mē genoito

May it never be! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.” (Ro 3:4)

When Was the Book of Revelation Written?

When was the Bible written has always been a topic of debate between Christians and non-Christians, but among Christians the book of Revelation is the focus of the most contentious debate. The two main camps of this debate is between the futurists and preterists/partial preterists. One of the contentious points in this debate is over the date of when was Revelation written. The futurists arguing a later date for the writing around A.D. 95 or 96 while the partial preterists arguing for an earlier date of around A.D. 64 to 68 1

This is an argument that scholars on both sides will readily admit that no firm conclusion can be made based on the data. Still the majority of scholars believe the data tilts toward a later date, although the trend recently have been tilted toward an earlier one. While scholarships are inconclusive the rank and file are much more confident. This blog post is my personal attempt to explain why I am convinced the earlier date for the writing of Revelation is correct and as a result why I am a partial preterist.

When it comes to dating the book of Revelation there are two tracks of evidences, the external and internal evidences. It is my opinion that the futurists rely much more on the external evidence for it is the stronger of the two for supporting a later date and the internal evidence is stronger for the support of an earlier date. Although I was first convinced by the internal evidence for an early date I also see the external evidence to be much more supportive for an early date contrary to futurist claims. Here is a quote from a well respected Cambridge scholar and professor J. P. M. Sweet. 2

“We have assumed so far that the book was written well after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, but the evidence is far from conclusive. . . . To sum up, the earlier date may be right, but the internal evidence is not sufficient to outweigh the firm tradition stemming from Irenaeus.“ ― J. P. M. Sweet, Revelation. Westminster Pelican Commentaries (Philadelphia Westminster, 1979), pp. 21, 27.

It seems from Sweet’s statement if we just rely on the internal evidence alone, we should come to the conclusion of an earlier date.

So let me begin with the internal evidence first, not because I think it is the stronger of the two arguments but being a conservative Christian who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible and its primacy as the authority in life and conduct, the Bible will always be my primary source for an inerrant understanding. Contrary to some futurists misrepresentation, partial preterists (from here on out I will only use the word preterist to represent partial preterism since this is my position) do hold to a literal interpretation in the historical-grammatical sense of interpretation. This is in contrast to the wooden literalism of futurists but even they will concede that certain passages and descriptions are clearly metaphorical in nature.

This Generation

The reason that I am a preterist is based on several key passages. First is Matthew 24:34; Revelation 1:1, 3; 2:16; 3:11; 22:6, 7, 10, 12, 20, these are unambiguous present and future time markers. (Matthew 24:34) “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” This is about 2/3 of the way through the first part of the Lord’s Olivet discourse. It began with the Lord prophesying the destruction of the temple. The disciples like every good Jew at the time were obviously anxious to know when will this happen, so they asked (Matthew 24:3) “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Then Jesus began to describe the signs of the end of the age, of wars, famines, earthquakes, persecutions, apostasy and launches into the description of the end of the age with apocalyptic languages. Then He said and with emphatic emphasis “I tell you the truth” “this generation” will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. There is no doubt on when this will happen. When the Lord say “this” He means “this” and not “that”. In this instance, the futurists will abandon their wooden literalism and say “this generation” actually means “that generation” in the distant future when all these prophecies begin to unfold, then that generation becomes the “this generation” that experiences all these things. Now for some this might be a perfectly reasonable exegesis of this verse for a futurist theology. But for the life of me I just can’t see how I can understand this verse, without using some hideous hermeneutical gymnastics, that “this generation” as anything other than the generation that is contemporary to Jesus and the disciples. This was the beginning of my migration from a futurist to a preterist.“*”

How Soon is Soon?

