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Rev, date of

Eur 1:36: Iraneus (c 169 AD) is said to have introduced the opinion that Apocalypse was written in reign of Domitian (80-96). Isaac Newton does not adopt Iraneus's opinion: he suggests Iraneus might have heard from Polycarp that he had received the Apocalypse from John about time of Domitian's death or that John might at that time have made a new publication of it. Eusebius (3rd/4th cent) adopts Iraneus's opinion (but is thought by some to invalidate it by conjoining the banishing of John to Patmos with the deaths of Peter and Paul).

Eur 1:37: "There is no evidence to show how long he was an exile, or in what year of his sojourn in Patmos the Apocalypse was given."

P 38: Tertullian says John was banished to Patmos by Nero (65 AD). Arethas quotes Iraneus from Eusebius, but does not follow it: he affirms Apocalypse was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. Syriac Version in title of Apocalypse states: "into which (Patmos) he was banished by Nero.

P 39: Isaac Newton: "It seems probable to me that the Apocalypse was there composed (ie in Patmos) and that soon after, the epistle to Hebrews and those of Peter were written, with ref to this prophecy as what they were particularly concerned in."

P 40: In conclusion, JT: "It cannot be said with certainty in what year the Apocalypse was written." (He means, from context, a date of 65 or 67 is quite possible.) JT: "The knowledge of these particular times does not at all affect the interpretation."

WRev 53: "The date of the writing of Rev is of fundamental importance, vitally affecting the interpretation of the book."

P 54: 2 objections to Iraneus's testimony: (1) his doubtful value as a witness: (a) he insists Christ died at age 50; (b) he gives credence to the fantastic story of the miraculous translation of the LXX; and (2) possible mistranslation: Instead of "it was not long since it -- Apocalypse -- was seen, but almost within our own generation, about the end of Domitian's reign"...the passage could read: "It was not long since HE -- John -- was seen...

The book was received during a time of intense persecution (ie 1:9), and the Neronian persecutions were the only such in the 1st century.

Ellicott, vol 8, p 526: Theophylact: John was in Patmos 32 years after ascension. Also, argument by comparing Rev 2; 3 to Eph and Col (also in Asia Minor): Since very little change in conditions, the general weight is in favor of earlier date.

Clarke (6:960,961): "So many conflicting opinions."

IBD: "External evidence -- Iraneus's being the earliest -- support later date."

ISBE: Iraneus is confirmed by Clement, Origen, etc.

Hastings (IV, 259): "The efforts to force Emperor worship upon Jews goes back to Caligula (39,40 AD)." (But ct Peake, p 928.)

1. Fulfillment Would Be "Soon": Many verses throughout the Book stress the immediacy, and the extreme urgency, of its message: Rev 1:1,3; 2:16; 3:11; 6:10,11; 22:10,12,20. How was the prophecy fulfilled "soon"? How was it "near" in the days when John received it? The obvious answer is that the Apocalypse was fulfilled (partially, at least) within a very short time after it was given. If it were written in AD 66, the events of AD 70 would certainly be considered as happening soon!

2. Authenticity of a Prophet: A very common pattern with all Bible prophecy is this: one more-or-less immediate fulfillment, usually only partial, in the days of the prophet himself, and another fulfillment much later, often related to the Second Coming of Christ. The Olivet prophecy is notable in this regard. An immediate fulfillment (ie, within at most one generation of its proclamation) was absolutely essential for every prophecy, no matter what it might mean to much later generations -- for how else could a would-be prophet prove his credentials to his original listeners? See Deu 18:19-22. So a prophecy, even one written by the Apostle John, would have needed some significant fulfillment within a few years -- or the churches would have been well within their rights to reject it as a false prophecy! If the Apocalypse were given, and received, shortly before AD 67, then soon-to-come events would have validated it almost immediately. But if the Apocalypse were given about AD 95 or 96, and especially if it were designed for a single, long, almost imperceptibly slow working-out spanning 1,900 years, where would be any real test of authenticity to the generation first receiving it?

