This is now the fourth segment in our series on “A Partial-Preterist Perspective on the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.” This is the same title as a term paper I recently submitted to Northwestern College. The first segment included the Title Page, Outline, Introduction, and a brief introduction to Partial-Preterism. The second segment consisted of the References page, and the third segment was a discussion of the external evidence for an early date for the writing of the book of Revelation. These segments can be found here, and again it’s recommended that they be read in order before reading this current post:
We will now turn to some of the internal evidence for an early date. This was a rather long section in my paper, so I’m going to break it up into several parts. Among other things, this first part will deal with references to Jerusalem, a temple, Babylon the Great, and a great city in the book of Revelation.
II. Internal Evidence for an Early Date (Part 1)
The reality is that if an early date for the book of Revelation is valid, this leaves room for the possibility that many of the events in this book were also fulfilled during the siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, and the Roman/Jewish War of 66-73 AD. Even more telling than the external evidence (e.g. quotes from early church fathers and historians), though, is the internal evidence from the text when it is compared with other passages of Scripture and also with what historically happened during the Roman/Jewish War.
Kenneth Gentry (1998), a former Dispensationalist, discovered in his reading of “The Jewish War” by Josephus a number of accounts which seem to reflect the descriptions of the plagues and judgments in Revelation. For example:
Regarding the blood flow to the “horses’ bridles” [Revelation 14:20], Josephus’ comments on the battle scenes during the Jewish War are enlightening. At one point a naval battle produced a “lake all bloody and full of dead bodies” (Wars 3:10:9). Later he reported that “the whole of the country through which they had fled was filled with slaughter, and [the] Jordan [River] could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it, but because the lake Asphaltitis was also full of dead bodies” (Wars 4-7:6). Surely such carnage and bloodshed are suggested by John’s imagery (p. 245).
John also refers to a time period of 42 months in Revelation 11:2-3, which is significant in light of history. John is told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months…” During the Roman/Jewish War, as will be seen, it did take Rome 3.5 years, or 42 months, to overcome Jerusalem and trample it. This occurred from the time Nero dispatched his general Vespasian to advance on Jerusalem in early spring 67 AD until Jerusalem and the temple were demolished and laid level by the end of September 70 AD.
John’s words echoed the words of Jesus given earlier. In Luke 21:24, Jesus, clearly speaking about Jerusalem’s pending destruction (Luke 21:5-7), said, “Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Dispensationalists interpret the phrase “times of the Gentiles” to be the entire Church Age. However, is it not possible that the “times of the Gentiles” is what John wrote about in Rev. 11:2-3?
In this Revelation 11 passage, John is told to measure a temple which apparently still existed. If he wrote this in 95-96 AD, the temple would have met its destruction 25 years before, and one could wonder why John did not raise a question when given this command or even mention the recent destruction of the temple at all in his book. Its absence after 70 AD was no small thing, not only because of its most central significance to Judaism, but also because of its magnificence and physical stature. After a grand renovation project at the hands of Herod around 20 BC, it was widely acknowledged as one of the most beautiful structures in the world [The use of the phrase “temple of God” quite possibly indicates that the Church is also being referred to here (cf. Eph. 2:11-22; II Cor. 6:16; I Cor. 3:16, 6:19). Therefore it may be that John was (symbolically) measuring the Church which would be trampled (persecuted) for 42 months (see Rev. 13:5-7; this passage will be discussed later). Given the similarity between this passage and Luke 21:24, the physical temple was also probably being alluded to. It may be that both ideas were being spoken of in this case.]
On the other hand, if the temple John measured is still future, as Dispensationalists teach, on what grounds could a future physical temple be referred to as “the temple of God”? Such a temple would be blasphemous in light of Christ’s work on the cross which has created a new, non-physical temple (e.g. Ephesians 2:13-20). The reinstitution of sacrifices would be an even greater insult (See Hebrews 7:11-10:18).
The description of the woman in Revelation 17 offers further internal evidence for an early date. This woman, who rode the beast, was said to be “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (verse 6). She is a great city (verse 18), and is hated by the beast and the 10 kings who desolate her and burn her with fire (verses 16-17). More specifically, it is said that “in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on the earth” (18:24), and the “saints and apostles and prophets” were told to rejoice over her destruction (18:20).
Who was responsible for shedding all the blood of the prophets and the saints, according to Jesus, and who would receive judgment as a result? The answer can be found in Matthew 23, as David Lowman (2009 ) so aptly points out:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets’” Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate (Matthew 23:29-38, emphasis added).
Is it a coincidence that the word “desolate” is used here, just as it is used in Revelation 17:16; 18:17, 19, not to mention Daniel 9:27 and Luke 21:20? No, Jerusalem was the prophetic “Babylon the Great” in the book of Revelation. The generation which heard Jesus speak these things also saw them happen, just as He said they would, in 70 AD. The third bowl judgment, rivers and springs of water becoming blood (Revelation 16:4), also is directly linked to those who had shed righteous blood (verses 5-6): “And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, ‘Just are You, O Holy One, who is and who was, for You brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!’” As we will see later, Josephus and others recorded that the rivers and springs of Jerusalem and its surroundings were filled with blood during the Roman/Jewish War. Again, Jesus said that it was the generation that would crucify Him that would be held responsible for the blood of saints and prophets (cf. Matthew 21:33-45), not a generation in the 21st century or beyond, and that Jerusalem would experience this wrath.
