|Dating the Book of Revelation
There is considerable disagreement among students of
Revelation as to when it was written. This
study is being researched and written in an effort
to try and bring to light the
evidence which is available to help in the dating of
It is this Bible Student's belief that Revelation
was written by John after the destruction of
Jerusalem, during the reign of Emperor Vespasian and
that it refers chiefly to the great Roman
persecution of the church which occurred after the
destruction of Jerusalem.
Many well meaning people try to approach this
subject with preconceived ideas and then attempt to
force the visions of Revelation to fit within that
mold. For instance, there is the belief that
John's visions are pointing to the destruction of
Jerusalem and the associated events leading up to
that instead of the intense Christian persecution of
the Roman Empire and her subsequent destruction.
In part, this teaching arises from the belief that
all direct workings of the Holy Spirit ceased at the
destruction of Jerusalem. Consequently, all of
the writings we have which comprise our New
Testament would have to have been written prior to
this date. Well intentioned people then set
out to force Revelation into a time frame which is
not in conflict with their belief that all divine
inspiration ceased with the destruction of Jerusalem
in AD 70.
First we'll deal conclusively with the belief
that all divine inspiration ended in 70 AD with the
destruction of Jerusalem. To answer this we
can look to the seventy weeks prophecy of Daniel as
recorded in chapter 9, verses 25-27. In
particular verse 27 which reads, "Then he shall
confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in
the middle of the week He shall bring an end to
sacrifice and offering". (NKJV) The covenant in
Daniel's vision here can be nothing but the new
covenant. The confirmation of that covenant
was the role which the Holy Spirit of God engaged in
during the infancy of the church (Mark 16:20, Romans
15:19). The ending of sacrifice and offering
cannot be anything but the ending of the old
Levitical system of animal sacrifice which took
place only at the temple in Jerusalem. The
of Daniel's vision represents the entire
confirmation period of the new covenant which
started on Pentecost and ended when the whole new
covenant had been confirmed or authenticated by the
Holy Spirit. Notice carefully the text says
that the "end to sacrifice and offering"
occurred in the middle of the confirmation period.
This means the confirmation period must have
extended beyond the ending of sacrifice in order to
be true. Inspiration specifically pointed out
that the ending of this sacrifice happened in the
middle of the confirmation period of the new
covenant. Thus we conclude that the workings
of inspiration and miraculous signs and wonders of
the Holy Spirit did not suddenly cease when Rome
destroyed the temple in Jerusalem.
Next, we'll examine the evidence which helps to
determine whether the Revelation was written before
or after 70 AD.
1. John records Jesus addressing seven
churches in Revelation 1 thru 3. If Revelation
were about the destruction of Jerusalem and was
written prior to AD 70, then why did Jesus not
address the Jerusalem church which was in existence
up to the siege of Jerusalem immediately prior to
2. At the writing of the book of
Revelation, Ephesus had left her first love.
Paul wrote his epistle to Ephesus about 58 to 60 AD.
Paul lived in Ephesus for 2 years (Acts 19:10)
during which the church received direct personal
apostolic direction at his hands. Ephesus was
where Paul was recorded to have wrought special
miracles, some so significant that even a garment of
clothing which Paul touched or wore would heal the
sick. The best evidence we have places Paul's
execution around 66 AD under the reign of Nero.
The city of Rome having been burned and Nero anxious
to blame it on the Christians thus detracting the
blame from himself had Paul unjustly beheaded.
Paul's love and diligent instruction of the church
in Ephesus is well documented in scripture. In
order for the book of Revelation to be written prior
to 70 AD, the church at Ephesus would have to have
lost her first love to the degree it did while Paul
was alive or very shortly after his death.
3. The church in Sardis was considered
4. Laodecia, which was destroyed by an
earthquake during Nero's reign is completely rebuilt
and is boasting of her spiritual wealth (Revelation
5. John wrote of the doctrine of the
Nicolaitans in chapters 2 and 3 which was an
insipient form of Gnosticism and did not develop
until quite some time after 70 AD. At the time
of John's writing of Revelation, Gnosticism had
worked its way into the church to the degree that it
was mentioned in the addresses to multiple churches.
All of these things would have had to have
developed in these churches in 4 years or less in
order to maintain the 70 AD date. While such a
thing is not entirely impossible, it is highly unlikely. It is
exceedingly important in our consideration of this
subject that we acknowledge that by 70 AD, the
spiritual degradation, apostasy of the Gnostics and
the persecution of the church in Asia Minor had not
yet developed to the degree evidenced by the text.
We must remember to whom the Revelation was
addressed and to consider the historical timeframe
under which these churches realized the
circumstances they were facing at the time.
Any dating of the book of Revelation must coincide
with the dates of the current situations or
circumstances relevant to those seven churches.
