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What’s In Your Heart?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one ‘like a son of man’ with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, ‘Take your sickle and reap, because the time has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.” Revelation 14:14-16

Image result for cloud pillarBy day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way [Exodus 13:21]. John sees the white cloud with the Son of Man [Daniel 7:13; Revelation 1:13 & 6:2] seated on it–Jesus, wearing the victor’s crown. But Jesus is also holding a sickle.

If you’re not familiar with antiquitous farm equipment, you may still recognize a sickle as the blade usually wielded in portrayals of the grim reaper. Jesus is anything but grim. He is not death incarnated to frighten the nations into submission. On the contrary, He is a merciful and loving Savior, friend to all who know Him as Lord.

Still, the sickle he wields–just like the double-edged sword of His mouth, His word–will cut two ways. The harvest of the faithful to eternal life [John 4:35] and of those who rejected God to eternal death in the fires of hell [Joel 3:13; Jeremiah 51:33].

John 12:24 and 1 Corinthians 15:42 liken our eternal soul-man and our physical bodies to a seed. We are each born with a young faith plant in our hearts and enough childlike faith for food to sustain us while we are nurtured in the truth. But what happens when God’s word is not taught? When prayer and praising God Almighty are not apart of the life that a child leads? It’s like leaving a seed to dry up and die. It may look whole on the outside, but it will never grow into the plant that it was meant to be.

We are the same way. And those who have grown in their faith will be good, mature plants. When our end comes our souls will live on. But those who allow their faith to lie dormant, or to shrivel and die, they will grow other plants in their heart that have no place in heaven. When their end comes, their soul will not find peace with God as they never made that peace in life.

One swift fell of the sickle. The hour and day unknown. What’s in your heart? Growing faith? Or growing discord with God?

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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 Long War Between God and Satan: Part 2

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

Image result for crush snake headGod could have crushed Satan in a nanosecond back in the Garden of Eden. So why has this war dragged on for nearly 6,000 earth years and counting?

For one thing, God gave Adam and Eve–and every one of their descendants, us–free will. We can choose to love and obey Him or we can choose to despise, reject and disobey Him. But God didn’t want robotic love, just like we wouldn’t want to know that someone was loving us because they had to. He wanted, and still wants today, for us to choose Him. Of our own free will.

That’s why there were two trees to choose from in the middle of the Garden of Eden. And that’s why, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey, God didn’t just crush Satan on the spot. He still loved the people He created and wanted them to choose to love Him back–like a parent and a wayward child. If God obliterated Satan, then man didn’t have a choice, he wouldn’t be coming to God out of free will.

So God has been patiently waiting, carrying out His plan of redemption and giving every human being the opportunity to make their choice–God or Satan. There’s only those two ways about life when it comes down to it.

Again, when Jesus was born during the oppressive Roman Empire, the Jews were looking for a conquering hero Messiah. And Jesus will certainly establish His kingdom for all eternity, conquering death, hell, grave and every opposition. But He did not do so on the Jewish-Roman-time-schedule as they would have liked. He was patiently following through with the Father’s plan of redemption for the whole world, rather than temporally meeting a social and political need for one race, albeit the chosen nation.

God is love and love is patient [1 Corinthians 13:4], therefore God is supremely patient. But He also will not be taunted or in any way coerced to prove Himself to a person, or to Satan. While the enemy continues to attack, eroding faith from the hearts of men, God patiently preserves our free will–choose Me or don’t. Your choice.

While the war sometimes feels long, our life is but a breath in eternity. How are you choosing to spend your?

The Second Woe

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“But after three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on. At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.” Revelation 11: 11-14

Image result for earth quake damageThere are so many scriptural cross-references pertaining to this small passage about these two dead witnesses. Three and a half days–pretty close to Jonah’s three days in the belly of the great fish [Matthew 12:40] and Jesus’ three days in the grave [1 Corinthians 15:4]. God breathed His breath of life into them, just as He did to Adam in the garden so many years before [Genesis 2:7].

The two witnesses rose back to life and it caused great fear. In the same way, when Jesus rose from the dead, the natural response was fear and Jesus had to tell those who saw Him, Do not be afraid [Matthew 28: 5 & 10]. Then, the voice from heaven speaks, as it did following Jesus’ baptism [Matthew 3:17; Luke 3:22] and as it has to John throughout Revelation [10:4 & 8, 14:13, 18:4].