3. Jesus Did "Come" in AD 70: Upon his resurrection, Jesus was given "all authority in heaven and earth" by God (Mat 28:18). Earlier, he had twice declared that the Father had placed all judgment into his hands, in order that "the Son may be honored" (Joh 5:22,23,27). In his parable about the rebellious city, Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem (Mat 22:1-7). As the Son of God, Jesus sent his destroying army (the Romans) against Jerusalem. As a prophet, Jesus had to be proven right -- and he was! So in the sense of bringing God's judgment (in order to induce repentance among the people), Jesus did "come" in AD 70.

4. The Theme Verse of the Apocalypse: "Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen" (Rev 1:7). This verse is a composite of two Old Testament prophecies, and is demonstrably a theme verse for the whole Book. The first half of the verse quotes from Dan 7:1. The rest of Revelation is based on Christ's glory with God in heaven and his imminent return to earth in that same glory.

The second half of Rev 1:7 is derived from Zec 12:10-14. The recognition that Jesus is the Messiah brings the Jews to repentance. "Those who pierced him" means the Jews (Mat 26:14, 15,47; 27:2-12,62-66; Joh 18:39,40; 19:6; Act 2:22, 23,36; 3:13-15; 1Th 2:14,15). "The peoples of the earth" (in Rev) and "the clans of the land" (in Zec) are the same! They are the Jewish tribes (cp Rev 5:5; 7:4-8; 21:12), in contrast to "every tribe, tongue, nation, etc." (Rev 5:9; 7:9; 13:7; 14:6). So a key opening verse in the Rev declares a "coming" of the Lord Jesus to the people of Israel, in Israel. The connection of Revelation 1:7 with the words of Jesus in his Olivet prophecy is unmistakable: Mat 24:30. Since Jesus was predicting the impending overthrow of Jerusalem (in AD 70), then this theme verse must also be part of a message predicting the imminent judgment of God upon Israel. Thus, Rev 1:7, properly seen with its OT links, may have much to say about the scope and the setting of the Book -- and thus also about the date of its writing. Since the Book seems to be dealing with God's judgments upon His people Israel, in their own land, because they have rejected His Son, then the only logical time for its writing in the first century would be before the great outpouring of those judgments, in AD 70. [See Rev, theme verse.]

5. A Judaizing Element in Revelation: Rev 2:9 and Rev 3:9 presume that there was a strong Judaizing element in the Church when John was writing. These were prob Christian brethren whose influence depended in large part on the existence of a Temple and a priesthood in Jerusalem, and whose influence would have been considerably reduced later, after Jerusalem fell in AD 70.

6. A Temple in Jerusalem: Rev 11:1-3 likewise presumes the existence, at the time of writing, of the great Temple in Jerusalem (cp Luk 21:20,21,24). This Temple was of course destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.

7. Other Pre-AD 70 Letters Quote Revelation: Several letters which were undoubtedly written before AD 70 appear to quote extensively from Revelation:

Hebrews... quotes from...
The Word of God (Heb 4:12) (= Jesus: Heb 4:13)
The Word of God (= Jesus: Rev 19:13) sharper than a two-edged sword (Heb 4:12)
...with a sharp two-edged sword (Rev 1:16; 19:15)
The city which hath (the: RV) foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Heb 11:10)
The wall of the city (of God) had 12 foundations (Rev 21:14)

And this whole sequence from Heb 12:

Mount Zion
The Lamb on Mount Zion (Rev 14:1)
Heavenly Jerusalem
New Jerusalem out of heaven (Rev 21:2)
The city of the living God
The God of the living creatures (Rev 4:6)
An innumerable company of angels
The voice of many angels (Rev 5:11)
The general assembly
The 144,000 sealed out of Israel (Rev 7; 14)
Written in heaven
Written in the Lamb's book of life (Rev 13:8; 21:27)
God the Judge of all
The dead standing before God, to be judged (Rev 20:12)
Jesus the mediator of a new covenant
A Lamb as it had been slain (Rev 5:5,6)
The blood of sprinkling
Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood (Rev 5:9)
Him that spoke from heaven
Revelation is the only message of Jesus spoken from heaven!´
Let us serve God
They serve Him day and night in His temple (Rev 7:15)


