The date in which Revelation was written is important for understanding its message. There is one theory that holds it was written before the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. If this was the case, then the message of Revelation would have been about the judgment of Jerusalem in that first century and the rise of the church through its initial persecution into God’s purpose in the nations of the world.
Another theory is that Revelation was written around AD 90. If this is the case, then it is hard to pinpoint what the message of Revelation is about in historical terms. Apart from the events surrounding AD 70, there isn’t any other period in history that easily matches up with the content of the Revelation. It may be assumed then that such events must still lie in our future, or have no historical connections at all, but this opens the door to endless speculation.
The theory that holds Revelation was written around AD 90 comes mainly from a statement in Eusebius’ Church History, compiled in the 5th Century. The book is really a compilation of traditions, which were not investigated, just recorded and passed on. There is a single statement in this record that may suggest that Revelation was written in the days of the Roman Emperor Domitian, but this statement also is open to interpretation.
I am going to leave any argument aside, for you to research for yourself if you desire. I will just mention a few points here I believe suggest Revelation was written sometime around AD 60. First, this was the tradition of both the ancient Syriac and Latin churches. These churches held that John was imprisoned on the isle of Patmos by Emperor Nero, who reigned from AD 54 – 68. They claimed that John was martyred in Jerusalem around AD 60, just as Jesus prophesied he would be. (Mark 10:39) That is, John did not live into Domitian’s reign, as the theory of the latter date for Revelation would necessitate.
A second issue is the number of the name of the beast, “six hundred and sixty-six.” In the Hebrew language, this number coincides with the title “Emperor Nero.” In the ancient Latin Vulgate bible, the number is “six hundred and sixteen,” which again, in the Latin language, coincides with the title “Emperor Nero.” This is evidence that the earliest translators of the Latin text believed Nero was the person whom Revelation had written about, who persecuted the church before AD 70.
As we read through the whole text of Revelation we will continue to see how the content matches an early date of writing, before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. But that is enough said about the date here. It is my belief that John wrote the Revelation before Rome destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70, and so he spoke of what was then “at hand,” which was “shortly to come to pass.”