Reflections on Teaching Revelation

Reflections on Teaching Revelation

Revelation: A Participatory Study GuideThis past Sunday I completed teaching a four week series on Revelation for one of the Sunday School classes at Chumuckla Community Church. It’s always interesting to try to teach a short series on the book of Revelation. There is so much there, and so much background information is needed. It’s difficult to be effective.

This series turned out well. My goal was to suggest some ways to read Revelation more profitably. We discussed the nature of the book and looked at some specific passages as examples. I hope that the material I was able to share will help folks dig deeper into other books of the Bible as well.

Here are some points that impressed themselves on me during this series.

  1. I’m more convinced than ever that we need to read Revelation more for theology and spiritual growth and less for trying to lay out timelines for the end of the world. I find good theology and good principles in many of these passages even if we continue to disagree on the specific referents.
  2. I have a great deal of sympathy for the preterist position, even though that is not precisely what I believe. Symbols generally do find credible referents in the immediate time and place. The problem with the preterist position, in my view, is that it is easy to leave all the book’s other lessons in the past as well. Revelation spoke to its own time, but it also speaks to the future.
  3. Revelation is possibly the most violent book in the New Testament. But it’s not about the violence. It’s about God’s faithfulness.
  4. Revelation is an unfolding of the gospel. It begins with Jesus with his church/people, and it ends with Jesus with his people. The rest assures God’s people that God is paying attention and is with them even when he doesn’t appear to be.
  5. In teaching Revelation we need to emphasize the persecuted church more. When you get to the fifth seal, for example, and the souls under the altar are asking “How long oh Lord?” it helps if we understand what persecution was and is like. I have always discussed persecution as an historical phenomenon. This time I spent more time discussing the present and what some of these passage might mean viewed from the perspective of people suffering persecution right now. Like Hebrews, Revelation speaks to people suffering or soon-to-suffer great hardship. We American Christians, in our ease, are likely to have a hard time hearing the message.
  6. The most important thing a Bible teacher can so, I believe, is teach people how to study for themselves. It’s not about getting across all of my beliefs or particular interpretations. What people need is to find a way to experience God for themselves—to hear God’s voice—through the pages of scripture.

In addition, I was impressed by how badly I need to revise and improve my study guide. I’m still very happy with the basic approach, but there is so much more that could be said. I’m going to redo the layout, expand my notes and move them to the beginning of each lesson, and spend more time in the study guide talking about the lessons one can learn in this important book about reading scripture and allowing it to change our lives.

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