1 Peter quotes from...
Things angels desire to look into (1Pe 1:12)
Angel: "Who is worthy to open the book?" (Rev 5:2)
Faith... gold tried in the fire (1Pe 1:7)
Buy gold tried in the fire (Rev 3:18)
Living stones (1Pe 2:5)
City with 12 foundations, and in them the names of the apostles (Rev 21:14)
A royal priesthood (1Pe 2:9)
Kings and priests (Rev 5:10; 1:6)
Redeemed with the precious blood of Christ as of a Lamb (1Pe 1:19)
A Lamb as it had been slain... Thou hast redeemed us (Rev 5:6,9)
The foundation of the world (1Pe 1:20)
The foundation of the world (Rev 13:8)
To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever (1Pe 5:11)
To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever (Rev 1:6)
Babylon (1Pe 5:13)
Babylon the Great (Rev 17:5)


2 Peter quotes...
The more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well to take heed... (2Pe 1:19)
The Apocalypse itself? (What other "sure word of prophecy" could it be?)
The day star (2Pe 1:19)
The bright and morning star (Rev 2:28; 22:16)
False prophets (2Pe 2:1)
The false prophet (Rev 16:13; 19:20)
Angels... cast down to hell (2Pe 2:4)
The devil and Satan... cast into a bottomless pit (Rev 20:1-3)
Brute beasts made to be destroyed (2Pe 2:12)
The beast and false prophet and dragon... destroyed (Rev 13:11; 19:20; 20:10)
The way of Balaam (2Pe 2:15)
The doctrine of Balaam (Rev 2:14)
A thousand years (2Pe 3:8)
A thousand years (Rev 20:3,5,6)
A thief in the night (2Pe 3:10)
I will come as a thief (Rev 3:3; 16:15)
The heavens shall pass away with a great noise (2Pe 3:10)
The heaven fled away (Rev 20:11; 21:1)
We, according to his promise (where?), look for a new heavens and a new earth (2Pe 3:13)
A new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1)

Quite a number of the correspondences suggested above are the only occurrences of those phrases in all of the NT, and indeed, in some cases, in all of the Bible. While one or two such allusions could be attributed to mere coincidence, the (1) virtual uniqueness and (2) cumulative effect of many such allusions strengthen dramatically the case for the other writers quoting Revelation. This line of reasoning was first hinted at by Sir Isaac Newton in his writings on prophecy, and later expanded in WRev:

"It is possible to identify many allusions to the Book of Revelation in Hebrews and in the two epistles of Peter. If this assertion can be established as true, then Revelation must predate the three epistles mentioned. Since Peter definitely died in Nero's persecution of AD 64-66 approx (much of his First Epistle was to strengthen the brethren in that fiery trial) and since Hebrews is generally admitted to have been written before the Jewish War of AD 67-70, the dating of Revelation is narrowed down to a very fine margin.

"...It may be as well to dispose of the only way of upsetting this argument. It could perhaps be suggested that whilst the links between Revelation and the three epistles may be undoubted, the facts are capable of the reverse interpretation, namely, that Revelation is borrowing from Hebrews and 1st and 2nd Peter... The answer to this comes from careful consideration of the character of the phrases under review. Practically all of them will be seen at once to be 'Apocalyptic' in style -- they belong naturally to Revelation, they are in keeping with its idiom and symbolism: e.g. 'the morning star'. Further, when they occur in the three epistles they often introduce matters which have received no mention whatever in their context but which are fully explained in Revelation, eg 'the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God' " (WRev 55).

Questions About an Early Date

But the idea that the Revelation had a first-century fulfillment -- in the Neronian persecution of the Church and the Jewish Wars of AD 67 to 70 -- leads to a quite logical question: 'Why didn't the Kingdom of God -- clearly so much a part of the Apocalypse -- come in the first century?'

The answer is: it might have, if the conditions had been right. As JT wrote in Elp: "Had the nation [of Israel] continued to obey the Lord's voice and to keep the covenant, and when Christ came, received him as king on the proclamation of the gospel, they would doubtless have been in Canaan until now [written in 1848]; and he might have come ere this, and be now reigning in Jerusalem, King of the Jews and Lord of the nations" (Elp 301, 11th ed).

