Dating the book of Revelation has a great deal of influence on how you interpret its message. There are only two choices when it comes to dating the book, early or late. By early, we mean before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, and by late, we mean during the reign of Domitian, approximately AD 95-96. Those who hold to the early date rely heavily upon the book's vast amount of internal evidence.
One of the early date arguments rest upon what John is told. In the first three verses of Revelation, chapter one, we are given two timestamps.
2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
The two timestamps found in the verses above are "things which must shortly come to pass" and "for the time is at hand." We are going to look at the validity of one of these timestamps,"for the time is at hand." Both of these phrases appear twice in Revelation. Acting like book-ends, they appear at the beginning in Rev. 1:1,3 and at the end of the book, in Rev. 22:6, 10. This informs us that the prophecies and described events recorded from the beginning of Revelation, all the way to the end of Revelation, were considered to be near or at hand, and were to happen shortly when John wrote them.
What is meant by time being at hand?
Meaning and Usage
The phrase at hand, is a translation of the Greek word, ἐγγύς (pronounced - en'goose, which is also translated as near. Its use in the Bible is as follows.
We can see it primarily means to be near either in time or place. Its use as being near in position holds no interest for our purposes here. This Greek word appears 30 times in the NT, as both at hand and near.
Of the 30 times this word appears in the NT, about eleven of them relate to the nearness of place; ten times it designates the nearness of an event, such as a feast; three instances of denoting nearness of a time; twice the nearness of a thing, and four times nearness in position. In all of these uses, it never speaks of something as near, but in truth is far away, either in place or time.
With this in mind, when John is told to write "the time is at hand," it speaks of the nearness of the time, not pointing to a time thousands of years in the future. This meaning would be in direct opposition to its use throughout the NT.
To Seal or Not to Seal?
Another piece of evidence of the nearness of the fulfillment of Revelation, is the instruction given to John concerning the sealing of the book. The angel which spoke with John gave him this command.
Rev. 22:10 And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.
To seal the book would mean to leave it unpublished and hid from public view. John is instructed not to seal it because the time of its accomplishment was at hand or near.
To contrast this with Daniel, who was told his prophecies were "closed up and sealed" until the time of the end.
Dan. 12:9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.
Futurists are inclined to understand the phrase, "the time of the end," as meaning the end of the world at the Second Coming of Christ. However, all the prophecies given to Daniel dealt with Israel after its return from Babylon. The time of the end here would refer to the end of the national entity formed at Sinai, which occurred in AD 70 with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. The end of the age of Sinai was marked by the institution of the New Covenant in the blood of Christ.
We can see that it was the times of the Messiah considered to be the time of the end, when He quoted from Daniel concerning the abomination that makes desolate in Matthew 24. By Jesus quoting from Daniel in this way, He showed the book had been unsealed. We also have Hebrews 9:26, telling Jesus appeared at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
The fact that John was told not to seal up the prophecy given to him, means it was something that was to occur Shortly and that the time of its fulfillment was At Hand.
Given the presence and placement of these two timestamps, it would be hard to argue against an early date. To push the fulfillment of John's prophecy out into the far future, by several thousand years, given the language he uses, would be incredibly dishonest with the text. There are other internal pieces of evidence, which place the writing of the book before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. We will leave these for another time.
If you are interested in studying the argument and evidences for the early date of Revelation, I can recommend no better book than, Before Jerusalem Fell, by Kenneth Gentry. If you'd like, you can download a free pdf copy of Before Jerusalem Fell by Kenneth Gentry here.