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Monday, July 2, 2012

The Date of the Writing of the Book of Revelation

The following is a response to a “Preterism and the Date of the Apocalypse” article by Mr. Tim Warner of The Pristine Faith Restoration Society, located here:

I would recommend reading through his article first, as I've interspersed my response with his writing below. In his article, Mr. Warner is making a case for dating the Book of Revelation in the time of Domitian in an attempt to refute preterism, the understanding that much of the prophecy of the Revelation has already been fulfilled, especially in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. However, I believe the book was written in the time of Nero and take the preterist position.

I appreciate that Mr. Warner seems concerned to get to the truth that God communicated and is communicating (Heb. 4:12) and uses or refers to Scripture in his article. He cites the sources of the early church fathers that he mentions. He is attempting to respond to the disputations of preterists because he understands that his futurist view, if correct, ought to be publicly defendable. All this is worthy of appreciation and respect.

That being said, I had concerns with his article—a few of which I’ll bring out for your consideration. In this response, I’ll follow the order of the article I’m critiquing, and my interspersed responses will be in bold purple.


The date of the writing of Revelation has been hotly disputed by preterists. Until the last century, Christian tradition has placed John's exile to Patmos during the reign of the emperor Domitian (AD 81-96).

Mr. Warner neglects to mention that, when a preterist view of the book of Revelation is in ascendancy, futurists are the “hot disputers.” Is he not disputing the preterist view in this article? He is attempting to position the futurist view as “the orthodox” and monolithically “traditional” view, and preterists as pugnacious outsiders contending for a novel view. However, an understanding of church history shows this is not true. Each view has gained more or less widespread adherence throughout church history.

As Christians, we believe that the Scriptures are the revealed and inspired words of God Himself. Creeds, commentaries, church histories, and--even less authoritative--snippets from early church fathers’ writings that serve as hints of the prevailing traditions of their times are not divinely inspired and infallible self-interpreting revelations. Neither should a record of God’s providences serve to interpret Scripture. Insofar as these man-made creations are faithful to the Scriptures, they can be very helpful in bringing together and communicating the truths of Scripture in summary form; however, they are not the ultimate standard for judging the truth of a claim. The Bible is the only infallible and ultimate standard for judging the truth or falsity of a view or position or interpretation. If the “traditional” view does not comport with the Scriptures, then, the “traditional” view must be jettisoned in favor of Scriptural truths.

The dispute over the date of the composition of Revelation is a crucial one. If it was composed by John after AD70 and the fall of Jerusalem preterism is at once refuted. Revelation is a prophetic book, predicting the coming of Christ in the future. A post-AD70 date makes equating the coming of Christ with the destruction of Jerusalem utterly impossible.

If the book of Revelation was composed after AD 70, then it was irrelevant to the Christians undergoing severe persecution and tribulation in the churches to whom John says he wrote (Rev. 1:4). The futurist must believe that God does not come quickly in judgment to defend His church in history, regardless of His words in Revelation to the contrary (Rev. 1:1; Rev. 1:3; Rev. 22:6; Rev. 22:10). The futurist must believe that when the Lord Jesus said He was coming soon, within that generation of those who pierced Him (Rev. 1:7), to judge national Israel for her guilt in the bloodshed of the prophets and the saints (Rev. 11:15-20; Rev. 16:5-7; Rev. 18:20-25; cf. Matthew 21:33-46; Matt. 23:31-39; Lk. 11:45-54), it didn’t happen. Because the futurist believes that He did not come He as promised in that generation. Mr. Warner brings out the implications for the preterist regarding the dating of the book of Revelation; but, he does not face the implications of the futurist eschatological presuppositions he seeks to defend.

There is no question that Revelation was written while John was a prisoner of the Roman state, exiled to the prison island of Patmos. That much can be gathered from the first chapter of Revelation. "I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ."[1]

True. I believe also that it may have been published, copied, and distributed after John returned from Patmos before the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem because he wrote: “I John…was in the isle that is called Patmos…” [emphasis added].

I believe it most likely that John was exiled to Patmos where he received this revelation from his Lord Jesus sometime after the Neronian persecution of Christians began in AD 64 and then was released after the death of Nero in AD 68. (It was common for the Roman Empire to release banished prisoners when the emperor who exiled them died.)

