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Eschatology


 

Seminar on the “Book of Revelation” presented by Dr. Allen Harrod

Review of this seminar by Daniel Deida

Id #: 15-00008976

September 18, 2015

 

Dr. Harrod’s approach to this seminar was very impressive and his words captivating. His 40 years of studying and teaching the book of Revelation give him the authority to decipher and share the profound imagery in this prophetic book. His initial statement establishes the theological ground as how to go about understanding the book of Revelation. He speaks of four approaches to the Book of Revelation which are the nihilists, preterits, historical symbolic representation, and futurist.  Later revealing that the futurist approach best describes his conviction and belief.

The first approach are the nihilists who see an antagonistic battle between good and evil. They sustain that the churches in the book of Revelation speak of real situations.  The second approach are the preterits who refer to this book as events which occurred in the past except for the last two chapters. The third approach is the historical symbolic representation which is seen in all of history. Focusing especially on chapter 13 allude to the Islamic. The fourth approach is the futurist it sees the whole book as pointing to what will happen in the future.

In my opinion when we know the position of the writer then it becomes clear how to put all the theological pieces together. Harrod follows the idealism of the premillennialism and is convinced of the futurist’s approach. Thus, according to him, the message to the churches goes beyond simple historical events, in fact it tells of future events they represent.  He interprets the events of the book in a chronological way.

Harrod places the rapture as the initiatory event, then it is followed by the tribulation which he strictly believes is for the people of Israel not for the Christian church. After that follows Armageddon, and lastly comes the Second coming of Christ with the purpose of judgment not salvation.

Here I agree with Harrod, on God’s purpose for including two comings of Christ. One portraying Christ as the slain lamb, a humble man living among the mortal, and full of mercy and compassion. And in the second coming contrary to the first one. Here Christ is coming to bring judgment to those who rejected him. He is coming as the King and ruler of the world.

            Concerning the writer of the book of Revelation it seems that Harrod supports a contemporary idea rather than the traditional. He perceives there are two different writers or Johns. The new John being an amanuenses. He cannot harmonize the other letters of John with the writings of the book of Revelation because this according to him uses a more domestic and less academic level. He nevertheless, affirms that whoever wrote the book of Revelation had in mind a message of hope. 

To assist the reader in understanding the scope of this book Harrod shares a few key points. His first point, mainly that the rapture is for the church and whoever stays behind are Jews. The period of tribulation is covered in chapters 6 to 19. His second key point is the correlation between heaven and earth. According to him the book of Revelation is about tribulation over anything else. His third point consists of some brief intervals of pauses, he calls “parenthesis” or interludes taken from the book of D. Campbell Morgan as its proponent. His last key point is a sequence which is seen throughout the book which is referenced by the phrase, “I saw…”.

Harrod also offers the reader two ways to divide the book of Revelation. First in reference of Revelation 1:19; Things you have seen; things which are; and things which are to come. The second is suggested by John Phillips as Visions of God (chapter 1); grace (chapters 2-3); government (chapters 4-20); and glory (chapters 21-22). In my opinion, I do not know if the writer of the book of Revelation is intentionally giving an outline: past, present, and future; without taking in consideration the “kairos” time or spiritual dimensions. When John says ‘he was in the spirit’ and speaks of the revelation that Jesus Christ showed to him perhaps this language is too simple for some. I think there is a greater mystery between what John saw and what he could understand and transmit in an intelligible language.

            I view Harrod’s explanation of the messages to the seven churches as historic but having pertinent practical applications for the church nowadays. He describes the message to the churches as practical, perennial, and prophetic truth. What I think however, if it is only history then it would be easier to leave it in the past until it vanishes like everything else in history. What I do not see is that if the message is relevant for our days, why it is not delivered with the same intensity and cultural applications.

