The book of Revelation is not a chronological account of the second appearance of Christ. Rather, it is thematic; tracing the steps through one vision, before beginning another vision and moving through that to its end. This happens several times to encompass the visions of Christ coronation, then the great tribulation and the battle between those who persecuted the saints and the enemies of God, through to the their defeat and the resurrection from Hades. The next vision provided is the new heaven and earth covenant, the new Jerusalem along with Christ’s everlasting kingdom over all the earth.
The book is also filled with symbolic judgment language, and prophesies that tie to both the Old Testament and New Testament scriptures. The parable of the wedding feast in Matt. 22 is a very short outline of Revelation’s judgment and coming of Christ upon that generation.
First God sends messengers to announce the wedding, then the messengers are killed. God then destroys those who killed his messengers, and burns their city, Jerusalem. Immediately after, the wedding and wedding feast take place. And, at the wedding feast judgment begins. All those that had been held in Hades are separated, as those clothed in the wedding garments (that is clothed in the righteousness of Christ) are reclining at rest, and the one who is not properly clothed in the righteousness of Christ is cast into outer darkness. See the previous post “The Burning of Jerusalem and the Hadean Death” to the right.
When was Jerusalem burned? A.D. 70. That event ties the wedding and wedding feast of Matt. 22 to the first century A.D. Therefore, as the judgment took place at the wedding feast, the resurrection and judgment scene of Rev. 20 took place immediately after the burning of Jerusalem.
The New Testament is replete with the time statements that the coming of the Lord, the coming of His kingdom, the days of vengeance were “at hand” when the book of Revelation was written. Jesus began His ministry telling those listening to him that their generation was the time.
Mk 1:14-15, “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
We identify who was speaking to whom, and the subject matter. Jesus was speaking to the people who lived in Galilee during the days that He was manifest on earth, in the first century A.D. He told them then that the time was fulfilled, and the kingdom of God was at hand! He linked the time of the fulfillment of the prophesies of the OT with the coming of the kingdom, and as the kingdom was at hand so also was the fulfillment.
Matt. 16: 27-28, “ For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. 28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”
Over and over Jesus told them that He was bringing His kingdom when He came to them. The return of Christ was not, as some suppose, to end the physical world, but rather to establish His kingdom. As He told them that some would still be living to see His return, then the time of His return and the time of His kingdom was in the lifetime of their generation in the first century A.D. (See also Mk 9:1; Lk 21:31; II Tim. 4:1)
James 5:8-9, “Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.”
The judge standing before the door was Christ who would be coming in judgment against those who crucified Him and persecuted His saints.
Heb. 10:37, “For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.”
The book of Hebrews was written approx. 60 – 65 A.D., before the destruction of Jerusalem, and promised those Hebrews of the first century A.D. that Christ was coming soon a second time to them.
Jesus told Peter that John would live to see His coming in His kingdom.
John 21:22, “ Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.”
John is believed to have lived until about 96 to 100 A.D. If he lived to see Christ’s second coming, and we are assured by Christ that John did, then the second appearance and coming of Christ was before 100 A.D.
John 21:21-22, “Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. 22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.“
Jesus was speaking to His disciples, and telling them what to watch for at the time of the destruction of their temple in Jerusalem. As that temple was destroyed in their lifetime, in A.D. 70, then the time of all of the things which were at hand, and the time of all of the things which were to be fulfilled was their generation, their day, their world, their century… the first century A.D.
Jesus told Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin that they would see His coming.
Mk 14:62, “ And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.“
Coming in the clouds is judgment language, and the Hebrews knew it from all OT prophesy. The Lord’s judgment was coming from on high. (See the previous post “It’s Not The End of The World – Part III: The Judgment Language in the Old Testament” for more detail.)
This is why Caiaphas became so angry that he tore his clothes in vs. 63. Caiaphas knew that Jesus had just pronounced judgment against him and the Sanhedrin. As only God could pronounce judgment, and as they did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah, they convicted Jesus of blasphemy.
