Monthly Archives: June 2011

Teaching Revelation to Children: Jesus the Triumphant Hero


In this penultimate lesson in the Revelation series, we see the second coming of Christ our Hero, Savior of the world. This can be an exciting lesson for the children of modern America who are steeped in the mythologies of our times: Superman, Batman, Star Wars, and the like. Children love a hero, and Jesus is the greatest hero of all time! Even better, as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis have taught us, He is the Myth that is True!

In our last lesson, we talked about the judgements God will send to the earth, the consequences of the sin the people will be living in during the end times. What is this terrible sin? The whole world will worship and follow the beast, the Antichrist. This terrible leader will openly blaspheme the one, true God, and everyone in the world who does not belong to God will love him for it! The Antichrist will make new laws saying that everyone must put his special mark on their hands or foreheads, identifying themselves with him and showing that they follow only him. Anyone who does not take this mark of the beast will not be allowed to buy or sell. That means not being able to get food or clothes or pay for a place to live. Of course, those who are followers of Christ will not take this mark of the Antichrist, and so they will suffer hunger and poverty. But to make things worse, the Antichrist will put a statue of himself in the temple in Jerusalem and command the whole world to bow down and worship the statue. This statue will speak as if it were alive. Isn’t that creepy? But anyone who refuses to worship the Antichrist and his statue will be killed.

This is scary stuff! But don’t worry! God always takes care of his people. The Antichrist will not be allowed to rule for long. Do you remember how many bowls of judgement the angels poured out over the earth for the sin of following the beast? That’s right, it was seven. When the seventh bowl of judgement is poured, John sees the Antichrist gathering an enormous army, bigger than any army ever in history, to march to Israel and wage war against God’s people once and for all. The Jews who are still living in Israel will flee to the mountains and hide in caves! They don’t need to fight this terrible foe, because they cry out to Messiah to save them, and Messiah will fight their battles for them Himself! Who is the Messiah of the Jews? Yes, it’s Jesus. Picture this: The millions of soldiers the Antichrist has gathered are all armed and ready for war. They want only to destroy all of God’s people, the Jews, once and for all. They are in a valley in Israel called Armageddon, which is just outside Jerusalem, and they are out for blood. Imagine how terrible this army must look, how frightening their war-cries must sound, like thunder! But suddenly, before any of them can fire a shot, the sky opens up and a man dressed in white and riding on a white horse appears, standing in the heavens! He is coming to fight for His people. His eyes blaze with the fire of His righteous judgement. He charges down from the sky like a lightningbolt, followed by all the armies of angels from heaven to destroy the enemies of Israel. John says that this mighty hero from heaven is named The Word of God, Faithful and True. From His mouth comes a sharp sword to strike down His enemies. What do you think this means? It means that Jesus won’t have to fight at all, and neither will any of His army of angels. He will need only to speak a word, and all the armies of the Antichrist will fall dead!

Jesus will then take over the rule of the world. John says the on Messiah’s robe is written “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” When Jesus comes back, it will not be like the first time He came. The first time Jesus came, it was humbly and as a servant. He came the first time to be one of us, to identify with us, to die for us. The second time He comes, it will be as a king and a the greatest hero you can imagine, to rule over us and take care of us. He will destroy sin and evil forever and will live with us, his people, for eternity.

All of this, John writes about at the end of chapter 19 in the book of Revelation. But here’s a really cool thing: in the first half of this chapter, John tells about all of heaven rejoicing because Jesus has won the war against the Antichrist and has defeated sin. I think it’s significant that Jesus is praised for His victory BEFORE He has even left to fight the war. There is no doubt that He will win–in fact, He has already won. He won the war when He died on the cross for our sins and then rose again from the grave. He just hasn’t taken over the earth yet. He wants to give everyone in the world a chance to turn to Him and be saved from judgement. He loves us all so much that He wants everyone He created to spend eternity with Him.

Here is part of the song the hosts of heaven sings in victory: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are His judgements!” “Praise our God, all you His servants, you who fear Him, both small and great!” John says that there were so many voices singing these songs that the sound was like the roar of rushing waters and like peals of thunder!