I give him credit for his research and well balanced presentation of each church. In the context of the exhortations given to these churches there were some remarks he made that attracted my attention. First, the church in Pergamum had Baalism ruling the church, Harrod states is representing power. Also, that the doctrine of the Nicolaitans was influencing the church. His application is that the Nicolaitans symbolized the leaders or clergy who were over the laity. Here he needed to give more background to support his idea. I think Harrod made a good observation when speaking on the life of Constantine, that it is happening in our times as well, how he allowed Christians and pagans to share the same sanctuary to worship their gods. It seems that sacredness, purity, and true worship is vanishing from our churches.

Also in the church in Thyatira, we find a woman by the name of Jezebel, who because of her great influence led the church into fornication. If this woman was the pastor’s wife we do not know, but she resembles Ahab’s wife from the Old Testament and the connotation is not healthy. The church in Sardis was in decay and corruption. Harrod sees our churches are also more sociable but without Christ, we have lost the sense of evangelizing. Philadelphia, has a positive connotation (Fileos and adelphos) it was a place of great brotherly love and revival. I would agree that when we study this church closely it seems it portrayed a loving and friendly relationship. Remarkably, this is the only church that did not receive a reprimand or exhortation.

Lastly, Laodicea joined the same trend like the others, there was no sense of life, no sense of truth and consequently no passion for the gospel. Harrod compares this situation with the Salvation Army organization, who gave up preaching the gospel to turn away from its true call and mission and instead is dedicated to a health gospel. In addition, I think it is sad that this movement did not only focus on a social gospel but also departed from the holiness movement and went to the other side of morality to support the group and movement currently identified with the logo of a ‘rainbow’.  Likewise, Harrod criticizes the ministry of Joel Olsteen a prosperity preacher, who preaches a kind of humanism gospel insinuating that God wants to make people rich and prosperous. This was not in Jesus’ agenda, on the contrary, as Harrod points out Jesus never preached prosperity or taught that anyone should be popular.

 There are two events involved direct and indirectly which are evident that those who belong to Christ will be taken away. Even though the word ‘rapture’ is not found in the Bible, the implication of this event is taught in the Scriptures. The other event is the beginning of the tribulation for those who rejected Christ at His first coming. The Bible says in John 1:11 “He came to his own but His own did not receive him”.  

Harrod uses the example of God’s protection for Noah and Lot; God’s action comes to rescue the faithful and the just as we see in the Bible.  This is his reasoning: God always takes his people out before He brings judgment upon the earth. God told Noah to come in (a symbolism of salvation) and he told Lot to leave a sinful city because destruction was coming to that city. To corroborate this idea, he quotes 1 Thessalonians 5:19 which says that God has called not to wrath but to salvation. I see that this idea infers that mercy and grace precede God’s judgment.

In Revelation 4, there are 24 elders dressed in white and wearing crowns which represents they are resurrected and they have conquered.  Harrod does not think they are angels because angels are spiritual beings, they are never numbered in the Bible nor wear crowns. He interprets these 24 elders as the twelve Apostles and believers saved by faith. Adding a note to this, I also see that only those who trust in the Lord are made more than conquerors. The angels are never mentioned as conquerors but protectors of the people who fear God.

As to the four creatures mentioned in this chapter, Harrod does not see any discrepancy to admit that they might represent the four gospels. I also believe that animals are used in the Bible to represent skill, power, and care. In this same way each special animal describes each gospel. The gospel of Matthew is represented by a lion; Mark by a lamb; Luke by an ox; and John by an eagle.  William Barclay supports this idea as well. After chapter four of Revelation, there is a sequence of acts of judgment for the non-Christian Jews who will live without God’s presence, with no assistance of the Holy Spirit and without his grace to sustain them.

            It is interesting to me how one scroll is rolled in sections yet together and after each section it was stamped with a seal (chapters 5-6). Harrod says that this scroll represents a mysterious sealed message found in Daniel. Subsequently, in chapter 6 what follows this mysterious sealed message is a time and situation that has been perverted by men.

