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Head and Hand and Knees Will Bow

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.” Revelation 17:4b-6a

Image result for drinking from golden wine cupBabylon–that is false religion–masquerades as royalty. Wearing purple and scarlet and fine jewels, all symbols of wealth, she intoxicates the nations with her temptation and is herself intoxicated by the blood of those faithful to God who are killed in her name. She flaunts a golden goblet, which a king would have used to drink wine, but her cup is full of all things morally offensive and spiritually reprehensible.

In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to bind His Word to their foreheads as a form of remembering both His identity and their identity in Him [Deuteronomy 6:8]. Then in the book of Revelation, we see that God seals 144,000 Jews with His mark on their forehead [7:3-4]. Satan counterfeits this seal with the mark of the beast which can be taken on either the forehead or the right hand, which also calls back to Deuteronomy 6:8.

A forehead tattoo is clearly visible to everyone else. It is an identification mark. You wouldn’t put anything on your forehead that you didn’t want anyone else to know about you. And the right hand is the hand of honor. So those who accept the mark of the beast, identify themselves with Satan and his antichrist and they bring honor to them both by wearing their mark. False religion–Babylon herein–aligns herself with her true father, Satan. And no one can serve two masters [Matthew 6:24]. Either you choose to honor God or you choose to give His honor to someone else and defy God in this life.

But one day, every knee will bow to God [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10-11]. Even those who spend their whole earthly existence shaking their fist at our merciful, loving Savior, or putting their fingers in their ears and chanting la, la, la, la, la–hear no God, see no God. Like that will make the truth of His reality go away.

With whom do you choose to identify? Who is honored by your life?

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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?

Preparing for Victory

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths. They are blameless.” Revelation 14:1-5

Image result for Mount Zion in the BibleZion. The holy mountain that served first as a fortress before the Israelites established the city of Jerusalem. Later, it became synonymous with Jerusalem itself. And in Hebrews 12:22-24 as well as here in Revelation, it connotes the heavenly Jerusalem in which God and His people will live for eternity.

So it is not surprising that John sees the Lamb, Jesus, standing on Mount Zion with the 144,00 who were sealed [Revelation 7:4-8 & 9:4]. We learn a little more about this group. Previously we saw that they consist of 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. Then we saw that they were protected from the hybrid locust-scorpions that came out of the Abyss.

Now we learn that they kept themselves pure from women. This does not mean that the group is made up entirely of unmarried men. Not at all. Before Israel used to go into battle, the soldiers would keep themselves from their women for a time to prepare [Deuteronomy 23:10; 1 Samuel 21:5; 2 Samuel 11:11]. Now in Revelation, we see that Babylon is portrayed as a woman, a prostitute really, that represents all of the false religion in the world [Revelation 17:1-5]. And that those who remain faithful to God are like a pure spouse [Revelation 19:7 & 21:2, 9]. So the 144,000 are Jews living in the last days, the end times, who refuse to participate in the false religions of the world, regardless of the persecutions it invites.

Heaven opens up on this scene, with a roar of rushing waters [Revelation 1:15, 4:5 & 22:1] and peals of thunder. The sound of harpists followed by the 144,000 singing a new song, signifies the celebration of victory in battle [Exodus 15:20]. And they sing this song in heaven before the four living creatures and the elders that surround God’s throne [Revelation 4:4 & 6]. None else in heaven will be capable of learning their song, because none else can understand what is like to come through the end times faithful to God. Just as the four-living creatures sing a different song than the twenty-four elders [Revelation 4], who sing a different song than the angels [Revelation 5], who sing a different song than the great multitude in white robes [Revelation 7], so the song of praise that the 144,000 will offer up will be a personal testimony to God’s work in their life. A story that no one else can sing, because no one else has lived it.

The amazing thing about this passage of scripture, is that it will lead up to the final battle–Armageddon [Revelation 16:16]. Many speculate about and fear having to live through such a battle. But Revelation shows us how calm and cool Jesus and his army are while preparing for Armageddon. They’re standing on the fortress. They’re keeping themselves pure as they would for any routine battle. And they’re already celebrating the victory. Before the battle even ensues, they’ve won with Christ, and they know it.

Are you living in victory today? Are you living a life of spiritual purity, garrisoned on the mountain of Christ, celebrating in advance the victory that He has already won?

The Consummate Charlatan

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.” Revelation 13:14-18

Image result for pasquino statueThe unholy prophet has already established himself as a deceiver, a liar, a consummate charlatan. Everyone on earth will be deceived by him. He will find a way to make an image of the first beast speak and kill dissenters–possibly through the ancient literary means of hollowing out the image and hiding people or mechanisms inside, or using ventriloquism and booby traps. Whatever his tactics, they will seem so real that the earth will bow to the unholy trinity–prophet, antichrist and dragon.

The only possible way for everyone to be fooled is for no one to be holding onto the truth [2 Thessalonians 2:9-10]. And this passage tells us that there may be those who refuse to worship, whether that be because of truth or principal they will be killed for their refusal.

This is where the beastly trinity really distinguishes themselves as the antithesis of the adorable triune Godhead. Whereas God created us with free will and allows each to choose whom he will serve, the beast will kill everyone who refuses to serve him. Whereas God mercifully seals those who have chosen to serve Him in order to protect them, Satan paranoically forces his followers to be sealed under threat of starvation–to protect his own self-serving, temporal authority.

Such seals were seen in the practice of branding slaves or enemy soldiers, stamping official documents, the sign of the cross on new believers’ foreheads, and in the emperor worship of Rome. But it is the ultimate sign of disavowing God in the days of the antichrist, the final nail in the proverbial coffin. Not to mention just one more counterfeit in Satan’s uncreative bag of lies. God instructed His chosen people to bind His commands on their hands and on their foreheads as a way of impressing godly instruction on their children [Deuteronomy 6:8].

