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“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelation 19:11-16

See the source imageJohn, still looking into the wide open vision of heaven saw, once again, the rider on the white horse [Revelation 6:2]. If there was any question of His personage in the earlier reference, this passage should clear it up.

Revelation 3:14 agrees that this is the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. Isaiah 11:4 speaks of His righteous justice–an attribute that scoffers hold as oxymoronic, because we live in a time where what God calls wrong, the world calls right and what God calls right, the world calls wrong [Isaiah 5:20].

Here again we see his eyes of fire, his crowns and bloodied robe [Revelation 1:14, 5:6, 6:2, 11:15 and 12:10].

Here again we see the unknown name inscribed as on the invitation stones [Revelation 2:17]–new names fitting of a new Creation. Yet His name is the Word of God [John 1:1]. He is the living Word. He is truth. He is the way, the truth and the life [John 14:6; 1 Corinthians 8:6]. Son of the I am that I am [Exodus 3:14]. Through Him all things were created [John 1:1] and have their being [Colossians 1:16-17].

He leads the faithful–made righteous by the forgiveness of sins–as the victorious army over the sins that once held them captive.

The sword of His mouth is the truth of eternity [Revelation 1:16 and 17:14]–the bittersweet, double-edged sword that falls in judgment. Though He does not desire any to choose to perish [2 Peter 3:9], all who deny the truth of His kingship, all who refuse to accept the forgiveness of His lordship in their lives will receive the eternal wage of their own sin [Psalm 2:9; Romans 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 2:27].

Vengeance belongs to Him alone [Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19], for He alone will step into the winepress to tread out the harvest [Isaiah 63:2-3; Revelation 14:20]. For He alone is the King above every king that has ever ruled, is now ruling and will ever rule on earth. He alone is Lord–sovereign authority–above every scientific law and government issued decree, statue, law, ordinance, rule, et al.

If He tells the sun to stand still or reverse in the sky, then it obeys [Joshua 10; 2 Kings 20:8-11]. If He commands the wind and the waves, they obey [Matthew 8:27; Mark 4:41; Luke 8:22-25]. The sick are healed, the lame walk, the blind see, the dead are raised, demons cast out [Matthew 10:8 and 11:5]–by one name alone. Jesus.

All of Creation obeys its Creator. Every authority will confess that He alone is Lord God [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:11]. Do you?

KCS

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From the Student Question Board: What is Labor Day?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

Image result for labor day + image

Ironically, Labor Day is the day we celebrate having jobs by staying home from them. Seriously though, we can be very thankful that as Americans we have good work through which we can enjoy financial stability and meet our own basic needs.

The Bible advocates for us as people being gainfully employed, whether for self or for bosses, for money or just to survive. Proverbs in particular has much to say on the subject of hard work versus laziness. For example, “Lazy hands make poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth,” Proverbs 10:4. “Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare,” Proverbs 20:13. This doesn’t mean we should never sleep, rather that we shouldn’t oversleep–as many enjoy and insist on through our teen years.

The Bible also has much to say on overworking purely in pursuit of wealth. “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil,” 1 Timothy 6:9-10a. Workaholics miss out on the joys of life and often find that, while they’ve amassed much financially, ultimately their life is empty. Likewise, lazy people–who put stock in gambling or lottery tickets hoping to strike it rich quick–often lose more money than they ever win. And even those who have won very large jackpots are known to blow their sudden wealth faster than it appeared, often ending with greater debts than before having won. They too feel empty despite the temporary financial gain.

The straight and narrow life is all about balance. “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” 1 Timothy 6:6. The wealthiest people are those who enjoy the work of their hands and do so as unto the Lord. They are satisfied with the love of family and content to live within their means, no matter how simple. These people feel richer than the wealthiest people on the planet, because they are rich with God’s love and the love of fellow man. They have stored their treasures up where it counts–in heaven [Matthew 6:20].

If you’re too young to work, be thankful for child labor laws on this Labor Day and be thankful for loving parents that provide for your needs in this blessed nation in which we live. If you’ve already had your first job, consider Godly financial principles and work hard for your boss as God would have you to do. Discipline yourself even now in your teen years to rise early, serve diligently and work with an attitude of gratitude for all that God has provided for you through your faithfulness. Be content. And be blessed.

Post Eclipse Worldview Coverage

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3:4

Image result for eclipse watchersAfter yesterday’s eclipse, this morning’s news coverage quoted worldviews from around the country. How did people describe this once in a generation phenomena?

“Mystical.”

“Magical.”

“It’s about being at one with the universe.”

“A testimony of the power and awesomeness of Mother Nature.”

But what does the Bible have to say about it? For in Him [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together [Colossians 1:16 & 17].

