Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XLV)

July 20, 2010

As I have worked my way through all the material in Revelation which is relevant to the study of “the heaven-dwellers” (and “the earth-dwellers,” also, though that has not been the focus of my recent posts), it seems to me that the most significant fresh idea that has popped up has had to do with 18:20, which reads: “Rejoice over her (i.e., Babylon the Great), heaven, and you saints, apostles, and prophets, because God has executed your judgment on her” (HCSB).  Then, as will be seen, an immediate even broader insight emerges just a few verses later, when it is said of Babylon the Great: “[A]nd the blood of prophets and saints, and all those slaughtered on the earth, was found in you” (HCSB).

Together, these two verses pull back the curtain on both “the heaven-dwellers” and “the earth-dwellers” in ways not made clear earlier in Revelation.  And, for whatever reason(s), I must now admit that I was long resistant to the conclusion 18:24 seems to point to.  But, at least I had some idea that conclusion was there and continued to toy with it.  However, in the case of 18:20, I don’t know what else to say than I largely overlooked it, at least in terms of its wider ramifications.

But, that blind spot on 18:20 is no longer.  And, I now am ready to face up to the “arriving at the top of the peak and looking out” effect in 18:24 that I previously avoided.  So, let’s move forward and see what interpretive treasures exist for the taking in these two important verses.

The heart of what I had previously overlooked in 18:20 centers on the word “heaven.”  When the reader takes into account the similarity between 18:20 and 12:12, the issue is brought into sharp relief.  In 12:12, for the first time in the Apocalypse, “the heaven-dwellers” are introduced by name: “… [R]ejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them!” (HCSB).  Set side-by-side, 18:20 is clearly related: “Rejoice… heaven, and you saints, apostles, and prophets… .”

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that 18:20 is saying, at the very least, that three of the categories of people who make up “the heaven-dwellers” are the “saints, apostles, and prophets”—which happen to be three of the terms I looked at in some depth a couple of posts back.  Of these three, while “apostles and prophets” may quite legitimately be taken to be referring to the foundational leadership of the New Testament church (see, e.g., Eph. 2:20), it is not quite as easy to limit “saints” in that way.  Yes, there are plenty of uses of “saints” in Acts and the Epistles that clearly refer to the church(es), but what about the use of “saints” in Daniel 7?

Yes, the references to “saints” in the verses in Daniel 7 soon after 7:13, which is cited in such a spotlighted manner in Revelation 1:7, stops me dead in my tracks.  My awareness of that prophecy about “the saints” in Daniel 7 forces me to broaden my perceptive in Revelation 18:20.

And, just about the time I want to reverse course and say to myself, “You know, maybe 18:20 is just talking about ‘saints’ of the church age,” along comes 18:24 and its reference to “the blood of prophets and saints, and all those slaughtered on the earth” (italics mine).  You see, with that wording, I have a very difficult time getting around the echo of Matthew 23:35, in which Jesus says to the religious leaders of Jerusalem: “… [A]ll the righteous blood shed on the earth will be charged to you, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah… (HCSB.  Given that Jerusalem is called “the great city” in Revelation 11:8, wording used repeatedly for Babylon the Great in the context of 18:24 (see 18:10, 16, 19, 21), it seems almost certain that “all those slaughtered on the earth” in 18:24 is intended to go all the way back to Abel.

As I conclude this post, another related wider observation is worth considering here: if “the earth-dwellers” are all the non-elect (see 13:8; 17:8) of all history, and if Babylon the Great is held responsible for all the deaths of God’s people going back to Abel, as we just saw in 18:24), does it not make sense that “the heaven-dwellers” would be the elect of all time?  After all, when we look at the end of the book of Revelation, there are only two eternal destinies: 1) with the Lord in Paradise regained—and never to be lost again; or 2) separated from the Lord in conscious eternal torment.

Now, this is not to say that there are not some nuances in understanding “the heaven-dwellers” that are not very important to notice (as will be done in future posts).  It is, however, to make clear that “the heaven-dwellers,” like their opposite group, “the earth-dwellers,” have been around as long as humanity.  And, when the dust settles, it probably would not be a big shock to find out that these two categories turn out to be the end-of-the-Bible way of referring to the-start-of-the-Bible groups known as “the seed of the woman” and “the seed of the serpent” (see Gen. 3:15, as well as John 8:44 and Rom. 16:20, for the realization that both categories continue on through the unfolding revelation of Scripture.

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2 Responses to “Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XLV)”

  1. Excellent connection with Revelation 18:20 clearly revealing who the heaven dwellers are: saints, apostles, and prophets. I’m glad you also made the connection between Revelation 18:24 (“And in her [Babylon] was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.”) and Matthew 23:35-36 (“…so that on you [the religious leadership of Israel] may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation”).

    Since Jesus said that judgment would be fulfilled within His own generation, what do you see as the implications for these same words appearing as a parallel statement in Revelation 18:24 (cf. Rev. 16:4-6, Rev. 17:6, Rev. 18:20)? To me, it’s one of many indications that Revelation was written prior to 70 AD and spoke much of the judgments which occurred at that time and in the 3.5 years leading up to that time.

    If you’re interested, I’ve written a 3-part series on the subject of the “earth-dwellers,” focusing on this phrase (or a form of it) as it appears frequently in Revelation. Admittedly, it’s from a partial-preterist/early date perspective, and it begins with this post:

    http://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/the-earth-as-a-common-reference-to-israel-in-revelation-part-1/

    In that study I didn’t focus on the related subject of the “heaven dwellers,” but I really like what you’ve done with this.

    • boydluter said

      Adam,

      I am up to my eyeballs in church ministry stuff for the next few days. However, I really want to read what you have to say on these passages before commenting. I am cautious in regard to the changes I make in my thinking, which I think is the wise way to handle things. However, I am definitely seeing some things that are making me rethink certain views I’ve held for a long time. I cannot deny the data that is causing me to adjust my thinking, but I can’t tell how far the ripples are going to spread out across my theological perspective yet.

      Blessings, Boyd

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