“That but a single martyr in all of Asia is named is consistent with conditions preceding the persecution of Nero. Under Nero, vast numbers of Christians won the martyr’s crown throughout Asia and the world. That but a single martyr is named cannot be reconciled with a date of composition under Domitian.” But it can be reconciled with a pre A.D. 70 date for Book of Revelation.
Therefore, we must surmise that this book was written before the fall of Jerusalem, when Jewish antagonism and persecution of the Church were prominent.
The References to Jerusalem and the Temple
The Book of Revelation had to have been written before A.D. 70 because the city of Jerusalem and its Temple are clearly standing as John writes. For testimony to the presence of the city of Jerusalem we read:
And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. (Revelation 11:8)
And for the existence of the Temple we read:
Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, “Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it….” (Revelation 11:1-2)
A date later than A.D. 70, the date of the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, would make these comments by John meaningless.
We must also note the familiarity of John with the details of the Temple worship and not just its existence. These details are so numerous that Alfred Edersheim says, “These naturally suggest the twofold inference that the Book of Revelation and the Fourth Gospel must have been written before the Temple services had actually ceased, and by one who had not merely been intimately acquainted with, but probably at one time an actor in them.” And Gary DeMar says, “If we know the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, and it is 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 the temple did not exist during Domitian’s reign (A.D. 81-96), how could there have been a temple for John to measure?”
The Political/Historical Situation in Book of Revelation
There are political/historical indicators in the Book of Revelation that demonstrate that it was written before June of A.D. 68. In Revelation 17 we read concerning Rome and its current leader.
Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while. (Revelation 17:9-10)
The seven hills refer to Rome “the city on seven hills” as it was known from antiquity. Seven kings are mentioned, five have died, one is currently reigning, and one will succeed him but will only reign for a short period of time. Consider the history of the kings of Rome at this time.
The Five That “Have Fallen”
Julius Caesar 49-44 B.C.
Augustus Caesar 31 B.C.-A.D.14
Tiberius Caesar A.D. 14-37
Gaius Caligula A.D. 37-41
Claudius A.D. 41-54
The One That “Is”
Caesar Nero A.D. 54-68
The One That Has “Not Yet Come”
Galba A.D. June 68 to January 69
He reigned but “a little while”
Following these seven were:
Otho A.D. 69
Vitellius A.D. 69
Vespasian A.D. 69-79
Titus A.D. 79-81
No other period in Roman history fits John’s picture so well, and as a result it appears quite likely that John wrote during the reign of Nero, which ended with his suicide in A.D. 68. Therefore, John’s book had to have been written before his death in A.D. 68.
The Time References in the Book of Revelation
The time indicators given in the book require a near date for its fulfillment. Throughout the book, John constantly alerts his readers to the imminent nature of the things that he is discussing with them. Examples include the following…
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place…. (Revelation 1:1)
…for the time is near. (Revelation 1:3)
…I am coming to you quickly…. (Revelation 2:16)
I am coming quickly…. (Revelation 3:11)
…the third woe is coming quickly. (Revelation 11:14)
Behold, I am coming like a thief. (Revelation 16:15)
…the things which must soon take place. (Revelation 22:6)
And behold, I am coming quickly. (Revelation 22:7)
…for the time is near. (Revelation 22:10)
Behold, I am coming quickly…. (Revelation 22:12)
Yes, I am coming quickly. (Revelation 22:20)
Futurists are very aware of these verses, but it is essential to their view that these verses be interpreted in such a way as to mean that when He comes, it will be quick or sudden, not that it will soon occur. However, the soon occurrence, or nearness, is certainly thought behind these passages. Putting these verses in the greater context of the New Testament we read:
Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are 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 have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64)
Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (I Corinthians 10:11)
For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. (Hebrews 10:37)
You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. (James 5:8)
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. (I Peter 4:7)
Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. (I John 2:18)
These and other verses drive home the point with force. Matthew, Paul, James, Peter and John all made the same point-the Lord was coming very soon, indeed in their very generation. That generation ended in A.D. 70, exactly 40 years from the death of Jesus.
The external evidence provided some important clues for a pre A.D. 70 dating of the Book of Revelation. However, the collective internal evidence all points to the conclusion that John wrote his book before June of A.D. 68, while still learning the Greek language, while Judaism was Christianity’s greatest enemy, while martyrs were still uncommon, while Jerusalem and the Temple still stood, while Emperor Nero still lived, and while “soon,” “near,” and “quickly” would have still had meaning. As a result, we understand that John wrote the Book of Revelation in approximately A.D. 64-66 when all these historical facts were true. To argue otherwise, seems to leave the book open to the charge of fraudulence.
Now, let us relate the early date to the Preterist perspective. The early date allows one to take the “time references” in the Book of Revelation seriously as well as the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24, which absolutely demands a first century setting. In addition, an early date allows us to take seriously the prophetic nature of the book. Revelation had significance to those who first read it; like the other prophetic books of the Bible; it met a present need in the life of its readers.
The Book of Revelation and The Persecution of the Early Church
As we note in Back to the Future, clearly, the book of Acts and John's Apocalypse portray the persecution in the early Church coming primarily from Judaism, but after the fall of Jerusalem, persecution came primarily from Rome as Jewish opposition quickly faded into the background. This is not to say Nero did not persecute the Church, for certainly he did, and did so in fulfillment to the prophecies found in Book of Revelation. However, the bigger empire wide persecutions came only in the second century. Indeed there were few persecutions during the reign of Domitian, a fact which of itself would seem to exclude his reign from the setting of Book of Revelation. One scholar takes note of this saying,
Author and Date Pt 2
Less easy to gauge is Domitian's attitude toward Christians and Jews, since reliable evidence for their persecution is difficult to find. Christians may have been among those banished or executed from time to time during the 90's, but the testimony falls short of confirming any organized program of persecution under Domitian's reign. … As with Christians, such policies did not amount to persecution, but it does help to explain the Jewish fears of expulsion present in the sources. On balance, the tradition of Domitian as persecutor has been greatly overstated, yet given his autocratic tendencies and devotion to Roman pagan religion, it is easy to see how such stories could have evolved and multiplied.
At Pergamos we are told that one person by the name of Antipas has suffered martyrdom for the faith.
I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet 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 dwells. (Revelation 2:13)
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