The dating of John’s Apocalypse can make or break one’s method of interpretation.
Dating the Revelation.
The dating of John’s Apocalypse can make or break one’s method of interpretation. Rather than debate the “what if” of each hypotheses, would it not be better to exclude that which is not true, by that which the evidence does or does not support? There are two classes of evidence to consider upon the determination of this question:
The first would be External evidence, which would be outside the text, empirical evidence: data gathered by historical, provable facts that show unquestionable results. This would be historical proof that knowledge was gained by data, rather than hypothesis and conjecture alone.
The second would be Internal evidence, that which the Bible text itself reveals to us.
With these two available venues for investigation into this question, enough data should be available for an incontrovertible determination: And I believe it is so!
As to the first, External Empirical Evidence, I cannot do a greater work than that which has already been done by E. B. Elliot in his Horae Apocalypticae.
The Horae is the most exhaustive work ever done on the Revelation, completed about 1860, the life work of its author. E. B. Elliot writes:
“For the testimony of Irenaeus, — Polycarp’s disciple … who was himself the disciple of the apostle John, is as express to the point in question as it is unexceptional. Speaking of the name and number of the Beast in the Apocalypse, he says, that had this been a matter then to be made known, it would have been disclosed by him who saw the Apocalypse: “for it [the Apocalypse] was seen … towards the end of the reign of Domitian.”
This witness absolutely dates the Revelation to about 95 AD, the end of Domitian’s reign. In the negative, there is no evidence that John was exiled during the reign of Nero, or any time before the 70 AD desolation. See the Horae for more external evidence.
In my mind the most important evidence is the Internal Evidence. We can all agree that Bible Prophecy is History given in advance. In the Revelation Jesus appears to John and says, “What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia;”
Who are these seven churches in the last decade of the first century? They would be the churches planted by the Hebrew Apostles and Jewish converts, who were told by Jesus himself, to flee Judea before the desolation of the Jewish Temple and Nation; and their disciples, the grafted in Gentiles which lived in the nations where they fled. By this time these two groups would have been well intermarried. They were called Christians. They were God’s Chosen People, the elect.
This mixed church of Hebrews and Gentiles in the nations where they fled and took the Gospel, these are the people that made up the 95 AD church that Jesus said that He would build. Jesus specifically addresses the Revelation to these seven prominent churches of Asia, outlining, “the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;”
The things which are, are the seven churches, to whom Jesus proceeds to dictate seven epistles outlining their present condition, one to each church.
Now if the Revelation were written before the destruction of Jerusalem, as the Preterist hypotheses require, and some of the Amillennialists prefer, about 60 AD, then Jesus neglected the most prominent church of that day: where the first several church councils took place and are recorded in the book of Acts, The Church at Jerusalem was the most prominent church of the pre-destruction era and would be one of the churches “which are”. It is however, conspicuously absent from the seven churches named in the Revelation Epistles. That is because it no longer existed in the last decade of the first century, when the Revelation was written. That is why we have no external record of the Revelation before the destruction of Jerusalem, or 95 AD.
This internal evidence alone precludes the Preterist interpretation of the Revelation (that it is of the destruction of Jerusalem), if pre-desolation as they contend, that it would not be primarily addressed to the Church at Jerusalem is unthinkable. Additionally, with the absence of any empirical evidence in their favor, it completely overthrows the hypothesis and conjecture on which their pre-destruction date solely depends. If this is not enough evidence, there is more evidence outlined in Elliot’s work already referenced.
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