Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Caught up with Harpazo, and some brief thoughts on the Apocalypse.

By Elon Moreh

This originally appeared in the Moriel Bulletin of Nov. 2014

I just acquired Jacob's latest book Harpazo only a few days ago. Harpazo is no trivial read, it weighs in at 270 pages when read in A4 format on my computer; or nearly 600 at standard book size. I thought I would share some of my impressions of it and some thoughts arising from that.

Harpazo is not one of those mental-candy or sensationalist prophecy books that you can breeze through in an afternoon. Though written at a popular level, this book is serious, detailed stuff and Jacob covers a lot of material. It needs to be read with a highlighter, a notebook and some time for rumination. But don't be put off, it is an absolute gold-mine. I will have to go through this book several times myself, but I do believe it is Jacob's best book to date.

One thing that staggered me was the book's comprehensiveness and exhaustive (not to be confused with exhausting) nature. I was expecting a book about timing of the Rapture, but Harpazo is really much more about the hermeneutics of prophecy and our approach to Scripture, than about Rapture timing alone, and is therefore, much more significant and far-reaching. It represents a move towards greater consistency in our interpretive approach; letting Scripture speak for itself in a more wholistic and integrated manner; harmonising exegesis and typology more coherently;--a great pulling together of many different threads to try and form a unified picture. I believe that Harpazo is going to be an important book, not just because of what is in it, but because of where we are in history, when the Lord is wanting to conform our eschatological thinking more closely to his Word.

Finding the Keys.

I wish that books like this had been around when I when I first came to know the Lord, and when I read the book of Revelation for the first time. In the early 1980's (as it then was), at least in my circles, there was a growing interest to understand things prophetical. Unfortunately all that was around at the time were tabloid-exegesis books like "The Late, Great Planet Earth", or "The 1980's; Countdown to Armageddon" etc. Though these books did ignite in me an awareness of the nearness of Christ's Return (which is a good thing), however, even then, though I was very young in the Lord, they appeared sensationalistic and some of the interpretations were very arbitrary and far-fetched to say the least, and looking back, I can see how much error and bad hermeneutics they contained.
Consequently, for a long time the Apocalypse did not make sense to me at all. My approach then was to read it like a story, in a strictly linear fashion. So I thought the Tribulation began with the Seven Seals, then they are followed by some more events, then these are followed by the Seven Trumpets and some more events etc.

This approach left me with more questions than answers. For example, in Revelation chapter 6 we read:
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;  And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.  And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;  And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:  For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
One of the questions these verses raise; is why, (according to a linear approach which would see this as near the start of the Tribulation as in Pretribulationism) everyone is terrified hiding in the rocks and caves; but only some chapters later, everyone is running around buying and selling, and the terror seems to have evaporated! I could see no reason why these terrified people should emerge from their underground shelters and begin commercial activities if they were so terror-struck by the approaching day of wrath; particularly as the later events of the trumpets and seals indicated an escalation of those terrifying eschatological events.

Babylon has fallen, er, hasn't it?

Another example is the fall of Babylon. In Rev. 14:8 Babylon has fallen because the hour of God's judgement is come.
And I saw another angel flying in mid heaven, having eternal good tidings to proclaim unto them that dwell on the earth, and unto every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he saith with a great voice, Fear God, and give him glory; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters. And another, a second angel, followed, saying, Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, that hath made all the nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a great voice, If any man worshippeth the beast and his image, and receiveth a mark on his forehead, or upon his hand,
Then we have the outpouring of the Seven Last Plagues in Chapter 15.