There were only two Roman emperors who persecuted Christians on a large scale in the first century, Nero and Domitian. The other Emperors were either indifferent to Christianity, or did not consider it a serious threat to Rome. The first Roman persecution under Nero took place in the decade of the 60s, just before the fall of Jerusalem. Nero was responsible for the deaths of both Peter and Paul in Rome in AD67, Peter by crucifixion, and Paul by being beheaded.

There is no record of Nero's banishing Christians to Patmos, only his brutality against the Christians of Rome. It was Nero who made a sport of throwing Christians to the lions for the entertainment of the crowds, and who burned many at the stake along the road leading to the Coliseum merely to light the entrance.

After Nero's death Rome left the Christians alone until the rise of Domitian to power in AD81. Although not as cruel and insane as Nero, Domitian had some Christians killed, the property of Christians confiscated, Scriptures and other Christian books burned, houses destroyed, and many of the most prominent Christians banished to the prison island of Patmos.

I understand that Mr. Warner is trying to lend credibility to his assertion that Nero was not a persecutor of Christians outside the city of Rome, and therefore, could not be the emperor signified as the beast of Revelation. However, the Roman Empire considered Christians to be a despised Jewish sect, and they were persecuted throughout the Roman Empire. Specifically, Nero persecuted Christians in the Roman Empire from AD 64 to his death in AD 68. Nero ordered the siege on Jerusalem (to quell the Jewish rebellion) in Spring AD 67. The Island of Patmos had been used to imprison criminals of the Roman State from at least Julius Caesar at the beginning of the Roman Empire onward.

In addition to ordering all kinds of cruel and evil ways to torture and murder thousands of Christians, Nero also killed his mother, his brother, his first wife (who was also his half-sister), kicked his second wife to death while she was pregnant with their second child, and mutilated and raped boys. When he learned that he was going to be assassinated, he committed suicide. Truly one can say of Nero that he had a “beastly” character.

All ancient sources, both Christian and secular, place the banishment of Christians to Patmos during the reign of Domitian (AD81-96). Not a single early source (within 500 years of John) places John's banishment under the reign of Nero, as preterists claim. All modern attempts to date Revelation during Nero's reign rely exclusively on alleged internal evidence, and ignore or seek to undermine the external evidence and testimony of Christians who lived about that time, some of whom had connections to John.

After Nero’s death in AD 68, the Roman Empire went into civil war, and it appeared that the empire might collapse and die (Rev. 13:3). AD 69 is known as The Year of Four Emperors. Galba, who succeeded Nero, only reigned for six months (Rev. 17:10). It was only when Vespasian came to power and brought new life to the empire (Rom. 13:3-4) that Roman civil war ceased, and it was Vespasian who sent his son Titus (who also later became emperor himself) to destroy Jerusalem--including the temple so that not one stone was left upon another by Aug-Sept AD 70. The total length of the Roman siege of Jerusalem, the “holy city” was 42 months, or three and a half years (Rev. 11:2).

Here Mr. Warner dismisses the mountain of internal evidence of Scripture for the dating of the book of Revelation during the reign of Nero as “alleged” without dealing with it! The sole exception is that John was told by the angel to measure the temple (Rev. 11:1), which I will respond to separately below. For a few examples of the evidences internal to Scripture that preterists point to: the time texts of Rev. 1:1, 1:3, 22:6, 22:10; the seven kings (Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba); on the seven mountains—Rome known even in antiquity as the “City on Seven Hills ( );” the 42 month siege of the holy city Jerusalem; the harmony with other Scriptures such as Jeremiah 3, Daniel 7-12, and Matthew 24; the number of the man who is the beast is six hundred and sixty six, which is the number of Nero Caesar (in Hebrew, and in the variant 616 in Latin); the identification of the Harlot who is stoned to death in Revelation with national apostate adulterous Israel; the “hailstones” of Rev. 16:21 weighing one talent each and Josephus wrote that Titus’ 10th Legion catapulted stones upon Jerusalem weighing one talent each (paragraph 3); the contrast within the book of Revelation (esp. Chapters 17 and 21) between the Harlot and the New Jerusalem; etc.; etc.

In addition, Mr. Warner makes this false statement: “Not a single early source (within 500 years of John) places John’s banishment under the reign of Nero, as preterists claim.”

As Mr. Warner is intent on dismissing the “early source” of the book of Revelation itself, here is some external (traditional) evidence for the early date of Revelation and John’s banishment under Nero (from later to earlier dates):

1) The Syriac versions of the book of Revelation (AD 500’s) carry this heading: “written in Patmos, whither John was sent by Nero Caesar.”

