The “Earth Dwellers” and the “Heaven Dwellers”: An Overlooked Interpretive Key to the Apocalypse -- By: A. Boyd Luter

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 20:1 (Fall 2002)
Article: The “Earth Dwellers” and the “Heaven Dwellers”: An Overlooked Interpretive Key to the Apocalypse
Author: A. Boyd Luter

The “Earth Dwellers” and the “Heaven Dwellers”:
An Overlooked Interpretive Key to the Apocalypse1

A. Boyd Luter

Writer in Residence
Coeditor, Criswell Theological Review

Emily K. Hunter

Assistant to the Editors, Criswell Theological Review
The Criswell College
Dallas, Texas 75246

Presented at the Evangelical Theological Society
54th Annual Meeting
Toronto, Ontario, Canada,
November 21, 2002

Research and publication on the Book of Revelation has escalated to a frenetic pace.2 In such a climate, in which, seemingly, every exegetical and theological nuance has been treated from virtually every conceivable angle, it would seem unlikely that any material of significance would be overlooked. However, as will be seen, careful study of two overlooked groups in the Apocalypse, to whom we will refer, shorthand, as the “earth dwellers” and the “heaven dwellers,” provides considerable insight in regard to both the exegesis and biblical theology of this challenging book. Further, building from the exegetical/biblical theology conclusions, it is possible to approach a systematic theological issue that is ever vexing to many evangelicals—the location of the Rapture in Revelation—from a largely fresh perspective.

This article will proceed through all the uses of the Revelation phraseology having to do, first, with the earth dwellers, then the heaven dwellers, in sequential order. A number of conclusions in the exegetical and biblical theology areas will be stated at that point. Then, the fruit of these studies will be mined for their implications in regard to the Rapture. Before concluding, as is necessary for thorough theological reflection on such a highly debated topic, several other relevant considerations and several anticipated objections to the resulting view will be discussed.

Tracking the “Earth Dwellers “ through Revelation

It is, frankly, surprising that no more insightful study of the earth dwellers in the Apocalypse has been forthcoming. The virtually identical wording is used in 3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10 (twice); 13:8; 13:14 (twice); 17:2; and 17:8 (see table

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