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11.3.1. Internal Evidence for an Early Date

Aspects of the text of the book of Revelation have been understood by some as being indicative of an earlier date.

Chilton holds that since Scripture teaches that all prophecy would be complete by the end of the 70th week of Daniel (Dan. Dan. 9:24-27) and since the book of Revelation contains prophetic material, therefore the book must have been written prior to the end of Daniel’s 70th week:

We have a priori teaching from Scripture itself that all special revelation ended by A.D. 70. The angel Gabriel told Daniel that the “seventy weeks” were to end with the destruction of Jerusalem (Dan. Dan. 9:24-27); and that period would also serve to “seal up the vision and prophecy” (Dan. Dan. 9:24). In other words, special revelation would stop—be “sealed up”—by the time Jerusalem was destroyed. [emphasis added]1

We concur with Chilton’s basic premise: prophecy and vision will be sealed up at the conclusion of the 70 weeks of Daniel. But Chilton assumes the 70th week is completed with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70—a view which is fundamentally flawed. 2 This is the interpretive equivalent of “two wrongs don’t make a right.” Here is revealed another Achilles heel of reliance upon internal evidence: it is too easily subject to cross-correlation which seems supportive, but is not necessarily related. Chilton misinterprets the meaning of a passage in Daniel to “prove” his interpretation of John’s passage, but both interpretations are in error.

Edersheim held that the many allusions in John’s Gospel and the book of Revelation to aspects of priestly service in the Temple inferred that John had close association with the priestly line (John John 18:15-16) and that the Temple was still in service at the time both books were written.

These [allusions] naturally suggest the twofold inference that the book of Revelation and the Fourth Gospel must have been written before the Temple services had actually ceased, and by one who had not merely been intimately acquainted with, but probably at one time an actor in them. . . . it seems highly improbable that a book so full of liturgical allusions as the book of Revelation—and these, many of them, not too great or important points, but to minutia—could have been written by any other than a priest, and one who had at one time been in actual service in the Temple itself, and thus become so intimately conversant with its details, that they came to him naturally, as part of the imagery he employed.3

While we might concur with Edersheim’s observations concerning John’s knowledge of priestly duties and the allusions found in his works, all that seems to be necessary is for John to have had such knowledge at some point during his life. Clearly, the Temple was in operation during the times recorded by John’s Gospel (John John 2:14-19). But does John’s acquaintance with the Temple necessitate that its service was contemporaneous with the writing of the book of Revelation? The obvious answer is, “no.” Any writer’s knowledge is cumulative: it is often the case that a writer expresses knowledge gained from an earlier point in his life. This is not at all unusual. Further, there is no reason why direct revelation from God, as is the case with the book of Revelation, might not convey details not previously known to the prophet. Let the reader pause to make note of this frequent pattern involving internal evidence: what could possibly be true is asserted as being requisite. The former interpretation of the evidence is nearly always admissible, but the latter conclusion does not necessarily follow. This leap from “would seem” to “must” is commonly found in arguments based on internal evidence.

An entire category of internal evidence surrounds the assertion that the Beast of Revelation (Rev. Rev. 11:7+; Rev. 13:1-18+; etc.) is to be understood as a veiled political reference to Nero. At least three aspects of the life of Nero are said to be found in John’s description of the Beast: First , Nero’s persecution of Christians (Rev. Rev. 13:7+); Second , the myth that after his death Nero would come to life again (cf. Rev. Rev. 13:3+, Rev. 13:14+; Rev. 17:8+, Rev. 17:11+); Third , the “number of the name” of the Beast (Rev. Rev. 13:16-18+) matches that of “Caesar Nero.”4 While it is true that similarities can be found between the final Beast of world history and Nero (or many other anti-Christian leaders of history), similarity does not prove identity. The major problem with interpreting Nero as the Beast is that Nero doesn’t even come close to fulfilling numerous details of the text—not the least of which is being killed, resurrected, and then cast alive into the Lake of Fire at the Second Coming of Christ (Rev. Rev. 19:20+). Nero committed suicide never to rise again. We discuss these issues in greater depth in our discussion of Nero.