Jerusalem receives specific mention in Revelation 11:8, where she is clearly identified by the description “the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where [the] Lord was crucified.” It’s worth noting that “Revelation 11:8 suggests that Jerusalem’s streets were intact at the time of John’s writing” (Kenneth Gentry, 1998, p. 236) because the dead bodies of the two witnesses were to lie there for several days. If John wrote this in 95 or 96 AD, Jerusalem would have been a wasteland. As Kathleen M. Kenyon remarked, “It was two centuries or more [after 70 AD] before human activity began once more to make its mark in the whole area of ancient Jerusalem.” It’s also significant in Revelation 11:8 that Jerusalem is called “the great city.” This is the same title given to Babylon the Great on at least six occasions (17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21).
To be called “Sodom,” of course, is not a compliment. When Isaiah was instructed to prophesy against Judah and Jerusalem (Isaiah 1:1), he called the Israelites by the same name because of their apostasy. It would make sense for John to speak of apostate Jerusalem, once known as the holy city, as Sodom, Babylon, and a harlot. Todd Dennis writes, “The image of the unfaithful wife, the harlot, was often used of Israel in the OT. Israel is repeatedly called the wife of God (Jer. 2:2, 3:14, Is. 54:5). But she was an unfaithful wife (Jer. 3:20, Hos. 1:2, Ez. 6:9, Ez. 16, Is. 50:1) behaving as a prostitute (Jer. 3:1-2). In the context of Jerusalem’s designation as a prostitute, Is. 1:21 is especially noteworthy: ‘See how the faithful city has become a harlot’” (Todd Dennis , 2009). Rome in John’s day or a secular city/state in our day could not be said to fornicate against God in the way that Jerusalem was able to. Kenneth Gentry (1998, p. 241) also writes that there “is an obvious contrast between the Harlot and the chaste bride (cp. Rev. 17:2-5 with Rev. 21:1ff.) that suggests a contrast with the Jerusalem below and the Jerusalem above (Rev. 21:2; cp. Gal. 4:24ff; Heb. 12:18ff.).”
Dennis adds that the description of the harlot’s attire (purple, scarlet, gold, jewels, and pearls) was nearly identical to the ephod worn by the high priest (Revelation 17:4; cf. Exodus 28:5-21). The golden cup she held was likely symbolic of the temple vessels, the greatest part of which were gold and silver, according to the Jewish historian Josephus (Wars 5.4.4). On Aaron’s forehead was the inscription “Holy to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36). The harlot’s forehead, on the other hand, bore the title “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” (Rev. 17:5).
 Kathleen M. Kenyon, Jerusalem: Excavating 3000 Years of History, 1967, p. 185.
The Bible study group I belong to has posted fairly comprehensive chapter-by-chapter studies on the book of Revelation. They can all be found here.
21 thoughts on “PP4: Internal Evidence for an Early Date (Revelation)-Part 1”
Here are some thoughts that David Lowman shares regarding the measuring of the temple in Revelation 11:1-2, from the following site:
“The measuring of the Temple is patterned, like so much of the book of Revelation, after the book of Ezekiel. In Ezekiel we are shown an angel of the Lord measuring the Temple representing the future for Jerusalem and God’s Holy people after a return from exile. Conversely, John measures the temple to determine its soon coming destruction and its being ‘trampled’ for 42 months…
“What John does, though, is give us a beautiful, symbolic picture of God’s preserving work, for only the outer courts of the Temple are seen as being trampled, while the Temple Proper (Holy Place and Holy of Holies) is preserved. This would be God’s remnant preserved through the soon coming wrath and destruction. The physical Temple faced the wrath of God and His judgment, but His true Temple – the Church – survived and thrived amidst the persecution and tribulation.
“There is no longer a need for a physical Temple and Holy of Holies, for now, with a new and better mediator (Hebrews) the man of God can enter into the real, spiritual Holy of Holies. This is truly one of the great mysteries of the Gospel: The physical represented the reality, while the spiritual is the reality. That which can be touched is the shadow and that which cannot be seen is the reality!
“God here, in this interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets, is once again showing His protection of His people. He has measured them out and has determined to protect them through the 3 1/2 year time of judgment set against apostate Israel and the physical representation of the old and obsolete Covenant, the Temple.”
In this post, I remarked that a future rebuilt physical temple could not possibly be deemed “the temple of God” (Rev. 11:1) because it would be the center for all the sacrifices and offerings which have been made obsolete by Christ’s work on the cross. As I think about this, the same thing was certainly true in John’s day when he wrote the book of Revelation, and that’s one reason why I appreciate David Lowman’s thoughts above.
Jesus already had marked the temple as desolate (Matthew 23:38) and thus devoid of God’s presence. After Jesus died and rose again, the true temple of God has been the body of Christ (II Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:11-22). The only sense in which the physical temple (prior to 70 AD) could have been called “the temple of God” in John’s day is in keeping with the fact that it was known as God’s temple prior to Jesus marking it as desolate and reserved for destruction in His day. Still, it seems best to me to consider that the “temple of God” spoken of here pictures the body of Christ in John’s day. Readers, do feel free to discuss this idea.
It’s clear that John did have in mind the physical temple in Revelation 11, as it related to the outer court (verse 2), because it was to be given over to the nations (i.e. Gentiles) for 42 months. As David Lowman said, God’s true temple (made up of believers) was to be preserved during those 42 months. It seems there is a mix of literal and symbolic language being used here.
