The following are proofs to show that the book of Revelation was written prior to AD 70
- The Syriac
One of the most ancient versions of the New Testament, known as the Syriac, claims that Revelation was written before 70 AD.
- The 7 kings
Some claim we have proof of an early date by using Revelation 17:10,
“They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while.”
Preterists claim that this passage speaks of the line of rulers in Rome and accurately identifies Nero and fives us an outline of the Roman Empire of the first century:
Five have fallen:
Julius Caesar (49-44 BC)
Augustus (27 BC-14 AD)
Tiberius (14-37 AD)
Caligula (37-41 AD)
Claudius (41-54 AD)
Nero (54-68 AD)
The other has not yet come; but when he does, he must remain for only a little while:
Galba (June 68 – January 69 AD)
- A Hebrew Idiom used in Revelation 1:7
The Hebrew idiom “Coming with the clouds,” speaks of God coming to bring judgment on a city or nation. Those who cling to an earlier date for Revelation see this as telling us what Jesus came to do in 70AD
7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Here the phrase “even those who pierced Him,” must refer to the people of the first century and a later date in history would see these people deceased. According to this passage, those who pierced Him were expected to be alive at the time of this verse’s fulfillment.
Another proof that lends to this idea comes from Matthew 26:59-64:
59 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, 60 but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’ ”
62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”
64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Jesus was not speaking of His second coming but of the coming judgment of Jerusalem by the words that He used. This also directs us to the book of Daniel
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel [a]had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling [b]the main facts.
2 Daniel spoke, saying, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. 3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. 4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.
5 “And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’
6 “After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.
7 “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking [c]pompous words.
Vision of the Ancient of Days
9 “I watched till thrones were [d]put in place,
And the Ancient of Days was seated;
His garment was white as snow,
And the hair of His head was like pure wool.
His throne was a fiery flame,
Its wheels a burning fire;
10 A fiery stream issued
And came forth from before Him.
A thousand thousands ministered to Him;
Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.
The [e]court was seated,
And the books were opened.
11 “I watched then because of the sound of the [f]pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
13 “I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed.
This is tied to at least the first 6 chapters of Revelation where we see John called to witness a court scene and the Lamb open the seals.
- The Jews and Judaizers
Both are mentioned in the letters to the churches. The first century believers had both groups actively working against them. The Jewish leaders had vast influence in the Roman Empire and had a hand in the persecution outside of the church at that time. The Judaizers were active inside the church trying to turn Christians back to the Old Covenant Jewish Law.
Before the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem it was advantageous to be a Jew. They had a favored relationship with Rome as they were allowed to have their own justice and Temple system so long as they continued in subservience to the Roman Empire.
This all changed after 70 AD. The Roman army destroyed Jerusalem and killed more than a million Jews. Since then the influence, status, and favor for the Jewish people was gone along with their religious system. Thus it would not have been so advantageous to claim to be Jewish or to hold to the Jewish system.
This is another proof for those who claim an early date for Revelation
- The fall of the Temple in Jerusalem
Why doesn’t John mention the fall of the Temple in 70 AD?
This question and the lack of it’s mention has fueled both the Preterists and Futurists to speculate and draw conclusions to strengthen their arguments.
Futurist claim that John was writing toward a future perspective and wouldn’t focus on something that happened in the past. He was also writing to mostly Gentile believers far removed from Jerusalem. The Temple mentioned in Revelation 11 was a future Temple that John was seeing, as both Daniel and Ezekiel saw a future Temple.
Preterists claim that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple are not mentioned because they haven’t been destroyed yet.
Preterists also point to the same Temple as one that existed at the time of John’s writing. They also draw heavily from the Olivet Discourse. One such text is when Jesus says,
“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
A generation usually refers to forty years and the fall of Jerusalem would fit this time Jesus predicted. Preterists also draw heavily from Josephus’ account of the fall of Jerusalem
Others use this fact as a way to discredit this book by saying that John wrote this book later, after the Temple was destroyed, as a false prophetic writing after the fact.
- Time significant passages
In both the beginning and ending of Revelation we see passages that reference literal time indicators that seem to infer a short amount of time related to the prophecies of John.
Revelation 1:1, 1:3, 22:10, and 22:20 all declare that the time is near for the things to happen that John writes about concerning judgment.
These are only a few of the many arguments from both sides regarding the date of the writing of Revelation.
Does the date matter?
It seems it does for the Preterist. If we take the book of Revelation as prophecy as it claims, then it would need to have been written before 70 AD for their position to be true.
The Futurist can believe either date and still hold their position.
It does matter if we are trying to figure out just who John wrote this book too and when he wrote it so that we can understand his original intention.
The one major thing that we can hold onto regardless of the date that every word, every sentence, every reference is about Jesus Christ