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by Kristen C. Strocchia
“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.” Ecclesiastes 9:5
One of the customs of Day of the Dead is to build an altar and fill it with the favorite foods and possessions of those who have died. This act of remembrance is done in the belief that the souls of the departed will return and be happy to know that you have remembered them.
Scripture is clear, however, that the souls cannot return to us or enjoy this world anymore. They cannot hear or feel or choose to follow God if they did not accept Him in life [Ecclesiastes 9:5]. We should not become superstitious or fearful about them, or in anyway devote our time and passions to the dead [Leviticus 19:28; Deuteronomy 14:1 & 26:14]. Therefore, while it can be healthy and good to remember those who have gone before us, remembering is for the living. The dead cannot enjoy the smells and sights of a painstakingly prepared altar memorial.
However, altars are mentioned 384 times and offerings 728 times in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, so they do have a very significant spiritual place in the Christian life.
The first altar is mentioned when Noah gets out of the ark and makes a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God [Genesis 8:20]. Each altar is built as a place of remembering God.
The first offerings, on the other hand, go all the way back to Cain and Abel [Genesis 4:3-5]. Very specific offerings and times are prescribed. God instituted this sacrificial system so that the Israelites would be aware of their sinful state, though the sacrifices themselves could not fix the sins [Hebrews 10:4].
God, however, asks us to prepare our hearts as an altar for our lives [Romans 12:1]. That is, He asks us to remember Him with our whole heart–intellect, will and emotion. By doing so, we will recognize our sinful state and repent. Through repentance we accept Jesus’ lordship in our lives, allowing His forgiveness to cover our sins.
Satan would have us forsake altars and offerings or misuse them, but he does not want our cultural understanding to be made whole or our spiritual vision to be made clear. He does not want human beings to restore the heavenly altar of our hearts.
Will you consecrate your heart to Christ? Will you lay your life on the altar of a Godly heart?
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
An 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?
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
Two 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?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” Revelation 12:10-12
After the red dragon is hurled to the earth, along with his followers, heaven rejoices. Loud proclamations resound. Salvation results when Satan is removed from his self-appointed place as God in our hearts. God’s power manifests itself in removing this enemy. God’s kingdom grows as people accept this redemption. The authority of Christ–Greek for Messiah, or savior–reveals itself in the conquest of the adversary.
All of the tangle of human history–past, present and future–unravels with the triune Godhead casting Satan from heaven and establishing redemption through Jesus as Lord.
Satan is an accuser. He accuses God to His own face [Job 1:9-11] and he determines to remind God of our sins as well. But cast out of heaven, he has no audience with the Almighty, no opportunity to accuse us any longer. The blood of Jesus wiped our slates clean and our testimony, that we proclaim Jesus as Lord, seals our innocence before the Creator. Moreover, when we keep a proper perspective on our earthly lives, when we recognize that death is just a doorway to the promise of eternal life–not out of depression, despair, or morbidity, but in the way we lives our lives to give Jesus honor and glory in all things. We do not seek death. But we will stand for the cause of Christ and the salvation of a lost and dying world.
Again, heaven rejoices when the adversary is thrown out of heaven, but it pities the earth. This is another indicator of historical allegory in this Revelation 12 passage. The devil is and has been the prince of the air or the prince of this world [Ephesians 2:2; John 12:31] since his banishment from heaven. In his fury, he has wreaked havoc on human understanding seeking whom he many devour [1 Peter 5:18], seeking to steal, kill and destroy all who live by faith in the one true God [John 10:10].
Satan’s time is short [Revelation 12:12]. God is not too long in coming [1 Peter 3:9]. Jesus is coming soon [Revelation 22:12].
Have you placed your full faith in the one true God? Have you accepted the redemption of His Son in your life? Are you standing for the cause of Christ before our lost and dying world?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon. The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come. The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ And the angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number.” Revelation 9:11-16
The final piece of the hybrid scorpion-locust puzzle is that these creatures are ruled by the Destroyer. [Abaddon and Apollyon both mean destroyer in their respective languages.]
Remember that the Abyss refers to the subterranean demon hold [Revelation 9:1-2], the same place from which the locust horde originates. This would also seem to contradict the helicopter analogy idea, in that the destroyer would not have in his subterranean captivity an army of humans to man the flying machines.
But the more important focus here is the announcement that one woe is now complete. The eagle [Revelation 8:13], however, cried Woe three times–one for each woe to come to pass. Two more trumpets will sound, ushering in more anguish on the earth.
Angel six blasts his trumpet and the heavenly altar horns start speaking. Again, we see the original Temple as being the heavenly one after which the earthly one was fashioned. The heavenly altar has horns, or projections, at each of the four corners. Anyone fleeing judgment could seek mercy by taking hold of these horns. However, here in the end, we see mercy mixed with judgment extended by the altar itself.
What a terrible day indeed when the very horns of mercy command the release of the killing angel. One-third of human life on the planet will fall to the two-hundred million mounted troops. Even now, God’s desire is for mankind to see and repent [Revelation 9:20-21], not that any more should perish [2 Peter 3:9].
So many people read scriptures such as this and close the Bible, asking, “How can God be loving and merciful if He allows or causes such things to happen?” But the better question is, what is love? And what is mercy? The Bible tells us that greater love has no one than he who lays down his life for another [John 15:13]. Jesus laid His life down on the cross to pay the death wages of everyone’s sin–all people for all time. He didn’t have to. He chose to. And even though human beings spit on his sacrifice time and time again, God mercifully allows us more time and more opportunities to recognize the truth for ourselves and come to a saving knowledge of Him.
