Up is Down or is Down Up: Revelation 21-22

By Samuel M. Frost

Reading the end of Revelation may cause the appearance of confusion.  Reading Revelation under literary criticism, however,  reduces the text to a form that is derived from the text itself – offering pointers in the text so that it is rightly understood.  It is well accepted that John saw and heard these visions over a span of time (days or months we are not told) and that upon the completion of seeing and hearing them, he edited the material into the form as we now have it.

For example, John writes an Introduction (1.1-8) that was placed as such after he had already heard and seen these visions.  This same format in Revelation 21-22 is seen where he adds an Epilogue (22.17-21).  The last vision John saw was the New Jerusalem’s advent to earth in a new heavens and new earth.  All throughout the compilation, the New Jerusalem is described (using a participlian phrase, “coming down out of heaven”, 3.12; 21.2; 21.10).  It is called both the “bride” (nymphe) and “wife” (gune) of the Lord (21.9), functioning in both roles from beginning to consummation.  All throughout the work, however, the New Jerusalem is in heaven.  It remains in heaven yet is also “coming down out of (ek) heaven” to a new earth (since the previous earth is described as no more).  The participle (“coming down”) is not a time indicator, but a stress on the continuous action describing the New Jerusalem.

This is a critical detail for the vision relates that its gates are now open (at the time John saw the vision, 21.26).  The river of the water of life, which contains healing for the nations (22.2), flowing down from the throne in heaven to the inhabitants on the earth.  The offer to “drink” from this water is the invitation given (21.6; 22.17).  This obviously is in reference to the Gospel message, the “testimony of Jesus”, given to those who receive the Spirit. However, since the New Jerusalem is pictured as being in heaven (up there), the waters and the ability to drink is now given down here.  The waters flow from up there to down here. Those who are overcoming in this life do so because they drink from the springs of water.  It is in this visual aspect that the New Jerusalem is described as “coming down” in the waters and in its healing power whose source is the City itself which is “in heaven”.  Ultimately the whole city comes down.

The message of Revelation is to those who overcome to the end of their lives as a faithful witness of the testimony of Jesus.  It is a warning against those who may start out with good intentions, but because of the trials and temptations fall from the calling of the Lord and simply do not finish the race.  “To him who overcomes and does my will to the end” (2.26) is in reference to the end of one’s life, dying in the faith.  These upon death enter into the gates of the New Jerusalem in heaven.  That is what is promised throughout and specifically to the “churches” throughout the world (Revelation 2-3).  These, upon entrance into heaven, enter the gates of the New Jerusalem, are made a pillar, are given access to the Tree of Life, are made rulers (given thrones), are given a new name, are guided, covered, provided for and lack nothing.  What is more striking is that the New Jerusalem in heaven shall encompass kings of the earth (21.24) which implies the sheer volume of the New Jerusalem to hold the nations who walk by its light, those that are called into it.

What emerges, then, is a picture of “going to heaven” upon the event of dying on earth, having drank of the living water, and having overcome by the blood of the Lamb, washing the robes that are already now given to the saints.  The saints on earth are pictured as having robes, washing them in the blood of the Lamb, keeping them from being soiled (22.14) so that upon death they may “enter” the New Jerusalem.  16.15 intimates this, as well as 3.4-5, where the churches are addressed as keeping their robes pure.  When the Devil is seen as hurled “out of” heaven, the saints “overcame him by the blood of the Lamb” – they “endured” and “did not love their lives as to shrink from death” (12.11); they endured to the end of their lives.  These saints drink from the waters that flow from above, wash the robes given to them in the blood, remain unpolluted in that blood, and upon death, enter into the New Jerusalem in heaven….the one described as eventually “coming down out of heaven” to a new earth.

It is in the vein that we recognize in the Revelation that the word, “temple” (naos) is mentioned 16 times and is exclusively for the temple in heaven.  The temple in heaven contains the throne room and the altar.  It is within the temple that the activities of the angels are sent out to do their commissioned work.  The “churches” are promised to enter the temple upon death (3.12; 7.15) and there serve the Lord “day and night” (7.15).  What is fascinating is that when the New Jerusalem finally does come down out of heaven, there is no more night (21.25; 22.8).  More strikingly, there is no more temple, “for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb is its temple” (21.22).  There is no mistake in the singularity of the verb “is” (where one would expect “are” for the two subjects, the Lord God and the Lamb).  God Himself is the temple when the New Jerusalem finally comes down out of heaven.  This is closely followed with the removal of “the curse” (22.3).  While the curse is to be found, the temple remains in heaven, indicating that “up there” is still “up there” and “down here” is still “down here.”  The curse brought about a separation between the full presence of God with mankind and the temple signifies this curse.  In the new heavens and new earth there will no more “up there” and “down here”.  All will be one, holy dwelling.