Not to get ahead of ourselves too much, but just keep in mind that this idea of “the temple of God” being non-physical will be revisited in the post on the man of lawlessness, here:
In 1851, Moses Stuart (Professor in Andover Theological Seminary) made the following remarks concerning Revelation 11:2 and the trampling of the holy city for 42 months, his point being that the mention of “the holy city” referred to Israel as a whole:
“Jerusalem, as being the metropolis, is, as often in the Old Testament, made the symbol or representative of the whole country or nation. The reader needs only to be reminded, how often Zion and Jerusalem stand, in prophetic language, as the representatives of the Jewish government, polity, land, and nation, in order to accede to the position, that the capitals in the Apocalypse are to be considered as the symbols of the country and of the government to which they belong.
“When John therefore predicts, in Rev. 11:2, that “the holy city shall be trodden under foot 42 months,” this of course involves the idea, that the country of which the holy city is the capital, is also trodden under foot. To make their way to the capital, a foreign enemy, coming (as the Romans did) from the north, must have overrun a great portion of Palestine antecedently to the capture of Jerusalem. The prediction of course includes both, inasmuch as the holy city is made the representative of the country at large.”
Source: Moses Stuart, Hints on the Interpretation of Prophecy, New York: Van Nostrand and Terrett, pp. 115-116; available online at http://www.preteristarchive.com/Books/pdf/1851_stuart_hints_interpretation.pdf
What if anything would change for you concerning the book of Revelation and Preterism in general ‘if ‘ the book was written during the reign of Domitian – after the destruction of the temple?
Is there evidence that John was in exile on the island of Patmos before A.D.70?
As we both know, the general preterist viewpoint on Revelation would largely unravel if it could be proven that Revelation was written during the time of Domitian (81-96 AD). So a lot would change, for sure. For me, there is very ample internal evidence (from the text) that Revelation was written prior to 70 AD. However, less importantly–but still significantly, there is also plenty of external evidence pointing to the same conclusion. “Before Jerusalem Fell” by Kenneth Gentry is a good book to read in this regard.
You asked about evidence that John was in exile on the island of Patmos before 70 AD. Good question. Here is what I wrote on this elsewhere:
More can be seen here:
Here is my two cents worth.
DOMITIAN WAS THE TWELFTH CAESAR
Here are the first twelve Caesars (Julius Caesar to Domitian) to show the likely possibilities of where “five have fallen, one is” puts the date of Revelation.
1. Julius Caesar (49-44 BC)
2. Augustus (31BC- AD 14)
3. Tiberius (AD 14-37
4. Gaius a.k.a. Caligula (AD 37-41)
5. Claudius (AD 41-54)
6. Nero (AD 54-68)
7. Galba (AD 68-69)
8. Otho (AD 69)
9. Vitellius (AD 69)
10. Vespasian (AD 69-79)
11. Titus (AD 79-81)
12. Domitian (AD 81-96)
With the solution that I (and most other conservative preterists) propose, that one starts with Julius Caesar, the five fallen are: Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius, the one reigning is Nero (AD 54-68). This fits perfectly the preterist contention that the book of Revelation was written near the end of Nero’s reign right before the Jewish war of AD 66-70. The latest one can legitimately make the “five have fallen, one is” of Revelation 17:10 would be to start the count of the emperors with Augustus instead of Julius. If one does not count the short-lived emperors (Galba, Otho and Vitellius) this would make the five that had fallen to be: Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius, Nero, the one reigning would be Vespasian (69-79). Notice that even using this late date method of counting, one comes up with Revelation being written in the decade of the 70’s. This is approximately two decades short of the proposed time of AD 95 that the late date advocates maintain.
HOW REVELATION 17:10 SHOULD READ IF REVELATION WERE WRITTEN DURING DOMITIAN’S REIGN
If Revelation were written during Domitian’s reign then Revelation 17:10 should either read, “eleven have fallen one is” (if one starts the count with Julius Caesar and includes the three short-lived emperors in the list) or “ten have fallen one is” (if one starts with Augustus and includes the three short-lived emperors), or “eight have fallen one is” if one starts with Julius and excludes the three short-lived emperors or “seven have fallen one is” (if one starts with Augustus and excludes the three short-lived emperors). Saying that Revelation was written during Domitian’s reign simply can not legitimately be made to fit Revelation’s text of “five have fallen one is.” As Ladd noted, “no method of calculation satisfactorily leads to Domitian as the reigning emperor . . . .”
If one wants to see what a book written during the reign of Domitian looks like, one should look at 2 Esdras (a.k.a. IV Ezra). In that book, the eagle (an obvious symbol of Rome), has twelve wings, representing twelve emperors (Julius-Domitian) and three heads, which are the last three of the twelve emperors (Esdras 11:1-9). The three heads represent the Flavian dynasty, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian, (2 Esdras 12:10-30). The writer of 2 Esdras believed that Rome would fall in his day during the reign of Domitian, the twelfth Caesar.
To summarize: Depending on whether one starts with Julius or Augustus and includes or excludes Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, then Domitian is either the eighth, ninth, eleventh or twelfth ruler of Rome. There is no legitimate way to make him the sixth ruler (as Rev. 17:10 requires).
Some commentators attempt to make their theory of when Revelation was written fit by starting the count of the emperors with one of the Caesar’s that came after Augustus. These theories are illegitimate because their methods of counting the emperors have no historical precedent. Robinson writes the following on the “contortions” made by those who attempt to make Domitian the sixth ruler:
The contortions to which the commentators have been driven in the interpretation of ch. 17 are I am convinced self-imposed by the ‘discrepancy,’ as Beckwith calls it, between the clear statement that the sixth king is now living and what Torrey called their ‘stubborn conviction’ that the book cannot be earlier than the time of Domitian. Drop this conviction and the evidence falls into place.
