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And So It Was, Is and Is to Come

“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.’ The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: ‘Amen, Hallelujah!’ Then a voice came from the throne, saying: ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!” Revelation 19:1-5

See the source imageAs in a refrain from a song, the praise we heard when we first entered the heavenly throne room repeats itself here. This time, the multitude [Revelation 5:12-13, 7:9-17 & 11:15] shouts the psalmist’s invitation for all to join in the praise–hallelujah!–most often translated, Praise the Lord.

And why is the multitude praising God?

For salvation, which is found by grace alone through faith alone in the person of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross [Ephesians 2:8; John 3:16].

For who He is, God. In Him alone is true glory–magnificence, true beauty, high renown and honor. In Him alone is true power–omniscience, omnipotence, all-seeing, wisdom and sovereignty–which he exercises in grace, mercy and love for us. He alone is truth. He alone is the just judge who will weigh the hearts of people [1 Samuel 16:7; Daniel 5:25-27; Hebrews 4:12]. He alone is able to stand against the false religion and systems of this world and bring them to naught, upholding the faith of those He has redeemed, those who have laid down their earthly lives for Him [Revelation 6:9-10].

We come full circle back to the throne room introduction [Revelation 4] where we were first introduced to the twenty-four elders–representative of Old and New Testament believers–and the four living creatures–the living and active throne of God Himself. At the praise of the multitudes, these who continually worship the Lord fall onto their faces more deeply humbled and thankful for all that God is and all that He has done.

And just as they exclaimed, Amen, when Jesus was found worthy to open the seven-sealed scroll, so here the exclaim, Amen, once again, confirming the right-hearted praise from God’s people. Amen. So be it. The English is bankrupt here, because so be it only renders a sense of future completion, where in actuality, the subject of this praise has already been accomplished from the very beginning. Amen should be better translated as three parts in our language to convey the fullest understanding–So has it been, So it is and So it will continually be–reflecting the true nature of God.

Then God’s throne itself echoes the call to praise to the multitude of God’s servants who are now in the new heaven and the new earth for all eternity.

When this day comes, will you be counted among the faithful servants around God’s throne?

KCS

 

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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.

Preparing for Victory

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths. They are blameless.” Revelation 14:1-5

Image result for Mount Zion in the BibleZion. The holy mountain that served first as a fortress before the Israelites established the city of Jerusalem. Later, it became synonymous with Jerusalem itself. And in Hebrews 12:22-24 as well as here in Revelation, it connotes the heavenly Jerusalem in which God and His people will live for eternity.

So it is not surprising that John sees the Lamb, Jesus, standing on Mount Zion with the 144,00 who were sealed [Revelation 7:4-8 & 9:4]. We learn a little more about this group. Previously we saw that they consist of 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. Then we saw that they were protected from the hybrid locust-scorpions that came out of the Abyss.

Now we learn that they kept themselves pure from women. This does not mean that the group is made up entirely of unmarried men. Not at all. Before Israel used to go into battle, the soldiers would keep themselves from their women for a time to prepare [Deuteronomy 23:10; 1 Samuel 21:5; 2 Samuel 11:11]. Now in Revelation, we see that Babylon is portrayed as a woman, a prostitute really, that represents all of the false religion in the world [Revelation 17:1-5]. And that those who remain faithful to God are like a pure spouse [Revelation 19:7 & 21:2, 9]. So the 144,000 are Jews living in the last days, the end times, who refuse to participate in the false religions of the world, regardless of the persecutions it invites.

Heaven opens up on this scene, with a roar of rushing waters [Revelation 1:15, 4:5 & 22:1] and peals of thunder. The sound of harpists followed by the 144,000 singing a new song, signifies the celebration of victory in battle [Exodus 15:20]. And they sing this song in heaven before the four living creatures and the elders that surround God’s throne [Revelation 4:4 & 6]. None else in heaven will be capable of learning their song, because none else can understand what is like to come through the end times faithful to God. Just as the four-living creatures sing a different song than the twenty-four elders [Revelation 4], who sing a different song than the angels [Revelation 5], who sing a different song than the great multitude in white robes [Revelation 7], so the song of praise that the 144,000 will offer up will be a personal testimony to God’s work in their life. A story that no one else can sing, because no one else has lived it.

