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Stealing Across the River

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. ‘Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.’ Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” Revelation 16:12-16

Image result for euphrates river imageThe mighty Euphrates, fourth river of Eden [Genesis 2:14], covenanted border of the Promised Land [Genesis 15:18; Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4; 1 Kings 4:21 & 24]. In modern times, the Euphrates appears to be nowhere near Israel’s borders, running instead from Turkey across Northern Syria and through Iraq. Only for a short time under the reigns of King David and his son Solomon did Israel’s territory extend all the way east to the great river [1 Kings 4:21; 1 Chronicles 18:3].

Still, it is significant that the river is removed altogether when the sixth bowl of wrath is poured out. With it, God’s covenanted Promised Land with the Israelites is without border, a border that delineated both divine protection and spiritual alignment in scriptures. Jacob fled from his father-in-law into the country of refuge across this river [Genesis 31:21], while enemy kings are noted as having come from beyond the river [1 Chronicles 19:16; Isaiah 7:20].

God’s hand of protection is removed from the earth along with his mercy [Isaiah 11:15; Jeremiah 46:6] to prepare for the final war–Armageddon. A demonic spirit comes out of Satan, his antichrist, and the false prophet, each one. The frog-like demons represent unclean spirits, since the frog was considered an unclean animal. They aid with the deception of the antichrist and the false prophet, and help unite the governments of the entire world against their Creator God.

Armageddon likely is a re-pronunciation/respelling of Har Mageddon, meaning the mountain of Megiddo. Throughout history, the plain of Megiddo, located in the main pass that runs northeast through the hill country between Sharon and Jezreel, was a frequent battleground because of its strategic location [i.e. Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:22; and in modern times–1468 & 1917].

Just as Jesus’ return to rapture the church to heaven will be like a thief in the home of the unsuspecting [1 Thessalonians 5:2 & 4; 1 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3], so will his appearance at the last battle be like a thief to the earthly governments who have fallen asleep, those who have not only denied God, but forgotten Him. There is a difference. But Jesus is warning them that, Hey look, you’re going to be defeated by virtue of aligning yourselves with the unholy trinity, but you don’t have to shame yourselves in the process. Be ready.

This can also be taken as reminder to believers to be ready for His return. Jesus coming will only seem like a thief in the night to the unsuspecting. We not know the exact day or the hour [Matthew 24:36], but we can see the signs of the times, recognize that it is near, and be ready for His return [Matthew 24:1-35].

Do you know the signs of the end times? Study God’s word to understand them better. Do you see the signs all around? Is your heart prepared so that Jesus’ coming does not take you by surprise?

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The Love-Wrath Coin

by Kristen C. Strocchia

After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened. Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests. Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.” Revelation 15:5-8 

Image result for metal bowl pouring outIn the Old Testament, the Tabernacle came first. It was a mobile Temple for the wandering Israelites until a permanent one could be built in the capital city of the Promised Land. The Tabernacle served as a witness, that is testimony, of God’s presence to His chosen people, reminding them that He was ever with them. And the book of Revelations is very clear that all things earthly Temple have their origin in the one true heavenly Temple, including the kinship of the tabernacle.

The Testimony of God’s presence among His people in eternity can again be seen in the tabernacle-temple.

Seven angels take seven plagues. One of the living creatures, that makes up God’s throne, hands them bowls filled with God’s wrath, while God’s presence itself fills the heavenly temple as it often did the earthly one [Exodus 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:10-11; 2 Chronicles 5:13-14; Isaiah 6:4]. And just like in those times on the earth when God’s presence came down, no one could enter the tabernacle-temple.

But many want to focus on God’s wrath here, so let’s look at it. The question they ask is, if God is love then how could He also be wrathful? Doesn’t His wrathfulness prove that either–a) He is not love; or b) He is not unchanging [different OT and NT personalities] after all? And then from here, many make the leap to therefore God must not exist because there are too many contrarieties in their understanding.

As humans, those who love most can be driven to protect the object of their affection through wrath. Meaning that they will defend the one they love. Does that make the person unloving? Not at all. Their vengeance is spurred by their love. Does that mean that the person has a split personality or that they are acting inconsistently with their purported character? Again, not at all. Love and wrath are two sides of the same coin. Defending their love is consistent with that love.

