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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?

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Last Plagues Ever

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues–last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: ‘Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:1-4

Image result for fire and glassThe vision of the winepress of God’s wrath is a vision within the vision of the final things to come, the seven plagues in the bowls and the end of “the woman and the beast” are the fulfillment of God’s wrath from the winepress vision.

Remember, seven is God’s number. It is the number of completion–aka perfection, for that which is perfect is complete. In six days, God created the earth and on the seventh He rested [Genesis 1]. The sevenfold spirit of God is repeatedly referred to in the book of Revelation [1:4, 3:1, 4:5 & 5:6]. The seven seals on the scroll in Revelations 5 each bear witness to a spirit of God in the will and testament of the Lamb. Later, in Revelation 8-11, seven angels will sound seven trumpets that usher in the next wave of God’s wrath against sin on the earth. In this, the victory of the saints over sin will be like the march around Jericho–seven sevens culminating in seven trumpet blasts which announce the Lord’s judgment on the enemy and therefore victory for the people of God [Joshua 6:13].

So seven angels carrying the last seven plagues ever is no surprise. God is completing His work [Leviticus 26:21], He is restoring the world to the same perfection with which He created it [Genesis 1:31].

Those who triumphed over the antichrist and refused his mark–possibly the 144,000 who had been sealed by God [Revelation 7:4, 9:4 & 14:1], although these scriptures seem to indicate that there will be a few who spiritually rise above the tribulation–are standing in the throne room of heaven, as evidenced by the sea of glass [Revelation 4:6]. This time, however, we see fire mixed with the glass–fire which was used to purify [Exodus 15:7; Isaiah 6:7; Malachi 3:2; 1 Peter 1:7].

God gives harps to these tribulation survivors and they naturally begin to sing praise to God, praise that hearkens back to the Exodus from Egypt [Exodus 15]. Praise for God’s great deeds. Praise that He is true and just–there is nothing corrupt about God, nor can He be tempted, bribed or corrupted in any way, unlike the authorities of this earth. Praise that rises in true fear of the Lord–not fear as in afraid, but the honest reverence that is due the One True God out of a heart of love for Him.

Because of God’s wrath, many choose to deny Him, as if denying His existence somehow makes it true. In this way, they can pretend that God is no more than a figment like Santa or the Easter Bunny, and they choose to blame believers for God being unchanging, as if we made Him up and therefore we are responsible for turning Him into someone that everyone can be happy with. They want Him to be just, but they want that justice to look like their personal definition of justice and in their cause and in their time. In effect, they want God to be themselves, just like Satan promised them.

How do you share the hope that you have within you in light of the wrath of God in passages such as these? Do you pray for and witness to those around you, sharing God’s heart that none should perish in His judgment on sin?

Paying the Wage of Sin

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, ‘Take your sharp sickle and gather clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.’ The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.” Revelation 14:17-20

Image result for Wine StompingAn angel with a much smaller sickle, the curved knife blade used for harvesting grape clusters from the vine, comes out of the heavenly temple next. Following him is the angel in charge of the fire for the heavenly altar–another evidence of the earthly temple being patterned after the original in heaven [Leviticus 6:13]. The fire-angel passes the harvest command to the grape-knife angel.

The grapes are ripe. The time for God’s patient love has passed.

The image of God’s wrath as a winepress was common in the Old Testament [Isaiah 63:3; Lamentations 1:15; Joel 3:13]. To make wine, harvested grapes were filled into the vat and then workers would tread barefoot–that is walk through the vat, squishing the grapes underfoot so that their juice flowed into the lower levels of the winepress.

Again, it is not God’s desire that any should choose this end [2 Peter 3:9], but everyone has the free will to do just that–choose or reject God–despite His desire for all to come to eternal life [John 3:16-17].

Those who choose sin, thereby choose to pay the wages of their own sin by themselves. The Bible tells us clearly that the wages of sin is death [Romans 6:23; Leviticus 17:11]. And just as Jesus suffered outside the city gate [Hebrews 13:12], those who reject God will face their end in this place of disgrace. They will give their own life blood in their appointed time of death–as all must face [Hebrews 9:27]–only their blood can never bring forgiveness of sins. So when the unforgiven die, they face the second death, that is eternal punishment in the fires of hell [Revelation 2:11, 20:6 & 14, 21:8].

So great is the number of those who refuse God in this life, that John sees a vision of blood rising somewhere between 4 and 6 feet high, covering an area the length of the Holy Land from north to south.

Everyone’s sins must be paid for. But no one has to pay the penalty for themselves. Have you accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for your sins? Or will you choose to pay for yourself?

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?

The Babylonian Seed

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“A second angel followed and said, ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.’ A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.” Revelation 14: 8-11

Image result for toppled stone statueThe first angel proclaims the truth of who God is. The second angel proclaims the truth of false religion in human history. It began at Babel with Nimrod, the mighty hunter before the Lord [Genesis 10:9]. He incited the post-flood world to denounce God and show Him that people didn’t need their Creator, they could live all by themselves and for themselves. He encouraged people to worship images and idols of made up beings for their own good pleasure, not the least of which were statues of his wife Semiramis who called herself the Queen of Heaven.

The Babylonian seed of rebellion against God is so significant in human history that scripture mentions Babylon no less than 315 times. About 100 of those occur in Jeremiah as a warning to repent of the Babylonian began sin before captivity overtook the Israelites. But in the end, all false religion is not of God, so it will not last [Acts 5:38-39]. Jesus has the victory over false religion.

