Note to the Teacher
For the past two weeks, we’ve been focusing on some of Jesus’ teachings as he neared the end of his life. The theme was “End in Sight,” and here we are, this week, in Revelation and celebrating those who have completed their time on earth. You will likely receive questions about the afterlife and perhaps even interesting questions regarding interpreting Revelation.
The book of Revelation’s genre is called apocalyptic literature, and “apocalypse” simply means “unveiling or revealing.” (If you’re thinking of the ending of something…that is Armageddon – the Greek word for the valley where a final battle of good and evil would take place can be found within the book of Revelation as well!) There's a lot of imagery: monsters, numbers, trumpets, angels, letters, and animals. It's kind of like a fever dream, written by a person named John after he was exiled to a remote island as punishment for his faith in Jesus.
Revelation serves as a form of prophecy, but not in the sense that it predicts the future. A prophecy is revealing God’s truth about a current situation. So, John was writing to first-century Christians in coded language to encourage them to hold fast and remain faithful during times of persecution and hardship as opposed to predicting the end of the world.
When you cut through all the imagery, in the end, we find that love wins, that Jesus conquers. He conquered the cross once, and he conquers Death, always. In Revelation, we see this beautiful vision of God restoring creation and humanity and us living in right relationship with God and one another.
The icebreaker invites youth to consider imagery in storytelling. The discussion encourages youth to apply imagery in storytelling to the scripture as they unveil the potential meanings behind coded text. The activity allows youth to remember their loved ones who have passed away while holding the mystery of the end times in tension. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.
Icebreaker (10 minutes): Emoji Charades
You will need: Printouts of various emojis OR blank sheets of paper and markers; strips of paper; pens/pencils; hat, cup, or bowl.
Preparation: Divide the students into two teams. Set out enough emojis so that each team has around twenty. If you do not have printouts of emojis, allow the students to draw their favorite emojis and put them into a pile. Divide the emojis evenly among the teams. Have the students write down their favorite stories on different strips of paper. Stories can be books, movies, fairytales, stories from the Bible, or whatever. Put the strips of paper in the hat, cup, or bowl.
How to play: This is similar to charades, except instead of acting out the story, the teammate puts emojis together to either tell the story or the title!
Read Scripture (5 minutes): Revelation 7:9-17
Just like the activity may have gotten a little wonky, confusing, or silly, our scripture for the day may seem that way!
The author, John, is describing a vision: there are countless people from all over the world with different looks, languages, cultures, and customs. And they’re all worshiping God! These are the ones who have endured and have gone home to God.
When people talk about the book of Revelation, sometimes they get caught up in the details and lost in the codewords. Some believe that we should be reading it literally and that everything will happen the way it’s written, but we can interpret John’s vision similarly to how we interpret our dreams. We can cut through the details to “get to the bottom of it.”
The bottom line? We may not know exactly what happens “in the end,” but we can be encouraged that God is with us and every people group on Earth, and “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Discussion (15 minutes)
- What’s going on here? What makes you say that?
- What emojis would you use to tell this story?
- What’s the wildest dream you’ve ever had? What do you think it meant?
- Maybe we can take a look at this text the same way we look at dreams – there are some wild images, but the meaning is behind the images.
- If we look at it that way, what do you think the meaning of this text is?
- Spend some time discussing the context provided in the notes.
- Given all that context and the meaning of the text, what emojis would you use now to tell this story?
Activity and Discussion (20 minutes): Remembering the Saints
You will need: Table, candles, matches or lighter, various tablecloths or fabrics, random empty picture frames, special trinkets or ways to decorate the table. Invite students to bring printed photos of loved ones who have passed. It may be beneficial to have photo paper available to allow students to print photos onsite. Students may also choose to create a slideshow of their loved ones instead of bringing physical photos.
Activity: Spend time decorating the table to create a special space to honor students’
loved ones. You may want to play some soothing music during this activity. Here’s a playlist to help you get started.
After the table is finished, light the candles, and invite everyone to take three deep breaths.
Today we are celebrating the saints in our lives. It is a celebration because we know that God is with us, and those who have passed away are with God now. We may not know every detail of what happens in the end, but we trust that in the end, love wins.
- What is your favorite memory of the loved one you’re honoring today?
- How can we best honor their lives with our actions?
Join hands or hold a photo of your loved one as you read the following blessing (For Those Who Walked With Us by Jan Richardson):
who walked with us,
this is a prayer.
who have gone ahead,
this is a blessing.
who touched and tended us,
who lingered with us
while they lived,
this is a thanksgiving.
who journey still with us
in the shadows of awareness,
in the crevices of memory,
in the landscape of our dreams,
this is a benediction.
Close in the manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys/concerns from the students, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.