2) The Syriac The History of John, the Son of Zebedee (AD 500’s, an apocryphal acts of the apostles) states: “After these things, when the Gospel was increasing by the hands of the Apostles, Nero, the unclean and impure and wicked king, heard all that had happened at Ephesus. And he sent [and] took all that the procurator had, and imprisoned him; and laid hold of S. John and drove him into exile; and passed sentence on the city that it should be laid waste.”

3) Andreas of Cappadocia (early AD 500’s) believed that Revelation was written under Domitian. However, he is a witness that there were some commentators in the 6th century, or before, who held to a pre-AD 70 date for Revelation. In his commentary on Revelation, at Rev. 6:12, he writes: “There are not wanting those who apply this passage to the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by Titus.” At Rev. 7:1 he writes: “These things are referred by some to those sufferings which were inflicted by the Romans upon the Jews.”

4) Arethas (AD late 400’s/early 500’s) in his commentary on Revelation applies the sixth seal (commencing in 6:12) to the destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70), adding that the Apocalypse was written before that event. In his comments on Rev. 1:9, Arethas writes: “John was banished to the isle of Patmos under Domitian, Eusebius alleges in his Chronicon.” Arethas does not appear to be satisfied with what Eusebius “alleges.” On Revelation 6:12, Arethas writes: “Some refer this to the siege of Jerusalem by Vespasian.” On Rev. 7:1, he writes: “Here, then, were manifestly shown to the Evangelist what things were to befall the Jews in their war against the Romans, in the way of avenging the sufferings inflicted upon Christ.” On Rev. 7:4, he writes: “When the Evangelist received these oracles, the destruction in which the Jews were involved was not yet inflicted by the Romans.” Arethas also notes that Josephus (who recorded the destruction of Jerusalem) recorded the fulfillment of the predictions in the seals. He clearly believed that Revelation was written prior to AD 70.

5) Epiphanius (c. AD 315-403) in Heresies 51:12, 33 states that the banishment of John occurred under Claudius. Some scholars have suggested that Epiphanius may have used another of Nero’s names, rather than his more common one. Hort suggests that he (or his authority) may have meant the notorious Nero: “But as one of his [Claudius’] names was Nero, so also our Nero was likewise a Claudius, and is often called on inscriptions Nero Claudius or Nero Claudius Caesar.” Claudius was not a name of Domitian.

6) Eusebius (c. 260-340, in Evangelical Demonstration, Book 3, Chapter 5 ) also groups in a single sentence Peter’s crucifixion at Rome, Paul’s beheading, and John’s banishment to an island.

7) Tertullian (ca AD 160-230) in Exclusion of Heretics (Chapter 36, or Chapter XXXVI ) makes a statement that includes the banishment of John to Patmos, under Nero, near the same time that Peter and Paul were martyred (and Tertullian’s statement was interpreted this way by Jerome in his Against Jovinianum). This is the statement: “But if thou art near to Italy, thou hast Rome, where we also have an authority close at hand. What an happy Church is that! on which the Apostles poured out their doctrine, with their blood: where Peter had a like Passion with the Lord; where Paul hath for his crown the same death with John; where the Apostle John was plunged into boiling oil, and suffered nothing, and was afterwards banished to an island.” Tertullian wrote (Apology, Chapter 5) of Domitian’s persecutions (which were far less than Nero’s) but he doesn’t mention anything about John’s suffering or banishment under Domitian.

8) Clement of Rome (AD 150-215), Miscellanies, Book 7:17 ( ), states that apostolic revelation ceased under Nero. He also states that the Apostle John wrote Revelation. That is, Revelation must have been written before the end of Nero’s reign. (Clement of Rome, as does St. Jerome, gives two dates for the writing of Revelation, indicating both Neronian and Domitianic traditions for the dating of Revelation.)

9) The Shepherd of Hermas, which was written AD 90 (or even earlier, as some scholars suggest it was written in the AD 80’s--some early church fathers such as Irenaeus, Origen, and pre-Montanist Tertullian thought it was Scripture) refers to and uses imagery from the book of Revelation in Vision iv.1 ( ), Vis. iii. ( ), Similitudes viii. ( ), and others of his writings (also on Thus it is evidence that Revelation was written prior to AD 90.

See also: and Before Jerusalem Fell [edited July 3, 2012, to correct book title] by Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry.

