Insights on Revelation

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Overview

Tyndale is pleased to offer select volumes in Chuck Swindoll’s 15-volume series, Swindoll’s New Testament Insights. (Tyndale will eventually re-release the entire series as Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary.) These deep yet practical commentaries draw from Chuck’s years as a pastor and student of the Word of God. His deep insight, signature easygoing style, and humor blend with verse-by-verse exposition of God’s Word in this unique series.

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Insights on Revelation

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Overview

Tyndale is pleased to offer select volumes in Chuck Swindoll’s 15-volume series, Swindoll’s New Testament Insights. (Tyndale will eventually re-release the entire series as Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary.) These deep yet practical commentaries draw from Chuck’s years as a pastor and student of the Word of God. His deep insight, signature easygoing style, and humor blend with verse-by-verse exposition of God’s Word in this unique series.

Combining verse-by-verse commentary, charts, maps, photos, key terms, and background articles with practical application, this series is a must-have for pastors, teachers, and anyone else who is seeking a deeply practical resource for exploring God’s Word.

The following 7 volumes are available now (the entire series will eventually be re-released):

  • Insights on Luke (print and eBook)
  • Insights on John (eBook only)
  • Insights on Romans (print and eBook)
  • Insights on Galatians & Ephesians (eBook only)
  • Insights on 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus (eBook only)
  • Insights on James, 1 & 2 Peter (print and eBook)
  • Insights on Revelation (print and eBook)
Tyndale House Publishers
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Product Details

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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Read an Excerpt

Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary Revelation


By Charles R. Swindoll

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2014 Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4143-9384-1



CHAPTER 1

REVELATION

INTRODUCTION


Lights dimmed and darkness enveloped audiences around the world. Chatter faded to whispers. Whispers were drowned out by an eerie musical score. In that darkness the first syllables of Elvish filled the theater, and within minutes filmgoers around the globe were caught up in a fantasy world so intricate that whole books have been written to interpret its complex mythology of hobbits, wizards, elves, and dwarves. The film adaptation of the literary classic The Lord of the Rings hurled viewers into an imaginary but vivid world filled with dark towers, dark lands, and dark lords. Epic battles against seemingly unbeatable foes culminated in the ultimate triumph of good over evil and the return of the long-awaited king.

Yet for all its absorbing intrigue, J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings has never come close to garnering the intense fascination that continues to surround the last book of the Bible—the book of Revelation. Its fast-paced barrage of images rivals anything Hollywood magic has mustered. As the divinely inspired scene of the ultimate clash between good and evil is described, Revelation points us to the long-awaited King of kings who will defeat the world's dark lord and his armies to usher in a new world of divine justice and eternal peace. No wonder curious Christians and serious scholars alike have marveled at Revelation's content and been captivated by its imagery.

No other book of the Bible has provoked greater fascination or led to more controversy than Revelation. Its profound mysteries, elusive symbolism, powerful predictions, and colorful language are unparalleled in the rest of Scripture. Attempts to interpret its details have spanned the extremes from the sublime to the ridiculous. Throughout my life of ministry, I've seen the book of Revelation drive fanatics to set dates for the return of Christ, frighten believers who find themselves overwhelmed by its judgment and wrath, and turn off skeptics who already think the Bible's filled with indecipherable nonsense.

How wrong! God promises great blessing to those who study the book of Revelation and heed its message (Rev. 1:3; 22:7). In fact, in the midst of the sometimes perplexing details of the visions, God's final message to humanity remains clear: In the end, good will triumph over evil, wickedness will be judged, and the righteous will receive their rewards. But before we shine a spotlight on the big picture and sort out many of those complicated details, let's take some time to cover some foundational information about the book of Revelation. We'll also establish some necessary guidelines for understanding the book. These things will help keep us balanced during our journey. Finally, we'll look at the book as a whole, which will help us keep an eye on our ultimate destination.


FOUNDATIONAL INFORMATION TO HELP US UNDERSTAND

Over sixty years had ticked away since the day a youthful, wide-eyed fisherman by the name of John literally dropped his nets to follow Jesus (Matt. 4:21-22). During Jesus' three-year public ministry, John witnessed things most other disciples didn't. With Peter and James, John had a front-row seat at the resurrection of a young girl from the dead (Mark 5:37-42). The same three men experienced the remarkable transfiguration of Jesus (Matt. 17:1-2). It may be this closeness with Jesus that led James and John—nicknamed the "sons of thunder"—to try presumptuously to schmooze their way into the highest places of glory within Christ's coming kingdom (Mark 10:35-37). Yet this special relationship gave them access to teachings of Jesus that went beyond those of His normal public ministry (Mark 13:3). We should also remember that Peter, James, and John were the ones Jesus called on to keep watch and pray with Him on that night in the garden of Gethsemane when He was betrayed (Mark 14:33-34).

As this young disciple aged in years and ripened in experience, he saw further works of Christ. John witnessed the Crucifixion, where he received the unique responsibility of comforting and caring for Jesus' mother, Mary (John 19:26-27). John and Peter were also the first to rush to the tomb after Jesus' resurrection. Though Peter entered the tomb before him, John was the first of the twelve disciples to size up the empty tomb and believe that Jesus had been raised (John 20:8).

