Cosmic Christmas

And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. (Revelation 11:19-12:2 KJV)
(Image source)
So begins a section in the book of Revelation, which according to T.F. Torrance (in The Apocalypse Today: Sermons on Revelation), offers "a panoramic view of world-history...from the perspective of the Kingdom of God" (p. 90a). He continues:
We look right into the Temple of God in Heaven and see something of the eternal purpose of God, and the way in which He works out the redemption of mankind throughout the ages. (p. 90b)
How is this redemption accomplished? How do the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of God? It begins with Christmas--with the Incarnation of the eternal Son of God. That great event is described in Revelation chapter 12 in wondrous apocalyptic imagery. Commenting on Revelation 12:1, 5, Torrance says this:
There we have to be sure, a vision of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. The woman clothed with the sun and with the moon under her feet, is surely symbolic of Israel appearing before the gaze of the world as the great miraculous sign of God's intervention in humanity. She come standing upon the Old Testament revelation of reflected light and clothed with the New Testament revelation which is as the sun shining in his strength. The crown with the twelve stars presents not only the twelve tribes of historical Israel but the glory of the complete family of God among men. Out of this Israel of God there is born the Savior who is Christ the Lord.... The birth of Jesus was the signal for the powers of evil to launch their desperate attack upon the redeeming purpose of God. (p. 93).
And so with the Incarnation (which we celebrate at Christmas) was launched in heaven a mysterious demonic, cosmic war that completed itself at the Cross where the decisive battle was won in the Kingdom of God (p. 94). T.F. comments:
The world does not want the Child of Bethlehem to be King. He is no sooner born than all the forces of evil are "incarnated" in a blood-red dragon [Rev. 12:3-4], a many-headed and many-horned dragon whose desperate and hateful purpose is to devour and destroy the Christian Church. (p. 95)
This then is the cosmic backdrop to what on earth appears as the "silent night" of Christmas eve, and what appears to be shame and defeat at the Cross. T.F. continues:
Who would have thought that the helpless Babe of Bethlehem was anything but a harmless child? Who would have thought the helpless Man on the Cross was such a mighty power? But the devil knows and trembles. (p. 98)
Indeed, who would have thought? Glory to you, Lord Christ, who was, and is, and is to come!

Comments

  1. Ted, I think your concluding sentence is a wonderful improvement on your original emailed version. Now, this one is a beautiful example of how reading Thomas Torrance’s incarnational Trinitarian theology “becomes doxology and doxology flows into theology, and the two are inextricably enmeshed together,” as David Walker wrote in his Introduction to “Atonement: the Person and Work of Christ” (lxxxiii). I am especially fond of the little book which you featured in this post. Thank you so much for your good work with this blog in 2015 and previous years.

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  2. Thank you Bill for your encouraging comment!

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  3. For an interesting perspective on the scene painted in Revelation 12, see the CT article on the star of Bethlehem at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/december/what-kind-of-astronomical-marvel-was-star-of-bethlehem.html?utm_source=connection-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=18438927&utm_content=406272178&utm_campaign=2013&start=2

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