God loves people, and He abhors sin. People who align themselves with sin and refuse to acknowledge God place themselves on the receiving end of God’s wrath, the side that is protecting those who choose to love Him because He first loved them. It would be the same if American citizens chose to ally themselves with other countries who opposed the U.S. By doing so, they position themselves as enemies to their homeland. Not many would balk at the U.S. punishing, warring against or wiping out their enemies in the name of homeland security. But when God says that He will do the same thing to protect the citizens of heaven, then people fly into a rage.

Why? Because they want to be their own God. They want to be allowed to choose to live however they see fit, and anything else seems unjust…even if they would accept it from an earthly government.

Are you ready, willing and able to give an answer to tough questions like how to understand God’s wrath in light of His love? If not, pray. Read His word and let His truth penetrate your heart. He will give you wisdom if you seek Him.

The Heavenly Mercy Seat

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence you name, both small and great–and for destroying those who destroy the earth. Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.” Revelation 11:15-19

Image result for jesus on his throneThe first six trumpets each heralded disaster on the earth. Moreover, trumpets five and six each culminated in fulfilling one of the eagle’s three woes [Revelation 8:13]. The sixth trumpet also provides an interlude in the vision in which John sees the angel and eats the scroll [Revelation 10] and then the two witnesses appear, minister and come to their demise [Revelation 11:1-14].

Now, finally, the seventh trumpet sounds. But this time it begins with a royal praise. It’s significant that in Bible days trumpets were blown when a new king took his throne. And the heavenly  voices tell us that the new king at this time is, in fact, Jesus Christ.

After all of the powerful destruction, people have finally given glory to God [Revelation 11:13]. As promised to his human ancestor, King David, Jesus’ throne will last for eternity [Luke 1:32-33].

Rightly so, Jesus’ ascension to the throne sets off praise in heaven. The twenty-four elders–who represent the Old and New Testament faithful–thank God for reigning in His power. We can see the evidence today of angry nations, but we can be assured that the wrath of God will bring human violence to an end. The only reason to fear His wrath is to be on the receiving end of it. But those of us who have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, by faith, have been justified and have nothing to worry about. Jesus has made peace with God on our behalf [Romans 5:1-3; Ephesians 2:14].

Unbelievers scream that this is unjust, but they too have the same opportunity to avoid God’s wrath and judgment by choosing His love and mercy.

Mercy.

The exact thing that we see in the midst of the heavenly temple. The ark of the covenant served as the mercy seat–the altar of sacrifice–in the earthly temple [Psalm 99:1; Exodus 25:17-22]. In appearance, it was the literal throne of God in the midst of His chosen people. When called upon to reward and judge, God shows John His heavenly mercy seat. A reminder that everyone who is about to receive their due has had the opportunity to take hold of the mercy seat in repentance. But many refused.

God’s throne intones thunder once again [Revelation 4:55, 11:19], but this time, it is accompanied by an earthquake and hailstorm of judgment.

Have you bowed your heart before the mercy seat?

Living Olive-Wood Doors

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. And I will give power to my witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. They are the ‘two olive trees’ and the two lampstands. ‘They stand before the Lord of the earth.” Revelation 11:2-4

Image result for olive tree and doorIn addition to the Temple proper, John is also told to measure the altar and to count the number of people who are worshipping therein–with the exception of the outer courts, the court of Gentiles. This area was quite large, approximately 26 acres. It was all the area surrounding the Temple since the Gentiles were not aloud to enter the building. However, the great mystery of the gospel is that Jesus came to save the Gentiles too. So why would they be excluded here?

Remember that 144,000 Jews, living during the end times, have been sealed and that the church–Jews and Gentiles alike–have been raptured into heaven [Revelation 7]. So these Gentiles are those who have rejected God. And they will continue to defy Him in all their earthly power by trampling His holy city of Jerusalem for 3 1/2 years. A similar historical trampling is mentioned in Daniel 7:25, and Jesus prophesied to this end times trampling during His time on earth [Luke 21:24].

While all this religious chaos is happening, God will empower two witnesses for a period of just about 3 1/2 years. And they will prophesy in sackcloth–the dark, itchy clothes of mourning or great grief. These two witnesses were foreshadowed in the construction of Solomon’s Temple. He had two olive-wood doors constructed to enclose the inner sanctuary [1 Kings 6:32]. Here also, a golden lampstand was kept full of oil and burning night and day. The inner sanctuary was where the ark of the covenant–an image invoking the very throne room of God–was kept. So the olive-wood doors–or twin witnesses–allow access to the mercy seat even in these late End Time days.