In his old age—after nearly sixty years of preaching and teaching primarily in Asia Minor (today known as Turkey) near the city of Ephesus—John recounted his own memories of Christ's earthly ministry. In his Gospel, John snuffed out a rumor spreading among the early Christians that he himself would not die before the coming of Christ (John 21:20-23). However, in a certain sense, he would live to "see" the return of Christ in glory from heaven. The apostle John, then in his nineties, had been exiled for his faith by the emperor Domitian to a penal colony on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, about forty miles from Ephesus. As he was worshiping the Lord one Sunday, the veil between heaven and earth was torn asunder, and John was invited into the presence of the risen, glorified Jesus once again. This time Jesus commissioned John to "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" (Rev. 1:11). What unfolded before John's eyes was a dramatic and often frightening series of God-given visions and voices portraying "the things which must soon take place" (1:1).

The result of this encounter with the risen Lord is the book of Revelation. The title of the book comes from the Greek word apokalypsis [602], meaning "unveiling" or "disclosure." It means bringing something to light that was formerly hidden or kept secret. Today the term "apocalypse" conveys the idea of a cosmic cataclysm or disaster. Though the apocalypse of John includes some of these elements, the term's meaning is much broader. It refers to any kind of unveiling. In this case, God revealed the future to John in order to inform His people what would take place (1:1).

With this unveiling comes a blessing: "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" (1:3). Like a second bookend bracketing John's visions, Revelation 22:7 conveys Christ's words: "And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book."


GUIDELINES TO KEEP US FROM EXTREMES

We noted that the book of Revelation promises a blessing for those who read it, hear it, and heed its lessons (1:3). However, many people can miss the blessing by reading it wrongly, hearing things it doesn't say, or failing to put its big-picture principles into practice. We all must study this book with humility, seeking to balance careful reading, restrained and reasonable interpretation, and practical application. In the spirit of balance, let's establish a few basic guidelines that can help keep us from going to extremes and missing out on the study of the book.

First, we should prepare to expect the unusual. The book of Revelation is not like any other book of the Bible. Some books in the Old Testament, such as Daniel and Zechariah, contain similar and even complementary visions and symbols, but Revelation has no equal in the New Testament. As we read John's description of what he saw and heard, we're bombarded with language, symbolism, and imagery in a style like nothing we read elsewhere. Initial confusion is normal. Failure to catch the big picture in the midst of the details is common. In fact, misunderstanding can become a chronic condition! That's okay! Revelation doesn't package wisdom for living into memorable verses like Proverbs or construct a logical argument like Romans. Rather, Revelation paints pictures and presents dramas that snare not only our minds but also our hearts and imaginations. All this leads us to the next guideline.

Second, we must restrain our imaginations. Because of the symbolic nature of many of the visions, some people try to wring specific, profound meaning out of every little detail. The result is often a complex scheme for the end times built more on speculation and conjecture than on the clear teachings of Scripture. To resist this overly creative approach to Revelation, we need to emphasize the things that are clearly interpreted for us—either in the book of Revelation itself or in parallel passages from the Old or New Testaments. At the same time, we need to content ourselves with tentative conclusions or suspended judgment with regard to details that are unclear. One seasoned expositor describes the situation well: "If we were to err, it would be better to err on the side of interpretive restraint than on the side of interpretive excess."

Finally, ask four questions. A tried and true method of biblical interpretation follows this path:

Observation: "What does it say?"

Interpretation: "What does it mean?"

Correlation: "How does it fit?"

Application: "How does it work?"


This four-step method works well for Revelation—with a few stipulations. When it comes to Revelation, sometimes we need to suppress our curiosity and settle for the results of observation. That's because the apostle John himself didn't fully understand everything in his God-given visions (see 7:13-14; cf. Zech. 4:5, 13). Much of the time, though, we can be confident of our interpretations based on the context, on an interpretation within the book of Revelation itself, or on parallel passages elsewhere in Scripture. For the book of Revelation, the step of correlation—how the passage fits with other parts of the Bible—often becomes necessary for the interpretation. Once we understand the meaning of a passage, vision, or prophecy in Revelation, we can move to the important step of application. Most of the time, our applications will be concrete and personal. Occasionally the application will be general or theological. In either case, our goal must be more than satisfying curiosities or gathering facts. The purpose of Revelation is to change us, not simply to inform us.


OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK TO KEEP US FOCUSED

Like an epic film, the book of Revelation takes a number of twists and turns, complete with characters, conflicts, and climaxes. It builds intensity as its plot moves toward an explosive conclusion, culminating in a stunning resolution that relieves the excruciating tensions of the story. Throughout the drama we'll observe flashbacks and foreshadowing, repetition and contrast, zooming and panning, and enough interludes to give us the opportunity to ponder and absorb what God is revealing about His glorious plan. As a sort of preview or "teaser trailer" for this divinely inspired multimedia production, let's walk through the major sections of the book. As we go deeper into the book, we'll return periodically to the big picture, keeping the major sections in mind in the midst of our scene-by-scene examination.