Eusebius the Christian historian, living only two hundred years after Domitian's reign, gathered evidence from both Christian and secular sources that were still extant at the time (some of which are no longer extant today). All of the sources at Eusebius' disposal placed the date of John's Patmos exile during the reign of Domitian. Eusebius' earliest source was Irenaeus, disciple of Polycarp, disciple of John. But he also used other unnamed sources both Christian and secular to place the date of the Patmos exile of Christians during Domitian's reign (AD81-96). "It is said that in this persecution [under Domitian] the apostle and evangelist John, who was still alive, was condemned to dwell on the island of Patmos in consequence of his testimony to the divine word. Irenaeus, in the fifth book of his work Against Heresies, where he discusses the number of the name of Antichrist which is given in the so-called Apocalypse of John, speaks as follows concerning him: 'If it were necessary for his name to be proclaimed openly at the present time, it would have been declared by him who saw the Revelation. For it was seen not long ago, but almost in our own generation, at the end of the reign of Domitian.' To such a degree, indeed, did the teaching of our faith flourish at that time that even those writers who were far from our religion did not hesitate to mention in their histories the persecution and the martyrdoms which took place during it. And they, indeed, accurately indicated the time. For they recorded that in the fifteenth year of Domitian Flavia Domitilla, daughter of a sister of Flavius Clement, who at that time was one of the consuls of Rome, was exiled with many others to the island of Pontia in consequence of testimony borne to Christ." [2]

While Eusebius quoted Irenaeus' statement, notice that he also indicated that other secular histories at his disposal accurately indicated the banishment of Christians to Patmos occurred during Domitian's reign.

First, the island of Pontia and the Isle of Patmos do not appear, from what I have been able to discover, to be the same island.

Second, Irenaeus is the main source of the idea that John was banished under Domitian. Later writers took their cue from what Irenaeus seemed to be saying and repeated what they thought he was saying. Eusebius explicitly said he relied on Irenaeus (Ecclesiastical History 3:18 and 5:8). At the same time, Eusebius doubts that the Apostle John wrote Revelation ( ) and he doubts that Papias knew John (Ecclesiastical History 3:38:5; 3:29:1, 2, 5, 6). Eusebius departs from Irenaeus on these points and is inconsistent here in believing Irenaeus on one thing and not on others.

In addition, even Irenaeus’ famous quote is subject to an alternative rendering. To preface, this quote from Irenaeus should read, “for that was seen not long ago…” (Mr. Warner wrote “it” instead of “that.” )

This statement of Irenaeus contains an inflected Greek verb that can be translated into English two different ways: “it was seen” (the Revelation was seen, as Mr. Warner contends) or “he was seen” (that is, John was seen). Context must be used to discern the meaning of the inflection. Irenaeus goes on to speak of the personal and written witness of the church in its persecutions, which could indicate John was meant. Also the word “for” preceding the phrase in question seems to indicate that Irenaeus is harkening back to the “him [John]” before the adjectival phrase “who saw the revelation” in the phrase “it would have been declared by him who saw the revelation. For he was seen not long ago…” The point is that translation of this phrase is subject to alternative interpretation, but this fact unfortunately is not addressed in the article by Mr. Warner.

Please note that Irenaeus was attempting here to identify the Antichrist by trying to find out what name “six hundred and sixty six” could signify. It turns out that he didn’t know. However, it’s worth noting that the term “antichrist” is not found in the book of Revelation. That term is only found in John’s epistles, yet John does not employ that word in the book of the Revelation. In other words, Irenaeus is conflating the idea of “The Antichrist” and “The Beast.” But there isn’t any Biblical reason to assume they are one and the same person (though that doesn’t mean that they can’t be); yet, it seems to me that the beast is more of a political enemy (heads are kings) and the antichrist is more of a religious enemy (false doctrine, 1 Jn. 4:3). It may be of interest to notice this verse (1 Jn. 2:18) also states that the presence of the spirit of the antichrist and the fact that many antichrists had come was evidence that it was “the last hour” for John and those to whom he wrote.

A more serious mistake that Irenaeus makes elsewhere in Against Heresies is stating that Jesus had a fifteen year ministry and died when He was more than 50 years old.

This shows that Irenaeus is a respected church father, but he made mistakes and was not inspired in his writings.