But in chapter 16:
And the seventh poured out his bowl upon the air; and there came forth a great voice out of the temple, from the throne, saying, It is done: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunders; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since there were men upon the earth, so great an earthquake, so mighty. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and Babylon the great was remembered in the sight of God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail, every stone about the weight of a talent, cometh down out of heaven upon men: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof is exceeding great.
But wait a minute; didn't Babylon fall in chapter 14? But then we read in Rev. 17:8:
And the woman whom thou sawest is the great city, which reigneth (present tense) over the kings of the earth.
After these things I saw another angel coming down out of heaven, having great authority; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried with a mighty voice, saying, Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, and is become a habitation of demons, and a hold of every unclean spirit, and a hold of every unclean and hateful bird. For by the wine of the wrath of her fornication all the nations are fallen; and the kings of the earth committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth waxed rich by the power of her wantonness. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come forth, my people, out of her, that ye have no fellowship with her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues:
Taken in a strictly linear manner, Babylon falls in Rev. 14, there is an intermission for the plagues in chapter 15, God remembers Babylon again in Rev. 16:19 to give her the cup of the wine of his wrath; but by Revelation 17:8 she is reigning (present tense) again, over the kings of the earth, and by Revelation 18 the people of God are warned to come out of her so as not to receive of her plagues (Why are they still there?--did they forget to come out of here on the previous three occasions?). At this point, for a city under judgement in chapters fourteen, sixteen and seventeen, Babylon is looking remarkably healthy, although appearing to have been destroyed about four times! Obviously reading the text like this makes nonsense of it. When we come across problems like these, we should realise, that this indicates a deficiency in our hermeneutical approach, not a problem with Scripture itself.

Some good sense from the 19th Century.

It was inconsistencies like these that used to puzzle me when reading Revelation, until some years ago, I read that some of the visions were chronologically parallel to each other, rather than merely linearly sequential. This began to open up new ways of looking at the book, but that article did not express the reasoning behind it. What was a "light bulb" moment for me, was when I began to read some of the 19th Century authors like S. P. Tregelles and B. W. Newton, (who, though contemporaries of J. N. Darby, and connected with the revival of prophetic interest at that time, stood against his eschatological "innovations"). What Tregelles and Newton understood was that the Book of Revelation worked like the book of Daniel in particular (but also Zechariah and parts of Isaiah) and possessed shared characteristics.
As regards the order of arrangement, two things should principally be noticed. This part of the Revelation consists of several separate visions, each complete in itself; none commencing previously to the time when God begins to visit the nations in anger, but each terminating as soon as it arrives at the period appointed for the manifestation of the Lord Jesus in glory. Many times in this part of the Revelation, are we led on to the moment when Christ's glory is to be made manifest; but as soon as that point is reached, the vision closes. His mission in glory, although referred to, is not described; nor the events which follow thereon declared: the narration ceases, and a new vision begins; in which new vision, we find the same period retraced and presented in fresh aspects. In this respect, the Revelation, in its structure, closely resembles the prophecy of Daniel; that also consisting of many separate visions, each complete in itself.
The early visions are wide and comprehensive; the later more specific; all belonging (to speak generally) to the same period, but presenting different features of that period: the wide and general statements of the earlier visions, leading to enquiries which the more specific descriptions of those that follow, answer. It is thus that these two books of prophecy may be made in great measure exponents of themselves.
Nothing can be more important in interpreting the Scriptures than carefully to observe this habit of recurrence. It is found throughout the whole of the Sacred Writings. Indeed in all narration, whenever the subject treated of has various branches, it is necessary, after we have brought one part of our narrative to its conclusion, to return again and pursue the subject through another of its divisions; for, in no other way, can all the various features of a complex subject be fully and distinctly given. The same period therefore may thus be many times retraced; and the successive divisions of our narrative become, as to time, concurrent, and not chronologically subsequent to each other. The very earliest part of Scripture affords an example of this. The first chapter of Genesis brings us to the seventh day of rest, when all creation had been finished and God rested from all His work which He had created and made. The creation of man, both male and female, had been on the sixth day. This is mentioned in the first chapter; yet nothing there is said respecting the peculiar manner in which Eve was created. The description of her creation is not found until the second chapter, which consequently returns, and retraces the same period that had previously been considered. No one would think of reading the second chapter of Genesis throughout, as chronologically subsequent to the first; for, in that case, it would be necessary to say that Eve was created after creation had been finished. Yet mistakes no less strange have been made in reading prophetic Scripture, from neglect of this obvious principle. . . . . . The Book of Zechariah, in like manner, consists of many separate visions not chronologically successive. So likewise the Book of Daniel. The first vision, which is that of the Image, leads us on to the time when the Image is smitten, ground to powder, and the stone which smites it becomes a great mountain and fills the whole earth. No subsequent vision in Daniel describes anything beyond this limit. They all retrace, and develop other features belonging to the same period. The Revelation is written on the same principle. The chapter before us, which is the first in the series of prophetic visions, brings us to that final hour, when men shall call "upon the rocks to hide them and on the mountains to cover them," because the great day of the Lamb's wrath will have come. The subsequent visions, on to the nineteenth chapter, do but retrace; until, in the end of that chapter, we find the manifestation of the Lord in glory and the actual inflictions of His wrath described. Yet the Revelation has been constantly expounded, as if each vision followed, in order of time, that which had preceded; and hence hopeless perplexity has been the result.1
We could call this today understanding the genre, and applying that knowledge in the hermeneutical (interpretive) process as we approach the biblical text. Tregelles and Newton recognised that there were certain distinctive and shared features between certain of the prophetical books and that of Revelation, which, if not taken into account would distort our understanding of the book; as indeed has happened with certain populist eschatalogical schemes. The very fact that Harpazo is entitled "The Intra-Seal Rapture", reveals that this important interpretive principle is woven into the very fabric of Jacob's approach to Revelation.

