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A Blazing Mountain-Thingy

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

Image result for Mountains and Ocean WavesBeat 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?

The Loud Anguish

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

Image result for tribulationSo 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!

The True Triumphal Entry

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10

Image result for People Waving Palm Branches Palm Sunday JesusSome of the reason that the 144,000 number in the previous passage creates disagreement among biblical scholars is that it seems to limit who and how many can get into heaven. In reading the larger context of this next portion of scripture though, it seems clear that–like the twenty-four elders of Revelation 4–we are again seeing representation of both the Old and New Testament faithful.

This great multitude is uncountable, like the stars in the sky or sand in the seashore spiritual descendants promised to Abraham [Genesis 22:17; Galatians 3:29; Hebrews 11:12]. See how people from the whole earth–and likely throughout all of history, though time is not mentioned–stand before God the Father, who is on His throne. See Jesus, the Lamb and Son of God, is there before the people too.

It is a white robed multitude, the victorious by grace through faith [Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 3:5] from all the earth for all time. And they hold palm branches and proclaim the gospel, the good news. God is alive. He is on the throne of the whole universe–everything that ever was, or is or will be. He alone holds the power of salvation, and He has brought it through the perfect sacrifice of His spotless Lamb, the Son of God who laid down His earthly life to atone–make right–for our sins.

Do you see the heavenly original brought to light from an earlier scripture? The gospels record an earthly Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem [Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 12]. Here the people laid down their cloaks on the road and waved palm branches, heralding Jesus with shouts of Hosanna–meaning O Lord save us. The disciples thought they had backstage passes to the beginning of the kingdom of God in their day, especially when all of Jerusalem turned out to hail their Rabbi as king of the Jews, acknowledging only His ability to bring victory and deliverance from the Romans.

But Jesus knew better. His time had not yet come. The people’s hearts were not yet ready to truly worship and serve Him alone as King. They didn’t fully understand Who He Was and what His heavenly purpose was.

And now that John shows us this moment in heaven when only those who have accepted Jesus as Lord–who have laid down their lives for Him just as He did for us, who have stood faithful and forgiven to the end, who recognize no other as God–wave the palm branch, acknowledging God’s victory and deliverance for all time over sin and death. The true triumphal entry was not Jesus’ donkey ride through Jerusalem, but the day we stand in heaven acknowledging Him Lord. It is our return to perfect communion with God for all eternity. What an incredible day that will be!

Will you be numbered among the white robed multitude? Do you bow your life to Christ alone?

Mercy from the Throne of Thrones

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“In the center around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered in eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was and is and is to come.” Revelation 4:6b-8

Image result for ark of the covenantIn the ancient world, thrones were typically formed so that the King sat on the images of powerful animals. It affirmed their position of authority in the perception of their people. King Solomon’s throne, for example, had two carved lions serving as armrests and the dais–leading up to the throne–had six steps with twelve more lions, each step flanked with a sculpted lion on each end.

However, just as God Himself lives and His Word is living and active, here in Revelation 4–as in Ezekiel 10–God’s throne is portrayed as being alive. These four living creatures full of fire and eyes and wings in conjunction with the fiery, intersecting wheels create something like a divine chariot on which God crosses the heavens [2 Samuel 22:11; Psalms 18:10; Ezekiel 10:1].

Moreover, these living creatures–aka the Cherubim–guarded the way to the Tree of Life after Man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden [Genesis 3:24], and were included in the adornment of the ark of the covenant [Exodus 25:18-22] and the tapestries of the Tent of Meeting [Exodus 26:1]. In this way, the creatures served as a reminder of the holiness of God’s house. And the symbols themselves were in fact patterned after the originals in heaven.

Interestingly enough, the set-up of the ark of the covenant with the winged cherubim facing each other on top and the requisite construction and layout of the Holy of Holies gave the room the appearance of a throne room. So in a very real sense, God was seated on His throne among His chosen people, the Jews. And the name of this ark of the covenant throne in the Holy of Holies? The Mercy Seat [Psalms 99:1; Exodus 25:17-22]. For it was here that the sacrificial blood–once a year–was sprinkled to make atonement for the sins of all Israel.

But this was just a copy of the original. Jesus–having shed His blood on the cross–was seated at the right hand of His Father on His throne in heaven. The original Mercy Seat. His sacrifice didn’t need to be repeated year after year [Hebrews 10:1-10]. And it made atonement–that is it made a wrongdoing right–for the sins of the whole world, not just Israel [Ephesians 2:11-19; John 3:16].

Do you believe that God is holy? Does His holiness pervade your life as a Christian? Do you allow His mercy to flow from His throne through you to this world to His glory and honor?

Original Intents and Patterns

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.” Revelation 4:4-6a

Image result for glassNumbers hold significance in scriptures, they’re not arbitrary. So the fact that John notes exactly twenty-four elders seated on twenty-four thrones surrounding the throne of God means something. But what?

Many biblical scholars agree that the number twenty-four–which is twelve times two, as in twelve tribes of Israel in the Old Testament and the twelve disciples in the New Testament. However, the scripture does not specifically name these elders as such. The Old Testament does use the term elders to describe the heads of tribal Jewish bodies or groupings [Exodus 19:7, 24:1; et al], and the New Testament also used it to delineate heads of the Christian Church [Acts 14:23, 20:17, 21:18; et al]. Regardless of whether the number consists of the actual patriarchs of the twelve tribes plus the disciples or not, it is clear that these twenty-four elders represent the complete body of Christ both past and future, both Old and New Testament.

