A thorough study of the internal evidence for the early dating of the Apocalypse requires much more time and space than our study of the late date. This is because the most forceful case for the early date is internal evidence and there is an abundance of it. Unlike the evidence presented for a late dating of the book, the internal evidence for the early date ties in with other biblical texts. In other words, numerous passages within the Apocalypse have scriptural counterparts which demand identical recognition and establish the subject matter of the texts. Subsequently they establish the time of writing. Their number is too great to consider all of them, so, we must confine our studies to the more prominent ones.
In this study we shall consider texts from within the Apocalypse which either identify a specific subject under discussion or which ties in with other biblical texts which are specific. We shall divide these texts into three categories: (1) Texts which conclusively identify with the desolation of the nation of Israel and the destruction of their capital city, Jerusalem. (2) Texts which are not conclusive but which lend strong support to this conclusion, and (3) texts which clearly support this conclusion but which are broader in perspective. In this article, we shall study two texts which we believe conclusively establish the desolation of the nation of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem as the primary focus of the Apocalypse.
In Revelation 11:1-13, John was instructed to "measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months" (11:1,2). God's two witnesses, who identify with Moses and Elijah, continue to prophesy until they are killed. "And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city,... where also our Lord was crucified" (11:8). Later, a tenth part of the city falls and the seventh angel sounds his trumpet (11:13,15).
One need not be a genius to understand that Jerusalem is under consideration here. The temple of God and the altar are in the holy city. Jerusalem and new Jerusalem are the only holy cities identified in the scriptures (cf.Nehemiah 11:1,18; Isaiah 52:1; Daniel 9:24; Matthew 4:5; Revelation 21:1,10). This city is also "the great city... where also our Lord was crucified" (11:8). Jerusalem is identified in scripture as a great city (Jeremiah 22:8) and, furthermore, Jesus was crucified there (Cf.Matthew 16:21; 20:17,18; Luke 13:33,34; 18:31-33).
The Apocalypse reveals things which were shortly to come to pass. John saw Jerusalem being destroyed. Unless John uses the destruction of Jerusalem to symbolize a city other than the one identified, Jerusalem's destruction was still future. Therefore, the book of Revelation was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem.
Those holding to later dates cannot accept this obvious conclusion. To do so would frustrate their view of the Revelation. They contend that, since the Apocalypse is a book of signs and symbols, John would not have used such indisputable language to portray Jerusalem. Somehow they perceive that such clear language cannot be symbolic.
At times while travelling I observe huge billboards advertising restaurants showing how they appear. Now I understand the difference between a sign and a restaurant. The billboard is not a restaurant but it may picture or symbolize the place where you can purchase a good meal. This is what John was doing. He saw a vision of Jerusalem's destruction. He identified the city for us in no uncertain terms. The vision was not the literal destruction but it pictured how the destruction of Jerusalem would take place. The destruction of Jerusalem as related by Josephus fully fits the scene recorded by John. I believe this text proves conclusively that the primary events shortly to come to pass center around the desolation of the nation of Israel and the destruction Jerusalem. The book of Revelation was written before these predicted things came to pass, therefore, the early date.
"But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets."
The mighty angel said this during the interlude following the blowing of the sixth trumpet. He declared that when the seventh and final angel sounded the mystery of God declared to His servants the prophets would be finished or completed. Only the Old Testament prophets are identified as God's servants the prophets (cf.2 Kings 9:7; 17:13,23; 21:10; 24:2; Ezra 9:11; Jer.7:25; 25:4; 26:5; 29:19; 35:15; 44:4; Ezek.38:17; Dan.9:6,10; Amos 3:7; Zech.1:6).(1) The mystery of God declared to them are those prophecies relating to God's plan of salvation formulated before the foundation of the world but revealed to us in these last times (Romans 16:25,26; 1 Corinthians 2:7-13; Ephesians 3:1-11).(2) The mystery of God would be finished, fulfilled, accomplished and/or completed before the seventh angel sounded. As Hailey points out, the statement points to the completion of God's plan.(3) The seventh angel's sounding would be a sign that the mystery of God revealed through the Old Testament prophets was complete.