The third angel proclaims the truth of who Satan and his unholy trinity are. There will be no forgiveness for those who worship the antichrist or accept his name on their forehead or hand. Because those who do, do so by rejecting the One True God. After a lifetime of opportunities to acknowledge God for who He truly is, these unfaithful will belligerently denounce Him as Lord and God and accept another in His place. And when the antichrist is shown for who he truly is, the day of God’s wrath, the day of judgment will already be upon the world. It will be too late to realize Oh, there really is a God? and switch sides out of fear and convenience rather than love and understanding.

The Greek enopion here translates as before the angels and Jesus. This same term occurs 95 times in the New Testament and is sometimes rendered as in the presence of [Luke 1:19, 8:47, 13:26, et al], sometimes as in the sight of [Luke 1:15, 14:10, 15:18, et al], sometimes as in earlier than/previous [Luke 1:7] and sometimes used as before as in the sense of in front of [Luke 1:76, 4:7, 12:9, et al]. It is clear in scripture that God is all-seeing, there is nowhere that any can hide from His searching out [Jeremiah 23:24]. Even with the Creation restored and the new heaven and new earth established, there will still be eternal death in the fires of hell and this will not be hidden from the Lord’s sight.

But it is not God’s will that any should join Satan and his fallen angel followers in this eternal torment [2 Peter 3:9]. Even now He stays His hand, waiting for one more to come to a saving knowledge of Him. Is He waiting for you? Have you committed your life to Him? Or is He waiting for others that you know? Can they see your light? Do they know God because of you?

The Razor-Edged Gospel

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth–to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” Revelation 14:6-7

Image result for flying angelIn Revelation chapter 8, an eagle flew in midair pronouncing three woes to come. Here, the angel flying in midair proclaims the eternal gospel, literally glad tidings often translated as good news as the angel brought to the shepherds in the Christmas story [Luke 2:10].

This so-called good news, will not be good news at all to everyone living on the earth at this time, because it will mean that their time is up. They have no more opportunity to accept Jesus as Lord of their lives.

Good news is always double-edged though [Nahum 1:15]. For someone to celebrate a win in this life, someone else has to lose. For one candidate to be blessed with a new job, another candidate has to be rejected. For there to be a recipient of a life-saving transplant, a donor has to lose their life. And for the good news of Jesus’ victory over Satan to be completed and the faithful to go on to eternal life, all those who have chosen to follow Satan–that is everyone who has rejected God–have to go on to eternal damnation.

Make no mistake about this moment, it breaks God’s heart that any should choose to perish [2 Peter 3:9]. Even now He withholds His hand of judgment so that others can choose eternal life.

The angel commands everyone to fear God, but throughout scripture God, or His theophanies, command people, Do not fear. The fear of the Lord, however, is a right respect for who God is. It’s like, when you meet world leader, you recognize their position of authority and honor them accordingly. So with God, we are to reverence Him for who He is. Those who have rejected Him, in this moment, come to the place where they will bend their knee to Him fully understanding the error of their ways [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10].

Worship Him, the angel says, acknowledge His true worth. Creator. Sustainer. Provider. God Almighty. There is none like Him.

The angel invokes the image of Creation through the heavens and the earth [Genesis 1:1] and the seas [Genesis 1:10 & 22]. And he invokes an image of the flood when the springs of the great deep burst forth [Genesis 7:11], an image equated to the lostness of sinful humankind [2 Peter 2:17] that only Jesus can set to right [Revelation 7:17].

Do you know people on the other side of the gospel’s razor edge? People who will pass to eternal damnation when you take your place in eternal life? Does your heart break for their salvation as God’s does? Share your hope with them and everyone you meet.

Live By

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“He who has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.” Revelation 13:9-10

Image result for listening ears + imageDuring the vision of the antichrist’s reign, God once again tells people to hear with their ears and not to be unperceiving. This scripture portion contains an Old Testament reference [Jeremiah 15:2].

In the original Jeremiah text, we read that Israel has rejected God, turned to lifeless idols–wood and stones that can neither see nor hear nor help them in any way–and refused to turn back to the one true God. As such, God basically says, Fine. If my people want to leave me so bad, let them be on their way. To which He adds, And if they realize at that point that they don’t have anywhere else to go, remind them what sin has prepared for those that choose it over Me. Because those who sin have no choice but to accept the wages of sin–death, sword, starvation and captivity.

On the other hand, God has come that we might have life and have it to the full [John 10:10]. He does not desire that any should perish by choosing the way of sin [2 Peter 3:9], rather He sent His one and only son, Jesus, into the world that all might be saved through Him [John 3:16-17].

Many people come to passages like Revelation 13 and Jeremiah 15 and conclude that God is anything but loving. They don’t see these scriptures through the lens of scripture itself–and the Bible is the best commentary on itself. If you look at the original language of Revelation 13:10, it says that if anyone will kill with the sword, then with the sword they will be killed. God is not condemning people to slavery and death by the sword in these verses, He is reminding them of the consequence of their sins. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Few people would disagree with that sentiment, religious or not.

But throughout scripture God also reminds us of His love and grace and forgiveness. At any time, we can choose to believe on Him and our sins will be removed as far from us as the east is from the west [Psalm 103:12]. When we read Revelation 13 and Jeremiah 15, if we read through the lens of scriptural understanding, then we see that this harm is not what God wants for any of us, though many will choose it for themselves despite His desperate love reaching out across the ages to turn us from the folly of our own hearts [Proverbs 22:15].

Do you recognize God’s love, grace and mercy in your life? Have you accepted His forgiveness and driven sin far from your heart? Are you always read to give an answer for this hope you have within you [1 Peter 3:15]?