6. The Revelation being addressed to the
churches of Asia is not only understood to be
directed toward them, but about them as well.
The dire circumstances depicted therein are going to
apply directly to those to whom the letter is
addressed and not to people living in another part
of the world. It does not make sense for John
to address a letter to Christians living in Asia
Minor that pertains to events to happen in Judah.
The Revelation was not just written to the churches
of Asia, it was for the churches of
Asia. The events of the visions are going to
relate directly to them and not just to Christians living in
a whole different region of the earth.
It is not to say that the Revelation does not have
application to Christians living in other places
and/or other times. Revelation most certainly
does and did have a direct application to all
Christians living in the Roman Empire, however we
must acknowledge that an understanding which focuses
the readers attention on a group of Christians other
than the ones to whom it is addressed would be an
inaccurate way of approaching the overall letter.
7. John had been banished to Patmos, a very
common form of punishment after AD 70 but not prior
8. The great antagonist of the church was
identified in Revelation 17:6 as, "MYSTERY,
BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE HARLOTS AND OF
THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH." and then in
Revelation 17:18, she is further identified as "the
great city, which reigneth over the kings of the
earth". Babylon, the mother of harlots is
a reference back to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon
who erected a giant golden statue of himself and
forced his people to bow down and worship it, thus
committing spiritual fornication in the form of
idolatry. With this practice, Babylon spawned,
fostered and engendered spiritual harlotry and the
abominations of the earth. The Jews were not
forcing anyone to worship idols or false gods.
They were persecuting the Christians for worshipping
the same God they worshipped. Levitical
worship was never considered idolatry, even by those
living under the new covenant.
There is the belief that the great harlot of
Revelation 17 was actually Jerusalem and many
advocates of the early date hold to this belief.
It is exceedingly important to the correct
understanding of who this harlot was to consider all
the evidence which characterizes her. This
"Babylon, the mother of harlots" is described in
Revelation 18:17 as a maritime city which engaged in
ship trade. Revelation 17:1 previously
described her as setting on many waters. There
is no way this could be Jerusalem which was located
in the desert, forty miles from Joppa.
9. Emperor worship was being vigorously enforced by the
Imperial Cult, also known as the "Concilia"
(Revelation 13:11-17), and no emperor prior to 70 AD actually enforced emperor worship.
There was no organized, government supported, forced
emperor worship before AD70 and in order for
Revelation to point to the destruction of Jerusalem
in 70 AD, such a level of forced emperor worship
within the Roman Empire must be demonstrated.
10. The persecutions of Nero were localized
around Rome, while the persecution under later
emperors such as Domitian extended beyond the
boundaries of Rome to that of Asia Minor which was
the location of the churches to which the book of
Revelation was addressed (Revelation 1:4).
11. The absence of any references to the
Jerusalem church in Revelation cannot be
overstated. In fact the region in Asia Minor
where the seven churches were located is roughly 500
miles if you want to cross the Mediterranean sea and
roughly 700 if you went by way of dry land through
the mountains of Turkey, keeping in mind the
principle mode of transportation in that time was by
foot or by beast of burden. If the Revelation
were intended to be a reference to the destruction
of Jerusalem, it seems logical that the letter would
have been addressed to churches located in or around
Jerusalem, not in an area several months journey
12. There are three direct Internal
references to Jerusalem in the Revelation. Two
of them are found in Revelation 3:12 and 21:2.
Both of these references refer to a "new
Jerusalem" suggesting the old Jerusalem was no
longer in existence. Jerusalem is mentioned
again in Revelation 21:10 in a figurative and
prophetic sense representing heaven.
13. Advocates of the early date who hold to
the destruction of Jerusalem as the final outcome of
Revelation often point to Revelation 11 as proof the
temple was still in existence. This conclusion
cannot be reasonably known without any doubt and
such must be the case in order to even suggest a pre
70 AD authorship of the Revelation.
14. The early church was fairly unanimous
in its belief that the book was written after 70 AD.
This is seen in the writings of Irenaeus, Origen,
Victorious, Hippolytus, Clement of Alexandria,
Hegesippus, and Jerome. It is a real stretch
to suggest that all these writers are merely
parroting Irenaeus, and that they had no independent
reasons for making their claim.
The evidence in support of the authorship of
Revelation after 70 AD is both compelling and
significant. Most of the Bible scholars adhere
to an authorship of the book during the reign of
Emperor Domitian which I question. It is my
conviction based on my own studies that the book of
Revelation was written later in the reign of Emperor
Vespasian who died in June of 79 AD.
To support this belief, we'll consider the text
of Revelation 17:9-11, "Here is the mind that
hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on
which the woman sitteth: and they are seven kings;
the five are fallen, the one is, the other is not
yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a
little while. And the beast that was, and is not, is
himself also an eighth, and is of the seven; and he
goeth into perdition".
