TF Torrance on John Knox on the Ascension

Thomas F. Torrance, Scottish Theology: From John Knox to John McLeod Campbell (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996), 22-23.
The resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ means the final completion of our salvation in the objective sense, for Christ alone among his brethren possesses glory, honour and prerogative till all his enemies be made his footstool, which we undoubtedly believe they will be at the final judgment…In consummation of all this the Lord Jesus will return visibly as he was seen to ascend, when the time of refreshing and restitution of all things will come, and all God’s promises will be fulfilled. But the ascension implies two other things:

(1) The suspension of final judgment until Christ comes again. Christ alone possesses all power and glory. He possess [sic] that in our name, but he has withdrawn himself visibly from us, until he comes again. The full execution of his judgment and salvation is therefore yet to come. That leaves the world throughout the ages time for repentance and for faith. This is therefore the age of grace, the age when Christ will enlarge his Kingdom, which he does by pouring fourth his Spirit, withholding his final bodily presence which would mean the final judgment. The Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment, and acts upon the Church making its members to participate in the life of the resurrection, and leading them into all truth…

(2) The ascension also means that Christ’s Person, with his presence in power and glory, is withdrawn from our sight, so that we are sent back to contemplate him, not primarily by the mystery of his Being in eternity, but as Jesus who was born, lived, and taught, was crucified and rose again. Christ deliberately withdrew himself from our sight so that our minds might be sent back to the Cross. And as we turn to the Gospel testimony of the Cross, the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the Church, and makes that testimony the Word of our salvation. There is no way to Jesus, no contact with the risen Lord, but by way of the crucified – no theologia gloriae but first a theologia crucis and then on that basis a sursum corda following the movement of the ascension. Hence the Eucharist rises us up in thanksgiving from the Cross to the Heavenly Session of Christ our Mediator and High Priest at the right hand of Power. It is at the Eucharist where our participation in the crucified, risen and ascended Christ is unceasingly renewed, that we learn to live as those whose life is hid with Christ in God, and who here and now enjoy ‘that blessed society which we the members have with our Head and our only Mediator Christ Jesus’.
[NB: The quotation at the end is taken from the Scots Confession, article 11.]


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