Monthly Archives: May 2011

Teaching Revelation to Children: The Apocalypse

My last installment in this series of teaching Revelation to children covered the first three chapters of that book. The fourth chapter was covered in a blog entry I made several months ago and is entitled “Teaching Revelation to Children”. Now we get into the hardest teachings of this book: the judgement of God on our sinful earth. I recommend having a parchment and some sealing wax available when teaching this chapter so that the children can understand what seals are.

Remember that God was sitting on His throne surrounded by the 24 elders and the four living beings as they all worshiped Him. Then John noticed that God was holding in His hand a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. (Hold up a paper rolled up once. Light a candle or a stick of sealing wax and drip wax on the roll of paper, sealing it shut. You may want to do this before class, although doing it in front of the students would be cool. You can make all seven seals, or just do it once to demonstrate how it’s done.)

As John noticed this scroll, a mighty angel called out, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth was found who was able to open the scroll and read it. John realized in his spirit that this scroll was really important, because he wept when he realized that the scroll could not be read. That’s when one of the 24 elders spoke to John and assured him that he did not need to weep. “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and break its seven seals.” Now, who would the Lion of Judah and the Root of David be? It’s Jesus, of course. He is called the Lion of Judah because He is of the tribe of Judah, the tribe of Israel that David and all the kings after him was from. He is called the Root of David because although the line of kings had been cut off, Jesus as the descendent of David is the true king of Israel.

John looked around for Jesus or for a lion, but what he actually saw was a Lamb. This Lamb looked as if it had been killed. Its throat was cut like a lamb that was to be sacrificed on an altar would be. And yet, it was standing up, as alive as could be. The Lamb was, in fact, now sitting on the throne where God had been just seconds before! Why do you think that is? Jesus IS God, isn’t He? Here’s another strange thing about this Lamb on the throne. He had seven horns and seven eyes. Remember that seven is the number of perfection or completion. Horns are symbols of power, so since Jesus had seven horns, His power is perfect and complete. Eyes are symbols of–bet you can’t guess! Seeing! Since Jesus has seven eyes, He is all-seeing; His vision is perfect and complete. The eyes also represent wisdom. Jesus’ wisdom is perfect and complete as well. John identified the seven eyes of the Lamb with the seven Spirits of God. Remember that in an earlier lesson we said that the seven spirits of God symbolized the fact that all of God’s works are perfect and complete. Jesus’ work, bringing us salvation, is perfect and complete. There is nothing more He needs to do to save us. His death on the cross and His resurrection is all that was needed.

John then tells us something very interesting about the 24 elders that were sitting around the throne of God. He says that each of them held a golden bowl of incense, which contain the prayers of believers. Think about that for a minute. I’m sure you are aware that your mom has saved many of the pictures and notes and presents you given her over the years. They are precious to her because you gave them to her out of love. God does the same thing! He saves all our prayers to Him and keeps them right by his throne where He can see them all the time. Our prayers are even more precious to Him than any present we might have given to our parents. Isn’t that amazing? Doesn’t that make you want to pray to Him more often, now that you know how much he treasures our prayers?

When Jesus takes the scroll with its seven seals, the 24 elders and the four living beings surrounding the throne of God fall down before Him and worship Him. They sing a wonderful song:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

Did you ever think about the fact that Jesus actually bought and paid for you? The price He paid for you was His own life’s blood. And because we are now His, He is going to make us rulers over the earth when He returns.

After this song was over, a multitude of angels began to sing. They encircled the throne and sang this song:

“Worthy is the Lamb, Who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

Of course, Jesus already has all of those things. All the power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and praise in the universe already belongs to Him. The meaning of the song is that Jesus is worthy of all these things. That is what the word “worship” means. The original word was “worth-ship”, to attribute worth. When we worship, we are telling Jesus that He is worth all we can give Him and more.

After this song was finished, John says that every living created being in heaven and earth began to sing. Have you ever thought about the fact that animals and plants praise God? We can’t hear them, but God can! In fact, Jesus once said that if humans didn’t praise Him, the rocks of the ground would break out in praise! Here is the song which John says all living creatures sang to God:

“To Him Who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

After this worship service, Jesus began to break the seals that closed up the scroll. Each seal was a judgement on the earth. The first four were what we now call the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Apocalypse is just another word for Revelation. It means to uncover. The Four Horsemen, who were sent out from heaven to the earth as Jesus opened the first four seals, were War on a white horse; Violence on a red horse; Famine, or Hunger, on a black horse; and Death on a pale horse. The earth will in the end experience everything we’ve asked for. If we insist on making war on each other, we will get war and all that goes with it–bloodshed, hunger, disease, and death.

When Jesus opened the fifth seal, John noticed under the altar before God’s throne the souls of people who had been martyred, people who had been killed because they believed in Jesus. These martyrs asked Jesus how much longer it would be until they received justice. They were given white robes and told to wait just a little bit longer.