With the current rise of preterism, the early date for Revelation is regaining some of the acceptance it has had in the past. Smalley writes the following regarding the current reevaluation of the assumption that Revelation was written under Domitian:
It has been frequently assumed that the Apocalypse may be dated to the reign of the Emperor Domitian, the last representative of the Flavian house (AD 81-96), as a response to fierce persecution which took place during his reign. But this view has recently been challenged seriously, both because encouragement in the face of persecution may not be regarded as the single motive behind the composition of Revelation, and also on account of the insecurity surrounding the evidence of imperial oppression during the time of Domitian. The leaves the way open to revive the alternative view, common among nineteenth-century scholars, that Revelation was written between AD 64, as a result of the persecution under Nero, and AD 70, the fall of Jerusalem (see the summary of the research representing these two positions in Robinson, Redating [the New Testament, London: SCM Press, 1976] 224-26). As it happens, I believe that it is perfectly possible to locate the writing of Revelation in the reign of Vespasian (AD 69-79); and I have argued that the book emerged just before the fall of Jerusalem to Titus, Vespasian’s son, in AD 70 . . . I suggest that this conclusion fits the internal and external evidence for the dating of Revelation; it is also supported by the theological thrust of the drama itself. For the members of John’s circle, the earthly Jerusalem and its Temple would have been a central holy place in which to encounter God, and also a spiritual centre of gravity. If Jerusalem were about to be destroyed, the vision in Rev. 21-22 of a stunning and emphatically new holy city, where God’s people will dwell eternally in a close covenant relationship with him, would provided exactly, and at the right moment, all the spiritual encouragement they needed.
I find this quote interesting because Smalley is not a preterist but is what he terms a “modified idealist” (i.e., he sees Revelation as talking about the timeless conflict between good and evil). I believe that Revelation was written approximately five years before AD 70 (c. AD 65). It is talking about the last half of Daniel’s seventieth week, a period of three-and-a-half years that ends with the destruction of Jerusalem by the prince to come (Dan. 9:26-27). This was the soon coming forty-two- month period (three-and-a-half years) of AD 67-70 that Titus would spend destroying the Jewish nation (Rev. 11:1-2; cf. Dan. 7:23-25; 12:7; Rev. 11:7-18).
Thanks, Duncan. This is helpful and insightful. The details recorded in Revelation 17:9-10 are an important part of the internal evidence which upholds the early date for the book of Revelation, and pose quite a challenge to any futurist position on this passage as well. If I remember correctly, Tim Lahaye of “Left Behind” fame says that the king of whom it is said “one is” refers not to a king presently reigning during John’s time, but to a king who would be reigning when the rest of the book of Revelation plays out in the future. That’s quite a stretch, to say the least, especially for one who prides himself on taking a literalist approach to prophecy.
I see,John was in exile on the Island of Patmos during the reign of Domitius not Domitian. Good Irenaeus made mistake then.
Polycarp the Bishop of Smyrna also made a mistake.It was not the Apostle John that he was a disciple of – according to James Stuart Russell and you,the catching away of saints took place in A.D.70. Surely the Apostle John was not left behind,right?
Problem solved the book of Revelation was written before the fall of Jerusalem…
I disagree with Russell on the so called “rapture.” He saw it as a literal physical event, I think it was a spiritual event. Here is something from my book on this.
EXCURSUS 9A: THE GATHERING/RAPTURE OF GOD’S PEOPLE
I would be remiss if I left 1 and 2 Thessalonians without commenting on what is commonly known as “the rapture.” Paul begins the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians by referring to the gathering of God’s people that was to happen at Jesus’ Second Advent:
Now brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus said that this gathering Paul refers to was to happen before the generation listening to Him passed away:
. . . and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other . . . Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.
Matthew 24:31, 34
Regarding this gathering together of God’s people that was to happen at AD 70, Gentry writes:
The “gathering together to Him” of 2 Thessalonians 2:1 picks up on the Lord’s reference in Matthew 24:31. The word translated “gather together” here is episunagoge. We find this word elsewhere only in Hebrews 10:25, where it speaks of a worship assembly. But its cognate verb form appears in Matthew 24:31, where the gathering relates to “this generation” (Matt. 24:34). There it signifies calling the elect into the church by the trumpeting of the archetypical Great Jubilee (cf. 2 Thess. 1:1; 2:14). Here it functions the same way: with the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, from that point on Christians will be “gathered together” in a separate and distinct “assembly” (episunagoge)—the Church is called a sunagoge in James 2:2. After Jerusalem’s destruction God no longer tolerates Temple worship—indeed, he makes it impossible.57
R. T. France takes a similar position; he says that Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:31 “need to be interpreted” as a reference to the AD 70 end of the old covenant order:
The gathering of God’s people in [Matt.] 24:31, which is modeled on OT promises of the regathering of Israel within history, follows naturally from the enthronement of the Son of Man as the new focus of authority after the temple, the traditional power base of the people of God, has been removed. In other words, Jesus’ predictive words in 24:29-31 not only allow but, when understood against their OT background, need to be interpreted as part of the question [in v 3] about the coming destruction of the temple. It will mark the end of the old order, to be superseded by the sovereignty of the vindicated Son of Man.58
IS THE AD 70 GATHERING OF THE SAINTS DIFFERENT FROM THE RAPTURE?
