Teaching on the Book of Revelation

Bible teachers might dread the thought of teaching the Book of Revelation. Yet, God’s intent for this book is blessing:

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. (Rev. 1:3)

Notice that this verse does not says, “Blessed is the one who fully understands the words of this prophecy.”

If we focus on what we can understand, it should build within us a faith that we can trust God for the rest. We can be okay knowing that we have a faithful, sovereign God who is all-knowing and all-powerful to bring all this into reality.  If teachers pass on this understanding, they have done well in teaching Revelation.

Following is a summary of the book which should give you something on which to hang the details.

The Book of Revelation describes itself as a revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John … (Rev. 1:1, NASB)

Jesus takes center stage from the start of this book as John sees Jesus in heaven in His full glory (Rev. 1). After some words to seven churches (Rev. 2-3), we encounter Jesus again in chapters 4-5 as the One who was worthy to break the seals of the scroll, ushering in the end times.

You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Rev. 5:9)

As the book progresses we are privileged to peer into the future of Jesus’ final triumph over Satan, death, and evil with a description of how He is making everything new. John concludes, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

The Book of Revelation primarily deals with post-Church.

1) Creation & the Fall  2) The Law  3) The Old Testament Prophets 4) The Cross  5) Salvation  6) The Church  7) Revelation of Jesus Regarding the End Times

1) Creation & the Fall 2) The Law 3) The Old Testament Prophets 4) The Cross 5) Salvation 6) The Church 7) Revelation of Jesus Regarding the End Times

The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) provide the history of Jesus’ life and death on the cross. Acts through Jude explain what our response should be to Jesus in order to be saved and how we are placed into the Church, described as the Body of Christ, as members of one another. Many of the New Testament books are letters to churches about what it means to be His Church. Then in Revelation 1-3 we read Jesus’ messages to seven churches. After that, we find no more mention of the Church other than reference to the elders in chapter four who many believe to represent the Church.

The Rapture in which Jesus comes to take those who trusted in Him is not specifically mentioned in the book of Revelation.  We must look to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 for teaching on what has been called the Rapture.

After a visit to the throne room of God (Rev. 4), we observe how the Lamb (Jesus) is worthy to open the scroll ushering in the end times (Rev. 5). The events unfold:

Seven Year Tribulation (Rev. 6-16)
Millennium (Rev. 20:1-6)
Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 20:7-10)
The Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11-15)
The New Heavens & Earth (Rev. 21:1-22:5)

Prior to the Millennium (1000 year reign of Jesus on earth), in chapters 17 through the beginning of chapter 20, we read of the judgment of the Babylon world system, the uprising of the beast with the kings of the earth against Jesus, the beast and false prophet being thrown into the Lake of Fire, and Satan being bound in the Abyss. After the Millennium, Satan is released from the Abyss (Rev. 20:7) leading to the battle of Armageddon which Jesus wins. Satan is then thrown into the Lake of Fire for good (Rev. 20:10).

Within all these chapters of Revelation we find a more detailed description of the above events, some of which should be taken literally and some that must be viewed figuratively. Often that which should be interpreted figuratively is indicated with the word “like” or “as” in order to describe something outside of our current experience so we might at least get an idea of what it is like.

A thorough study of the end times, eschatology, would require a look at more than the book of Revelation. Other passages in both the Old and New Testament must be brought together with the book of Revelation to get a more complete picture. But, for the purpose of this post, we are focusing primarily on the book of Revelation.

The next post will provide some tips for teaching the Book of Revelation.

Tips for Teaching About the Church

In a previous post we looked at four key truths about the Church. Now it is time to personalize these truths to the classroom. How can Bible teachers incorporate them into their teaching? Though it would be well to focus some lessons specifically and directly on the Church, these truths can and should be weaved throughout other lessons and demonstrated in the classroom.

Truth #1: God has an eternal purpose for the Church.

  • No matter what truth you might be teaching, emphasize their role to be a beacon of light in a dark world that might not live according to that truth. Get beyond mere cognitive teaching to helping students stand firm in the truth and live by it.
  • If people express grievances about today’s Church, keep taking them back to God and His purposes. Remind them of the kind of God we have who is able to work even through a flawed Church and who will triumph and prevail.

Truth #2: God has made Jesus the Head of the Church.

