself [this very passage] when He adds: Thy faith hath saved thee. Christ, therefore, did not mean that the woman, by that work of love, had merited the remission of sins. For that is the reason He says: Thy faith hath sated thee. But faith is that which freely apprehends God’s mercy on account of God’s Word [which relies upon God’s mercy and Word, and not upon one’s own work]. If any one denies that this is faith [if any one imagines that he can rely at the same time upon God and his own works], he does not understand at all what faith is. [For the terrified conscience is not satisfied with its own works, but must cry after mercy, and is comforted and encouraged alone by God’s Word.] And the narrative itself shows in this passage what that is which He calls love. The woman came with the opinion concerning Christ that with Him the remission of sins should be sought. This worship is the highest worship of Christ. Nothing greater could she ascribe to Christ. To seek from Him the remission of sins was truly to acknowledge the Messiah. Now, thus to think of Christ, thus to worship Him, thus to embrace Him, is truly to believe.

    I am inclined to let this part of the BofC [The woman came with the opinion concerning Christ that with Him the remission of sins should be sought. This worship is the highest worship of Christ.] inform how we are to worship and then argue how the liturgy, as opposed to…say a “contemporary” service is more conducive to coming to Christ as the forgiver of sins, seeking that forgiveness. The woman of ill repute in Luke 7 seems to have worshiped in spirit and in truth.

  20. @Joe #30
    Well, you’re being kind of selective w/ your Apology quotes. The Western liturgy may be theological adiophora, but that doesn’t mean we can abandon it and remain faithful to the BOC. You should probably read Apology XV, which ends:

    “[On the other hand, to teach absolute freedom has also its doubts and questions, because the common people need outward discipline and instruction.] But we have an easy and plain case, because the adversaries condemn us for teaching that human traditions do not merit the remission of sins. Likewise they require universal traditions, as they call them, as necessary for justification [and place them in Christ’s stead]. Here we have Paul as a constant champion, who everywhere contends that these observances neither justify nor are necessary in addition to the righteousness of faith. And nevertheless we teach that in these matters the use of liberty is to be so controlled that the inexperienced may not be offended, and, on account of the abuse of liberty, may not become more hostile to the true doctrine of the Gospel, or that WITHOUT A REASONABLE CAUSE NOTHING IN CUSTOMARY RITES BE CHANGED, BUT THAT, IN ORDER TO CHERISH HARMONY, SUCH OLD CUSTOMS BE OBSERVED AS CAN BE OBSERVED WITHOUT SIN OR WITHOUT GREAT INCONVENIENCE. And in this very assembly we have shown sufficiently that for love’s sake we do not refuse to observe adiaphora with others, even though they should have some disadvantage; but WE HAVE JUDGED THAT SUCH PUBLIC HARMONY AS COULD INDEED BE PRODUCED WITHOUT OFFENSE TO CONSCIENCES OUGHT TO BE PREFERRED TO ALL OTHER ADVANTAGES [all other less important matters]. But concerning this entire subject we shall speak after a while, when we shall treat of vows and ecclesiastical power.”

    Lutherans worship w/ the Western Liturgy not because it’s necessary for salvation, but out of love, and because we’re free to do so. Celebrate your freedom, buy an LSB.

    -Matt Mills

  21. @Matthew Mills #31
    Matt, I already own an LSB, thanks for the suggestion though. And I had previously read the quote you provided, which I have also seen used support non liturgical “worship.”

    I was merely giving a quote that I found helpful in discussing and analyzing “traditional” v “contemporary” worship services. I find freedom in knowing that in my worship all I am ultimately bringing to the table is my sin and sinfulness. In analyzing I have also reached the conclusion that the liturgical format is more conducive to the “highest worship of Christ” than the contemporary format.

    I was also asking a genuine question about something patterned equating to something commanded.

  22. @Joe #32
    Sorry. I read your post too quickly and let the lack of one comma lead me astray (I read ‘a “contemporary” service is more conducive to coming to Christ as the forgiver of sins, seeking that forgiveness.’ as a single thought, while you probably intended a comma after ‘a “contemporary” service’ .)
    As Lutherans I think we need to stop short of saying that the Scriptures “prescribe” liturgical worship, but it’s fair to say that OT worship was liturgical, Apostolic worship was liturgical, the worship of the Saints and Angels in the presence of our God is liturgical, and thus the Church has always worshiped. It’s also fair to say that those who have abandoned liturgical worship have done so because their theology is whacked.
    The confessors honestly couldn’t find a reason to change, and were honestly conservative in their desire to only change things tht needed changing, and wrote that into the Confessions. I can’t see any way to use Apology XV to support abandoning the western liturgy.

    Sorry again,
    -Matt Mills

  23. @Matthew Mills #33
    Matt, sorry for leaving out that comma, my writing is usually not as sloppy as my thinking.

    Regarding Apostolic worship, I assume you mean “post-writing-of-the-Bible early church” because back in the day when I attended a very, very low church (not as low as you could go but almost), the other long time attendees prided themselves on worshiping “God’s way” as set forth in the Book of Acts (and practiced by a good number of the Apostles I assume), which was hardly liturgical as we have it historically recorded in Acts.

    Anyway, I threw out the Apology quote because I found it very helpful and hope that others may as well as they pursue discussions with people genuinely on the fence with the “style” of worship to use, as I believe the “highest worship of Christ” as described in the quote tells us a great deal about substance which will usually dictate “style”.

  24. @Joe #34
    Not a problem, the sentence was still very clear once I re-read it. I read it too fast, and we got there in the end.
    I’d disagree though on the Church in Acts. The Church in acts followed the synagogue, and was clearly liturgical. Not a lot of time right now, but I’d suggest Acts 2:42’s “the prayers,” the Didache, and all the parts of Pauls epistles that look like poetry (2 Tim 2:11-13). There were set liturgical prayers, there was no worship on the Lord’s day w/o the Lord’s Supper. The words of institution had been delivered by the Apostles in a set form (1 Cor 11:23-26). And John wrote the Revelation w/ it’s pictures of liturgical temple worship for the Apostolic Church. No, we don’t need to buy the liberal reformed idea of loosey-goosey worship under the Apostles. The only evidence of that appears to be in congregations being taken to the woodshead by St Paul.

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