The shock of knowing where you are.

Something that sparked my thinking when reading Harpazo, was Jacob's observation that the preconceptions of how we expect certain prophecies to be fulfilled, can blind us to the actual fulfilments when they appear.

This reminded me of my first visit to Israel in '93. At that time, I had not even been abroad for 20 years, and had never flown either. Geographically I knew certain features about Israel, having read about them in my Bible, (You know those black and white photos of the Galilee and Jerusalem in your Bible which were taken about 1901), and looked up places on the map. So one of the biggest shocks I received was when the Egged bus wound down the road into Tiberias;--I was expecting a little fishing village with wooden boats; instead I saw the enormous twenty-storey Jordan River hotel, and a bustling, incredibly noisy city. If I didn't know I was in the right place, I would not have recognised it;--because my preconceptions about it were all wrong.

Today I am an Israeli citizen (how that happened worked against all my preconceptions also!), I support Israel's right to be here, there is no doubt in my mind that the rebirth of Israel as nation in 1948 is of immense prophetic significance; I believe that God will perform all that he has promised, and will fulfil all of his word regarding the Land etc., but it may not happen in the way that we think it should. We need to beware that our preconceptions do not blind us. I say this, because sometimes I think we can be over hasty in applying certain prophecies of Israel's return and settlement of the Land to our State at present without looking at the wider context, and this can lead to the creation of the very kind of preconceived ideas that can lead us astray. For example, two texts that I have often heard misquoted are:
And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.  15 And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God. (Amos 9:14-15)
"He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit. " (Isa. 27:6)

Contextally both these passages are connected to the day of the LORD and its aftermath, the beginning of the Millenium;--not Israel as it is now. The fruit that Jacob will fill the earth with, is not a prophecy about Jaffa oranges, it is something that will only happen after the Great Dragon mentioned in Isa. 27:1 is punished.

Because of the terrible judgements and horrible events, particularly the persecution of Jews and the devestation which will be wrought in the Land at the hand of the Antichrist; many will be fleeing the Land during the Tribulation to escape being massacred. This seems clear from Rev. 12:--there are also a number of other scriptures which indicate a scattering at that time. Believers also, are commanded to flee Judea and Jersusalem when the Abomination is erected in the Temple. It seems reasonable to conclude then, that at some point, in some manner, a loss of Jewish national sovereignty will once again occur, at least for some period of time, certainly during the Tribulation, when the Antichrist assumes control. We are promised in Joel, that immediately prior to the Lord's Return, Israel will be overrun and devastated by the invading hordes.