Since these images are visibly demonstrating the relationship of the Gospel, one final passage marks the fact that since the New Jerusalem is still “up there”, then those “down here” must enter inside the gates upon death.  “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter into the city into the gates.  The dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood remain outside” (22.14,15).  The washing of the robes are those who live among the dogs and evildoers on earth – down here.  By washing their robes in the blood, enduring to the end of their lives, they enter into the gates of the city in heaven upon death.  One description, already mentioned, is that the saints are to keep their robes from being soiled (3.6), which makes sense since they are in the world with the dogs down here.  Secondly, Jesus blesses those who keep their robes, so that they are not found “naked” (16.15).  From this we can infer that faith in the testimony of Jesus enables the Spirit to clothe the believer in a robe (which is symbolized as “righteousness” in 19.8).  These robes are made white in the blood of the lamb.  Or, another way of seeing it is that those who come to believe in Jesus already have soiled robes, and upon faith these are made white “in the blood of the Lamb” and are to be continually washed in the blood (“overcoming”) throughout their lifetime – avoiding soiling them (and when they are soiled, they are washed in the forgiving blood of the Lamb).  Either way, the imagery is made plain: the saints live in a world of dogs, sorcerers, murderers and all sorts of evil people.  If they maintain the faith in the testimony of Jesus (“faithful unto death”), they are promised entrance into the New Jerusalem above.  To enter the City in the afterlife means that one is drinking from the waters that flow down and out of the City in heaven to earth.  One is washing themselves in the blood of the Lamb down here so that upon death they “enter the gates” up there.

Since we have noticed that the 16 times the word “temple” is used, it is always used for the temple in heaven, then this has implications for 11.1 where John is told to measure the temple and its worshipers (by which we assume to mean followers of Jesus, who “worship” him in heaven, in the temple – 7.15).  He is then told not the measure “the outside” for it has been given to the nations, and has been “cast out” (11.2).  The term “outside” we have already encountered in 22.15.  The outer courts, away from the temple in heaven, is cast out, outside, and given to the nations of the earth.  Among these nations are those who proclaim the faith of Jesus, who wash their robes in the blood in a world entirely antagonistic to them.  What confirms this reading is that “the temple” that John is told to measure is seen as remaining open in 11.19 of the same vision.  The fact that he is told to measure the temple and those worshiping in it (Greek) means that is was opened.  This has further implications, but one we cannot explore at the moment.

In conclusion, a clear picture emerges: the temple in the New Jerusalem, wherein are the throne, the ark, the worshipers (the souls of the righteous dead, those fallen asleep in faith, the martyrs), the thrones, the angels, the censors, the altar and the like are pictured as “up there” in heaven.  The activity of judgments occur “down here” – things are hurled “down” from “above.”  The saints are “down here” during this time (and the dead saints are up there; 6.9) and have to “overcome” by continually washing their robes in the blood til the end of their lives.  “This requires great patience on behalf of the saints” – which is a main theme of the book, for the turmoil of the world and its kings, people, leaders and presidents can cause a great deal of stress – not to mention the false religions, false doctrines, cultural pressures to conform to the world – and even further those who deliberately seek the death of those who hold to the testimony of Jesus – can cause many to doubt their commitment to Jesus in a world gone mad.  But, that’s the point: when we understand whats going on down here, and what awaits for us up there, the task at hand is made brighter in a dark place.  And, ultimately, knowing that what’s up there is promised to finally come down here, places us in the whole purpose of it all.  Each, individual saint plays a role, has a part, is issued a task, and each part hastens together with all the parts – one, big symphony of God – the arrival of the New Jerusalem out heaven to earth – where death will be no more.

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.

7 thoughts on “Up is Down or is Down Up: Revelation 21-22”

  1. I hope you don’t mind if I affix some minor thoughts on one aspect of this pingback? (And feel free to edit this or reject it at your leisure)

    The argument that Don claims is ‘irrefutable proof’ (at the bottom of the pingback article) is an invalid logical form since it contains an illicit minor. The conclusion does not follow. And given the imagery of the Temple used in Hebrews (ch. 6, ch. 9) would remind any Hebrew that the Temple had sections, such that,

    one can be in the Temple but not be in the MHP

    I don’t really see how he can mend his argument given the possibility that the imagery points to sections in Heaven itself* such that one can be in Heaven but not be in Paradise (MHP).

    In short Don has not proved by this argument that the ‘MHP is heaven’. Of course, it could be, but not by this argument.

    Thanks!

    *[eg: https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_corinthians/12-2.htm ,
    https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_corinthians/12-3.htm
    FBMeyer taught that (higher) Paradise (of God) was above the 3rd (of 7) heavens –
    Bengel taught that Paradise was an inner recess of the 3rd heaven and not the 3rd heaven itself, etc…]

    Like

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