Insights on Revelation

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This newly revised and expanded edition of Insights on Revelation explores one of the most perplexing books in Scripture. Drawing on Gold Medallion Award–winner Chuck Swindoll’s 50 years of experience studying and preaching God’s Word, this series combines Chuck’s deep insight, signature easygoing style, and humor to bring a warmth and practical accessibility not often found in commentaries.

Each of the 15 volumes in Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary series ...

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This newly revised and expanded edition of Insights on Revelation explores one of the most perplexing books in Scripture. Drawing on Gold Medallion Award–winner Chuck Swindoll’s 50 years of experience studying and preaching God’s Word, this series combines Chuck’s deep insight, signature easygoing style, and humor to bring a warmth and practical accessibility not often found in commentaries.

Each of the 15 volumes in Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary series combines verse-by-verse commentary, charts, maps, photos, key terms, and background articles with practical application. The newly updated volumes now include parallel presentations of the NLT and NASB before each section. This series is a must-have for pastors, teachers, and anyone else who is seeking a deeply practical resource for exploring God’s Word. Tyndale House Publishers

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310331070
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 9/28/2011

Meet the Author

Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the clear, practical teaching and application of God's Word. He currently pastors Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, and serves as the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. His renowned Insight for Living radio program airs around the world. Chuck and Cynthia, his partner in life and ministry, have four grown children and ten grandchildren. SPANISH BIO: Charles R. Swindoll ha dedicado su vida a una diafana y practica aplicacion de la Palabra de Dios. Hoy dia es pastor de la iglesia Stonebriar Community de Frisco, Texas, y es rector honorario del Seminario Teologico de Dallas. Su famoso programa radial Insight for Living (Vision para vivir) se transmite en el mundo entero. Chuck y Cynthia, la companera de su vida y ministerio, tienen cuatro hijos mayores y diez nietos.
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Copyright © 2011 Charles R. Swindoll
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-310-28434-5

Chapter One


Think before answering this question: If Jesus Christ Himself were to show up in your church unannounced, evaluate your worship, and carefully investigate the interpersonal relationships in your congregation, how would He react? Be honest, now. Would He sit down with your leadership, pat them on the back, and say how proud He was of them and encourage them to keep up the good work? Or would the Lord sit across from them, stare in their eyes, and shake His head in disappointment?

It's a frightening prospect to be evaluated directly by the One who knows every dark secret, concealed fact, longstanding grudge, embarrassing mistake, and less-than-pure motive. Yet this is exactly what Christ did, according to the first three chapters of the book of Revelation. Much to the surprise of the apostle John, who didn't expect to see the Lord again until his own death or the second coming, Christ appeared in majestic glory to deliver visions of the future and to dictate timely messages to seven specific churches. As would be expected if Jesus were to explore our personal lives or the lives of our churches, He gives varied diagnoses. From unimpeachable to despicable, from praiseworthy to pathetic, Christ would hold back neither encouragement nor rebuke. He called all the believers in the seven churches to examine their own lives and ministries to see if they measured up to His standards of faith, hope, and love.

The first major section of Revelation includes John's own introduction to the book (1:1–8), followed by a startling vision of Jesus' glorious majesty in which He instructed John to write everything he saw and heard (1:9–20). Jesus then addressed the leaders of seven hand-picked churches in Asia Minor: Ephesus (2:1–7), Smyrna (2:8–11), Pergamum (2:12–17), Thyatira (2:18–29), Sardis (3:1–6), Philadelphia (3:7–13), and Laodicea (3:14–22). Here we see Christ functioning as the exalted Head of the church, who is responsible for the church's discipline and reward at His coming. As the veil is lifted between earth and heaven and we hear the messages of the majestic Savior, let's allow His words to pierce the veil of our own hearts, fortifying our strengths and correcting our flaws.

The Messenger in His Majesty (Revelation 1:1–20)

1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.

4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.

8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."

9 I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, 11 saying, "Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea." 12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; 13 and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. 14 His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. 15 His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. 16 In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. 17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. 19 "Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. 20 "As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

From psychics to seers, from statisticians to scientists—people from every nation and every generation have been trying to discover what the future might hold for them. Occasionally these forecasters get it right and things turn out the way they predicted. Far more often, however, these secular or religious prophets miss the mark. In your own lifetime, just think about some of the false forecasts that have let people down:

• A political analyst calls an election ... but the other candidate wins.

