A Response to Sam Frost’s – The Great City is Every City But No City
Former full preterist Sam Frost wrote an article entitled: “The Great City is Every City and No City.” (The article was published on Academia.edu, [https://www.academia.edu/76842232/The_Great_City_is_Every_City_and_No_City], and is dated August 2021). Frost also posted it on FaceBook). This article is Frost’s attempt to remove the book of Revelation from any discussion of the full preterist view. Keep in mind that for a while, Frost espoused the full preterist paradigm. He said on many occasions that it is the only view of eschatology that has any merit. However, he now claims that anyone that would take that position is ignorant, deceived, stupid and otherwise heretical.
As a full preterist Frost accepted the following:
☛ That the time statements of the Apocalypse, communicated the objective imminence of the coming eschatological consummation. Now, however, Frost (unbelievably) claims that there is not one NT text that conveys the objective imminence of the parousia or the end of the age. In Frost’s new paradigm, soon does not mean soon. At hand, cannot refer to temporal imminence, but spatial proximity. Shortly come to pass actually means with rapidity, whenever that event might eventually take place. Keep in mind that Frost admits, however, that in non-prophetic, non-eschatological passages, all of these words can and DO commonly convey temporal imminence! But never in prophetic texts! To say that this is arbitrary, not to mention specious, is an understatement! What book on hermeneutic does Frost ever cite to support his claim? None. Not one, because he can’t and he knows he can’t!
☛ As a full preterist, Frost agreed that Revelation was written before AD 70 and was a prediction of the impending destruction of Jerusalem.
☛ As a full preterist, Frost well understood that the book of Revelation was focused on the fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises made to Old Covenant Israel. Now, however, Frost has abandoned that view, and sees Revelation as a “Universal” book that speaks in generic terms, about the “whole world” and the earth. For Frost, there was no first century audience relevance of what was said to the seven churches or the first century world.
✦ This is in spite of the fact that the Apocalypse cites, quotes and echoes the OT promises made to Old Covenant Israel literally hundreds of time. And Revelation, actually the Lord, told the seven churches that the fulfillment of those prophecies was to come to pass shortly.
✦ It is in spite of the fact that Revelation likewise is focused on the vindication of the martyrs, and that Jesus emphatically and explicitly promised the vindication of the martyrs at the destruction of Jerusalem, Frost totally ignores those connections and context.
Frost totally ignores the historical fact that the recipients of the Apocalypse were already in the midst of real life persecution, at the hands of those, “who say they are Jews, but are not, for they are liars” (3:9f; See also the Jewish identify of the persecutors in 2:9. Frost only casually mentions these texts, with no discussion). This means nothing to Frost. That very real life, sitz em leben, is to be ignored and even denied. It makes one wonder if Frost thinks that the seven cities mentioned in the Apocalypse were themselves “No Cities but all cities”? After all, if Babylon is not a historical city, why should we think that the seven churches / cities were actually cities at all?
For Frost, even though those first century saints and the martyrs of the ages were crying out for vindication and relief (6:9-11), and even though they were told they only had to wait for a little while (chronon micron) until that vindication at the Day of the Lord would come, in Frost’s article, he totally ignores the contextual emphasis on that suffering and on the promise of imminent relief and vindication.
By ignoring all of these things (actually denying them), Frost concludes, “The Great City is, in short, the world.” (His emphasis, page 1). Think about that: the city Babylon is (supposedly) the whole world!
Now, for brevity, let me address the key points above to illustrate how grossly Frost, and Gregory Beale and Leon Morris that he quotes, are out of touch with what Revelation is about.
#1 – FROST AND THE TIME STATEMENTS OF REVELATION.
It is not too much to say that Frost’s denial of any objective meaning of the time statements in the NT and book of Revelation particularly, is not historical and has no linguistic merit. Scholars and commentators commonly try to avoid the power of those statements with the worn out and false argument that, “God does not see time as man does.” But this objection does not go as far as Frost does. Most scholars understand that the normal meaning of the many, many time statements normally do convey objective imminence. However, since their concept of the nature of the prophecies of Revelation does not match that objective imminence, then they change the meaning of an entire vocabulary of words!
Notice what one world class Greek scholar (A far greater Greek scholar than Sam Frost), says of the time statements of Revelation:
In the original text, the Greek word used is TACHU, and this does not mean “soon,” in the sense of “sometime,” but rather “now,” immediately.” Therefore, we must understand Rev 22:12 in this way: “I am coming now, bringing my recompense.” The concluding word of Rev 22:20 is: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘surely I am coming soon.’” Here we again find the word, TACHU, so this means: I am coming quickly, immediately. This is followed by the prayer: “Amen, Come, Lord Jesus!” . . . The Apocalypse expresses the fervent waiting for the end within the circles in which the writer lived – not an expectation that will happen at some unknown point X in time (just to repeat this), but one in the immediate present.” (Kurt Aland, A History of Christianity: From the Beginnings to the Threshold of the Reformation, trans. James L Schaaf (Philadelphia, PA; Fortress, 1985, 1:88).
