When was Revelation written?
ANSWER: Contrary to popular opinion, the evidence is strong that the book was written in the mid-60’s AD, prior to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Here are some important clues, among MANY others: It was written during the reign of Nero, the sixth emperor of Rome (Revelation 17:10 “now is”) who ruled from AD 54 to AD 68. It was written during the tribulation (Revelation 1:9; 2:9), which Jesus time-restricted toHIS OWN GENERATION (Matthew 24:9, 21, 29, 34). (Note: The same Greek word for tribulation, “thlipsis,” is used in Matthew 24 and Revelation.) Revelation was written while the temple was still standing (Revelation 11:1). There is no mention in the book of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 as a past event, so it must have been written before AD 70. (Kenneth Gentry—book below— identified over 130 theologians as holding to this early dating of Revelation.)
When was Revelation fulfilled?
ANSWER: While Revelation is a timeless book with universal application (Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 13:7; 14:6), over 30 passages demand its imminent fulfillment. Our interpretation is arbitrary and inconsistent if we ignore the time statements given in the book itself. From the very beginning to the very end we see such statements as “MUST SHORTLY TAKE PLACE,” “SOON,” “NEAR,” and “ABOUT TO HAPPEN.” So, if Revelation is an inspired book, we must look for first-century solutions to its fulfillment. God can tell time. He does not deceive. Here’s a list of all 30 passages that directly or indirectly point to a first-century fulfillment:
Revelation 1:1; 1:3; 1:7; 1:9-10; 1:19; 2:10; 2:16; 2:25; 3:10; 3:11; 4:1; 6:12-7; 8:13; 10:6-7; 11:2; 11:8; 11:15-19; 12:5; 14:7; 14:14-20; 15:5-8; 16:6; 16:19; 17:8; 18:19, 24; 20:7-10; 20:11-15; 22:6; 22:7; 22:10; 22:12; 22:20.
Who is the Harlot Babylon?
ANSWER: Scholars agree that the major theme of Revelation is the judgment of “Babylon,” but disagree on what Babylon represents. Babylon was an historic enemy of God’s people, and it is used symbolically in Revelation to represent Old Covenant Israel/Jerusalem who had become unfaithful. This is prominent in chapters 16-19. Jesus’ wrath, promised in Revelation, would come against “the great city Babylon” (Revelation 18:21-24; cf. Matthew 23:29-39) which is clearly identified as the “city where the Lord was slain” (Revelation 11:8-9). This unambiguously confirms that the Great Judgment was against Jerusalem. Just as God judged nations in the Old Testament by sending opposing armies to execute his justice, God sent the Roman army to judge apostate Jerusalem in AD 70.
What are the 7 judgments (seals, trumpets, plagues, bowls)―Revelation 6, 8, 11, 16?
ANSWER: Notice that there are 4 sets of 7 judgments. This is a reflection of Leviticus 26:14-33, where there are 4 sets of 7 judgments which God would levy against the Israelites if they disobeyed. The number 7 is often used in the Bible for completion. The Revelation judgment was extracted against Old Covenant Israel in AD 70, ending once for all the Judaistic system of the Old Covenant.
What was Armageddon―(Revelation 16:16)?
ANSWER: The word “Armageddon” is a compound word (“Har-Megiddo”) that means the hill (or mountain) of Megiddo. Armageddon is mentioned only in Revelation, but Megiddo is mentioned 12 times in the Old Testament, being the scene of important battles in Jewish history. So much blood was shed there that Megiddo became a symbol for war, slaughter, and destruction― similar to the modern use of the term “Waterloo.”
Armageddon could well be a symbol for Jerusalem, which sits on a hill in the region, and was the scene of the horrible destruction of Jerusalem and temple by the Romans in AD 70. Some have also noted that Megiddo was the region that the Roman army under Titus assembled in AD 67 prior to the final siege of Jerusalem. The conclusion that Armageddon was God’s judgment upon Old Covenant Israel/Jerusalem makes sense in the context of Revelation.
What was the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15)?
ANSWER: If the above is correct, then this passage also has to be about judgment on Old Covenant Israel. We will all be judged when we die per Hebrews 9:27, but the context demands that the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation is about God’s judgment on apostate Israel in AD 70.
Who are the two witnesses (Revelation 11:1-14)?
ANSWER: Jewish law from Deuteronomy 17:6 taught that on the testimony of two or three witnesses, a person can be put to death. Revelation is about legal judgment against Old Covenant Israel. While various people have been suggested (Moses/Elijah, etc.), the two witnesses are probably not literal, but rather a Jewish symbol of the covenant lawsuit.