• An army general predicts a swift victory ... then the war drags on for years.

• A Bible scholar dates the return of Christ ... but Jesus doesn't appear.

• A financial expert banks on a bull market ... then Wall Street crashes.

Prophecies about the future are only as reliable as the wisdom, knowledge, and insight of their sources. When the source of information is limited to our human perspectives on the past and present, the most intelligent "expert" can offer only an educated guess. If, however, the source is the all-knowing, sovereign God, we can be certain that what He speaks will surely come to pass.

Before He gives us a glimpse of future events, however, God reveals the reliable source of this information. These visions of the future do not come to us from the pen of a crazed quack or wild-eyed fanatic. The prophecies of the book of Revelation come from our omniscient, sovereign God, through Jesus Christ Himself. They are therefore a reliable and relevant source of information concerning the future of the world.


The book of Revelation wasn't written to confuse, frighten, frustrate, or entertain us. The opening verse of this incredible book reveals its own purpose in no uncertain terms: "to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place." Though the book reveals the unfolding of future events, don't let its portrayal of the end times distract you from the real heart of the book: the Author of those events. The title, "the Revelation of Jesus Christ" (1:1), can mean either the revelation from Jesus Christ or the revelation concerning Jesus Christ; in fact, it may mean both. As we witness the unfolding of events leading up to Christ's coming kingdom, our mental picture of the person of Jesus becomes clearer. This is true because "the testimony of Jesus Christ" mentioned in verse 2 is itself "the spirit [or inner heart] of prophecy" (19:10). The person and work of Christ is the blueprint that holds together all the pieces of the prophetic puzzle.

The Greek phrase translated "soon" or "quickly" in 1:1 is en tachei. The same phrase is used in Luke 18:8 in reference to the judgment of God and in Romans 16:20 in a description of the future destruction of Satan. The other common Greek term for impending fulfillment is found in Revelation 1:3, where the Greek word engys appears, meaning "near." These two terms, en tachei and engys, communicate that the fulfillment of future events could begin at any moment. It's as if Christ now stands at the very door of our world, ready to enter at any moment. We should not expect the return of Christ at a particular time, but rather be ready for His return no matter when it occurs.

In verse 3 John wrote that those who read, hear, and heed the words of the prophecy of Revelation would be "blessed." What does it mean to be "blessed" in a biblical sense? One commentator notes that the underlying Greek word "does not express superficial sentiment but instead the rugged and tested assurance that it is a good thing to be walking in the pathway of God's will." The same Greek term is used repeatedly by Jesus in the famous "beatitudes" passage in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3–11). We often think of Revelation as containing nothing but death, destruction, and suffering. In reality, Revelation contains seven "beatitudes" for believers, designed to provide hope and encouragement in the midst of trials.


John began by greeting the churches in Asia Minor with "grace ... and peace" (1:4). When sinners come to Christ through simple faith, accepting Him as God in the flesh whose death on the cross paid the penalty for their sins, they receive eternal salvation through grace — unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor. God doesn't save us because of any good thing we have done, or will do, or even promise to do. God saves us solely by His grace through faith (Eph. 2:8–9). Salvation is God's gift to undeserving sinners — we must never forget that! The result of this precious grace is a relationship that offers us true peace that overcomes any trials and tribulations the world can bring. What a reassuring greeting to the members of the persecuted church! Though John will later describe judgment and distress that in the future will overtake wicked unbelievers, God's own people receive grace and peace.

This present peace and the future fulfillment of our salvation come from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Drawing on several images he saw in the visions, John presented an "elaborate triadic formula for the Trinity." He called the Father the One "who is and who was and who is to come" (1:4). We see this same description in the song of the four living creatures in 4:8. As an allusion to the divine name "I AM" in Exodus 3:14, it indicates God's complete transcendence over all history — past, present, and future. God is just as much in control of our unknown future and unnerving present as He is of our unpleasant past.

The names John used for " Jesus Christ" are also drawn from Old and New Testament language. The titles "faithful witness," "firstborn," and "ruler of the kings of the earth" are drawn from Psalm 89:27 and 37; these refer to Christ's authority and kingship as the promised descendant of David. These phrases also appear in Colossians 1:18 and Revelation 3:14, possibly referring to Christ's authority to rule as the promised king from the line of David.

