The Mystery of Iniquity (T.F. Torrance on Revelation 13)

Revelation 13:1, 5-10

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads … And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear, let him hear: If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

(The following sermon excerpt comes from T.F. Torrance, 1959. The Apocalypse Today. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp.88-90)

Artwork by Chris Koelle, The Book of Revelation

Surely this is the Word of God to us out of this chapter. There is such a seething evil in the sea of humanity that no matter how much we try to give Christian shape to this world apart from Christ Himself, all that we may do is to give a fresh disposition to the forces of evil among men. Sooner or later that latent evil will break out through the surface and reveal itself in bestial form and all the world will be aghast at it. It will hypnotize them and fascinate them until they are thoroughly deceived.

Let us make no mistake. No amount of reshuffling can put a truly Christian shape on the world. No amount of international discussion, no amount of diplomatic arrangements, no United Nations policy can really imprint a Christian pattern and character upon the world apart from the Gospel of salvation. If the nations do not give Christ pre-eminence, they are bound to fail in their efforts for peace. They may succeed for a time. They may erect a semblance of Christian rule among the peoples of the earth. They may appear to imprint the lineaments of the Kingdom of God upon the races of humanity. All that can be done apart from Jesus Christ is to give a fresh disposition to unbelief, to give organic and subtle shape to human evil and pride and selfishness. Thus in due time even so-called Christian organizations may easily reveal themselves as part of a many-headed monster of evil, the more monstrous because it is world-wide and bears Christian similitude… Our Lord warned us that whenever people say, “Here is the Kingdom of God,” or “There is the Kingdom of God,” not to believe them, for the Kingdom of God does not come with observation. It would be blasphemy to confound the Kingdom of God with the bestial images of world power.

We must learn, therefore, not to put our trust in any human image, no matter how marvellous and how Christian it may appear to be. Let us not drag the Kingdom of God down to the patterns and politics of this strange evil world. Let us rather hold fast to the Word of God, the Word that promises a new heaven and a new earth. As yet the Kingdom of God is invisible, unobservable, except to the eye of faith, but God is working. We may understand but little of God’s strange work in history. All that we are able to see may be the beastly shapes of human pride and lust for power rampant in the earth, but one day these weird and crooked patterns will pass away and the promise of God will be revealed as perfectly fulfilled.

That applies to our own heart and life as well. Let us not confuse the Kingdom of God with this or that image or pattern in our own life. Our life is hid with Christ in God. The day will come, said Jesus, when we shall learn the truth about ourselves and about the world and we shall be surprised. But we must keep our eyes fixed entirely upon Him. He is the only Image of God, and the true Image of man. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Author and the Finisher of our faith, the Creator and the Redeemer of the world. What He has purposed in Creation will not be thwarted. He will redeem it from all its sin and evil. It is only in Jesus Christ that we may discern the truth. He is the guarantee of faith, that the evils forms and perverted patterns of this world shall utterly pass away and at last the human heart, the society and the world in which He lived, will take their full imprint and character from the image of Jesus Christ alone.

3 thoughts on “The Mystery of Iniquity (T.F. Torrance on Revelation 13)

  1. Caleb Smith 5 February 2017 / 16:28

    Verily, verily, if American evangelical Christianity as a whole understood this better we would have had much less Trump-enthusiasm.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jonathan Kleis 5 February 2017 / 16:41

      Indeed Caleb. Th0ugh I didn’t provide any comments of my own, I was thinking, as I was writing, about how applicable this message is to the current situation!


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