When Children Read Revelation
“Dad, why did God make Satan?”
“Dad, when was God born?”
“Dad, what does ‘circumcision’ mean?”
“Where was Jesus while he was dead, Dad?”
“Hey, Dad? I have a question….”
Many of us have learned how to pretend we don’t have questions. We’ve learned to fake it. Or worse still, we actually lose a sense of wonder. To some of us adults, “growing up” means not being too impressed, so we try not to ask too many questions lest we give ourselves away. This is a tragedy when we approach God’s word this way, unable or unwilling to wonder. And then our children come asking questions.
“How big is God?”
On the other hand, children—especially young children—are impressed at everything! For those of us “grown-ups” who’ve lost our sense of awe, one book, in particular, would shake us out of our apathy and restore us to a childlike state of wonder: the book of Revelation.
But is this book for children? “Revelation is for more mature readers,” we might say. “I’m not sure they’re ready for that, yet.” “Revelation is hard.”
I’ll grant you that some Scriptures are difficult. The apostle Peter said so (2 Pet 3:16). Some concepts demand maturity (Heb 5:11-14), and some truths are weightier (Mt 23:23), but what I want to affirm is the power of the Scriptures taught simply to humble people. Our Lord Jesus thanked the Father, saying God had “hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will” (Mt 11:25-26). If we would know the power of God’s word and enjoy his gracious will, we must humble ourselves like “little children,” and in humbling ourselves, we may find an eagerness and a readiness to teach the fullness of God’s word—even the “difficult” portions like Revelation—to our children as we stand together in awe of our God.
Consider this: a few years back, two of my children—5 and 7 at the time—enjoyed a class in which the teacher would draw with them what they “saw” in the book of Revelation. They tried to visualize what John described of his visions, and they talked about what it made them think about Satan, what feelings it stirred in them about trials, and how it gave them a reason to hope in God. Revelation fed their imagination in a grounded way; they were free to wonder while focusing keenly on the hope of Jesus. Through John’s visions, they glimpsed the reality of victory through hardships, not the saccharin (and false) comfort of life without difficulties. That teacher believed children could “get it,” because she knew we ourselves are children. “My little children, I am writing these things to you…” (1 Jn 2:1). That class broadened our children’s scope of heaven and strengthened their hearts to grapple with life in view of the sure victory of God’s people in the “Lamb standing” (Rev 5:6).
When I was a young boy of 6 or 7, my mind wandered at times during the sermon. (I’m sure it wasn’t the preacher’s fault.) I remember sitting on the pew, cross-legged, not listening but intensely reading the pew Bible that sat on my lap. Revelation was one of the books I read most often. It was indescribably interesting. I didn’t get it—there’s still a lot I don’t get!—but I found the word pictures, the vivid descriptions, and the passion simply irresistible. It was powerful, heady stuff, and it had captured my attention. And what tremendous truths these are that grip us!
- Jesus is wonderfully awesome. He’s even a little scary at first, but that’s a good thing. Death, Satan, evil in the world, lies, confusion, pain, and hardship—Jesus is the victor over all these and more, and he wants us to win with Him!
- Jesus sees. He knows our hurts. He knows our troubles. He knows our weaknesses and failures. He sees us when we get distracted and discouraged. He sees when we love sin and fear people. He is right there with us, and that is a good thing, but it is also a very serious thing. It is an awesome thing.
- Satan loses. He seems very powerful—and he is—and God’s people sometimes seem like they’re losing in a wicked world, but God is working.
- We are not alone. John, the seven churches, the kingdom, the saints, the elders, the heavenly creatures, the myriads of angels, the Lamb, the Spirit, the Bride, and God—we are not alone.
- Trouble comes to God’s people from outside the church and from inside it, too. Sometimes Christians will let you down. Sometimes they won’t teach or live what is true. Sometimes they will turn away in fear. Sometimes they’ll give up or fake it. Jesus sees it and loves us still, calling his people to turn back to him and win with him in our fight against evil.
Don’t you want your children to hold these truths deep in their hearts? These lessons and others are powerfully, memorably depicted in the book of Revelation. These truths are unveiled in this book in such a way to capture our wandering attention, to captivate our imaginations overly stimulated on cheap thrills, and to win our hearts over to the sure hope of victory in Jesus.
Here’s one suggestion to get children going on Revelation: read it and ask them questions. Don’t look to explain it right away. Let them discover the wonder of it.
“Why did Jesus’ eyes look like that?” “What do the keys of Death and Hades do?” “How is John seeing all of this?”
In the early 16th century, as he bravely labored to bring into existence an accurate English translation of the Bible, William Tyndale told a blasphemous clergyman: “…If God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!” And in knowing the Scriptures—Scriptures like the book of Revelation—our boys and girls will be ready to fight bravely the battles of their day. By knowing the victory of Jesus in the past, they will come to know victory today and in the next generation until the Lord comes.
Won’t that be wondrous?