John 21:27, “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”
John referred to Christ’s coming in the same way in the first chapter of Revelation.
Rev. 1:7, “ Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”
Those who pierced Him lived in the first century A.D. Those who pierced Him, the Romans at the instigation and insistence of the Jews, were of that generation when Christ was crucified. There is no possible way this verse can be removed from the first century A.D.
Rev. 1:1, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:”
Rev. 1:3, “ Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”
These time statements are all throughout Revelation, just as they were stated in the gospels, and in the letters to the churches. He told the seven churches that He was coming quickly.
Rev. 3:11, “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”
It is repeated five times in the closing chapter of Revelation. See Rev. 22:6, 7 , 10, 12, 20. That He said in verse 10, “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.” was a very clear indication that these prophesies were about to happen to those living in the days the book was written!
Revelation was written before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was still standing when this vision was given to John, as he was told to measure it. (Rev. 11:1-2.) The measuring rod (we might say a yardstick or ruler) was a building term used in surveying, and in both original construction and demolition of a building. (See. Ez. 40:3ff, II Kings 21:10-13)
Rev. 12 opens with symbolic pictures of events that had already taken place in that century – the birth of Christ, the escape from the slaughter of the children under Herod, the birth of His church on the day of Pentecost – all of which pin point the time of the soon and at hand nature of Christ’s second appearance and coming in judgment in that same century.
As the book itself declares that it was relating the things which would shortly come to pass, then the events depicted in the beginning of chapter 12 are time markers for that generation, that century of Christ’s manifestation on earth. If the rest of the visions that were promised to happen shortly are removed from that generation, then the entire book becomes a lie!
We also know the time of the writing was before the destruction of that temple, because of the reference in Rev. 2:9, and 3:9 to the “synagogue of Satan.”
Those Jews that had rejected Christ as the Messiah were still worshiping and offering animal sacrifice in that temple when the book was written. They were blaspheming by continuing to offer animal sacrifices, which had become profane once Christ was crucified. The things which must shortly come to pass as promised in verse 1 of the book directly concerned the destruction of that temple.
Revelation could not have been written after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which occurred in A.D. 70, because there is no mention of that event having already happened. If it was written after the destruction of that temple, the impact upon the life of the Jews would have been so remarkable it could not fail to be mentioned as having already happened.
We have confirmation brought forth by Robert Young in his concordance (Young’s Analytical Concordance, 1885) concerning the date of the writing of 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 Syria version of the book; and with this concurs the express statement of Irenaeus in A.D. 175, who says it happened in the reign of Domitianou – i.e., Domitius (Nero). Sulpicius, Orosius, etc., 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 favor of the early date. The temple at Jerusalem was still standing (ch. 11.1-10); the exact duration of the siege is foretold, viz., 42 months, 3(-)1/2 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.’”
Nero’s birth name was Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, and he chose the name Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus after he was adopted by Claudius in 50 A.D. Domitian was born Titus Flavius Domitianius in AD 51, and later became Caesar Domitianus Augustus. Domitianou and Domitianikos appear to be the Greek form of their names.
There are many commentators and authors of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries who agreed that Revelation was written before the destruction of Jerusalem and that Herodian temple.
J.A.T. Robinson (1976) from Redating the New Testament, p. 13:
“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 A.D. 70 — is never once mentioned as a past fact. . . . [T]he silence is nevertheless as significant as the silence for Sherlock Holmes of the dog that did not bark”.
William Hurte (1884) from Catechetical Commentary: Edinburgh Scotland:
“That John saw these visions in the reign of Nero, and that they were written by him during his banishment by that emperor, is confirmed by Theophylact, Andreas, Arethas, and others. We judge, therefore, that this book was written about A.D. 68, and this agrees with other facts of history.. There are also several statements in this book which can only be understood on the ground that the judgment upon Jerusalem was then future.”
Arthur Cushman McGiffert (1890) from Eusebius, Church History, Book III, ch.5. Eusebius notes, 148, footnote 1:
“Internal evidence has driven most modern scholars to the conclusion that the Apocalypse must have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem, the banishment therefore taking place under Nero instead of Domitian.”
