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Witchcraft and Divination

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.” Deuteronomy 18:9-11

Image result for cauldron and broom + imageOne of the most highly associated figures with Halloween is the witch. Do such people exist? Do they really have powers to turn themselves or others into different creatures or to cast evil spells? Is there such a thing as magic?

The Bible speaks against the sin of witchcraft, meaning that there are people who “practice” such acts. In fact, witchcraft is mentioned on 6 different occasions [Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 9:22; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Micah 5:12; Nahum 3:4; Galatians 5:20] and the related sin of divination 24 times [Genesis 30:27, 44:5 & 15; Leviticus 19:26; et al]. In each instance, God warns against doing such things.

Divination is trying to know what will happen in the future by means outside of human ability. Witchcraft is Old English for the power or skill of a witch, while witch is an Old English synonym for the Medieval Latin sortiarius–one who influences fate or fortune. So is it just that God doesn’t want people to know the future? Not at all.

God Himself reveals the future to us at many times and in various ways [Hebrews 1:1]. The whole book of Revelation deals in near and distant future disclosures from God to man as do many other Biblical passages. However, in the sin of divination, people are not seeking Godly knowledge and understanding, they are consorting with the fallen angel–that is the demonic–spirits. For the cost of rebelling against God, for that’s what God likens unto witchcraft [1 Samuel 15:23], Satan’s lackeys will sell you lie. Because they cannot see the future or understand what will happen therein.

But the enemy isn’t interested in accuracy. His only intent is to steal, kill and destroy [John 10:10]. He steals faith in God by offering the lie that you can be your own God [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14]. He kills the body of all who trust him with themselves or with their children [Deuteronomy 8:10]–sometimes slowly through the harmful effects of smoking, drinking, drugs, promiscuity and the like, and sometimes quickly through murders, violent riots, drunkenness, human sacrifice rituals, et al. He destroys mental, emotional and spiritual health through addiction, even to such things as believing in omens, luck, fate, spells and magic.

You see, when we believe that we can do things in our own power, we turn our eyes from the One True God from whom our help comes, the maker of heaven and earth [Psalm 121:1-2] and turn them onto self or lifeless idols or Satan himself.

But there is no such thing as magic, just optical illusion. There is no such thing as an omen, just vain superstition that ties the heart in knots with fear. There is no such thing as fate, God gave us free will. And there are no such things as spells or incantations that hold any power whatsoever.

God so desired that we understand this that He Himself doesn’t answer people in the Bible the exact same way twice. There is nothing we can chant to make God do our will, though we can seek to learn what His will is for us. There is no incantation or potion by which we command the authority of heaven, though, through prayer, Christians certainly have access to God Himself and can petition Him to act on our behalf in His mercy.

Do you worry about superstitions, omens and fate? Focus your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith [Hebrews 12:2]. Do you seek spiritists, mediums or fortune tellers to try to learn the future? Ask God for wisdom and trust Him to show you the way, one step at a time.

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Stealing Across the River

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. ‘Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.’ Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” Revelation 16:12-16

Image result for euphrates river imageThe mighty Euphrates, fourth river of Eden [Genesis 2:14], covenanted border of the Promised Land [Genesis 15:18; Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4; 1 Kings 4:21 & 24]. In modern times, the Euphrates appears to be nowhere near Israel’s borders, running instead from Turkey across Northern Syria and through Iraq. Only for a short time under the reigns of King David and his son Solomon did Israel’s territory extend all the way east to the great river [1 Kings 4:21; 1 Chronicles 18:3].

Still, it is significant that the river is removed altogether when the sixth bowl of wrath is poured out. With it, God’s covenanted Promised Land with the Israelites is without border, a border that delineated both divine protection and spiritual alignment in scriptures. Jacob fled from his father-in-law into the country of refuge across this river [Genesis 31:21], while enemy kings are noted as having come from beyond the river [1 Chronicles 19:16; Isaiah 7:20].

God’s hand of protection is removed from the earth along with his mercy [Isaiah 11:15; Jeremiah 46:6] to prepare for the final war–Armageddon. A demonic spirit comes out of Satan, his antichrist, and the false prophet, each one. The frog-like demons represent unclean spirits, since the frog was considered an unclean animal. They aid with the deception of the antichrist and the false prophet, and help unite the governments of the entire world against their Creator God.

