Needless to say, the dating of Revelation is often at the center of discussions on eschatology. Historically, there have been two proposed dates for the writing of the Apocalypse, what is called the Early Date, somewhere in the AD 60s, prior to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, and in the AD 90s, in the reign of Domitian. (I once held the late date).
Those who oppose Full Preterism insist on the late date, claiming that to prove that date refutes Covenant Eschatology. Make no mistake, the dating is critical!
I am happy to share with my visitors to this site a two part article by Charles Meek. He is an excellent student of the Word – as you will see when you read his articles, and has written a very helpful book: Christian Hope Through Fulfilled Prophecy.
In this first installment, Meek will present some of the Internal Evidence in support of the early date. Enjoy!
For more internal evidence for the early dating, see my book Who Is This Babylon?
Twenty Evidences Why Revelation Was Written before AD 70
by Charles Meek
The dating of Revelation is important because it influences the interpretation of the book. There are two views of when Revelation was written. One view is that it was written around AD 95-96 during the reign of Domitian. The second view is that it was written in the mid 60’s AD, during the reign of Nero—prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. I will show that the early date has the strongest support from both the internal evidence and external evidence.
- Revelation 17:10 says that the book was written during the sixth king, who was Nero, who reigned from AD 54-68. (The previous five Roman rulers were Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius.) Interestingly, the text also says that the seventh king to come would reign only “a little while.” The seventh king was Galba, who was ruler for only seven months (AD 68-69).
- Revelation 1:9 says it was being written during the Tribulation (Greek, thlipsis), which Jesus promised would occur during his own generation, when Jerusalem was surrounded by armies (Matthew 24:15-34; Luke 21:20-24).[i]
- Scholars agree that the major theme of Revelation is a GREAT JUDGMENT upon “Babylon.” Babylon was an historic enemy of God’s people, and it is used symbolically in Revelation to represent Old Covenant Israel/Jerusalem who had become unfaithful. This is the theme of chapters 16-19. The Lord’s wrath, promised in Revelation, would come against “the GREAT CITY Babylon” (Revelation 18:21-24), which is clearly identified as the “CITY WHERE THE LORD WAS SLAIN” (Revelation 11:8-9). This unambiguously confirms that the Great Judgment was against JERUSALEM, and thus the identity of Babylon. Also confirming the identity of Babylon, is her description as a harlot (Revelation 17:1, 15; 19:2). Throughout the Bible, when Israel was unfaithful, she is characterized as a harlot or adulterer (Deuteronomy 31:16-18; Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; 3:6-9; Ezekiel 6:8-9; 16:15, 26, 28; Hosea 1:2; 9:1). The harlot Babylon is adorned in purple and scarlet (Revelation 17:4), which are the colors of the ritual dress of the high priest and the colors that adorn the temple (Exodus 28:5-6; 39:1-2).
- Revelation contains over 30 passages that demand its imminent, radically near, fulfillment. We see such statements as “must shortly take place,” “soon,” “near,” and “about to happen” (Revelation 1:1-3; 22:6-20; etc.). The wrath of God and the Lamb (Revelation 6:16-17; 14:19; 15:1, 7; 16:1; 16:19; 19:15), is consistent with Jesus’ astounding condemnation of his fellow Jews in Matthew 23, which He insisted would be judged for all the righteous blood ever shed on earth—IN THEIR GENERATION. This judgment was because of their sins, failure to accept Him as Messiah, and their participation with the Roman authorities in Jesus’ conviction and crucifixion (Matthew 27:25). There is nothing post AD 95 that could qualify as such an imminent (“must shortly take place”) judgment. Only a pre-AD 70 fulfillment (prior to the fall and judgment of Old Covenant Israel) makes any sense. Case closed about Babylon and the Great Judgment.
- In Revelation 11:1, John was told to measure the temple. This implies that the temple was still standing when the book was written, thus prior to AD 70. While some argue that this is about a spiritual temple, it would be a bizarre instruction if given at a time when the magnificent physical temple was just a bunch of rubble. And of particular note, the destruction of the physical temple in AD 70 is not mentioned by John in Revelation as a past event. It is incomprehensible that, if John, a Christian Jew, was writing after AD 70, he would not have mentioned the destruction of the temple, it being the center of the Jewish faith―and its destruction a prophecy of Jesus (Matthew 24:1-2).
