A significant motif can be found in nearly every chapter of the Apocalypse of John which does not seem to appear, with the same emphasis, in the other letters of the NT: the theme of worship. False worship is rebuked while true worship is encouraged. A number of scholars have emphasized the extent of the Apocalypse’s stress on this subject (for further reading, see the bibliography at the bottom).
In the fourth chapter John describes his visionary experience concerning the throne of God. Within this description is a statement concerning the four living creatures and their activity. Revelation 4:8 states that these creatures sing the Holy Holy Holy song,
“day and night they do not cease”
The Greek phrase here, ἀνάπαυσιν οὐκ ἔχουσιν ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς, struck me as odd when I read it a few month back in preparation for my dissertation. It was interesting when I saw the parallel phrase in the Greek text in another passage, Rev. 14:9-11,
Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
The phrase here, used to describe the duration of those who pursue false worship (of the beast, his image, and his mark) is οὐκ ἔχουσιν ἀνάπαυσιν ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς. Both Rev. 4:8 and 14:11 have the same phrase (slightly different order) and these are the only two occurrences in the entire Bible! The rhetorical point would be clear for John’s original audience, many of whom were daily tempted to compromise and join in the pagan worship at the local temple or even of Domitian: worship the true God and don’t worship the beast or his image!
My mini-bibliography on the subject of worship in the Apocalypse of John: Otto A. Piper, “The Apocalypse of John and the Liturgy of the Ancient Church,” CH 20 (1951): 10; Lucetta Mowry, “Revelation 4-5 and Early Christian Liturgical Usage,” JBL 71 (1952): 75-84; Massey H. Shepherd, The Paschal Liturgy and the Apocalypse (London: Lutterworth Press, 1960) ; John J. O’Rourke, “The Hymns of the Apocalypse,” CBQ 30 (1968): 399-409; Vernon Kooy, “The Apocalypse and Worship – some Preliminary Observations,” Reformed Review 30 (1976): 198-209; Richard L. Jeske, “Spirit and Community in the Johannine Apocalypse,” NTS 31 (1985): 452-66; David L. Barr, “The Apocalypse of John as Oral Enactment,” Int 40 (1986): 243-56; Fred B. Craddock, “Preaching the Book of Revelation,” Int 40 (1986): 270-82; David Aune, “The Influence of the Roman Imperial Cult Ceremonial on the Revelation of John,” BibRes 28 (1983): 5-26; idem, “The Apocalypse of John and Graeco-Roman Revelatory Magic,” NTS 33 (1987): 481-501; David G. Peterson, “Worship in the Revelation to John,” RTR 47 (1988): 67-77; Thompson, Apocalypse and Empire, 53; idem, “Hymns in Early Christian Worship,” ATR 55 (1973): 458-72; Eugene H. Peterson, “Learning to Worship from Saint John’s Revelation,” in Christianity Today, October 28, 1991, 23-5.