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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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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?

 

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?

Christophany

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to writ; but I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.” Revelation 10:1-4

Image result for feet standing on water and landThere are times in scripture where the word angel is actually referring to a Christophany–an appearance of Christ.

The mighty angel described here in John’s vision seems to have many characteristics of a Christophany: robed in a cloud like the ascending Jesus as last seen by His disciples [Acts 1:9]; a rainbow above His head like the emerald rainbow that shines around the throne of God [Revelation 4:3]; face like the sun like the transfigured appearance of Jesus [Matthew 17:2] and the initial appearance of Jesus in John’s vision [Revelation 1:16]; and legs like fiery pillars also from the beginning of this same vision [Revelation 1:15].

This angel is holding a little scroll, and when we last saw Jesus, He was opening the seven-sealed scroll in heaven, only now the scroll is open.

This angel stands on both the sea and land–Creation Day 3, at which Jesus was present and in which He participated. He shouts with a lion’s roar–Jesus being the lion of Judah [Revelation 5:5]–and this causes seven thunderous voices to speak–thunder being the voice that emanates from God’s throne [Revelation 4:5] and seven being the number of God’s sevenfold spirit. The same number of seals on the scroll, each standing for a manifest witness.

John wants so bad to write down what the thundering voices read from the scroll, just like we really want to read what God said in his vision. However, God instructs him not to record and share these words. Just like He instructed Daniel not to share the words of the scroll from a similar vision because it was meant for the end times [Daniel 12:4-9].

As human beings, we often like to know everything about everything if we can. No surprises, thank you very much. However, there are things beyond our understanding and things that are not meant for us in this life. Whatever vastly important writing fills up both sides of this seven-sealed scroll [Revelation 5:1]–symbolic of a will in the Roman culture–it is not ours to know at present.

There are so many things that we can know, but only one that we need–Jesus. His name is life and truth. We are His heirs [Galatians 3:29] if we have accepted Him as Lord of our life. So we can be sure that whatever is written on the scroll will be revealed if and when it becomes pertinent to us.

Until then, are you holding onto your faith? Are you walking with and growing closer to Jesus every day? Would you recognize a Christophany in your own life if you saw it?

Locust Storm

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those  people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” Revelation 9:1-4

Image result for locustAfter the eagle interlude, angel number five takes a deep breath and blows his trumpet, adding to the earthly discord wreaked by the first four. At the blast of his horn, a single star–sometimes referring to angels in scripture [Job 38:7; Daniel 8:10; Revelation 1:20 & 12:4]–is given the key to the Abyss.

Used here, Abyss is a Greek term meaning very deep or bottomless. It was believed in ancient times to be a place beneath the earth’s surface where all demons were confined. The Hebrew word equivalent refers back to the deeps of the earliest recorded moments of the earth [Genesis 1:2] and the springs of the deep that loosed Noah’s flood [Genesis 7:11; Proverbs 8:28]. The legion of demons in Luke 8:31 begged Jesus not to send them into this Abyss.

This should be warning enough for Christians not to dabble in séances and other rites or activities that claim to call demons forth. Because it is not just a game, it opens up the deep and it opens up our spirit to the forces of darkness.

John records such vivid imagery of the opening of this Abyss. Smoke pouring out of a large furnace, like the chimney stacks of factories or nuclear plants that cloud the horizon for miles. Smoke enough to screen the sun and the entire sky like a stormy, black-clouded day. The eighth Exodus plague bursts back onto the scene with locusts pouring out of the smoke and raining onto every inch of earth [Exodus 10:1-20].

But this is not your ordinary locust. This is a supernatural hybrid of locust with scorpion power–aka venomous barbs–and the express mission of stinging people, rather than destroying the vegetation [as locusts normally do]. All people, that is, except for those sealed by God [Revelation 7:1-8].

Interestingly, these seals were initially given after the opening of the sixth of seven scroll seals [Revelation 6:1-8:5]. At the time, God expressly forbid the land and sea harming angel to touch anything until He sealed the foreheads of His people. Here in Revelation 9, we see that the locust-scorpion hybrids are commanded not to harm the land at all and not to touch anyone who has this seal. God’s mercies are at work.

Later on in the tribulation, Satan will counterfeit this seal with his own version–the mark of the beast [Revelation 13:16-17]. As Christians, we do not need to worry about whether or not we will relent and take this mark, because it is clear by this timeline that we will either have already been raptured or received God’s seal on our foreheads. And if we’ve been sealed by God, taking the mark will not be an option.

Do you worry about end times events? Study the Word to understand them better. Understanding can dispel many fears. Trusting God will quell them all. Do you trust Him as you love Him–with all your heart, and with all your strength and with all your mind?

 

Preternatural Phenomena

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.” Revelation 7:1

Image result for wind and sunBefore Jesus–the slain Lamb–opens the seventh and final seal on the scroll, there is a heavenly time out to prepare for what the seal will bring. Chapter seven shows us behind the scenes of this time out.

Just like Daniel, John is shown the four winds of heaven in a prophecy of the end to come [Daniel 7:2]. But in Revelation, John sees four angels who stand in the cardinal directions of the earth, keeping these winds from blowing across the earth.

It’s interesting to consider the science of this. There are times when geographical pockets go prolonged periods without winds, but there is never a day where wind is absent from the entire planet all at once. Because the rotation and orbit of the earth, together with the heating and cooling created by lit and darkened areas, churn up the winds.

The book of Joshua explains a similar preternatural and impossible phenomena–the sun stood still in the sky for a full day after it had already been in the sky for almost a full day [Joshua 10:13]. And during King Hezekiah’s reign, the sun also reversed its course by several hours [2 Kings 20:8-11]. Knowing that the earth revolves around the sun to create the appearance the of sun moving around the earth from our perspective, means that in each of these instances it was the earth–by God’s command–that froze in place and reversed.

Similarly, for the winds to be held back, the world would probably stop its revolutions at God’s commands so that the natural processes that create wind would cease. However, that is not to say that is what will happen. God is certainly able to keep the world in motion and simply stop the winds. How ever He chooses to carry out this prophecy, the bottom line is that a windless world is a drudgery for all the living, and one that will wreak havoc on the earth itself.

I read many school articles and writings growing up that talked about the sun blowing up or another comet/meteor hitting earth or the ice caps melting and flooding us all out. Yet God’s Word is clear, everything will continue as God created it–day and night, summer and winter, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat–until He brings the end of these things [Genesis 8:22]. So when we read scientific predictions, just like when we hear so-called Christians trying to pin down an exact date for the return of Christ, we shouldn’t be afraid.

The Bible tells us exactly how the end will come. And even when we see the signs, we do not need to fear–only trust God our Creator, Protector and Provider who Himself is Love and Goodness, Holy and True.

Do you believe that God holds all things in His hand? Do you believe that He holds and cares for you personally? Do you trust God no matter what happens in the world around you?