Who were the 144,000 (Revelation 7:4 and 14:1)?
Let’s just take a quick look at the 144,000 of Revelation 7 and 14. These were the FIRST FRUITS to God and the Lamb (Revelation 14:4), not some later group! They were the ones coming out of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7:14). John, the author of Revelation, said he was in the tribulation AS HE WAS WRITING (Revelation 1:9)—in the 60’s AD.
There were twelve tribes of Israel, so the 144,000 can be understood for what it signified. The number 1,000 is symbolic of “fullness.” So, 12 times 12 times 1,000 equals 144,000. As the first fruits, the 144,000 represents the FIRST GENERATION CHRISTIANS (the righteous remnant of the twelve tribes of Israel) who experienced the Great Tribulation, culminating in the desolation of Jerusalem and the Jewish holocaust in AD 66-70! The 144,000 is clearly not to be taken literally—as, for example, Jehovah’s Witnesses think. Romans 8:23; 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:13, and James 1:18 further identify the first fruits as first-century believers.
What Are Gog and Magog (Revelation 20:8)?
The reference to Gog and Magog (Revelation 20:8) probably points to AD 70. In Revelation, John picks up on Ezekiel’s reference to Gog and Magog. Some of Ezekiel’s prophecies are about the destruction of Jerusalem in 586, then the post-exilic return and rebuilding of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 34-37). But, Ezekiel’s comments in chapter 38ff are in the context of when all nations would know God (Ezekiel 38:16, 23; 39:21)—certainly a reference to the New Covenant Age. Ezekiel 38:16 states that Ezekiel’s prophecies would be fulfilled in the last days (“latter days”). Ezekiel often uses the term “on that day” (Ezekiel 38:10, 18, 19; 39: 8, 11, 13, 22), which is a prophetic reference to the Day of the Lord. According to Ezekiel, this day would mark the judgment against Israel (Ezekiel 38:18). God’s final judgment against Old Covenant Israel was in AD 70 (Matthew 21:33-45; 23:29-24:1; etc.).
It is also noteworthy that Ezekiel 39:29 states, “And I will not hide my face anymore from them when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord God.” This seems similar to Joel 2 which Peter references in Acts 2 as being fulfilled at Pentecost.
It is likely that these are all references to the first century―not to the end of history. The apostle Peter proclaimed that all the prophets from Samuel forward were pointing to the days in which Peter spoke (Acts 3:24), so we can only infer that Ezekiel was pointing to the first century as well. And Jesus stated that all prophecy would be finally fulfilled in his generation (Luke 21:22, 32; Revelation 1:1, 3; 22:6, 10). We cannot project Gog and Magog past the first century without dancing around Peter’s and Jesus’ clear statements. Whatever Gog and Magog refers to, it is certainly not modern Russia (or some other bad-boy nation in our day) as some dispensationalists teach—an idea I think is pure invention.
What is the “sea” of Revelation 21:1 (“Then I saw a new heaven and new earth, for the first heaven had passed away, and the sea was no more.”)?
While there are other possibilities, it may well be that the sea here refers to the temple wash basin for priests as referred to in 2 Chronicles 4:1-6 and 1 Kings 7:23, 39. “Heaven and earth passing away” is a reference to the dissolution of the old covenant order when the temple was destroyed. So, this is probably another indication of the destruction of the temple and its contents used for various rituals.
What is the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2, 9-27)?
ANSWER: Contrary to what dispensationalists think, the New Jerusalem is not a spaceship! Revelation 21:2, 9 tells us that the New Jerusalem is the wife of the Lamb. The overarching theme of Revelation is God divorcing Old Covenant Israel (“Babylon”) for her apostasy and unfaithfulness, taking a new bride. Most Christians will acknowledge that the church is the bride of Christ. Hebrews 12:22 confirms that the heavenly Jerusalem was already a present reality for the first-century Christians. Further confirmation comes from Revelation 21:14, where the New Jerusalem is described as being built on the foundation of the twelve apostles! Who else could this be but the church?
Hopefully now, in your studies, you can begin to fill in the blanks about the wonderful book of Revelation. For more about Revelation, see the articles in section B of my website:
Recommended books for further study:
- DAYS OF VENGEANCE by David Chilton
- BEFORE JERUSALEM FELL by Kenneth Gentry