Eusebius continues: "Tertullian also has mentioned Domitian in the following words: 'Domitian also, who possessed a share of Nero's cruelty, attempted once to do the same thing that the latter did. But because he had, I suppose, some intelligence, he very soon ceased, and even recalled those whom he had banished.' But after Domitian had reigned fifteen years, and Nerva had succeeded to the empire, the Roman Senate, according to the writers that record the history of those days, voted that Domitian's horrors should be cancelled, and that those who had been unjustly banished should return to their homes and have their property restored to them. It was at this time that the apostle John returned from his banishment in the island and took up his abode at Ephesus, according to an ancient Christian tradition." [3]

Here again Eusebius mentioned an ancient Christian tradition, but did not quote his sources, that placed John's return from exile on Patmos after Domitian's fifteen year reign, and Nerva's rise to power (AD96).

An ancient Christian tradition and unnamed sources are not good evidence that John returned from Patmos upon the death of Domitian. It could just as easily be rumors and myths as truth, especially in light of the overwhelming evidence internal to the Scriptures.

In addition, although Mr. Warner does not seem to notice, Eusebius’ quote from Tertullian indicates that Nero in his cruelty had banished people and Domitian copied Nero in this.

There is more early evidence, both explicit and implicit, from other early writers prior to Eusebius, as follows:

Victorinus, bishop of Pettaw (Italy), agreed with Irenaeus. That Victorinus did not rely on Irenaeus for his information is clear from the fuller details of his statement not referenced by Irenaeus. "'And He says unto me, Thou must again prophesy to the peoples, and to the tongues, and to the nations, and to many kings.' He says this, because when John said these things he was in the island of Patmos, condemned to the labor of the mines by Caesar Domitian. There, therefore, he saw the Apocalypse; and when grown old, he thought that he should at length receive his quittance by suffering, Domitian being killed, all his judgments were discharged. And John being dismissed from the mines, thus subsequently delivered the same Apocalypse which he had received from God." [4]

A little farther, Victorinus again made the same claim. "The time must be understood in which the written Apocalypse was published, since then reigned Caesar Domitian; but before him had been Titus his brother, and Vespasian, Otho, Vitellius, and Galba."[5]

Yes, Victorinus does seem to think that John was sent to Patmos by Domitian. These excerpts are a little confusing because Victorinus seems to have written that the Revelation was published under the reign of Caesar Domitian after John returned from Patmos, but he also seems to be saying that John didn’t return from Patmos and publish the Revelation until after the death of Domitian.

Another perplexing question is why John, well into his 80’s or even in his 90’s, would have been condemned by the Romans to “labor in the mines.” And how then would John have returned from Patmos with the vigor to travel around reorganizing the churches (as noted by Clement of Alexandria below)?

In my view, Victorinus gets his interpretation of Revelation wrong because, for one, he assumes Domitian was reigning at the time of the writing of the Revelation, and then he counts backwards to Galba. But then he includes Nero in amongst the kings spoken of in Revelation 17 and also seems to think that Nero would be resurrected ( ). His writing is a little confusing, but part of the reason is that his Latin, which he was using to exegete the Revelation, is not very good ( ) and the manuscripts are not in order (, see note 2303).

Clement of Alexandria (AD150-220) recounted a story about John shortly after his return from exile, while a very old man. "And that you may be still more confident, that repenting thus truly there remains for you a sure hope of salvation, listen to a tale, which is not a tale but a narrative, handed down and committed to the custody of memory, about the Apostle John. For when, on the tyrant’s death, he returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos, he went away, being invited, to the contiguous territories of the nations, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, there to ordain such as were marked out by the Spirit." [6]

The expression "the tyrant's death" can only refer to the death of either Nero or Domitian, the only two "tyrants" that ruled in the first century. Eusebius related that upon the death of Domitian, the Roman senate voted to release those exiled by Domitian. This seems to parallel Clement's statement above. However, the above statement COULD refer to Nero, except for one fact. In the story that Clement related, he clearly stated that John was a very old and feeble man.

