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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 True Triumphal Entry

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10

Image result for People Waving Palm Branches Palm Sunday JesusSome of the reason that the 144,000 number in the previous passage creates disagreement among biblical scholars is that it seems to limit who and how many can get into heaven. In reading the larger context of this next portion of scripture though, it seems clear that–like the twenty-four elders of Revelation 4–we are again seeing representation of both the Old and New Testament faithful.

This great multitude is uncountable, like the stars in the sky or sand in the seashore spiritual descendants promised to Abraham [Genesis 22:17; Galatians 3:29; Hebrews 11:12]. See how people from the whole earth–and likely throughout all of history, though time is not mentioned–stand before God the Father, who is on His throne. See Jesus, the Lamb and Son of God, is there before the people too.

It is a white robed multitude, the victorious by grace through faith [Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 3:5] from all the earth for all time. And they hold palm branches and proclaim the gospel, the good news. God is alive. He is on the throne of the whole universe–everything that ever was, or is or will be. He alone holds the power of salvation, and He has brought it through the perfect sacrifice of His spotless Lamb, the Son of God who laid down His earthly life to atone–make right–for our sins.

Do you see the heavenly original brought to light from an earlier scripture? The gospels record an earthly Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem [Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 12]. Here the people laid down their cloaks on the road and waved palm branches, heralding Jesus with shouts of Hosanna–meaning O Lord save us. The disciples thought they had backstage passes to the beginning of the kingdom of God in their day, especially when all of Jerusalem turned out to hail their Rabbi as king of the Jews, acknowledging only His ability to bring victory and deliverance from the Romans.

But Jesus knew better. His time had not yet come. The people’s hearts were not yet ready to truly worship and serve Him alone as King. They didn’t fully understand Who He Was and what His heavenly purpose was.

And now that John shows us this moment in heaven when only those who have accepted Jesus as Lord–who have laid down their lives for Him just as He did for us, who have stood faithful and forgiven to the end, who recognize no other as God–wave the palm branch, acknowledging God’s victory and deliverance for all time over sin and death. The true triumphal entry was not Jesus’ donkey ride through Jerusalem, but the day we stand in heaven acknowledging Him Lord. It is our return to perfect communion with God for all eternity. What an incredible day that will be!

Will you be numbered among the white robed multitude? Do you bow your life to Christ alone?

How To Study Puzzling Bible Passages

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, from the tribe of Zebulon 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.” Revelation 7:4-8

Image result for puzzleI’m going to be honest, I’m not exactly sure the significance of the numbers in this passage. But when I come across a piece of scripture that perplexes me, it is exciting to start hunting through God’s Word for understanding. The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself. It makes the simple wise and enlightens the eyes [Psalm 19:7-8].

Obviously, 144,000 is the product of 12,000 sealed from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. But my question is why 12,000 from each tribe? I’ve searched through the commentaries to see what others have said and the agreement is inconclusive. This is a point of Scripture on which we can pray for God’s understanding and that, if it still pricks our hearts to know, we can ask Him about in heaven .

A few thoughts to consider when delving into the Word to understand this matter:

1) The tribes are given out of order and two are omitted, but there are still twelve total–so in all things we can know that God’s purposes prevail [Proverbs 19:21];

2) These same 144,000 are mentioned again in Revelation 14 with the Lamb–so we can read within the larger context of Revelation to see if anything else can be disclosed about who and why;

3) There are many Old Testament passages that refer to the twelve tribes in list fashion, often with social/spiritual commentary about the state of each [i.e. Genesis 49, Numbers 26 and Deuteronomy 33 to name a few]. I’m particularly interested to study through these scriptures to see what light they can shed on the puzzling Revelation 7 passage, because they may give insight into the order rearrangement and omissions mentioned above. But also because they give snapshots of the tribes over distant points of time and place.

In Genesis 49, the patriarch Jacob is blessing his sons, the tribal heads, on his death bed. Blessing in this instance meaning that he speaks to the character and lets them know what it will produce in their life, so not always a positive. While the Deuteronomy 33 passage is Moses blessing the twelve tribes before they part ways–him to his death and them to possess the Promised Land. This blessing is as it sounds, good things spoken on behalf of each tribe, good things spoken with future blessing in mind.

4) One other factor not to be overlooked in interpretation of difficult Scripture passages–the Holy Spirit. As I puzzled over this the last few days and looked for other passages that might give insight, the Holy Spirit spoke to me about the equality of the number 12,000.

