12
Feb
09

Dating Revelation with a Few Simple Words

I have made my postion on eschatology abundantly clear in the past (see my Olivet Discourse article and my 1 Thessalonians article). I have not however recounted what caused me to change my position in the first place. It comes down to a few words: “quickly”, “shortly”, “this generation” and the like.  No opponent of my position can hope to change my mind until they give me a clear answer as to how these simple words can somehow mean “the indeterminate future.”

Prior to 2004 or so I held the typical pre-tribulational pre-millennial view of the end times. That is what I had been taught and I never bothered to question it further.  Then I met my wife. She held to almost the same view except that she was post-tribulational. By that I mean that she believed in the Rapture and the Great Tribulation but she believed that the Rapture would take place after the Tribulation, that is Christians would have to live through the Great Tribulation.  She could not see the point in all of the warnings and encouragement given in scripture for those who were or would face persecution.  Thus she came to her post-trib conclusions.

At the time I felt pretty certain that my position was the right one because after all how could so many Bible teachers be wrong?  Then I read a little book called “End Times Fiction.”

This work by Gary DeMar attacked the pre-tribulational view as it is laid out in the fictional Left Behind series of books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins (hence DeMar’s title).  My brother-in-law had unsuccessfully tried to speak to me before about the preterist view of eschatology.  DeMar’s book answered my objections.  By the time I finished I was converted. I rejected the doctrine of the Rapture and the Great Tribulation and I took on a position that put the fulfillment of most New Testament prophecy in the first century with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.  I still believe Christ will return to judge the living and the dead (as even the earliest creeds profess) but I do not believe Matthew 24 (and similar Gospel passages) or Revelation are about that.

Naturally it would be easy to prove or disprove my view completely if it could be proven that the Book of Revelation was written after 70AD.  Fair enough.  A lot of historical and hermaneutical acrobatics have been offered to me as proof that Revelation was written around 95AD during the reign of Domitian, emperor of the Roman Empire. The truth is that the scripture itself does not indicate the date of Revelation. It is referred to by Iraneus but the grammar he used in his writing makes it unclear if he means to say the vision of Revelation was seen during the reign of Domitian or the apostle John himself. 

But is there not a way to simply obtain this information from the scripture itself?  Would that not be easier? Yes and yes.  There are a few words mentioned in the scripture which I had overlooked time and again. Until I began to change my belief about the end times I had somehow missed these important words.  These words are “shortly”, “quickly”, “soon” and “this generation.”

Matthew 24:34–At the beginning of the 24th chapter of Matthew’s gospel Jesus has told the disciples that the temple will be destroyed.  They naturally wanted to know when such an incredible thing would take place (One thing you must remember: the temple and Jerusalem were almost synonymous with Heaven on earth for these people,the Holy of Holies being the dwelling place of God) and so he spends a few pages telling them what to watch for in graphic language.  And to sum up the discussion he gives a fairly precise time frame: “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” 

One can easily determine the approximate length of time of a generation and come to some conclusion as to when to expect those events to take place. Jesus said those words around 30AD.  It has been pretty universally decided that the length in time of a generation is around 40 years.  I probably do not have to do the math for you.

Revelation 1:1, 3–John’s introduction to his letter to the seven churches in Asia states that Christ is going to show him things “that must shortly take place” and that “the time [of these events]is near,” near to the time of the writing.

Revelation 22:12, 20–In the final chapter of the book Jesus himself states the timetable when he utters “I am coming soon!”  not once, but twice in the same chapter. 

Whether a person favors an early dating of Revelation or a later (95AD) dating, we can not ignore these words.  Jesus and John both make it clear that the events described will take place very soon from the time the book was written.  Nothing during 95AD or after captures the cataclysmic nature of the events of Revelation nor does anything prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. Only the Roman seige of Jerusalem which, in effect, was a judgment on the ones who rejected Messiah can fit the bill.

 Let these words speak. Let them express what they were meant to express in these passages.  Questions, comments, and challenges are welcome.

Josh H.

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