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Gates and Foundations

“It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on the them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Revelation 21:12-14

See the source imageRecently exiled to Babylon, a prophet arose among the Israelites–Ezekiel. He had the distinct travail of bringing a message of destruction to his fellow expatriates. They would not be returning any time soon to their homeland as they had hoped. Rather they would hear of their sacred temple burning to the ground.

But Ezekiel was also given the message of eternal hope. Israel–and all the nations–would one day stand judgment before God. Their words and actions weighed in the heavenly balance [Daniel 5:27]. The faithful would see Jerusalem restored like never before and the temple refashioned in all its heavenly glory. In this, Ezekiel’s fourth and final vision [Ezekiel 48], we find a description of the New Jerusalem much like the one here in Revelation 21:12, with the primary difference being that of size.

The city of Ezekiel’s vision had walls totaling 18,000 cubits or 6 miles around, while John’s vision of the New Jerusalem has four walls each 12,000 stadia or 1,400 miles long. Which means that each wall will be about as long as the distance from New York City to Oklahoma City. And each wall is just as high as it is long. A giant cube!

Both Temple visions show us that there will be three gates on each of the four city walls. Maps of the original city, show anywhere from 8-12 gates, with the city being a somewhat long, skinny, misshapen oval–not unlike an upside down, mini-Israel. Jerusalem has gone through several different wall building stages in its history. Through the years, gate names included: Dung Gate, Fountain Gate, Water Gate, Horse Gate, East Gate, Master Gate, Sheep Gate, Fish Gate, Old Gate and Valley Gate. Probably so named for the main transport through each.

The New Jerusalem, however, will be a perfect square–perfect being the operative holy standard. Three gates on each wall, like the triune godhead. And the gates will be named for the 12 tribes of Israel, because people have always been the ones whom God intended to enter His gates. The twelve foundations each with an apostles’ name [Acts 1:13 & 26], again showing that heaven is not just for God’s chosen nation, Israel, but for the church as well [Revelation 4:4]. For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord [Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13], who believes on Jesus and Him crucified [John 3:16], whose name is found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 13:8, 20:15 & 21:27], the redeemed, the forgiven will be saved and enter these gates with thanksgiving [Psalm 100:4].

The wall will be high, speaking of the wealth and splendor and might of God. The gates attended by angels–those beings who never faltered in their reverence for and worship of the Most High. Just as everything was perfectly prepared in anticipation for our arrival nearly 6,000 years ago on Day 6 of the Creation [Genesis 1], so is heaven perfectly prepared and ready to receive us back into the arms of our loving Father God [Luke 15:20-24 & 32].

Have you been made new? Will you enter the gates of the New Jerusalem with eternal thanksgiving? Or the lake of fire with eternal lament?

KCS

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Fire Fall

“This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth–Gog and Magog–to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Revelation 20:5b-10

See the source imageIf there is a first resurrection, then there must also be a second resurrection. Later in this same chapter [Revelation 20:11-15] a second resurrection is described, though not so named. It occurs when the dead are raised at the white throne judgment. These dead will be judged for their deeds, and, their names not being found in the Book of Life, will be cast into the lake of burning sulfur with Satan for all eternity–the second death.

Chronologically, the millennial reign, first resurrection, Satan’s doom and second resurrection and death are difficult to pinpoint within the rest of the end time narrative. On one hand, the saints as judges comes after the antichrist [Revelation 13 & 16:2 & 10-11] because it includes those who resisted his reign [Revelation 20:4]. On the other hand, when Satan is released, he gathers the nations for battle [Revelation 21:8] just as is done for the battle of Armageddon [Revelation 16:14-16]. So is this a second battle after the millennial reign, or is scripture showing zoomed-in-and-out pieces of the end times timeline as it did with the Creation account?

More importantly are the key players–Gog and Magog. First mentioned in Ezekiel 38 & 39, Magog was a descendant of Japheth son of Noah and was prophesied to be joined by Cush and Put, descendants of Ham son of Noah. These two Gentile lineages here represent the wayward world, standing for one final rebellion against God.

In true Satan counterfeit fashion, the armies that battle God will number as many as the sand on the seashore–a number equivalent to the promised descendants of Abraham [Genesis 22:17; Hebrews 11:12]. They will march on God’s people–originally the line of Shem son of Noah, though now including all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ [John 3:16].

As the adversary encircles the holy city–counterfeit to the Israelites marching around Jericho to take hold of the Promised Land–fire falls and consumes them. A fire to which the generations offered their children in direct opposition to God [Leviticus 18:21 & 2 Kings 23:10, et al; Jeremiah 19:15]. A fire in which Christ stood with Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah [Daniel 3:25]. A fire that washes everyone who stands against God to their eternal demise with the father of deception, Satan.