When Jesus opened the sixth seal, there was a great earthquake. The sun turned black and the moon turned red like blood. The stars fell from the sky and the mountains and island on earth moved out of their places. This was God’s judgement on those who rejected His Son and refused to accept His gift of salvation. This judgement was not so much a punishment, though, as it was a final plea from God to come to Him. “This is what will happen if you don’t accept Me,” He was saying. Even then, the people had the opportunity to be saved. But most still would not accept God. Aren’t you glad you have already made that decision to accept Jesus and follow Him? No earthquake or falling stars can harm your eternal soul, because you already belong to Jesus.

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Teaching Revelation to Children: Uncovering the Truth

Some time ago, I posted a lesson I had written for our church’s Sunday School classes about the book of Revelation. I have since then received several requests that I post the other lessons I had written on this subject. After the joke of this past weekend, I find the interest in this book is keener than ever, and I believe that “rightly dividing the word” is a skill sorely needed by the people of the Book. Teaching our children the skills needed to study and correctly interpret prophecy should help them learn to discern truth as they grow older. You really can’t start too soon! So here is the first lesson for Revelation that I wrote for my class, covering the first few chapters.

Revelation was written by John the apostle, who had been one of Jesus’ disciples. John was quite old when he wrote this book, and he was probably the only one of the original twelve disciples who was still alive. John was the only disciple who was not martyred, or killed, for his belief in Jesus. Instead, he was exiled to a prison-island called Patmos. While John was held in this prison, he received a vision or a series of visions from Jesus. He wrote what he saw in this book that we call Revelation.

What does the word “Revelation” mean? It means to “reveal” or to “uncover”. If I were to tell you something that you didn’t know before, it would be a “revelation” to you. Jesus uncovered, or revealed, some events that will happen in the future for John to write down. We call this kind of revelation “prophecy”. This book is sometimes difficult to understand because it is filled with symbolic images. There are a number of different interpretations of the images in this book. But the fact is, the prophecies in the Bible are not meant to be fully understood until AFTER they have come to pass. Look at the prophecies about Jesus’ first coming. No one understood that He was to die on a cross until after He already had died. Now we can look at the prophecies about Christ’s death and it seems simple to understand. But before He died, no one could interpret the prophecies. God does not tell us what is going to happen in the future in order to let us know what will happen ahead of time. He gives us prophecies about the future so that we will understand what is happening when the prophecies come true. It is good to be familiar with the teachings of the book of Revelation because then when the prophecies begin to come to pass, we will recognize them. It is not necessary for us to know what they mean right now, but just to remember what they are so that we’ll recognize what is happening when they come true.

John addressed this book to seven specific churches that were active in his time: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. But this does not mean that the messages in this book are really only meant for these seven churches, any more than the messages in the book of Romans are only meant for people living in Rome! The fact that there are seven churches named is significant. In the Bible, the number seven always indicates completion. Because there are seven churches named, it is implied that the complete church as a whole is being addressed.

The first thing John saw in his vision was Jesus Himself. How wonderful, how exciting that must have been! John had not seen his friend and master for nearly 50 years. He must have been overjoyed to see Jesus with his own eyes once again. But this Jesus was different. The Jesus John had lived with and worked with for three years had looked like an ordinary man. Now Jesus was showing John more of His true self through a more glorified body. He was dressed in a robe that reached to His feet, with a golden sash across His chest. His face was glowing with a white-hot light, like the sun, and His hair was white as wool or as snow. His eyes were like blazing fires. His feet glowed like heated bronze. Why do you think He looked as if He were heated gold? Fire is a symbol of judgement. The Bible tells us that our works will pass through the fire of judgement, and that those good things that we have done will be purified like gold or silver, but that the worthless things we have done will burn away like straw. Jesus is the judge of our lives and of everything we do.

John says that Jesus’ voice sounded like rushing waters. Have you ever stood by a waterfall or on the beach by the ocean and tried to talk above the roar of the water? Jesus’ voice is overwhelming! When He speaks, you can’t hear anything else. John goes on to say that a sharp, two-edged sword came out of Jesus’ mouth! What do you think that means? Do you remember when we studied the book of Ephesians, the armor of God? What was the sword? It’s the Word of God, isn’t it? The Word of God cuts right through lies and nonsense and gets right to the truth. John also says that Jesus held seven stars in His right hand, and that He was standing in the midst of seven lampstands.

John was so overwhelmed by Jesus’ presence, he fell on his face in a dead faint. I think I would have fainted, too! But Jesus put His hand on John and said, “Do not be afraid.” I hope John came to right away, because otherwise he would have missed what Jesus said next, and it’s very beautiful. Jesus said, “I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hell.” What do you think it means that Jesus is the First and the Last? It means that Jesus is the One Who began everything, and He is the One Who will end everything. Remember that we have said many times this year that Jesus is the Creator of the universe. The Father said, “Let there be. . .” and Jesus made whatever the Father said. Since Jesus created everything, He is Lord over everything and He had the right to put an end to everything when the time comes. The visions Jesus gave to John to write in this book of Revelation tell a lot about what the end of time will be like.