The two witnesses ascend into heaven, rising in a cloud as Jesus was hidden by a cloud in His ascension [Acts 1:9]. Only this time, enemies not disciples are watching. Once the revived and glorified witnesses have left the atmosphere, God’s great power breaks out in the city that dishonored them [Mark 6:4; John 4:44]. One tenth–a tithe’s-worth of the city–collapses in a severe quake, killing seven thousand, more than twice as many as were lost in the attacks on the twin towers.

Again, it is not God’s will that any should perish [2 Peter 3:9], and sadly, these seven thousand could have stopped their demise had they chosen to lead their city to listen to the witnesses and then to repentance [Jonah 3:3-6]. But the hardened heart, in the end, will always have to face the very absolute whose existence they deny.

And those who survive this catastrophe will finally soften their hearts enough to recognize and give glory to God. Man! This is so not how God wants to have to get people’s attention to show Himself real. God can do earthquake and God can do fire, but He prefers to show Himself to us in the still small voice [1 Kings 19:11-13], gentle as a newborn babe [Matthew 1:18-25]. He prefers when our hearts turn to Him in love and adoration for His goodness. But those who reject His loving kindness, will see His awesome power displayed and acknowledge, unquestionably, that He. Is. God.

Two woes down. One more woe to go, quoth the eagle [Revelation 8:13].

Does your heart bend to God’s still small voice? Or does it take furious fire to focus your attention on heaven?

How Much Longer?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.” Revelation 11:7-10

Image result for shoes worn outThe days of the two fire-breathing witnesses, possibly neo-Elijah and neo-Moses, will be limited. Their testimony to the earth about God will come to an end. And when it does, the antichrist will be able to out-muscle their plague-ability and fire-breathing self-defense. He alone will be able to kill them.

If any has been unsure to this point whether or not this world ruler is in fact the antichrist, his ability to subdue these to men of God should allay any doubt.

Why would God allow the antichrist to kill His witnesses? And in death, why would He allow their bodies to be treated in such an unholy way? I mean, in the days this prophecy was written, to deny burial was bold indecency. Then add international gloating and a gift swap, well, it’s truly audacious.

As humans, we often think of God sitting on His high throne controlling every little jot and tittle of human existence. So if good things happen, praise God He allowed it. If bad things happen, curse God and cease to believe in His existence.

While God did create the world and set everything in motion, He also endowed humans with freewill–that is the unmitigated ability to choose our thoughts, words and actions. Although He hates sin, for Him to  disallow sinful people to choose to sin means that He has revoked freewill. This is not in God’s nature any more than deception or unholiness.

So the question should never be, why. The question has always been, how long. The Lord voiced this to Moses, asking, How long will these people treat Me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in Me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? [Numbers 14:11]

How long will God put up with humans choosing to do violence to one another? On one hand, He wants to give second chances and we love to have these opportunities to do better. On the other hand, people don’t seem to be responding to these opportunities with the repentant hearts they truly need. In the big picture of eternity, God hates to see us suffer each other’s wrong doing, but He allows humankind to exercise freewill all the same in hopes that we will ultimately use that freewill to choose Him of our own accord. And He waits–long suffering–hoping to give everyone the opportunity to come to Him.

But His spirit will not contend with man forever [Genesis 6:3]. He will return in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye at an hour we do not know [1 Corinthians 15:52].

Will you be ready when He comes? Even now, is your heart right before God?

How to Handle Difficult Analogies in Scripture

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months.” Revelation 9:7-10

Image result for locusts of revelation 8 and 9Here is where prophetic scripture can sometimes get a little difficult to discern. Analogy. Once again, John is defining something he has never seen before in terms of things he has seen. We see commonly identifiable nouns like: locusts, horses, heads, crowns of gold, human faces, women’s hair, lions’ teeth, breastplates of iron, wing sound of horses and chariots, and tails with scorpion stings. Even just listing these nouns one can form a semi-image of what John must have envisioned.

Some speculate that all of the likes indicate that John was actually seeing a piece of modern war machinery–i.e. a helicopter fitted with a laser gun–that he didn’t know the actual name for, so he just had to describe it. However, there are many pieces of this description that do not fit with this possibility.