Then another kind of victory song was sung. “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” What do you think this means? Who is the bride of the Lamb? It’s us, isn’t it? All those who trust in Jesus the Messiah as savior are part of the bride of Christ. This is the reason marriage here on earth is so important and so sacred and holy. Marriage between a man and a woman on earth is a picture of the true marriage between God and His people. Just as a man and woman who marry become one, so will God and those who believe in Him become one. This is a mystery that we may spend all of eternity learning to understand. But God wants to be with us forever, as much as a man and woman who are in love want to be together. I know none of you are planning to get married any time soon! But keep this in mind when you do think about getting married. Your marriage will be a picture for others to see of God’s love and relationship with His people. It is a huge responsibility, to be a symbol for God! How can we act in a marriage that will help others see God and His love for His people in us? (Give time for discussion.)

Suggestion: If you have extra time, ask the class if they have seen the movie “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” The scene at the battle of the Hornburg is a great picture of the battle of Armageddon: King Theoden, Aragorn, and their armies are vastly outnumbered by the armies of the enemy, the orcs; they are like the Jews holed up in caves awaiting the inevitable slaughter. Suddenly, Gandalf the White appears in his glowing white robe, riding a white horse, on a mountain above the battlefield, and behind him is an army he has raised to fight the orcs. The sight of this shining white figure on a rampant stallion causes the tired, desperate men of the Hornburg to cheer when they see the source of their salvation appear. Gandalf charges down the mountain with his army to victory in one of the most thrilling scenes in cinematic history.

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Teaching Revelation to Children: Antichrist and the Bowls of Judgement


When I taught this series of lessons on Revelation to my Sunday School class, they really enjoyed the illustrations various talented artists in our congregation had come up with to help them understand. The picture for this lesson was of an angel pouring a bowl of judgement out over the earth. The angel had a single tear falling from his eye. It was a powerful image, one that has stayed with me ever since. It is truly tragic that judgement for sin is necessary, and it’s good to mourn for those who must experience this judgement. I anticipate the end of the world with joy, since I know it will mean the end of sin and suffering; but I don’t really understand those who express glee over the judgement of sin. God’s wrath has already been poured out upon His Son. If only everyone would accept Christ’s atonement, rendering these bowls of judgement unnecessary! As I studied the Scriptures in preparation for these lessons, I grieved for those who refuse to come to their Loving Father; who would rather perish without Him than live forever with Him. This lesson is taken from Revelation chapters 13-16.

There are many things in Revelation that are very difficult to understand. The images are intense and interesting, but it is hard to know exactly what these images mean. Many people have very strong opinions about these prophecies of the end times. But the fact is, no one really knows for sure what some of these prophecies really mean. God does not give us prophecies so that we’ll know the future. It isn’t our business to know the future. The reason God gives us prophecies is so that when the prophecies come to pass, we will know what’s going on. We can’t really understand the meaning of a prophecy until it happens. Men had studied the Old Testament prophecies for centuries, and many of them thought they knew what the prophecies about Jesus’ coming meant. But no one ever dreamed of what those prophecies really meant! No one ever understood that the words of David and Isaiah and other prophets meant that the Messiah, the promised Savior, would have to die a horrible death on a cross and be raised from the dead. Only after Jesus died and rose again did the meanings of the prophecies become clear. It will be the same way with the prophecies in Revelation. We should be familiar with them so that, when they come to pass, we will recognize them and understand them for what they really mean.

While John was in heaven looking at the different images God was showing him, he saw something that looked like a beast rising out of the sea. This beast had ten horns and seven heads, and seven crowns on his heads. John had a hard time describing this terrible beast; he said that the beast looked kind of like a leopard and kind of like a bear and kind of like a lion! He also said that one of the seven heads had been killed, but had been healed and was alive again. Keep in mind that things in heaven look different than they do on earth. Remember that when John saw Jesus, Jesus looked like a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes. Jesus didn’t look like that on earth, did He? This beast that John saw from heaven will probably look like an ordinary man on earth. He will probably be a ruler of some kind who does something impressive that gets everyone’s attention all over the world. All that we know for certain about this frightening monster is that, when he appears, the whole world will worship him. John says that the beast will become the ruler over every tribe, people, language and nation. That pretty much covers everybody in the whole world. If you ever hear someone talk about the Antichrist, this is the person they are talking about. John says that the special symbol of this Antichrist is 666. Some people freak out when they see this number, and now you know why! We don’t know what this number means, but it is worth while to be aware of it.

