Beyond Chaos (T.F. Torrance on Revelation 4)

Daniel declared,”I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another…After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet.” (Daniel 7:2-3, 7)

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:1-8)

“A Door Opened in Heaven” by Anneke Kaai
(The following sermon excerpt comes from T.F. Torrance, 1959. The Apocalypse Today. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp. 31-33.)

In [this chapter in the Book of Revelation] we are bidden to look beyond the wild chaos of the ages. The Throne is still there and the Majesty of God upon it, but all is changed at last. The sea no longer rages; it is smooth as glass and as clear as crystal. Once again as in Ezekiel’s vision the rainbow is in the cloud. That is the sign that the fierce floods are past and gone forever. It is the sign of God’s everlasting covenant with His creation. This is the age in which the lion lies down with the lamb and there is no hurt in all God’s holy mountain. The whole of creation is tamed and redeemed. The four symbolic creatures of the earth are no longer devil-ridden bestial monsters that devour flesh and trample the residue in the dust. The iron teeth, and the braggart triumph of evil boasting that God does not rule, are gone…

But the nightmare is still here. You and I actually live in a world in which these fantastic monsters are a terrifying reality. It is for you and me then that this fourth chapter of Revelation has been written, that we too may hear the voice like a trumpet talking with us and saying “Come up hither and I will show you these things which must be hereafter.” There is no uncertain sound about that trumpet! This nightmare world must pass away – there is no doubt at all about that. Lift up your eyes and see already the kingdom of peace and a new creation enthroned above the world and about to break into our troubled world. The seas may rage but there is a Throne above the seas. The monsters may still roam the earth but only for a season as their time is short – therefore their extra rage! It is because the breath of God already blows upon us that the sea rages. It is because the Kingdom of God has already invaded this world and is breaking up the kingdoms thereof that evil is provoked to such extreme bitterness and to its final desperation. No doubt the nations may seem still to be in the iron grip of a destructive fate, rushing headlong to disaster, but that is only the storm before the dawn of the eternal morning. Look with the vision of the Revelation and you will discover all creation is full of eyes watching for the day of redemption, waiting for the manifestation of the Son of God…

Perhaps for you all the meaning of creation is overwhelmed in the wrath of man, but God is on the Throne and He is able to make even the wrath of man to praise Him. Even the beasts of the earth will soon be saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” All things have been created by God to serve His will and declare His glory and God’s purpose will not be thwarted. His love persists in spite of the chaos. At last the trees shall clap their hands and the very hills shall skip like lambs for joy, and every tongue shall praise Him. “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”