He reveals Himself to us in His creation. He teaches us to love one another, just as He loved–with the greatest kind of love there is. In His loving mercy the blind see, the lame walk and the dead are raised [Matthew 11:5]. And as Christians, if we believe, we can and will do even greater things than these [John 14:12] to His glory and honor.
In all of this peaceful love and mercy, many choose to reject God as God. But that does not change the truth of the matter. He alone is God. There is no other. And if you will not bend your knee to love and mercy. If you will not acknowledge Him as Lord when His blessings are abundant, the only other opportunities will come in times of loud anguish.
Your choice. Which will it be? When will you bend your knee?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” Revelation 8:8-9
Beat two, trumpet two enters. The result? Something like a huge mountain. Something like? John is seeing things he has to explain with words he knows, even if he has no words for the reality. Though God doesn’t correct Him as He could have.
So a blazing mountain-thing is hurled to the earth–like the censer and the hail-fire-blood mix–but this time into the ocean. Jeremiah 51:25 speaks of a destroying mountain that will repay Babylon for her idolatrous ways, leaving behind a pile of burnt rubble. Remember that Babel first introduced and spread false religions [Genesis 11:4-6], so false religion will be blotted out from the earth in the reversal of sin in the new creation at the end of time.
But Jesus also told believers that, with a mustard seed of faith, we could tell a mountain–an obstacle in our lives–to throw itself into the sea. And if we believe, it will happen [Matthew 11:23 & 21:21]. This something like a mountain being thrown into the sea, could very much represent the faith of believers moving the hindrance of false religion from the world, not by might, not by power, but by the spirit of the Lord [Zechariah 4:6].
And fire is used to refine [1 Peter 1:7]. It burns away the impurities, leaving behind pure gold, silver, and other precious metals. In scripture, a fire coal is also used for figuratively cleansing, in much the same way, the prophet Isaiah’s lips or his words/speech [Isaiah 6:6-7]. Any part of our life that is built on anything or anyone other than Christ will burn away in the refining fire of judgment [1 Corinthians 3:11-15].
Here again, we see a repeat of the first Exodus plague, water turned to blood [Exodus 7:14-24]. Just as in Egypt when the Nile’s fish died [Exodus 7:21], so the effected ocean life will die as a result of the fiery mountain turning one-third of the sea to blood. Not only that, but one-third of all the world’s ships–a creation of human hands–will also be destroyed.
Now you could probably name a dozen movies that glamorize this much ecological and nautical carnage. And many people have no problem attaching this type of thing to governments at war either. But one mention that God is involved and, all of a sudden, He is unjust. On the contrary, it is because God is just and holy and good that false religion cannot continue eternally. It is because of who He is that sin and death cannot exist eternally. And why would we want it to?
But if death is to be destroyed, then its root–sin [James 1:15]–must also be destroyed. And we each are responsible for choosing how the sin is removed from our lives. We can either accept Christ’s sacrifice to cleanse us from sins–as simply as believing in Him–or we can reject His sacrifice and accept the wages of our own sin [Romans 6:23], death in whatever form it takes.
Have you accepted Christ’s sacrifice for your sins? Do you have a faith in Him that moves mountains? Or do you intend to face death without Jesus?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Revelation 7:14b
So who is this white-robed multitude? The elder says they are the people who have come out of the great tribulation. So what is the great tribulation?
Tribulation was actually a death penalty in Rome, as was crucifixion. However, in tribulation, large flat stones were stacked on a person’s chest–one at a time–until all of the air was crushed out of them. They died then of suffocation/asphyxiation. In this way, the word tribulation is a figurative description of the end times.
The Greek word thlipseos, translated tribulation here, is translated elsewhere in the Bible as: affliction, anguish, and persecution. The Greek word for great, megales, is also translated as loud, and great in both the sense of magnificent and the sense of very large.
Jesus assured all believers that they would have trouble in this world [John 16:33]. The seven churches of Revelation faced persecution under the Roman government, and many other times and places in history–including several countries in our world today–have also shared in very large scale, hard hitting persecution.
I love that this can also be translated the loud anguish. Because it expresses more fully that the sin and death of this life clamor to a tumultuous, agonized wailing. But all the more as the great and glorious day of the Lord approaches. The end times that Revelation begins to describe with the six broken seals leading up to this moment and which will continue with trumpet and bowl judgments yet to come, will feel like one rock at a time being laid on the chest of all–believer and unbeliever alike–until the Lord, in His mercy, raptures us home [1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:17].
How much will believers have to experience? We don’t know exactly, only that God has promised to protect us through whatever we may endure [Revelation 6:6, 7:2]. His strength is perfect in our weakness [2 Corinthians 12:8-10]. We may be struck down, hard pressed and persecuted from every side, but we will not be crushed by the tribulation of this life [2 Corinthians 4:8-9]. His breath of life fills our lungs and will sustain us through it all [Genesis 2:7; Psalm 46:1 & 118:14].
Our robes–a symbol of our righteousness or goodness–have been made paradoxically white through blood that we know to be red. But it is again a symbol of the Old Testament sacrificial system. Life is in the blood [Leviticus 17:11], and more specifically, eternal life rests in Jesus’ blood alone. When we put Him on as a robe [Galatians 3:27], by accepting His sacrifice on the cross as the payment for our sins, then our sinful-self-righteousness–which is like filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6] next to His Holy Glory–are washed white as snow. Sinless. Perfect enough to stand before a Holy God.
Can you hear the loud anguish rising all around? Do you feel pressed down in life or persecuted by the world today? Hold on. Jesus is coming soon!