Revelation 1–3

New Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2002), 247–50


Introduction

The book of Revelation can be divided into two sections: a vision of John’s day (chapters 1–3) and a vision of the future (chapters 4–22). The book begins with John’s vision, received on a Sabbath day, of Jesus Christ standing in glory amid seven candlesticks representing “the seven churches which are in Asia” (Revelation 1:11). Though the Saints of John’s day suffered through apostasy and persecution, they could take comfort in this image of the Lord standing with them. In chapters 2–3 the Lord reveals to the seven churches their strengths and weaknesses and invites them to prepare for the future by repenting and learning to overcome the world.

Prayerfully study Revelation 1–3and consider the following principles before preparing your lessons.

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Additional Resources

  • The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 448–55.

Suggestions for Teaching

Choose from the following ideas, or use some of your own, as you prepare lessons for Revelation 1–3.

New Testament Video presentation 21, “Helps for Understanding the Book of Revelation” (8:36), can be used in teaching the book of Revelation (see New Testament Video Guide for teaching suggestions).

Revelation 1:1, 9–11. The Lord ordained the Apostle John before mortality to write the book of Revelation.

(15–20 minutes)

Ask students:

  • How much does the Lord know about each of us?

  • How is the Lord able to reveal future events? (see 2 Nephi 9:20).

Read 1 Nephi 14:18–22and have students describe the man Nephi saw in vision. Read 1 Nephi 14:24–27and look for this man’s name. Ask: Where can we find this Apostle’s writings of the last days? Point out that the Lord told Nephi about the book of Revelation centuries before it was written. Ask: What does that teach us about the importance of the book of Revelation?

Testify to students of the value of studying the book of Revelation. Read Revelation 1:1and compare it with the Joseph Smith Translation of the same verse. Discuss the changes made by Joseph Smith. Read Revelation 1:9–11. Review 1 Nephi 14:24–27, and ask:

  • How was Nephi’s vision fulfilled in the book of Revelation? (Jesus commanded the Apostle John to write the book; see 1 Nephi 14:25; Revelation 1:11.)

  • How can we help to fulfill the mission God has asked us to do?

Encourage students to receive a patriarchal blessing at the appropriate time to help them better fulfill God’s mission for them.

Revelation 1–22. The main emphasis of the book of Revelation is on the last days and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

(10–15 minutes)

Show students a microscope and a magnifying glass (or pictures of these items). Ask:

  • How does a microscope differ from a magnifying glass in what it can show?

  • What are the benefits of seeing the smallest details?

  • How can we benefit from seeing a bigger picture?

Tell students that today we are going look at the “big picture” of the book of Revelation.

Make an overhead transparency of the chart “Where the Emphasis Is” in the appendix (p. 300) or draw it on the board. Review the chart with your students, pointing out that the first five seals (representing the history of the earth from Adam’s to John’s day) are treated in eleven verses, while the last two seals (representing our day to the end of the world) take 273 verses. Read the Joseph Smith Translation of Revelation 1:3and ask:

  • For what event is the book of Revelation written to prepare the Saints?

  • What does this teach about the importance of the book of Revelation to us today?

Tell students that the Lord has taken great care to make the book of Revelation available to us. Encourage them to study it carefully.

Note: See “The Book of Revelation” in The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles (pp. 220–21) for a more detailed overview of the book of Revelation to help you study and teach this book.

Revelation 1:1–3. As we heed the revelations of God, He will lead us back into His presence.

(15–20 minutes)

John included some principles that would help his readers benefit from this book of prophecy and revelation. To help students learn and benefit from the same principles, draw on the board a road that branches in several directions. Invite students to imagine being at the crossroads trying to determine which direction to go. Ask:

  • How can this illustration be compared to life?

  • How do you choose which direction you will go?

  • What resources are available to help you make the best choice?

Have a student read the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator” (History of the Church, 6:58).

Ask:

  • How can the Holy Ghost help us choose a direction in life?

  • To what destination will the Holy Ghost ultimately lead us? (Have students read the first few sentences of “revelation” in the (Bible Dictionary [p. 762] to find the answer to this question.)

