The Dating of the Book of Revelation

by Carl W. Bogue, Jr., Th.D.
Pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church
Akron, Ohio, U.S.A.

A popular theory holds that the book of Revelation was written sometime in the period between A.D. 90-95. If this is true, then the expectation is that the “Great Tribulation” described in the book was far off in the future—maybe in our own time. But a candid look at the evidence requires a date shortly prior to A.D. 70 when Jerusalem and the temple were utterly destroyed, as Jesus prophesied would happen in the “Little Apocalypse,” Matthew chapter twenty-four.

First, Jerusalem is spoken of as still standing. Revelation 1-11 alludes frequently to the fall of Jerusalem. John is called to measure the temple, without any suggestion that it is destroyed (11:1). Jesus told His disciples that within their generation, not one stone of the temple would be left on top another (Mt. 24:2). The temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 and never rebuilt. Thus, it is evident that Revelation was written before that judgment.

Furthermore, the emperor Nero is mentioned as still being alive: “There are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space” (17:10). Julius was the first Caesar (48-44 B.C.); he was followed by Augustus (27 B.C.-A.D. 14), Tiberius (A.D. 14-37), Caligula (37-41), Claudius (41-54), Nero (54-68), Galba (who ascended the throne upon Nero’s suicide on June 9, A.D. 68 and reigned only briefly until he was assassinated on January 15, A.D. 69) and Vespasian (A.D. 69-79). The first five Caesars—Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius—had already died (“fallen”) at the time of the writing of the book of Revelation. Nero was on the throne. After him arose another Caesar, Galba, who only continued a short space—just a little over six months. How exactly was Bible prophecy fulfilled!

Moreover, Revelation 13:8 identifies the emperor with the number equivalent of Nero’s name: 666. In Hebrew the name is “nrwn qsr”: n (50) r (200) w (6) n (50) q (100) s (60) r (200), which totals exactly 666.(1) The numerical values of the Hebrew alphabet are well established.(2) How totally contrived and arbitrary are naive and misguided efforts to force this historic number on twentieth-century English names such as Henry Kissinger or Ronald Wilson Reagan!

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

Finally, John repeatedly makes the point that the great tribulation he describes “must shortly come to pass” (Rev. 1:1). This was a comfort for persecuted Christians: deliverance was at hand! “Shortly” does not mean a quarter of a century later—let alone 1900-plus years later! God’s word says: “shortly,” and there is no reason for not taking it literally. Further, there are at least 24 verses in Revelation (e.g., 1:3; 2:16; 3:10-11; 10:6-7; 12:12; 22:3, 7, 10, 12, 20) which speak of the imminence of the fulfillment of the prophecies of the book (not imminent now but imminent in the first century).

While part of the concluding portion of Revelation is about end-time events, the primary thrust of the book is about the destruction of Israel by Nero and Christ’s victory over Rome. Only one event can possibly match the tribulation and the details of the book of Revelation: the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, vividly chronicled by the Jewish historian Josephus. This is what “must shortly come to pass,” according to John; and therefore, he was writing the book of Revelation prior to A.D. 70.


(1) Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., He Shall Have Dominion (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992), p. 409. Back.

(2) See, for example, Menahem Mansoor, Contemporary Hebrew (New York: Behrman House, 1976), pp. 10-11; or J. Weingreen, A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew (New York: Oxford University Press, 1939), p. 1. Back.