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Revelation: Two Theories on the Date

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.

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As noted, the internal evidence in the book of Revelation for an early date is powerful; and at Number One 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 the city in the past tense. I would 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 out of 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 possible interpretation for this narrative. It is that Jerusalem, along with its Temple, was still 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.” Late date adherents (or anyone else) cannot make the theory work, while accounting for this passage. Some commentators state that the temple referred to here is the sanctuary in Heaven – the Temple of God. Yet, if it is the Temple of God (which is first mentioned down the page in 11:19), how could anyone other than glorified saints ever find their way “to it?” Further, I must ask: How is it that the court of this temple would be given over “…to the Gentiles?” Will there be a mad rush of non-Jews or Hellenists up in Heaven ready to worship in this Temple? If so, how so? The answer to that is – there will be exactly as many 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” – just Saints. Did God and Christ change the eternal plan somewhere? Is there a footnote for this somewhere? Is a page missing?

This clearly shows that the later theory and the its accompanying explanations are contrary to the text. But, let’s take it a little further: How could these “Gentiles” ever manage to “tread the Holy City underfoot for forty-two months…” if this is taking place in up in Heaven? Did no one bother to actually read this segment before leaping onboard to the later date theories?

To complicate things further, the record states that “the Holy City” where this Temple resides, is the same in which “our Lord was crucified.” So, how many examples must there be to indicate to the lucid that these theories have self-contradicting parts? No commentary that lists this (new or old), deals with it realistically, undertakes any clear answers for these pivotal difficulties or offers any credible explanations. If you cannot “see” these things, you may need break out the old eye chart, as our friends and supporters of this should do. Tear down the theories and the stuff that bred them; and don’t take a part in this type of poor teaching even if it is proffered by scholars or Christians. I am no scholar, but I do know how to read and reason; and sometimes I can tell when things are backwards. This entire set of theories is backwards.

Read the Bible. What has God put right in front of our eyes? What exactly does it say? Once you establish what it states, then you can figure out what it might mean.

Coincidentally, although the time signs in Revelation are not to be taken literally and by the clock. Yet it is interesting to note that 42 months coincides with the length of the revolt against Rome, which began in February 67 AD and concluded with the destruction of Jerusalem in August of 70 AD.

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 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)?

I believe the text supports, and the very theories for the late date also lead to the conclusion the book was written and disseminated prior to the destruction of the Jewish State: three decades before the end of the century. The signs (in chapter eleven, chapters thirteen and seventeen) can only fit an early date – they do not work another way. It is also useful to again recall that Revelation describes events that are to “shortly come to pass.” To be “redundantly redundant” – what exactly does “shortly” mean in any language you might care to read it from or to translate it into? The signs in Revelation certainly suggest future events, but they were slated to begin unfolding right away. If written at the end of the first century, you should note that there were no known persecutions under Domitian; and those attributed to Trajan, some fifteen years beyond, were not yet on the horizon. So, your choices are – you must go earlier to Nero in 64 to 68 or later to Trajan in 115 to 117 or well beyond and into the mid to late second century. If written between 64 and 69 AD the start of the persecutions of Nero, coupled with the end of the Jewish state and religion, would be the focus for all the prophecy. These were pivotal events both for Israel and for Christians in and around Judaea. Therefore, I must strongly encourage you to note the timeline had to have begun with the only early persecutions recorded in the First Century, those under Nero’s hand, coming just prior 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 utterly useless as a warning as it means they came after the fact. As no writer or book in the New Testament mentions the destruction of Jerusalem or the Temple in the past tense, these cataclysmic events were yet in the future – not in the rearview mirror or after the fact. If these events had both passed into the record of history by the time Revelation was published it would be meaningless to include it in book of prophesy at all.

I suggest (without hesitation), that if all you take into consideration is the scriptures you must conclude for an early date; and the history lesson serves to solidify that.