At this point, the question arises as to whether the gathering of God’s people into the fullness of the new covenant (cf. Matt. 3:7-12; John 11:52) found in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 and Matthew 24:31 (which was to happen in the lifetime of Jesus’ hearers) is the same as the saints being caught up of which Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4. The latter event is commonly referred to as “the rapture” (Gr. harpazō: to seize suddenly or snatch away).
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
In examining this section of Scripture it should first be noted that the image of meeting (Gr. apantēsis, v. 17) the Lord in the air draws from the ancient practice of the citizens of a city going out to meet an important dignitary at his coming (parousia) to their territory. The citizens would go out to meet the ruler and escort him back to their city (i.e., he comes to their location; they do not go to his).
The word apantēsis is found in only two other places in the NT, and in both places it has the above meaning. In Acts 28:15, believers from Rome went out to “meet” Paul and escort him back to their city. Similarly in Matthew 25:1-10, the virgins go out to “meet” the bridegroom and escort him back to the wedding hall. Thus, the image evoked in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 is that of believers being spiritually caught up to go out to meet and escort Jesus back to earth to begin his rule on earth (cf. Matt. 16:27-28; Luke 19:11-27). The idea of believers being physically transported to heaven in a literal rapture is foreign to the text. Martin writes the following along these lines:
[Verses] 15-17 seem to be cast in language and images depicting the arrival of a grand dignitary. The heralds announce his coming. The crowds surge out of their city to meet him and celebrate his arrival. At this point such a dignitary would not take the crowd with him and leave. Rather, the crowd would escort him into the city. In other words, the most likely way to complete the scenario Paul painted is by assuming that after assembling his people Christ would not leave but would proceed with his parousia. What our passage depicts is not the removal of the church but the early stages of the day of the Lord.59
Looking at the catching up in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, a partial preterist such as Gentry would say that, because it speaks of the resurrection (v. 16), it must therefore be describing a future final advent. Gentry thus attempts to distinguish the gathering of the saints of which 2 Thessalonians 2:1 speaks (“Now brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him”) from the gathering which 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 describes (“we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord . . . shall be caught up”).60 While Gentry sees the gathering of 2 Thessalonians 2:1 as happening at Jesus’ AD 70 so-called “judgment coming,” he sees the catching up of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 as fulfilled during a future final advent of Jesus. This idea that Paul was talking about two different gatherings at two different parousiai of the Lord defies credulity.
Preston correctly counters this mistaken notion that the gathering of the saints at Jesus’ coming spoken of in Matthew 24:31 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1 is different from the catching up of the saints at Jesus’ coming in 1 Thessalonians 4:17:
I want you to focus on the opening line of Paul’s comments [in 1 Thess. 4:15-18]: “According to the Lord’s own word.” Paul is letting us know that what he says in these verses is straight from Jesus’ own teaching. So, here is the question: where in Jesus’ discourses do we find the prediction of his coming that fits the language of 1 Thessalonians 4? Where in Jesus’ teachings could Paul have found the very words and descriptions that he repeats here in Thessalonians? Where in Jesus’ teachings do we find every constituent element listed by Paul? The answer to that question is very simple, in the Olivet Discourse [in] Matthew 24.61
Here is Matthew 24:29-34:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with the great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.
It must be remembered that this is the symbolic language of apocalyptic. Just as Jesus was not saying that the stars would literally come crashing to the earth at his parousia (v. 29; cf. Dan. 8:8-10; Rev. 12:1-4, 9), so he was not saying that people would literally fly up into the sky at that time. The gathering of God’s people promised in the OT was to Jerusalem, not heaven (cf. Is. 35:5-10; 56:1-8; Micah 4:1-8; Zeph. 3:14-20; Zech. 8:7-8, 20-23, etc.). The fulfillment of this is found in the New Jerusalem, in the new covenant bride (Rev. 21:9-10, 22-27). This was the Jerusalem that God’s people were gathered to; she is the new covenant “mother” of all believers (Gal. 4:21-31; cf. Is. 66:5-21).
In my book I give a very compelling chart by Beale on the connections between Matt 24 and 1 Thess. 4-5. Many partial prets want to say Matt. 24 is AD 70 but 1 Thess. 4 is the end of time. Check out the chart. It is on pgs 376-77. One can not separate the two passages.
You see Matt 24:31,1 Thess 4:16,17,1 Cor 15:51,52 Phil 3:20,21 and 1 John 3:2 as a spiritual event,really?
Well at least James Russell dared to be consistent with the ‘literal’ interpretation of scripture here.
Whatever did or did not happen to the Apostle John – he left to the imagination of his readers.How can you then Spiritualize passages that Jesus,Paul and John did not?
I have to agree, as much as I was reluctant to do so for a while, that I Thessalonians 4-5 can’t be separated from Matthew 24. I’m still slowly working out in my mind the implications of coming to this conclusion. As mentioned in a previous comment elsewhere on this site, I haven’t seen evidence that the future Rapture doctrine–as it is taught today–was taught in this way in earlier church history. Here is an interesting chart by David Curtis, showing a comparison of Matthew 24 and I Thessalonians 4-5 (the chart will follow this brief quote from Curtis):
“A comparison between 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and Matthew 24 is fascinating. As we keep in mind that Jesus uses apocalyptic language in Matthew 24: 29-35 we can’t expect the same language to be literal in 1 Thessalonians 4-5. Those who believe the coming in Matthew refers to the spiritual events surrounding Jerusalem’s fall would insist that we not literalize the clouds, the angels or the trumpet blast. If they are not literal in Matthew why would they be in Thessalonians? Matthew is the source of the language in Thessalonians!”