No matter what each tribe’s patriarch behaved like or the decisions he made, no matter what the particular history of each Israelite tribe throughout scripture and beyond, God does not show favoritism [Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25]. He forgives each of us equally. He loved each tribe equally. No matter their position or their history, when they devoted themselves to God they inherited the same measure of blessing.

What’s your Bible study routine? Do you dig deep into passages that perplex you or skip over them? Do you have sound Bible study tools and practices?

Poured Out for God

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.” Revelation 6:9-11

Image result for drink offeringThe fifth seal is a reprieve from the devastation of the last three. This time, the living creatures that make up God’s throne are silent. No horse and rider is sent to the earth. Instead, we see an altar in heaven, just like there was an altar in the Tabernacle and Temple of the Old Testament. Now the altar was where the lifeblood of the sacrifice was poured out, and this was done at the base of the altar.

So here, under the base of the heavenly altar, God recognizes those who have laid down their lives for their faith in Him, the martyred. In John’s vision, God portrays the martyrs’ personal sacrifice as the origin of the earthly sacrificial system. This system foreshadowed the coming savior and taught people to see their need for a savior, but it also foreshadowed the call to daily take up our cross and follow Jesus. Lay it all on the line for our faith. Pour out our lives to the glory and honor of God alone.

However, just like the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin, neither can our own blood wash away our sins. Only Jesus’ blood can take away sin. So we do not seek to be martyred. It is not a requirement for heavenly admission any more than regular church attendance or daily Bible reading. Again, by God’s grace, only our faith–believing on the Lord Jesus Christ–will bring eternal life [Ephesians 2:8-9]. There is nothing we can do in our power, including choosing martyrdom, that can open the gates of heaven to us.

These martyrs recognize God for who He truly is and address Him as such–Sovereign. Lord. Holy. True. They speak to Him about avenging their blood–the injustice created by sin that one should die for faith in the One True God–because vengeance belongs to God alone [Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19]. And God gives them the promised white robes of victors [Revelation 3:5], but He tells them to wait.

Be patient. Jesus is coming soon [Revelation 1:7, 22:7, 12, 20], but with God a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day [2 Peter 3:8]. My kids put in this perspective for me the other day when they were thinking of insect lifespans. They said, “What if each minute was a year? Then we’d only live 120 minutes–2 hours!” And so earthly time is for God. What feels like years, decades, centuries and millennia to us, are nanoseconds to God.

Jesus is coming soon. Judgment to avenge the blood of the martyrs will also be coming soon.

Do you recognize, as the martyrs do, that God alone is the Sovereign Lord? Do you believe that He is holy and asks us to abstain from the sinfulness of the world, to set our lives apart for Him? Do you believe that He is true and will come again soon, avenging the martyrs, just as He said?

 

Come and Truly See

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, ‘Come!” Revelation 6:1

Image result for inviting handRemember that John is watching a vision of things to come [Revelation 1:19]. These book of Revelation visions–along with some other scriptures–are commonly referred to as End Times Prophecy. In his vision, John is in heaven’s throne room with God Himself and all the heavenly hosts. The Lamb at the center of it all is Jesus, still in appearance of having been slain [Revelation 5:6]. He is the only one worthy to open up the seven seals of the scroll in God’s right hand [Revelation 5:7-9], so herein He begins to do just that.

When Jesus runs a finger under the loose scroll end to break the first waxen seal, He’d already beckoned John to come closer and see what happens [Revelation 4:1]. God intends for John to accurately write what His Spirit is showing Him about the future.

This is a very intimate look at what the Bible means when it tells us that all scripture is God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16]. Not every biblical author is recorded as having had a revelation like John did, but we can be assured that God, who spoke the world into perfect existence, also breathed–that is inspired–His word perfectly into being through His chosen instruments.

Throughout history, Satan also uses willing instruments, people, to persuade believers away from the faith on a key issue like the origin of the world and the origin and maintenance of the Bible. As Jesus appealed to the seven churches, hold firm to your faith in God’s Word [Ephesians 6:10-18]. If ever doubt creeps in, it will come from outside of scriptures and should be countered by getting back into them. God’s Word is unchanging and eternal [Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:25], it is truth [John 17:17] and life [John 6:63]. And to those who are victorious in holding to His truth, God will give eternal life [Revelation 2:7,11,17, & 26-28; 3:5,12 & 21].

