It was with some trepidation that I broached the subject of the Great Tribulation in Sunday School. Would it scare the children? Well, actually, no - they were fascinated!
I started by telling them that there was an awful seven years coming, called the Great Tribulation, which means 'trouble', so it meant 'great trouble'. But we as believers in Jesus did not have to worry about it, since we would miss the whole thing. We would be gone to meet the Lord in the air in the Rapture (1 Thes 4:16-18 and 1 Cor 15:51).
Then, when we were all safely in heaven with the Lord, the terrible seven years would start. I told them it was all in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible which begins with a promise of blessing for all those who read and study it. (Rev 1:3) I told the kids that most churches just ignored Revelation, despite the wonderful promise of blessing. And although it is full of stupendous judgements, some churches (including all the Catholic churches), foolishly teach that the Great Tribulation already happened (in 70A.D. when Jerusalem was destroyed).
Then we looked at chapter 4. Oh boy. We see the scene in heaven, and wow. There is God's throne, described in dazzling detail. And another 24 thrones with 24 elders surrounding God's throne. Then we see the very strange 'four living creatures', each with six wings. We even hear what they are saying up in heaven! And I told the children that they are saying in heaven exactly what our church had just been singing on earth: 'Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things...' (Rev 4:11)
Then we get to chapter 5 - the scroll with seven seals, written inside and on the back. Such scrolls were used in Jesus' day for important property transactions. Jewish people then who fell on hard times could not lose their land forever. It would be returned to them at some stage and the title deed would be written inside and outside and sealed.
The scroll in heaven represents the title deed to the earth. Adam was given dominion over the earth, but he disobeyed God, and Satan became 'the prince of this world'.
In chapter 5 the apostle John is being shown what was going on in heaven. He saw the title deed and 'wept greatly' because no one could be found who was worthy to open the scroll or break the seals. So how could the title to planet earth ever be returned to its rightful owner?
Then suddenly a Lamb is seen in heaven, like a lamb that was slain. This represents the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God, slain for all our sins. He is worthy! Only He could open the seals; only He could win back the earth He had created. He took the scroll and once again they sang: 'Worthy are You!'
For this lesson, I had rolled up some stiff paper and sealed it with seven blobs of playdough, and we opened each seal. Inside and outside I had pasted scriptures to do with the Lord creating the earth, proving that it belonged to Him.
When we broke open the seals, we talked about the first four being the four horsemen of the apocalyse. The first, on the white horse, is the Antichrist, the false Christ, who rides into history looking like a savior and a man of peace, but he is in fact a man of war. He goes out conquering.
The second seal (the red horse): world war. The third seal (the black horse): famine. The fourth seal (the pale horse): death. One quarter of the people of the earth die from war, famine, pestilence and wild beasts.
The fifth seal: martyrs in heaven, probably millions of people who will come to faith in Jesus after the Great Tribulation starts. They refuse to worship the Antichrist, and they are martyred.
The sixth seal: terror. This is the time of the great worldwide earthquake, when God shakes the entire planet and every structure falls down.
Then the seventh seal, with contains the seven terrible trumpet judgements. They start when seven angels sound their trumpets. We talked about the second trumpet. When the second angel sounds his trumpet, 'something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed.' Rev 9:8-9 We noted that nothing like this had yet happened, but it certainly WILL happen. We wondered if it could be an asteroid or comet hitting the earth.
I had found some coloring pages for them to do, and as they colored, we talked more about the awful judgements coming on the world before the Lord comes back - and that we would be coming back with Him.
We talked briefly about Satan, symbolized by a great dragon, and that a strong angel would come down and put him in the Abyss, a prison which is under the earth. He will be kept chained there for 1,000 years.
We talked about some of the strange creatures in Revelation like the beast with seven heads and ten horns (Rev 13), and the evil woman who rides the beast (Rev 17). I told them the beast represented the Antichrist system of one world government, and the woman represented the one world false church. At some stage the beast would turn on the woman, the false church, and destroy her.
I said this was because Satan wants to be worshipped. He will not allow any kind of other church or worship and his man, the Antichrist, will make sure the false church is destroyed. Everyone then will be expected to worship an image of the Antichrist set up in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.
We also talked about how important it is to be ready when the Lord comes for us, and how vital to lay up some treasure in heaven now! And we noted that because we had looked into the Book of Revelation, we already knew some of the things we would see in heaven. We would be able to point out to each other: 'Look! There is God's throne!' Look, there's one of the living creatures with six wings. Look! There are the 24 thrones with 24 elders.' We would not only know what to look for, but we already know the songs to sing when we get there! We won't be utterly clueless!
I'm afraid that is pretty much all we had time for.