So, 'does the fact that the Kingdom of God didn't come in the first century mean that the Apocalypse was in reality a false prophecy, ie, a prophecy not to be fulfilled?'

The answer, again, is: NO!: Sometimes, even though a particular prophecy is plainly from God and therefore inspired, it will not be completely fulfilled (at least, not at the time first anticipated) because those to whom the fulfillment of blessing should come have not properly prepared themselves to receive that blessing -- or, conversely, because those upon whom the fulfillment of punishment should come have repented, and sought to be released from the judgment of God: Jer 18:7-10. A well-known case in point is the prophecy of Jonah, directed against the wicked city of Nineveh (the capital of Assyria): Jon 3:1-4. But the time for the destruction of Nineveh came and went, and the mighty city still stood, much to Jonah's chagrin. Why? Was God's word void? Of course not! Instead, the city, from king to slave, had repented in sackcloth and begged the mercy of God (3:5-9). And He had listened (3:10). [For more on this approach to Bible prophecy, see WRev 259-273.]

This, of course, leads to one last question: 'If a first-century (and partial) fulfillment is a proper interpretation of the Book, then can there be any other interpretation which in any sense is also "soon" and "near"?'

YES! And the explanation is ready-at-hand, and easily grasped: see Luke 21:29-32. The Olivet prophecy is generally recognized to have two fulfillments (one in the first century and another in the near future). Likewise, the Apocalypse (which, not coincidentally, shares many points in common with the Olivet prophecy) may also have two fulfillments. The second, or Last Days, fulfillment may rightly be spoken of as "soon" or "near" if considered in relation to the proper starting point. So, to paraphrase the quotation above: 'When you see the rebirth of the nation of Israel in the Last Days, and especially when you see Jerusalem in Jewish hands again, and again encircled by threatening enemies [cp Luk 21:20-24]... -- that is, when conditions in the Middle East mirror the state of affairs in Jesus' day -- ... then know that the fulfillment of all things is, from that time, very near -- even upon that very generation!'

The Importance?

Why is the dating of Revelation important? Because, given the early date for its writing (AD 65/66), the Book may be seen to have had an immediate fulfillment, which then greatly influences what we may expect as its final fulfillment. In other words, the Last Days fulfillment should follow the pattern of the first century fulfillment. We can expect then:

  1.         An attack by Gentile enemies upon Jerusalem.
  2.         A downtreading period corresponding to 3 1/2 literal years (also designated as 42 months and 1,260 days).
  3.         Severe trials upon Jews living in the Land of Israel, and tribulations which may spread to the rest of the world.
  4.         Witnessing (preaching) which converts those who will listen (both Jew and Gentile) to believe in God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  5.         Judgments upon the enemies of God's people in and around the Land of Israel.
The difference will be that, whereas the first century fulfillment stopped short of the actual Return of Christ, the final fulfillment will go on to the completion of the purpose of God. Jesus will return in glory, the dead will be raised for reward or punishment, the nations will be judged, and God's Kingdom will be established!

Thus the Apocalypse is seen to gather together the threads of many Old Testament prophecies, and to weave them into a sequence of events that fit both the first century and the Last Days. Rather than clashing with, or standing as a contrast to, the OT prophetic picture, the Apocalypse is seen to extend and enhance it. Rather than being a mystical book, with relevance only to a few Bible scholars, the Apocalypse is seen to be quite understandable and applicable to "every tribe, tongue, people, and nation"!

Evidence for a later date:

The AD 95 date rests almost entirely on the testimony of the early Church "father" Iraneus (c AD 180) -- generally considered by today's scholars to be a rather unreliable witness. Iraneus wrote concerning John: "We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For it was seen not very long ago, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign."

This is often assumed to fix the date when the Revelation itself was "seen" as "towards the end of Domitian's reign", that is, in AD 95 or 96. But the Greek text itself is ambiguous as to the key pronoun and its antecedent; it could as easily read: "...For he [ie, the apostle John himself] was seen not very long ago..." -- thus saying nothing about when the Book of Revelation was written, but only about how long its author lived! (Several later "fathers" simply quote Iraneus, perpetuating the same ambiguity; their witnesses are therefore not really independent.)

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