Want to have some fun? Ask a class of elementary or teen Bible students what book in the Bible they want to study next. Inevitably, one or more will call out “Revelation” as their choice.
Granted, it’s partially because it is fun watching otherwise relatively confident Bible teachers squirm their way out of teaching one of the more difficult books in the Bible. But, there is also something mesmerizing about all of the odd creatures and events that are contained within its chapters.
Older, spiritually mature teens might be able to handle a serious in-depth study of Revelation. There are other ways of addressing the book, however, that will help satisfy the curiosity of most young minds without overwhelming them in the process.
Start by talking about the events surrounding the writing of Revelation. We know quite a bit about the ministry of the life of John. We know he was exiled to the island of Patmos where he had the vision he recorded in Revelation. Students may also be interested to learn, that as far as we know, John was the only Apostle to die a natural death.
It’s important to help students understand the type of writing found in Revelation. We can find similar types of apocalyptic writing in passages in Ezekiel and a few other places. For most students, it is probably sufficient to explain that the writers of these types of passages are trying to explain extraordinary things they have never seen before to people who can’t even see what they saw.
Opinions are a bit divided as to whether John was literally describing what he saw or just describing it the best way he could given the circumstances. It is also possible some of these images were actually representative of an archetype. For example, many believe the evil ruler/anti-Christ is not necessarily one specific person, but rather a description of many evil rulers over time who persecute Christians like Nero and Hitler.
We may not know for sure the answers to many of our questions about Revelation until we get to Heaven. Teens especially may want to get bogged down on things like the concept of God living outside of time as we know it or all of the possible meanings of the various creatures and events. Some speculation is fine, but the key is to focus on the overall message of Revelation.
In the end, Revelation is about good finally and completing triumphing over evil forever. It is about justice and it is about mercy. It is about those who are faithful to God and those who reject him – even with overwhelming evidence of His existence. It is about an eternity spent in either Heaven or Hell.
Revelation is an important part of building a strong faith foundation. As a minister I heard once said, “Our default is eternity in Hell because of our sin. Only by obeying God by repenting and being baptized for the remission of our sins can we take advantage of God’s grace in changing our destination to Heaven.”
Revelation is a terrifying book in many ways. We should always be a bit terrified of Hell. We don’t have to give young people nightmares, but they absolutely need a realistic understanding of what will happen in the end. Without knowledge of Hell, why bother to obey God at all?
Many people today are quite okay with the unbiblical notion of “nothingness” at death. Revelation tells us that nothingness is not an option. And that’s a lesson all young people need to hear. So the next time your students want you to teach them about Revelation, give them at least a couple of lessons on it.