This world ruler, the Antichrist, will persecute God’s people. John says that the beast will make war against the saints, those who believe in the one, true God. “This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints,” John observes. The Antichrist will control the world with the help of another beast. John says that this second beast looks like a lamb, but speaks like a dragon! This second beast forces the people of the world to worship the first beast or be killed! He also forces all the people of the world to take a mark on their hands or foreheads. If they don’t have this mark, they can’t buy or sell anything, not even food. Why would God allow such beasts to take over the world? Because the people of the world want them! God gives people free will, and if the people chose to have such a ruler over them, God lets them have it!

God has given the world thousands of years to turn to Him. But there has to be an end to sin once and for all eventually. John now sees how God finally puts an end to sin on the earth. He gives seven angels seven bowls of judgement to pour out upon the world. These bowls contain the consequences of man’s sins. You know what consequences are, don’t you? If you disobey your mom or dad, you have consequences, right? Maybe you don’t get dessert with your dinner or get grounded. There are natural consequences to sin, too. For example, if you disobey traffic laws and speed, you might lose control of your car and crash into a tree! If you disobey the law of gravity and jump off a 5 story building, you will go splat! The people on earth chose as their ruler this horrible beast, the Antichrist. As a result, many terrible things happen to them. When the first angel poured out his bowl of judgement, the people who worshiped the Antichrist and took his mark on their hands or foreheads got a painful disease. The second bowl turned the sea to blood and the third bowl turned all the rivers and streams to blood, too. The fourth bowl turned the sun’s rays very hot–global warming maybe? The fifth bowl brought a time of darkness. The sixth bowl dried up the Euphrates River and at that time the Antichrist releases three terrible demons to get the earth ready for war against God and God’s people.

I can imagine that pouring out these bowls of judgement made the angels sad. But as they did their jobs, they sang this song to God: “You are just in these judgements, You Who are and Who were, the Holy One, because You have so judged; for they have shed the blood of Your saints and prophets.” God must judge sin. He is completely holy and cannot allow sin to go on. He has allowed the earth to continue in sin for thousands of years so that as many people as possible will have the chance to repent and turn to Him. But an end to sin must come sometime! The very end comes when the seventh angel pours out the seventh bowl, and the Antichrist gathered his armies for war against God. This is called Armageddon, and guess who wins? But we will talk about this next week!

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Teaching Revelation to Children: History from Heaven’s Perspective


Most people think of the book of Revelation as being all about the end of the world. But in reality, this book focuses on the past as much as it does on the future. Prophecy is about speaking the Word of God, not about foretelling events to come. The fact is, God does not reveal these things to us to tell us what has happened or what is going to happen: He reveals His Word to us to tell about Himself. When we step out of our ego-centric world-view and concentrate our attention on God alone, His Word (even Revelation!) makes a lot more sense. Here is a lesson from the book of Revelation chapter 12.

In our last lesson, we learned about the 7 seals and the 7 trumpets that John saw in heaven. The seals and the trumpets were judgements that God will send on the earth at the end of time. But now, in chapter 12, John gets a little break from judgements and has a little history lesson. It’s kind of the history of the world from the perspective of heaven. The first important thing to remember when looking at history from heaven is that to God, time is not important. All times are now as far as God is concerned. (Draw a line on the white board or on a piece of paper.) This line is time. We are born on a point on this line and move along in one direction on the line until we die. But God isn’t on this line. He isn’t affected by it at all. (Draw a circle around the line.) God is the circle. Time is in Him, but He is all around time. So history is heaven isn’t linear–you don’t say things like “first this happened, and then this other thing happened.” All of it happens at once! You would just mention what you noticed first, or what was most important to you, since there is no first or second or last.

The second thing you must understand about history in heaven is that things in heaven don’t look like the do on earth. Think about what Jesus looks like in heaven. Can anyone remember how John described Jesus on the throne in heaven? He looked like a lamb that had been killed, with seven eyes and seven horns. That isn’t what Jesus looked like on earth, is it? The people and events that John saw in heaven are symbols, or pictures, and show us important things that God wants us to know about Who He is and how He works.

