The subject of the date at which the book of Revelation was written has become a battleground for the debate between Futurists and Preterists. The Futurists tend to follow the traditional view dating back to the church fathers which places the date during the reign of Domitian around 95-96 AD. Preterists want to try to prove that all prophecy was fulfilled in 70 AD. This means that the book of Revelation was fulfilled in 70 AD. So they must insist that Revelation was written before 70 AD and the destruction of Jerusalem. The subject came up on a message board, so I typed up some thoughts on the matter.
The early date of Revelation has come from modern scholarship which has an axe to grind about the purpose of Revelation being Preterist in nature. They ignore the evidence of the church fathers in favor of a theory of an early persecution of Christians which they “think” John would have been writing about. It’s ironic to me because modern scholarship argues for a later date for the book of Daniel since they think there is no way Daniel could have had that much intimate knowledge beforehand about the development of the world empires, but they argue for an earlier date of Revelation because they have this theory that it was all about the destruction of the temple.
I had accepted the traditional later date of Revelation until I started researching Preterist tendencies. I began turning the idea over in my mind that perhaps this work could have been written before the destruction of the temple in AD70. I have come to the conclusion that if this document had been written and circulated before the destruction of the temple, that it could have been contradictory to the followers of Christ in Jerusalem.
The destruction of the temple in light of Revelation 11
Jesus had pronounced destruction upon His own generation for the rejection of Himself, the Messiah. This destruction would include cities in Galilee, the city of Jerusalem and the dismantling of the temple. The instruction to the Christians was simple. When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, get out of Jerusalem. Don’t hole up in the temple, get out. Christians obeyed this word while those still stuck in Judaism flocked to Jerusalem for protection. The implication was simple. Get out because the temple will be completely destroyed just as Daniel and Messiah prophesied, Daniel 9:26, Matthew 24:1-2.
But when John is writing the Revelation, we have a section in Revelation 11 which appears contradictory if it would have been written before the destruction took place. The temple is pictured as trampled down by Gentiles, but only the outer portion. The inner portion is measured by the angel, as in, it is still set apart for God’s purpose. The trampling down of the holy city (Jerusalem) is for a limited time only, 42 months. In conjunction with that time period, two witnesses will be prophesying in Jerusalem while the city is being trampled by the Gentiles. Let’s not even mention the 144,000 since that would complicate things even more.
Let’s just say for a minute that Revelation has an early date and is circulated amongst the disciples. They read and see that when the treading down of Jerusalem occurs, it will be for only 42 months, and they see that an inward portion of the temple will not be given to the Gentiles. This would contradict Jesus earlier teachings that the temple would be completely destroyed. Jesus also wanted all of His followers OUT of Jerusalem before that destruction occurred. In Revelation, two witnesses and a remnant within the temple who worship will be there through the duration of the 3 ½ years until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ. At the end of the 42 months of the trampling down of Jerusalem by the Gentiles, that’s what occurs. The kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of Christ. At the end of the testimony of the two witnesses, Messiah begins His reign.
The Seven Churches
Another reason that I don’t believe it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem is the locations for the seven churches that are used. Before the destruction of Jerusalem, as pictured in the book of Acts, the two pillar churches are located in Jerusalem and in Antioch. The churches in Asia were established well after the churches in Galatia, Macedonia, and Greece. For the development of these seven churches to the be the main churches that Christ addressed as opposed to those in Jerusalem and Antioch, a very big change would have to take place. Remember that Peter and Paul wrote their final epistles during the reign of Nero, II Timothy and II Peter respectively. When we come to Revelation, it is as if a huge shift has taken place in the locale of the churches which embodied the believing remnant.
The symbolism of the seven candlesticks is a blatant transition of the menora, the seven branched lampstand of the tabernacle. God was showing that even though the mother church at Jerusalem had been scattered because Jerusalem is destroyed, He has providentially preserved His light to the world amongst (gasp!) the Gentiles. To reveal this truth before the destruction would have flown in the face of Israelite believers in Jerusalem, but after the fact it provided comfort. There’s more to this, but if you understand the background of direct continuity between the OT and NT it makes more sense.
Lack of AD70 Application in the book of Revelation
This may be an argument from silence, but I believe it has some merit. There is no prophecy within the book that the things which Christ proclaimed during His earthly ministry would come to pass. There is no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem (or city of Galilee for that matter.) There is no mention of the dismantling of the temple. There is no mention of the end of the sacrifices at Jerusalem. There is just nothing concerning the rejection of the Messiah by Israel save one scant reference in Rev. 1:7. This hinges on Messiah’s visible return rather than on any AD70 event.
The focus seems to be (as far as prophetic events) the rise of an antichrist kingdom (ten kings), antichrist financial system (Babylon), and antichrist person. This would lead into the great tribulation. Christ would come during this time and pour out His wrath upon the earth. Then He will set up His kingdom. Where in these events do you see room for AD70 fulfillment?
It seems to me that the book of Revelation was written after AD70. I base this on the testimony of the early church as well as internal evidence in Revelation which I have listed above.
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-The Orange Mailman