Facing Death

There is a common thread in Scripture concerning “Death”.  First, in the Hebrew Bible (the Scriptures of Judaism), the word “death” is often accompanied with “grave”.  “Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days” (Numbers 19.16, and so on, where the word, “grave” is ‘qever’).  Often times, it occurs with the Hebrew word, ‘sheol’ (translated ‘hades’ in Greek): “the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me” (Psalm 18.5, where some translations have ‘grave’ for ‘sheol’).  “Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; Death shall be their shepherd; straight to the grave they descend, and their form shall waste away; Sheol shall be their home” (Psalm 49.14).  Numerous other verse can be cited where Death and Sheol appear together in parallellistic form.

I bring this up only to point out the usage of the coupling in Revelation.  The first occurrence is in 1.18 where Jesus says to John, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”  If this were in Hebrew, ‘sheol’ would used instead in ‘hades.’  Nonetheless, Jesus is not stating something that is on the horizon, but something that He has in present possession when he spoke to John.  It is undoubtedly linked to the fact that he says, “I was dead.”  Being risen from the dead, the Lord is now “alive.”  This is the man, Christ Jesus (for, although Jesus is God the Son incarnate, he cannot be speaking here of his divine nature, but of his human nature, which ‘died’).  Holding the keys of Death means that He has authority over Death gained by his resurrection.

What is further revealed is that when Jesus opens the fourth seal of the scroll from God’s right hand, John saw a fantastic image: “When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth” (6.7-8).  Now, a few things are to be noticed here.  First, since it has been revealed that Jesus holds the keys, Death and Hades are commanded.  Second, they are “given power” by Him (who else?).  Third, their mission is to “kill” by means of war, famine and plagues, and by wild animals.  This unquestionably tells us what “death” is.  It is physical death.

Jesus was “dead and now alive”, and since he was raised from the dead, he now has total mastery over death only from the standpoint of being a man.  A man holds the keys of death.  A man has triumphed over death.  And now, at the right hand of God, a man gives death power to kill.  That what Death does, it kills people.  This is not “spiritual death” in the sense of “estrangement from God”, for that would hardly make any sense in the passage.  Only a fourth are made to be “separated from God”?  No, this is a scene of Death doing what it does: killing people, and the Grave follows right behind (logically so).

Throughout John’s revelation we see a great deal of death; that is, people dying.  By his revelation we know what is causing it: death.  More than that, the one who holds the keys to death.  Yet, the next time we see Death mentioned, along with the Grave, is in 20.13, where, “and Death and Hades gave the dead that was in them, and they (the dead) were judged”.  Then, finally, “Death and Hades are thrown into the Lake of Fire.”  As a result, “The Death shall be no more” (literal Greek translation, 21.5 – throughout the revelation, Death has the article, ‘the’ always).

Death is a killing machine.  It kills people.  These people go to the grave, and in the end, they give up the dead “in them.”  Ultimately, The Death will be no more.  That means, killing by death will cease to be.  If in the revelation Death is the agent of killing mankind, then the end of Death means the end of mankind being killed.  With Death out of the picture, the Grave logically serves no purpose (which, interestingly enough, is omitted when it says, “the Death shall be no more” instead of, “the Death and the Hades shall be no more.”  If the Death is gone, then Hades, who is on its coattails, vanishes.

Now, what is of further interest to me is that the Death is mentioned in the context of the new heavens and the new earth: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (21.1-5).  It has long been recognized that this passage is allusive to Isaiah 65.17, and 25.7-8: “or behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind….And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.  He will swallow up THE Death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.”

From these passages it is quite obvious that the revelation and the Prophet envision the same thing.  The Death covers over “all peoples” and is a veil over “all nations.”  John sees the demise of The Death, when it will be cast into the Lake of Fire, and will be no more.  Dying will cease to exist.

