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The Book of Revelation – Author and Date – Pt 2
The book of Revelation and the persecution of the early church
As we point out in Back to the Future, it is clear that the book of Acts and the Apocalypse of John depict persecution in the early Church that came mainly from Judaism, but after the fall of Jerusalem persecution came mainly from Rome as Jewish opposition quickly faded into the background . . This is not to say that Nero did not persecute the Church, for of course he did, and he did so in fulfillment of the prophecies found in the Book of Revelation. However, larger empire-wide persecutions did not come until the second century. Indeed, there was little persecution during Domitian’s reign, a fact which seems to exclude his reign from the context of the Book of Revelation. One scientist draws attention to this saying:
It is less easy to assess Domitian’s attitude towards Christians and Jews, since it is difficult to find reliable evidence of their persecution. Christians may have been among those exiled or occasionally executed during the 90s, but the evidence does not support any organized program of persecution under Domitian… As with Christians, this policy was not persecution, but it helps to explain Jewish fears of exile present in the sources. In general, the tradition of Domitian as a persecutor has been greatly exaggerated, but given his autocratic tendencies and devotion to the Roman pagan religion, it is easy to see how such stories could develop and multiply.
In Pergamum we are told that one person named Antipas was martyred for his faith.
I know where you live, where Satan’s throne is. But you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan lives. (Revelation 2:13)
“The fact that only one martyr is named in all Asia is consistent with the conditions that preceded the persecution of Nero. During Nero’s time, a huge number of Christians were martyred throughout Asia and the world. date of writing under Domitian”. But this can be reconciled with the creation date of the Book of Revelation before 70 AD.
We must therefore assume that this book was written before the fall of Jerusalem, when Jewish antagonism and persecution of the Church were prominent.
A reference to Jerusalem and the temple
The book of Revelation must have been written before AD 70 because the city of Jerusalem and its temple clearly stand as John writes. To testify to the presence of the city of Jerusalem we read:
And their dead bodies will lie in the streets of the great city which is mystically called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was also crucified. (Revelation 11:8)
And we read about the existence of the Temple:
Then they gave me a measuring stick like a staff; And someone said: “Arise, measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship in it. Leave the courtyard outside the temple, and do not measure it…”. (Revelation 11:1-2)
A date later than AD 70, the date of the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, would make John’s comments meaningless.
It is also necessary to note John’s familiarity with the details of the temple service, and not only with its existence. These details are so numerous that Alfred Edersheim says: “They naturally lead to the double conclusion that the Book of Revelation and the Fourth Gospel must have been written before the actual cessation of the temple services, and to those who were not merely intimately acquainted with them , but they probably have an actor at one time.” And Gary DeMar says, “If we know that the temple was destroyed in AD 70 and was still standing when John received the ‘Revelation of Jesus Christ’ (1:1), then it stands to reason that the book was written before the temple was destroyed. Since there was no temple during the reign of Domitian (81-96 AD), how could there be a temple to measure John?”
Political/Historical Situation in the Book of Revelation
There are political/historical markers in the Book of Revelation that demonstrate it was written before June 68 AD. In Revelation 17 we read about Rome and its current leader.
Here is the mind that has wisdom. The seven heads are the seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are the seven kings; five have fallen, one is there, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must stay for a while. (Revelation 17:9-10)
The seven hills mean Rome, the “city on seven hills,” as it was called since antiquity. Seven kings are mentioned, five are dead, one is currently reigning, and one will succeed him, but will only rule for a short period of time. Consider the history of the kings of Rome at that time.
Five that “fell”
Julius Caesar — 49-44 BC
Augustus Caesar — 31 BC-14 AD
Tiberius Caesar — 14-37 AD
Caligula’s Grove — 37-41 AD
Claudius — 41-54 AD
The one that “is”
Caesar Nero — 54-68 AD
The one who “has not yet come”
Galba – June 68 to January 69
He reigned, but “a little”
After these seven were:
This is 69 AD
Vitellius – 69 AD
Vespasian — 69-79 AD
Titus — 79-81 AD
No other period in Roman history fits John’s picture so well, and as a result it seems quite likely that John wrote during the reign of Nero, which ended with his suicide in AD 68. So John’s book must have been written before his death in AD 68.
A reference to time in the Book of Revelation
The time indicators given in the book require the nearest date of its execution. Throughout the book, John constantly warns his readers about the inevitable nature of the things he discusses with them. Examples include the following…
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His servants, the things that must shortly take place… (Revelation 1:1)
…because the time is near. (Revelation 1:3)
…I’ll get to you soon…. (Revelation 2:16)
I will come soon…. (Revelation 3:11)
…soon the third grief. (Revelation 11:14)
Here I go like a thief. (Revelation 16:15)
…something that should happen soon. (Revelation 22:6)
And here I go quickly. (Revelation 22:7)
…because the time is near. (Revelation 22:10)
Here I go quickly…. (Revelation 22:12)
Yes, I will come quickly. (Revelation 22:20)
Futurists know these verses very well, but it is important to their view that these verses be interpreted to mean that when He comes it will be quickly or suddenly, not that it will happen soon. However, behind these passages there is no doubt the thought of rapid emergence or nearness. Placing these verses in the larger context of the New Testament, we read:
I tell you the truth, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom. (Matthew 16:28)
Jesus said to him: “You said it yourself, but I tell you: from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and walking on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64)
Now this happened to them as an example, and they were written for the instruction of us on whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Corinthians 10:11)
For He Who is to come will come very soon, and He will not tarry. (Hebrews 10:37)
Be patient and you; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. (James 5:8)
The end is near; therefore, be prudent and sober for prayer. (1 Peter 4:7)
Children, the last hour; and just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18)
These and other verses forcefully prove the point. Matthew, Paul, James, Peter, and John expressed the same thing: the Lord was to come very soon, indeed, in their generation. This generation ended in AD 70, exactly 40 years after the death of Jesus.
External evidence has provided some important clues for dating the Book of Revelation to AD 70. However, all the combined internal evidence points to the conclusion that John wrote his book before June 68 AD, while still learning Greek, while Judaism was the greatest enemy of Christianity, while martyrs were still rare, while Jerusalem and the Temple were still standing, while he lived the emperor Nero, and then “soon,” “soon,” and “soon” still mattered. As a result, we understand that John wrote the Book of Revelation around AD 64-66, when all these historical facts were true. To say otherwise is to leave the book open to accusations of fraud.
Now let’s relate the early date to the preterist view. The early date allows one to take seriously the “time references” in the Book of Revelation, as well as the Sermon on the Mount of Olives in Matthew 24, which absolutely requires a first-century setting. Also, the early date allows us to take seriously the prophetic nature of the book. Revelation meant nothing to those who first read it; like other prophetic books of the Bible; it met a current need in the lives of its readers.
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