God is still alive–always has been and always will be [Revelation 4:8]. His throne is alive and, just as it beckoned to John on the aisle of Patmos to come closer to God and see, so it calls to the hearts of all people in every nation throughout the history of the world. Will you answer the call from God’s throne? Will you come nearer to God? Will you allow Him to open your eyes that you might truly see?

Continually Moved

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:8-10

Image result for Offering IncenseJesus alone, the slain Lamb and Lion of Judah, is able to take the scroll from God’s hand. And when He does, it causes all of heaven to break out in worship. They fall prostrate, which seems to be the most natural response to recognizing God the Son and God the Father for who they are. And then they sing a song that embodies the reason for why they find Jesus so worthy.

He is worthy because He can take God’s sealed document from His hand and open it so that all can know what it says. And no one else can.

He is worthy because He died on the cross for our sins, redeeming–that is regaining possession of–every human life, just as was promised in the garden [Genesis 3:15]. Taking us back from death, hell and the grave so that we can be reconciled to–or our relationship made right with–God the Father. And no one else could have done it.

He is worthy because He has given to us His righteousness to put on [Galatians 3:27] in place of our filthy, sinful rags [Isaiah 64:6]. And no one else can do this for us either.

He is worthy because by this righteousness purchased for us on the cross, Jesus restored our heavenly citizenship, making us into the kingdom of heaven that God always intended us to be. And not just that, but priests–a group selected by God because they chose to be set apart for God, a purified people who ministered in God’s presence. Furthermore, this kingdom of priests will reign on the earth [1 Peter 2:9]. Not over each other, but like Adam was created to steward the earth [Genesis 1:26], Creation will once again be subject to those made righteous through Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And Satan will no longer have dominion over the world [Ephesians 2:2].

This praise is punctuated with more heavenly Temple original artefacts. Bronze bowls were used in the earthly Tabernacle and Temple for sprinkling blood, water and possibly oil as prescribed in the sacrificial rites. However, incense–a special blend of four spices that was only to be used in the Temple worship–was kept burning before the Lord day and night as a pleasing aroma [Exodus 30:8 & 34-38].

But this incense was a copy of the original. Our prayer is the incense that should rise to God without ceasing [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. It is a fragrant reminder to Him of our faith, love and desire to commune with Him.

In your worship of Jesus, have you ever been moved to physically bow before Him as Lord of your life? Do you lift up your prayers without ceasing to Him alone who is able to hear and to answer? Are you continually moved to honor God for who He is?

The Seven-Sealed Scroll

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I saw in the right hand of Him who sits on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’ But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:1-5

Image result for wax sealJesus, God the Son, held seven stars in His right hand [Revelation 1:16] which represented the angels of the seven churches. Here God the Father held a scroll that had so much written on it the author had to use the backside as well as the more customary inside of the scroll for writing. A similarly filled scroll is mentioned in Ezekiel 2:9-10, which the prophet is instructed to eat. That scroll was said to contain all of the laments and woes, and it tasted very bitter to the prophet.

The Revelation 5 scroll is also sealed with seven seals. Official documents were often sealed by pressing a signet ring into a circle of clay or wax to keep the edge of the scroll from opening. Only the intended recipient was permitted to break this seal. In Roman times, wills were often witnessed and sealed by seven people. And a will speaks to inheritance [Galatians 3:29; Ephesians 3:6; et al.].

While inheritance often has a positive connotation, here we will find that the inheritance is double-edged.

But before John learns this, he hears that no human being that has ever lived is the intended recipient of this scroll. And this upsets John. If God Almighty is holding a scroll with His words written on it, then–so faithful and loving is the disciple that–John wants to know what His word is.

An elder comforts John, pointing out the Lion of Judah [praise] and the Root of David [beloved] who has been victorious. Jesus, both fully God and fully man, is the only one found worthy to open the scroll. Being fully God, He was sinless. But being fully man, He died for all of our sins, taking on the wages of the world. Being fully man, He died. But being fully God, He defeated hell and the grave, rising from the dead.

His victory is far above any human victory in life, and yet we share in His victory [Ephesians 2:5-7]. Through this shared victory, He is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll on behalf of the whole world.

Which side of the double-edged sword will you experience in eternity? Have you accepted Jesus’ victory in your life? If so, do you live in a way that acknowledges His worthiness alone?