What is of also great interest is that one of the Foundations of the Church, the Apostle Paul, quotes Isaiah 25.7 in his letter to the Corinthians (15.54,55): “And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:  ‘THE Death is swallowed up in victory.’  What is this “the Death” in Paul (who uses the article)?  Well, “the last enemy is THE Death” (15.26)!  What does The Death do: it kills people.  What does Jesus do?  HE raises the dead that The Death has killed!  Praise His Holy name!  When does he swallow up The Death?  When the fullness of the New Heavens and New Earth come.  The Death is not found there at all.  It’s gone.

Now, to further our theological message, Paul gives us the answer as to where The Death came from: “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead” (15.21).  This is also found in Romans 5.12: “because of this, even as through one man the sin did enter into the world, and through the sin The Death; and thus to all men The Death did pass through, for that all did sin” (Young’s Literal).  The Death kills people.  This is not “separation from God” death (or what some call “spiritual death”).  The revelation has defined it.  It is killing death.  This death kills people.  It kills all people.  It is a shroud over all the people, and “in Adam all die”.  It is an enemy.  A principality, a power.  Jesus holds it in his hands.  Jesus sends it on its way.  And, Jesus will swallow it up, hurl it in the Lake of Fire and be absolutely through with it forever from that time forward.  Maranatha!

 