  • Stress that they should apply the truth not because you said so but because it is a way to show their love and adoration toward Jesus, the Head of the Church. Jesus said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (Jn. 15:10). “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.” (2 Jn. 1:6)
  • Make sure students understand that their ultimate accountability is to the One with full authority. While you, as their teacher, desire them to walk in obedience to the Lord, they are ultimately accountable to Him, not to you and not even to the Church.
  • Incorporate prayer into the sessions to seek His direction and strength to live out what is being learned.

Truth #3: God has entrusted the Church with His message of redemption.

  • Discuss the implications of what is being learned in class for how it can impact the way they live out in the world.
  • Provide instruction on sharing the good news and how to lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus.
  • Recommend or provide tools for them to witness.
  • Emphasize the need to rely on His Spirit to work in and through them.

Truth #4: God has designed the Church to function interdependently.

Spiritual Gifts Resources

(Click image to check out the Everybody Has a Part resources by Ministry Tools Resource Center.)

  • Help students identify their part and encourage them in it.
  • Structure the class to provide opportunity for community, to experience what it means to be the Church on a small scale.
  • Encourage students to share what God is doing in and through their lives, especially as it relates to what is being learned, and pray for one another.

Teaching About the Church

The Bible, from cover to cover, is a message of redemption. We are currently in the Church age so while it is important to help people understand what has come before and what will come after, to give them a big picture perspective, it is very important for them to grasp the present day part of God’s plan.

1) Creation & the Fall  2) The Law  3) The Old Testament Prophets 4) The Cross  5) Salvation  6) The Church

1) Creation & the Fall 2) The Law 3) The Old Testament Prophets 4) The Cross 5) Salvation 6) The Church

We’ve looked at how Jesus died on the cross and how those who put their trust in Him will be saved, not by anything they do but because of what HE did on their behalf. Bible teachers need to help students understand that while becoming a Christian begins with a personal decision to trust in Jesus for their salvation, they become part of a family of believers … the Church (1 Cor. 12:13). The Christian life is not something to be lived in isolation. We are members of one another (Rom. 12:5).

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Eph. 2:19-22)

Key Truths about the Church to Weave into Your Teaching

  1. God has an eternal purpose for the Church. Though the Church today might seem flawed, it is still part of God’s eternal plan.

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Eph. 3:10-11)

God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. (1 Tim. 3:15)

  1. God has made Jesus the Head of the Church. When we get our strength and direction from Him, the Church can make a real difference in this world. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Eph. 1:22-23)

Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. (Eph. 5:23)

  1. God has entrusted the Church with His message of redemption. We have the privilege of working in cooperation with the Lord to accomplish His work on this earth.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5:20)

  1. God has designed the Church to function interdependently. When we operate according to His design we experience growth and health as a Body.

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph. 4:16)

While a study of the church, ecclesiology, includes so much more than what has been covered in this post, the above four points are a good starting point for Bible teachers to incorporate into their teaching.  Look for tips for doing that in the next post.

Tips for Teaching About Salvation

Some Outreach Do's & Don'ts in the Adult Classroom Worksheet

Click image for “Some Outreach Do’s & Don’ts in the Adult Classroom” Worksheet

 

Since salvation in Jesus is so critical to our eternal future as well as our current lives, Bible teachers must make salvation an important part of their teaching. Obviously all lessons will not solely center on salvation, but teachers do need to share God’s plan of salvation at times.

We must be careful that we do not assume a student has been saved just because they grew up in the church, have parents who are believers, or can tell you about Jesus dying on the cross.

Here are some tips to help Bible teachers teach about salvation in Jesus:

1) Bible teachers need to be able to summarize God’s plan of salvation.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 tells us what is “of first importance.”

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to …” (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

At some point people do need to know why Jesus had to die for our sins and how they must respond in order to be saved yet the basic Gospel message can be weaved throughout one’s teaching.

2) Bible teachers must use terminology their students can understand.

Some of the words used in Scripture are difficult for even adults to remember and define, albeit young children. In an attempt to simplify, be careful not to confuse. Young children are concrete thinkers. For example, telling them to ask Jesus into their heart might not make sense. When teaching about salvation, you want to be as clear as possible and not let terms students might not be familiar with or might not be able to understand, muddy the water. As students grow, they will become more familiar with specific words. Initially, understanding the meaning and significance of the term is more important than knowing the term.

3) Bible teachers need to take students beyond a detailed cognitive study of the doctrine of salvation to helping students understand the difference it makes for them now … today, not just for eternity.

Be careful not to over-complicate salvation. The bottom line is that Jesus did for us something that we could never do for ourselves.  – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

That same grace that saves us is also what enables us to live victorious today.  – “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-15)