The story is about a young new convert whom John entrusted to a certain elder to disciple in the Faith. The man had formerly been a thief and robber. Upon John's return from exile on Patmos, he heard that this young man had returned to his old life of crime. Upon hearing this, he sharply rebuked the elder in whose custody he had left him. John immediately set out for the place where this robber and his band were known to lurk. Upon reaching the place, he was assaulted by the band of robbers. He demanded of them to take him to their leader. They brought John to the very man whom John had formerly won to Christ, and left in the custody of the elder. When the young man saw John approaching, he began to run away. John began to run after him, calling, “Why, my son, dost thou flee from me, thy father, unarmed, old? Son, pity me. Fear not; thou hast still hope of life. I will give account to Christ for thee. If need be, I will willingly endure thy death, as the Lord did death for us. For thee I will surrender my life. Stand, believe; Christ hath sent me.” John then explained to him that forgiveness and restoration was still possible. Clement then stated, "And he, when he heard, first stood, looking down; then threw down his arms, then trembled and wept bitterly. And on the old man approaching, he embraced him, speaking for himself with lamentations as he could, and baptized a second time with tears, concealing only his right hand. The other pledging, and assuring him on oath that he would find forgiveness for himself from the Savior, beseeching and failing on his knees, and kissing his right hand itself, as now purified by repentance, led him back to the church." [7]

From this account we see that upon John's release from exile on Patmos, he was a feeble old man. John could have been in his teens or twenties when Jesus called him. He and his brother James were working with their father as fishermen (Matt. 4:21-22). Assuming John was in his twenties, he would have been in his eighties in AD96. If he was in his teens when Jesus called him, he would have been in his seventies at the end of Domitian's reign. However, if the "tyrant" referred to by Clement was Nero, then John would have still been fairly young by the time of Nero's death, perhaps in his forties, fifties, or early sixties. He would hardly be spoken of as a feeble old man by Clement.

As Mr. Warner concedes, Clement of Alexandria’s story could (and I believe did) refer to John’s release from exile on Patmos after the death of Nero. Historically, Nero was called “the tyrant.” I looked up the story related by Clement of Alexandria, and it said that John entrusted the youth to an elder after John had already returned from Patmos ( , toward the bottom of the page, XLII). Clement of Alexandria never calls John “a very old and feeble man;” rather, I suspect those are Mr. Warner’s words. Clement called John an “old man” not a “very old and feeble man” as Mr. Warner falsely claims. According to Clement of Alexandria’s account of a very active and vibrant John, I’m convinced that he was likely in his late fifties or early sixties when he was released from Patmos, not in his eighties, as Mr. Warner asserts.

That John lived until after the reign of Domitian is also shown by Irenaeus' repeated references to his own mentor, Polycarp, being John's disciple.[8] Polycarp was born in AD65, and died in AD155. He was five years old when Jerusalem was destroyed. He was two years old when Nero died. His being tutored by John therefore must have been at least a decade after the destruction of Jerusalem, and more likely two or three decades afterward.

Certainly--preterists don’t dispute that John lived until after the reign of Domitian. What we’re discussing is the dating of the book of Revelation and then a preterist interpretation of it.

More than one early writer mentioned the persecution of the Apostles under Nero. They spoke of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul, but made no mention of John's exile during this persecution.

There are the statements by Tertullian and Eusebius which I listed above, but perhaps Mr. Warner isn’t aware of those. Nevertheless, taken at face value, this appears to be a fallacious argument from silence. Perhaps the early writers only mentioned the more severe persecutions of the martydoms of Peter and Paul, rather than the more mild form of persecution of John’s banishment to an island. Perhaps the early writers thought it was obvious that John was banished to Patmos under Nero because John wrote it in the book of Revelation (or so at least some believed).

As is obvious to the unbiased reader, the early external evidence that Revelation was written under the reign of Domitian is indisputable. No evidence exists, from the first three centuries of Christian tradition, placing the composition of Revelation during the reign of Nero. Nor is there any evidence (Christian or secular) that Nero exiled any Christians to Patmos.

I’m afraid I have to disagree; I don’t think it would be “obvious to the unbiased reader” (assuming a reader could be unbiased, which I doubt)! Furthermore, I’ve provided evidence (though Mr. Warner has changed the bar from “within 500 years of John” to “the first three centuries of Christian tradition”) of external evidence which places the composition of Revelation during the reign of Nero. And Mr. Warner has provided good evidence that Nero exiled Christians to Patmos in his quote of Eusebius (above, quoting Tertullian).

Preterist argument from internal evidence.

The clear familiarity of John with Temple worship in Revelation is alleged to indicate that both he and his readers relied on personal knowledge of Temple worship in Jerusalem. According to preterists, this implies that the Temple in Jerusalem was still standing when Revelation was written.

However, this argument is flawed at its very foundation. The Old Testament is full of the same Temple imagery. Any Gentile Christian familiar with the Old Testament (LXX) would be sufficiently familiar with the Temple imagery. Furthermore, familiarity with the New Testament book of Hebrews would also be sufficient. Even a cursory reading of Revelation reveals that John's visions and comments reference Old Testament prophecy on every page.