This kind of comment, from world class Greek scholars, could be multiplied many, many times over. But this is sufficient. But just think of this: If even ONE of the many, many time statements in Revelation – or the NT – is granted its normal linguistic meaning of actual imminence, then Frost’s entire paradigm, not to mention his article, goes up in smoke. For an in-depth analysis of the time indicators in Revelation, with a response to the efforts that are made to mitigate and destroy those statements, see my book Who Is This Babylon? In that book I have a special chapter dedicated to responding to arguments such as those offered by Frost.
Consider an issue that Frost has never dared to answer: Remember that Frost agrees that in non-prophetic passages, words like taxus, engus, en taxei, “this generation,” etc., commonly DO convey the idea of temporal imminence. However, he insists that in prophetic, eschatological texts, those same words, terms and phrases never communicate temporal nearness. Rather, they refer to rapidity of action, spatial proximity, or in the case of “this generation” it means “this kind of people,” or something (anything!) other than the contemporary generation of Jesus.
But, here is a question that I and others have posed to him repeatedly, and to this day, have never received a keystroke of response: If the words taxus, en taxei, engus, this generation, etc. commonly convey temporal imminence in non-prophetic texts, but can never do so in prophetic texts, what words, terms or phrases, would the Spirit have had to use to communicate the objective, true imminence in the prophetic texts? What hermenuetical rule says that quickly, shortly, soon, etc. means soon in non-prophetic texts but that it cannot mean that in prophetic texts? (Keep in mind that no preterist denies that “at hand” can refer to spatial nearness. That is not the point. So, when Frost points to passages that tell us that the Lord is always near, that has no bearing on passages such as, “Behold, I come quickly” or, “the time (kairos, appointed time has come for the judgment”- 1 Peter 4:17).
As stated, Frost has never, not once, hit a key stroke to offer up a hermeneutical rule, in any source, that justifies his claim. The reason is simple. He can’t, and he knows he can’t.
# 2 – REVELATION AND GOD’S PROMISES TO ISRAEL
One of the most egregious, not to mention fatal, failures in Frost’s article is his total, absolute failure (more of a refusal, if you are familiar with Frost’s current paradigm) to even mention, not one single time, that John’s Apocalypse was about the imminent fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises made to Old Covenant Israel– Israel after the flesh, as Paul stated in Romans 9:1-3.
The indisputable fact is that all the NT writers tell us that their eschatological hope was the expectation of the fulfillment – the imminent fulfillment – of what the OT prophets foretold. Peter did (Acts 3:21ff / 2 Peter 3). Paul did (Acts 24:14f / Acts 26:21ff). John did.
As I noted above, Revelation cites, alludes to and echoes more OT prophecies and texts than perhaps any other NT book. Not only that, we are told that in the sounding of the seventh trumpet: “when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets” (Revelation 10:7). Likewise, in Revelation 22:6, after receiving the vision of the New Creation, John was told: “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.”
Of course, the prophecy of the New Creation is found in Isaiah 65-66. That means that Revelation was about the fulfillment of the OT prophets, and states, in spite of Frost’s denials, that fulfillment “must shortly take place.” (Note that fulfillment was a “must,” from the Greek word dei, signifying here the divine necessity for the imminent (en taxei) fulfillment. See my Babylon book for an in-depth linguistic analysis of en taxei. It never means rapidity of action as opposed to imminence. NEVER).
Everywhere we turn in Revelation we find references and citations from the OT prophecies of the eschatological consummation. And yet, Frost deemed the source of Revelation as completely irrelevant to a proper interpretation of the book. How can anyone claim to be doing a scholarly, serious exegesis of Revelation and yet fail to even mention the underlying sources of the Apocalypse?
The point of all of this is that when one posits the fulfillment of Revelation in our future, they are (logically) saying that the Old Covenant remains valid and binding, and that Israel remains as God’s covenant people. When I have pressed Frost on these issues in FaceBook discussions, asking if the Old Covenant is still in force, and if Old Covenant Israel remains God’s covenant people he has persistently refused to answer candidly, choosing rather to obfuscate and divert attention away from the discussion. But make no mistake: modern Israel is not Old Covenant Israel. Furthermore, the church is not Old Covenant Israel. This means that all of the OT prophecies had to be fulfilled while Old Covenant Israel still existed, and while the Old Law was still valid and binding – see Hebrews 9:6-10. (See my book, Temple to Telos, for a discussion of this. It is available from my website, Amazon, Kindle and other retailers).
#3 – FROST, REVELATION AND THE VINDICATION OF THE MARTYRS
The theme of martyrdom and coming imminent vindication permeates the book of Revelation. It is literally everywhere. Does Frost discuss this critical, foundational theme in his article? Not once.
This is incredibly important. For Jesus, the promise of the coming imminent, vindication of the martyrs was one of the major themes of his entire ministry. It is found in Matthew 10:22-23 / 16:21-28 / Chapter 21 / Chapter 22 / Chapter 23. It is found in Luke 18. In all of these passages, and these are not the only ones, Jesus spoke of the following, either explicitly or implicitly:
Israel had killed the OT prophets.
