The Book of Revelation Was Written Before AD 70
In my opinion, John received the Revelation prior to AD 70, to encourage and prepare the Church for the events leading to the vision's imminent fulfillment. I believe therefore, Christ's second coming described in the Revelation took place during the ‘great and the dreadful day of the Lord’ in AD 70.
On that 'day' of judgement, Old Covenant Israel ended with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem; the remaining survivors of the Jewish nation were enslaved and dispersed throughout the Roman Empire. All the Lord's promises to Old Covenant Israel were fulfilled by AD 70, with the establishment of the New Covenant Age.
Futurists, Dispensationalism in particular, adamantly oppose this view by insisting on a post-AD 70 date, in an attempt to refute Preterism. However, the AD 95 date is heavily dependent on the writings of certain Church Fathers, primarily a 2nd century quotation taken from the writing of Irenaeus, found in the works of Eusebius, Book 5, and Chapter 8.
I will attempt to explain why I am convinced the pre-AD 70 date is the correct one, by allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. Thereby, affirming the Revelation was a vision of the destruction of Old Covenant Israel, not an apocalyptic event 2000 years later.
Irenaeus’ Quote: the only Grounds for the Late Date Theory
'We, therefore, do not venture to affirm anything with certainty respecting the name of antichrist. For were it necessary that his name should be clearly announced to the present age, it would have been declared by him who saw the revelation. For it has not been long since it was seen, but almost in our own generation, about the end of Domitian’s reign.’ (Irenaeus, Against Heresies).
I fail to understand why most scholars today confidently date the Revelation around AD 95 based on the above quote. The source of the statement is from a Latin translation, which does not instil confidence in its accuracy. I can only conclude it accommodates their 'end times' theory.
Several Church Fathers also wrote that Domitian (AD 51-AD 96) was Roman Emperor when John received the Revelation. However, it is possible that they too based their information on the writings of Irenaeus.
Evidence in support of the pre-AD 70 date includes a quote from Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-AD 220), who plainly stated it was Nero who banished John to Patmos, not Emperor Domitian.
The Word of God is our final authority and it makes sense to search the Scriptures to find the answer, rather than depend on an ambiguous quote passed down by the Church Fathers.
Hebrews 12:22-24 and the Revelation
Heb 12:22-24 KJV But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
The Epistle to the Hebrews AD 61-63 (Halley) includes quotes from the Revelation. The writer and the Hebrew believers were obviously familiar with the Revelation given to John.
The writer to the Hebrews, AD 61-63 (Halley), quoted and alluded to phrases unique to the Book of Revelation.
‘city of the living God’
Revelation 3:12; 21:10
Revelation 3:12; 21:10
‘company of angels’
Revelation 5:11; 7:11
‘church of the firstborn’
Revelation 3:12; 7:4; 14:1
‘God the Judge of all’
‘spirits of just men’
‘Jesus the mediator’
‘blood of sprinkling’
'On the Epistle to the Hebrews: 'In short, it is placed beyond all reason-able doubt that since the author of the Apocalypse cannot be supposed to have drawn his description from the epistle, the writer of the epistle must have derived his ideas and imagery from the Apocalypse.'— James Stuart Russell (1816-1895)
St James the Apostle
James 1:12 and the Revelation
James is also worthy of mention because of one small but significant gem of information.
Jas 1:12 KJV Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
- Rev 2:10 KJV Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
'the Lord hath promised' The Epistle of James AD 60 (Halley) contains the only reference to the Revelation’s 'crown of life'. James referred to the promise of Jesus to the Church at Smyrna!
Is it unreasonable to suggest the Apostle James had read the Revelation?
2 Peter 2:15 and the Revelation
2Pe 2:15 KJV Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
Rev 2:14-15 KJV But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. 15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Nicolaus in Greek has the same meaning as Balaam in Hebrew; John called the followers of Balaam, ‘Nicolaitans’.
The dilemma troubling the Revelation’s Church at Pergamos was the same issue addressed in the epistles of Peter and Jude. Peter even included Asia amongst others on his mailing list...1 Peter 1:1. He wrote that some were ‘following the way of Balaam’ which was precisely the charge against the Nicolaitans in the Revelation!