What is probably considered to be the most significant internal evidence for a pre-A.D. 70 date by early date advocates is John’s mention of a Temple in Revelation Rev. 11:1+: “We wholeheartedly concur with Adams’s [sic] assessment that the fact that the Temple was standing when Revelation was written is ‘unmistakable proof that Revelation was written before 70 A.D.’ ”5 ` While we would concur with the last portion of Gentry’s statement. If the Temple were standing when Revelation was written, then it is indeed unmistakable that Revelation was written prior to the destruction of the Temple. The problem is with the first part of the statement. Gentry equates John’s mention of a Temple as being equivalent to the fact that the Temple stood at that time.6 His statement goes beyond the demonstrable facts. Gentry continues, “How could John be commanded to symbolically measure what did not exist?”7 Here again, the assertions of the early date advocates go far beyond what can be reliably concluded (or proven) from the text itself. As many have observed, a similar pattern has been established within the book of Ezekiel where the prophet is given a vision of another Temple at a time when no Temple stood8 and Ezekiel’s temple is also measured. Clearly, Ezekiel’s mention of a Temple, including not only measurements as in John, but myriads of details far in excess of John stand as unassailable evidence against the claim that mere mention of a Temple by John proves as fact that he wrote prior to the destruction of Herod’s Temple in A.D. 70. Not only is this pattern of prophetic revelation concerning a future Temple found in Ezekiel, but also in Daniel (Dan. Dan. 9:27; Dan. 12:11):

The chief preterist argument for the Neronic date from Revelation is the mention of the temple in Revelation Rev. 11:1-2+. . . . this interpretation fails to take into account the Old Testament prophetic parallels. . . . especially Daniel and Ezekiel. In both of these Old Testament prophetic books a Temple is mentioned that is not in existence at the time the author is writing. . . . Ezekiel received news of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in Ezekiel Eze. 33:1. However, after receiving the news, in Ezekiel Eze. 40:1-Eze. 48:1, Ezekiel, like John, receives a vision of a Temple that, if taken literally, has never existed up to this day. Moreover, Ezekiel, like John, is told to measure the Temple he sees in his vision.9

Even if Herod’s Temple were to have been standing at the time John wrote, the Temple he mentions in Revelation Rev. 11:1+ could still have been a future Temple. After all, Zechariah, writing during the Second Temple era, described a Temple future to his day.10 Significantly, Zechariah also mentions measurement in association with the revelation he was given.

The internal evidence which early-date advocates assert as proof of a pre-A.D. 70 date for the book of Revelation falls short. In each case, the interpretation of the evidence is either flawed or overstated. At most, the evidence makes a case for the possibility of a pre-A.D. 70 date, but cannot be taken as objective evidence of this as a necessity.


Notes

1 David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance (Tyler, TX: Dominion Press, 1987), 5.

2 “The text that Jesus cited concerning the Temple’s desecration, Dan. Dan. 9:27, predicts that the one who desecrates this Temple will himself be destroyed. By contrast, those who destroyed the temple in A.D. 70 (in fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction)—the Roman emperor Vespasian and his son Titus—were not destroyed but returned to Rome in triumph carrying vessels from the destroyed Temple.”—Thomas Ice, “The Great Tribulation is Future,” in Kenneth L. Gentry and Thomas Ice, The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999), 126. Mat. 24:16-20 is difficult if not impossible to explain. By then it would be too late for the followers of the Lord Jesus to escape; the Romans had already taken the city by this time. D.A. Carson notes, ‘by the time the Romans had actually desecrated the temple in A.D. 70, it was too late for anyone in the city to flee.’ ”—Ibid., 138.

3 Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), s.v. “ch. 7.”

4 “The name which fits the circumstances most admirably is that of the nefarious Nero Caesar.”—Kenneth L. Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1998), 198.

5 Ibid., 168.

6 What is perhaps more significant than John’s mention of a Temple is the lack of explicit mention of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Although this may seem unusual, neither is it conclusive evidence of an early date. The destruction of Jerusalem would have been widely known to readers of his day obviating any need to discuss it. Moreover, the major focus of the book involves events of global magnitude preceding the Second Coming of Christ—events which are at least 1900 years beyond the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.

7 Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation, 173.

8 “The twenty-fifth year of the captivity, and the fourteenth year after the city was smitten, i.e., taken and reduced to ashes, are the year 575 before Christ.”—Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), Eze. 40:1.

9 Mark Hitchcock, “The Stake in the Heart—The A.D. 95 Date of Revelation,” in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds., The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 140.

10 “When [Zec. Zec. 1:16] was written, the Second Temple was still standing so the reference can only be to the rebuilding of the Temple the Romans destroyed in 70 AD.” Israel Today Magazine, April 2001, 22.