Thomas Torrance Speaks Apocalypse into the Season of the World

In light of current events—political, geo-political, economical, moral, sickness, disease, famine, natural disasters, blight, living in a sinful body, so on and so forth—I find great comfort and hope in the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ. Knowing that behind the veil of what eye can see, stands the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ as revealed in the book of Revelation. There is hope that vindication is annunciation2coming at that the Deus absconditus (the hidden God) will no longer remain hidden to the eyes of faith, but also by sight, be revealed Deus revelatus (the God revealed). This is the theology that stands behind the book of Revelation; it is encouraging theology, the type of theology that reflects the sofia Theou, the wisdom of God. It is God’s wisdom to veil Himself for us in the humanity of Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 1.17-25), break into this world, redeem and reconcile it from the inside out, set all things right, leave the Holy Spirit as a guarantee, ascend to the right hand of the Father, establish His Kingdom (which we see in the book of Revelation), and come again with reward and vindication for the saints (particularly the martyrs) to once and for establish His Kingdom in consummate form wherein the final enemy death is put under His feet.

Thomas F. Torrance in a little book of his Apocalypse Today offers some elegant insight into what apocalypse, revelation, and incarnation mean; all within the theology of the book of Revelation. He fleshes out, briefly, the implications of the apocalypse and how that ought to impact our hopes and perspectives as those who wait in anticipation for the second coming of Jesus Christ. As we catch up with Torrance he is just speaking of (as these are his published sermons on the book of Revelation) of how our perspectives ought to be re-oriented as we realize that God is the God of history, as such He sovereignly orders things in His providence in such a way that only He could. Torrance here is speaking about the Roman empire, as well as the island of Patmos where John has been exiled; all of this in context within which the book of Revelation was written (in his perspective by the Apostle John, I agree with Torrance on that):

That is what happens when God Almighty blows a blast of His Spirit-Breath upon the inexorable march of events. To the outward eye there may be only the mailed legions of Rome, the flinty rocks of an island prison, but to the eye of faith the whole course of history is seen to march only at the smoking chariot wheels of God. All things are discerned to work together for good so as to yield only holiness and love.

That is the meaning of Apocalypse. Apocalypse or Revelation is the unveiling of history already invaded and conquered by the Lamb of God. Apocalypse means the tearing aside of the veil of sense and time to reveal the decisive conquest of organic evil by the incarnate Son of God. Apocalypse means the unveiling of the new creation as yet hidden from our eyes behind the ugly shape of sinful history. There is to be a new creation which is the out-working of the Cross in the teeth of all the principalities and powers of darkness. In the advent presence of Christ there is to be a new heaven and a new earth. No doubt we are unable by mere outward inspection to trace the lineaments of the Kingdom of God in history, but it is nevertheless a fact that even now God governs and orders the course of the world. When Christ Himself comes, as come again He will, we shall see with our eyes that which we see now only by faith.

At its very heart Revelation means the unveiling of Jesus Christ. That is the significance of the first verses in this chapter, and it is the clue to the whole book. The unveiling of Jesus Christ implies that He has already been veiled—which is one of the facts of the Incarnation. God the Son has come amongst us in such a fashion that the full glory of His divine majesty is veiled in the humanity of Jesus. In a very real sense God was concealed in Jesus, veiled behind His flesh and suffering. How could it be otherwise? Moses looked only upon the divine glory when covered under the shadow of God’s hand. But in Jesus, God Himself has entered the shadow, in order to draw nigh and reveal Himself to us. Such veiling is a necessary part of His unveiling, for He can be unveiled to us only as we are forgiven and healed of our darkness. It is through the “veiled” Son of God, the suffering servant, that God’s sublime glory is fully revealed in the Cross and Resurrection.

In the same way we must think of the Kingdom of God as having entered our world in the life and death of Jesus as veiled in history. It is concealed behind the forms and fashions of this sinful world, so that we are unable to see it directly or immediately. The Kingdom of God does not come with observation—not yet. Look out upon the history of these two thousand years culminating in two wars of unheard-of magnitude and disaster. It is impossible to say, “Lo, here is the Kingdom of God! Lo, there!” You cannot trace the lines of the pattern of the Kingdom of God by inspecting the course of history. But in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day you can see, in spite of all that declares against it, that the Kingdom of God has already broken into our midst and is already at work amongst us. The Cross is in the field, and though its working is veiled to the outward eye, God is even now overruling the world and its sin. So now by the power of the Cross He makes all things to work together for good, and even makes the wrath of man to praise Him. The key to the ages, the clue to history, is Christ crucified, the Lamb of God. It is only the man who has seen and understood the veiling and unveiling of Jesus Christ who can penetrate beneath the guilt and wrath of history and see the veiling and unveiling of God’s Kingdom in it all.[1]

As far as I’m concerned there is nothing more relevant than the reality of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. His Kingdom has come, does come, and is coming; this is the Christian’s hope in this world. It is the hope that we have been called to proclaim from the roof-tops for all those with eyes to see and ears to hear. I find the evangel, this good news of God come in the flesh, particularly relieving, as I’ve already noted, in the days in which we live. It is this political season here in North America that causes me to press even deeper into the hope that all of humanity has in Jesus Christ; because it is clear as day that there is no hope anywhere else! Maranatha!

[1] T.F. Torrance, The Apocalypse Today (London: James Clark&Co. Limited, 1960), 12-14.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Apocalyptics, T. F. Torrance, Thomas F. Torrance. Bookmark the permalink.