We see a series of judgments are described to happen by the presence of four horse men. Harrod describes them as a period of devastating famine, a catastrophic economic condition, and depression. In particular he sees the first horseman as someone imitating Jesus, since he was wearing an earthly crown which is a symbol of rule and power. This horseman is no other than the Anti-Christ who follows no law.  He concludes by saying that all the signs in heaven and the horrors described on earth are symbolic. I see that this section of the horsemen with the description of these horses are marking different periods of tribulation. I would like to accentuate that these symbolisms represent a reality. We must not disregard them as being a symbolic novel to entertain an audience.

On the chapters 8-9, Harrod does not give in detail all the occurrences of the seven angels with the seven trumpets, but he makes reference to the fall of Satan during the sound of the fifth trumpet. In chapter nine, the description that is given of the beast is a description of a demon. Yes indeed, it is horrific because it can only be something that is out of this world and it is not celestial. Fortunately, there is not an attack for those with the seal of God. Actually, during the activity of the trumpets, Harrod sees not only the action of Satan but the action of God as well.

Before the sound of the last trumpet, there is the appearance of two witnesses who have power to perform miracles and these could be Moses and Elijah. Seeing these witnesses helps us understand how important these two figures have been in the life of the Israelites; because Moses and Elijah appeared on the mount during Jesus’ transfiguration.

There is a woman mentioned in chapter 12 who was in the wilderness for more than two years. For Harrod she is the nation of Israel and others say this woman is Mary because she stayed in the “wilderness” for two years.  Then, there is the dragon with ten heads which represents ten nations. This dragon is also the antichrist, obviously he is after the child who will rule the people.

In chapter 13, Harrod sees Satan use authority and charismatic abilities to lead the world further into corruption. His Trinitarian force of evil imitating God’s power. There is the dragon, the beast (representing the Jews) and false prophet (representing the gentiles). This unholy trinity produces the mark 666. But, there is no answer what this number represents. Undoubtedly, Satan has tried to reproduce what God has done. The beast taking the place of the son; the false prophet taking the place of the Holy Spirit; and Satan the father. Briefly, Harrod considers chapter 14 where Jesus is standing on mount Sion.

I would like to add that in considering the passage in Matthew 24 it seems to indicate the plurality of evil like the false prophets and the anti-Christs because there will be no controlling divine grace during this period of time. Wiley describes this future era as graceless and an increase of sin, and manifestation of the anti-Christs opposing Christ and His truth (Wiley, Christian Theology, Volume 3).

            In chapter 15 there are two songs of celebration and worship for God. There are two groups represented here:  Those who sang the victory song of Moses when they crossed the Red Sea and those who sang the song of the Lamb representing the victory over Babylon. In the song of Moses, God brought the people out from Egypt. In the song of the Lamb, God brings the people into heaven. Additionally, I think these two songs are notorious because they are sung for the message they deliver of hope, conquest, and freedom.

Another woman is mentioned in chapter 17. This woman is an evil woman that according to Harrod represents the religious system, Babylon and the source of false religion, as degraded as a prostitute. Some believe it represents the Roman Catholic Church and the popes in this picture. Because she seeks control and power on the religious system; she sits on scarlet beasts; she sits on many waters and hills. This is referred to spiritual fornication and false religion. She is influential and leads men to idolatry. She was a harlot with a system and now has become a city. I do not want to sound as confident as Harrod, but the description of this woman can also be interpreted as a satanic sect that deceives people into idolatry and sexual lust. It does not necessarily have to be the Catholic Church.

Harrod comments on the two judgments in chapter 19: (1) Judgment of saints in heaven. They must stand before the King to receive their reward for the life they have lived for God. In the Marriage of the Lamb the bride is the Church. The fine linen is provided by Christ. She is redeemed.  (2) The Coming of Jesus from heaven to bring judgment.

            Jesus will reign for a total of a thousand years. The mention of a millennium or one thousand years has perplexed many but at the same time it has created a great expectation. What exactly does this mean? Is it happening now or will it happen after Christ returns? Harrod’s idea is that Jesus will reign with the Jewish people during this period of time and sadly there would be a judgment for Israel.  

