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Teaching the Epistle of Jude to Children


Sandwiched between the letters of John the Beloved and the intriguing Book of Revelation, the tiny book of Jude is perhaps the most neglected and ignored of all New Testament scripture.  So short it is not even divided into chapters, Jude is mysterious and fascinating–and little understood.  Teaching this beautifully written letter to children is not a challenge, but an opportunity to explore the mind of a man who grew up in the same household as our Savior.  Here is a lesson designed to introduce Jude to young elementary-age kids.

Jude is very short letter written by–guess who?  A guy named Jude!  Who is this guy?  He was one of the sons of Joseph and Mary, making him the earthly half-brother of Jesus.  Another brother of Jesus and Jude was James, who became the leader of the Jerusalem church soon after Jesus went back to heaven.  We don’t know nearly as much about Jude as we do about James, but we can learn a lot from his little letter.

Jude’s letter is so short, we have not even bothered to divide it into chapters.  It is only 25 verses long.  But it’s jam-packed with interesting stuff!  One thing to keep in mind when reading this book is that Jude makes his points by referring to Old Testament stories.  He mentions something from the Old Testament in almost every verse, in fact.  But he never tells the stories–he just expects his reader to have already learned the stories and remember them.  He says things like, “they are just like Cain,” or “they made the same mistake as Balaam”.  If you don’t know Cain or Balaam, you won’t have any idea what Jude is talking about!    I cannot emphasize this often enough, kids:  you  cannot really understand any of the New Testament if you don’t know your Old Testament.  All of the New Testament is meant to be understood in light of the Old.

Jude addressed his letter to all believers, or as he put it: “to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ.”  Does that describe you?  Then Jude wrote this letter to you!  Jude says he felt compelled to write in order to warn the believers not to listen to false teachers.  The false teachers in Jude’s day were telling the believers that since Jesus has saved us, now we can sin all we want!  Jude says that these false teachers are twisting the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection in order to make themselves feel they have the right to do whatever they want.  Should we just do whatever we want?  No, we should live the way God wants us to live, shouldn’t we?  If we belong to Jesus, then He is our Lord.  What does the word “Lord” mean?  A “Lord” is someone who has the right to tell people what to do.  It’s like being the Boss.  Jesus is the one who tells believers how to live.  We do not have the right to live our own lives once we have given our lives to Jesus.  And really, why would we want to live sinful lives, knowing what Jesus has done for us, to take those sins away?

Jude reminds the believers that, even though God saved the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, they still had to be disciplined when they refused to obey God.  All the Israelites who refused to listen to God had to live their lives out in the wilderness instead of going on to the Promised Land.  Even if you are a believer and know you are going to heaven for certain, that does not mean that you will not have to live with the consequences here on earth if you choose to disobey.  For example, if you rob a bank, being a Christian will not keep you out of jail, will it?  If you drink and drive, being a Christian will not stop you from having an accident.

Jude goes on to remind us that even the angels are not left unpunished if they disobey God.  The angels who rebelled against God and followed Satan are going to be bound in chains and judged.  Remember Sodom and Gomorrah, Jude says solemnly.  Can any of you remember what happened there?  The people in those towns were so wicked, God finally rained fire and brimstone on them and completely destroyed them forever.  Today, where those cities once stood, is now the Dead Sea, a lake so salty that nothing can live in it.  Jude’s point is clear.  God loves us and wants to save us from our sins.  But if we insist on doing evil, He has to judge us.

Jude says that these false teacher have “taken the way of Cain.”  Who was Cain?  He killed his brother Abel, didn’t he, and was driven from the presence of God.  The false teachers may not be physically killing anyone, but they are killing people’s souls with their lies.  They are far away from God and are leading others far away from God.  Jude then compares the false teachers to Balaam.  Does anyone remember Balaam?  He was actually paid by a pagan king to curse Israel, but God sent an angel to stop Balaam.  Balaam wanted the money the king had promised him so much, he would not listen to God’s angel.  Then God made Balaam’s donkey talk to him!  But still, Balaam would not listen.  Money was more important to Balaam than obeying God.  Since he couldn’t curse Israel, Balaam tricked the people into sinning against God instead.  Balaam led the people into disobeying God, just like the false teachers Jude is talking about.

One of the things I love about the book of Jude is the writing.  Jude is very much a poet, and his writing makes pictures in your mind.  He calls the false teachers “clouds without rain” and “autumn trees, fruitless and uprooted.”  What do you think he means by that?  Isn’t a cloud without rain kind of useless?  We need rain for the earth to produce fruit.  Isn’t a dead tree also kind of useless?  A dead tree won’t produce any fruit.  Jude calls these wicked men “wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame.”  Can’t you just picture that?  How about “wandering stars, for whom the blackest darkness has been reserved forever.”  How does that sentence make you feel?  It makes me feel kind of shivery!

Then Jude quotes the prophet Enoch.  Does anyone remember who Enoch was?  The Old Testament only tells a little bit about him.  In Genesis, it says that Enoch walked with God, then he disappeared because God took him.  Enoch is one of only two people we know of who never died.  The Bible says God took him right up to heaven to live with Him, still alive.  The book of Jude is the only place in the Bible that records Enoch’s prophecies.  Jude says that Enoch prophesied about false teachers and other wicked men, back in the beginning.  Enoch said, “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of His holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict the ungodly of all ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against God.”  This is going to happen at the end of time, when Jesus comes back the second time and takes over the earth once and for all.  Isn’t it cool that God told people this way back in the time of Genesis?

