Revelation 1:1-3 Part 4

With a very brief overview last Lord’s Day of the conditions that existed for the Churches in the nations during the period leading up to John’s receiving of Revelation from Jesus Christ, we set the stage for today.

We’re going to look at some of the more convincing internal evidence regarding the period of time during which John received and sent this letter to the Churches.

I want us all, as we consider these issues, to appreciate the bearing this has on the preaching and hearing of this text, because the consequences resulting from getting it wrong affect the reputation and honor of God and His inspired Word.  That’s primary, isn’t it? 

The next thing it affects is how those who claim faith in Jesus Christ live their lives!  From the preaching and teaching he’s heard, if one believes, for example, that the Kingdom of our Lord is up in the heavens, and not here among us, what effect does that have on how he lives?  If one believes that the earth is about to be burned up in a glorious holocaust at an immediate second coming of Jesus, how does he live his life?  The consequences of not getting it right are, indeed, enormous.

And then we also need to define what “internal evidence” means.  Let’s take that on first.

Should you remember the several “approaches to the prophetic Word” that we reviewed in one of the introductory sermons, all of them attempt an interpretation (of some kind) of Revelation of Jesus Christ.  All but one of them just enter the letter with some pre-conceptions, and allow their imaginations to carry them through.  (Of course that’s a bit severe to say it that way, but that’s what it comes to.)

In addition to those who (at least) make an attempt at reading the Scripture as it has been preserved for us, is what we call “higher criticism” which seeks to “redact” the Scripture, eliminating everything except what they call the “core truth”.  Since the “higher critic” sees the Bible as a verbal transmission of a series of tribal stories, all the peripheral stuff is just words and fluff and verbal folklore anyway; but there is probably a main corpus of truth somewhere in there.  So what you have to do is shunt the extraneous material off to the side and look for the “heart” of the matter…. the “essentials”.  “What’s the “pithy” part here?  Where’s the nucleus of the story?  “Higher criticism” of Scripture has been around since the mid-eighteen hundreds; and I just bring it up here because you need to know about it.  It’s in addition to the list that I gave you before, and it really doesn’t care when, or why, the letter was written because it doesn’t matter!

Well, as we learned in the third introductory, there is a “unity” in Scripture.  We described it as “covenantal continuity”.  The Bible is one Revelation from God Who is One, and Who never changes.  So we have to read it and study it and preach it and hear it that way!

Oh, we can talk about external evidence; and we could even speak the language of archeological “verification” of the Bible (as many do); we can examine the structure of the earth and the universe and see if anything corresponds to what the Bible says; we can look at rocks and strata and ferns and bugs to see how long all of this has been here……… 

But Christians (especially reformed Christians) need to begin an investigation of the Bible as a whole; and then verify the veracity of all other studies by what we find there.  For example: if an archeological assumption is in contradistinction to the facts in God’s Word, then the archeological assumption must be rejected as invalid!  The archeologist needs to start over and assume something else.  The same is true of the investigators of “pre-historicity”.  If a pile of dinosaur bones is judged to be two million years old, then the presuppositions of the investigators must be questioned….. not the Bible.

I’m rambling a bit here, but the point is that there is, by necessity, a cohesive whole.  It all agrees.  The entire Bible, along with the creation itself, all agrees.  It all came from the same God Who created it all, and covenanted with it all.  It is all His spoken Word.   So the internal evidence is where we must begin.

But the internal evidence can’t be confined to just one letter, or one book, or one group of psalms, or one era of history.  We are required to turn our eyes to many portions of the Word in order to mine the depth and breadth of God’s Revelation.  So the internal evidence is in the Bible itself; and it is in the whole Bible…… not just in the one letter from John.  And we certainly can’t condone allowing external evidence and pseudo-scientific investigation to preclude what God Himself said.

Secondly, the internal evidence (the evidence from within the Bible) has a direct bearing on how Revelation of Jesus Christ is preached and heard.

Should a theologian, for example, approach Revelation of Jesus Christ with the idea that it is a symbolic analogy of the battle between good and evil for the entire history of the Church, then it wouldn’t make one whit of a difference when it was received by John and sent to the Churches!  And the language in it need not be connected in any way to that in any of the other sixty five books.  Therefore the book just stands alone, to be interpreted in any way that one might interpret the symbolism.

Further, should a preacher of prophecy, preaching the Revelation, put his hearers in the bondage of terror, or the expectation of immediate rapture of all believers, what effect does this have on the way the hearers live their lives?  And, more importantly, what honor and glory does it bring to the King of Kings and Ruler of the nations?

So, when Revelation of Jesus Christ was received and sent is connected to why it was received and sent; and when and why it was written powerfully affects how believers live their lives; and it most certainly affects the honor and glory that God and His Word receives.

