Arguments/Rebuttals Regarding Early Date for Book of Revelation
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Originally Published Jan 2, 2000; modified December 14, 2006
It is critical for those who hold to the view that the church is Israel to hold to an early (before 70 AD) date for the writing of the book of Revelation. If the book of Revelation was written after 70 AD, then a pivotal point of the doctrine that requires that the Jews were rejected with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD as described in the book of Revelation falls, because the book of Revelation deals with Israel, Jerusalem and the temple. If the book was written after 70 AD, then these events must be in the future, and thus there must be a restoration of Israel.
The following are some key arguments in favour of the 70 AD date that have been put forward to me so far, and as you will see, most or all depend upon assuming the validity of the 70AD date first, and thus are circular arguments.
1) Jerusalem is spoken of in Revelation as still standing. It would have been destroyed after 70 AD.
Rebuttal: This is only an issue if you assume that Revelation is referring to the timeframe around the first century and not a future timeframe during which Jerusalem is re-built. Since we can look on a map and see that Jerusalem is alive and well today, this is not a problem or an issue. Further, the most reliable external source that we have to establish the date of the writing of Revelation is Irenaeus who specifically places it during the reign of Domitian, which would place the writing of the book in the range of AD 90-95. Iraeneus stated:
"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 that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign." (1)
We also have the testimony of Hegesippus who wrote in the timeframe of 165-175AD regarding the fact that the events in the book of Revelation and indeed recorded in other canonical prophetic writings were yet in the future:
"Being then asked concerning Christ and His kingdom, what was its nature, and when and where it was to appear, they returned answer that it was not of this world, nor of the earth, but belonging to the sphere of heaven and angels, and would make its appearance at the end of time, when He shall come in glory, and judge living and dead, and render to every one according to the course of his life." (2)
This is similarly found in the writings of Church historian, Eusebius (3), and supported by the writings of Clement of Alexandria, Origen (4). There are no early references which identify an early date for the book of Revelation.
2) Daniel 9:24-27 speaks of 70 weeks after which Jerusalem would be destroyed and that period would "seal up the vision and prophecy", and thus all special revelation would cease. If that is true, then there would be no Revelation after 70 AD.
1) The part of Daniel referred to here refers not to 70 years, but to 70 weeks, which is interpreted as weeks of years, and thus would be 7 times 70 years, or 490 years. This interpretation is backed up by Daniel where the last half of the last week is described as 1290 days, or 3.5 years. This represents half a week of years, not half a year (Daniel 9:27 refers to the half week of years, Daniel 12:11 refers to 1290 days).
2) Daniel 9:26 says that after 62 weeks, the anointed one will be cut off. The argument that this refers to 62 years would have put the crucifixion at 62 AD, not around 30 AD.
3) The verses referenced make no mention of the end of special revelation. The reference to the sealing of the words is in Daniel 12:9, in which he says that the meaning of the words in this book (Daniel) are to be shut up or sealed until the time of the end. If I were to use the interpretation given by those who hold to the early date for the book of Revelation, that would mean special revelation stops in 70 AD and starts during the end times.
3) Emperor Nero is mentioned as being alive because Revelation refers to the 7 kings (Rev 17), and says that the current king is the 5th, Caesar, Augustus, Tiberus, Caligua, Claudius, Nero, Galba and Vespasian being the 7 kings.
Rebuttal: This requires assumptions again with respect to the timeframe and the meanings of the 7 kings (specifically that they must all refer to leaders of the Roman Empire). Kings in scripture typically or frequently refers to nations, not a lineage of specific rulers of a single nation. The context of Revelation 17 would suggest that this is the correct interpretation, since it is clear that there are another 10 kings who co-exist with "the beast". It is also interesting that Revelation 17 refers to an "eighth king" who is "the beast", and belongs to the seven. This eighth king does not fit in well with the view that this occurred before AD 70, since there has to be found some way to have one of the previous emperors return (which didn't happen) and to fit it in before AD 70.
4) Rev 13:8 identifies the number of Nero's name in Hebrew, and is intended to be a further support of the previous point.
Rebuttal: This argument is a moot point now, since we have already dealt with the point regarding Nero. The previous rebuttal shows that Nero was not the king mentioned in Revelation, therefore this is a moot point. However, the number 666 can also be found to apply to other names and therefore without some other solid reason to believe that it is Nero, and unless some other valid reason can be found to place this part of the Bible in the pre-AD70 timeframe, this point in and of itself would not be relevant.
5) John makes the point repeatedly that the great tribulation "must shortly come to pass" (Rev 1:1). The point made is that shortly must mean that it would happen in the timeframe of the writer.
Rebuttal: The short answer is that the word "shortly" can be different things in the context of scripture. Revelation 22:20 has Jesus saying that he is coming soon, and the context of that part of Revelation is the coming for the final judgment. That is a future event, and yet Jesus called it soon. That being the case, we cannot assume that "shortly" means the 1st century.
Let's also look at the book of Haggai:
6 "For thus says the LORD of hosts: "Once more (it is a little while) I will shake
heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 7 and I will shake all nations, and they shall
come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,' says the
LORD of hosts.
How long is a “little while”? Haggai was written about 500 BC and Jesus, “the desire of all nations” referred to by this prophecy, did not come until 500 years later. That is what God called “a little while”. So we need to be careful about trying to quantify these terms within our timeframe, but rather let's look to what God has to say with respect to the specifics of the timing of these events.
1) Irenaeus, Against Heresies, v. xxx. 3
2) Hegesippus, Fragments from His Five Books of Commentaries on the Acts of the Church
3) Eusebius, History of the Church, III.xx.6
4) Thomas Ice, The Date of the Book of Revelation, http://www.raptureready.com/featured/DateBookRevelation.html
5) Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by Permission. All rights reserved.