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The Mercy-Justice Coin

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: ‘You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged; for they have shed the blood of your saints and the prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.’ And I heard the altar respond: ‘Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.” Revelation 16:5-7

Image result for justice is blindJustice is often portrayed as a woman wearing a blindfold, holding up scales. She weighs the faults of men, impartial to their race or religion or gender or financial station or political persuasion. But the woman, justice, must also mete out consequences for the unlawful and protect the law abiding. She must decide between right and wrong based on a moral absolute–the law of the land.

Very few disagree that this must be done or civilized nations would rapidly decay into violent chaos. But these same advocates of legal justice often decry scriptural descriptions of God’s justice–not because of what it entails, but because of what it means. If God is just, then we must obey His laws. He is the absolute authority, not myself, that sets the standard for my life. It grates against every grain in Satan’s lie that we, as sinful humans, know and love–be your own god.

But when we throw out God as just judge, we also throw out His mercy, because they are two sides of the same coin. In scripture, justice would not be portrayed as blind, but mercy would be.

God does not show favoritism [Romans 2:11]. Everyone is invited to lay their burdens down at the cross, receiving forgiveness for sin–no exceptions.

In God’s eyes, no human distinction matters, only that we come to a saving knowledge of His Son, Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. From there, we allow His lordship in our lives to transform us by the renewing of our minds [Romans 12:2]. So that we can see His third of the ocean to blood in chapter 8 for what it truly is–mercy. So that we can understand why the water-keeping angel here proclaims God’s wrath as just–those who have rejected God’s authority and supported the total eradication of Christianity will receive the consequence of their choices. They will intoxicate themselves for a time by the witch hunt and bloodlust of Christian extermination, and they will be enraged, declaring God unjust when He revisits them with the same in one fell swoop of the third bowl judgment.

The only justice that the sinful-heart seeks, is the one that says I’m right. Anything else is an affront to our Satan-appointed-self-as-God-position. Don’t let sinful pride get the better of you in this life and eternity to come. Seek to know God for who He is. Seek to understand the truth of our sinful nature.

Ask yourself, would you reject His mercy in order to be your own justice? And at the end of the day, if you choose to be your own justice, whose mercy will have to lean on when you stand before the Just Judge of all eternity?

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Mercy Removed

 

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.’ The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died. The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.” Revelation 16:1-4

Image result for leprous skinThe thing that stands out most about this passage is that people who have a proper understanding of who God is–that is reverence for God, aka the fear of the Lord–know well and good that He has the power to heal and to judge with plagues, to create and to destroy. Why else would jokes about being strikened with a thunderbolt abound when somebody does something wrong? The understanding of God being an Almighty being still resides in the hearts of humankind, though many do not give it the full place that it ought to have.

Since people understand such things–that there is a God, that He is all-powerful, and that He has a standard of right and wrong–shouldn’t it cause them to stop and think, “Hey. I should get to know God and find out what He expects from me and why.” But the lie that Satan propagated in heaven [Isaiah 14:14] and in the Garden [Genesis 3:5], has so rooted in the prideful heart of human beings throughout world history that, even to shaking a fist at God and daring Him to unleash His worst wrath, many will harden their hearts to the truth.

In fact, the last seven plagues for all time are being reserved for those who refuse God and choose to serve an impostor instead. Many will follow the antichrist because they fear only for the physical [Matthew 10:28; Revelation 13:15-17], when they should fear the eternity to come.

As in the sounding of the seven trumpets, judgment comes. But this time, mercy has been removed. Rather than a short time period of painful welts from the hybrid scorpion-locust [Revelation 9:7-11], everyone bearing the mark of the beast will be subject to painful boils that they can never overcome [Exodus 9:9-11]. Just like the first trumpet brought hail mixed with fire and blood [Revelation 8:7] and the third trumpet resulted in a third of the ocean turning to blood [Revelation 8:10], the second bowl of wrath will turn the entire ocean into blood, killing every creature therein [Exodus 7:17-21]. And the third bowl will turn every other water source on the planet into blood. There will be nothing left clean for anyone to drink.

So at this point, there’s about 3 days to the end of human existence on planet earth–the length of time that people can live without water, though a few “doom’s day prepper types” may hoard fresh fruits and vegetables or have other ferretted stocks. The point is, it doesn’t really matter how long a person survives at this point. Their life, which is but a breath to begin with, will be forfeit [Job 7:7; Psalms 144:4]. Then again, anyone who chooses to deny God forfeits their life in the end anyway. Because there is only one way to eternal life–believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Will you accept mercy while it may still be found [Isaiah 55:6]?

Last Plagues Ever

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues–last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: ‘Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:1-4

Image result for fire and glassThe vision of the winepress of God’s wrath is a vision within the vision of the final things to come, the seven plagues in the bowls and the end of “the woman and the beast” are the fulfillment of God’s wrath from the winepress vision.

Remember, seven is God’s number. It is the number of completion–aka perfection, for that which is perfect is complete. In six days, God created the earth and on the seventh He rested [Genesis 1]. The sevenfold spirit of God is repeatedly referred to in the book of Revelation [1:4, 3:1, 4:5 & 5:6]. The seven seals on the scroll in Revelations 5 each bear witness to a spirit of God in the will and testament of the Lamb. Later, in Revelation 8-11, seven angels will sound seven trumpets that usher in the next wave of God’s wrath against sin on the earth. In this, the victory of the saints over sin will be like the march around Jericho–seven sevens culminating in seven trumpet blasts which announce the Lord’s judgment on the enemy and therefore victory for the people of God [Joshua 6:13].

So seven angels carrying the last seven plagues ever is no surprise. God is completing His work [Leviticus 26:21], He is restoring the world to the same perfection with which He created it [Genesis 1:31].

Those who triumphed over the antichrist and refused his mark–possibly the 144,000 who had been sealed by God [Revelation 7:4, 9:4 & 14:1], although these scriptures seem to indicate that there will be a few who spiritually rise above the tribulation–are standing in the throne room of heaven, as evidenced by the sea of glass [Revelation 4:6]. This time, however, we see fire mixed with the glass–fire which was used to purify [Exodus 15:7; Isaiah 6:7; Malachi 3:2; 1 Peter 1:7].

God gives harps to these tribulation survivors and they naturally begin to sing praise to God, praise that hearkens back to the Exodus from Egypt [Exodus 15]. Praise for God’s great deeds. Praise that He is true and just–there is nothing corrupt about God, nor can He be tempted, bribed or corrupted in any way, unlike the authorities of this earth. