We live in a time of great upheaval, a time unbeknownst to history before! Yes, the world has waned and travelled ever since the frustration of the original creation occurred (Genesis 3), but we live in an unprecedented time. We live in an interconnected universe through the internet, smartphones, planes, trains, automobiles, and a global community that flits and flutters upon the winds of the slightest geo-political breezes to the disruptive gales of turbulent socio-economic jet-streams. We live in a time of religious and intellectual turmoil such that it is hard to keep track of exactly who’s who and what’s what; to the point that people quit caring unless somehow someone else’s beliefs impinge upon their personal space, their personal self-flourishing. In the 20th and 21st centuries we have seen the rise of fascist to communist dictators, from oligarchic democratically elected officials to self-proclaimed caliphs of Islamo-facist states. We have seen human evil spawned in the supposedly civil and modern age at such levels that no centuries past could hope to counter; we have come to the brink of self imposed destruction through atom bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles, and seen that realized in WW2. As the Apostle Paul declares, we live in an ‘evil age,’ but we do so among a people, enslaved to their own affections and desires, who can’t imagine that all of this has been brought about by their own human inclination. As such people will reek destruction at the highest levels, with mass scope of ruin, and then sit back in self-rationalization and try and find someone else to blame; they could never imagine that what they have done could be construed as evil—Nero, Caligula, Hitler, Mao, the Industrial Military Complex (IMC), among other people and groups come to mind.
Thomas Torrance in his sermon on Revelation 6 as he contemplates on the fifth seal has this to say about such things:
More terrible than the sword, more terrible than pestilence and famine and death, is the spectacle revealed by the fifth seal: “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the Word of God and for the testimony which they held” (v. 9). That is the heart-rending fact about human history, the ingrained enmity to the Word of God, and that all who profess the Word are attacked and wherever possible done to death. That is the apocalypse of evil, the unveiling of the secrets of world-evolution. At the heart of it all there is a malignant evil that hates God and is bitterly opposed the servants of God and of His Word.
In the opening of this seal we have revealed an attempt to eradicate the Church and to uproot the people of God. And what does that mean? It means that after the terrible calamities the powers of the world have brought upon themselves, they try to disown the fact that they are the cause of all the evil and commotion and so they turn upon God’s people and vent their rage upon them as scapegoats. Surely that is what the Nazis did in their persecution of the Jews and the Christian Church upon whom they put the blame for the chaos of the world. That is what militant Communism is still doing in its bitter and subtle attack upon the Christian faith and all that it stands for. But to solve the riddle of chaotic history by slaying Jews and Christians is only a desperate attempt to break open the seal of God’s book of destiny to discover by force the secrets of history, and by force to master the fate of the world. Such a course of history is bound to fail. In Germany we have seen already how it has shattered itself upon the rock of the Christian Church against which not even the gates of Hell can prevail. Have no fear, the same will be true of every new menace. Communism also will shatter itself upon the purpose of God. All such things are to be understood in the light of this chapter. Although the main trend of world history is revealed to be fighting against the divine predestination, God Almighty will not be thwarted. He is patient and merciful and holy. He will deal righteously with all wickedness, but at last He will bring the purpose of His holy love to prevail over every affliction, and every tongue shall praise Him.
We all have this impulse in our natural hearts. But of course this is not the end of the story as the Christians know. Nevertheless, we continue to perdure through a season of time in world history where we see world leaders and the common man growing from worse to worse. We continue to see this pattern of scapegoating that Torrance highlights; and typically the Jews and the Christians remain at the top of this scapegoat list—at least globally considered. But that’s okay, because the Lamb slain yet alive is coming; this world is his, and the last enemy will finally be put under foot!
Thomas F. Torrance, The Apocalypse Today (London: James Clarke&Co. Limited, 1960), 54-5.