1. Christ Himself Returns Matt. 24:30 I Thess. 4:16
2. From Heaven Matt. 24:30 I Thess. 4:16
3. With a Shout Matt. 24:30 (in power) I Thess. 4:16
4. Accompanied by Angels Matt. 24:31 I Thess. 4:16
5. With Trumpet of God Matt. 24:31 I Thess. 4:16
6. Believers Gathered Matt. 24:31 I Thess. 4:17
7. In Clouds Matt. 24:30 I Thess. 4:17
8. Time Unknown Matt. 24:36 I Thess. 5:1-2
9. Will Come as a Thief Matt. 24:43 I Thess. 5:2,4
10. Unbelievers Unaware of Impending Judgment Matt. 24:37-39 I Thess. 5:3
11. Judgment Comes as Travail upon Expectant Mother Matt. 24:8 I Thess. 5:3
12. Believers to Watch Matt. 24:42 I Thess. 5:4
13. Warning Against Drunkenness Matt. 24:49 I Thess. 5:7
[Oops, it doesn’t appear as a chart here, but you can see the Matt. 24 references side-by-side with the I Thess. 4-5 references. Or follow the link to see the chart properly. By the way, Duncan, I wasn’t able to view your chart online. The Google Book reader would only let me go as far as page 324. I have your book, though, and am able to see it there. Actually, the charts are remarkably similar. I sure hope Curtis didn’t plagiarize it from Greg Beale, whom you gave credit to in your book.]
Other articles on the rapture, which I’ve been keeping as a reference and to ponder on further, are these:
Now (thanks to Adam)i understand your meaning of ‘spiritual’ and why Matthew 24 cannot be separated from Thessalonians 4-5.Finally i understand why you disagree with James Russell concerning the so called rapture…
I will buy your book,though Adam may have to help me translate it 🙂
Scratch the word ‘literal interpretation’ from my last comment.These passages speak of a physical event…Question do you spiritualize the resurrection or was this really a physical resurrection spoken of in Dan 12? According to you, this took place A.D.70 as well…
” I have to agree, as much as I was reluctant to do so for a while, that I Thessalonians 4-5 can’t be separated from Matthew 24.”
I think that you are right Adam,this makes sense…
Has anyone else ever seen the imagery given by Jesus in Matthew 16:27 about Him coming with His “ANGELS” and the imagery given in the whole of the book of Revelation? Preterists claim that much of what Jesus spoke of on the Mount of Olives was related to the book of Revelation. THEN NOTICE ALL THROUGHOUT REVELATION, THAT IT WAS ***ANGELS*** POURING OUT THE JUDGMENTS UPON THE NATION OF ISRAEL!!! He came back with His ANGELS and poured out His Judgments that He decreed would come upon them! WOW!
That’s a very interesting observation, and definitely something worth thinking about further. Thanks for sharing!
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The following is a piece of internal evidence, using only scripture, that needs to be in the toolbox for those proving a pre-70 date for Revelation. I’ve not seen this comparison made before by anyone else, so I would welcome any feedback, whether pro or con.
It involves that doctrine of Balaam cult in Revelation 2:12-25 that I have mentioned before here on your site. As you know, the two churches of Pergamos and Thyatira in particular were plagued with this doctrine. When you compare this Revelation 2 passage with similar passages describing this same doctrine of Balaam and those who practiced it, (as found in Jude, II Peter 2:1-22, and even II Timothy 3:1-13), the conclusion to be drawn is that they were all composed around the same time period when this way of Balaam was in the process of corrupting the doctrine of the early church. When we look carefully at the language, it tells us which book came before the others.
First of all, look in Revelation 2 at the punishment God promised to send to “Jezebel” and “her children” who were immersed in this doctrine that taught fornication and eating things offered to idols. God said in Revelation 2:21 that He had given her a “space (kronos) to repent of her fornication”, which she had not done. Then God pronounced His future intention to cast both “Jezebel” and “her children”, (the erring members of her church assembly), into GREAT TRIBULATION if they did not repent. He would then kill her children with death.
This coming “great tribulation” would be much more intense than the different episode of tribulation that John said he was already sharing with the saints in his introductory words of Revelation 1:9. I believe that was because, at that point, John was experiencing the persecution that arose in Asia following the Ephesian riot of AD 59. The even GREATER tribulation launched by Nero would soon spring up against the church following the AD 64 fire at Rome. This predicted tribulation was the “fiery trial” that I Peter 4:12 described in his book as already happening to the saints as he was writing to them. The purpose for this trial was to sift out those nominal Christians from among the assemblies who were “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (II Timothy 3:4).
Next, look at II Peter 2:12-15 (YLT); a passage which had to have been written AFTER Revelation, because it specifies a time when that earlier promise of “great tribulation” in Revelation 2 was ABOUT TO FALL on these who were following the way of Balaam. “And these (the followers of the way of Balaam) as irrational natural beasts, made to be caught and destroyed – in what things they are ignorant of, speaking evil – in their destruction shall be destroyed, ABOUT TO RECEIVE A REWARD OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, pleasures counting the luxury in the day, spots and blemishes, luxuriating in their deceits, feasting with you…”
Conclusion: because this book of II Peter was written shortly before Peter’s martyrdom in AD 67 (according to II Peter 1:14), then that means Revelation had to have been written at the very least BEFORE AD 67, since an EARLIER promise of future punishment in Revelation 2 was ABOUT TO COME upon the followers of the way of Balaam in II Peter 2:13.
