I did look into this for a paper on Revelation and First Enoch (The Canonicity of Apocalyptic Literature). Whenever it was written, Revelation aims to encourage Christians during an imperial persecution.
Arguments for a Late Date (A.D. 96)
As external evidence they point to the early church writers like Iraneus (Against Heresies 5.30.3), Victorinus of Pettau (Apocalypse 10.11), Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History 3.17-18), Clement of Alexandria (Quis Dives Salvetur 42), and Origen (Matthew 16.6) who all agree John wrote during the time of Domitian.1
Several of the churches addressed in the first three chapters had historical circumstances that do not match an early date for Revelation.
- Several of the churches addressed had lost their ardor for Christ, and heresies had infected others. Churches usually do not lose their ardor or find heresies in their first generation.2
- John calls Laodicia rich, but an earthquake almost leveled the city in A.D. 60. The city took many years to rebuild its wealth.
- The church at Smyrna was not founded until A.D. 64, so it cannot have endured for a long time (as Revelation 2:8-11 seems to imply) if only three years old.3
- The emperor worship described in chapters 13-20 matches best with Domitian.4 Though some earlier emperors proclaimed themselves gods, Domitian took the title "Lord and God," usurping kyrios a title of Christ.5
- The use of "Babylon" as a code word for a city in Revelation points to Rome. Though early daters say Babylon refers to Jerusalem, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, and The Sibylline Oracles all refer to Rome as Babylon. Jews and Christians linked the cities together because both powers had sacked the holy city.6
- The Pauline epistles refer to several heretical groups but never to the heresies plaguing the churches of Asia Minor, the Nicolatians.
Arguments Against an Early Date (A.D. 65)
Those who argue for an early date tend to see Revelation as a polemic against the Jews who rejected the Messiah.7
- They see at least partial fulfillment in the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Though proponents of the early date read Revelation 11:1-2 literally with its temple measurements, the measurements better match Ezekiel's eschatological temple.
- The early daters insist that the number 666 refers to taking the Hebrew letters of Caesar Nero(n) and adding them up in a gematria. Though the arithmetic does indeed come to 666, such a view supposes a knowledge of Hebrew in a thoroughly gentile audience.
- With little to no justification in the Greek, they tend to read Revelation 1:7's "all the tribes of the earth will mourn Him" as "all the tribes of Israel will mourn Him."8
I concluded that John wrote Revelation about A.D. 96 during Domitian's anti-Christian persecution, which John saw would expand in later years. Thus, Revelation serves to encourage to Christians facing their first major (non-localized) persecution that the Messiah will be victorious over their enemies. However, it also warns them of persecution for keeping the faith.
- G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, 19.
- Edward McDowell, The Meaning and Message of the Book of Revelation, 4.
- G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, 16.
- Henry Barclay Swete, Commentary on Revelation: The Greek Text with Introduction, Notes, and Indexes (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1977), ci.
- G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, 5.
- Ibid., 18-19.
- Kenneth Gentry, Jr. “A Preterist View of Revelation” in Four Views, 51.
- Ibid., 48.