The next time marker that moved me further down the side of preterism are the verses in Revelation.
(Revelation 1:1) “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,”
(Revelation 1:3) “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”
(Revelation 2:16) “Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.”
(Revelation 3:11) “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.”
(Revelation 22:6) “And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.””
(Revelation 22:7) ““And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.””
(Revelation 22:10) “And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.”
(Revelation 22:12) ““Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.”
(Revelation 22:20) “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
The Greek words here convey the sense of imminence.3 The historical-grammatical method of interpretation demands that we read the Bible as though it was written for us but not to us. Therefore when the Lord Jesus is telling those first century Christians who are under persecution that He is coming soon He was not lying to them. The Lord didn’t mean He was coming soon and He could come any moment but just not this moment. Imminence cannot mean imminent for over 2000+ years. That is like saying I believe in everything. A man who believes in everything is a man who believes in nothing. The Bible first and foremost must mean something to the audience that it was written to. Revelation is a letter to the churches and Christians of the Apostle’s contemporaries and it must be understood within that context not ours. Again the futurist will say that Revelation is only concerned with future events and so these words like soon and near convey the shortness of time once these prophecies begin to unfold. This is the same problem the futurists have as in Matthew 24 there are no other time markers to indicate when this prophecy will unfold. The prophecy itself has no time reference. It is only through words like soon and near which give context to the prophecy do we know the time when it will be fulfilled.

And finally there is (Revelation 1:9) “I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”
The Apostle here is saying that he is a partner in the tribulation. How can John be a partner of the tribulation if it will not happen for another 2000+ years? Unless they can show in Scripture where John is resurrected and returned to earth just to be a partner in the futurist’s end time tribulation.

There are numerous passages that deals with the eschaton and many of them are froth with symbolism and hard to understand but they are all irrelevant until the timing of these prophecies are understood. Until one understands what “this generation” and what “soon and near” means there is no context to understand anything else in Revelation. These words are time markers and give context to their associated events. It is a gross misapplication of hermeneutics to reverse that order and say the events dictate the timing of these words.

There are obviously other passages that can be offered as evidence in support of an early date but I believe how the exegete interprets these time markers will determine how the exegete interprets all other passages. Will you allow the time markers to determine the events or will you look for arbitrary fit of the event to determine the time markers.4

External Evidence

As I said at the beginning I think the external evidence is much more supportive for an early date rather than a late date of Revelation. If Revelation was written prior to A.D. 70 then the events in Revelation and Daniel can be confirmed in history. On the other hand if the events in Revelation are still in the future we are left to speculate with allegories of apache helicopters and implanted microchips. The other line of argument for the late date proponents is the heavy dependence on the testimony of the early church fathers. I will mainly focus on these two areas, historical fit and church fathers, for the remainder of this article.

To make my point let me quote from one of the staunchest and in my opinion often caustic dispensational futurist Thomas Ice.

The futurists interpretation is not dependant upon the date of Revelation since it does not matter when these events take place since they are still future to our own time. However, the date of Revelation is essential to the preterist position and explains why they are so focused upon defending an early date. There are two lines of evidence: external (evidence from outside the Revelation) and internal (evidence from inside the Revelation). … Today, the overwhelming consensus of scholarship believes that Revelation was written well after A.D. 70. Most have concluded that Revelation was written around A.D. 95, primarily because of the statement by early church father Irenaeus (A.D. 120-202) around A.D. 180.

I would admit that for preterism to be viable Revelation must be written before A.D. 70. But what is the big deal that preterists must have Revelation written prior to A.D. 70 to be true, many things in the Bible are predicated that way. Noah’s Ark must exist for the Bible to be true. Adam and Eve must have been created by God through special creation and not by Darwinian evolution for the Bible to be true. Just because some things must be predicated to be true in order to support certain doctrinal truth doesn’t prove anything. But then the underlying implication by Mr. Ice might be that preterists have ulterior motives to misuse evidence for the sole purpose of supporting their unbiblical belief. If that is their real sentiment a little bit of honesty would be nice especially from professing Christians. But at least preterists are honest about the centrality of an early date for preterism. On the other hand dispensational futurists seems to be a bit disingenuous when they say that dating does not matter to their view. If it does not matter why are they fighting so hard to defend a late date? One reason why those like Mr. Ice might be fighting so hard for a late date is that if the preterist’s early date is proven right, then futurists would lose so much of their theological argument. There would be no need to talk about a future rebuilding of the temple, no need for Israel to become a nation, no need for a future antichrist, treaty and the abomination of desolation. If dispensational futurists are honest they would admit that an early date would have an enormously negative effect on their theology.

