When my youngest son was in fifth grade at a Christian school, he surprised me one day with this request: “Mom, my teacher has started having the kids do morning devotions. She said we could do them ourselves or get our parents to come and do the devotions. So, I signed you up for tomorrow. I told my class that you would teach us all about Revelation. We are reading it right now, so I told my class you had studied it in your Bible study and you know everything!”
Wow, what a task!
The next morning, I would be expected to teach a class of fifth graders “everything” about the book of Revelation — in the span of twenty minutes. And I had less than twenty-four hours to prepare. The very idea made me laugh and still makes me laugh today. How does a mother fulfill such a request? Here’s what I did.
First, I explained that Revelation is the hardest book in the Bible to understand. I also told the class that actually no one knows for sure what everything in Revelation means. Great Christian scholars throughout history have studied it and held differing opinions.
Nevertheless, I had studied the book for two years through an in-depth Bible study, and I did have some understanding, but it would take too long to explain it all. So instead, I was going to give them a demonstration of how a person goes about studying parts of the Bible that are hard to understand.
I explained that, when we’re confused about a passage in the Bible, the place to go for answers is other scriptures. I told them it is okay, and even helpful, to see what their friends and teachers think, but what really matters is what God says. God’s thoughts are recorded in the Scriptures. The Bible is His Word, so the best thing to do when trying to figure out what God means is to read more of His words.
Then I gave the children a little exercise. I told them Revelation is like the huge puzzle my family works on every summer during vacation. But when my family works one, we have a box with a picture on it so we can see what the puzzle is supposed to look like. However, when trying to figure out Revelation, we don’t have a picture to look at, making it a difficult task. Still, some of the puzzle pieces can be figured out.
I told the class we would solve a tiny piece of the puzzle in class that day so they could see how it is done. I had my son read Revelation 1:16: “In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword.” I explained that the person described in this verse is Jesus. We talked a little about whether the sword coming out of His mouth is a real sword or a symbolic one. I explained the terms tangible and intangible. By a show of hands, about half the class thought the sword is tangible, and the other half thought it is intangible.
Then, after reminding them that the place to look to understand Scripture was other Scripture, I had my son read Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. . . .” I asked them how they would identify the sword coming out of Jesus’ mouth. One of the kids raised her hand and said she thought it is the Word of God. I agreed. Then I asked again if the sword described in Revelation 1:16 is tangible or intangible. They all agreed it is intangible.
Next I had my son read Revelation 2:16: “Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.” And Revelation 19:15: “From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations. . . .” I asked the class one more time if this sword is tangible or intangible. They were stumped! It did “smite the nations,” after all!
So I explained the terms finite and infinite and the fact that our knowledge is finite, or limited, but God’s is infinite, or without limits. I concluded by saying that even though we have trouble understanding this, God doesn’t. What we can say for certain is that the two-edged sword coming out of Jesus’ mouth is the Word of God. Yet it is somehow also a powerful weapon — so powerful, in fact, that it can smite the nations.
I don’t know about the kids, but the experience that day was loads of fun for me. More than that, it was a challenge. I certainly don’t know everything about Revelation, but, like those fifth graders, I’m learning.