Ezekiel saw a future Temple in his prophetic visions. [9] Yet, his visions occurred during the Babylonian captivity years after Solomon's Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Many of those who returned after the seventy year captivity to rebuild the Temple had never seen Solomon's Temple, or observed its rituals. [10] Their familiarity with the Temple was based solely on the Torah and scrolls like Ezekiel's and Daniel's.

The Temple destroyed by the Romans has been gone for nearly 2000 years. If preterists' claim is correct, we should not be able to understand Revelation or write about Temple worship today because we have no personal first-hand knowledge of the Temple and its rituals. Such a position is absurd, since our knowledge of the Temple comes from the Scriptures. Neither the writing nor understanding of Revelation requires or implies first hand knowledge of the Temple. The Old Testament is sufficient. John certainly was himself familiar with the Temple, having been there with Jesus on several occasions. And his readers were well trained in the Old Testament Scriptures.

Here’s the solitary instance of internal evidence for the preterist view (the solitary one of many evidences, only a few of which I listed above) that Mr. Warner chooses to rebut. Unfortunately for Mr. Warner’s rebuttal, preterists do not allege that John’s display of knowledge of temple worship in Jerusalem implies that the temple in Jerusalem was still standing when Revelation was written.

Rather, preterists point to Revelation 11:1-2 to show that the temple was still standing or the angel wouldn’t have told John to measure it, and the people who worship (present tense) there, and would not have prophesied that Gentiles would be given the outer court and would tread on the holy city for forty-two months. And that this prophecy was fulfilled in that the Romans laid siege on Jerusalem, from Spring AD 67 to Aug/Sept AD 70, or, 42 months.

That John was told in his vision to "measure the Temple and them that worship therein,"[11] is likewise no indication that the Temple was still standing in Jerusalem. This prophetic vision clearly parallels Ezekiel's vision. [12] Ezekiel saw his vision during the Babylonian captivity, fourteen years after Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.[13] Yet, in his vision, Ezekiel was taken to Jerusalem, shown a glorious Temple far larger than Solomon's Temple, and proceeded to record all the measurements of the Temple in great detail. John saw his prophetic Temple vision during Domitian's reign (AD81-96). We don't know exactly when during his reign he was exiled, nor how long prior to his release he wrote Revelation. But, the possible timespan covers anywhere from eleven to twenty six years after the destruction of the Temple by Titus. It certainly COULD have also been fourteen years following the Temple's destruction, just like Ezekiel's Temple vision. It is obvious that the command given John to "measure the Temple" was meant to parallel Ezekiel's vision. Since Ezekiel saw his Temple vision fourteen years after the first Temple had been destroyed and lay in ruins, there is every reason to conclude that the same situation existed when John wrote Revelation. Ezekiel's Temple vision and prophecy was clearly intended to indicate a future rebuilt Temple. Ezekiel did not see the former (Solomon's) Temple that had been destroyed, or a Temple that was currently standing. Therefore, John's vision of the Temple in Jerusalem should be seen in the same way, being an indication and prophecy that the Temple will indeed be rebuilt. Contrary to the claim that John's Temple vision indicates that Herod's Temple was still standing, when compared to the parallel account in Ezekiel, it seems obvious that both prophecies of measuring the Temple were given shortly after the Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. The former in Ezekiel's day by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians, and the latter in John's day by Titus and the Romans.

I am glad that Mr. Warner has mentioned a text that preterists point to as support for a pre-AD 70 date for the writing of Revelation. Unfortunately, he doesn’t deal with the prophecy in Rev. 11:1-2, which was fulfilled a few years later. His note 11 below references Rev. 11:1-2, though he only quotes v. 1 and does not quote or deal with v. 2 at all. He completely avoids the very crux of the preterist argument from Rev. 11:2—fulfilled prophecy.

In addition, I don’t understand why in note 12, Mr. Warner cites Ezek. 40:3ff and Rev. 13:1-2 to be compared together; they do not at all seem “parallel” to me, as Mr. Warner claims above. He must have meant Ezek. 40:3ff and Rev. 11:1-2. In his note 13, Mr. Warner correctly cites Ezekiel as being written after the Babylonian captivity. But where is the parallel passage in Revelation (or elsewhere in the NT) that shows that the Herodian temple John is told to measure had already been destroyed? It isn’t to be found.