Since the AD 67 (Halley) date is attributed to 2nd Peter and Jude, the early date for the Revelation can hardly be denied.
This proves the Revelation is not a 'stand alone' book in the Bible; it played a significant part in the pre-AD 70 Church.
Caesar Nero and the Revelation
Rev 17:10 KJV And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
The Historian Suetonius’ Chronology of the Emperors
‘five are fallen’ Julius; Augustus; Tiberius; Gaius/Caligula; Claudius
‘and one is’ John wrote in the present tense, Nero was ruling at the time John wrote the Revelation. Nero was Roman Emperor from AD 54-AD 68.
‘the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space' Galba ruled only a matter of months. He was the first of the 'year of the four emperors' in AD 69, which was a time ‘of wars and rumours of wars’…Matthew 24:6.
Four Emperors ruled in remarkably quick succession, which was evidence of the turmoil in the Roman Empire leading to AD 70:
Galba; Otho; Vitellius; Vespasian
The Temple and the Revelation
Rev 11:1 KJV 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.
Revelation 11 'The reference to Jerusalem and the Temple in chapter 11 seems clearly to imply their existence at the time the Book was written; and this, together with the expectation of Christ’s speedy second coming, accords well with the early date. If this view be correct the Revelation was the first of John’s Writings, not the last, though its subject-matter naturally gives it its place as the conclusion of the New Testament and of all revelation.'— W Graham Scroggie, DD (Edin), Know Your Bible
John was to measure the temple, the altar, and them that worshipped, which strongly implies the temple was still standing when he wrote the Revelation.
A Quote from Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible
Revelation 11:1 'And there was given me a reed - See Eze_40:3, etc. Measure the temple of God - This must refer to the temple of Jerusalem; and this is another presumptive evidence that it was yet standing. Revelation 11:2 ' But the court - is given unto the Gentiles - The measuring of the temple probably refers to its approaching destruction, and the termination of the whole Levitical service; and this we find was to be done by the Gentiles, (Romans), who were to tread it down forty-two months; i.e., just three years and a half, or twelve hundred and sixty days. This must be a symbolical period.'
The measuring rod was a building term. The rod was for the demolition as well as the construction of a building. Metaphorically, the temple awaited its impending destruction.
- 2Ki 21:13 KJV And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down.
2 King 21:10-13 is an example of building terms used in times of judgement and destruction.
A Quote from John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
2 Kings 21:13 'And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria,.... The Targum is, the line of destruction; and the sense is, that the same measure should be measured to Jerusalem as was to Samaria; that is, the same lot and portion should befall one as the other, that is, be utterly destroyed: and the plummet of the house of Ahab; the Targum is, the weight or plummet of tribulation; signifying, that the same calamities should come upon the families of Jerusalem, and especially on the family of Manasseh as came upon the family of Ahab. It is a metaphor from builders that take down as well as raise up buildings by rule and measure, see 2Sa_8:2.'
- Rev 11:2 KJV 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.
A Quote from Easton's Bible Dictionary
'Several remains of Herod's stately temple have by recent explorations been brought to light. It had two courts, one intended for the Israelites only, and the other, a large outer court, called "the court of the Gentiles," intended for the use of strangers of all nations. These two courts were separated by a low wall, as Josephus states, some 4 1/2 feet high, with thirteen openings. Along the top of this dividing wall, at regular intervals, were placed pillars bearing in Greek an inscription to the effect that no stranger was, on the pain of death, to pass from the court of the Gentiles into that of the Jews.'
It has been suggested by those who promote the AD 95 date of the Revelation that the temple in John's vision was not Herod's temple, since it was destroyed in AD 70. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note John's reference to the Court of the Gentiles, which was an extravagant addition, commissioned by Herod. Therefore, it is likely John saw Herod's temple in the Revelation.
Forty and Two Months and the Revelation
- Dan 12:7 KJV And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.
'to scatter the power of the holy people’ Daniel prophesied a sign of the end Old Covenant Israel would be the dispersion of the nation. History records that catastrophe occurred in AD 70.
'forty and two months' Daniel also prophesied it would be accomplished during ‘a time, times, and an half', which most commentators agree that in prophetic language a ‘time’ is one year, ‘times’ is two years, and ‘half’ is half a year, equivalent to forty-two months.