As a side note, this would also indicate that I Peter 5:13’s mention of the “church at Babylon” (Jerusalem) is more than likely copying John’s EARLIER reference to “Mystery Babylon”, which we know was first-century Jerusalem.
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Would you like another piece of internal evidence for a pre-AD 70 date for Revelation? Somebody besides me must have noticed the significance of this before, probably, but I’ll add it here to your collection in hopes that it will be helpful.
This isn’t an obscure reference – we’ve all read it hundreds of times before, I’m sure. It’s the single verse, Revelation 17:18: “And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, WHICH REIGNETH (present tense to John) OVER THE KINGS OF THE EARTH.” I’ll explain just how this verse proves that Revelation was written at least before AD 66. Of course, there are other indications within Revelation that narrow that date down to an even earlier time, but we can use this one verse as proof that limits Revelation’s date to a maximum of AD 66 – proof that should be difficult to refute.
Thankfully, Adam, I don’t need to labor at convincing you that this woman – “that great city” riding the scarlet wilderness beast – is Jerusalem. Also, you already have the understanding in place that “the earth” mentioned in this verse is not the globe under discussion, but the land of Israel. That leaves only the identity of the “KINGS” of the earth to be nailed down. As I have commented before on your site, this particular phrase “kings of the earth” is speaking exclusively of the HIGH PRIESTS OF ISRAEL, according to the manner in which Christ described them in Matthew 17:25; those “kings of the earth” / high priests and their sons who were “free” from paying the obligatory half-shekel for the annual Temple Tax.
This phrase “kings of the earth” (meaning high priests) is also found in the Old Testament in Psalms 89:27-29. Speaking of King David, God’s promised covenant with him was that David would be ranked as His Firstborn, “HIGHER THAN THE KINGS OF THE EARTH” (i.e., the high priesthood). Though David himself was not a priest, yet his Seed, Christ, would surpass all high priests who had ever served. David’s Seed, Christ, would endure forever, as well as His throne. This “throne of His father David”, as you have said before, Adam, was given to Christ at His ascension, according to Acts 2:29-36. This was when Christ upstaged every high priest that had ever been before Him, since His high priesthood, (unlike theirs) would never need to be replaced, because Christ would never die again (Hebrews 7:23-25). When scripture calls Christ the “King of Kings”, it really means that He is “High Priest of All High Priests”.
The words of Hannah extolling God’s mercy and power in I Samuel 2:10 (I Kings 2:10 LXX) also helps to define who the “kings” of Israel really were. She speaks of God who “…gives strength to our kings…”, when Saul, the first actual monarch of Israel had not even been born yet. That means she was praising God for giving strength to Israel’s high priests.
With this definition of “kings of the earth” as “high priests of the land of Israel”, go back to the Revelation 17:18 verse and plug that information in. The great city (Jerusalem) was THEN REIGNING over the kings of the earth (the high priests of Israel). That means when John wrote this, Jerusalem with her Roman governance had the high priesthood under her thumb. This actually was a reversal of the way God had originally set things up. From Old Testament days, the high priests were to be the JUDGES OVER JERUSALEM, and were to render decisions on religious matters as well as civil ones. (See Jerusalem’s thrones of judgment in Psalms 122:3-5 and compare that with how the high priesthood was to function on civil matters under Mosaic law in Deuteronomy 17:8-13.)
The high priesthood at the time John was writing had become a political appointment doled out at the discretion of either the Roman governing power or by its subordinate client kings in Judaea. The very reason there were so many ex-high priests populating Josephus’ writings was due to their abbreviated terms in office. The original practice of allowing the high priest to serve until his death was long gone by that time. Bribery to obtain this position was mentioned at least once in the case of Joshua ben Gamala – a total corruption of what should have been a sacred role.
Besides having the tenure of the high priesthood under Roman control, even the required silver Tyrian shekel coin for the annual Temple Tax was corrupted by pagan images and that set of initials “KP” standing for Kratos Romaion – which meant “power of the Romans”. Every time a citizen of Judaea paid that tax, they were reminded once again of just who was actually holding the reigns of power over the temple and its priesthood.
To add insult to injury, even the high priest’s officiating garments, which in older times were stored within the holy chambers of the temple (Leviticus 16:23, Ezekiel 44:19), came under the custody of the Roman governing powers or their client kings, and were kept in the stone fortress of Antonia (Ant. 18:4, 90-95). (The “stone” feature provided at the very least a nominal measure of assurance to the Jews that the ceremonial purity of these garments was being protected.)
This upside-down state of affairs for the high priesthood lasted until…AD 66. We have coins minted that are dated from Jerusalem’s first year after the rebellion’s uprising in AD 66, as you have brought out in one of your most recent posts, Adam. I think it was the one about Rev. 13:3 and the Wounded Head? Minting their own coinage from AD 66, as well as choosing those 10 generals (the 10 horns) for the war against Rome, and refusing to offer the daily sacrifices for the empire and the emperor that same year – all this effectively took the high priesthood out from under Jerusalem’s Roman control at that time, and put it in the hands of the Jews.
