The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1)

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near…

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

As much as T.F. Torrance is remembered for his contributions in the world of academia, he was at heart, very simply, a preacher of the gospel. We do not really know Torrance if we know him only as theologian and scholar and not as herald and witness of Jesus Christ. One of the published collections of Torrance’s sermons is entitled The Apocalypse Today, auferstehungand, as suggested by this title, it reproduces a series of expositions of the book of Revelation in which Torrance sought to cut through many of the speculative and fanciful approaches to the Apocalypse and lay bare its central theme and focus: the revelation of Jesus Christ. Be blessed as you read what Torrance has to say about the message of Revelation 1:

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…

it is about that vision that St. John takes up his pen to write – and human language seems so impotent for the task. The Apostle reaches out after all sorts of symbols and pictures to try to convey the full reality of Christ, but in the end he has to fall down as one dead. The words that he has left us still bear even in their grammar the traces of a mighty impact, but John was bidden and empowered to write. Frail though the human langue is, it bears to us here under the inspiration of the Spirit a sacramental description of Christ. It gathers up in simple earthly analogies the One whose nature is akin to our own, and yet points out beyond to the Eternal Son who transcends all symbols and words in the lustre of uncreated light.

That light John had seen for the first time in Galilee, when he thought of it as the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Now he speaks of a blinding reality, a countenance as the sun shineth in its strength, in His right hand seven stars, hair white as wool, eyes as a flame of fire, and feet ike burnished brass, as if they burned in a furnace. No wonder the Old Testament saints said they could not see God and live, for God is a consuming fire. And yet that is how we must see God even in the face of Jesus Christ if we are to be saved by Him: in the full blaze of His Holiness and Majesty. He has eyes like a flame of fire that search the heart consuming evil with its flame. he has words like a sharp two-edged sword, words which cut and cleanse, and a voice that swells in regal command like the voice of many waters. And yet, in spite of all that dread eternal light, John did not fail to recognize at its heart one like unto the Son of Man. Behind the thunder of the trumpet he heard unmistakably the gracious voice of Him who spake like no other man. In the depth of that burning vision He discovered one touched with the feeling of his own human infirmity and he knew it was Jesus, for Jesus remains man even as the Lord of glory.

If we haven’t understood the point of Revelation yet, let me put it into simple terms: it’s all about Jesus! This is why the book begins with a special blessing for those who hear and keep its words. In Revelation, we are brought into personal communion with Jesus Christ and, through him and by the Spirit, with the Triune God himself. It is Christ whom we meet and see and hear in this book, and the appropriate response is not speculation on future events or fancy charts and graphs but awe, love, and adoration. To him be glory and honor and blessing and praise forever and ever, Amen!

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