The miracle of Creation has itself been eclipsed by ideas of evolution and atheism in our modern culture. And this is rooted in the tower of Babel, where Nimrod incited fellow humans to turn their back on the existence of God [Genesis 10:8-9 & 11:3-4], as if such a thing would actually cause God to cease existing. But scripture does explain that when we cease to acknowledge God’s existence and to thank Him in all things, then our thinking becomes futile and our heart-set darkens [Romans 1:21].

So when we look at the awesome splendor of a total solar eclipse, do we rightfully acknowledge it as God’s handiwork, or do we buy into Satan’s lie–aka any other explanation? Do you use natural phenomena like this to boldly share your faith in a Creator or quietly slip to the back of a crowd that ascribes God’s Creation to any and every thing else?

The Fall Reversed in the Greatest Commandments

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them of springs of living water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:15-17

Image result for lamb leading to waterBible scholars–and often the various church denominations–hold to differing views on which point of the end times the church will be raptured into heaven [1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:17]. There are usually three views of this: pre-tribulation [before all the bad stuff happens], mid-tribulation [sometime during while all the bad stuff happens] and post-tribulation [after all of the bad stuff happens].

Since no one knows the day or the hour that Jesus is coming–not even Jesus Himself [Matthew 24:36]–God doesn’t want us to spend our time debating it [2 Timothy 2:14]. We’re not even supposed to concern ourselves with anything except believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and trusting Him in all things. That does not mean that we won’t experience anything bad in our physical bodies. On the contrary, so long as sin remains and our bodies remain here in the sinful world, we will have trouble [John 16:33]. But our fear is not to be bound up in the physical [Matthew 10:28].

Rather, as we can see here, an innumerable multitude stays faithful through at least the opening of six seals which release increasing hardship on the earth, and then they are standing before God’s throne in His heavenly temple. The temple here signifying the presence of God and the tent, spread out over them, His tabernacle.

The next verses begin to show that God is undoing sin–in the exact reverse that He pronounced the consequences of sin in Genesis 3–and creating everything anew.

In heaven, we will not hunger, thirst or be scorched by sun–a reversal of Adam’s curse [Genesis 3:15-17]. And why will this happen? Because Jesus–the Lamb–will lead us. Having restored the reverence for God in our hearts, we will once again submit to His perfect authority and do the good things that He intended for us from the Creation. When He leads us to the eternal living waters and the banquet tables of heaven, we will follow without exception out of a free will governed by our love for God.

In heaven, we will no longer cry–a reversal of Eve’s curse [Genesis 3:16]. Not because women tend to be more emotional than men, but because the result of her sin was painful childbearing–meaning childrearing, as in broken relationships. Relationship breaks that lead to emotional strife–arguments, hurtful words and actions, betrayed trusts, mistreatment, abuse, oppression…heartbreak on so many levels in every type of relationship–and that escalates even to the point of war and death. All of our imperfect human relationships will be made whole out of a free will governed by our love for our fellow human beings, the way God intended for us from the Creation.

Though we are not in heaven and have not been made perfect yet, each day we ought to become more and more like Christ [Colossians 1:28], we ought to grow more and more in our love for God and fellow human beings [Matthew 22:36-40; 1 John 4:7-21].

Amazing isn’t it? The culture around us cries out for love for all, but deny the God who is love and who is trying to restore this very thing.

How To Study Puzzling Bible Passages

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, from the tribe of Zebulon 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.” Revelation 7:4-8

Image result for puzzleI’m going to be honest, I’m not exactly sure the significance of the numbers in this passage. But when I come across a piece of scripture that perplexes me, it is exciting to start hunting through God’s Word for understanding. The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself. It makes the simple wise and enlightens the eyes [Psalm 19:7-8].

Obviously, 144,000 is the product of 12,000 sealed from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. But my question is why 12,000 from each tribe? I’ve searched through the commentaries to see what others have said and the agreement is inconclusive. This is a point of Scripture on which we can pray for God’s understanding and that, if it still pricks our hearts to know, we can ask Him about in heaven .

A few thoughts to consider when delving into the Word to understand this matter:

1) The tribes are given out of order and two are omitted, but there are still twelve total–so in all things we can know that God’s purposes prevail [Proverbs 19:21];

2) These same 144,000 are mentioned again in Revelation 14 with the Lamb–so we can read within the larger context of Revelation to see if anything else can be disclosed about who and why;

3) There are many Old Testament passages that refer to the twelve tribes in list fashion, often with social/spiritual commentary about the state of each [i.e. Genesis 49, Numbers 26 and Deuteronomy 33 to name a few]. I’m particularly interested to study through these scriptures to see what light they can shed on the puzzling Revelation 7 passage, because they may give insight into the order rearrangement and omissions mentioned above. But also because they give snapshots of the tribes over distant points of time and place.