Armageddon likely is a re-pronunciation/respelling of Har Mageddon, meaning the mountain of Megiddo. Throughout history, the plain of Megiddo, located in the main pass that runs northeast through the hill country between Sharon and Jezreel, was a frequent battleground because of its strategic location [i.e. Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:22; and in modern times–1468 & 1917].

Just as Jesus’ return to rapture the church to heaven will be like a thief in the home of the unsuspecting [1 Thessalonians 5:2 & 4; 1 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3], so will his appearance at the last battle be like a thief to the earthly governments who have fallen asleep, those who have not only denied God, but forgotten Him. There is a difference. But Jesus is warning them that, Hey look, you’re going to be defeated by virtue of aligning yourselves with the unholy trinity, but you don’t have to shame yourselves in the process. Be ready.

This can also be taken as reminder to believers to be ready for His return. Jesus coming will only seem like a thief in the night to the unsuspecting. We not know the exact day or the hour [Matthew 24:36], but we can see the signs of the times, recognize that it is near, and be ready for His return [Matthew 24:1-35].

Do you know the signs of the end times? Study God’s word to understand them better. Do you see the signs all around? Is your heart prepared so that Jesus’ coming does not take you by surprise?

The Love-Wrath Coin

by Kristen C. Strocchia

After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened. Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests. Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.” Revelation 15:5-8 

Image result for metal bowl pouring outIn the Old Testament, the Tabernacle came first. It was a mobile Temple for the wandering Israelites until a permanent one could be built in the capital city of the Promised Land. The Tabernacle served as a witness, that is testimony, of God’s presence to His chosen people, reminding them that He was ever with them. And the book of Revelations is very clear that all things earthly Temple have their origin in the one true heavenly Temple, including the kinship of the tabernacle.

The Testimony of God’s presence among His people in eternity can again be seen in the tabernacle-temple.

Seven angels take seven plagues. One of the living creatures, that makes up God’s throne, hands them bowls filled with God’s wrath, while God’s presence itself fills the heavenly temple as it often did the earthly one [Exodus 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:10-11; 2 Chronicles 5:13-14; Isaiah 6:4]. And just like in those times on the earth when God’s presence came down, no one could enter the tabernacle-temple.

But many want to focus on God’s wrath here, so let’s look at it. The question they ask is, if God is love then how could He also be wrathful? Doesn’t His wrathfulness prove that either–a) He is not love; or b) He is not unchanging [different OT and NT personalities] after all? And then from here, many make the leap to therefore God must not exist because there are too many contrarieties in their understanding.

As humans, those who love most can be driven to protect the object of their affection through wrath. Meaning that they will defend the one they love. Does that make the person unloving? Not at all. Their vengeance is spurred by their love. Does that mean that the person has a split personality or that they are acting inconsistently with their purported character? Again, not at all. Love and wrath are two sides of the same coin. Defending their love is consistent with that love.

God loves people, and He abhors sin. People who align themselves with sin and refuse to acknowledge God place themselves on the receiving end of God’s wrath, the side that is protecting those who choose to love Him because He first loved them. It would be the same if American citizens chose to ally themselves with other countries who opposed the U.S. By doing so, they position themselves as enemies to their homeland. Not many would balk at the U.S. punishing, warring against or wiping out their enemies in the name of homeland security. But when God says that He will do the same thing to protect the citizens of heaven, then people fly into a rage.

Why? Because they want to be their own God. They want to be allowed to choose to live however they see fit, and anything else seems unjust…even if they would accept it from an earthly government.

Are you ready, willing and able to give an answer to tough questions like how to understand God’s wrath in light of His love? If not, pray. Read His word and let His truth penetrate your heart. He will give you wisdom if you seek Him.

Hagion

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” Revelation 14:12-13

Image result for persecuted churchTwo times the book of Revelation calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints–first during the reign of the antichrist [Revelation 13:10] and now while those who followed and worshipped him are judged.