There is something else in that quote from Thomas Ice I believe is true. The majority of scholars do believe that Revelation was written after A.D. 70 and the reason is primarily because of the testimony from Irenaeus. The futurists will quote a list of early church fathers and boast how the majority of them affirms Apostle John’s banishment during Domitian’s reign. The most likely reason for this is because even the early church fathers were basing their date on Irenaeus. There are other fathers to which late date advocates like to quote e.g. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Victorinus, Eusebius, and Jerome.5 But as Thomas Ice pointed out the primary reason for late date advocates is Irenaeus. There are many reason for this but that would be outside the scope of this article. As a matter of fact it would be outside the scope of this article to give a detail critique of why the statement from Irenaeus is allegedly supportive of a late date. For a more in depth rebuttal analysis of Irenaeus’ quote for late dating; I would suggest you read Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation by Kenneth Gentry.

I will only give a summary comment on Irenaeus’ quote. I also agree with Hank Hanegraaff on this issue when he said “The church fathers requires interpretation and we need to test the fathers in light of Scripture which is the final court of arbitration.” What do I think he meant that the fathers need interpretation? Let me explain.

There is no doubt that Irenaeus is highly regarded in the annuls of Christian history. Irenaeus was the Bishop of Lyons. He wrote about the Apocalypse a century after the destruction of the temple. He seems to be writing directly in regards to the time when the Apocalypse was written. He also claim to have known Polycarp who in turn may have known the Apostle John. The problem with the church fathers is that they believed some things doctrinally anathema today and historical things that is beyond credulity. I will talk about a few of those later. First let me give the quote that so many scholars are convinced that it points to a late date for the writing of the Apocalypse.

We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign.

Late date advocates would say this is evidence that Irenaeus think the Apocalypse was written in Domitian’s reign. The evidence becomes a little bit less convincing if you were to examine the details and the background of this quote. To begin with this is obviously an English translation of what Irenaeus actually said. To be even more accurate this is an English translation of the translation in Latin of what Irenaeus said in Greek. On top of which there are no extant writings of Irenaeus. So the quote above is base on Latin translations and what Eusebius claims Irenaeus allegedly wrote in Greek. One more point before I give the summary criticism for this translation, is that most scholar who are experts in Greek find Irenaeus a very “obscure writer.” They find him at times expresses himself with remarkable clearness and terseness; but, upon the whole, his style is very involved and prolix.6 As Hanegraaff said the fathers need interpretation.

What essentially is the argument against a late date understanding of that Irenaeus quote above? It is based on grammar and Irenaeus’ style of writing. As I said earlier, I will not get into the detail of dissecting the quote in Greek or Latin, if you are interested you can read the book by Gentry and other scholarly works in there to get more detail. For me the argument boils down to this. Even with my extremely limited knowledge in Greek, I know that in Greek word order does not have the same significance as it does in English. Mark Hitchcock in his criticism of Gentry’s book Before Jerusalem Fell makes the assertion that based on the spatial proximity the pronoun “that” must be referring to “the apocalypse.” Unfortunately the Greek doesn’t work that way.7 Therefore what the early date advocates are disputing here is the phrase “that was seen”, to what is the pronoun “that” referring to. (Seems weird we are back to debating the word “that” as before in Matthew 24) Is the pronoun “that” referring to the “Apocalypse” or to “him who beheld the apocalypse”. In other words is Irenaeus saying that it was John the writer of Revelation who was seen at the end of Domitian’s reign; or was he saying that John saw the vision of Revelation at the end of Domitian’s reign. Another possible explanation for Irenaeus comment offered by Hanegraaff was that he meant to say that the autographa itself was seen during Domitian’s reign. Once again if you want the full blown argument read Gentry’s book in which he goes into the grammar, verb and writing styles. For me, it is not as clear of a slam dunk for the late date as some might think.