Finally, the Holy Spirit is described as "the seven Spirits who are before His throne" (1:4). John isn't describing seven distinct Holy Spirits; there's only one Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4:4). In a vision of the heavenly throne room described in Revelation 4, John saw the Holy Spirit symbolically represented by "seven lamps of fire burning before the throne" (4:5). The image of the "sevenfold Spirit" is also drawn from a similar image in Zechariah 4:2–7 and the seven qualities of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 11:2–3: the Spirit (1) of the Lord, (2) of wisdom, (3) of understanding, (4) of counsel, (5) of strength, (6) of knowledge, and (7) of the fear of the Lord.

In light of this glorious truth about the Triune God, John responded with a grand doxology or song of praise (1:5–6). He drew the attention of his readers back to the cross where he had once stood as an eyewitness to the sufferings of his Savior (John 19:26–27, 35). By shedding His blood, Christ paid the debt in full for the sins of the world and thereby released believers from the guilt and penalty of their sins. On our behalf He conquered death and gave new life to all who believe. We can therefore share with Christ His authority as Priest and coming King through a supernatural union with Him by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:4–7; Rev. 5:10; 20:6). Such glorious news is worthy of a grand doxology!

Ultimately, the book of Revelation tells the story about Jesus Christ Himself. As John concluded the opening greeting, he broke into a prophetic description of the coming King in all His glory. When the true Sovereign steps foot on the Mount of Olives, no applause will erupt from those who have rejected Him. No marching band will play His anthem. No red carpet will mark His way. No massive banner will greet Him displaying a bold "Welcome Home!" Instead, His coming will be accompanied by mourning because He comes as Judge (1:7). Using biblical images common in his day, John previewed the glorious descent of Christ at the final battle of Armageddon. Every eye will see Him, even those who did not believe in Him, and all who see Him will mourn greatly.

Jolting us to attention, John interjected a direct quote from God Almighty Himself: "I am the Alpha and the Omega ... who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty" (1:8). "Alpha" and "Omega," the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, mark God as the One who has both creation and re-creation in His hands. It would be a terrible misunderstanding, however, if we were to assume God cares nothing about what comes between the "A" and "Z." This is why He reminds us that not only is He the God of the past and the future, but of the present as well. As "Almighty" God, the Lord exercises control over all time.


After a powerful introduction that climaxed in a quotation from the Almighty Himself (1:1–8), John transitioned abruptly to the setting of his first vision (1:9–11). As if he were going out of his way to keep the spotlight on Jesus, the apostle John introduced himself and his circumstances with succinct simplicity and humility: "I, John" (1:9). Having been banished to the penal colony on Patmos by the cruel Emperor Domitian for refusing to confess the emperor as "lord and god," John wasn't about to turn attention away from the only true Lord and God, Jesus Christ.

Though John could have pointed out items in his résumé that no one then alive could equal, he didn't. Instead, he described himself in ways that emphasized the common experiences he shared with fellow believers: "your brother and fellow partaker" (1:9). The term translated "partaker" is related to the concept of "fellowship." It's hard for most Christians today to imagine fellowship in the church without the three so-called essentials—food, folks, and fun. Yet John verified that fellowship in the early church centered on an altogether different threesome — perseverance through tribulation in light of the coming kingdom.

The Greek word thlipsis ("tribulation") can refer to the coming great tribulation of the end times, leading up to Christ's physical return (Matt. 24:21, 29). More commonly, though, it refers to general trials and persecutions experienced by Christians of every age (13:21; 24:9; John 16:33; Rom. 5:3).

The term kingdom refers to a future earthly kingdom that will be established at the return of Christ (Matt. 19:28; Acts 1:6–7; 2 Tim. 4:1; Rev. 20:4). In light of their common destiny as co-regents with Christ at His coming, believers are occasionally referred to as God's "kingdom" in a spiritual sense (1 Cor. 4:20; Col. 1:13).

In the context of shared suffering and in light of the promise of future glory, the Spirit enables believers to share in perseverance. The noun hypomone (along with the cognate verb hypomeno) implies endurance under extreme difficulty, as a beast of burden might endure under a heavy load. God Himself gives believers the ability to endure hardship (Rom. 15:5; Col. 1:11).