Patterns and Foreshadowings.

One of the things that Harpazo is very strong on, is that not only do we have explicit predictions that are exegetically driven, but we also have typological foreshadowings that will help us to prepare for coming events and recognise them when they occur, and we need to take all these things into account much more than we have in the past when we interpret prophecy. This got me thinking that loss of control could occur before then as part of God's humbling process and as a judgement on us. There has been a tendency to think of our modern State of Israel as a kind of prolepsis of the Millennium, and to apply Millennial scriptures indiscriminately, as I mentioned above, and to imagine that our IDF will always be granted victory. I used to think, that barring the Tribulation, it would be a continuous (with the odd war or two) straight sailing for the Jewish State until the Millennium. But it may well be that our situation is more akin to that of the Jewish sovereignty acquired after the Maccabean victories. God made no promises to that kingdom as to everlasting sovereignty (quite the reverse in fact, Gen. 49:15), and national sovereignty declined and was eventually lost to the Romans; but Jewish presence in the Land and some small degree of religious autonomy, plus the existence of a functioning Temple continued; as they were necessary preconditions for the fulfilment of the prophecies regarding the Messiah's First Coming. Even so, the prophecies regarding events prior to Jesus's Second Coming necessarily infer that certain situations, events, peoples, structures etc. must exist for the prophecies to be fulfilled. It is an uncomfortable thought, and I hope I am wrong, but I am not sure that Jewish national sovereignty and complete autonomy is neccesarily one of them. Loss of or reduction of these, in like manner to that which occurred years before the First Coming, should not be ruled out as an impossibility before the 70th week, providing all the necessary conditions are met for prophetic fulfilments. Prior to the Maccabean era, due to its national sin, the sovereignty in the kingdom of Judah was severely degraded prior to the sack of Jerusalem in 586. BC. Judah had effectively become a vassal kingdom; first to the Egyptians, and then to the Babylonians well before 586 (2 Chro. 36, 2 Kgs. 24-25). In fact it was Zedekiah's breach of the vassal treaty that resulted in the Babylonian invasion.

There may be a scriptural pattern here that could apply to us; because since the foundation of the State in 1948, we have heaped up our sins against the LORD, as high if not higher, than those of Manasseh who "filled Jerusalem with blood." The sin of murdering the unborn in the womb here is appallingly prevalent; babies can be legally aborted for non-therapeutic reasons, even in the last week of pregnancy; it is a scandalous wickedness. God has always judged these things in the past, and he does not change. So, if, because of the sin of Manasseh, God's judgement could not be turned away, then how much more is it coming our way?

If the Babylonian invasion, seige and burning of Jerusalem is a type or foreshadowing of events connected with the day of the LORD, then some of the biblically recorded historical events prior to that invasion may also typically apply as well. Namely the decline of the kingdom in power and the giving over of it to be dominated by other nations. Israel has one of the best armies and airforces in the world. We are very proud of our army, and grateful for our young people who serve in it. However, we know from Daniel, that at some point our national pride, strength and stubborness will be utterly smashed; because nothing less than that will humble us and bring us to national repentance. We know what the great end time events are, but that we don't know is exactly what every future intervening event will look like; e.g., what political events, wars, national crises etc. will set up the conditions for the signing of the Treaty and the rebuilding of the Temple, for example. The future may contain a number of surprises for all of us in the way God works out his purposes. However, whatever may happen in the future, even if we as a state suffer serious reverses; just as happened in the kingdom of Judah; we must not think that the promise of God has failed, and all, ultimately, will be made clear in the course of time (Dan. 12:4). He will bring us to that glorious day when Israel will look upon Him whom they have pierced. Whatever happens, we must not forget, that the only kingdom that is promised to last forever is the one that belongs to our righteous Messiah-King (Psa. 45:6) and that is the one we are all waiting for.