They would – and did – kill Jesus (Matthew 21 and the parable of the Wicked Vineyard workers. 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).
They would kill his own apostles and prophets that he would send to her (Matthew 23:29ff / Luke 11:49f, etc).
Jerusalem would fill the measure of her blood guilt in Jesus’ generation and judgment would fall on her- in that generation (Matthew 23:34f. Paul concurred with this saying Jerusalem was filling the measure of her blood guilt and “the wrath of God has come upon her to the uttermost” (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).
Babylon in Revelation had killed the OT prophets (Revelation 16:6). It is critical to any understanding of Revelation to understand that only one city / entity in all of Biblical history ever killed OT prophets! Not Egypt, not Babylon, not Assyria, not Syria, not Persia! Thus, when Frost tries to identify Babylon as, “Every city but no city,” this is as false as false could be. There is literally not a syllable of validity to this claim. You can’t charge “no city” or even “every city” with killing the OT prophets when it was only one, very specific, very historical, very concrete city that killed the OT prophets. But again, not a keystroke from Frost about this issue.
Babylon is where the Lord was crucified. Revelation 11:8, gives an interpretive explanation of the identity of the city that was “spiritually called Sodom and Egypt”: “It is also where the Lord was crucified.” It is specious – extremely so – bordering on esotericism – to suggest that Jesus was crucified in, “Every city but no city”!
Babylon is the city guilty of killing Jesus’ apostles and prophets (remember that Paul identified Jerusalem as this city in 1 Thessalonians 2).
How does one ignore Israel’s long standing culpability for shedding the blood of the saints as described by Jesus, Paul and then by John? Jesus never, not once, indicated that there was some nebulous, generic, “Every city but no city” that had never been, or would ever be, the city / entity that had or would kill the saints. Not once does he ever say that the nations of the world would share in the guilt of Israel in killing the prophets, or himself, or his apostles and prophets. Jesus – nor Paul, or Peter, or James, knew nothing of a, “Every city but no city,” that was guilty of what he accused Israel of doing in her long history.
Not only this, but when one considers the actual historical situation of the Apocalypse, and compares it with Frost’s every city but no city, claims, it becomes impossible to accept his claims. Note what Kenneth Gentry says:
Another detriment to the strained interpretations listed above is that John was writing to historical churches existing in his own day (Rev. 1:4). He and they are presently suffering “tribulation” (Rev. 1:9a). John’s message (ultimately from Christ 1:1) calls upon each to give careful, spiritual attention to his words (2:7 etc). John is deeply concerned with the expectant cry of the martyrs and the divine promise of their soon vindication (6:10; cp. 5:3-5). He (John, DKP) would be cruelly mocking their circumstances (while committing a ‘verbal scam’ according to Mounce) were he telling them that when help comes it will come with swiftness – even though it may not come until two or three thousand years later.” (Kenneth Gentry, The Beast of Revelation, (Powder Springs, GA, American Vision, 2002), 27).
But for Frost, that very real suffering on the part of the Asian saints has no role to help determine the meaning of the Apocalypse.
For Frost, the cry of the martyrs was not truly for imminent relief and vindication, it is a timeless cry of the saints through the millennia.
For Frost, the promise that vindication and relief from that suffering and martyrdom was to come soon, shortly and was at hand, had no application to and for those living, suffering saints.
Thus, the promise of the Lord to the churches, “Behold, I come quickly (erchomai (ἔρχομαι), taxu, ταχύ), was not a promise made to them at all. It had no application to their suffering, since the Lord did not come shortly, quickly or soon. He has still not come after 2000 years! A verbal scam indeed!
The truth is that no other city – than Jerusalem – did or could have done what Revelation accused “Babylon” of doing. To identify Babylon as any other city than Jerusalem one must totally ignore the teaching of Jesus, or deny the testimony of Paul (not to mention the testimony of the Tanakh on this issue). How does one divorce Revelation from that of Jesus and Paul?
To totally ignore the real, undeniable historical realities of the sins of Babylon, and then project her sins onto other nations who had never done those things, amounts to exegetical fraud. To identify Babylon as, “Every city but no city” denies the concrete historical reality of the sins of that city, and is a gross distortion of the message of Revelation. If you propose an identity for Babylon as some “composite” “every city” that never committed the crimes iterated above, your proposal is empirically false. If you propose that Babylon is “no city,” you are equally guilty of perverting the Bible text and history. Unfortunately, this is what happens when people deny the truth and set forth on an agenda to deny that truth.
In light of all of this evidence, and we have not even scratched the surface, we can state confidently that Babylon of Revelation was not Every City but No City, but was assuredly The City of Jerusalem.
See my book, Who Is This Babylon? for a wealth of both historical and Biblical evidence that proves that Babylon of Revelation was Old Covenant Jerusalem.