In these three things—perseverance, tribulation, and the kingdom—Jesus Christ drew believers in John's day together by giving them purpose and perspective in the midst of suffering. If Christ the coming King could suffer unjustly for them, they could certainly endure persecution for Him.


Excerpted from INSIGHTS ON REVELATION by CHARLES R. SWINDOLL Copyright © 2011 by Charles R. Swindoll. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Author's Preface....................7
Introduction to Revelation....................11
Commentary on Revelation....................24
Messages of the Majestic Savior (1:1–3:22)....................24
Worship of the Worthy Lamb (4:1–7:17)....................89
Judgments of the Righteous Redeemer (8:1–10:11)....................123
Rivals of the Sovereign Lord (11:1–13:18)....................153
Vengeance of the Glorious Deliverer (14:1–19:10)....................190
Reign of the Coming King (19:11–22:21)....................244
Map of Western Asia Minor, including the Seven Churches....................10
Thematic Outline of the Book of Revelation....................12
Timeline of Future Events....................15
Persecutions in the Early Church....................31
Ruins of Ephesus....................37
Ruins of Smyrna....................43
Two-Edged Sword....................51
Altar of Zeus in Pergamum....................52
Ruins of the Ancient City of Thyatira....................56
Ruins of Sardis....................62
Ruins of Ancient Philadelphia....................72
Ruins of Laodicea....................78
Commendations and Condemnations in the Letters to the Seven Churches....................81
Angelic Beings in Revelation, Isaiah, and Ezekiel....................95
The Scroll with Seven Seals....................101
Waves of Worship from the Throne of God....................104
The Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls in the Book of Revelation....................109
Comparison of Four Biblical Lists of the Twelve Tribes of Israel....................118
A Salpinx, or Herald's Trumpet....................127
Swarming Locusts....................134
Modern Day Euphrates and Tigris Rivers....................140
Revelation's Series of Sevens with Interludes....................148
The Temple in the Time of Jesus....................157
Periods of Concentrated Signs and Wonders in the Bible....................159
The "Last Trumpet" and "Seventh Trumpet" Contrasted....................165
The Ark of the Covenant....................167
Cast of Characters in Revelation 12....................171
Revelation 13 Compared with Daniel 2 and 7....................180
Two-Part Tribulation: From Dimming to Darkness....................182
Comparison of the Two Beasts in Revelation 13....................183
The Two Advents of Christ Contrasted....................198
Ancient Sickle Used for Harvesting Grain....................200
Ancient Winepress....................202
Ancient Lyre....................209
Ancient Libation Bowl....................211
Tribulation Judgments in the Book of Revelation....................216
Route of the Kings of the East....................221
Jezreal Valley Today....................222
Cast of Characters in Revelation 17....................229
Ancient Millstone Used for Crushing Olives....................240
Victor's Garland and Royal Diadem....................248
Old Testament Uses of "King of Kings" and "Lord of Lords"....................252
The Millennium–Literal of Figurative?....................259
What Happens to a Person after Death?....................269
Depiction of the New Jerusalem on the Present Earth....................283
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  • Posted January 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Highly recommend

    A great book to have on hand to answer all those questions that you or others might have about the end days and what to expect.
    Mr.Swindoll breaks down the book of Revelation into readable and understandable writings. In so doing it makes it easier to delve into the Book of Revelation and really understand what is being said and not feel lost as sometimes can happen when reading really intense books of the Bible.
    Mr. Swindoll has added charts and diagrams that really help those of us who are visual learners. The visual aids really help to make sure you really are comprehending what is being taught.
    Mr. Swindoll also includes some of his own personal journal pages, I think this adds a personal touch that I really appreciate. It shows that we can learn so much from others and that even when we think that others have it all together, they are still facing similar issues as we are.
    If you ever listen to Mr. Swindoll he likes to incorporate stories into his teachings I think this helps us connect to Mr Swindoll as a friend, a fellow believer. It helps connect us to God by being able to see a friend talking to us and not just a Pastor preaching at us.
    I will look forward to reading the other Insight books as they come out.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 12, 2013

    Must read for serious bible readers and students.

    Great for insight on the last days and in detail the signs!

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