Before we start looking at Revelation
So here we are. We’ve arrived at the last book of the Bible. What a journey it’s been! It’s taken five and a half years. 66 months, 66 books.
I arrive at the Book of Revelation with some trepidation, I have to admit. It’s the end of this journey and yet so much more that that. It’s the end of the whole story. It’s a glimpse of eternity. I feel hugely out of my depth, knowing the detailed symbolism that this revelation contains. I’ve also always struggled with the traditional concept of heaven and hell that I was brought up with, but could not really put into words what I do think eternity will be like. That’s been fine up to this point, but now, faced with the Book of Revelation, I feel it’s the time to really explore what God has revealed to us about what happens when we die.
So yes, it’s a huge one. I’ve done a little online research and ordered a book to help me navigate this epic book. It hasn’t arrived yet so in the meantime, I’m reading ‘Surprised by Hope’ by Tom Wright to give me some context in which to read Revelation. In the preface, he presents hope as twofold: the ultimate future hope of eternal life and the discovery of hope in the present world. I get that. I’ve always felt that whatever we believe for the future must inform and influence the present.
Tom Wright opens his book by looking at the confusion about hope in the wider world: confusion about what to believe and confusion about what Christians believe (because let’s face it, many Christians are confused on this issue!) Around the world, there are wide varieties of beliefs about what happens to us when we die and what the dead are up to right now.
There’s a fascination with death, for sure. Just look at the arts, all the films and novels exploring death. I heard novelist Elif Shafak talking about her latest novel recently – 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World focuses on that period after death where brain activity is still recorded. It’s one I’m fascinated to get hold of and read. Another good one was The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North.
Some believe there is nothing after death, that this life is all there is. Not many can sustain that view though. Many find comfort in believing that we somehow become part of the universe – we came from stars and return to being star dust, for example. And as for me, what do I believe? It’s confusing, that’s for sure, but it’s not right that I refuse to know/work out/engage with what I believe as a Christian about this biggest issue we all face.
If you feel the same, why not journey with me through this month?