Beginning from the end is something we unconsciously do when seeing things in hindsight. Whether reading a beloved novel just to see how the story ends, or taking a sneak peak at the final page of a bill to know the total amount, what comes before is always the means to an end. Yet we never quite understand the finality of an ending, until we know the origin of the beginning.
First things first
When I recently had the opportunity to connect in-person with a well-known author, I jumped at the opportunity when I realised he lived in the same town. He graciously invited me to his home, and pulling up to the front porch, I was astounded by the simplicity of the surroundings, and especially as the author himself opened the door to greet me.
Mr. Michael Bennet, the author of Christianity Explained, sat down with me to explain why, years later, he did not consider himself a formidable author. “I never liked writing”, he admitted, “but seeing as there were no books available that readily explained certain texts of Scripture, or the way we read the Word, I decided to do something about it”.
When I was a student at university, one of the first books handed to me by a mentor of mine was Christianity Explained. Although I had grown up in a Christian home most of my childhood and teenage years, I had never once thought that Christianity, as a religion, needed to be ‘explained’ to me. Yet reading the words of this “guide to life”, as it were, in plain English, was quite an eye-opening experience; and one that I often refer back to when explaining Christianity to my own mentees.
Conversing with Michael, he mentioned that we often approach Scripture through our own ‘lens’. It seems easier to assume the core message of the text simply because we have heard it so many times, but, in fact, we hardly consider the context of the writer.
For the average reader, it is difficult to read between the lines.
In his new book, Michael attempts to do just that.
During the past year of the pandemic, he found that with more time on his hands, he was able to read through and study the book of Revelation; a book, he retells, “will make your head spin!”
For many, it is enough to leave the book alone entirely.
“Revelation is like an end-of-the-world movie such as ‘Independence Day’, which has been cut into about 25 sections, according to the content of each section. The sections are then put back together out of order. The book is full of flash-backs and flash-forwards.”
A flashback to a few years ago, while in seminary, I decided to put my knowledge to the test and take a class on the Book of Revelation. Talking to some of my fellow students, they were flabbergasted that I would even attempt to do so. “You’re taking Revelation? Why would you do that? Don’t you know how tough the teacher is?” Apparently, I hadn’t heard of the reputation of the professor in question, who, according to legend, never gave up easy marks, let alone taught an easy class.
Nevertheless, I ended up taking her class, and I vividly recall walking into her classroom, sitting down at the back of the class, and watching, spellbound, as the professor walked in, turned to all twenty of us in the room, and said, “If you are taking this class, expecting to find all the answers to Revelation, you have come for the wrong reasons. The key to Revelation is asking the right questions”.
As the author of Revelation Explained suggests, the book is meant to be a ‘big-picture’ book.
“If this book, Revelation, written about 90 A.D., fell into the hands of the Roman authorities and if these persecuting authorities understood that ‘Babylon’ equals ‘Rome’, all Christians throughout the Empire would come under suspicion, and be regarded as traitors, plotting to overthrow the Empire, and would suffer the consequences”.
In other words, the symbolism used throughout the book of Revelation was intentional, to point the reader to the true meaning behind the text, and to reveal that the ultimate authority, and the fate of the world, is found in the hands of God alone.
“I have set myself the task of putting Revelation back into chronological order, and making its vital message, so relevant for today’s church, more accessible to the average Christian reader”, Michael mentions.
The last word
For many, we may never be able to fully comprehend the times we live in, or the future God has in store for us; but we can be sure that God is in control of our lives, and, the course of our destiny.
Revelation certainly does pose more questions than answers, but we can find comfort in knowing there is a blueprint to follow in the times gone before, and the times to come.
As Scripture says,
“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:‘“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God’”.
- Revelation 19:1
In the end, we can know that God has always been there since the beginning.
Joseph Kolapudi's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/joseph-kolapudi.html