Was John prophetically looking thousand of years into the future when he wrote his words or was he predicting events that were about to occur as he wrote? This seems to be a basic enough question to ask and to answer, but this has been the one point on which many people find it either impossible to understand or totally unacceptable to their belief.
What did Jesus mean by his time statement when he said, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house'" (Mt. 26:18)? What did John mean by his time statement when he started his book by saying, "Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near" (Rev. 1:3)? What did John mean by his time statement when he closed his book being told by the angel, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near" (Rev. 22:10).
We seem to have no problem understanding what Jesus meant when he said the "time is near." However, it seems to become a dark mystery when John opens his writing, saying the "time is near" (Rev. 1:3) and closes his writing saying the "time is near" (Rev. 22:10). Does not the term the "time is near" mean the same thing in all three passages? If not, why not? Were not both Jesus and John conveying the idea that what they were relating was about to happen?
John had used very similar wording when he began his book by saying, "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place" (Rev. 1:1), and again, "Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near" (Rev. 1:3). There was a sense of immediacy in all these verses. Neither Jesus nor John was talking about things that were to occur in the distant future. They were rather both discussing events that were then about to happen.
John started his book by saying that the things spoken of were about to occur (Rev. 1:1, 3), and then closed the book with similar statements in Rev. 22:6, 7, 10, 12, 20. These verses are very time specific.
· Rev. 22:6 "The angel said to me, 'These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.'"
· Rev. 22:7 "Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book."
· Rev. 22:10 "Then he told me, 'Do not seal up the word of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near.'"
· Rev. 22:12 "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done."
· Rev. 22:20 "He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus."
There is just no way that the fulfillment of any or the entirety of the book of Revelation can be taken outside the lifetime of first century readers and placed thousands or even millions of years in the future. It was fulfilled in the first century. It is our challenge to set aside unfounded tradition long enough to read what is plainly stated. Any attempt to apply these items to a present so-called Christian age end-time is in complete violation of the clearly stated words of the passages.
One may say that if I accept this book as being fulfilled in the first century, then it contradicts some things in my church doctrine. I find that it is better to fit church doctrine to the Bible than to try to fit the Bible to church doctrine and much more nobler.
The amount of external evidence concerning the date of John's writing of the book is meager, suspect, and divided between the A.D. 68 and the A.D. 96 date. Numerous early church fathers such as Clement of Rome held the early A.D. 64 to A.D. 68 dates.
There are many modern writers quoting other people but few, if any, are giving any substantial evidence of a late date writing. On the other hand, the internal evidence strongly favors the earlier A.D. 68 date. We know, for example, that the temple and the city of Jerusalem were destroyed in A.D. 70. Yet, when they are spoken of in the book of Revelation, they are spoken of as existing. They had not yet been destroyed when John wrote his book.
If the earlier date is correct, then few will deny that it was fulfilled promptly as John predicted. It then finds its completion in the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law, the destruction of Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple while culminating in the victory of spiritual Israel with its spiritual prophet, priest, and king.
The time is near? Is John's Revelation about to be fulfilled? No! John was not speaking of events occurring in our generation. John was speaking of first century events which occurred nearly 2000 years ago.
Available book "Revelation: Kingdoms in Conflict"
Bible Prophecy site - The Early Date Of Revelation Study Archive -
BACK - Spirit of the Word - Introductory Note - New Stuff