Gorman explains that the Revelation is a form of resistance literature, that is, an encouragement to resist the efforts of Rome to defeat Christianity, either through persecution or by corrupting the gospel with pagan teachings. That is, you cannot be a Christian and also participate in Emperor worship or other demands of the Roman pagan religions.
Calling Revelation “resistance literature” is appropriate because one of the primary prophetic purposes of Revelation is to remind the church, both then and now, not to give in to the demands or practices of a system that is already judged by God and is about to come to its demise. But Revelation is not just a document that stands against something. Like all biblical prophecy, it promotes true worship of the one true God, expressed not merely in formal liturgy but also in faithful living, the practice of having no gods besides God. Put more positively, then, Revelation is a summons to first-commandment faithfulness, a call to faithful witness and worship in word and deed. In other words, its character as resistance literature is actually secondary to, and derivative of, its more fundamental character as worship literature, as a liturgical text.
Gorman, Michael J. (2011-01-01). Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation. (Kindle Locations 716-723). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.
It’s easy to see the Revelation as resistance literature. Once that idea is voiced, it becomes obvious.
A Circular Pastoral Letter; Authorship; Dating
The Revelation is addressed to seven churches in Asia Minor, and the parts addressed specifically to each congregation read much like the other NT epistles. It’s just that these epistolary comments are overwhelmed by the much longer apocalyptic prophecies that follow. Nonetheless, the presence of the comments to these particular churches roots the Revelation in history. It was written to particular churches to address their immediate needs — that is, to encourage them (most of them) to repent of certain sins and to stand strong against Rome.
John was not only interested in passing along a word of apocalyptic revelation, he dealt with the congregation’s other pastoral needs. That is, John didn’t separate prophecy from ethics. To him, it all worked together.
Now, going back to the Third Century, Christian scholars have noticed how very different the style of Revelation is compared to John’s Gospel and 1, 2, and 3 John. The books appear to be written by two different Johns, which is quite possible as “John” (likely a derivation from Jonah) was a fairly common name among Jews.
But an interesting possibility is found in Ben Witherington’s theory on the authorship of John’s Gospel. Agree or disagree, it’s a truly fascinating bit of scholarship. Witherington concludes that John’s Gospel is built on the recollections of Jesus by Lazarus — and so Lazarus was the “beloved disciple.” But John was the final editor of the book, resulting in the attribution of the book to him.
How did this Gospel come to be named according to John? My answer is a simple one—it is because John of Patmos was the final editor of this Gospel after the death of Lazarus. Once Domitian died, John returned to Ephesus and lived out his days. One of the things he did was edit and promulgate the Fourth Gospel on behalf of the Beloved Disciple.
Hence, the Revelation is original with John, whereas John’s Gospel and 1, 2, and 3 John were authored by Lazarus and edited by John. (Don’t reject the idea until you’ve read Witherington’s post.)
The Revelation appears to have been written in the late First Century. Gorman explains–
The best guess, in my view, is the traditional dating to the time of Domitian, as stated by the church father Irenaeus of Lyon in the late second century.
One chief reason many scholars hold to this date (rather than a date during or just after Nero’s reign) is that it appears that Jews, and thereafter Christians, began calling Rome “Babylon” only after the fall of Jerusalem in 70.
Furthermore, the situation of the churches in Asia Minor during the time of Trajan was probably different from that reflected in Revelation, if the famous correspondence between Trajan and Pliny, governor of Bithynia, is any indication. Thus a date for Revelation toward the end of Domitian’s reign seems most likely.
(Kindle Locations 780-785).
It makes sense that after Rome destroyed the Temple as Babylon had done hundreds of years earlier, Jews and Christians would begin calling Rome “Babylon.” Indeed, with the Temple gone, many Jews surely felt like they were in captivity in Rome just as they had been in Babylon — even while living in Jerusalem.
Emperor worship reached new heights under Domitian, and the Asia Minor cities competed to give the Emperor the greatest honor. Ephesus built a colossal statue of the Emperor, which we have parts of today (see photo).
According to the Christian History Institute,
Domitian was the first emperor to have himself officially titled in Rome as “God the Lord.” He insisted that other people hail his greatness with acclamations like “Lord of the earth,” “Invincible,” “Glory,” “Holy,” and “Thou Alone.”
When he ordered people to give him divine honors, Jews, and no doubt Christians, balked. The resulting persecution of Jews is well-documented; that of Christians is not. However, the beast that the author of Revelation describes, as well as the events in the book, are perhaps best interpreted as hidden allusions to the rule of Domitian. In addition, Flavius Clemens, consul in 95, and his wife, Flavia Domitilla, were executed and exiled, respectively, by Domitian’s orders; many historians suspect this was because they were Christians.
So the reign of Domitian around 81 AD makes sense and is consistent with the church’s traditional dating of the book. Of course, you really can’t take a Preterist perspective if the book was written after 70 AD. It takes no inspiration to prophesy an event that’s already happened.