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Revelation: Two Theories… (Part 2 and 3)

2

Some commentators (including the late Homer Hailey and earlier, B. W. Johnson) wrote that a decade of false teaching (or a generation as Johnson supposed), would be needed to lead a church into error. This they list as part of their support for a late first century date. Both state that with an early date, that there was not sufficient time from the time these churches had been founded to corrupt their doctrine.

This logic opposes itself. It is certainly not the case now; and it was not the case when either of these distinguished men were alive. Why should we believe it to have been true long ago, if not found to be true now? Plus, the scriptures warrant no such conclusion.

The Church in Corinth was established through the work of Paul, and likely could not have been in existence prior to 50 AD. The Proconsul Gallio, before whom Paul was arraigned during his second visit to Corinth had not assumed office prior to that year, according to the records of the Empire (see Acts 18:12–17). However, at the time of the writing of the first letter to the Corinthian church, they had already been deeply involved in several difficulties arising out of tolerance to false teachings and other internal divisions. They were on the way to apostasy if not checked. Historians date the first letter to between 55 and 58 AD, at most a period of no more than four to seven years beyond its founding. [Hailey, Revelation, An pg. 35] [Johnson, pg. 408]

When questioning how long it takes for a sound assembly to end up in apostasy, we ought to remind ourselves that it took the children of Israel exactly forty days to go from seeing miracles on a massive scale, and from worshipping the true and living God, over to worshipping a golden calf fashioned by their own instruction (“…and they rose up to play.”).

3

It is unreasonable to suppose that the persecutions of Nero had already passed by the time of the writing. As noted, these were the only persecutions mentioned in the annals of Rome from the first century. The following was posted by the writers and editors of the Revelation volume of the Pulpit Commentaries.

And any schoolboy would perceive the fitness of the designation as applied to Nero, so proverbial for cruel tyranny, and so terrible a persecutor of Christians.”
(Introduction, pg. v).

The persecutions of Nero were and are commonly known, while most people know nothing of the rest of the emperors of Rome and their times. History is also a clear witness; and it is beyond any reasonable dispute. (The question that occupies modern scholars is not whether there were persecutions during the reign of Nero, but rather to their severity and scope.) The ancient authorities that recorded Nero’s dealings include Tacitus, Eusebius, and Tertullian (as mentioned earlier). Modern writers such as Edward Gibbon and J. B. Lightfoot offered the same conclusions, although Gibbon noted that the persecutions of Nero were limited to Rome and mild by comparison to those of his successors in the late third and fourth century. The records indicate Gibbon was correct.

Following the great fire that destroyed Rome in 64 AD Nero initiated his persecutions (“Nero fiddled while Rome burned…”). The historical records are replete with descriptions of the severity and depravity of the activities. It is a historical probability that both Peter and Paul died during the reign of Nero, as ancient sources and historians are near unanimous in declaring. It is also unlikely that they got the times wrong where it concerned the death of the two best known of the Lord’s Apostles. For if the loss of Peter, the chief Apostle and Apostle to the Jews, and of Paul, the Apostle to the Nations, was insufficient to classify that period (6468 or early 69) as one of serious and severe persecution, we might wonder how it ought to be classified. Yet it is noted that the total number of the martyrs is not “large.” It may have been less than a hundred souls and perhaps less by half. We simply do not know.