The amazing thing about this passage of scripture, is that it will lead up to the final battle–Armageddon [Revelation 16:16]. Many speculate about and fear having to live through such a battle. But Revelation shows us how calm and cool Jesus and his army are while preparing for Armageddon. They’re standing on the fortress. They’re keeping themselves pure as they would for any routine battle. And they’re already celebrating the victory. Before the battle even ensues, they’ve won with Christ, and they know it.

Are you living in victory today? Are you living a life of spiritual purity, garrisoned on the mountain of Christ, celebrating in advance the victory that He has already won?

Hard Rock Heart

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” Revelation 6:15-17

Image result for rock heartDespite the wide spreading insistence to the contrary, when this great earthquake shakes even the heavens, every person of every station of life–whether the most famous and wealthy and powerful or the least known and most impoverished–on the face of the earth will recognize that there is a God in heaven.

And as the mountains and islands are shaking from their foundations, slipping, sliding and moving in ways no human has ever seen or could ever bring to pass, people will actually speak to the rocks instead of even now turning to God. That’s how great the hardness of the human heart, the pride that we can do it for ourselves and never have to face up to our Creator. It’s a lie from the pit of hell.

God offers us love–always has and always will. But love comes with discipline–the positive discipline of a life well lived, forsaking things that hinder or hurt, and the harsh discipline of consequence for disobedience, as even our human legal systems recognize to be necessary. God never stops loving us, but one day earthly time will stop. When it does, every knee will bow and acknowledge that God is God [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10-11].

The day of the sixth seal is not that end of time day. People will be so bold and arrogant–and yet aware of their sinful ways–that they will try to once again go it alone. Though the rocks themselves cry out to God when people will not [Luke 19:40], the people living on the day of the sixth seal will cry out to the rocks, “Hide us from God!”–just like Adam hid in the garden because of the awareness of his sin against God [Genesis 3:10].

But we can never hide our sins, because God sees even the most hidden things about us. He sees inside our hearts [1 Samuel 16:7; Hebrews 4:12]. Only those who have believed on Jesus, God’s Son, will be free from the guilt and shame of sin [Leviticus 14:13; John 3:16; Hebrews 10:10, 14 & 17; 1 John 3:5]. Only those who have repented their self-as-god ways, acknowledging Jesus as Lord, will find forgiveness for their sins [Acts 2:38, 3:19].

When time stops, where will your faith lie–in God or in yourself-as-god? How hard is your heart? Would you sooner call out to the rocks to hide you or do you gladly bow your knee to your Creator?

The City of Enoch–Part 2

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.” Genesis 4:17b

Image result for bowing down on kneeHave you ever read over a scripture and the Lord brings it back into your mind throughout the day? After writing the last post, originally named THE CITY OF ENOCH, God kept prodding my heart to reconsider this simple statement that, “Cain was then building a city,” and to write a Part 2 to answer just one question.

Why would Cain do that? Why would Cain build a city?

As a novel writer, motivation–the why people do what they do–is one thing I have to ask of my characters all the time. Why is such an important question when we read history–biblical or secular–watch the news, or interact with others in daily life.

Why? Because, “the Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” 1 Samuel 16:7b [NLT]. On first read through, Cain building a city is completely logical. By human standards.

But what does God see in Cain’s heart? Remember what God said would be the result of Cain’s sin? “When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth,” Genesis 4:12. Remember how Cain responded to this truth? “So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence,” Genesis 4:16a.

Cain left God. He didn’t repent. He upheld his faith in his own sinful nature. If God says I’m not going to be able to work the ground, then I’ll find another way to support myself. If God says that I’m going to be a restless wanderer, then I’ll show Him. I’ll build a city. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. I plant myself and my whole family just to prove Him wrong, and they can feed me. I can just see it now. Markets. Kitchens. The works.

And for a time on this earth, Cain may have done just that. He may have believed that he’d actually gotten away with his sin and proved God wrong. But scripture tells us, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,” Hebrews 9:27. More than that, “it is written, ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God,” Romans 14:11.

Be assured, Cain died. And Cain will stand judgment as will all humankind. And Cain will also bow his knee before the Creator he walked away from and acknowledge with his mouth that God is in fact God. From that point on the only thing remaining will be whether or not Cain made that confession here on earth. Whether during his lifetime he ever repented and made things right with God. No two ways about it.

