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Internal Testimony

The historical conclusion is corroborated by convincing internal testimony. I condense from Godet's Bible Studies, second series, certain points which bear upon the question of Date: (1.) “The condition of the churches indicated” in the second and third chapters renders the early date improbable. These churches were not founded before a.d. 55–58. Paul wrote to two of these churches, Ephesus and Colosse, in a.d. 62 or 63; Peter wrote to all the churches of that region several years later still; Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, at Ephesus, probably as late as a.d. 67; in these letters there is no hint of John being in that section of the world, or of the spiritual decay revealed in the letters to the angels of the churches of Ephesus, Sardis and Laodicea; yet this theory requires us to believe that not later than a.d. 68 or 69, John found these churches spiritually dead. There is no reasonable doubt but that the second and third chapters of Revelation describe a condition which could only have arisen a generation later than the date of Paul's last intercourse with these churches. (2.) Godet notes the fact that an ecclesiastical organization reveals itself in the seven churches which did not reveal itself until about the close of the first century. In each church there is one man, “the angel of the church,” through whom the whole church is addressed. There is no hint of any individual enjoying a distinction like this until about the beginning of the second. (3.) The expression, “The Lord's-day,” does not occur in the earlier apostolical writings. They always speak of the “First Day of the week” instead. The term used in a.d. 68 was “the First Day of the week,” but the writers of the second century from the beginning use “the Lord's-day.” This term, then, points to a period near the beginning of the second century as the date of Revelation. (4.) The expressions in chap. 2:9 and 3:9 point to a complete separation between the church and the synagogue. This complete separation did not take place until the epoch of the destruction of Jerusalem. Such language as we find in these two places can only be accounted for by a fact so momentous as the overthrow of the Jewish state, and hence belongs to a later date.

This discussion might be continued, and it is of importance to any correct interpretation that the date should be clearly settled, but I believe that enough has been said to show that all the facts point to “near the end of the reign of Domitian, or about the year a.d. 96.” It might be of service to add that the persecution of Nero, as far as known, was local and confined to Rome; that death, instead of banishment, was the favorite method of punishment with him; that it is not probable that he would have put to death Paul and Peter and banished John; and that there is no evidence that John, as early as a.d. 68, had ever visited the region of the seven churches. On the other hand, the persecution of Domitian was not local; we know also that he sent other Christians into exile; we know also that the later years of John's life were passed at Ephesus, and in the region of which it was the center.

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