April 1, 2016 • Life for Leaders
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
I have a friend who reads novels in a most peculiar way. She begins with the final chapter. No kidding. She does this because she hates reading novels with sad endings. By reading the last chapter first, she knows in advance where the story is heading. If it ends sadly, then she’ll move on to the next book.
A prayerful study of Revelation 21-22 will not only give us a window into the future, but also help us to live and work today with greater meaning, wisdom, and joy.
I don’t necessarily like sad endings, either. But I can’t imagine reading the last chapter of a novel first. For me, knowing the ending would substantially ruin the story. It would take away the suspense and the joy of guessing where things are going. Now, I suppose I could still delight in creative descriptions and in curious characters. But I love being surprised by the twists and turns of a good story. Please don’t tell me how it ends!
The Bible tells a story, a grand story that begins in creation and ends with new creation. Curiously, though, many Christians don’t think of the Bible as a story. Or, if they do, they begin in Genesis 3 (sin) and end with the New Testament gospels and epistles, with the resurrection of Jesus and the assurance of personal salvation. It is unusual for Christians to take seriously the foundational chapters of God’s story, the creation account in Genesis 1-2. And it is similarly unusual for Christians to take seriously the concluding chapters of God’s story, the new creation account in Revelation 21-22. Thus, we miss out on the fullness of God’s story, overlooking God’s grand intentions both for human life and for the whole cosmos.
If you’ve been subscribing to Life for Leaders for a while, you know that we’ve just concluded a leisurely devotional walk through Genesis. We spent several weeks focusing on the first two chapters, making sure to understand and pray in response to the beginning of God’s story. Starting today, we’re going to look closely at the end of the story as found in Revelation 21-22. I’m beginning in Revelation 21, not because I undervalue the first twenty chapters of this stunning book, but because I want to focus on the very end of God’s story, looking at how the end underscores key elements of the beginning.
To put it plainly, I believe that if we “get” the beginning of God’s story in Genesis 1-2, and if we “get” the ending of God’s story in Revelation 21-22, we will be prepared to understand the rest of the story correctly. If, on the contrary, we overlook the beginning and the end, our interpretation of the middle of God’s story will always be inadequate if not mistaken.
In particular, the end of God’s story reiterates and expands upon what we learned in Genesis about our purpose in life and how that purpose is tied to our work. Thus, a prayerful study of Revelation 21-22 will not only give us a window into the future, but also help us to live and work today with greater meaning, wisdom, and joy. So, in this case, if we read the ending of the story early, it won’t ruin the story. Rather, it will help us understand the whole story and its relevance to our lives.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
If someone were to ask you, “What is the story of God found in the Bible?” how would you answer?
Have you spent much time studying the final two chapters of Revelation? If so, what have you learned there? If not, why not?
If you are able, read Revelation 21-22. What strikes you as you read these chapters?
Gracious God, thank you for the Bible, for the grand story it tells. Thank you for how it begins in Genesis and how it ends in Revelation – and for everything in between. As we begin this study of the end of your story, Lord, may our minds and hearts be open to learn from you.
To you be all the glory! Amen.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.