The Lion-like Power of a Lamb-like Weakness (T.F. Torrance on Revelation 5)

And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain…And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb…And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:2-10

(The following sermon excerpt comes from T.F. Torrance, 1959. The Apocalypse Today. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp. 35-36, 40-41.)

Here is the message of this chapter. In spite of the monstrous and demonic upheaval of the world, in spite of the fact that the whole world seems to have broken loose from God in our time, in spite of all the unbelievable disorder and ruthless sway of evil, there is a book in Heaven carefully and decisively written by the hand of God about the destiny of the comp-anneke-kaai-de-verzegelde-boekrol-en-het-lam-apocalypse-4-1988world. There is order behind the chaos. There is plan behind the confusion…God still holds the world in His hand and He will not be thwarted. His purpose will be and actually is being fulfilled here and now…

[But] this is our trouble….[P]eople in our modern world imagine that God’s power is like the bare power we use in science, only absolutely almighty, and we think of the action of God’s power in terms of mechanical action and of the sheer crushing weight of atomic energy…Thank God His power is revealed to us in this vision as absolutely different. God’s almighty power, God as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, is revealed as the Lamb as it had been slain. He is God who has stooped to enter into our weakness and into our guilty past, in order to break its power from within. This is the undreamed-of thing, something that was not. A little babe was born, despised and rejected of men. On the Cross He became the weakness of God, a sacrificial Lamb, but as such the mightiest power in heaven and earth. That is the power that may enter our life and break it of its fetters and sin. It may deliver us from the clutches of sin-infested time and bestow upon us the pure freedom of the children of God. The world still laughs at this power and calls it weakness, but this is the God who chooses the foolishness of the world to confound the mighty…

No one anxious and troubled about the fateful chaos of our world need weep any more at the bitterness of its destiny. “Weep not,” says the voice of the vision. “Behold the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, . . . the Lamb as it had been slain”…Thus there breaks out from all creation, represented here by the four strange-faced creatures, and all the race of redeemed humanity represented by the four and twenty elders, a new song…It is a new song, because in spite of all the dire wickedness of the earth, at last the lion and the lamb lie down together in the paradise of God. It is a new song which the angels of heaven sing at the summons of God every time a sinner repents and turns back to the heavenly Father. “Rejoice with me,” says the Father, “for this my son was lost and is found. He was dead and he is alive again” (Luke 15:24).