Regardless of when the 1,000 years occurs and whether or not all believers will be resurrected to live through it, our citizenship is the most important thing. Is your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Have you accepted Jesus’ redemption of your heavenly citizenship?

KCS

With Eyes on Eternity

“I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.)” Revelation 20:4-5a

See the source imageThese judges’ thrones were prophesied since the time of Daniel [Daniel 7:9]. Though all authority in heaven and earth belongs to Jesus [Matthew 28:18], He gives the authority to sit in judgment over Satan, his antichrist and his unholy prophet, to those martyred for their faith [Revelation 6:9 & 20:4]. Like a jury for the Holy Judge, those who hold true to their faith even to the point of death, show themselves worthy to render this final verdict with Christ [Daniel 7:26-27].

They did not give in to the threat of physical death, because they understood the bigger picture of eternity.

The millennial reign of Christ mentioned here is the same duration of Satan’s prison sentence, locked in the Abyss, before his final doom in the lake of burning sulfur.

According to this passage, only martyrs get the blessing of being raised to rule and reign with Christ during this millennium. It seems to clearly state here that other believers who have died will remain dead until after this time has passed. However, scripture often indicates that when we die, we go straight to heaven–to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord [Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:8]. So is this an inconsistency in scripture?

Not at all.

This seems to be an example where the English translation misconstrues the meaning of the original language. In the Greek, the conjunction kaiand–comes between the phrases describing the martyrs and those resisting the beast. Meaning that this is a list of more than one group of people, not a continuing description attributed to only the martyrs.

The church of Smyrna was encouraged to hold on–through testing and suffering, imprisonment, persecution and even martyrdom–and they would not be affected by this second death, the lake of fire [Revelation 2:10-11 & 20:14]. Not everyone would be martyred, but the victorious–everyone who held firm to their faith through whatever trials came their way–would be counted with those who gave their lives as the ultimate expression of faith.

Are you living victoriously by standing firm in your faith? Do you live with your eyes fixed on eternity?

KCS

And So It Was, Is and Is to Come

“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.’ The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: ‘Amen, Hallelujah!’ Then a voice came from the throne, saying: ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!” Revelation 19:1-5

See the source imageAs in a refrain from a song, the praise we heard when we first entered the heavenly throne room repeats itself here. This time, the multitude [Revelation 5:12-13, 7:9-17 & 11:15] shouts the psalmist’s invitation for all to join in the praise–hallelujah!–most often translated, Praise the Lord.

And why is the multitude praising God?

For salvation, which is found by grace alone through faith alone in the person of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross [Ephesians 2:8; John 3:16].

For who He is, God. In Him alone is true glory–magnificence, true beauty, high renown and honor. In Him alone is true power–omniscience, omnipotence, all-seeing, wisdom and sovereignty–which he exercises in grace, mercy and love for us. He alone is truth. He alone is the just judge who will weigh the hearts of people [1 Samuel 16:7; Daniel 5:25-27; Hebrews 4:12]. He alone is able to stand against the false religion and systems of this world and bring them to naught, upholding the faith of those He has redeemed, those who have laid down their earthly lives for Him [Revelation 6:9-10].

We come full circle back to the throne room introduction [Revelation 4] where we were first introduced to the twenty-four elders–representative of Old and New Testament believers–and the four living creatures–the living and active throne of God Himself. At the praise of the multitudes, these who continually worship the Lord fall onto their faces more deeply humbled and thankful for all that God is and all that He has done.

And just as they exclaimed, Amen, when Jesus was found worthy to open the seven-sealed scroll, so here the exclaim, Amen, once again, confirming the right-hearted praise from God’s people. Amen. So be it. The English is bankrupt here, because so be it only renders a sense of future completion, where in actuality, the subject of this praise has already been accomplished from the very beginning. Amen should be better translated as three parts in our language to convey the fullest understanding–So has it been, So it is and So it will continually be–reflecting the true nature of God.

Then God’s throne itself echoes the call to praise to the multitude of God’s servants who are now in the new heaven and the new earth for all eternity.

When this day comes, will you be counted among the faithful servants around God’s throne?

KCS

 

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?

The Uninhabited Place

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.” Revelation 12:13-14

Image result for wildernessBy God’s mighty hand and under Moses’ leadership, the Israelites left Egypt, crossed the parted Red Sea and arrived at Mt. Sinai in the desert. It was here, just before the giving of the ten commandments, that God said to Israel, You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself [Exodus 19:4]. The desert-care timeline of a time, times and a half time echoes the interpretation of Daniel’s four-beast-dream [Daniel 7:25] in which the beast represents world government and each body part represents an historically specific empire or kingdom.