  • If God desires to give us direction by revelation through the Holy Ghost, what is our responsibility?

Have students read the Joseph Smith Translation of Revelation 1:1–3, and ask: According to these verses, what can we do to allow the words of this revelation to bless our lives? Write the answers on the board and discuss how they apply to the students. The answers might include:

  • Read them

  • Hear them

  • Understand them

  • Keep or obey them

Explain that though John was speaking in these verses of the words of the book of Revelation, the same principles apply for any revelation. We must read the words of the scriptures and our patriarchal blessings. We must listen to the words spoken by living prophets and the whisperings of the Spirit. We must ponder these words and think how they apply to our lives. And we must follow them.

Conclude by reading the following statement by Elder James E. Faust:

“Members of the Church know that the promptings of the Spirit may be received upon all facets of life, including daily, ongoing decisions (see D&C 42:61). How could anyone think of making an important decision such as ‘Who is to be my companion?’, ‘What is my work to be?’, ‘Where will I live?’, and ‘How will I live?’ without seeking the inspiration of Almighty God” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1980, 16; or Ensign, May 1980, 13).

Revelation 1:4, 8, 19. John was commanded to write what had been, what was then, and what was to come.

(5–10 minutes)

Note: This teaching suggestion could be taught as part of the teaching suggestion for Revelation 1–22(p. 248). It offers another way of looking at the “big picture” of Revelation.

Show the students a collection of objects representing the past, present, and future. You could represent the past with such objects as a journal, old pictures, a birth certificate, or a history book. You could represent the present with a current driver’s license, a newspaper, or a calendar. You could represent the future with seeds, a wedding announcement, a patriarchal blessing, or a mission application. Go through the objects with the class asking them to identify whether they represent the past, present, or future.

Write on the board Past, Present, Future. Have a student read Doctrine and Covenants 93:24. Ask: Why is this a good definition of truth? Discuss the advantages of knowing about the past, present, and future.

  • Read Revelation 1:4, 8. What do these verses tell us about Jesus Christ? (He was, and is, and is to come. He is the First and the Last.)

  • What do you think these verses mean? (One answer is that Jesus created the earth, He guides and sustains us now, and He will come to the earth again in glory.)

  • Read verse 19. Why is it appropriate that John should write of things that were past, present, and future?

Point out that since Christ is the First and the Last, to understand Him we must understand the past, present, and future. The book of Revelation speaks of events from each of these time periods. You may find it helpful to read scriptures on each period from the accompanying chart. (Point out that the events listed under “The Present” occurred in John’s day, and that many of the events under “The Future” are either occurring in our day or have yet to happen. The majority of the book of Revelation teaches of the future.)

Revelation 1:4–20. Becoming familiar with symbols in the book of Revelation helps unlock its meanings.

(20–25 minutes)

Bring to class business logos or symbols clipped from newspapers or magazines. Pick ones that the students will readily recognize. Show them to students and see how many they can identify in a short period of time.

Explain that we recognize symbols we frequently see or use. People in the Bible also communicated with symbolic language. John’s vision is rich in imagery and symbols. Becoming familiar with Jewish use of imagery can help us better understand the book of Revelation (see “A Word about the Symbolic Language of John” in The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, p. 451).

Draw a large numeral 7 on the board. Ask: Where are some places we see the number seven? (Days in a week, periods of the earth’s existence). Explain that in Hebrew culture the number seven represents completion or perfection. Ask:

  • How do you think this meaning relates to days of the week?

  • How might it relate to the periods of Creation?

  • How might it relate to the periods of the earth’s history?

Point out that the number seven occurs repeatedly in the book of Revelation. Write the following words randomly around the numeral 7 on the board: churches, spirits, stars, candlesticks, seals, angels, trumpets, vials, heads. Explain that all of these images have meanings and are important to John’s vision. Consider using one or both of the following activities:

  • Use construction paper to make a figure labeled “spirit,” a king’s crown, the Greek letters alpha (Α) and omega (Ω), a candlestick, a star, a sword, and keys. Hand these items to groups of students and ask them to find the symbol in Revelation 1and discover the meaning by using footnotes or the Bible Dictionary. When they finish, invite them to share what they learned with the class.