Jesus tells John to write down everything in the visions and give it to the seven churches. Remember that I said that Jesus was standing in the midst of seven lampstands? Jesus explained to John that those lampstands represented the seven churches. That makes sense, doesn’t it? When Jesus was still on earth, He had told His followers that they are the light of the world. We believers light the way to the truth for the rest of the world, which lives in the darkness of Satan’s lies. We are the beacons of light that guide others to God. Now remember the seven stars that I told you Jesus held in His right hand? Jesus told John that those stars are the seven angels of the churches. Isn’t it cool to know that every church that follows Jesus has its own guardian angel? The Scriptures tell us that guardian angels are “always beholding the face of the Father”. We know that Jesus prays for us before the throne of the Father. But we also have our own angel praying for us as well. I love to think about that!

Before Jesus goes on with telling John about the future, He gives each church a personal message. He praises each church for what they are doing right and warns them about the things they are doing wrong. The churches were working hard in spreading the truth and were enduring persecution with patience. But some of them were also allowing sin to go on among their people. And some were allowing false teachers to spread lies among the people. Some of them were putting their trust in money and possessions instead of in Jesus. Jesus warns them to straighten up and live out the truth!

What can we learn from this? No matter how well we’re doing the Lord’s work, there will always be problems that we need to deal with. The important thing is to deal with them, and not let them grow and get to be bigger, more difficult problems. Can you think of some problems a church might have to deal with? How can we deal with these problems? These are questions we must continually ask ourselves so that we can serve God in a way that will be pleasing to Him.


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Seeing Your Student

While preparing for a Freshman English class I’m planning to tutor next school year, I was inevitably flooded with memories of my own High School experiences.  I went to a public school, and I don’t believe I learned much of anything there.  The little Chemistry I remember was taught to me by my Dad as he helped me with my homework.  I didn’t retain any Algebra at all.  Most of the history, science, and geography I learned was from books I read on my own.  (I spent one whole summer devouring the encyclopedia.)  Most of the teachers in my high school were largely ineffectual; but for the most part it was not their fault.  The classes were overcrowded and the students, in general, uninterested in learning.  These were children of the disillusioned ’70s: suspicious and disdainful of authority, undisciplined and ill-behaved.  Many a class-period was spent with the teacher giving us a study hour while attempting to console a student who refused to leave the ladies’ room or trying to referee a fight between overly-aggressive adolescent boys filled with more angst than they knew what to do with.  Looking back with the experience of an educator, I now also realize that these teachers were using out-dated, poorly written textbooks and had apparently little guidance in choosing their materials.  One teacher with whom I was particularly disgusted was my Junior English instructor, who had us read juvenile Harlequin Romance novels for our literature course; her reasoning was that we would actually read them, as opposed to the classics we obviously would not read.  I refused to read the trash she offered, preferring to spend my time reading Edgar Allen Poe and Robert Frost; my parents couldn’t understand why I was doing so poorly in her class even though I’d always made exemplary grades in English.

That was my only act of open rebellion in high school, though.  In general, I was a good student, self-motivated and conscientious.  I was too religious to misbehave and too timid to call attention to myself in any way.  I preferred to edge my way along the fringes of high school life, avoiding extracurricular activities both school-sponsored and otherwise.  I had my own little circle of good friends, other quiet types who understood each other, and actively avoided everyone else.  This was the way I worked best, and the most astute teachers understood that and didn’t push.  The teachers I resented most were the ones who would not respect my need to be left alone.  The ones who stood out to me as helpful and caring were the ones who let me be myself in my own way.

One teacher stands out in my memory as the best I ever had.  Her name was Mrs. Vickie Flowers, and she taught my Freshmen English class.  She actually tried to teach us important things:  the history of the English language, composition skills, classical literature such as Shakespeare, Dickens, and Twain.  Just as vital, she took an active interest in each of her students as individuals.  At least, I know she took an interest in me.  She never terrorized me with too much attention, which she must have known would have driven me to avoid her.  She only spoke to me in passing, just often enough to let me know she cared but not often enough to draw unwanted attention to me.  She mostly asked me what I was reading that week, apparently having noticed that I seemed to plow though a book a week.  I was at that time, at the the ignorant age of 14, reading any work of fiction I could get my hands on, good or bad.  If I was reading a well-written work, she would smile and say, “You must be enjoying that.”  If I was reading something less worthy of my time, she would quietly suggest a different book she thought I might like.  In this way, she steered me toward authors that have become life-long friends, like J. R. R. Tolkien, T. H. White, Jane Austen, and the Bronte sisters.  When it came time to write our term papers, when the other students were researching the lives of pop stars and athletes, she handed me a book by Mario Pei and suggested I might like to write about the etymology of the English language.  And as she predicted, I ate it up; it was the beginning a lifetime passion for the subject.  You see, she had noticed that I loved to write as well as read and wanted to encourage a love that was already present.

The point I’m trying to make here is this:  Mrs. Flowers saw me; she saw me for who I was and worked with me as an individual.  She never pushed; but she never neglected either.  She made a life-long impression on me by letting me be myself and encouraging me along the path I was already on, steering me without ever seeming to by astutely discerning what would capture my interest.  I want to be a teacher like that.   I really hope I can live up to Mrs. Flowers’ example.


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