The dating of John’s Apocalypse can make or break one’s method of interpretation. There are two classes of evidence to consider upon the determination of this question:
The first would be External evidence, that 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, or conjecture.
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. You can find Elliot’s entire essay on the dating of the Revelation at HoraeApocalypticae.wordpress.com in Vol. One. The Horae is the most exhaustive work ever done on the Revelation, completed about 1860, the life work of its author.
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 unexceptionable. 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. There is no evidence that John was exiled during the reign of Nero, or anytime 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;“(Rev 1:11)
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: (All of the promises to the Hebrew Patriarchs and Jewish Nation were then, are now, and will continue to be fulfilled in Christ to His Church, In the resurrection, both the Old Testament Church, from Adam to the time of Christ, and the New Testament Church, from Jesus’ first disciples to the second coming, all will be resurrected and appear together with Him when He returns); for, There is neither Jew nor Greek … for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:28-29)
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;” (v.1:19). 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 all of the Preterist require, and some of the Amillenialist 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. 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 second century.
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. Therefore, 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 internal evidence outlined in Elliot’s work already referenced.
John opens the Revelation (1:1) with the statement, “to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass.” We nave noted that Jesus said “the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;” (v.1:19). After dictating His seven Epistles for the churches to John, in Rev 4:1 the voice from heaven says to him, “Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” Then in chapters 4 and 5 John describes the scene he observes in heaven. It is in chapter 6 is where the future history, prophecy begins, with the opening of the seals: The revelation of “the things which shall be hereafter;” and “ which must shortly come to pass.”
Now, to the Historicist mindset, these statements are to be understood: Hereafter, the prophecy must shortly come to pass as to its commencement. Beginning almost immediately, the seals, first revealed would commence. And that is how the church starting from the second century began to interpret the Revelation. The culmination of that historical interpretation may be found in E. B. Elliot’s great work, the Horae Apocalypticae.
The same statements are however, problematic to the Futurist who have the seals, not as to “shortly come to pass,” but rather, to take place in the very distant future with an unknown Antichrist during the last 3-1/2 or 7 years immediately preceding the second coming of Christ. Almost two thousand years distant, and still waiting.
The Modern Futurist interpretation was not even developed until it was proposed by the Counter-Reformation Jesuit Francisco Ribera about 1570, in order to vindicate the Roman Church and the Papacy from being the II Thess. 2 Great Apostasy and Man of Sin, which by that time (more than 50 years into Luther’s reformation) had been widely published and believed in all of the Reformed Churches. These Reformed churches were daily growing by defections from the Roman Church, Catholics who easily discerned that the simony and persecutions of Rome were that of the Biblical Antichrist, and they answered the Revelation call to “come out of her My people.”
The text’s “the things which shall be hereafter;” and “ which must shortly come to pass.” can in no way can be rendered as, in the far distant future, by any stretch of the imagination. The Revelation, just to drive this point beyond controversy, begins and ends with the exact same statement, Though worded differently in the KJV, the exact same phrase appears in the Greek text:
(Rev 1:1) The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortlyG1722 G5034 come to passG1096; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
(Rev 22:6) And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortlyG1722 G5034 be done.G1096.
The prophecy must have and did immediately commence to unfold in history, and has continued to this very day! The entire Bible itself, begins and thus ends with history, revealed by the one Who sees the end from the beginning, the Alpha and Omega.
©2019 Nicklas Arthur – All rights reserved.