Finally, the number riddle follows patterns of puzzles that John’s readers in the seven churches would have recognized and possibly have been able to actually solve. Often numbers and ancient alphabets were used in place of one another to create cipher codes for such brain teasers. However, the number could also represent a trinity [three] of falling short of the glory of God’s [Romans 3:23] perfect number, the number of completion and the spirit of God [Revelation 3:1, 4:5, and 5:6], 7.

Whatever the actual number significance, the implications are clear–we don’t want to be around to accept or reject the mark of the beast. We want to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and serve Him only. We want to choose to love Him as He loves us.

But it is a choice.

Whom have you chosen to serve with your life?

Unraveling the Mystery

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, ‘There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” Revelation 10:5-7

Image result for I Pledge HandOaths are not common in our modern American culture. We often see them only in pomp and circumstantial events like presidential inaugurations and courtroom witness stands. But once upon a time, oaths were common, everyday practice. You see an oath is basically a weighty promise. Today people sign contracts and all kinds of other paperwork acts to affirm their intentions. If broken, contracts can bring legal action against the person who failed to honor the commitment.

In the Bible, the right hand–which was used to swear the oath–carried significance. It embodied the character and authority of the person. Abram raised his right hand and swore on God the Father before the King of Sodom [Genesis 14:22-23]. The song of Moses sings of God raising his right hand to swear on heaven [Deuteronomy 32:40]. When this Christophany lifted his right hand heavenward and swore an oath on God the Father, Creator of All, it packed a power punch into the promise of the Godhead Three-in-One.

After seven seals and six trumpets with an interlude for this angelic Christophany, straddling land and sea, the end will come swiftly–without delay. In the days leading up to the sounding of the seventh trumpet, God’s great mystery will be accomplished.

What is this mystery? During the time of this writing, mystery cults abounded in the Roman provinces, such as Asia Minor where this book circulated. Ephesus notably dealt with the mystery cults which the apostle Paul addressed in his epistle to them. Primarily, the mystery cults claimed to have secret knowledge of the workings of the world, of principalities, and of God Himself. If you weren’t in the cult, you had no hope of understanding the mysteries of the world. But Paul said that God’s great mystery was that the Gentile believers were coheirs with the Jewish believers and that God had always intended it to be that way [Ephesians 1:7-10 & 3:2-6]. A huge shock to the religious devout of that day.

Here in Revelation, however, we read that God’s mystery will be accomplished in the days before the seventh trumpet, which would be days of loud anguish, or certain tribulation. One commentator suggests that this refers to God having won the victory over the forces of evil and reigning forever and ever. Later, this passage seems to confirm this viewpoint [Revelation 10:11].

As believers, apocalyptic literature like this Revelation 10 passage is interesting or maybe even intriguing. We like to read it and consider what it might look like, maybe debate with others about differing ideas. But we do so from a place of considerable comfort, knowing that we enjoy the security of either having been raptured by this point or having been sealed by God. Either way, we have nothing to fear. Many, however, still do not know God or the good news of Jesus Christ. Many still fear this mystery unaware.

Do you know someone who needs to know God? Are you willing to push through your own temporal fears to bring the truth of eternity to them?

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?

The Fire Coals of Forgiveness

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” Revelation 8:1-5

Image result for burning coalsAfter our brief intermission to learn the whereabouts of the sealed and the saints, we return to Jesus opening the seven-sealed scroll [Revelation 5 & 6]. He picks up right where He paused while heaven prepared, the seventh and final seal. He slides His finger under the wax, loosing the last thing holding the scroll together, and all of heaven draws a collective breath, silently holding it to see what will happen next.

Seven angels stand before God’s throne and accept trumpets, which were used of old to announce important events or to signal troops during war.

But before the announcements being, an eighth angel comes to the altar, carrying a golden censer–the firepan used in the Old Testament temple and tabernacle to carry live coals for burning incense. Incense, representing the sweet aroma of praise to God, and the prayers of His people. Both of these mingle in the angel’s hand and waft up to God on His throne.

The censer, or firepan, the angel then fills with live coals and throws it down onto the earth. Where have we heard about live fire coals in the Bible before? Proverbs 25:22 and Romans 12:20 speak about the fire coals of forgiveness. That when we repay the evil that others to do to us with good instead of retaliation, our forgiveness heaps burning coals on their head.

Could it be that God is foreshadowing His vengeance on our behalf [Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19-21]? We are commanded not to judge, because He alone is Judge of all, and we are also told that if we present the truth of God to nonbelievers they may repay us with violence [Matthew 7:5-6]. Those who neither accept our message nor God’s forgiveness, call down the burning coals of their own rejected forgiveness on their heads. This rejection should sadden us, knowing what they will receive in the end, rather than enrage us to the point of seeking revenge in this life. It’s a tragic choice to reject faith in God, but it is every person’s choice to make.

On two other occasions, Revelation shows that peals of thunder, rumblings and flashes of lightning emanate from God’s throne [Revelation 4:5, 11:19]. This fire-coal judgment elicits a grievous response from the Almighty God who does not want any to perish, but all to come to eternal life [2 Peter 3:9]. But it also brings another earthquake–though not the last [Revelation 6:12, 11:13 & 19, & 16:18].

It breaks God’s heart when we choose our destruction, when we reject His love and grace and forgiveness. Does you heart break like God’s when people around you choose sin? Do you understand the seriousness of your own sin? Do you freely forgive those who do you wrong?