As we come to this issue of “when” and “why”, let me just remind you of the words of our Lord just before His trial and crucifixion.  It’s called “The Olivet Discourse”, and it is Jesus’ response to the disciples’ question (Matt. 24:3): “And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of your Parousia, and of the end of the age?’”

If you remember, the answer Jesus gave them was a two-chapter discourse in Matthew’s Gospel (and, by the way, Luke’s Gospel) about what was about to happen in this generation!

It was a full explication of what was necessary to take place in Israel, to Israel, in “this generation”.  And it was the death-throes of the adulterous judaistic nation, along with the deep persecution of these disciples and the Church of Jesus Christ by judaists; and these very disciples would experience it all – even to the end of the age!

The nation had remained an unrepentant, adulterous nation, revolting against God and His Word; it had killed the prophets who God had sent to them to call for its repentance; it had killed John the baptizer; it had then killed God’s Son, the Savior of the world.  And Jesus said that, because of judaism’s persecution of the apostles and the Christian Church in the nations, Israel would suffer the full wrath of God for the blood of all the righteous in history!  In this generation!

The Parousia of Jesus Christ would terminate the age; the apostles would witness it; and it would all go down during this generation!  Daniel’s terminology, “the abomination of desolation”, was used for Israel’s execution.

In Luke’s Gospel we find the same Olivet Discourse.  These are the words he wrote (Luke 21: 20 – 22):


“But when you see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that her desolation is at hand.  21 Then let them that are in Judea flee unto the mountains; and let them that are in the midst of her depart out; and let not them that are in the country enter therein.  22 For these are days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”


Please note that Luke quotes Jesus saying that all of these things are already written!

And Luke defines Daniel’s “abomination of desolation” as the Roman armies, in Israel, in this generation, executing the “vengeance” of Jesus Christ upon the covenant nation at the end of the age.  All the blood of the righteous in history is held to their account.

In both of these accounts (Matthew and Luke) Jesus commands that all of God’s elect in Israel are to leave before the desolation.  They are to be “saved”.  And, as we’ve mentioned before, these are the ones scattered into the nations to form the original Churches all over the world.  And these Churches (elect Jews from Israel, and Gentile converts) are the recipients of all of the letters of the apostles in the New Testament.  And they are all letters of Theological and ecclesiastical correction, AND letters of comfort in times of great fear, oppression, persecution and tribulation.

And as we read the first three verses of Revelation of Jesus Christ (John’s “title” verses), it is as clear as anything in Scripture that the Parousia/end of the age/abomination of desolation had not yet taken place.  These were the things that Jesus said would happen in this generation; and they had not taken place as John writes to the Churches!

John writes, “Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave to Him to show His servants that which is necessary to be done in quickness…”

And at the end of the third verse he writes “for the time is near”.  We’ll also see, at the close of the Revelation that John reminds the Churches again with this: “The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His messenger to show to His servants that which is necessary to be done in quickness”.

John expected his fellow-servants to see these things “very soon”.  And this clearly militates against any “futurist” interpretation of the letter.  Futurists would have it that John was warning his fellow-servants in the Churches in the nations about things they would never see!  That would mean that the letter was irrelevant to the Church for two millennia!

The futurist’s claim that this letter has relevance only for our generation is full of self-centered egotism.  The words “in quickness”, and “near”, have more-than-plenty of confirmation in the rest of Scripture.  They mean “very soon”.  And those in the Churches would have understood that when they read it.  And so what John saw and heard was intensely relevant to the suffering Churches when it was read and heard.  It was contemporary.

It seems that so many today are unable to think of themselves as living in any other period of time than the end of history.  All of John’s prophesies refer directly to them, and not to the former believers in the other 2000 years of Church history.

But, you see, John’s letter is a “contemporary” letter.  Just consider this one little fact……… Jesus, in that Olivet Discourse, told His disciples that the temple would be destroyed.  Not one stone would rest on another.  When did that happen?  In 70AD.  But all through John’s letter the temple is still standing!  That’s just one small fact among dozens in the internal evidence of Scripture.

But let’s just look for a minute at the contemporary nature of the Revelation.  Can one possibly conceive of the apostle taunting these elect people of God who were in the midst of terrifying suffering and persecution?  Taunting and mocking them with stuff that wasn’t going to happen to them?  In fact, wasn’t going to happen for 2000 years?  Or making sport of them with symbolic and analogical language that was hidden and couldn’t possibly be interpreted until it happened sometime in the faraway future?

But futurists and idealists and historicists alike just slough that off as if it’s a non-argument by saying something like “well, one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”  (Like that’s supposed to mean something in this context.)