Instead of following these wicked teachers into lives of sin, how should we live?  Jude says, “Dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.  Keep yourselves in God’s love.”  Can you think of ways we can do this?

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Teaching Revelation to Children: A New Beginning


We have come to the end of the book of Revelation. After all of the frightening, difficult prophecies given, God wraps things up on a note of victory and hope. Our children need to know that this world is not our home. This world is not where we will spend eternity. We will also not spend eternity in some far-out, cloudy, nebulous “heaven” in the sky! We will spend eternity on a perfect, new earth–earth as it was meant to be. We will be physical beings on a physical planet, doing things that physical humans enjoy doing. Too often, the after-life is depicted as surreal, unearthly, and boring! We will have work to do on this new earth, but it will be enjoyable, fulfilling work that will satisfy our human need to feel useful and our human desire to learn and grow as people. These needs and desires, so distorted and often discouraged on this sinful earth, will become as they were meant to be on a perfect earth.

Remember that during that last battle at Armageddon, Jesus appears in the sky on a white horse and defeats His enemies just by speaking a word! The Antichrist and his people are captured and punished. Then an angel grabs Satan himself and chains the devil up in an abyss, or a great pit. John explains that Satan will be held in this prison for one thousand years. During that time, Jesus will be the ruler of the earth and we who believe in Him will rule with Him and help Him. We don’t really know what life here on earth will be like for that 1,000 years. We know that there will still be unbelievers living here, still stubbornly rebelling against Jesus, even though Jesus will be here in person and there will be no devil to deceive or tempt them. After the 1,000 years is over, Satan is released from prison and the unbelievers still here on earth will get the chance to choose once and for all whether to be with Jesus for all eternity or go with Satan to the Lake of Fire. Can you believe that some people will still choose to follow the devil? That’s very sad, isn’t it? But God promised to give everyone free will. If a person chooses to spend eternity in the lake of fire, God will allow him or her to do it. God does not force anyone to accept Him or follow Him. No one has to be with God if they don’t want Him.

After all this happens, everyone who ever lived must stand before God’s throne and be judged. All the people who had died come back to life and all the people who are still alive at the time will gather together in God’s presence. God has books in which He has written down everything anyone has ever done. He wants everyone to know that He is judging them fairly based on what they have done with their lives. Those who never accepted Him will be reminded of all the times He asked them to come to Him. He will remind them of all the believers He sent to them to tell them the truth. God gives everyone every chance possible to believe in Him. Those who do believe in Him have their names written down in another book, the Book of Life. It is this book that determines who lives with God for eternity and who goes with Satan into the Lake of Fire. The other books, the ones that record everyone’s works and deeds, are there for reminders. But the Book of Life is the book that tells who lives with God forever and who doesn’t. If you believe in Jesus–if you believe that Jesus died for your sin and rose again–then your name is written in the Book of Life. Your good deeds will not get you into that book and your sins will not get your name erased from it. Once your name is written there, it’s there forever. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? You will be rewarded for the good things you have done, but your sins will be forgotten–buried in the deepest part of the sea.

After this time of judgement, God destroys this old, tired, sin-stained world and makes a brand-new, shiny, perfect one! Death itself will be destroyed–thrown into the Lake of Fire along with Hell and Satan and all of Satan’s servants. On this wonderful, new earth, there will be no death or sin. There will be no tears, no sadness or pain. John says, “the old things have passed away. He Who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new.” Isn’t that exciting? A lovely new beginning to everything. The holy city, the New Jerusalem, will come down from heaven and sit on the new earth as its capital city. This city is what people tend to think of when they think of what heaven will be like. It shines like a diamond or clear crystal. Its twelve gates are each made of a single, giant pearl, and each gate is named for one of the tribes of Israel. The city rests on twelve foundation stones, and each of these stones are named for one of the twelve apostles. These foundations are decorated with many kinds of precious stones, and the buildings and streets of the city are made of gold. The city glitters and shines with brilliant light, but not with the light of the sun. Jesus lives there and He is the light that makes it shine. From the throne of God in the middle of the New Jerusalem, a river flows, right down the middle of main street! On either side of the river grow trees bearing twelve different kinds of fruit, one for each month of the year. There will be no night in that city, and the gates will never be shut. Everyone will be welcome to the city of God at any time. Of course, not everyone living on earth will live in this city. We will be living all over the new earth, working to make it the kind of earth God meant it to be when He created the first one so long ago–the earth Adam and Eve were meant to live in, before sin came into the world. Can you imagine how wonderful that will be?

Here are the last words Jesus says to John before this wondrous vision ends: “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. . . . I, Jesus, have sent My angel to give you this testimony for the churches.” Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet, and Omega is the last letter in the Greek alphabet. Jesus started all of creation–He is the one who made everything, and everything was made for Him. And all creation was made with words. God said, “Let there be. . .”, and there was! Words are made up of letters, aren’t they? So when Jesus says He is the “Alpha and the Omega”, He is saying He is all the Words of God. Remember that John says in the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus IS the Word of God! He started everything with a Word, and He will end everything with a Word.

John ends this book, and God ends the whole Bible, with these beautiful verses: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’” Who is the Spirit and the who is the Bride? It’s the Holy Spirit of God and the Church, isn’t it? John goes on: “Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. . . . He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Even so, come Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”

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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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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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