Short Shot: Galatians and Hebrews on the Dating of Revelation
Don K. Preston
Among conservative Bible students and even among many higher critical scholars, it is admitted and agreed that the books of Galatians of Hebrews were written prior to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.With this admission as the premise for this article I want to present an argument for the dating of Revelation that is, to me and historically to others as well, extremely powerful. Scholars such as J. Stuart Russell in his The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry Into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming (1887, 1983, pp.469f) believed that the connection between Hebrews 12 and Revelation 14 proves beyond a shadow of doubt that Revelation was written prior to Hebrews and thus, that Revelation was written in the AD 60s. David Chilton says, “It may be admitted that Russell has not proved his case ‘beyond all reasonable doubt.’ But he has clearly established at least a conceptual relationship (if not a dependent one) between Hebrews 12 and Revelation 14.” (David Chilton, Days of Vengeance, (Ft. Worth; Dominion Press, 1987), 359, n. 8). As we shall see, not only is this true of the connection between Hebrews and Revelation, but between Galatians and Revelation also.
I have a tendency to agree with Chilton in saying that Russell did not prove “beyond reasonable doubt’” that Revelation was written before and dependent on Hebrews. However, I most assuredly do believe that there is such a conceptual / ideological / thematic / motival dependency between the two passages, regardless of which one was written first. The point is that the parallels between Hebrews 12 and Revelation are so clear, so precise, so direct, that it is logically impossible to successfully maintain that the two books are writing of two radically different and disparate entities, two radically different times and events. Before examining those parallels, let’s look at the book of Galatians first.
Side Bar: I am convinced that Revelation was written prior to 1 Peter. The evidence for that is extremely powerful, in my opinion. I present a lot of supporting evidence for this in a video (DVD or flash drive) series of lessons I have produced, and that is available from this website. This is a truly unique study and one that will challenge your traditional thinking on the book of Revelation.
Now, to an examination of Galatians and Revelation, with Galatians first.
By consensus, Galatians is admitted to be Paul’s first epistle written perhaps as early as AD 49. In that book, (in Galatians 4:22f) Paul speaks of:
★ Two women,
★ Two sons,
★ Two covenants.
In similar fashion, Revelation posits:
Two women, the Harlot “Babylon,” and the Bride of Christ.
Two seeds (cf. Revelation 3:9f), the children “of the flesh: versus children of the promise.
Two mountains (cf. Rev 8; 17, and the mountain to be cast into the sea), versus “Zion.”
Two cities, the “Jerusalem that now is and is in bondage with her children” (Galatians 4:22f ), and the New Jerusalem that was about to come down from God out of heaven.
In Galatians, “the Jerusalem that is above” was about to come (Cf. Also Hebrews 13:14) – meaning it was to come down. In Revelation, the New Jerusalem was about to come down from God (Revelation 21:1-3).
In Galatians, the “Jerusalem that now is” was persecuting the citizens of the “Jerusalem that is above.” In Revelation, the city spiritually designated as Babylon, which was “where the Lord was crucified” was guilty of persecuting the citizens of the Heavenly Jerusalem.
In Galatians 4, the Old Jerusalem was about to be cast out for persecuting the saints. In Revelation, “Babylon” was about to be destroyed – cast into the sea – for persecuting the saints (Revelation 14-18).
Personally, I fail to see how anyone could possibly negate or counter these parallels. They are perfect and precise. Since Galatians was written circa AD 49 and Revelation speaks of the same identical issues, Jewish persecution of the saints, and impending imminent judgment, as does Galatians, just how would one go about proving that Revelation was written at a period of time far removed from those identical situations, and speaks of radically different times and issues?
Although I will not develop it here, one can also present similar parallels between Thessalonians and Revelation. I present those parallels in my book, Who Is This Babylon?
We turn now to examine the parallels between Hebrews and Revelation.
Both Hebrews and Revelation were written in a context of Jewish persecution.
In Hebrews the saints “have come to Mount Zion” in a, “festal assembly (12:21f) and in Revelation 7 & 14 the saints (the 144K remnant of Israel) were standing on Zion holding their lulav’s – meaning they were gathered in a “festal assembly” (specifically, the Feast of Succot).
In Hebrews, the saints had come to and were part of “the church of the first born ones” just as in Revelation 14, the 144,000 were “the first fruits of those redeemed to God from among men” (Revelation 14:1-4).
Hebrews presents the saints as members of “the church of the living God” just as Revelation presents the saints as followers of the one “who was, who is, and who is to come” (Revelation 11:15f).
As just noted, in Hebrews, the saints were depicted as standing on Zion in “Festal assembly” and in Revelation 14, the righteous remnant stand on Zion to celebrate Succot, the “resurrection” feast.
In Hebrews the saints are told that they have arrived at Zion and to “the Spirits of just men made perfect”, whereas in Revelation the 144,000 are depicted as virgins, those who are undefiled. They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.
In Hebrews we find that the saints are numbered along with an “innumerable host of angels” and in Revelation we find reference to the 144,000 along with a multitude that could not be numbered.
Let’s be clear here: This is not simply “similarity of language.” This is identical subjects, identical motifs, identical promises, identical verbiage, identical temporal setting. Revelation was anticipating the fulfillment of what Hebrews presented, and Hebrews was anticipating the fulfillment of what Revelation was speaking of. Fulfillment of both books was “about to be” fulfilled – (Hebrews 13:14– We have here no abiding city but seek one that is about to come” (from mello, meaning about to be, top be on the point of. See the Blass-Debrunner Greek Grammar).
Anyone denying the parallelism of these two discourses bears the full responsibility of showing that the two authors had two different situations, two different people, two different sets of promises, two different persecutorial problems, in mind. It simply will not do to say, “Well, everyone teaches that Revelation was written in the 90s.” That is not proof. It is not evidence. It actually ignores the evidence. We cannot, if we are going to be honest and dedicated students of Scripture, simply wave our hand and say that this evidence does not prove anything.
So, what do we have?
We have two epistles, Galatians and Hebrews, (And we could add Thessalonians) that by consensus were written prior to AD 70. Each of them present identical tenets, elements and contexts with each other. This is virtually not even debated or questioned.
But then, we have Revelation that presents the identical constituent elements, the identical subjects, the identical persecutorial problem, the same covenantal contrasts, the same time elements, and yet, we are supposed to believe that Revelation was supposedly written almost four decades after Galatians, for instance. And although it uses the identical words, terms, phrases, contexts, problems and promises found in Galatians and Hebrews, we are told that Revelation had nothing to do with the issues in Galatians and Hebrews (not to mention Thessalonians). What kind of logic demands this? Where is the evidence to support this?
Would those who hold that position claim that although Galatians and Hebrews use the identical terms, motifs and language that they are also speaking of disparate events, separated in time from each other? In other words, does Galatians speak of different cities, people, persecution, promises from Hebrews? If not, why not? How would one prove that they were different? If you cannot prove that Galatians and Hebrews (and Thessalonians) are speaking of different events and times, then you assuredly cannot prove that Revelation is speaking of different people, different times, different persecutors and events. By any standard of logic, any standard of evidence, the parallels between Galatians, (Thessalonians), Hebrews and Revelation are virtual empirical proof for the early dating of Revelation.
This is just a very small sampling of the evidence for the early dating of Revelation. I present a wealth of additional evidence in my book Who Is This Babylon? Order the book from this website, send us a note that you read the article and are ordering the book as a result of that, and I will refund your shipping! Take advantage of this special offer, and order your copy today!!