Well, the apostle Peter wrote that; and he wrote it to these same tortured people of God in the Churches in the nations.  They are refugees from Israel.  And the context was totally different.  The people of God had been waiting for a thousand years for God to justify His people and fulfill His promises.  “How long, O God; how long?”  Peter comforted them by writing, in his letter, that God is faithful to His Word and to His people.  Don’t lose patience with God; a thousand years is as a day!  God will keep His Word to you.  Persevere in the faith, be steadfast, and wait on the day of the Lord.

You see, that’s “contemporary”.  It is to people who are suffering right then.  The things that are necessary to do will be done in quickness.  The time is “near”.

Next, please note in chapter twenty-two and verse ten of John’s letter that the angel said, “do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book; for the time is near”.  The angel’s statement is in contrast to the command that Daniel received, which he wrote at the end of his prophecy:  The angel said, “Conceal the words and seal up the book until the time of the end.”  Daniel was required to seal it up because it referred to “the end”.  But John is told NOT to seal it up, because that which is necessary to do will be done in quickness (right away).

Next, I would point you to the substance, or theme, of John’s letter to the Churches.  We haven’t gotten there yet, but it’s found in the seventh verse.  Listen:  “LO!  He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, all who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him.  YES!  Amen.”

This theme is repeated all through the letter to the seven Churches; and Revelation closes with it (22:20).

There will be a long and (hopefully) fruitful exposition of the verse when we get there; but let me just call your attention to those who will witness His Parousia:  It is “…..all who pierced Him”!

Who is it that pierced Him?  We need go no further than Scripture itself (Acts 2:22-23).  Peter, preaching the Gospel at pentecost, said “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene… nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death….. therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both lord and Christ – this Jesus who you crucified.”

Peter says it again in Acts 5:30: “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, who you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross.”

     In Stephen’s sermon before his martyrdom (Acts 7), he said that the judaizers were “the betrayers and murderers” of Jesus.

Now….. who is it that will witness the things that are necessary to be done in quickness?  And that “the time is near”?   All the things in this letter are necessary to be done “in quckness”.  And who will witness it all?  It’s the betrayers and murderers of Jesus; those who “pierced Him”.  This generation - the murderers of God’s Christ will witness His Parousia

The Scripture is just full of these internal evidences regarding when and why Revelation of Jesus Christ was written.  We could go on for a very long time.  But I’m going to give you only one more before we are driven to an absolute conclusion.

There are many unique references to God’s covenanted nation – Israel.  It is often called “heaven and earth”.  It is also often linguistically separated from all other peoples by the terms “land” and “sea”.   Israel is “the land”; and all pagan peoples (the ones with whom God did not covenant) are called “the sea”.

We’ll see all of this more clearly when we come to the passage, but over in chapter seven of Revelation of Jesus Christ, we find four angels holding back the winds of destruction upon “the land”.

One of the angels cries out in a very loud voice that there was to be no destruction until the servants of the Lord have been “sealed”.  Then follows the sealing of the 144,000 who God had preserved for Himself from among the twelve tribes of Israel.

These are the 12,000 from each of the tribes of the “land”.  And the fact that an angel from the mouth of the King of Kings prevents an immediate desolation of the land, indicates a period of time before the final destruction of the temple, the city and the nation.

Just these few (and there will be many, many more as we go), but just these few internal evidences by themselves cause us to make a certain and irreversible judgment as to when and why this letter was sent to the Churches.  None of the internal evidence points to a late date; and all of it verifies a date before 70AD.

Other internal evidences lead us to believe that it was written before Nero’s suicide, which occurred in 68AD.  So, without any hesitation at all, I (along with other Reformed thinkers and exegetes) confirm to the glory of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, that the date of John’s Revelation is between the years of 64AD and 68AD.

Hand in hand with the “when” is the “why”.  And that Revelation chapter seven passage regarding the sealing of the 144,000 is one of the keys.  Great comfort to the “little ones” in the Churches scattered in the nations comes from this and many other passages in the Revelation.  Many were perplexed and apprehensive about the Parousia of Jesus Christ.  Why was it taking so long?  John’s letter explains that the desolation to come was being “held back” in order that all of God’s elect might be saved.

And, further, the desolation was to be so intense and destructive that many would be fearful of the final outcome.  The Revelation comforts them all that it was all under the authority and control of the reigning Lord of the nations; nothing was out of control.  Therefore the elect of God were not to fear worldwide dissolution and chaos.

The exhortation for us is exactly the same.  We can read and study this letter in its own context; and we can be greatly comforted by our Lord’s care for His Own.  And we can be assured that He still cares for us as much as He did for our brothers in the faith in the first century.