When Was Revelation Written: Early or Late? A Guest Article





A Simple Method to Date


by Rod MacArthur


Some will remember when AD 96 was the only reasonable date to assign to the writing of Revelation. Granted, scholarship had earlier embraced a date in the late sixties; so in my formative days the question read: “Was Revelation written in AD 96; or in AD 69?” Now, however, a swing back to embracing the early date of writing is gaining moment­um. What surprises me is that this shift back to the early writing date seems to be across various philosophical boundaries. I know of preterists as well as non-preterists who argue for an early date of writing.

This short article will put forth a simple argument in favor of the following proposition: The book of Revelation was written shortly before the fall of Jerusalem. Let me insert a note of explanation: though I hold to an early date of writing; I favor AD 66 over AD 69. My argument is not impacted by this small difference, since both are before AD 70.

Daniel & Revelation

Clearly, the visions and imagery of Daniel form the foundation for much of John’s Rev­elation. The beasts, the horns, the conflict and the time statements correspond so well in both books that it is commonly accepted that John unveils Daniel. Crucial to our study in this particular is that Daniel and Revelation share the phrase: “Time, times and half a time.” It occurs only in these two books.

Thus, they are tied together in the use of this distinctive phrase. More than that, this phrase gives us a clear insight as to when John wrote Revelation. But, before I develop the point, let’s look from Daniel’s perspective.

Daniel & the Holy People

In his vision in chapter 8, in his prayer in chapter 9 and in the lengthy vision of chapters 10 through 12, key phrases emerge that bring Daniel’s people into focus. For example, in 89 he saw a “little horn” that was aggressive toward the “Beautiful land.” This was later expanded to involve the “holy people” (824). Daniel saw in advance what one Antiochus Epiphanes was going to do to his people, the nation and people of Israel.

Daniel’s beautiful prayer in chapter 9 was in response to the promise made through Jeremiah that after seventy years God would restore their captivity. Encouraged by this hope, Daniel began confessing and pleading. Read his plea in 916.

O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us (Daniel 916, NASB95).

In verse 19 he said:

O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name (Daniel 919, NASB95).

God’s answered was that a series of six monumental events would occur within a period of seventy “sevens.” These had been decreed “for your people and your holy city” (924). The decree ended with the destruction of the city and of the sanctuary (v. 26).

Finally, Daniel’s protracted vision of chapters 10–12 seems to be a more detailed expansion of God’s answer to his prayer (ch. 9). He was given “understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days” (1014). In chapter 11 he gave us a thumbnail sketch of the political intrigue between Egypt (king of the South) and Syria (king of the North) as they struggled to dominate the area between them, including the “Beautiful Land” (1116).

So, the land and city of Daniel’s people were constantly subjected to the incursions of either of these countries until finally a king from outside these two realms invaded (v. 40). This (Roman) king pitched his tents “between the seas and the beautiful Holy Mountain” (
1145). This was to be a time of great distress which ended with the complete shattering of the power of the holy people.

The point in rehearsing these visions is simply this: The land, people and temple of Israel were the holy people, holy city and sanctuary of which Daniel wrote.

Time, Times & a half Time

As noted, this phrase exists exclusively in Daniel (725 & 127) and Revelation (1214). It is the only phrase of this nature that Daniel used; but in Revelation John used two others as identical to it. In 126, the woman was nourished in the wilderness for twelve hundred and sixty days; but in 1214, it was for time, times and a half time. Also, in 112 the holy city was to be trampled for forty-two months while in 113 the two witnesses would prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days. Apparently John used all three terms of the same period of time: time, times and a half time (three and a half years); forty-two months; and twelve hundred and sixty days.

This understanding helps us in our efforts to establish a date of writing. Please consider two verses and a brief argument.

…they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months (Rev. 112; NASB95).

I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed (Daniel 127, NASB95).

Notice from Rev. 112 that the forty-two months was future to the writing of the book. Now notice from Daniel 127 that the time, times and a half time (three and a half years) ended with the complete destruction of the power of the holy people. (Remember, the “holy people” here refers to the nation of Daniel’s people, physical Israel.) Their power was shattered by the Romans (context of Daniel 11–12) in AD 70.

So the argument goes like this: Revelation was written BEFORE the forty-two months (which is identical to the time, times and a half time (three and a half years)); but the time, times and a half time (three and a half years) was BEFORE the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Therefore, Revelation had to have been written BEFORE AD 70.

Jesus Confirms This Conclusion

One might be tempted to argue that the “holy people” of Daniel 127 doesn’t refer to Jerusalem in AD 70, but to some later demolishing of a spiritual people. Let me offer this in response. Daniel 127 answered the question, “How long?” in reference to “all these events.” One of those “events” was a great distress.

Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued (Daniel 121).

Compare that to Jesus’ words when He spoke of the pending destruction of Jerusalem. The statement below is sandwiched between two declarations from Jesus that it would happen within the generation then living (Matt. 2336 & Matt. 2434).

For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will (Matthew 2421).

Clearly, Jesus cited Daniel and applied it to God’s wrath on Jerusalem…which was to be poured out AFTER the time, times and a half time (three and a half years).

So, from the lips of Jesus we confirm the date of Revelation. It was written before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. As I stated earlier, I lean toward a writing just prior to the onset of the three and a half years. If the three and a half years ended with the collapse of Jerusalem in AD 70, then the book must have been written around 66AD.