- Luk 21:24 KJV And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
During the Olivet discourse, Jesus foretold the events leading to the destruction of the temple, Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the people in AD 70. He also taught this national calamity was the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy in Daniel 12:7.
- Rev 11:2 KJV 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.
Jesus affirmed in the Revelation the timeline of Daniel's prophecy, which was exactly the duration of the pre-AD 70 Jewish-Roman War. Therefore, the Revelation existed before the destruction of the temple. Albert Barnes made the following insightful observation:
Mat 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
A Quote from Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Matthew 24:15 ‘The abomination of desolation - This is a Hebrew expression, meaning an abominable or hateful destroyer. The Gentiles were all held in abomination by the Jews, Act_10:28. The abomination of desolation means the Roman army, and is so explained by Luk_21:20. The Roman army is further called the “abomination” on account of the images of the emperor, and the eagles, carried in front of the legions, and regarded by the Romans with divine honors.
Spoken of by Daniel the prophet - Dan_9:26-27; Dan_11:31; Dan_12:11, see the notes at those passages.
Standing in the holy place - Mark says, standing where it ought not,” meaning the same thing. All Jerusalem was esteemed “holy,” Mat_4:5. The meaning of this is, when you see the Roman armies standing in the holy city or encamped around the temple, or the Roman ensigns or standards in the temple. Josephus relates that when the city was taken, the Romans brought their idols into the temple, and placed them over the eastern gate, and sacrificed to them there, “Jewish Wars,” b. 6 chapter 6, section 1.
Whoso readeth ... - This seems to be a remark made by the evangelist to direct the attention of the reader particularly to the meaning of the prophecy by Daniel.’
The Imminent Factor and the Revelation
The Revelation predicated the Lord's imminent return. So why do most Bible commentators ignore or misinterpret what is clearly in the Scriptures?
The Lord made it transparently clear on four occasions in the first chapter and four times in the final chapter. In my opinion, it is an insult to the intelligence of believers to teach and adamantly maintain the Revelation applies to a generation in the far and distant future!
It would have been cruel to say the least, if the Lord gave the Revelation to John for the encouragement of believers, during a time of great tribulation and persecution under the Emperor Nero, containing a message of His imminent glorious return, knowing the event would not transpire for thousands of years.
The AD 95 Factor
If the correct date of the Revelation is AD 95, what major imminent event took place within months or a few years of its publication? The answer is none!
The Healing of the Cripple of Bethesda
'Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of' Jesus in His reply to James and John explicitly predicted their martyrdom. Did Jesus get it wrong? Of course, He did not.
Topography and the Revelation
(Topography: the study of the detailed mapping or charting of the features of a relatively small area, district, or locality.)
Joh 5:2 KJV Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
Most theologians assign all John's writings to AD 90-95. If scriptural evidence for a pre-AD 70 date were available, academic credibility would be seriously in question. Topography provides an irrefutable argument for the pre-AD 70 date of John's Gospel.
John told of a pool by the sheep gate called ‘Bethesda, having five porches’. This is a significant statement because the destruction of the porches took place in AD 70.
In John 5:2, John clearly stipulated ‘there is at Jerusalem’ not ‘there was at Jerusalem’. If he had written his Gospel in AD 95 he would not have used the present tense, therefore, John must have written prior to AD 70.
See C H Dodd’s Historical Tradition In The Fourth Gospel, for further study along this line.
John 5:2 ‘There is in Jerusalem - Hence it appears, that St. John wrote his Gospel before Jerusalem was destroyed: it is supposed about thirty years after the ascension. Having five porticos - Built for the use of the sick. Probably the basin had five sides! Bethesda signifies the house of mercy.’— John Wesley, Explanatory Notes
The Jewish people suffered the ultimate calamity when the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed in AD 70. Additionally, the nation suffered defeat, devastation, and humiliation; the survivors were dispersed and enslaved throughout the Roman Empire. Yet, John failed to mention the fulfilment of Christ's prophecy during the Olivet Discourse!
A Quote from John A T Robinson (1919-1983)
‘one of the oddest facts about the New Testament is that what on any showing would appear to be the single most datable and climactic event of the period - the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and with it the collapse of institutional Judaism based on the Temple - is never once mentioned as a past fact.’