The significance of this statement comes to light when compared to other biblical texts which teach the same things. First, consider Daniel 9:24-27. Daniel prayed to God, confessing the sins of Israel and asking God to "cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate" (9:17). Jerusalem at this time was a pile of ruins from Babylon's destruction of her in 586 B.C. God's reply came in verses 24-27. Seventy weeks were determined for Israel and the holy city "to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy" (9:24).
The meaning of the seventy weeks is not necessary for this study. Suffice it to say that it represents the total time needed to accomplish the six things outlined to be completed. One of them is the sealing up the vision and prophecy. By the end of the 70th week Daniel's vision and prophecy (all prophecy) would be sealed -- not completed but sealed. The coming of the Messiah, His death, the making of an end of sins, the bringing in of everlasting righteousness, etc., established the truthfulness of all prophecy. They also establish the fact that the prophecies were being fulfilled (cf.Acts 3:18, 20-21; 13:26-29,40-41).
As Daniel's prophecy continued, it showed that rebuilt Jerusalem would again be destroyed (9:26,27). Since this destruction of Jerusalem was to follow the completion of the six things promised, it would serve as proof that God fulfilled all that He promised in the vision and prophecy (all prophecy). Jerusalem was destroyed again in 70 A.D. by the Romans, establishing that all things promised through God's servants the prophets were fulfilled or completed. Now, if Daniel's statement means that all prophecy would be completed by the destruction of Jerusalem, then the mystery of God had to be completed at the same time as indicated in Revelation 10:7. The sounding of the seventh trumpeting angel corresponds to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Revelation 11:15). It is interesting to note that God's servants the prophets were rewarded with the sounding of the seventh trumpet (11:18). Daniel 9:24-27 and Revelation 10:7 are identical on this point, therefore, the Apocalypse was written before the events symbolized by the seventh trumpeting angel took place, i.e., the destruction of Jerusalem.
Add to this Luke 21:22. While discussing the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus said, "These be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled" (Luke 21:22). The only things written to be fulfilled at the time Jesus spoke were the Old Testament scriptures. The New Testament scriptures did not exist at this time. Therefore, the prophecies of God's servants the prophets are included in this statement. The days of vengeance against Jerusalem finished or completed the mystery of God declared to His servants the prophets.
The final destruction of Jerusalem came in 70 A.D. God's purposes and plans were all in place by this time. Nothing remained to be done. The sounding of the seventh angel (Revelation 11:15), then, symbolizes the final step in the fall of the nation of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem. Luke 21:22, along with Daniel 9:24-27, teaches the same thing as Revelation 10:7. Since these texts were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem, Revelation 10:7 must also be fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem. Therefore, the Apocalypse existed before the destruction of Jerusalem.
In summation, our line of argumentation shows that John identified Jerusalem picturing her destruction in Revelation 11. A complete study of the chapter reveals total harmony between John's vision, biblical prophecy and historical reality. Our study also uncovered a statement in Revelation 10:7 identical in teaching to Daniel 9:24-27 and Luke 21:22. Some have said that the comparisons are too remarkable to be true. My response is the opposite. Their likeness is too extraordinary not to be true.
What shall we do? Shall we continue to wallow in confusion and indecision or shall we accept the obvious, believe God and find understanding? Hopefully we will accept the latter. If we do, we will quickly realize that the Apocalypse identifies two persecutors of God's people both of whom reap God's judgment. When we realize this, our appreciation for the book of Revelation will grow. In our next study we shall consider more conclusive evidence.
Hailey, Revelation, An Introduction and Commentary, page
246, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1979
2. Ibid, page 245
3. Ibid, page 246
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