The Tribulation, Kingdom, and Patience
Tribulation arises inevitably from the fact that the church is not of the world and yet is in the world. The Church is a foreign body in the midst of the world. The Church is born from above and committed in absolute allegiance to Jesus Christ, that is to say an allegiance outside the world, a foreign allegiance. Because the Church is from above, she is a radically disturbing fact in the world. She is a troublesome element which creates tension among the nations and ferment in the course of history. Just as Jesus Christ, in the midst of a sinful world, inevitably became the storm-center for human sin and its guilty reactions ending on the Cross, so the Christian Church, as far as she remains faithful and true to Jesus Christ inevitably creates trouble and ferment and brings upon herself the violent reaction of evil. The Church cannot be a true Church without causing trouble. She is, as Jesus said, like a fireball cast upon the earth.
The truer the Church is to the Cross of Christ, the more she will suffer, the more she will provoke hostility, and the greater will be her tribulation. At the same time, God has a purpose in this tribulation, for it is by the Churchs conflicts and struggles that God puts the Church to the test in order to purify her. Thus through tribulation the Church is thrown back again and again upon her first love in the purity of the Gospel. The Church that does not really suffer has denied the Cross of Christ. That is why the Spirit is so stern with the Laodicean Church, which by being at ease in her soul and at one with the world, has shirked the conflict by which alone the flame of the Gospel can spread and the Church be kept pure. The supreme truth here is this: the Church exists and grows in tribulation.
The New Testament never lets us forget that Jesus Christ is the King and that in Him the Kingdom of God has decisively broken into our world. The Christian Church, even in her tribulation, is the place where the King reigns and holds His court, the King who is the First and the Last, and who has the keys of Life and death. Let us never forget the fact that Jesus Christ has come on earth to do a tremendous deed which will reverse history. He is here to break the power of evil and to set the prisoners free. He is here to strip principalities and powers, to nail them to His Cross, and to triumph over them openly. He is here for war, to be baptized with a baptism of fire. He is the great stone flung out of Heaven that smites the image of human empire so that the iron and brass, the silver and gold are broken to pieces and become like summer chaff. Let us make no mistake about it. The Cross of Jesus Christ is still in the field. Evil may appear to have taken the initiative and to be the aggressor. However, faith discerns behind this outward facade to see that the real act of aggression is the Incarnation.
Go back again to the Gospel story of the historical Christ and watch Him as He strides towards the Cross. See how, during that last week especially, Jesus deliberately threw down a challenge. He marched straight upon Jerusalem and flung everything into the battle, pressing the nation to come to an ultimate decision. So Jesus kept the finger of God pressing hard upon the people, deliberately provoking evil to its final and complete reaction, and then set Himself to deal with it by the power and holy love of God Almighty. It was an act of aggression on His part. So too, the Church of Christ must press on in desperate urgency challenging the nations to come to an ultimate decision, even though it means unbelievable upheaval and the decimation of the Church. She knows when these things come to pass how to lift up her heart, for then the mighty redemption draws near. Behold, I come quickly.
TF. Torrance, 1959