Robinson commented further saying ‘the silence is nevertheless as significant as the silence for Sherlock Holmes of the dog that did not bark’.
Speaking more specifically on John's Gospel, Robinson wrote ‘there is nothing that suggests or presupposes that the temple is already destroyed or that Jerusalem is in ruins’.
A Quote from Robert Young's Concise Commentary on the Holy Bible
'The Gospel of John was most probably written at Ephesus, A.D. 68, and, judging from the comparative purity of its Greek, after the composition of the 'Revelation' in Patmos.'
The post-AD 70 date for the writings of John was never an option for the highly respected translator and theologian Robert Young (1822-1888).
John's Demise and the Revelation
Joh 21:22 KJV Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
Not only is there conflict of opinion over the dating of the Revelation, the year of John’s demise is also open to question.
'If I will that he tarry till I come' Many Futurist scholars misrepresent John 21:22 in a vain attempt to support their view that John lived into old age and wrote the Revelation in AD 95. If Jesus has not yet returned and John has died, then Jesus' prediction failed.
Mar 10:37-39 KJV They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. 38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? 39 And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:
'Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of' Jesus in His reply to James and John explicitly predicted their martyrdom. Did Jesus get it wrong? Of course He didn't. Personally, I believe it is reasonable to suggest John did not live to old age, but suffered martyrdom during the 'great tribulation' prior to AD 70.
A Quote from Robertson's Word Pictures
Mark 10:38 'Or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with (ē to baptisma ho egō baptizomai baptisthēnai). Cognate accusative with both passive verbs. Mat 20:22 has only the cup, but Mark has both the cup and the baptism, both referring to death. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane will refer to his death again as “the cup” (Mar 14:36; Mat 26:39; Luk 22:42). He had already used baptism as a figure for his death (Luk 12:50). Paul will use it several times (1Cor 15:29; Rom 6:3-6; Col 2:12).'
The Book of Revelation
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Post Apostolic Writing and the Revelation
Col 1:23 KJV If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
According to Paul, he fulfilled the great commission during his lifetime, if the AD 95 date of the Revelation were correct it would be post apostolic literature.
Why would it be necessary to unveil the Revelation after the New Testament was complete? …Acts 17:6; Romans 1:8; Romans 16:25-26; Colossians 1:5-6.
A Quote from Robert Young's Concise Commentary on the Holy Bible (1865)
Introduction to The Revelation
'It was written in Patmos (about A.D. 68), whither John had been banished by Domitius Nero, as stated in the title of the Syriac Version of the Book; and with this concurs the express statement of Irenaeus (A.D. 175), who says it happened in the reign of Domitianou, i.e. Domitius (Nero). Sulpicius Severus, Orosius, &c., stupidly mistaking Domitianou for Domitianikos, supposed Irenaeus to refer to Domitian, A.D. 95, and most succeeding writers have fallen into the same blunder. The internal testimony is wholly in favour of the earlier date. The temple at Jerusalem was still standing (ch. 11.1-10); the exact duration of the siege is foretold, viz., 42 months, 31/2 years, or 1260 days; the two witnesses are to be slain in the city where our Lord was crucified; Nero was reigning at the time, for it is said of the seven kings of Rome; 'five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come, and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.' The five kings are Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius. The 'one who is ' is Nero; the one who 'must continue for a short space' is Galba, who reigned only seven months. Everywhere the events are 'to come quickly,' lit. 'with haste,' or speed (ch. 1.1; 2.16; 3.11; 11.14; 22.7, 12, 20). The escape of the Christian Jews from Jerusalem to Pella is undoubtedly referred to in ch. 7.1-8, compared with Mat. 24.30.'
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Contrary to popular opinion, although the Revelation is the last book in the Bible it does not mean it was the last book written. The books of the Bible are not in chronological order.
Having examined the Scriptures in support of the pre-AD 70 date, ask yourself this question:
Can I risk misinterpreting the Scriptures on an ambiguous statement taken from the writings of Irenaeus, or should I allow Scripture to interpret Scripture?
Either way our answer will have a profound effect on our understanding of the New Testament.
What do you think?
The Dating of Revelation...Don K Preston
© 2011 Alexander Gibb
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