Revealing Revelation – The Early Date Theory Part 1

23Mar11

With this post we will turn our attention toward the Early Date proponents. This will take a couple posts because of the length needed for the argument. Since the early date does not have history on it’s side and is the minority position it will take some extra time and information to possibly convince the reader of it’s possibility and, at least, argue for it’s consideration.

Like the previously discussed Late Date theory, there will be a discussion of both Internal and External arguments. The change in topic will also cause a change in priority as the Early date theory places a majority of it’s argument within the Internal Evidence column and very little in the External Evidence department. This will also cause a shift in priority of discussion as well will start with the External Evidence before proceeding to the Internal Evidence arguments.

EXTERNAL EVIDENCE

JOSEPHUS

It is argued by same that there is some similarity in the writing’s of Josephus in his discussion of the Jewish Wars and the contents of the Book of Revelation. Though there are no direct quotes from one to the other the similarity in descriptions of events is uncanny.

THE SHEPHERD by HERMAS

A popular work of antiquity, the Shepard of Hermas he been dated as early as the 80’s AD and as late as mid 2nd century. There are many similarities between portions the the Shepherd and the Book of revelation. It was quite popular by the time of Ireneaus and so the earlier date is gaining in popularity, putting it some time in the mid-80’s AD. If the Shepherd was written 10 years before the revelation it would appear that John “borrowed” from the Shepherd, but if the revelation was written before 70AD then it would appear that the Shepherd of Hermas borrowed from the book of Revelation.

SECULAR HISTORIANS

This is a bit of ironic twisting. The fact that the liberal and secular historians believe that the Revelation was written at a much later date is that they consider the events described to be so obviously about the destruction of Jerusalem and about Nero’s Rome that it “had to be written” after those events took place.

Now understand that the liberal or secular historian rejects the concept of prophetic writing so they would have to assume it was written after the events described. But even the liberal or secular historian can plainly see the events described refer to the 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem. But for the the conservative evangelical that embraces a prophetic God, there is no trouble seeing this book as prophetic and therefore, it would be necessary for it to have been written before the events described in order to maintain it’s prophetic standard.

All of the External Evidences above are moderate at best, which means the Internal Evidence must be much stronger for that view to remain a viable possibility. This is now to where we will direct our attention. We will be dividing the Internal Arguments up into four basic Categories; The Thematic Evidence, Historical Evidence, Symbolic Evidence and Biblical Similarity Evidence.

THEMATIC EVIDENCE

With thematic evidence we will consider the major themes of the Revelation and where in history we can expect to find the most adequate fulfillment of the events and themes described. The first is the obvious demand for immediacy in the language used by the author.

John constantly used terms like “now,” “soon” and “at hand” to describe the coming events. This is found not only at the beginning of the Revelation, but is “bookended” as well.

Rev 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, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 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.

7Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

9I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom

19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. 6And 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.”

And then at the end of the book…

Rev 22:7 “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

10And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.

12″Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.

20He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Note the immediacy the book’s first chapter demands. John is given a vision of things that are “soon to take place” and is told to send this letter to seven contemporary Churches that were experiencing the exact same things he was going through as a “partner” in that current tribulation. These events must have some significance to the first century reader or else there was no need for the urgency of getting this message to those churches. Nothing in history can match the events with a soon expectation like those events surrounding the destruction of the city and temple in 70AD.

COMING

Another theme that is permeates the book is the concept of Jesus’ soon coming. But note in the passages below what “kind” of coming is in view. Again, note the similarity in the first and last chapter of the book.

Rev 1:7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

12″Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.

Note that this one directed at “those who pierced” him and that it involves his recompense, his retribution. One can stretch the meaning of those who pierced Him to be anyone sinner in history metaphorically, but the most obvious and “literal” rendering would be of those who physically put Him to death, which would be the Jews and Rome. This matches exactly the theme of coming in judgment found in the Olivet Discourse which has been previously discussed.

There is no mistaking to “soon” nature of the passages. Some have tried to argue that the phrase quickly” is in reference to when the events do start to happen that they will happen quickly. This does nothing to answer the immediacy of the expectation and those expected to be still alive when these events take place.

Also, it is quite ironic that those that want to argue that when Jesus said He was coming soon He really meant a long time, turn around and sell a book arguing that Jesus is coming “soon!” Why is that when today’s prophecy prognosticators use the terms “soon” and “quickly” they expect us to understand them to mean just that, but then they turn around and demand that when Jesus uses those terms we are supposed to think “far off” and “later?”

The most important thematic evidence is related to the type of coming discussed previously. This is obviously a coming in judgment and involves the Lord Jesus Christ bringing His recompense with Him. But how this helps determine the the timing of the writing is when we discover exactly who was the receiving party of His judgment. There are several clues throughout the Revelation and one that is often overlooked but is quite obvious. This was discussed perviously in our discussion of Armageddon and is found in Revelation 16.

4The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. 5And I heard the angel in charge of the waters[a] say,

“Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was,
for you brought these judgments.
6For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
and you have given them blood to drink.
It is what they deserve!”

7And I heard the altar saying,

“Yes, Lord God the Almighty,
true and just are your judgments!”

So, who has shed the blood of saints and prophets? And who was told they would receive a judgment as a result? The answer lies in Matthew 23.

Matt 23:29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Here we are shown who it is that is guilty of killing the saints and prophets and also who was to receive a just judgment as a result of those actions. Previous in Matthew we are told a parable about a man who sent his servants to invite others to a banquet. Those invited guest persecuted and even killed the messengers. We are also told of a vineyard owner whose workers killed his servants and even his own son that he sent to them. In both instances we are told the Jewish leaders realized He was talking about them!

This connection is clear. This righteous judgment is connected to the Lord’s coming in judgment and must refer to the events that unfolded in 70AD. This must place the dating of the writing of the book before those events!

In the next post we will deal with the other three forms of Internal Evidence.

  • Historical Evidence
  • Symbolic Evidence
  • Biblical Similarity Evidence
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2 Responses to “Revealing Revelation – The Early Date Theory Part 1”


  1. 1 PP2: References « Dave's Bible Study Group: Minneapolis
  2. 2 Revelation Chapter 17 (Part 1: Verses 1-6) « Pursuing Truth at 2909 (Minneapolis)

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