Yes, Revelation can be confusing. Yes, teaching the book will require lots of preparation time. Yes, it can start some tough discussions. And yes, I totally think it’s worthwhile to teach through the book of Revelation with youth.
Here are five reasons why.
1. You don’t need gimmicks to make it interesting.
Youth (all people really) are naturally curious about the book of Revelation. They may be confused when first reading through the book, but they definitely won’t be bored. Revelation reads like so many of sci-fi fantasy books that end up on The New York Times bestseller list. The book begs to be read and discussed.
2. It keeps us all humble.
After a while of walking with Christ, we can start to feel like we have the Bible tamed and God pretty well confined to a certain theological box. When we read Revelation and get caught up in the vivid visions, we realize that we can’t domesticate God—we bow to him. We say Jesus is Lord, but Revelation reminds us that he is indeed the almighty God, ruler of all.
3. Revelation sharpens our Christian imagination.
We’re all moved by visuals. Social media like Instagram and Snapchat reflect this heightened reality among youth. They think not just in terms of words and ideas, but also with pictures and images. Revelation gives sight and sound to much of what the apostle Paul gives language. If we only spend time refining our language about truth and never spend time cultivating our minds to better imagine how God’s truth relates to our world, then we are missing out on the fullness of the renewal of our minds.
4. It reshapes how we perceive the world around us.
As you actually get into the book of Revelation, you’ll see that it has as much to say—if not more—about our lives and the world today as it does about Jesus’ second coming. It is a practical book, though it will take some work to discern what’s actually being said.
5. It sets the trajectory for our lives.
One of the apostle Paul’s favorite metaphors for the Christian life is “walking” in the faith. I’ve led several camping trips, and it’s always helpful to know where you’re going whenever you set out on a journey. Revelation (especially chapters 21-22) offers a vision of the end toward which all history is moving (which, we find, is actually a new beginning—a new creation). So many significant life decisions happen between the ages of 15 and 25. Revelation can help youth more faithfully orient their lives here and now along the trajectory of God’s new creation.
Teaching through Revelation will take much study, prayer, and diligence—but it will be worth it. Best of all, there are wonderful guides to help you on the journey. In particular, I found the following three resources to be most helpful.
1. The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation by Vern Poythress
This short book is more of an introduction to interpretive methods and major themes than a commentary, so it’s best to read before you dive in to the in-depth study. You’ll go back to it as you progress through teaching Revelation, but it probably won’t be a part of your day-by-day prep.
2. Revelation for Everyone by N. T. Wright
Because of N. T. Wright’s training as a historian and experience as a pastor, this short commentary provides valuable insight into both backgrounds and also practical applications for today. It is accessible and helpful, but many times you’ll want more detailed explanation about what’s going on in the text.
3. The Book of Revelation (NIGTC) by G.K. Beale
This massive commentary (longer than 1,300 pages) will cost a small fortune, but it is worth its weight in gold (and it weighs a ton). Beale has compiled an exhaustive look into the biblical (and extra-biblical) allusions, historical backgrounds, and textual nuances of Revelation. You’ll also find in-depth discussions on various interpretations of difficult passages. This commentary will become your go-to source for interpreting the many difficult and controversial passages of Revelation.
If I still haven’t convinced you to walk your youth through the book of Revelation, try skimming through The Returning King by Vern Poythress. You can find the entire manuscript online free of charge.