Ten Challenges in Teaching Revelation
June 29, 2010 6 Comments
Tomorrow night we finish Revelation in our Men’s class. This is the first time I have ever taught a class on Revelation and it was about as difficult as I thought it would be. There are several challenges to tackling this book in a Bible class:
- Dealing with disagreement – people have strong and varied views on what this book means. The inability to disagree in love may reveal a lack of maturity. Don’t be offended if people disagree with you. Point out what truth you can from it and move along. Get ready to have your own understanding challenged and be ready to help others see the weaknesses in their understanding of the book. In the end no one understands it perfectly. We will all have errors in understanding when it comes to this difficult book. That leads to the next one
- Maintaining Humility – Not sure if this is really a challenge because if this book doesn’t humble you to teach it, you may have a problem with pride. When people disagree we keep coming back to looking at the text with humility and the understanding that none of us will have the perfect perspective 100% of the time on this book.
- Presenting the text as unbiased as possible – The way to maintain this balance as best as possible is to keep going back to the question of, “How would they have underst0od this given their cultural and religious background.”
- Avoid rabbit trails – There are so many interesting side notes in Revelation. It is important to stick to the main point. I have a friend who decided to teach Revelation and it took him several weeks to cover the first 8 verses. That is overkill. When you over analyze Revelation you can end up in a pickle and dig too hard on something that wasn’t meant to be evaluated to such an extreme degree.
- Major in majors, not minors – It is so easy in Revelation to spend way too much time on things that don’t matter all that much. Don’t major in the minors. Know what the central message of the book is and keep coming back to how the various chapters tie back into it.
- Don’t neglect the Old Testament – I tried to do a good job with this. I probably didn’t spend enough time talking about Daniel. I just figured it would muddy the waters too much and get us chasing rabbits. Any good commentary (Reddish or Witherington in particular) will point you in the right direction on this.
- Avoid the view that John is borrowing imagery from all sorts of sources – Pretty much all the recent commentaries use this language. They will say John borrowed such and such from Ezekiel or Isaiah. Why not stick to this actually being a Revelation from God and that God was the one showing these images to John rather than John coming up with it.
- Don’t attempt to build a time line in Revelation – It is a waste of time (no pun intended). Some think the 7 seals, trumpets and bowls are just 7 events told from different angles. Some say 21 different events and some say somewhere in between. There are few “You are here’s” in the book of Revelation so don’t spend too much time trying to figure them out.
- Application comes from broader theological principles rather than trying to determine where we fit in the book (see #8) – We can learn a lot about God and Christ from the book of Revelation. We see what God thinks about sin. We hear lots of calls to holiness. There are some tremendous messages of hope in this book. Draw application from these.
- Praise the class for the positive things that come out of it – If I think the chapter about to be discussed may generate some tension, I am quick to start the class by thanking them for how well they have handled disagreements in the past. Let people know that you appreciate them wrestling with this book because it really is work!