Section 9B .. The Future/Dating Revelation

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Dating The Book of Revelation

The argument has been made that if Revelation was written in the final decade of the first century (the traditional view), then its prophecies probably do not concern the destruction of Jerusalem, an event that would have already taken place. On the other hand, if Revelation was written before A.D. 70, then a case could be made that it describes chiefly those events leading up to Jerusalem's fall.

However in the light of the Hebrew view of prophecy it really does not matter all that much. If Revelation were written before 70 AD the prophecies were two fold nature in nature with an immediate fulfillment as well as a distant fulfillment. If the later date for Revelation is correct  Jesus [through John] was simply doing what He did when He spoke about the Abomination of Desolation… He took that event and prophesied that it would happen again. He took a past event and spoke about it in the future tense.
[See Understanding Prophecy and Typology]

However for those that are interested there is strong support for a 95/96 A.D. date. The most telling of the evidence is internal, taken from the Bible itself. Consider

John's Exile on Patmos
It was the emperor Nero that had both Peter and Paul killed. However, John was banished to the island of Patmos (1:9) where he wrote Revelation. If Revelation were written during Nero’s reign, one has to wonder why John was not put to death along with the other apostles instead of being banished. Apparently banishment rather than execution was more Domitian's style than Nero’s.

According to Eusebius - a fourth century bishop and Church historian, John’s banishment to the Isle of Patmos occurred during the reign of the Emperor Domitian. In his words,

    But after Domitian had reigned fifteen years, and Nerva had succeeded to the empire, the Roman Senate, according to the writers that record the history of those days, voted that Domitian’s honors should be canceled, and that those who had been unjustly banished should return to their homes and have their property restored to them. It was at this time that the apostle John returned from his banishment in the island and took up his abode at Ephesus, according to an ancient Christian tradition. [01]

Paul’s Messages to Ephesus
Ephesus, a very important Greek city in Asia Minor, was located in what is now western Turkey. It owed much of its fame to the Temple of Diana considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

 Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to oversee the Ephesian church. In his letter to Timothy Paul instructed him to  teach the truth (1 Timothy 4:6), ensure leaders were properly qualified (3:1-13), avoid old wives’ tales, and to combat the false doctrines that were gradually creeping in - one of which was that the law of Moses had to be observed.

     As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. (1 Timothy 1:3-4 NASB)

Additionally, Paul's parting words to to the elders of the Ephesian church were recorded in Acts 20:29-30

    "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Since Paul was executed during Nero's reign which ended in A.D. 68, we can conclude beyond reasonable doubt that the book of Acts was written before that year. In other words, the church in Ephesus had already been founded and was functioning before A.D. 68.

If Revelation was written before 70 AD, its message to the church at Ephesus would have overlapped Paul's messages to Ephesus, including the letter to Timothy. However, Paul makes absolutely no mention of the problem with the Ephesian church highlighted in Revelation 2:4-5, i.e they had lost their first love and were in danger of losing what they had previously gained.

    'But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 'Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lamp stand out of its place unless you repent. (Revelation 2:4-5 NASB)

Which makes it impossible to believe anything else other than a once thriving church under Timothy had in later years lost their initial heart for the Gospel. The two situations could not possibly be contemporary.

The Church at Smyrna
According to Polycarp the church at Smyrna was not founded until after the death of Paul (A.D. 68). It is therefore impossible that it could have reached the stage of being a representative church for the letters to the seven churches if Revelation were written before 70 AD.

History records that Laodicea was devastated by an earthquake in 60 AD. It took them 25 years to rebuild. During the period 60-70 AD the church in Laodicea could not have been described as rich and in need of nothing (Revelation 3.17). By 96 AD however it had recovered its trade and wealth so fitting in with this word from the Lord.

The Nicolaitan Heresy
A prominent feature of John's message to the churches is the Nicolaitan heresy (2:6, 15), but Paul's epistles say nothing at all about it.


Before 70 A.D?
Two of the most common arguments for an early date are..

The Measuring of The Temple
In Revelation 11:1-2, John is told to measure the Temple which is often believed to indicate that Herod’s temple was still standing when John wrote Revelation.  [Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70].

    “And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.” [Revelation 11:1-2].

However as said by Thomas Ice..

    In the Book of Revelation John is receiving a vision about future things. He is obviously transported in some way to that future time in order to view the events as they will unfold. This is why the word “saw” is used 49 times in 46 verses in Revelation because John is witnessing future events. It does not matter at all whether the temple is thought to still be standing in Jerusalem at the time that John sees the vision, since that would not necessarily have any bearing upon a vision.

    John is told by the angel accompanying him during the vision to “measure the temple” (Rev. 11:1). Measure what temple? The temple in the vision. In fact, Ezekiel, during a similar vision of a temple (Ezek. 40—48) was told to measure that temple. When Ezekiel saw and was told to measure a temple, that there was not one standing in Jerusalem. Thus, there is no compulsion whatsoever, that just because a temple is referenced in Revelation 11 that it implies that there had to be a physical temple standing in Jerusalem at the time. [Thomas Ice. Has Bible Prophecy Already Been Fullfilled?].

End Notes
[01] Philip Schaff. Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History. Chapter XX.—The Relatives of our Saviour.. https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.iii.viii.xx.html?highlight=after,domitian,had,reigned,fifteen,years,nerva,succeeded#fnf_iii.viii.xx-p23.1

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