There are two principal theories concerning when the Revelation was written. I will note right away (as others have), that the matter will never be settled to everyone’s satisfaction. So, pick one or none. That does not mean that I have wasted my time by defining a crystal-clear argument for accepting the early date. This is thoroughly vetted and footnoted and I have read every source. The time spent reading and documenting the emperors of Rome was paramount in my deciding for the early date. I suggest the information is self-evident, and that Revelation was given and distributed one to five years prior to the destruction of Jerusalem: between 65 to 68 to early 69 AD.
Many teachers today accept a later date (90 to 98 AD). Yet prior to the mid-20th Century most writers had accepted an earlier date between 66 and 69 AD. I will not detail the arguments for the latter date as they should be well known to most readers and serious students. Suffice to say all arguments for a late date rely only upon external evidences to the scriptures, while the arguments for an earlier date rely upon internal textual evidence and the historical record.
As noted, the internal evidence in the book of Revelation for an early date is powerful; and Number 1 on the list of reasons why Revelation was distributed prior to the end of Israel, is that no passage in the New Testament lists either the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem or of the city in the past tense. I would boldly suggest that for Christians, this is the only reason that should matter. I would also offer that if you examine only the text you will also conclude that the book was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem.
A second reason for the early date comes from the message or letter to the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:2), where it states that those in Ephesus had… “tested those who say they are Apostles and are not and have found them liars.” Quoting Alfred Plummer from the Pulpit Commentary: “This mention of false Apostles is doubly interesting: (1) as a fulfillment of the warnings given by St. Paul himself to the Ephesian church (Acts 20:28-30); (2) as a strong incidental mark of the date of the book. In AD 68 when contemporaries of the apostles were abundant, the claim to be an apostle might with some show of reason be made; in AD 95 such a claim would be ridiculous. This Trench admits, and hence tells us that the meaning of “apostles” must not be pressed, “as though it implied a claim to have seen and been sent by the Lord Jesus.” But this is just what “apostle” does imply (Acts 1:21-22; 1 Corinthians 9:1).”
(“Trench” referred to Richard Chenevix Trench: a contemporary of Mr. Plummer’s and a well-known scholar of that day.)
With the information about false Apostles considered, the most important internal time stamp for an early date is found in Rev. 11:1, where the Temple of God and those who worship in it are “measured.” There is only one reasonable explanation and interpretation for this narrative. It is that Jerusalem, along with the Temple, was yet standing at the time of the writing (v.2). The passage states that the court of the Temple was to be “…given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the Holy City underfoot for forty- two months.” Neither the late date adherents, nor anyone else can make the theory work, while accounting for this passage.
Several commentators state the temple being referred to in C. 11 is the sanctuary in Heaven – the Temple of God. Yet, the Temple in heaven cannot be this Temple, as it is first mentioned further down the page in 11:19). And how could the court of the Heavenly temple ever be given over to the “Gentiles?” Will there somehow be a rush of Gentiles or Hellenists in Heaven? If so, how so? The answer to this is – there will be the same number of Gentiles in Heaven as there will be Jews: NONE. There will only be… “the spirits of just men (and women) made perfect?” No “male and female” – no nationality, no earthly ties – just saints in heaven. That is what the Bible states.
Did God and Christ change things? Is there a passage to explain this logic?
I will state without hesitation that this theory and any explanations like this are outside the Word. But, let’s go deeper: How could any “Gentiles” manage to “tread the Holy City underfoot for forty-two months…” if the “court of the Temple” and the “Holy City” are in Heaven; and time and most everything else will have been left behind? Did the people who suggest this not read the passage? To complicate things further, the record states that “the Holy City” where this Temple resides, is the same in which “our Lord was crucified.” Exactly what city was that?
Serious student should eliminate contradictory notions. No commentary that lists this theory, whether new or old, deals with it realistically or undertakes any clear answers for these pivotal difficulties by offering anything in keeping with the text. So, we should Ignore confusing ideas; and not take a part in contrary logic even when offered by scholars or Christians. I am no scholar, but I am a Christian, and I know how to read and reason. Sometimes, even I can tell when things are backwards. This entire set of theories is backwards. It is clearly talking about events on earth, and not in heaven.
Read the Bible. What has God put in front of our eyes? The King James Bible of 1609 translated what Jesus said: “How readest thou?” Once you establish what the text states, then you can figure out what it may mean. In these things, we can all use a little practice with the rarely applied Journalistic Canon. Get a pencil and write down the answers to the appropriate questions – 1) Who said it? 2) What did they say? 3) Where was it said or where did it take place? 4) When did it happen, or when was it said? 6) Why did it happen or why was it said? And finally, 7) How did it happen or how did the events take place? Ask and answer the “who, what, where, when, how and why.” Write it all down in a few words that you can understand. It will help you to get the information in order, to gather the facts, and eliminate the fictions. It has been said that “The pencil is one of the best of eyes.” Coincidentally or not: although you and I have probably heard it a thousand times, that the time signs in Revelation are not necessarily to be taken literally, this one sure better be… because 42 months was the length of the revolt of Israel against Rome, which began in February of 67 AD and which ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in August of 70 AD. It is too specific not to be taken exactly as stated.
The final set of signs leading to a conclusion for the early date is found in the description of the beast in chapters thirteen and seventeen. It is generally conceded these signs describe the emperors of the Roman Empire in the first century. The number of the horns and their descriptions is typically suggested to be indicating the emperors from Augustus through Vespasian (there is general disagreement as to whom to begin or end with, though all encompass the same seminal period – well prior to the end of the first century). If it were accepted that Vespasian is the eighth “king” surely it would be unreasonable to believe the book was written ten to twenty years beyond his reign (Vespasian reigned from 69 –79)? Therefore, I suggest that the theories for the late date lead nowhere. While to the conclude the book was written and disseminated prior to the destruction of the Jewish State: three decades before the end of the First Century lends instant clarity. The signs (in chapter eleven, chapters thirteen and seventeen) exactly fit an early date – while they do not work another way. It is also useful to once again recall that Revelation describes events that are to “shortly come to pass.” Once more: what does the word ‘shortly’ mean in any language you might wish to read it from or to translate it into?
The signs in Revelation look to future events which were slated to begin unfolding immediately. If written at the end of the first century, despite what was mentioned in the historical notes, you will find that there were no detailed records of multiple Christian persecutions under Domitian; and those that would be attributed to Trajan, coming fifteen years later, were not then on the horizon. You must go earlier to Nero in 64 to 68 or later to Trajan in 115 to 117 and even well beyond in the mid to late second century. If written between 64 and 69 AD, at the start of the persecutions of Nero, coupled with the end of the Jewish state and religion would be the focus of all the prophecy that is not specifically about the final judgment. These were pivotal events both for Israel and for Christians. I suggest the timeline begins with the only early persecutions recorded in the First Century, those which occurred under Nero’s hand and up to the sacking of Jerusalem and Judaea.
If the book had been written after 70 AD and beyond the destruction of Judaea, such language and prophesies would be useless as any kind of warning. Prophecy that tracks events retrospectively, or when things were already full blown and visible (or worse – done and gone: already past), is not prophesy at all and is altogether useless.
Again, as stated, no writer or book in the New Testament mentions the destruction of Jerusalem or the Temple in the past tense. This cataclysmic event for Israel and the Churches of Christ was always off somewhere in the future – never presented after the fact. If this pivotal event for both Judaism and Christianity had already passed into the record of history by the time the Revelation was published, it would be meaningless to include it in the text at all. I suggest, without any hesitation, that if all you take into consideration is the scriptures, you must conclude for an early date, just prior to 70 AD.