  • Reproduce the accompanying chart as a handout, leaving the “Interpretation” column blank. Divide your class into groups. Have them locate, mark, and cross-reference each of the symbols in their scriptures and then fill in the interpretations on the handout. When they finish, go over the handout as a class.

Conclude by reading the following statement:

“Symbols are the timeless and universal language in which God, in his wisdom, has chosen to teach his gospel and bear witness of his Son. They are the language of the scriptures, the language of revelation, the language of the Spirit, the language of faith. They are a language common to the Saints of all generations” (Joseph Fielding McConkie, Gospel Symbolism [1985], 1).

Encourage students to practice “seeing,” not just reading, the book of Revelation. (For more information on the use of symbolism in Revelation, see “John’s Witness of the Church Triumphant” in The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, pp. 443–46.)

Revelation 1:4–20. The book of Revelation is a testimony of the mission of Jesus Christ.

(10–15 minutes)

Before class write on the board a few names and titles of historical figures (for example Richard the Lionhearted, Alexander the Great, Honest Abe). Ask: What can titles tell us about individuals? Place a picture of the Savior on the board. Invite students to browse Revelation 1:4–20looking for words and phrases that are used to describe Jesus Christ. (Possible answers include “faithful witness” [v. 5], “Alpha and Omega” [v. 8], “the Son of Man” [v. 13], “he that liveth, and was dead” [v. 18].) Write the titles they find on the board next to the picture. Ask: What do these titles tell us about the mission of the Savior?

Testify that the book of Revelation is a testimony of the mission of Jesus Christ to conquer Satan and save the children of God. Encourage students to look for evidence that this testimony is true as they study the rest of the book. (Note: Consider using student study guide activity A for Revelation 1here.)

Revelation 2–3. Because the Lord loves us, He chastens us so we will repent. As we repent He helps us overcome the world so we can partake of the blessings of salvation.

(35–40 minutes)

Tell students that it was a difficult time to be a disciple of Christ when John received the vision recorded in the book of Revelation (see “Introduction” in The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, pp. 449–50). Severe persecution and false teachings challenged the faith of the members. In chapters 2–3 the Lord promised that although many had made mistakes, if they would repent and overcome the world they could still enjoy the blessings of salvation.

Explain that Revelation 2–3 is addressed to Church members in seven cities in Asia. The Lord revealed to John their strengths and weaknesses and told him to write each of the seven branches of the Church a letter.

Divide the class into seven groups and assign each of them one of the seven churches to “visit.” Give each group a copy of the map of the Mediterranean world from the appendix (p. 295) or display the map on an overhead projector. Have them find their city on the map. Give them copies of the chart “The Seven Churches in Asia (Revelation 2–3)” from the appendix (pp. 298–99) and have them fill in the blanks for their city. Invite them to share what they learned, especially what the churches did right, what they did wrong, and the Lord’s correction.

Ask students:

  • How do you usually feel when someone chastises you?

  • Since the Lord loves us, why would He chasten us?

Read Doctrine and Covenants 95:1and discuss how chastening can help us repent and be forgiven.

  • How does Heavenly Father chasten us? (Through the Spirit, scriptures, Church leaders, parents.)

  • How can this verse affect how we respond to chastening?

  • What blessings come to those who overcome the world and endure to the end?

Read Revelation 1:6and Doctrine and Covenants 76:53–57looking for the results of our faithful efforts. Challenge students to become more determined disciples of Jesus Christ. Read the following statement:

“While the Lord may chasten his people in mortality, chastisement will be tempered with his mercy and compassion as his children heed and obey him (D&C 101:2–9; 3 Ne. 22:8–10). Those who escape the wrath of God will include all persons who repent and keep the commandments, and prepare themselves for the hour of judgment that is to come, gathering ‘together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes’ as a place of refuge (D&C 115:6; cf. Alma 12:33–37; 13:30; D&C 88:76–88; 98:22). Even God’s wrath is intended to be beneficent, for whom he loves, he chastens (D&C 95:1; cf. Heb. 12:6–11)” (“Wrath of God,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4:1598).