Reading the Christmas story is never enough. Complement it by reading the end of the Bible in December. Yes, I am thinking of that book called Revelation—which begins with these words: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.” (Rev. 1.1)
Here is why reading the end of the Bible is a good way to end the year (and begin another).
1 We will be blessed if we do so. It says, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (1.3).
2 We see another wonderful picture of our savior Jesus Christ. This time he is not tiny and in a manger. Here he is seen in his other state—not humiliation, but exaltation. In chapter one He is revealed as “the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” He is the one who “has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom of priests to his God forever (1.6). He is the first and the last, the living one, who died, but is alive forever. He is the one who has the keys of Death and Hades. And this is just chapter one! There are 21 more chapters that display his glory.
3 It completes the Advent message. Remember, the word advent means “coming.” In December, Christians celebrate the first advent (coming) of the eternal Son of God to earth at Bethlehem. We also hope for his coming to us in this season with fresh power. What Christian does not want to be refreshed with the wonder of the Christmas message? But we can’t stop there, wonderful as that is. Revelation turns our eyes to that other advent—the promised second coming. We wait, like Tolkien fans, with expectation for the next installment. Only, this story is the story of stories which gives vitality to all the interesting sub-stories written in human history.
4 Revelation reminds us who is sovereign. Have you questioned this year who really is in control? Did the European economic crisis, super-storm Sandy swamping the Northeast, out-of-control fires in the mountain west, stormed embassies in the Middle East, revolutions in Egypt or Syria, mass shootings in Connecticut and Colorado, election results or worry about fiscal cliffs, throw you off course? Do you know who has his hand on the helm of history? In Chapter 4 we see a picture of the throne in heaven. We catch a glimpse of the worship of heaven which reminds us of that grand vision in Isaiah 6. God is unceasingly worshipped, and the hosts of heaven cry out “”holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come.” He is the sovereign and holy Lord (6.10). His dominion is forever.
5 We see a picture of God’s terrible judgment. The great day of the Lord is coming. The deceiver of the world will finally be defeated. His war against the saints will end. Christian martyrdom will be no more. The saints are at peace. The enemy is conquered by the blood of the lamb. The peoples of the earth are judged with righteousness and justice. The great and small stand before his throne to give account and all the books are opened (20.12f).
6 It reminds us to be awake. “Behold I am coming” Jesus says.…”blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on” (16.16). The opposite of being awake is being lulled asleep by the world, like the church of Sardis, or the lukewarm church of Laodicea, or the church of Ephesus which abandoned its first love. In Revelation, we see that Christ walks among the churches and is aware of their spiritual condition. A call goes out to repent and return to him.
7 Churches are also reminded that they are lamp stands. Each church has a light bearing function. We are called to faithfully bear witness to the eternal gospel to the end. God uses our witness to gather a people for himself from every tribe, language, people and nation.
8 In Revelation, we see the victory of Jesus Christ over Satanic power, evil and death itself. Evil does not win. The Christmas carols are right—“in his name all oppression will cease.” The worship in heaven proclaims that “salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the lamb” (7.10).
9 We see a glorious hope. The kingdoms of the world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever (11.15). There is a healing of the nations and a reunion of the redeemed in a great marriage supper of the lamb. There is a new heaven and earth, and a new Jerusalem without tears, sorrow, pain or death.
10 And finally, at the very end of this book, on the very last page of the Bible, there is a wonderful invitation. Not only do the saints call out for Jesus to come, but we hear Jesus tell us that he is coming soon. The Holy Spirit, the Bride of Christ call out and say “Come!” “And let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (22.17). What a fitting end to this amazing sacred book!
I set out to read the Bible through on one of those accelerated schedules this year—the Bible in 90 days. I have failed miserably! My 90 day goal, turned into 365 days! But my wayward heart has experienced another encounter with the whole counsel of God. Old and New Testament, Genesis through Revelation, have washed over me, rebuked me, and hopefully re-formed my heart and mind yet again.
But the greatest blessing of reading through the Bible to the very end, at the end of December, is that it not only completes Advent and Christmas, but it strengthens us all for the coming year.