Are you trying to live life your own way? Have you ever repented of your sin–truly turned your life back to God? On which side of eternity will you bend your knee before God and confess Him as God?

Rest and a Smashed Up Pickup Truck

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Thus the heavens and the earth were created in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.” Genesis 2:1-3

Image result for Totaled Pickup Truck AccidentPhew! Imagine the heavenly sigh of satisfaction when God stepped back to look at His work. More brilliant than any painter or architect, richer than any businessman or ruler, more intricate and assorted than all the treasuries of every kingdom on earth–ever.

God pronounced it all very good. DNA, molecules and atoms, gemstones and sea salt, buffalo grass and sequoia trees, butterflies and dinosaurs, comets and planetary motion, everything–absolutely everything–marvelously created and in perfect order. The one man, Adam, and his wife, the one woman, Eve were not just included in, but were the pinnacle of this perfection and harmonious pronouncement.

Then God rested. Nowhere in scripture does God mention creating anything else that wasn’t spoken into existence or formed in this literal six day Creation. Rather, after resting, God devoted His time and attention to loving His Creation. To loving us.

Seven then becomes the biblical number of completion. Because on this Day God rested. He didn’t speak anything else into existence. Everything that we know in the world today–alive or extinct, abundant or rare–appeared on this earth on Days 1 through 6 of our history. Period.

What He set in motion, remains and will continually remain in motion until that time He makes it inert. The life that He created He values, from the smallest plants [Matthew 6:28-30] and animals [Matthew 10:29] to His very intimate relationship with humankind [1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm139:13; Matthew 10:30; John 14:2-3].

And for the third time in the first week in the literal history of the universe, God blessed–He pronounced goodness and intention for continued goodness over His handiwork. Because that’s what He created us with–goodness. That’s what He created us for–goodness. That’s what He set into perfect motion–goodness. And that was the state of the universe on Day 7–goodness.

And not just goodness by decaying human standards, but God’s own holy goodness.

Again, Satan would like to color these scriptures with doubt. He seeds many with the question, “If God is good, then why…?” By posing the question many overlook his ruse–the accuser is hiding behind his accusation. Turn the doubts on God, and no one will suspect the prince of the air [Ephesians 2:2], that roaring lion who seeks to steal, kill and destroy [1 Peter 5:8].

But God is good. And the world we see today is a broken one, destroyed and decaying under the weight of sin. Think of it this way. If you see a smashed up Toyota truck while you’re driving down the road, would you blame Toyota for making a smashed truck? Of course not! Everyone knows that that’s not the way Toyota made and sold the truck. And neither did God make a smashed up world full of every kind of evil.

Do you believe that God is good? Have you ever questioned God’s goodness because of the state of the world or the people around you? Are you a beacon of God’s goodness to the corroding creation?

Counterfeit

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26

Image result for God's presenceHoly, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty Who was and is and is to come [Revelation 4:8]. Holy is our Creator God Who made all things good and Who made us in His own image.

How could any counterfeit ever prevail in the hearts of His Creation?

Yet in the days of Abraham, the world was entrenched in child sacrifice. They offered their children to the flames of stone idols–to Baal and Molech–while indecent acts consummated counterfeit worship.

God called Abraham to  demonstrate to the world that their child sacrifice was a counterfeit to His holy purpose–the sanctity of human life. He stayed the knife, providing a substitutionary sacrifice, not just for Isaac, but for everyone of all time.

In the days of Moses, God commanded His chosen people, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below,” [Exodus 20:4]. Yet that is exactly what happened throughout the history of judges, priests, prophets and kings. Counterfeit images made by human hands stood in the place of God in hearts and homes.

Yet even the rocks will cry out to God and no other [Luke 19:40] for who He is, and the idols hewn by human hands fell on their faces before the only true God [1 Samuel 5:30].

In the days of Mary and Joseph, the world espoused pantheons of Greek and Roman gods who used human beings as nothing more than toys to be discarded when their pleasure was had.

God called Mary to demonstrate to the world that His love for us was pure. His intention was not to use His Creation for His own pleasure, but to love us in such a way that we delight in one another. By a holy overshadowing, He demonstrated that the Greek and Roman pantheons were a perverted counterfeit to Who He is.

In our day, idols abound–gods created in the image of sinful man. Counterfeits to the truth that we were created in the image of a Holy God.

Do you live in such a way that His image shines undimmed and undiminished to those around you?