Again, Zechariah 4 first mentions these two End Times witnesses and calls them both olive trees and lampstands [verse 1, 3 & 11]. These witnesses are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth [Zechariah 4:14]. Anointed meaning that they were chosen, set apart, prepared and empowered for their specific ministry–to preach the gospel when the people of God have been removed from the earth. Without doubt the most harrowing experience in the history of the planet if not for being imbued with God’s Spirit from on high to carry out the work.

God has also empowered us–with His Holy Spirit–to be His witnesses today. We do not need to clothe ourselves in grief and mourning, rather we’re called to put on joy and to wear Jesus like a robe. So that the whole world may know Him whom we have believed.

Are you a faithful witness of Christ? When people meet you, do they see Jesus in your life?

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?

The Rainbow: Heaven Manifest on Earth

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all the living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” Genesis 9:12-16

Image result for rainbow + imageWedding rings are not themselves a promise, but just a sign of a promise that was made. Whenever a husband and wife see or feel the circle of gold on their finger, they remember the promise that they made to be faithful to one another.

So the rainbow is a sign of God’s faithfulness to His promise.

However, He didn’t just promise human beings, but every living creature whose existence is bound to ours. Adam and Eve were charged with stewarding the animal kingdom [Genesis 1:26]. Noah obeyed the command to receive and tend the animals in the ark [7:2-3]. Likewise, we ought to recognize that our choices and our end are not ours alone. When the earth was destroyed in the flood, it didn’t merely destroy precious habitats, but all animal life–except for those contained in the ark–perished along with sinful mankind.

God holds back His return out of love for His creation. But He will not hold it back forever [6:3].

At this point, it’s imperative to draw a distinction between mythology and the Bible. Myths use fictional stories to explain natural phenomena to a culture that didn’t understand the scientific truth. The Bible, however, teaches scientific truths behind natural phenomena and explains how these truths testify to the Almighty God.

Take the rainbow for example. Mythologies would offer an explanation such as this:

A beautiful maiden, favored of the gods, received suitors from near and far. Each brought a precious stone from their homeland and laid it at her feet. They would know whose heart she had chosen by whose stone she wore around her neck on the day of the great feast. But the maiden could not choose. Instead she made her necklace of every stone. The suitors became jealous of one another waiting for a decision and began to war with one another, but the gods admired the maiden’s loving wisdom. So when the war came to her palace gates, the gods whisked her safely into the air. Her necklace fell away behind her. To this day, her many stoned necklace appears on the warring clouds of storms, as a rainbow.

But notice how God says that He set His rainbow in the skies. Revelation describes the throne room of heaven, and God is, in fact, encircled by a rainbow that shone like an emerald [4:3], and the New Jerusalem’s foundation is inlaid with ascending layers of precious stones coming in every color of the rainbow [21:19-20].

Being surrounded Himself by rainbows, God knows full well how they form. He allowed this piece of His heavenly throne room to manifest itself on earth, and He says that the rainbow will appear in the clouds–not that He sends each one, but that He set in motion the science behind the natural processes that give us rainbows…air, water and light.

And the purpose of this rainbow is to remind Him that even though sin brews like a storm on the earth, He promised never to destroy the entire earth in floodwaters again. Local floods will happen, but there will always be a refuge of dry ground.

Do you believe that God is faithful to keep His promises? Do you know the promises that He has made to us in scripture? Become a students of God’s Word so that you can stand in faith.

God’s Promise

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: ‘I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you–the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you–every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” Genesis 9:8-11

Image result for covenant agreement + imageCovenant. Agreement. Guarantee. Pledge. Commitment. Contract. God promises Noah and his family, but also all of the creatures on the ark, that He will never again destroy the world in a flood. He will never again wash away sin by a physical deluge.

This speaks so poignantly to the character of God. People find God inconsistent because He sent worldwide destruction through the flood one time and never again. But I for one am glad that I don’t have to worry. That every time the worldwide sin levels rise, they won’t trip the divine deluge trigger. I am so thankful for God’s promise that I can live in peace, by grace through faith, until He comes again and I meet Him in the air.

And the fact that God promises the animals too, that says something about their importance to Him. For while human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creation, the animals are no less the work of His hand. Scriptures tell us that not a sparrow falls to the ground that He doesn’t know about [Matthew 10:29].

All life is sacred to God. And He commands us to steward it [Genesis 1:26; Mark 12:31].

Do you value human and animal life as God does? Do you have peace, resting in God’s promises?