Harrod sees a new heaven and new earth come together. To him there is no difference between the first earth and the new earth. He says that the Crystal Sea represents final prosperity and pleasure. Where the throne of God is and finally Christians will be seeing God’s face.  I agree with Harrod in the fact that heaven is a real place and where time has no meaning. The blessed will be where God is and where Jesus is enthroned in majesty, and all the celestial beings are in harmony with the one made perfect in an eternal existence. This place called heaven no doubt is and has to be the desire of humankind made reality. Wiley refers to this place “heaven as the place of the highest blessedness and glory” (Wiley, Christian Theology, Vol. 3). 

            Reflecting on the complexity of the book of Revelation, I think in particular we as Wesleyan advocates need to get our feet wet, acknowledging we can learn from other circles without letting them drag us into their liberalism, and go into deeper waters without fear. Two of our great Theologians, Ray Dunning and Kenneth Grider, prefer to remain in secret concerning their views on the millennium. Dr. Harrod speaks plainly and declares his position with conviction. He was not much into debating or proving his argument as to what position is more relevant, he just stated what makes sense for him. 

            At the beginning of this review, Harrod comments that the Apostle John did not write the book of Revelation but had a helper who wrote it, an amanuenses in his words, with an inferior Greek vocabulary. I did not find his argument very strong in this respect. John the Apostle could have received the revelation by hearing or vision and the level of writing was not important to transmit the message to the audience.

            After viewing Dr. Harrod’s video, I think I can come to the book of Revelation with more confidence. Especially because I will be adding into my library of knowledge the following ideas discussed by Harrod. His take on the interlude or parenthesis to give and show a moment for reflection I found this very interesting. The comments on the rapture and the tribulation was another important issue because he is emphasizing that only the Jewish people will go through the period of tribulation and not the church. I had never seen it that way, I thought that some of the church, regardless who they were, because they are unfaithful Christians would undoubtedly go through the tribulation.

            Another key to understand the book of Revelation was Harrod’s position of the immediate intervention of God, preventing His people to go through tribulation or experience God’s wrath; when he reminds us what happened to Noah and Lot. I have to confess that this really made a lot of sense to me. I was intrigued by how he understands the songs that were sung to commemorate the exodus from Egypt (slavery, captivity) and the song to the Lamb to show that He invites us to Him. He said, “Come to me those who are burden and weary and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

            Harrod’s view of the interchanging relationship between heaven and earth helps me to have a different perspective. It is interesting to see heaven and earth as two parallel lines but at the same time how they both influence each other. More importantly though is that Jesus Christ stands between heaven and earth. Through the cross He unites both and without Him both will continue in parallel and separate from each other. I appreciate Harrod’s insight in his review.

            A key point was the description and parallelism of the Holy Trinity and the unholy trinity which he sees in chapter 13. He describes that there is an unholy trinity composed of Satan as the father, the dragon as the son, and the false prophet as the unholy spirit. He did not attempt to explain what this number 666 of the beast meant, but it shows an unholy trinity is always under and far behind from perfection. It made me remember that even if there is a trinity of evil which influences and wants to destroy humankind there is a much greater influence of good and builder of humankind. It is only here in the 13 chapter where this unholy trinity is mentioned in the Bible, but remarkably the Holy Trinity is found throughout the Scriptures.

            I agree a hundred percent with Harrod when he commented about how the church is forgetting to preach the gospel with insistence and yet expecting salvation. Instead the church has become more of a social club or an organization going after popularity and prosperity. That is not the real message, nor the real gospel.

Personally, I am more interested in the fact that it will happen in God’s time and less interested in the significance of its chronometric meaning. On this point I disagree with Harrod. On several occasions he paid more attention to chronology instead of the moment in the drama. You see in reality we must not waste time on when the events will take place, but on knowing that when they occur we must be found approved by Him.


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