Locusts like horses prepared for battle, so saddled and armored. The iron breastplates here refer to pieces of thin iron riveted to a leather base. However, locusts are quite a bit smaller than either horses or helicopters. So is John analogizing the size? Or just the shape? Scripture doesn’t say for sure.

Then there’s the human element–crowns on heads, human faces and women’s hair. Interestingly, the Bible has much hair symbolism that we won’t get into here, but suffice it to say that the reference to women’s hair is a cultural one that lets us know that these locusts have long hair–which was a glory to a woman at the time of these writings [1 Corinthians 11:15]. This is where the helicopter interpretation falls apart for me. Because the human face could be seen through the windshield, but then the hair would seem to be attached to this head–meaning all of the pilots are either women or long-haired men. But then, the whole windshield not being filled with the face, the hair is being called hair even though it is inside the so-called face/windshield. It’s a stretch, but not impossible. We really can’t be sure what John was seeing except to take his analogies for what they illustrate.

And clearly, lion’s teeth are so much larger than a locust jaw could handle, so here it must refer to shape rather than size. Again, lion’s teeth would be in the human head behind the windshield? Or somehow attached to the actual helicopter frame protruding up the front of the windshield?

The wing sound makes perfect sense. Thundering and pounding as they will be though, it could also be just the sheer size of this locust-scorpion army that creates such a cacophony.

The bottom line is that we don’t always have to be able to picture what is going to happen in the end to understand that: a) it will not be a pleasant time to have to live through; and b) the end will be like no other time before it on the planet. When we read a prophetic scripture that we can’t envision, we can still distill the most important facts from the passage. These locust creatures will judge the inhabitants of earth for a limited time after the fifth trumpet blast. They will spawn from the Abyss. They will torture, but not kill. And they will be like something no human–besides John in a vision–has ever seen before.

How do you handle difficult scriptures? Do you let them weigh your faith down with doubt and unbelief? Or do you ask the Holy Spirit to give you the discernment to understand what is important?

Demolition and New Construction

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.” Revelation 8:12

Image result for demolition and new constructionBeat four, enter the fourth trumpeter. This time the blast takes out one-third of the heavenly lights. Naturally darkening the skies for those who already live in a figurative darkness. Even those who live in highly light polluted areas and everyone clinging to human light sources will be effected by the dim.

Light plays into mental health as well as physical. Minds crack and bodies heal more slowly in diminished light. So it will be as the end of everything sinful nears.

But look again at these first four trumpets, in light of the days of Creation:

  1. Trumpet one destroys one-third of the land and plants with seed from day three of Creation [Genesis 1:11].
  2. Trumpet two destroys one-third of the sea from day two [Genesis 1:6 & 10] and its creatures from day five of Creation [Genesis 1:20].
  3. Trumpet three destroys more of the water from day two and, as a result, day six descendants of Adam and Eve die [Genesis 1:26].
  4. Trumpet four destroys one-third of the celestial bodies created on day four to govern light [Genesis 1:16].

Every day of Creation–except Day one, light and darkness [Genesis 1:3], and Day seven, Sabbath rest [Genesis 2:2]–is partially destroyed by the first four trumpets. How else can there be a new heaven and a new earth [Revelation 21:1] if the old is not destroyed? It’s like building a new skyscraper to replace an old, condemned one. There must first be demolition and disposal of the old to prepare for the new construction.

As Christians, this demolition of the old man–the person we were before accepting Christ as Lord–begins in this life. We are to flee from evil desires [2 Timothy 2:22], be transformed by the renewing of our minds [Romans 12:2], comport our bodies as the holy temple of God [1 Corinthians 6:19], clothes ourselves with Christ [Galatians 3:27] and live as living sacrifices [Romans 12:1].

It’s not easy and we’ll never be perfect, but in view of God’s mercy, we will be pleasing to Him as we grow more and more like His Son, Jesus, every day.

Have you submitted your old self to God for demolition and renovation? Is there any part of your old self that you stubbornly–or pridefully–cling to? Trust God, in His perfect wisdom and love, to make you new beyond all you could ask or imagine [Ephesians 3:20]. Knowing full well that He loves you [John 3:16], that He will never leave you or forsake you [Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5], and that He has prepared a place for you with Him in heaven [John 14:2-3]. Will you surrender all to His loving demolition?