Are you one of those persons who skip to the end of a book or chapter because you need to know how the story ends or are you someone who doesn’t want to know the ending until you get there?
I wish I could know how you answer that question. I confess that I do not read the end first, but I tend to be curious about what the end looks like so I will often take a peek, especially in a gripping novel. I can only stand so much suspense and I want it to end well.
I wonder what causes so many to stop before they get to the end of a book. Is it simply bad writing by the author or is there something else going on for those persons? I will usually read a book to the very end (always have) but now if the author has not held my attention by good writing, I don’t necessarily feel obliged to finish the book. (I already had to do enough required reading in my lifetime and there are too many superb writers out there to spend time on some who are not.)
Only the very best books and my favorite authors inspire me to reread them again even though few books I buy ever leave my shelves unless I can share them with someone else. Throwing away any book is almost impossible for me to do.
Unquestionably the one book I have read and reread the most often is the Bible. I read it not because I must but because I have the freedom to do so and want to know what this “book of all books” has to say that has survived throughout humanity despite every conceivable effort to destroy it or distort it. It is published in more languages and versions than any other book and yes, I have more than a few of them on my shelves long before my electronic devices gave me every single one in less than a second. I have a few that are my “favorites”, but I will often check more than one when I am looking to hone in on a word or verse to see how it is translated.
What puzzles me is that so many avoid reading the end of the book (the Bible). Sometimes they get lost in Leviticus and stop or only choose the Gospels and never get to Revelation. What they may have sampled or heard about Revelation may seem scary or confusing, so they miss that it contains the last words on Christ and the whole story. The images John paints have lots of people guessing or interpreting but sometimes maybe there are some obvious meanings we don’t take time to discover.
It likely doesn’t help us that so often our pastors do not get to a sermon series on this final book of scripture even though it might be included with other messages here and there. Not long ago our pastor taught through the book of Revelation on a Sunday series that took most of a year and it was a great blessing.
It doesn’t take many verses into Revelation to recognize the book must be important because it contains a verse that says reading it aloud and keeping what is written in it will produce a blessing.
Maybe one thing that can help us is to look at the end of the book and to see it as less about what will happen at the end (though we get clues on that) and more about it culminating the centrality of Christ that begins at the very beginning of the book in Genesis and to see how He is portrayed in Revelation at the outset.
Who does John see Christ to be as the final book opens? If we see that and the meaning of the symbols that can give us a great starting place and reassurance to move farther into the book. In reading Eugene Peterson’s book, Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John & The Praying Imagination, I was blessed to see things I missed in reading this opening description of Christ at other times.
“The vision of Christ begins with a description of his clothing: “a long robe with a golden girdle round his breast.” Before we know what the Son of Man looks like, we know what he does. Clothing defines role: he vests with the garment (podere) prescribed for Aaron in his priestly work (Exod. 20:5). The Son of Man (Christ) is a priest.
A priest presents God to us; he also presents us to God. He brings together the divine and the human. Priests do not protect God’s holiness from human sinfulness by setting up barriers to access.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
This description reminds us that Christ made a way for us to come to know Him and eternally be with Him despite all our failures and weaknesses or how many times we made them. Before we see anything about judgment in the end, we see Him reassuring us that He has covered us if He is ours and this last word on Him is about his central place in the story and our lives.
Peterson goes on with each detail of Christ’s appearance and the significance of what it speaks to us. Then he points to what He says to us.
Here was John, a prisoner on a rocky barren island, with no connection with the churches he pastored. It must have been a disheartening place and then God gives him a vision of the end of the story.
“The Spirit filled his eyes with sights and his mouth with speech that have given sight and direction to Christians ever since. The banishing decree of Rome was itself banished.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
How very like God to so bless his disciple and us as well if we read Revelation as the final chapter, the final book, the last word on Christ and who He is as well as who we are to Him. He does not want us to be in the dark about how the story ends even if He hasn’t given us every tiny detail, we think we need.