In John’s heavenly history lesson, the first thing he sees is the event that God sees as most important. He sees a woman giving birth. This woman is clothed with the sun and has the moon under her feet, and she has a crown with twelve stars in it on her head. This woman represents God’s people, Israel, and the baby she is having is Jesus. I have also read that some scholars believe the woman is the church and the baby is the church bringing salvation to the world. I honestly don’t see a lot of difference between these two interpretations! Remember that the church has been grafted into Israel? Israel is God’s chosen people and all who accept Israel’s Messiah as Savior are a part of God’s people. Jesus and salvation are one and the same. The twelve stars in the woman’s crown could be the twelve tribes of Israel, or the twelve apostles. Again, I don’t see why it couldn’t be both at the same time. These visions of John’s are metaphors, and metaphors often have more than one meaning at the same time.

As the woman cries out in the pain of childbirth, an enormous, red dragon stands before her, waiting. What a creepy picture that makes in my mind! Can you see it? This dragon has seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns, one on each head. His tail is so great that he can sweep stars right out of the sky with it. The dragon waits for the woman to give birth so that it can gobble up the baby as soon as it is born. Who do you think this dragon is? It’s Satan, of course. And we know that Satan did try to destroy Jesus as soon as He was born; the devil moved Herod to kill all the infant boys in Bethlehem, desperately trying to kill the Messiah. Remember that the number seven means completion. Satan has seven heads; he is completely evil. He has ten horns; he is very powerful. He has seven crowns; he is the king over all who are against God. But as much as Satan wants to, he cannot destroy God’s Messiah. The baby is born and is the ruler of all the nations. He is taken up to heaven where He sits with God on His throne.

Then John sees war in heaven. We don’t know exactly when in our time line this happened. All that is important is that it did happen. The dragon, Satan, and his fallen angels fought with Michael and the good angels. Remember how we learned that each of the churches has its own guardian angel? Apparently each of the nations also has a guardian angel. Michael is the angel in charge of Israel. That makes him one of the most important angels, and it seems he is the head of the angel army in heaven. This angelic army defeats the dragon and his demonic followers and hurls them out of heaven. John calls the dragon “that ancient serpent.” What does that make you think of? It makes me think of the serpent in the garden of Eden that tempted Adam and Eve.

As John watched this he heard a voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them night and day before our God, has been hurled down.” Did you know that Satan accuses us night and day before the throne of God? Every time you and I do something we shouldn’t, he is pointing his finger at us and saying, “See there, what she did! See what he did! What a bunch of sinners!” But John says that Satan has been defeated. Was it the mighty power of Michael and God’s angels that beat Satan? That’s not what John says. He says, “They overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Jesus’ death defeated Satan, and all we or the angels need to hurl Satan down is a word. What word would that be, do you think? I think it’s “Jesus!”

The dragon tries to destroy the woman who had given birth to the baby. Then a great eagle comes and flies her away to safety in the desert. The dragon then turns to the woman’s offspring and makes war against them. John says that the “offspring” are all those who obey God’s commands and who believe in Jesus the Messiah. I don’t know what all of that means; I’m not even certain that it has all happened yet. But we do know that Satan has tried many different times to destroy the Jews and that he making war against believers in Jesus all the time. Did you ever think about the fact that we are at war? This is why we are told to put on the armor of God. What is the armor of God? Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the helmet of salvation to protect our minds, the breastplate of righteousness to protect our hearts, and to hold the shield of faith to ward off the attack of the enemy. Satan wants to destroy us. But all we need to protect ourselves against him is the name of Jesus.

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Teaching Revelation to Children: The Great Amen


This next entry is a lesson based on Revelation chapters 7 and 8. I have gotten more hits on my blog entries concerning teaching Revelation to children than any other offerings I’ve composed! I hope these lessons have proved helpful and useful to these who have read them. Please leave comments to let me know where I can improve or make myself more useful to you; or conversely, to let me know where I have caused you to seethe and fume in wrath at my presumption in explaining the nearly inexplicable! I value all input greatly!

John is seeing a vision of things that will happen at the end of time. When Jesus opens the seals on the scroll, judgements will fall upon the earth. War, violence, hunger, disease, and death resulting from the stubbornness of men insisting on fighting each other are the first four judgements. The fifth seal is assurance to those who have been killed for their belief in Jesus that they will be avenged. The sixth seal causes the sun to turn black, the moon to turn blood-red, and earthquakes to occur.

