Mike Blume

© 2008 Rightly Dividing The Word

All rights reserved

I am amazed at the proliferation of a faulty and inconclusive idea that pervades futurist teachings regarding the dating of the Book of Revelation. And that false notion of this book's date is raised everytime a futurist is faced with Kingdom Eschatology and tries to shoot it down.  One would think such an argument is fool-proof and conclusive and beyond refute, to see the way futurists consistently use it.  

Futurists claim that Revelation was written around the year AD96.  And they say that as though it were irrefutable fact in order to justify their claims that Revelation is not, for the most part, about the destruction of Jerusalem. They seek to claim such a thought because they know that if Revelation was written before AD 70, then there is a good chance we are correct in saying it was a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, amongst other things.  They seek to thereby refute Kingdom Eschatology. However, such a claim is based entirely upon one single statement written by a man who had very questionable ideas regarding dates and times to begin with.  This man felt Jesus died at over fifty years of age instead of 33.  His name is Irenaeus who lived from AD 120 to 202.  

Irenaeus wrote these words:  

"We therefore do not run the risk of pronouncing positively concerning the name of the Antichrist [hidden in the number 666 in Rev.13:18], for if it were necessary to have his name distinctly announced at the present time, it would doubtless have been announced by him who saw the apocalypse; for it is not a great while ago that it [or he] was seen, but almost in our own generation, toward the end of Domitian's reign."

Irenaeus said this traditional idea was passed down to him by word of mouth from his youth. He repeated this in "Against Heresies, 5:30:3" dated AD 175–180.  He claimed Polycarp, a student of John the revelator, related this to him in his youth. We have information about this in Eusebius' writing, Ecclesiastical History, book 5, chapter 20, AD 324.  

The all-important part of Irenaeus' words are these:  "for it is not a great while ago that it [or he] was seen,"  The Greek could intend for us to mean "he," since the Greek allows for the translation to be both "it" or "he".  If Irenaeus meant the "revelation" was seen, then this calls for a late date of the book.  But if he meant John was seen, then the Revelation was written more early since Irenaeus contrasts the time of his generation from the time of the issue at hand by saying, "for it is not a great while ago that it [or he] was seen, but almost in our own generation..."

Irenaeus was a mere youth while in Asia Minor when Polycarp would have spoke to him.  He moved to Gaul (now France) before he became an adult.  Should we base a very important point upon such weak evidence?

It seems far more reasonable to conclude that Irenaeus was speaking about John, and not the revelation John saw, when he wrote that "it/he" was almost in Irenaeus generation.  You see, the point of the paragraph was one's refusal to risk and name the name of the Antichrist due to the Roman persecution at that time, if it was (as we believe it was) speaking of Nero.  He claimed he could not dare to risk to state who the Antichrist was, since it would have been written in John's writing.  So, to say that John lived only a short time before Irenaeus' generation, instead of the Revelation being seen just shortly before Irenaeus generation, would make more sense in the overall point being made.  If John did not write the name of the Antichrist, and he lived just shortly before Irenaeus' generation, then how could it be possible for anyone in Irenaeus' day to be able to identify the Antichrist?  

Compare that with the thought that Irenaeus spoke of the Revelation John had, itself. People claiming the name of the Antichrist are the subject.  Speaking of a person, John, rather than the actual revelation being seen, would make more contextual sense.  In fact, Irenaeus just spoke of John's person before this clause, as follows: "if it were necessary to have his name distinctly announced at the present time, it would doubtless have been announced by him who saw the apocalypse; for it is not a great while ago that it [or he] was seen..."

I personally believe Irenaeus referred to the idea that Nero be not named, since Irenaeus lived in a time when persecution against the church was still high.  To name Nero in Revelation, rather than write "666", would incite furious backlash from Rome since Irenaeus' generation was not far removed from the time of John's persecution by Rome, since Rome was still fighting the church heavily.

Why should Irenaeus and those in his day run the risk of announcing Nero as Antichrist if John, who lived shortly before, did not?

Irenaeus also wrote this about the book of Revelation:  "As these things are so, and his number [666] is found in all the approved and ancient copies."

Domitian ruled around Irenaeus' time, and yet Irenaeus says copies of Revelation were "ancient".

We do admit that some third and fourth century writings stated John wrote Revelation in the time of  Domitian, but some are admittedly unclear as to whether it was Nero's time or Domitian's time.   However, all are after Irenaeus' time. Victorinus of Petavio died in AD303 and wrote a Latin commentary about Revelation saying, "John saw this vision while in Patmos, condemned to the mines by Domitian Caesar."  But they all seem to simply be parroting a mistaken notion of what Irenaeus said.

The earliest Church Fathers' writings do not mention the dating for Revelation.  


An ancient writing called the Muratorian Canon, dated at about AD 170–210, reads, "Paul, following the order of his own predecessor John, writes to no more than seven churches by name."  Paul wrote to were: Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossi and Thessalonica.  John wrote to seven churches according to Rev 1:4.  Could this imply Paul wrote to seven churches AFTER John wrote to seven churches?  If Paul followed his predecessor, John, in this pattern of writing to 7 churches then John had to write to seven churches before Paul did!  And Paul died in AD68.


Several Syriac translations of Revelation all include this note about Revelation:  "The Revelation, which was made by God to John the Evangelist, in the island of Patmos, to which he was banished by Nero the Emperor."  

The Syriac translations are known as the "Peshito," "Curetonian," the "Philoexenian" and the "Harclean."  They were allegedly translated in the first century or early in the second. Those containing Revelation are believed to be earlier than that. 


Clement lived from AD 150 to 215.  He wrote: "For the teaching of our Lord at His advent, beginning with Augustus and Tiberius, was completed in the middle of the times of Tiberius. And that of the apostles, embracing the ministry of Paul, end with Nero" (Miscellanies 7:17).


Epiphanies lived from AD 315 to 403.  He wrote that Revelation was written under the rule of Claudius (Nero) Caesar.


Andreas claimed Revelation was written in Nero's day.


Around AD 540, Arethas claimed Revelation was written before the destruction of Jerusalem and was about that destruction that was then yet to come.

"For there were many, yea, a countless multitude from among the Jews, who believed in Christ : as even they testify, who said to St Paul on his arrival at Jerusalem : Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe. (Acts xxi. 20.) And He who gave this revelation to the Evangelist, declares, that these men shall not share the destruction inflicted by the Romans. For the ruin brought by the Romans had not yet fallen upon the Jews, when this Evangelist received these prophecies : and he did not receive them at Jerusalem, but in Ionia near Ephesus. For after the suffering of the Lord he remained only fourteen years at Jerusalem, during which time the tabernacle of the mother of the Lord, which had conceived this Divine offspring, was preserved in this temporal life, after the suffering and resurrection of her incorruptible Son. For he continued with her as with a mother committed to him by the Lord. For after her death it is reported that he no longer chose to remain in Judaea, but passed over to Ephesus, where, as we have said, this present Apocalypse also was composed ; which is a revelation of future things, inasmuch as forty years after the ascension of the Lord this tribulation came upon the Jews."

With such overwhelming evidence from early church writings, and in consideration of the weak foundation futurists have in Irenaeus' writing, surely we can conclude Revelation was indeed written before AD 70, and was about the then-coming destruction of Jerusalem.



© Copyright 2008 Rightly Dividing the Word - All Rights Reserved

Please assume that all materials on this website are copyrighted by Rightly Dividing the Word. For permission and details see our terms and conditions. For problems with this website, please contact ltsmith777@yahoo.com.