John’s vision was not Ezekiel’s vision. Ezekiel was not told to measure the temple; “a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze” did (unlike John’s vision). Also there were no people worshipping in the temple that Ezekiel saw (unlike John’s vision). Ezekiel was given a grand tour of the temple (unlike John’s vision, which was pretty much a one-liner). Ezekiel saw a newly rebuilt unfamiliar temple; John saw a familiar temple soon to be destroyed. The destruction of Solomon’s temple was prophesied and it was destroyed within a generation. The destruction of Herod’s temple was prophesied and it was destroyed within a generation. Ezekiel had received promises of a rebuilt temple (see also Haggai 1:8; Isa. 44:28), and this promise was fulfilled (Nehemiah, Ezra).

Not only is the New Testament devoid of a promise of a (literal) rebuilt temple; but, in the book of Revelation, after destruction of the adulterous Jerusalem and after the fantastical bride-city of New Jerusalem is described, John reveals that he “saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22).

It appears that Mr. Warner assumes that a rebuilt (for a second time) temple appears in the book of Revelation, based on a fulfilled OT prophecy of the first temple being rebuilt. In fact, Mr. Warner assumes a second rebuilding of the temple which Revelation itself explicitly denies!

Barnabas (ca. 20-70) on the destruction of the temple made with hands and the building of a spiritual temple in Christ:

That this is how the early Christians understood Revelation, even after the destruction of the Temple, is clear from their statements to the effect that the Temple in Jerusalem will be the seat of the Antichrist in the last days. [14]

Hippolytus (170-235), who Mr. Warner cites in his note 14, actually wrote that it would be the antichrist which would raise up a stone temple in Jerusalem.
( , see paragraph 6)

Hippolytus also thought that Christ would come again in the year AD 500 ( , see paragraphs 3-7), but He didn’t. Of course, that an early church father writes something does not mean it is true. Only Scripture holds the distinction of absolute, infallible truth.

Ignatius (ca. 35-117) writes a little bit of the antichrist:
and Barnabas (ca. 20-70)

The man of lawlessness and the antichrist (of which there were many, and probably are many today as well, for the antichrist is one who denies that the Christ came in the flesh and denies the Father and the Son) were not necessarily the same person. Nevertheless, if the Scriptures say that “the Antichrist” (1 Jn. 2:15-25; 1 Jn. 4:1-5; 2 Jn. 1:5-11) sat in the temple (2 Thess. 2:4) in Jerusalem in the last days (Acts. 2:16-18; Heb. 1:1-3) before the temple was destroyed, then he did.

The preterist's attempts to date Revelation before the destruction of Jerusalem fail on both internal and external evidence. This failure is indicative of their whole system, which is forced upon the Scriptures, and in this case, upon history as well. Preterist scholarship on this question is clearly agenda driven.

I’m afraid that what Mr. Warner is saying of the preterist is actually true of the futurist. I feel concerned that he seems to basing his date of Revelation on a few external (tradition) evidences, rather than on the internal (self-witnessing) evidences of Scripture, the word of truth.

Furthermore, when a Christian undertakes to teach publicly and engage in an attempted refutation of a position he believes to be in error, it is expected and assumed that he will make effort to form a comprehensive understanding of the debate, read widely from contrary sources, understand the arguments, evidences, claims and counter-claims, and that he will then make effort to formulate a response that answers the (actual) arguments of the opposing view. If he doesn’t, then he is simply shadow-boxing. The goal should be to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, to love God with all our minds, and to build up the brethren in the faith; and thereby bring glory to our Lord.

Notes [Mr. Warner's]:

[1] Rev. 1:9

[2] Eusebius, Bk. III, ch. xviii

[3] ibid. ch. xx

[4] Victorinus, Commentary on the Apocalypse, XI

[5] ibid. ch. XVII

[6] Clement, Who is the Rich Man that shall be Saved, XLII

[7] ibid.

[8] Irenaeus, frag. ii

[9] Ezek. 40-44

[10] cf. Hag. 2:3

[11] Rev. 11:1-2

[12] cf. Ezek. 40:3ff & Rev. 13:1-2

[13] Ezek. 40:1

[14] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Bk V, XXV, i-ii, Bk. V, XXX, iv, Hippolytus, On Daniel, II, xxxix, Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, vi, Appendix to the Works of Hippolytus, XXV


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