Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

April 16, 2010

Teaching about the Book of Revelation in Catholic Schools

You and your students will likely notice that during the Catholic Easter liturgies on Sundays the second reading is taken from the Book of Revelation.  How is one to teach this challenging final book of the New Testament?  Here are some tips and activities for teaching about the Book of Revelation and its symbols and meaning.  

Focus on the readings in the lectionary.  See www.usccb.org/nab
Symbols of the Book of Revelation
  • Number 7 = symbolic of perfection (the sum of three, representing heaven, and four, representing earth)
  • Number 6 = symbol of imperfection (one short of seven)
  • 666 - three sixes, the ultimate imperfection (so called, sign of the beast)
  • Number 12 = tribes of Israel, Apostles, God's people today  
  • Number 1,000 = incalculable amount, eternity
  • 144,000 (Rev 7:1-8) = 12 x 12 x 1000 = symbol of Israel embracing every nation
  • Four creatures (lion, ox, human being, eagle) (4:6-9) = often refer to the four Evangelists
  • Babylon = Rome
  • Dragon = Satan, Devil
  • 1st beast of the sea (13:1-10) = the Roman emperor
  • 2nd beast of the land (13:11-18) = a local authority, likely in Pergamum (Rev 2:13)
  • Woman clothed with the Sun = God's people, possibly Mary
  • Son of the Woman = the Messiah, Christ
  • Four horses = conquering power, bloody war, famine, death
  • horns = power
  • eyes = knowledge
  • Bride of the Lamb = the Church
Source:  Encountering Jesus in the New Testament by Michael Pennock
 

Symbols of Christ in the Book of Revelation
  • Lamb = Christ is the Paschal Lamb
  • Alpha and Omega = first and last letters of the Greek alphabet; Christ is eternal
  • Pantokrator = Greek, "Ruler of All"
  • Root of David
  • Lion of Judah
Meaning of the Book of Revelation
Although many contemporary Protestants believe that the Book of Revelation describes in detail the events that will unfold at the end of the world, this books is not to be interpreted as such.  In particular, the idea of a "rapture" that occurs before the Judgement is a relatively new idea and new interpretation of the book.  We, like the orignial audience, should recognize that the Book of Revelation was written for a group of persecuted Chrstians in the Roman Empire.  The symbols are not literal, but should be interpreted for their deeper meaning.  Instead, the Book of Revelation's basic message is that good will triumph over evil, have hope in Christ who will prevail, and faith during times of persecution.
For more information, check out:  http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1005.asp

Activities:
  • Discuss apocalyptic genre.  Read Revelation.  Invite the students to write their own version of apocalyptic literature.  
  • Google image search the many examples of artwork from the Book of Revelation.  Create a PowerPoint to share these images with the students.  
  • Draw the symbols of the Book of Revelation with images of their actual meanings.  
  • Direct students to search the Book of Revelation for examples of the two major themes of hope (Christ will ultimately persevere) and faith (during times of persecution).  Hint:  Use pre-reading skills by looking at the section titles, first and last sentences of paragraphs, and pictures (if applicable).  
  • Read the passages about Christ in the Book of Revelation.  Make connections between these images of Christ and other parts of the New Testament.  Find Scripture verses that are similar.  For example, the bride of Christ in Rev 21:2, 9, 17 and Ephesians 5:21-33 and the parable of the wedding banquet (Lk 14:7-14).  
  • Using Scott Hahn's book The Lamb's Supper, point out connections between the Book of Revelation and the Mass.  
Source:  Encountering Jesus in the New Testament by Michael Pennock

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