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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
Jesus’ 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?
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
Seeing 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?
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
Ever 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?