Hagion–rendered here as saints–appears 39 times in the New Testament. It refers to faithful believers who endure suffering [Acts 26:10; Romans 8:27; 2 Corinthians 9:12], but it is also used as the adjective holy to describe prophets [Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; 2 Peter 3:2], angels [Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Revelation 14:10] and places [Hebrews 8:2, 9:8, 10:19]. The Holy of Holies from Tabernacle and Temple times is referred to in Hebrews 9:8 as the hagion. This was the inner sanctuary where the high priest would offer the prescribed sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people [Leviticus 16:2; 1 Chronicles 6:49].

The writer of Hebrews recognizes, then, that the saints are the temple of God and indwelled by His Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 3:16]. To be holy is to be set apart for a special–usually a Godly–purpose. God is holy. Where He is, sin cannot be also [1 John 3:9]. When God lives in our hearts, then sin has to move out. Because He is holy, we too are to become holy–set apart unto Him [1 Peter 1:16].

As God’s saints, we must patiently endure the effects of sin in the world, faithfully holding to Jesus all the while.

Then the voice reminds us that John is seeing a vision. Write to the churches that those who believe on Jesus and die [1 Corinthians 15:12-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:16], they will be extremely joyful–aka blessed. Those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will find rest from the toil that sin brought through eternal life [Genesis 3:17-19; Matthew 11:28-30], and they will store up for themselves treasures in heaven [Matthew 6:20].

Do you have this hope within you? Do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and none else? Do you love Him?

Merciful Bread of Truth

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a black horse. Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” Revelation 6:5-6

Image result for balance scaleJesus’ finger continues to slide under the scroll edge, and He looses the third harden wax closure. As He does so, the third living creature–which is His throne–beckons a third horse and rider. Black this time.

We can see from the grain dialog and the pair of scales that this rider holds–which was a balance beam hung with trays from both ends to measure two weights against one another–that the black rider symbolizes pestilence, famine. The cherubim quote market prices. Just enough wheat for one person or barely enough barley–less nutritious–for a small family for your whole day’s pay!

Now there are many places in the world today where such prices and malnutrition are at work, but in the time and place that John wrote, food in the Roman empire was plentiful, just as we enjoy here in America. So readers would be shocked to hear of such prices. They would understand instantly that only severe famine would drive consumers to be willing to pay such highway robbery.

Again Matthew 24:7 tells us that this famine is a sign of the end of time. But Jesus also–in His temptation in the wilderness–reminds us that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God [Matthew 4:4].

Even when physical lack of food comes, we should remember that our spiritual nourishment is of more value. Because the world will fail, but God will never fail. He will never fail in His promises [2 Corinthians 1:20]. He will never fail in His love [Psalms 136]. He never fails in His rewards for obedience [Leviticus 26:9-12], He does not fail in punishment for disobedience [Leviticus 26:23-26] nor does He fail to show Himself merciful to those who repent [2 Chronicles 7:14].

The interpretation of this pestilence goes spiritually and prophetically deeper, but for now it is good to understand the most basic premises herein. And these end with an exhortation to the black rider not to damage the oil and the wine. Oil and wine were not necessities, but niceties of the diet. So here we see God’s mercy once again portrayed. There is still some food, though it is costly and scarce due to famine, and there are still the pleasures of oil and wine. People have to work hard and trust God to provide in times like these, but He will show Himself faithful to those who remain in Him.

No matter what else this passage signifies in terms of end times happenings, where does your daily bread [Genesis 2:9; Exodus 16:4; Matthew 6:11; John 4:32] come from?

Fear Rightly. Breathe Life. Live Golden.

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” Revelation 1:17-20

Image result for gold lampstandSeeing the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, in His heavenly appearance compelled John to fall prone before Him. It’s that awestruck, worshipful response so natural to the heart that fears the Lord. But Jesus reminds John that fear of the Lord does not mean that we have to be afraid. Fear of the Lord is reverencing God for who He is, giving Him His rightful place as Lord of our lives and Creator of all. When we do this, we have nothing to fear from our loving Heavenly Father.