This means John had to be writing Revelation some time BEFORE that point of transition in AD 66, at a time when Roman-dominated Jerusalem was STILL REIGNING over the high priesthood. And since the existence of ANY appointed high priests came to a total stop in AD 68 with the death of Ananus and Joshua (the 2 witnesses), there is no way whatever that any of the other prophecies in Revelation related to “kings of the earth” / high priests of the land of Israel could possibly come after AD 68. No way at all. Even if you include that wretched, ignorant Phannias in AD 68 selected by the Zealots casting lots for him, and who then had to be coached in his duties; he only lasted until AD 70.
Therefore, the following prophecies listed that include a mention of the “kings of the earth” ALL had to take place either before the cessation of the high priesthood, or before the transition of power from Roman-controlled Jerusalem over to the cause of the rebels in AD 66:
Revelation 16:14 – The 3 unclean spirits influence the “kings of the earth” (high priests) AND the kings of the whole habitable (Gentile) world to be gathered together at Armageddon in order to spill out over all the land to do battle. This had to take place BEFORE the Old Covenant high priesthood disappeared.
Revelation 17:1-2 – These “kings of the earth” (high priests) committed fornication with Jerusalem by becoming unfaithful to their mission as the spiritual leaders of the nation. The collection of wealth had become their primary pursuit (like the “den of thieves” that Christ called them), and they had transferred their faith in God over to trusting in their relationship with the Roman government to maintain their status and well-being, as Caiaphas affirmed in John 11:48.
Revelation 17:10 – These 7 “kings” (high priests) on the wilderness beast indicate that, once these 7 “kings” (as well as the 8th one) disappeared, then the beast itself would go into destruction, along with the cessation of this high priestly office.
Revelation 18:19 – A few of these former “kings of the earth” (high priests) actually did escape the torments of the city of Jerusalem and successfully fled to the Romans for protection. They were the ones “standing afar off for the fear of her torment”, mourning over the death of the city from a distance. Josephus records a handful of these escapees for us: the 4 sons of former high priest Matthias, son of Annas, former high priest Ishmael ben Fabus and his 3 sons, former high priest Joshua Cabi ben Simon, and former high priest Joshua ben Damneus.
Revelation 19:18-19 – God called the birds to a feast that would be composed of the “kings” (more former high priests), captains, mighty men, etc. The scarlet wilderness beast and its “kings of the earth” (high priests), along with the land beast / False prophet were cast while still alive (NOT resurrected) into Jerusalem’s lake of fire for her second death, which was almost a carbon-copy of her first death under the Babylonian invasion. This had to occur when the high priesthood was still in existence, which gives us a date, a location, and a culmination point for the Lake of Fire.
On the chance that anyone might hope for a restoration of a future high priesthood, and make plans accordingly, they should remember that all the genealogical records went up in smoke when the temple burned. God intended for all records going back to the formerly-approved Zadok priesthood to be eradicated so that no rival family to Christ’s position as perpetual high priest after the order of Melchisedec would ever be allowed to re-emerge. In any case, the Zadok line of priests would be considered as “polluted” anyway, as in a similar example we have in Nehemiah 7:63-64 and Ezra 2:61-62. Because those priests from Ezra’s day could not supply evidence of an unbroken genetic line, they were excluded from serving as high priests. And we know from the prophecy of Malachi 4:1 that the great and dreadful “Day of the Lord” would “burn as an oven”, leaving neither “root” (genetic ancestry) or “branch” (high priest descendants).
Okay, all of this above is a bit disjointed and of a tedious length again, but hopefully the main point comes across.
Conclusion: According to Revelation 17:18, John wrote Revelation some time prior to the breakout of the rebellion in AD 66, when the “kings of the earth” / high priests stopped being “reigned over” by Jerusalem’s Roman-backed governing powers.
For those who would like to have a compact list that groups together much of the internal evidence in Revelation for an early date composition before AD 70, here is a link below to a list of 10 proofs that can be used from Revelation itself. I compiled these from my study of Revelation over the last 8 years. They can be found under reply #14 in the following link:
The various dates from all of these 10 proofs can be triangulated with each other to narrow the composition date of Revelation down to a very exact time period falling anywhere between late AD59 up to early AD 60 at the very latest. NONE of these 10 proofs contradict or conflict with any of the other 10. Two of these 10 proofs I already submitted above back in 2017, and are included in the reply # 14 in the link above, written back in 2018.
The most convincing proof of all from this list of 10, at least to me, is the 666-year history of the Rev. 13 Beast from the Sea. This period of 666 years represents the biographical history of the Rev. 13 Sea Beast as of the time John was writing Revelation. John urged his readers to “calculate” the number of this Sea Beast, which DID NOT MEAN A GEMATRIA CALCULATION OF THE BEAST’S NAME ITSELF, (as is usually presumed by Preterists and others), but instead is a calculation of the AGE of the Sea Beast’s existence on earth up until the time John was writing the Apocalypse.
Since all of the other internal evidence in Revelation unites to point to a composition date of at least prior to early AD 60 at the latest, we count backward in time to a year that is 666 YEARS PRIOR to that AD 60 year, and we arrive at 607 BC; the year when Nebuchadnezzar deported the first group of captives from the nobility of Jerusalem, such as Daniel and his three friends. This year began the 70-year Babylonian exile as well, a humiliating period for the Jewish people that would have burned itself into the memory of anyone who was remotely familiar with the history of Israel and Jerusalem. With a little wisdom, the average reader of John’s Revelation could figure this out and identify the Sea Beast as a conglomerate entity that had held sway as a series of world powers, ever since the first world empire, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar’s actions coming against Jerusalem and the Israelites.