- Revelation 11:2 says, “They will trample the holy city for forty-two months.” This statement is consistent with Jesus’ statement to his contemporaries: “When YOU see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you know that its desolation is near.” (Luke 21:20). Thus, some of those living in the first century would witness this. It cannot be coincidence that forty-two months is exactly the period of the Roman army’s final assault on Israel—from February AD 67 to August AD 70. So, Revelation must have been written prior.
- Revelation 1:7 tells us whom God’s judgment was against. It reads: “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him.” This clearly identifies Jesus’ crucifiers as the target. “All the tribes of the earth” is a reference to the twelve tribes of Israel, which means Old Covenant Israel. Interestingly, some astounding external evidence comes from Josephus and other ancient historians who reported chariots in the sky above Jerusalem during the start of Jewish-Roman War in AD 66.[ii] This fulfilled the visibility requirement. “Coming on clouds” is Hebraic idiomatic apocalyptic language from the Old Testament, where God “came” in judgment against his enemies (examples: Psalm 18:7-12; Isaiah 19). Thus, this poetic judgment language (“Hebraic apocalyptic language”) affirms that the Lord would come in a not-so-literal sense against apostate Israel, as predicted in numerous New Testament passages, such as Matthew 10:23; 16:27-28; 21:33-45; 22:1-14; 23:29-24:2; Luke 21:5-33; etc. Similar to judgments against Israel in Old Testament times (722 BC and 586 BC), God used an opposing army as his instrument.
- Daniel was told to seal up the vision for it was a long way off (Daniel 12:4). By contrast, in Revelation, John was told not to seal up the vision because the time for fulfillment was near (Rev 22:10). These two passages are book ends. Clearly, the inescapable meaning is Revelation shouldn’t be sealed because Daniel’s vision was about to be fulfilled. That had to be at the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem and the temple “when the power of the holy people would be shattered” and “the burnt offering taken away” (Daniel 12:7, 11). Again, Revelation was written prior.
- The existence of only seven churches in Asia Minor also indicates an early date for Revelation. Some futurists claim, for example, that the church in Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) did not exist in the 60’s AD, so Revelation could not have been written at that time. But that assumption has been adequately refuted by scholars. Here are three: (1) Edward Stevens’ book Final Decade Before the End pages 87-89.[iii] (2) Kenneth Gentry’s book Before Jerusalem Fell, third edition, pages 324-329. (3) Don Preston’s book Who Is this Babylon, pages 12-13.[iv] The gist of the argument is this: The church at Ephesus was founded (or at least nurtured) by Paul in the early to mid-50’s AD (Acts 18:19). The church at Smyrna, only 30 miles from Ephesus, was probably founded in AD 58 or soon thereafter by the members of the Ephesus church, after Paul had finished his third journey. The other churches were founded in this time-frame. There was a devastating earthquake in the area about AD 60, but there was time for the cities to be rebuilt to include all seven cities of Revelation. Then, Paul states in 2 Timothy 1:15 (Paul’s last letter, written between AD 64 and 68), “All who are in Asia turned away from me.” This implies that the Christian churches of Asia were dissolving. The Neronic persecution (AD 64-68) was a major cause of this falling away. But by AD 95 the church was being rebuilt and there would have been many more congregations in Asia than just seven. We can reasonably conclude that the only time all seven churches existed was in the early 60’s AD.[v]
[i] The Tribulation, in context, was either (or both) the persecution of Christians under Nero as well as the Jews, and the Jewish/Roman War of AD 66-70. Jesus speaks of “tribulation” (Matthew 24:9, 29) and “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21). Luke puts it in the context of “when Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies” (Luke 21:20-24, 32).
[ii] Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book 6 (6.5.3, 296-300). Also, Tacitus, Eusebius, and the Jewish Talmud mention this phenomenon. See Tacitus Histories (Book 5), Eusebius Ecclesiastical History (Book 3, Chapter 8, Sections 1-6), and Sepher Yosippon A Mediaeval History of Ancient Israel (Chapter 87, “Burning of the Temple”).
[iv] Gentry’s and Preston’s books are available at Amazon.com
[v] Scholars are coming to the conclusion that Domitian was not the Christian persecutor that Nero was: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/post-biblical-period/domitian-persecution-of-christians