Books to Teach in Jr. High Youth Ministry: Revelation
Yes, it can be confusing. Yes, it will take lots of prep. 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 best sellers list. The book literally begs to be read and discussed.
2. It keeps us all humble.
After being a Christian for a while, 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 aren’t meant to domesticate God – we are meant to submit 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.
Humans are deeply visual beings. Social media like Instagram and Snapchat only heighten this 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.
Without the transformation of our imaginations, we will be in danger of being able to speak well about Christianity while failing actually to live Christianly in any meaningful way. Like James warns, we’ll have a well-articulated faith that is actually dead, failing to produce any real fruit in our lives or communities.
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 an extremely 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 lead 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.
Studying 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 it is a commentary, so it’s best to read before you dive into the in-depth study. You’ll find yourself going 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
Due to N.T. Wright’s training as a historian and experience as a pastor, this short commentary provides valuable insight into both the historical backgrounds at work in Revelation along with practical applications to today. It is very accessible and helpful, but many times you’ll find yourself wanting more explanation about what’s going on in the text.
3. “The Book of Revelation” (NIGTC series) by G.K. Beale
This massive, more than 1,300-page commentary 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 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 at http://www.frame-poythress.org/ebooks/the-returning-king/. It will be worth your time.
Want more? Mark Howard will be leading a workshop on teaching through the Book of Revelation with youth at this year’s Rooted Conference. For more information, visit www.rootedministry.com/conference.