Author: Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

Samuel M. Frost has gained the recognition of his family, peers, colleagues, church members, and local community as a teacher and leader.  Samuel was raised in the Foursquare Gospel tradition and continued in the rising Charismatic Movement of the early 1980’s.  While serving in local congregations he was admitted to Liberty Christian College in Pensacola, Florida where he lived on campus for four years earning his Bachelor’s of Theology degree.  It was there under the tutelage of Dr. Dow Robinson (Summer Institutes of Linguistics), and Dr. Frank Longino (Dallas Theological Seminary) that he was motivated to pursue a career in Theology.  Dr. Robinson wrote two books on Linguistics, Workbook on Phonological Analysis (SIL, 1970) and Manuel for Bilingual Dictionaries: Textbook (SIL, 1969).  It was under these teachers’ guidance that Frost entered into his Master’s studies, being granted a scholarship for Greek I and II at Pentecostal Theological Seminary, accredited, in Cleveland, Tennessee (adjunct of Lee University).  Frost completed his study under Dr. French Arrington, who used the text of J. Gresham Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners. Frost studied Hebrew for two years under Dr. Mark Futato (author, Beginning Biblical Hebrew, Eisenbrauns, 2003) and Dr. Bruce K. Waltke (author, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Eisenbrauns, 1990) at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida. With combined credits from PTS and RTS, Samuel completed his Master of Arts in Christian Studies and Master of Arts in Religion from Whitefield Theological Seminary in Lakeland, Florida under the direct tutelage of Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, co-author of the well reviewed work, Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism (Whitefield Media, 2005) with Dr. Gary Crampton (and Foreword by the late, Dr. D. James Kennedy).  Dr. Talbot also oversaw Samuel’s Dissertation, From the First Adam to the Second and Last Adam (2012) earning him the Magister Theologiae (Th.M.) degree.  He also helped put together A Student’s Hebrew Primer for WTS and graded exams in Hebrew. Samuel’s studies lead him into an issue in the field of Eschatology where his scholarship and unique approach in Hermeneutics garnered him recognition.  Because of the controversial nature of some of his conclusions, scholars were sharp in their disagreement with him.  Frost’s initial work, Misplaced Hope: The Origins of First and Second Century Eschatology (2002, Second Edition, 2006 Bi-Millennial Publishing), sold over four thousand units.  While arguing for the Reformation understanding of sola Scriptura as defined by the Westminster Confession of Faith, Frost’s book launched a heavily footnoted argument for a total reassessment of the doctrine known as the Second Coming of Christ.  The conclusion was that the events of the war of the Jewish nation against their Roman overlords in 66-70 C.E. formed the New Testament authors’ eschatological outlook, and went no further than their own first century generation; a view otherwise known as “full” or "hyper" Preterism.  Internationally recognized Evangelical author and speaker Steve Wohlberg remarked, ‘On the “preterist” side today…we have such influential leaders as Gary DeMar, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., David Chilton, R.C. Sproul, Max King, James Stuart Russell, Samuel M. Frost, and John Noe.  To these scholars…the beast is not on the horizon, he’s dead” (Italics, his)” (End Time Delusions, Destiny Image Publishers, 2004, page 133).  It should be noted that only Noe, King and Frost supported the “full” Preterist position. Thomas Ice and co-author of the best selling Left Behind series, Tim LaHaye, quote Frost’s work, Misplaced Hope, as well in their book, The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming under Attack (Harvest House Publishers, 2003, page 40).  Dr. Jay E. Adams, who single handedly launched “a revolution” in Christian Counseling with his work, Competent to Counsel: An Introduction to Nouthetic Counseling, (1970, Zondervan), also wrote an analysis of Frost’s work in Preterism: Orthodox or Unorthodox? (Ministry Monographs for Modern Times, INS Publishing, 2004).  Dr. Charles E. Hill, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, wrote of Misplaced Hope that Frost, “attacks the problem of the early church in a much more thoroughgoing way than I have seen” (When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyper Preterism, Ed. Keith Mathison, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2003, ‘Eschatology in the Wake of Jerusalem’s Fall’ p. 110-ff.).  There were several other works as well that took the scholarship of Frost seriously, like Ergun Caner in The Return of Christ: A Premillennial Perspective, Eds., Steve W. Lemke and David L. Allen (B&H Publishing, 2011). Because of the controversial nature of Frost’s conclusions on these matters, it was difficult to find a denomination within the Church-at-Large to work in terms of pastoral ministry.  That situation changed when Samuel was called by a Bible study group in Saint Petersburg, Florida to found a congregation.  Christ Covenant Church was established in 2002 operating under the principles outlined by Presbyterian historian James Bannerman’s work, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974, original, 1869).  By-Laws and a Constitution were drawn up in the strictest manner for what was considered an “Independent” establishment of a Presbyterian Church, granted that a “call” was received and recognized by Presiding Elders duly ordained from existing and recognized denominations.  Two Elders, one ordained in the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Mike Delores), and another ordained in the Presbyterian Church of America (Dr. Kelly N. Birks, now deceased) tested and reviewed the call, ordaining Samuel on October 20th, 2002, the Twenty Second Sunday after Trinity.  Proper forms were submitted to Tallahassee, Florida with the stamp of a Notary Public Witness.  Christ Covenant Church (CCC) functioned as a local church for five years with a congregation as large as 30 members.  Frost was gaining recognition after Misplaced Hope had been published in January of that year, and conferences were hosted that included debates with another prominent "full" Preterist educator, Don K. Preston.  CCC hosted best-selling authors, Thomas Ice, and Mark Hitchcock from Dallas Theological Seminary; and Dr. James B. Jordan (Westminster Theological Seminary), well-known author/pastor in Reformed theological circles.  Frost was invited for the next several years to speak at over 25 conferences nation-wide, was featured in articles and an appearance on local news in Tampa for one of CCC’s conferences.  The Evangelical Theological Society also invited Samuel to speak at the Philadelphia conference (Frost is currently a Member of ETS as well as Society of Biblical Literature). During this time Samuel had submitted one more book, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection of the Dead (TruthVoice, 2008; repr. JaDon Publishing, 2010); and co-wrote, House Divided: A Reformed Response to When Shall These Things Be? (Vision International, 2010).  Frost also wrote several Forewords for up and coming authors who were influenced by his teaching materials, as well as cited many times in books, lectures and academic papers.  However, because of certain aspects of Hermeneutics and Frost’s undaunted commitment to scholarship (with always a strong emphasis on the personal nature of devotional living to Christ), several challenges to the "hyper" Preterist view he espoused finally gave way, largely due to the unwavering commitment to Samuel by the Dean of Whitefield Theological Seminary, Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, who continually challenged him.  In what shocked the "hyper" Preterist world, Samuel announced after the Summer of 2010 that he was in serious error, and departed the movement as a whole, along with Jason Bradfield, Assistant Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, Florida .  Christ Covenant Church had dissolved after 2007 while Samuel continued as a public speaker and writer, largely due to reasons that would unravel Frost’s commitment to "hyper" Preterism as a whole. The documentation of Frost’s departure was published by American Vision’s Founder, Gary DeMar, with a Foreword by Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry.  Why I Left Full Preterism (AV Publishing, 2012) quickly sold out its first run.  The book was later republished under the arm of Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry and is sold today (GoodBirth Ministries Publishing, 2019).  Dr. Keith Mathison, Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida, endorsed the book as well.  Samuel has gone on to write, Daniel: Unplugged (Kindle/Amazon, 2019); The Parousia of the Son of Man (Lulu Publishing, 2019); God: As Bill Wilson Understood Him, A Theological Analysis of Alcoholics Anonymous (Lulu Publishing, 2017).  He is also active as a certified Chaplain with the Henry County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana, and enrolled with ICAADA (Indiana Counselor’s Association on Alcohol and Drug Abuse) working directly under Dr. Dennis Greene, Founder of Christian Counseling and Addictions Services, Inc.  Frost’s passion is in the education of the local church on various issues and occasionally works Pastor Alan McCraine with the First Presbyterian Church in Lewisville, Indiana where he periodically is called upon to give the sermon.  He also is working with Redemption Life Bible Church with Pastor Tyler Jackson in New Castle, Indiana.  Samuel, with his wife, Kimberly, helped to establish Heaven’s Bread Basket food pantry that donates food items to local families in need once a month – a ministry of the Session of First Presbyterian Church. Samuel has four children, one step-son, ages sixteen to twenty-eight and has worked part time at Ace Hardware in New Castle, Indiana for over five years.  He has a solid reputation in the community, and has performed marriages and funerals.  He also sits on the Board of the Historical Preservation Committee in New Castle.