In Genesis 49, the patriarch Jacob is blessing his sons, the tribal heads, on his death bed. Blessing in this instance meaning that he speaks to the character and lets them know what it will produce in their life, so not always a positive. While the Deuteronomy 33 passage is Moses blessing the twelve tribes before they part ways–him to his death and them to possess the Promised Land. This blessing is as it sounds, good things spoken on behalf of each tribe, good things spoken with future blessing in mind.

4) One other factor not to be overlooked in interpretation of difficult Scripture passages–the Holy Spirit. As I puzzled over this the last few days and looked for other passages that might give insight, the Holy Spirit spoke to me about the equality of the number 12,000.

No matter what each tribe’s patriarch behaved like or the decisions he made, no matter what the particular history of each Israelite tribe throughout scripture and beyond, God does not show favoritism [Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25]. He forgives each of us equally. He loved each tribe equally. No matter their position or their history, when they devoted themselves to God they inherited the same measure of blessing.

What’s your Bible study routine? Do you dig deep into passages that perplex you or skip over them? Do you have sound Bible study tools and practices?

Entrenched in Affluence

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm–neither not nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:14-16

Image result for church of laodicea revelationAffluence. The people of Laodicea–Christians as well–enjoyed financial security and material accessibility. However, their city was built close to trade route access, and not to water access. So water had to be piped in.

Neighboring Colossi had wonderfully icy springs fed by mountain snow melt. And on the other side, Hierapolis had sacred mineral hot springs believed to heal. But Laodicea’s mineral laden water, deposited sediment all along the aqueduct. Minerals that ruined even the flavor of the lukewarm water that arrived in town. Minerals that stunk up the whole house if the water was boiled, not to mention food preparation and even left some sick from drinking it.

It is to their own decrepit water that Jesus compares the Christians of Laodicea. Your faith tastes foul and it is neither hot nor cold enough to satisfy. One drink makes me want to gag, spewing your worship from my mouth.

Ouch!

And the rebuke goes back to the culture of Laodicea. The deep entrenchment in affluence. The people had all they needed and provided for themselves in everyway beyond what many cities and peoples around them ever could. They needed nothing. Including Jesus. And their lifestyles and worship testified to their lukewarm, sediment filled faith in Him.

It wasn’t about becoming on fire for Jesus or getting out of the faith altogether. It was about loving the giver Himself more than gifts and blessings He could bestow.

Do you lean on the Lord? Or are you so self-sufficient that Jesus is almost an afterthought to your daily life?

Life by the Sword

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live–where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city–where Satan lives.” Revelation 2:12-13

Image result for Satan's Throne PergamumPergamum means citadel in Greek. Once capital of the region, Pergamum became the first site of the Imperial–or Caesar–Cult in the Roman Empire. But the city was home to many pagan temples: Zeus [king of kings and god of gods], Asclepius [healer], Demeter [harvest/provider], Dionysius [pleasure], and Athena [wisdom].

It’s no wonder then that Jesus introduces His words to the Pergamenian Christians by reminding them that He has the sharp, double-edged sword. His words are the judgment that matter. And, knowing where they live, His words–not Satan’s pantheon of Greek and Roman frauds–were the only true judgments on which they were to build their lives.

Because Jesus is the actual King of Kings and Lord of Lords [Revelation 19:16]. Jesus is the divine physician and the healer from whom all healing flows [Exodus 15:26]. Jesus is the Lord of the Harvest and our loving provider [Matthew 9:38; Genesis 22:14]. Jesus is the center of pure pleasure because He came that we might have life more abundantly [John 10:10]. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and in Jesus are all the treasures of wisdom [Proverbs 9:10; Colossians 2:3].

But to proclaim Jesus in Pergamum was to denounce the gods and goddesses, to be basically labeled an atheist and subject oneself to Roman persecution. Pergamum was truly a city where Satan had his throne. But Jesus commends the church here for holding onto His Name. A Name that is above all names [Philippians 2:9], but that sentenced its bearers to suffering and even death.

Tradition holds that Antipas was the first bishop here and that he was martyred–that is killed–for his faith in Jesus. Despite his death, the church at Pergamum held onto Jesus as a child holds firmly to a park merry-go-round that is spinning faster and faster, threatening to throw them off. And Jesus held just as firmly to them–as He does to us–while the world does all it can to loosen our grip on the truth.

These are the positives that Jesus has for Pergamum. In the next few verses, we will learn where this church fell short. But consider what they did right as you consider your own life today.

Do the things of Satan [that is anything that is contrary to God’s will] infuse the cultural context in which you live? Whose judgments matter in your life? On whose words do you build your life? Do you hold onto Jesus’ name even in the face of opposition?