James M. MacDonald (1870) from Life and Writings of John, pp 171-172:
“And when we open the book itself, and find inscribed on its very pages evidence that at the time it was written Jewish enemies were still arrogant and active, and the city in which our Lord was crucified, and the temple and the altar in it were still standing, we need no date from early antiquity, not even from the hand of the author himself, to inform us that he wrote before the great historical event and prophetic epoch, the destruction of Jerusalem.”
B.F. Westcott (1825- 1903) from The Gospel According to St. John pp. clxxiv-clxxv:
“The Apocalypse is after the close of St. Paul’s work. It shows in its mode of dealing with Old Testament figures a close connexion with the Epistle to the Hebrews (2 Peter, Jude). And on the other hand it is before the destruction of Jerusalem.”
Adam Clarke (1837) from his commentary on Revelation 1:7:
“By this the Jewish People are most evidently intended, and therefore the whole verse may be understood as predicting the destruction of the Jews; and is a presumptive proof that the Apocalypse was written before the final overthrow of the Jewish state.” (6:971.)
Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. (1989) from Before Jerusalem Fell, p 336:
“My confident conviction is that a solid case for a Neronic date for Revelation can be set forth from the available evidences, both internal and external. In fact, I would lean toward a date after the outbreak of the Neronic persecution in late A.D.64 and before the declaration of the Jewish war in early A.D.67. A date in either A.D.65 or early A.D.66 would seem most suitable.”
Foy E. Wallace, Jr. (1966 ) from his commentary, The Book of Revelation, foreward p. vi:
“The last hurdle was to determine whether it was composed in the Neroan or the Domitian period of the Roman empire, and the conclusion has been irresistible, predicated on the solid arguments herein postulated, that the composition of the apocalypse was of a pre-destruction of Jerusalem date, under the reign of the first of the persecuting emperors of Rome–Nero Caesar.”
Greg Bahnsen (1984) from Historical Setting for the Dating of Revelation:
“When we combine the names (of the pre-20th century advocates of the early dating of the Apocalypse of John) with the yet outstanding stature of Schaff, Terry, Lightfoot, Westcott, and Hort, we can feel the severity of Beckwith’s understatement when, in 1919, he described the Neronian dating for Revelation as “a view held by many down to recent times.”
The list of biblical scholars who agreed that the book of Revelation was written before the destruction of Jerusalem is a long one indeed, but space here prevents a full listing of them. Many of these scholars are listed in Greg Bahnsen’s Historical Setting for the Dating of Revelation. Most every Bible commentary prior to 1850 recognized the early date for the book of Revelation.
Revelation must be understood from the contemporary historical view point of those who received that letter in the first century A.D. As the promises were made to them, as they were told that Christ was coming quickly, the prophesies contained in Revelation cannot be moved in time to a future generation some 2,000 years later. Doing so makes Christ appear to be a liar, and that is blasphemy. It also deceives those who might otherwise believe the word of God.
2 Pet 1:3, ” According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:”
2 Cor. 5:18 -19, “ And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.“
He gave us all we need to know to be able to come back, to be restored to God. We can be reconciled to Him through His son, Christ Jesus, the Messiah. That is why all prophesy and revelation ceased after the last book of the New Testament. Once that old covenant, the old heavens and earth were judged in fire and their elements melted (2 Pet. 3: 7, 10), the new covenant, the new heavens and earth was fully established. We don’t need anything else. Judgment has been ongoing ever since.
Two posts at the right margin, “The Whore of Babylon” and “The Beast of Revelation” provide evidences from both Old and New Testament scriptures for the identity of each of these as they occurred in Revelation. More detail from the scripture is also noted in the posts titled “It’s Not The End of The World”, and many others at the right margin.
Now that the time frame of Revelation is affirmed, the other signs from the book can be explored with confidence in the next parts of this series. We will review the coded and signified elements in Part II.
All scripture is from the KJV. All bold emphasis is mine.