2 thoughts on “Facing Death”

  1. San: given the cleareness of scripture in Rom 5 as you have pointed out, where are FP’s getting or how are they coming up with the idea that death existed before the fall?

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    1. The way I did it, when I was a Full Preterist under the wing of Don Preston, was to first note what is called, “biological death.” That is, were the animals to populate forever? Would the varying species of plants not “decay”? When fruit is eaten, is there not some sort of biological demise happening as well to the fruit? From that we would move to consider the theological question concerning the immortality of Adam and Eve. Would they have lived forever had they not eaten? It appears from the text that they were barred from the Tree of Life, which is noted contained “eternal life” of sorts. They had not eaten from that, so the text appears to suggest (and which many non-FP would agree). Therefore, would they have been eventually “transformed”? These are all speculative questions. They are not directly answered. Nonetheless, that has not stopped the theologians from inferring possibilities. As FP, we concluded that Adam would have eventually “died” a natural death and his “soul” would have “gone to heaven”, and thus concluded that physical death is as natural as apple pie in the God-created world. With such conclusion, noting the fact that Adam and Eve did not “die” they “day” that they disobeyed God, but rather lived for many more centuries, the “death” that came through their transgression was not “physical” at all. Rather, it was “spiritual” or “covenantal” death. That is, it was separation from an unbroken relationship with God (where sin was no barrier), it was separation from “eternal life” (the Tree of Life), and the ban from the Temple (Eden). All of mankind, then, is born into this state of separation, and “resurrection” is a REconciliation with God through Christ, placing man by faith into the state of justification and right-standing. For Preston (and Max King, William Bell, Larry Siegle and many other FPs), resurrection has absolutely nothing to do with anything physical. The “dead” in Adam (corporate body) are raised “in Christ” (corporate body).

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