Paying particular attention to "and they are
seven kings". Augustus was the first
emperor of the Imperial Roman Empire
constitutionally elected by the senate and approved
by the military according to Roman law.
||26 BC -
"five are fallen"
||14 AD -
||37 AD -
||41 AD -
||64 AD -
||69 AD -
||79 AD 81
other is not yet come; and when he
cometh, he must continue a little while"
||81 AD -
beast that was, and is not, is himself
also an eighth
Five of the seven kings are fallen. This would
be Nero as the fifth. The next one, the sixth
presently reigning at the time was Vespasian.
The other after him is Titus, his son who only
reigned as emperor for 2 years, (a little while).
The beast of Revelation is the eighth in line,
Domitian. He was the brother of Titus who was
number 7 in succession thus qualifying him as being
"of the seven".
So Domitian, being the eighth was the beast.
Five kings had fallen at the time of this prophecy
and the sixth had not yet come. Revelation was
written during the reign of the 6th king (the one
who died in 79 AD, 9 years after the destruction of
Jerusalem. A writing of the book of Revelation
near the end of the reign of Vespasian would give
ample time for copying and distribution to the
churches in Asia Minor and beyond before Domitian,
the beast, would come to power in 81 AD.
Domitian reigned as the eighth constitutionally
elected emperor of Imperial Rome until his
assassination in 96 AD.
We need to explain why Galba, Otho and Vitallius
are not here listed. The suicide of emperor
Nero, in 68, was followed by a brief period of civil
war. Between June of 68 and December of 69,
Rome witnessed the successive rise and fall of
Galba, Otho and Vitellius until the final accession
of Vespasian, first ruler of the Flavian Dynasty.
History records them as being in the imperial lineup
however none of these men were ever emperors
according to Roman constitutional law. They
were either rejected as emperors by the senate, the
military or both. All of this occurred in the
year 69 AD during what is referred to in history as
the year of the four emperors. These three
kings are mentioned by Daniel in reference to the 10
kings of the fourth kingdom which would rise up as
recorded in Daniel 7. These are the kings
(horns) which were "plucked up" (Daniel 7:8).
Domitian was the eleventh one to "rise after"
his fellows mentioned in Daniel 7:24. Daniel's
vision had eleven kings and accounted for Galba,
Otho and Vitallius, explaining that they were "plucked
up" before becoming established and well rooted
kings, while John's vision took into account the
fact they were never really emperors and excluded
them from consideration altogether. Both
visions are historically accurate and complement
each other in such a way that they can be used to
verify each other's authenticity. More
information is available on Daniel's prophecy here:
Daniel's Vision of the Four Kingdoms (Daniel
The overwhelming majority of the scholars hold to
a 95 AD writing of the Revelation. If such
were the case, there is no way to reconcile Domitian
as the sixth emperor/king who "is" following the
five who had fallen and preceding the one who must "continue
a little while", according to the lineage of the predecessors of
the beast as given in Revelation 17:9-11. If
Domitian were the emperor/king that "is" then the
emperor following him would be the one that only
reigned for a short span of time being Emperor Nerva
who reigned four years from 96 to 98 AD. The
beast would then be Trajan who was nowhere near as
antagonistic an adversary of Christianity that
According to the internal evidence which
specifically speaks to the current king as being the
6th on line of the 8 kings mentioned, Vespasian is
the best historical fit. This solves one major
problem with the 95 date of writing for the
Revelation. With a date of 95 and the death of
Domitian in 96, there is a inherent problem with
getting the book off of Patmos, copied and then
distributed to all the churches of Asia Minor in
time to be of any benefit to the readership.
With Domitian being the personification of the
beast, thus being the figurehead for the persecution
which was to come, it poses a difficulty to explain
why a prophetic book which contains words of
encouragement and perseverance for the Christians
living under the rule of this man would receive this
letter at the end of this beast's life. This
difficulty is entirely overcome when a dating of the
book under the reign of the sixth emperor,
Vespasian, is considered.
Thus, a dating of the book in Vespasian's
lifetime, according to the text of Revelation, and
in accordance with historical evidence we have at
hand is the most logical conclusion and best fits
the overall historical circumstances.
Vespasian reigned before, during and after the
destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Titus
was acting under the will and direction of
Vespasian in the overthrow of the Jerusalem at that
time and led the forces which ultimately conquered
the city. The dating of the Revelation in the
latter years of Vespasian's life gives ample time
for the spiritual conditions of the churches to whom
the Revelation was addressed to develop. It
also allows for the necessary time to get the letter
into the hands of those to whom it was written in
time for it to be of the most benefit. For
these reasons it is the firm conviction of this
student of God's word, that the Revelation was
written around the end of Vespasian's life, 76 to 79
There is additional information on the dating of
the Revelation available in the
study Guide for chapter 17