With that said, let me proceed to attack the credibility of the witnesses like any good lawyer would do in a court of law for the benefit of the client. While Irenaeus ought to be respected for many things he is not perfect. Even if he intended to say that Revelation was written in Domitian’s reign, that still doesn’t make him right. We need to test Irenaeus in light of Scripture and the internal evidence in Scripture outweighs his testimony. But where was Irenaeus wrong in my opinion? Irenaeus claims that Jesus died around 50 years of age and had a 15 year ministry. He thought that Peter and Paul founded and organized the Church at Rome. Irenaeus believes demons can have sex with women and produce babies. Do these errors mean that we can’t trust anything the Apostolic fathers have to say? Of course not, the point is that the fathers are not perfect and we have to test what they said against Scripture. And on the basis of sola Scriptura I would have to conclude Revelation was written before A.D. 70.


These are my prefer dates but it has been dated as early as (A.D. 41-54) and as late as (A.D. 98-117)

The quote is from Kenneth Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, pp. 26.

I am using the dictionary meaning of imminence, meaning happening very soon. I utterly reject the dispensationalist meaning of imminence, which is to replace the words soon in Revelation, e.g. Rev 1:1. The word soon in Revelation is the Greek word tachel.

67.56 ταχύa; ταχέωςb; ταχινόςb, ή, όν; ἐν τάχει: pertaining to a point of time subsequent to another point of time (either an event in the discourse or the time of the discourse itself), with emphasis upon the relatively brief interval between the two points of time—‘soon, very soon.’ ― Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 635). New York: United Bible Societies.

What dispensationalist like Tim Lahaye and Mark Hitchcock will say is that the words soon in Revelation doesn’t mean the extreme brevity of time of an impending event as in the plain meaning of soon. Rather they place soon with imminent and not even the dictionary meaning of imminent which means soon, but they use imminent to mean that an event can happen any time in the future without regard to the shortness of time from when the word soon is used. Can you imagine what kind of confusion it will create if we use the word soon in our everyday life the way the dispensationalists say the word means?

Another thing that dispensationalist like Mark Hitchcock will do to obfuscate the meaning of soon is to conflate the word near as in Rev 1:3 and reinforce that with (1 Peter 4:7) “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” What Hitchcock is doing is taking random verses out of context in the Bible and applying them to the Apocalypse. There is no indication that Peter is referring to the Apocalypse that John will receive later. The context of 1 Peter 4 is an exhortation for holiness not eschatological. And the phrase “end of all things” could and probably mean that life as they know it will change. Persecution is coming. The very fact that as Christian we are called to sanctify ourselves from the world demands a radical change, the end of all things as we know it. This is what vv. 3-4 is saying (1 Peter 4:3–4) “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.” The past was doing the sins of your flesh everything now must change and those that used to be your friends will think you are strange for not doing what you used to do. Also Peter might be cognizant of the impending judgment that is coming to the Jews at the “end of the age”, i.e. “the end of the old covenant age of sacrifices”, as prophesied by the Lord Jesus Himself at the Olivet discourse. He probably doesn’t know the details as it will be reveal to John but he knows and believed what Jesus told them.

Other internal evidences that support the early date are: John measuring the temple yet no mention of the temple being destroyed in A.D. 70, the horrors of the Roman/Jewish war fits well with the apocalyptic judgment in Revelation, a future temple could not be referred to as “the temple of God” given the fact that John is a Christian, the woman(a great city v. 18 that sits on 7 hills v. 9) riding the beast, 10 kings and 666. This is not a complete list.

