If Revelation was written in AD 65-66 about events in AD 70, how could John have expected it to be widely circulated in so short a period of time? It seems the book’s grandiose vision would be largely wasted because of the time frame involved. It couldn’t do much good, especially since the bulk of its actions (on your view) occur in Palestine. S. F., Los Angeles, CA
Dr. Gentry’s response:
This is a good question that many folks have. However, this concern tends to evaporate on closer consideration.
- First, we do not believe John knew the exact date the events would play out. It is not like he thought: “Well, it is now AD 66. I had better get to work on this book because these events are going to start up in earnest in AD 68 and will be over in AD 70.” Remember, he said the dates were “at hand” and “soon.” He did not say: “They will begin on March 15, A.D. 68.”
- Second, nevertheless, Revelation is directed specifically to seven particular churches who could have easily gotten it quickly enough. These were the ones John was directly addressing and specifically concerned with. In fact, according to the majority of commentators, including dispensationalists Robert L. Thomas and John F. Walvoord (at Rev 1:11 in their commentaries), the order of appearance of those churches shows that they were arranged according to a Roman postal road. They would fairly quickly receive Revelation since they were on this know postal road.
- Third, Revelation’s usefulness does not evaporate with the occurrence of the events of the Jewish War. Consider Isaiah 7 or Micah 5: they do not cease to be useful when Christ is finally born of a virgin in Bethlehem. Does Paul’s letter to the Corinthians about their particular problems (divisions among followers of Paul, Cephas, and Apollos; a man marrying his father’s wife; and so forth) have no meaning for us today? Most of the NT epistles are “occasional letters.” That is, they were written to address specific issues on certain occasions. Yet their authority and applicability still remain for us today as we apply the principles embodied therein.
Regarding Revelation, even after Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed, Christians would need to know what happened and why — since God had worked for so many centuries through Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple. Revelation presents these events in dramatic fashion to underscore the vitally important redemptive historical truths involved of the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant. The destruction of Jerusalem was no accident of history; it plays into the plan of the Lamb who had been slain as he avenges himself and his people against his assailants.
- Fourth, we can (and should! and must!) draw lessons from Revelation for all times. For example:
- Like Paul warns in Rom 11, God judges his people and we should not boast against the branches because we might be broken off. Wasn’t Israel God’s special people for so long? But look at what he did to them when they became unfaithful and rejected and slew their own Messiah!
- Revelation shows that Jerusalem’s destruction was no accident of history. It shows that behind the historical scenes, spiritual forces are at work as God works his plan in history.
- Revelation shows very clearly that God in the NT era also exercises wrath. He is not the liberal God-of-love that we hear so much about. Liberals often try to distinguish the OT conception of God from the NT conception. Revelation clearly undercuts that attempt.
- Revelation shows that God upholds his people in their trials. He answers their prayers — in his time and according to his plan. Though the Jews and Rome were persecuting our first century fathers, God upheld them. He will uphold you as well. After all, in each of the seven letters he urges upon the broader church: “He that has ears to hear, hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
- Revelation shows that despite the might of Nero and Rome, when God opposes them, they are doomed. His people should not fear earthly forces arrayed against them.
- Revelation shows that God’s redemptive forces have been established (the redemptive new creation, cp. Rev 21:1-2 with 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15-16) in time and on earth, and that they will gloriously impact the outcome of history. This occurs as the new creation forces gradually (like a mustard seed!) flow out into the world. God is at work in history and moving it toward its goal, which is already unfolding around us.
- Etc., etc.!