But before the seventh seal can be opened, God says,“Wait!” Before anything else can happen, the angels are to put special marks on the foreheads of 144,000 people who are to do a special job for God. These special people will all be Jews, 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes. Can you name any of the 12 tribes of Israel? There’s Judah, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Dan, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin. Joseph’s tribe is often divided into two tribes named for his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. These people are to be special witnesses to the rest of the world for God. God is giving the world one last chance to turn to Him, right at the very end of time. God always gives everyone every chance to come to Him. He loves everyone He created and does not want anyone to perish. He wants everyone to be saved and live with Him forever. If people refuse to come to Him, though, they must be judged. God cannot allow sin to enter His presence. He is completely holy and completely just, as well as completely loving.

After the 144,000 witnesses were sealed, John looked around the throne of God and was amazed to see a countless multitude of people from every nation of the world standing before God. People from all over the world, from every country, tribe, people-group, and language were represented, all dressed in white robes. The white robes stand for holiness. All of these people had accepted Jesus’ holiness in exchange for their sin. Jesus had taken their sins away and had given them His pure and spotless holiness instead. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. You’d think that would make their robes red, wouldn’t you? But Jesus’ blood has washed them a white and pure as snow. The people all held palm branches in their hands, as well. This is a symbol of joy and thankfulness. During the Feast of Tabernacles, in which Israel celebrates the end of time when believers all get to live with God forever, the palm branch is used to cover the tabernacles or booths that the people live in during that week.

John then heard these countless people cry out as in one loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, Who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Can you imagine millions and millions of people all saying the same thing at the same time? How loud that must have sounded!

When the people said this, all the angels and elders and the four living creatures that surrounded God’s throne fell down and worshiped God. Here is what they said:

“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

Do you know what the word “Amen” means? A lot of times people use it like it means “the end”: “I’m finished talking now God, good-bye!” But this little word has a really big meaning. It literally means “Truth”. When you say “Amen”, you are saying either “What has been said is true,” or, “Let what is said be true.” But there’s even more to this word than that. The word “Amen” comes from a Hebrew word for the “doorway”. When you say “Amen”, you are saying, “I will enter into this truth and walk in it.” Isn’t that cool? Think about that next time you say “Amen!”

One of the elders explains to John that the people in white with the palm branches had been martyred during the great tribulation. That means they were killed because they believed in Jesus. They are now allowed to be in God’ presence constantly. God has “spread His tent over them”. In other words, they are “covered” with God’s presence.

All who die believing in Jesus and in the power of His blood to save will be part of this crowd one day! John is told that the people in the white robes will never hunger again. They will never be thirsty. They will never be too hot or too cold. All their tears will be wiped away. They will never feel lost or alone again, because the Lamb will be their Shepherd! Isn’t that a strange picture? But what better Shepherd could there be than one Who really knows what it is like to be a lamb?

After describing these things, John again reminds us that God keeps the prayers of all of His people on an altar before His throne. Isn’t it wonderful to know that everything you say to God, He keeps? Every word you say to Him is precious to Him.

After this, the seventh seal is finally opened. Had you forgotten about the seals on the scroll? After the seventh seal is opened, there is silence in heaven as the awesomeness of God’s judgement is considered. Then John goes on to describe seven angels who blow seven trumpets. Each trumpet brings another judgement upon the earth. There’s hail and fire and earthquakes, and much of the earth is destroyed in disasters. Some of the things John describes are hard to understand. He was trying to describe things that cannot be described. For example, John says he saw something like locusts, only they had human faces and hair and stinging tails like scorpions. That’s kind of interesting to think about, isn’t it? Like cartoon characters. Just remember that prophecy is not for us to understand now, but only to understand when the prophecy is actually coming true. When these events actually take place, we’ll be able to read these scriptures and say, “Ah, now I see what John was trying to describe! No wonder we couldn’t understand it before. But now it’s perfectly clear.”

Also you must remember that these judgements are for the people who refuse to accept God as their savior. We who are believers don’t need to be afraid of anything! God is our salvation and He will take care of us! He is our Father, our Shepherd, our Covering. He knows what is best for us and we can trust Him. Amen!

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