Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Revelation 22:8
John had just heard the words of Christ (whether audibly spoken by the Lord or repeated by the angel who had presented the revelations to him), and it so greatly affected him that he was overwhelmed. As such, he conveys to us what then occurred, saying, “Now I, John, saw and heard these things.”
The Greek is more precise, using an article with a present participle – “Now I John am the one who is seeing these things and hearing.” He is conveying that everything has been an ongoing display before his eyes that he personally beheld. It is similar to his words that testify to his life, witnessing the work of Christ –
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:1-3
John is once again testifying to the truth of his personal experience in beholding what God had set before him to witness to. In this position of trust appointed to him, he next says, “And when I heard and saw.” The verbs are now aorist. With the vision having been seen, and with the senses overwhelmed at what he has just heard, John says, “I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.”
Again, John returns to a present participle. It more rightly states, “I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who is showing me these things.” He doesn’t know if the vision is complete or not. He has seen and heard to the point where he was overwhelmed, but he is also still in the presence of the angel who is there showing him the visions of the future.
What occurs in this sentence is what has already happened once before –
Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” 10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:9, 10
Did John make the same error twice? Or is this a new error to avoid confusion? In Revelation 19:10, it says, “And I fell at his feet to worship him.” Now, it says, “I fell down to worship [God? Or the angel?] before the feet of the angel.”
In other words, it very well may be that John is falling to worship the Lord who gave the words, but the angel wants no confusion at all to be introduced into the narrative. As such, he ensures there is none by redirecting John’s worship “to God and before God,” rather than “to God and before a messenger.” Either way, John’s actions are spoken against in order to ensure that God alone is given the glory.
Life application: John has, just since the beginning of this chapter, seen the river of water of life which proceeds from the throne of God; the tree of life bearing fruit for each month of the year; leaves of the tree indicating healing of the nations; that there will be no more curse; that the throne of God and the Lamb will be right in the midst of the people and that the people will serve Him; that the people will see His face and they will have His name on their foreheads; there will be no night in the New Jerusalem and no need of a lamp or the sun because of the radiance of God; and that the people will reign forever and ever.
After seeing these astonishing things which had been lost since the very beginning of man’s history, as is recorded in the redemptive narrative, John was told that what had been described was “faithful and true;” that it was sent from the Lord God; and that these things must shortly take place. Finally, he was told that those who “keep the words of the prophecy of this book” would be blessed.
All of these things must have completely overwhelmed the beloved apostle of the Lord and in stunned awe of the beauty of what his eyes had beheld, he fell down to worship.
What will our response be when we gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and the wonders that He has prepared for us? Let us remember now that from Him alone stems all good things and that He therefore alone is worthy of our prayers, petitions, and praise. We must never make the mistake of offering any of these things to anything in creation.
We are not to pray to a person such as Mary or the saints, we are not to petition anyone, such as an angel, and we are not to offer praise to anyone or anything – such as the constellations. Instead, these are to be reserved for the Lord alone. It is easy to get sidetracked, but the Bible asks us to fix our thoughts, hearts, affections, and gaze upon the Lord. To Him alone be all glory, wisdom, power, and might. And so, to Him alone belongs our worship, attention, and devotion. Yes, let us magnify the Lord our God. Let us magnify JESUS.
Heavenly Father, thank You for showing us what to do directly in Your word. We don’t need to guess if we should pray to a dead person or if we should praise a sunrise. We don’t need to wonder about asking for a blessing from a wishing well. Instead, we know to offer these to You alone and in the name of Your beloved Son, Jesus. Amen.