In Revelation 1:19, we find an inspired outline of the book. Jesus tells John explicitly what to write: "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things." Consider that threefold command. The past ("the things which you have seen") likely refers to the startling vision of Christ that John had in 1:10-16. This reminds us that the central focus of the entire book is the majestic King Himself, Jesus. The present ("the things which are") refers to the messages Jesus dictates in Revelation 2–3 for the seven churches in Asia Minor. Though these messages address specific situations in those first-century churches, Jesus Himself reminds us that they have applications for every believer—"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Taken literally, even if you have just one ear, these messages are for you—today! The future ("the things which will take place after these things") refers to the events that will take place in coming years as the time grows nearer for the second coming of Christ to earth and the ushering in of His promised kingdom (4:1–22:1).

The book of Revelation can also be described by focusing on its star Actor and on major sections, or "episodes." None other than Jesus Christ occupies center stage throughout the inspired drama. All of the episodes ultimately point to Him and His second coming as Judge and King. In a sense, Jesus Christ Himself is the One who is revealed through the series of visions, for "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (19:10). To this end, the drama of Revelation portrays Jesus performing a variety of roles. I find it helpful to describe the flow of the book with six distinct but interconnected episodes centered on Christ. Let's briefly examine each of these in order.

Episode 1: Messages of the Majestic Savior (1:1–3:22). This first episode includes John's own introduction to the book of Revelation (1:1-8), followed by a startling vision of Jesus' glorious majesty, in which He instructs John to write down everything he sees and hears (1:9-20). Jesus then addresses the leaders of seven handpicked 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). Christ functions as the exalted Head of the church who is responsible for the church's present discipline and future reward.

Episode 2: Worship of the Worthy Lamb (4:1–7:17). The first scene of this episode begins when John is abruptly caught up into the spiritual realm—to the very throne room of heaven (4:1-2). There he witnesses the worship of God the Father and God the Son—the "Lamb of God," who is worthy to break the seven-sealed scroll and reveal the events of the future (4:3–5:14). Through symbolic visions, the "scroll judgments" begin to reveal the first stages of divine wrath upon the earth (6:1-17). In the midst of these judgments, however, John sees a vision of the redeemed from Israel and the nations, reminding us that, even in the midst of judgment, God's grace and mercy prevail (7:1-17).

Episode 3: Judgments of the Righteous Redeemer (8:1–10:11). After a half-hour respite at the breaking of the seventh seal, the second series of seven judgments commences—the seven trumpets (8:1-5). These trumpet blasts announce the next stage in divine wrath: a more intense display of God's righteous judgments on stubborn, unrepentant sinners (8:6–9:21). Just as the trumpet blasts approach a deafening crescendo, the sound ceases and John experiences another hiatus, during which he is recommissioned to prophesy concerning "peoples and nations and tongues and kings" (10:1-11).

Episode 4: Rivals of the Sovereign Lord (11:1–13:18). With John's recommissioning, the perspective of the great drama shifts from heavenly wrath to the conditions on earth, specifically events in the Promised Land. A conflict between two chosen witnesses prophesying in Jerusalem and their adversaries ends in the witnesses' martyrdom and resurrection (11:1-14). After the seventh trumpet is blown in heaven to declare the arrival of Christ's kingdom (11:15-19), John witnesses a series of visions that describe in detail the final forms of the spiritual and earthly kingdom set up in opposition to Christ and the kingdom of heaven. In this dramatic portrayal, John sees the rise of two future political and religious tyrants energized by Satan and permitted to rule the world virtually unchecked for three and a half years (12:1–13:18).

Episode 5: Vengeance of the Glorious Deliverer (14:1–19:10). The depictions of the blasphemous exploits of Christ's wicked opponents give way to a series of visions that proclaim the final gathering of the earth for deliverance and the harvesting of the earth for judgment (14:1-20). This in turn dissolves into a new vision of the most severe plagues of the end times—the seven bowls of wrath (15:1–16:21). On the verge of observing the final fate of the wicked armies of the earth, John sees the action pause, and a great angel appears. He takes John aside to explain some of the symbols and events in the book of Revelation. These events include the judgments on the wicked empire and the victory of God's people (17:1–19:10).


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary Revelation by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 2014 Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
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

Contents

Author's Preface, vii,
Strong's Numbering System, ix,
Introduction, 3,
Messages of the Majestic Savior (Revelation 1:1–3:22), 16,
Worship of the Worthy Lamb (Revelation 4:1–7:17), 88,
Judgments of the Righteous Redeemer (Revelation 8:1–10:11), 127,
Rivals of the Sovereign Lord (Revelation 11:1–13:18), 160,
Vengeance of the Glorious Deliverer (Revelation 14:1–19:10), 202,
Reign of the Coming King (Revelation 19:11–22:21), 267,
Endnotes, 329,
List of Features and Images,

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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!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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