Notice that they are dressed in white with gold crowns on their heads. These are representatives of the victorious that Jesus spoke about to the seven churches of Revelation [2:7, 11, 17, 26-28, 5, 12, & 21]. The white robes also speak of righteousness and priesthood, their sins have been washed away and they have been into the holy priesthood [1 Peter 2:9] able to commune with God Himself, the very thing He’d always intended for us, His most cherished Creation.

I wonder at the lightning and thunder coming from God’s throne. Obviously, John was writing to a people within a culture who believed Zeus to be the God who controlled such things. And Zeus was chief among the gods because of the power he wielded. However, Jesus through John clearly tells the people of that day that Zeus is a fraud, he does not possess lightning. Rather it emanates from the very throne of the One True Almighty God, Creator and Lord of all.

From here, Jesus, through John, shows us around the Temple of Heaven, a virtual tour if you will. And we begin to see the original that the Jewish Temple was patterned after. The Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple had seven lamps [Numbers 8:2] that were kept burning before the Lord night and day. They represented the seven spirits of God–seven being the number of completion and therefore perfection–to the Israelites, just as they are said here to represent the seven spirits [or sevenfold Spirit] of God in heaven. Also, the earthly Tabernacle and Temple had a basin used in the sacrifice system that was called the Sea [1 Kings 7:23-25] that was positioned in front of the holy of holies where the mercy seat, or God’s earthly throne, was. That Sea, however, was bronze though it was meant to be reflective and it was here that the priests washed themselves before going about their work. But the Sea before the throne in heaven is clear as glass. No more need to mirror man’s sins for him to see. No more need to be cleansed, because everyone will be eternally washed, clean, forgiven. Amen!

Are you washed and forgiven by God? Do you seek to recognize His heavenly patterns here on earth? Do you then testify about them to others?

The Epitaph of Sin

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“After the flood Noah lived 350 years. Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.” Genesis 9:28-29

Image result for armThe sinful saga continues. Noah’s epitaph mirrors Adam’s final verse so closely [Genesis 5:5]. It’s clear that God wants the reader to be aware that His plan of redemption did not come through the flood in the day of Noah. Yes, the majority of sin was purged from the earth with its inhabitants, but Noah still sinned, and then he died–old and full of years, but he died nonetheless. And sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death [James 1:15].

Jesus conquered death, hell and the grave to fulfill the Genesis 3:15 prophesy, but it won’t be fully realized in us until we have eternal life. Until Christ comes again and we believers meet up with him in the sky [1 Corinthians 15:52-53], we are still confined to sinful human bodies which, themselves, are subject to death.

But what we do with our lives while we are clothed in mortal array matters immensely. Do you live in such a way that you would find favor with God in your generation? Do you live by faith? Are you governed by righteousness? Have you accepted the atoning sacrifice of Jesus’ blood for your sins? And when you sin, do you repent, asking the Lord for forgiveness?

Humbled

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds–everything that moves on land–came out of the ark, one kind after another. Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.” Genesis 8:18-20

Image result for bonfire barbecueThe ark was emptied in order to replenish the earth. What a sight to see all of the animals of the world–literally–parading out in two by two formation.

And Noah’s first response is to honor God.

The burnt offering of Leviticus 1–first seen here in Genesis 8–is an atonement sacrifice. Now Abel also offered an atonement sacrifice when he offered the fat portions of the firstborn of his flocks [4:4], but Noah’s sacrifice here is the first time that we learn of a burnt offering. And he did so using clean animals.

In human logic, this makes perfect sense. Remember that of clean animals there were seven pairs–fourteen total of each kind! Naturally, you wouldn’t sacrifice any of the animals that only had one pair, that would bring the extinction of their whole kind after God just went to all this length to preserve them. Still, Noah could have done it. He could have said to himself, “But tigers and peacocks look so much cooler and more powerful than goats and bulls. If I were God, wouldn’t I want that as a sacrifice instead?”

Because often, that’s our human logic in dealing with God. “If I were God”–*cough…Satan’s lie…cough*–then I would think… or I would want… So I don’t get why God thinks the way He does or wants what He does, because, you know, I certainly wouldn’t.”

Time out.

Do you see where this line of thought comes from and leads to? Comes from Satan. Leads to death and destruction. Because any line of reasoning that substitutes self as God is the line of reasoning that felled a third of the angels of heaven and barred Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, cursing the earth with the nature of sin.

But to this point in scripture, just as with Abel, there is no mention of God instituting or requesting a sacrifice of any kind. Abel knew God though–in an intimate, experiential way–as did Noah, and both men acted on this faith, this absolute certainty of what they hoped for but could not see.

Noah knew God. He knew that God hated sin, and that there was sin even in him. He didn’t become conceited by the fact that God noticed his righteousness and saved him out of the whole world. On the contrary, he humbled himself before the Almighty Creator, the Holy of Holies, and he offered a right sacrifice to atone–make amends/repairs/peace with–God for that sin.

Has God ever chosen to use you in a situation? Do you let this make you proud or does it humble you? Do you know God by the same kind of faith that Abel and Noah did? Have you asked God to atone for your sins through the shed blood of Jesus Christ?