Again, Satan, furious over his banishment, prowls across the earth seeking whom he may devour, steal, kill and destroy [John 10:10; 1 Peter 5:18]. He pursued Israel–the woman in this allegory and the line through which the promised seed would come [Genesis 3:15]–but God takes care of her in a desert place. The same desert through which the Israelites wandered? Or perhaps the same one in which Jesus was tempted by the devil?

Many scholars study passages such as this to try to discern deeper meanings and correlate to historical timelines. This is a good thing. It is also good to remember that while we may be able to draw human conclusions about such things, we are reading an apocalyptic book filled with End Times prophecies. In it we will find a reversal of sin through to a new Creation. So it is also possible that the governmental representations in this historical allegory may happen again in the future [Ecclesiastes 3:15]. Not because of some cosmic deja vu, but in God’s perfect plan of redemption to restore His beloved Creation to its original intent.

It is also good not to get hung up on debates over exact interpretations of what the fulfilled prophecies will look like or when they will come to pass. Rather, understanding the spiritual significance–the role of Israel and Satan in the history of humankind and the eternal perspective that this overview provides–is key.

Like Israel, God promises that those who wait on Him will renew their strength and rise up on eagle’s wings [Isaiah 40:31]. The desert place was originally translated as a wilderness, a place without inhabitants, not a place without water or flora. Many times, God calls us to walk where no one around us dares to walk, to prepare like we’re going to live forever, but live like there’s no tomorrow.

Are you in the desert place even now? Are you waiting on Him for renewed strength no matter where you are on your spiritual journey?

The Long War Between God and Satan–Part 1

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” Revelation 12:7-9

Image result for satan falling as a star to earthIn the verses just before this passage, we read how Satan set himself up as God[Revelation 12:3; Isaiah 14:12-14] and then tried to stop God’s plan of redemption–Jesus–from being born [Revelation 12:4; Exodus 1:22; Matthew 2:16].

Satan, however, was not strong enough to carry out his boasts about being his own god. He was not strong enough, and no one could be strong enough, to stand against the Lord of hosts and King of Kings, God Almighty and His heavenly hosts [Revelation 12:7].

His claims about himself were treasonous and started a war in heaven. God versus Satan. A war that Satan cannot possibly and will never win.

The archangel Michael–who protects Israel and who will deliver her from the tribulation, the loud anguish, of the last days [Daniel 12:1]–leads the heavenly hosts in the battle against the first false god, Satan, and his fallen angels [Revelation 12:7].

Satan could not even stand against the strength of his fellow angel let alone God, and he and his followers are cast to the earth [Isaiah 14:15; Luke 10:18]. He styles himself a prince among men [John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2], because he deceived Eve and Adam in the garden, tempting them with the same lie he baited the angels–you can be your own god–and they believed him and disobeyed God [Genesis 3:1-7]. This original sin in the Fall of Man, therefore, revoked mankind’s heavenly citizenship. We estranged ourselves from God and each must choose to submit to his lordship in their lives in order to reinstate that citizenship.

But Satan is a liar and the father of lies [John 8:44]. He is a deceiver [Revelation 12:8, 20:8 & 10] and a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour [1 Peter 5:8]. And he has no intention of peacefully accepting the consequence for his treason. He will not go quietly to the fires of hell that are reserved for him and the angels that he led astray [Revelation 20:3 & 10].

No, Satan’s strategy is to take as many people as possible with him to his eternal punishment. Misery loves company. And he hates that we human beings have the opportunity to be redeemed. To make ourselves right with God as he can never do. So in this long war between God and Satan, Satan has only two tactics: 1) make believers apostate [that is steal or prevent faith in God from developing; John 8:44; Revelation 12:8]; or 2) kill off those who believe in God so that he can be more effective in achieving tactic #1 [Exodus 1:22; 1 Peter 5:8].

And the sad truth is, many refuse to acknowledge God as God. Many shake a fist at God and flagrantly renounce any claim on heavenly citizenship. Many will indeed follow Satan into the pit of hell, the place reserved for the devil and his followers [Matthew 25:41].

And it hurts God’s heart. He does not want anyone to choose to perish [2 Peter 3:9]. And make no mistake, it is 100% our choice where we spend eternity. God does not want any to have to pay the wages of death for their own sin, but when we refuse to acknowledge Him as God and to accept His redemption in our lives–the sacrifice of Jesus Christ–then we choose to accept Satan’s lie and to follow him straight to the pit of hell.

Despite Satan’s lie, you can never be your own god. Either you recognize God as God, or you accept Satan as lord of your life–because anything other than God’s ways are Satan’s ways.

There is no third option.

Which authority have you chosen to submit your life to?