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Counterfeit, Counterfeit. What Begins and Ends with Counterfeit?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring–those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” Revelation 12:15-17

Image result for living water imageIn the beginning, God’s spirit hovered a formless and void deep [Genesis 1: 2], the same waters that He separated and from which He called forth dry ground [Genesis 1:9-10]. About 2,000 years later God broke open the springs of the great deep and, working them together with the floodgates of heaven, flooded the whole earth [Genesis 7:11 & 19-20]. He pulled them back so that Noah and his family could begin again.

His word came through the prophet Jeremiah, tell Israel that they have forsaken Me, God, their source of living water [Jeremiah 2:13, 17:13]. Habakkuk was told that the knowledge of the glory of God would fill the earth as waters cover the sea [Habakkuk 2:14]. Jesus is living water [John 4:10-11].

As believers, we have streams of living water flowing from within us [John 7:38]. Ezekiel had a vision of a river flowing from the Temple [Ezekiel 47] that was so wide and so deep no man could swim it [Ezekiel 47:5]. Which, of course, was only a copy and a shadow of the river of life that will flow through the tree of life down the center street of the New Jerusalem in heaven [Revelation 22:1-2].

So of course Satan spews water to try to take out the woman. The devil tries to counterfeit everything that is God’s. But the earth, God’s physical creation, helps God’s chosen nation. To the point that Satan is, once again, furious and stomps off to war against the rest of humankind–well, those who have faith in God anyway. He doesn’t concern himself so much with those who already deny God’s existence or those who have walked away from their faith to pursue worldly pleasure. But if you believe there is a God and you live to honor and glorify Him, then you have a spiritual target on your back. That’s why Ephesians talks about donning the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground in your faith [Ephesians 6:13].

Do you feel attacked? If not, are you actively standing for and sharing your faith? If yes, are you daily donning your armor and taking up your cross to make the stand again and again?

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The Measuring Reed

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, ‘Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there.” Revelation 11:1

Image result for Jordan River ReedsJohn becomes present in his vision again and is told to take measurements. New Testament time readers would have envisioned a bamboo-like cane known as a reed that usually grew to about 20 feet tall. They were straight, light and grew in abundance on the banks of the Jordan so they were a very handy tool. We find similar rods used in the visions in Ezekiel 40 where the Temple is, once again, being measured and in Zechariah 2 in which the city of Jerusalem is measured.

Again, the Ezekiel passage contains a vision given during the Babylonian captivity and a great international upheaval. After prophesying to the exiles that Jerusalem would be sacked and the Temple burned to a pile of rubble, Ezekiel receives a vision of restoration and new life. This Temple measuring is part of the hope that Israel received.

Zechariah’s ministry was to the returned exiles back at home in Jerusalem. He had the joy of prophesying growth into the new life breathing again in the heart of Israel. The measuring line herein showed that Jerusalem would grow until it outgrew itself. Then, only the Lord God of Israel would be able to surround and fortify the city. He Himself would be there protection. However, Zechariah was also given the message that the Messiah would come and be rejected, and then later, that the Messiah would return and be acknowledged as Lord of all by all.

Measuring, then, serves two purposes to show what has been and what will be. To prophesy destruction–a demolition–making way for new construction and new life. So when John is told to measure, we can be sure that God is going to, once again, oversee a heavenly reconstruction project. The earthly Temple, while certainly sacred, was just a copy and a shadow of the real Temple to come in heaven. Heaven will not be limited by earthly measurements, but God wanted the readers of Revelation to wrap their heads around something tangible. Jerusalem would, as it has so many times before, face overwhelming hardship and desecration even, but God already has the renovation plans well in hand. And we can trust Him to do the work that needs to be done. Beyond anything that we could ask or imagine [Ephesians 3:20].

Has God applied His measuring reed to your life? Likely if you’ve read His word and accepted His Holy Spirit, then He has asked you to measure with His intent to renovate your life. Do you trust Him?

Speak Life

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: ‘Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.’ So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, ‘Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’ I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.” Revelation 10:8-11

Image result for eating paperThe thunderous heavenly voice from verse 4 speaks again. This time instead of telling John to seal up words, the voice tells him to prophesy.

First, however–in his vision–he is to approach the Christ-like angel and take the scroll. John, demonstrating a proper fear of the Lord, asks rather than takes in his own power. The angel gladly hands over the scroll, with the command that John is to eat it.

This sounds strange to us. Who would eat a thirty foot roll of parchment paper? But John–in his vision–does just that. The prophet Jeremiah speaks of eating the word of the Lord that came to him, and they were his joy and delight [Jeremiah 15:16]. God also commanded the prophet Ezekiel in a vision to eat a scroll rather than to be hard-hearted and rebellious like the Israelites to whom God was sending him [Ezekiel 2:8-3:3].

Both John and Ezekiel said the scroll tasted sweet like honey, and honey is often the figurative standard in the Bible, indicating just how pleasant something really is. However, the pleasantness may not necessarily end well. In John’s case, for example, his stomach churns in his gut, aching, no doubt. The angel warned him ahead, but he still obeyed the command to eat.

So feeling sick to his stomach, he receives the command to prophesy again. The cross-reference notes in my Bible connect this command to Ezekiel 37:4-9, in which Ezekiel–in a vision–sees a valley of dry bones and is told to prophesy to the bones. He does, and the bones come together and grow back into perfectly formed, healthy human beings. John may be being commanded to speak life into the coming days of the end. The ever-intensifying tribulation will claim a massive death toll, and yet there are those who will find eternal life even now.

The specific command to prophesy concerning many peoples, nations, languages and kings likely means that all of these will bow and acknowledge God as God and Jesus as Lord [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10]. Many before the rapture of the church, and some in the midst of great tribulation. How difficult it will be for them in those days. But how joyous to know that eternal life, free from any more tears or pain or fear of death, is still available during these dark hours [Revelation 21:4].