Jesus , further, proclaimed himself to be the First and the Last, just as He called Himself the Alpha and the Omega in 1:8, emphasizing His eternality in this passage.

He is the Living One. The one with God at the beginning through whom all things were made [John 1:1-3], One with the breath of life that was breathed into humankind in Adam. The One through whom all are made alive again [1 Corinthians 15:22], reversing the Adamic curse through which all died. The One who conquered death [1 Corinthians 15:57], hell and the grave [Revelation 1:18] to restore eternal life to those who believe in Him [John 3:16].

Therefore, because of who Jesus is, John was commanded to write down the God-given vision of present and future things. Only God is able to know such things. And the validity of a prophesy is known only when it does or doesn’t come to pass. So Jesus–as the author of life–orients the reader to some key symbolism in John’s vision. The stars [angels] and lampstands [churches].

I love knowing that the lampstands, representing the seven churches of Asia Minor, are golden. Gold is refined in a fire and purified in order to be formed into the tabernacle/ temple instruments. It took 75 pounds of gold to make the tabernacle lampstands and their accessories alone to God’s specifications [Exodus 25:39], and they stood, burning in front of the Most Holy Place [2 Chronicles 4:20]. But God tested the hearts of the churches in His refining fire, burning away the impurities, purifying them [Proverbs 17:3]. Yet, as we are about to read, even then at the time of John’s writing they were not perfect.

Likewise, God regards each of us as more precious than gold and He is testing our hearts, refining us day by day to become more like Him. We do not need to be afraid of Him or this process, but in faith to reverence Him as the One True God and Lord of our lives.

What is your response to God? Do you recognize Him when you see Him at work? Do you allow His word to work in your life? Have you given him the reins as Lord of your heart?

Holding Back the Flood

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The Lord then said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.’ And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.” Genesis 7:1-5

Image result for Holding Hands WaterEver wonder why God gave Noah the command to actually get on the ark–that he so willingly built–one week in advance? A couple reasons probably: 1) After about 100 years building, it was finally time. 2) It was hard. And God coupled this command with a reminder of what He was about to do.

All that time that Noah was building, people had a witness of the judgment to come AND the opportunity to repent. These were his extended family, his sons’ wives families and extended families, his neighbors and their families. His whole community! [Plus people who lived way beyond his community that he’d never even met.]

And God was holding back the flood, giving Noah the opportunity to build and to tell others about God’s plan. God would’ve loved for even one more to turn from their wicked ways and be forgiven [2 Chronicles 7:14]. But no one did. Not one other in his whole generation was found to be righteous.

Yet not only did Noah’s righteousness mean that the human race would continue through his family, God also planned to save the seed of the rest of His handiwork as well. Mated pairs of animals came to Noah. God sent them to him two-by-two. And of the animals that God considered clean [Leviticus 11], Noah received seven pairs, while only one pair of the so-called unclean animals was sent.

But scripture does not say that God sent every species. Kind is a broader term, like family. So there were likely two dogs on the ark and from these two dogs descended all the dog breeds we have today. Remember that Eden’s genetics began with every kind of animal [again, possibly only two dogs] which contained the genes for every other possible dog breed [and so on for each other animal kind]. So many of the extinct species, that we read about in science texts today, likely went extinct at the time of the flood because their genetic combination ended.

The same was true of human genetics, so there were possibly many human genetic possibilities that no longer existed after the flood simply because these genes were not present in Noah’s sons and daughters-in-law.

Noah did all he was commanded to do. What a great divine epitaph for your life and mine. You know, not only was Noah the faithful and righteous remnant through which God was establishing the line of Christ, Noah’s story also parallels our world today.

Once again, God is holding back a flood of judgment. Only this time, rather than water, He will come again, opening the seals and pouring out the bowls of His judgment with horse and rider and trumpet blasts. A great spiritual–but very physically real–battle will be fought for the souls of men [Revelation].

And once again, God is holding back, giving us the opportunity to build the witness in our lives and to tell others about God’s plan. He desires for all men to accept His plan of redemption [John 3:16] and escape the fires of hell.

Are you building your witness? Are you telling others of God’s plan of salvation? Does your life speak to both of these even if others choose not to listen to your words?