The present focus of this study centers on the internal evidence for the early dating of the Apocalypse. In our last presentation we dealt with Revelation 10:7 and 11:1-13 as conclusive proof that the book of Revelation's primary theme is the desolation of the nation of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem. Since the Apocalypse was written prior to the actual happening of the events foretold, it must have been written before 70 A.D. As we continue this study, observe two more texts which we feel are also conclusive proof for the early dating of the book of Revelation.
"He said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
One of the elders asked John, "What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?" (7:13). John responded, "Sir, thou knowest." Then, the elder identified them as those "which came out of the great tribulation."
The KJV does not include the definite article "the" in the translation. Most other translations including NKJ and interlinears (Marshall & Berry) include the definite article. This changes the meaning drastically. There is a vast difference in talking about great tribulation and "the" great tribulation. To Illustrate, consider the difference in "great depression" and "the great depression." Great depression could be any period of recession but to us "the great depression" was the recession of the late 1920's. So, when the elder identified this period of tribulation as "the great" one, he is specifying a distinctive period. When we identify this specific period, we will recognize a definite point in history. Old and New Testament passages foretold this period of great tribulation. Observe how recognizable this epoch is.
"Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it" (Jeremiah 30:7). Written six hundred years before Christ, Jeremiah's prophecy foretold "Jacob's trouble", a day so great that none would be like it. We know this period of trouble followed Pentecost because it would happen when the people "serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them" (30:9). Contextually, this period of trouble follows the return of the Jews from the captivities and the beginning of the reign of Christ.
Daniel wrote, "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (Daniel 12:1). This prophecy of a future period of unprecedented trouble upon Israel came near the end of the Babylonian captivity. The captivity was itself an extraordinary period of tribulation for Israel (538 B.C.). This future tribulation upon God's holy people was many years in the future when foretold by Daniel. The prophecy was "closed up and sealed till the time of the end" (12:4,9,13). Daniel desired to know when the time of the end would be (12:8). God gave one clue. A period of 1290 days (approximately 3 1/2 years) would exist between the setting up of "the abomination that maketh desolate" and "the daily sacrifice" being taken away.
Some terrible periods of suffering came upon the Jews during the inter-Testamental period but none of them were severe enough to eclipse the captivities. This forecast period of trouble would come much later and overshadow all previous periods of suffering by the nation of Israel.
In speaking of the events to surround the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus said, "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24:21). It is evident Jesus was talking about what would befall the nation of Israel. His statement parallels the prophecy of Daniel. Jesus made the connection Himself; "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains" (24:15,16). Jesus explained Daniel's prophecy. Both Daniel and Jesus foretold a period of suffering upon the Jews. This period of tribulation would come in connection with the fall of Israel as a nation. This period of trouble took place during the years of 66-70 A.D. and ended in the destruction of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah, Daniel and Jesus all foretold this period of unprecedented tribulation coming upon Israel. Nothing ever compared to it before or would compare to it again. It was so great that it earned the designation "the great tribulation." Some question this conclusion but to do so is to question God's word. No other tribulation upon earth can compare when we consider all of the details. This was God's wrath poured out upon His holy nation in which he caused them to suffer for their rejection of Him and His son. He brought them to a sudden and complete end in a blood bath of which there is no comparison.
Since Revelation 7:14 identifies victorious saints coming out of "the great tribulation," the substance of the Revelation must center around the desolation of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem. Otherwise, it is not "the great tribulation." There are no if, and, or buts about it. These passages identify the same period of time or Jesus is talking out of both sides of His mouth. Are you ready to accuse Him of that? Since the Apocalypse was written before the things it foretold, it was written before "the great tribulation." This period of tribulation began in earnest in 66 A.D.
"In her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth."
This statement comes in response to the destruction of Babylon the Great. John gave a number of clues to the identity of Babylon many of which typify numerous cities.(1) John's statement is specific however, having only one application. It conclusively identifies Jerusalem as Babylon the Great.
Remember, the Apocalypse is the revelation of Jesus Christ by His angel unto John (1:1). Everything said by Jesus through His angel must harmonize with and never contradict what He has said at other times. This is significant because Jesus delivered the same message during His personal ministry and identified the object of His message. The blood of prophets, saints, and all slain upon the earth are to be accounted for. Observe the message Jesus uttered during His personal ministry.
Just days prior to Jesus' crucifixion and in response to a suggestion from the Pharisees that Herod would kill Him, Jesus said, "For it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem" (Luke 13:33). If a prophet could not perish outside Jerusalem, how could any other city be held responsible for their deaths? Was Jesus whistling Dixie? Did He say what He meant and mean what He said? Jesus further said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!" (13:34). There can be no other explanation. Jerusalem, and Jerusalem alone, was responsible for the deaths of the prophets. If this is true, Babylon can only symbolize Jerusalem.
Identifying Babylon with Rome or any other city demands proof that they were responsible for the deaths of prophets. Who can name even one prophet of either Old or New Testament variety that Rome was solely responsible for their death? The fact is, Rome was never responsible for the deaths of prophets. Jerusalem alone carried this responsibility. Jesus said, "Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation" (Luke 11:49,50). Note carefully; the blood of "ALL the prophets ... from the foundation of the world" was required of that generation. God avenged the blood of His prophets upon Jerusalem in 70 A.D. There is no proof that prophecy continued after 70 A.D., therefore, neither Rome nor any other city could be held responsible for their deaths. Jerusalem, and Jerusalem alone, was held responsible for "the blood of ALL the prophets."
Again, Jesus said, "I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth"(Matthew 23:34,35). Not only was Jerusalem held responsible for the deaths of the prophets but also of the apostles (cf.Luke 11:49) and indeed "ALL the righteous blood shed upon the earth." It is interesting to note that Babylon was destroyed to avenge all of these. John wrote, "Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her... And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth" (Revelation 18:20,24).
The message Jesus delivered during His personal ministry (cf.Matthew 23:34-38; Luke 11:45-51; 13:33-35) is the same identical message delivered to John by the angel. Both are from the mouth of the Lord. Did Jesus speak out of both sides of His mouth? Did He punish two cities for the same thing, one that deserved it and the other which did not? Jerusalem was the city of God and deserved this punishment because she knew better than to do as she did, but Rome was not the city of God and knew no better. Before we accuse Jesus falsely, should we not consider the possibility that He spoke the same message both times?
We have discussed four passages from Revelation which tie in with other Biblical texts identifying the substance of the Apocalypse as centering upon the desolation of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem. I believe these conclusively prove that the book of Revelation was written before the things foretold, namely, the destruction of Jerusalem. You are free to disagree if you wish but, if you do, would you be kind enough to point out the error in this reasoning? If these arguments are in error, they should be easily exposed.
In the next article, we will discuss Revelation texts which clearly support these conclusions.
1. For a discussion of the characteristics of Babylon the Great which fully identify her, see The Avenging of the Apostles and Prophets, 2nd edition, Appendix C, p. 435
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