The word of God is double-edged [Hebrews 4:12], both tasting sweet and leaving that sour feeling in the pit of the stomach. Like our Creator, as humans we don’t want others to have to perish [2Peter 3:9], but many choose this end. Our salvation tastes sweet, while the stubborn refusal of our closest friends and family can sour our stomachs. What a mercy to know that even in the end of the age, God will extend His hand of mercy. He will raise up prophets to speak life into the dry bones of those who will endure the tribulation.

But what if they gave their hearts to Him today? What if you spoke that life to them now?

Seal of Protection

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: ‘Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Revelation 7:2-3

Image result for seal on foreheadDestructive atmospheric calm will come upon the earth, but–just like during the famine of the third seal–the angels are instructed not to allow anyone or anything to be harmed until God’s mercy intervenes on behalf of His people. An angel comes announcing the charge to seal the foreheads of God’s servants.

We see a similar scene in Ezekiel 9. A man dressed in linen with a writing kit is charged to go through Jerusalem and mark the foreheads of the holy–the people who detested idolatry just like God does. The mark was the Hebrew letter taw which had the shape as either an x or a + on the forehead. This charge and carrying out is a pause in the middle of the judgment on the idolaters in Ezekiel just as it is in the world judgment of Revelation.

To authenticate and protect ancient documents, they were folded, tied and a lump of clay pressed over the knot and stamped with a signet ring. This chapter 7 seal is literally God’s name being stamped on the foreheads of his followers [Revelation 14:1, 22:4], authenticating them as true believers and protecting them in the coming judgments [Revelation 9:4].

It’s reminiscent of the Old Testament command to bind God’s Word to our foreheads [Deuteronomy 6:8], which showed an understanding of and devotion to His Word. Practicing the godliness outlined in Scripture protected the Jews from many natural phenomena throughout history–one such being the Bubonic plague, because God’s dietary and hygiene laws prevented the spread of disease among the Jews long before science understood why.

But this Revelation 7 seal will protect not based on the undiscovered science of a world that is passing away, but it will be the hand of the Almighty God on the lives of those who worship and serve Him alone. More like the first Passover when the Hebrews were protected if they had lamb’s blood painted on their doorposts and lintels. This sealing of the faithful will be like a final Passover when–in God’s mercy–He will withhold the intensifying judgments, beginning with the seventh seal until He identifies His own.

In other words, God is Just. In this life, God allows both believers and unbelievers to enjoy His sun and rain, to experience the blessings and hardships of our freewill [Matthew 5:45], to have the opportunity to recognize Him and repent. But a day is coming when God will separate the believers from the unbelievers [Matthew 25:32]. Seven being the number of completion, God will not complete the judgment of the earth without first identifying and protecting the innocent–those pardoned for their sins because they have accepted Jesus as Lord of their life.

Is Jesus’ name already written on your heart? Do you trust Him to provide for you and protect you no matter what may happen on this earth? Do you believe that He alone is God and worthy of your faithful devotion?

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?

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 Cherubim Guard

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“After He drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:24

Image result for cherubim + revelationCherubim. One of the fascinatingly mysterious creations for man to try to comprehend. The cherubim are angelic beings created by God and first charged–in human history–with guarding the way to the tree of life with the aid of a flaming sword.

For anyone whose never seen a cherubim before, Ezekiel 10 and Revelation 4 describe what the they look like. First of all, Ezekiel tells us that they have four faces: man, lion, eagle and cherub [Ezekiel, but calf in Revelation]. Now they are often represented with one face on each side of their head, probably because Ezekiel says that they can go in any direction they face and that they never turn their head. These angelic creatures also have six wings: four to cover themselves with and two with which they fly. And their whole body–four heads, six wings and human hands underneath the wings–is covered in eyes. In Ezekiel, the cherubim are accompanied by four wheels that look like wheels intersected by wheels which are also covered in eyes and that move in sync with the cherubim.

Surprising that no movie producer has tried to portray cherubim. Doesn’t this sound like the epitome of a creature from a mythology? In fact, the Sphinx and mythological creatures that are part-human-part-animal [i.e. centaurs and satyrs] or two animals mixed together [i.e. griffins and manticores] were Satan’s knock-offs of God’s original cherubim. Satan likes to take God’s truth and create his own version of it to lead people astray. And it doesn’t matter to him when his lies fall into mythology, because unfortunately, when people doubt Satan’s knock-off lies, they also doubt the original truth of God from which it was drawn.

In Ezekiel 10, the cherubim were the rear guard, ushering out the presence of the Lord from among the Israelites. In Revelation 4, the cherubim surround the throne of God, lifting Him up in praise. “Day and night they never stop saying, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” Which sets off a chain reaction in heaven, because then the twenty-four elders around the throne fall down and worship God as Creator as well.

But isn’t it interesting that the Cherubim are heavenly creatures that look like four of God’s earthly creations combined? And isn’t it interesting that these creatures continually recognize God’s holiness, sovereignty and eternality? Because when sin entered the world, God’s created man stopped revering those very things.  The sin in our hearts cannot tolerate a holy God. [If you don’t believe me, just listen to how the media talks about Christians and the Bible.] The sin in our hearts refuses to be subject to anyone other than self. And the sin in our heart would keep us from eternity.

God set a cherubim guard at the tree of life, because the cherubim faithfully recognize His holiness alone. They didn’t fall for Satan’s lie in heaven, and they wouldn’t be deceived by sinful man. God. Is. Holy. Period. *Drops the mic.*

What does it mean that God is Holy? How then should you and I live our lives?