According to Eusebius, Hegesippus says that James the brother of Jesus was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple and then stoned but that still didn’t kill James but he had to be clubbed to death. Also that when James died Vespasian sacks Jerusalem and the temple which meant that the temple was destroyed in A.D. 62.
Victorinus, John was doing hard labor in Patmos at the age of 90-100 years old and then still have a fruitful ministry in Ephesus after exile.
Eusebius says the Apostle John was not the writer of Revelation who blames the book of Revelation as the cause for their version of millennial madness.

Kenneth Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, pp. 49, where he is quoting J.P.M. Sweet.

Consider the example in (Philemon 1–2) “Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:”
Whose house was the church meeting at? Based on spatial proximity the nearest antecedent would be Archippus. And yet every interpreter would say the pronoun “your” is referring to Philemon.

[“that generation”]
Of course the futurists will not quite word it this way. e.g.

The generation of people living when those events occur is the generation that Jesus speaks of “not passing” until He returns. Jesus had already told those living during His earthly ministry that the kingdom had been taken from them (Matthew 21:43). Therefore, it is imperative that Matthew 24-25 be seen as speaking of a future time. The word “generation” refers to the people alive in the future when the events of Matthew 24-25 will occur.

They will avoid using the word “that” because it would give the opposite impression of what the Text says, which is “this”. The other way to keep the integrity of the Text and still retain their futurist presupposition is to claim that Jesus’ prophecy has a “double fulfillment” but even they recognize the shortcoming of this interpretation.

Another possibility is that Jesus was giving a prophecy with a “double fulfillment.” Some of what He was predicting was going to occur during the time of the generation to whom He was speaking. Some of Jesus’ prophecy may have been fulfilled when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70. However, other aspects of Jesus’ prophecy did not occur in A.D. 70; for example, Matthew 24:29-31.The problem with this view is that it does not harmonize with Jesus’ statement that “all these things” will take place in “this generation.” Therefore, it is best to understand “this generation” as referring to the generation in which the end-times events occur.

The other problem besides the awkwardness of interpreting “this” as “that” is that the context does not allow for it. The futurist will say that Jesus is speak of future events and therefore we need to first identify the generation when these events occur then we can interpret the word this. That is the exact opposite of what we should do. How does one go about identify the timeframe for these events? How do we know if Jesus was not speaking about the pass when the temple was destroyed? And if Jesus is prophesying about future events how far into the future? That was the question the disciples wanted to know, is it tomorrow, a year from now, a decade, a millennia, two millennia? There is no other time indicator in the entire discourse other than the words “this generation” to give context as to when these things will occur. It might be possible to give the futurist argument some credibility if Jesus have given another time indicator like “thousands of years from now” these things will occur and “this generation” will experience it. It is still awkward but at least the context would allow for it. But to simply change “this” to “that” based on one’s theological predilection is a hideous distortion of God’s Word.

I have to admit, the cleverest argument that I’ve heard against the plain meaning of “this generation” was offered by Thomas Ice. Ice uses Hebrews 3:10 as an example of how “this generation” actually meant “that generation”. I will save the full rebuttal to Ice in another article but for now suffice it to say that what Ice did was to remove the historicity of Hebrews 3:10 and made “this generation” as a time indicator for the context. What was the writer of Hebrews (I believe to be Paul) talking about just before his use of “this generation”? He was telling the people of his time not to harden their hearts like their fathers did in the desert when they were with Moses. Is this a prophetic description of the future or the past? There is zero doubt when their fathers’ heart were harden. And in v. 10 Paul says that God was angry with “this generation”. The use of “this generation” is completely and utterly irrelevant to whom Paul was referring to. If Paul had l left out “this generation” and just said “That is why I was angry, their hearts are always going astray”. Would anyone have been confused and thought that Paul was angry with the generation that was living in Paul’s time because they walked around the desert with Moses and disobeyed God? That is ludicrous. “This generation” in Hebrews was used in an obvious and known historical context while Matthew 24 is used as a time indicator of when will these things happen in the future.

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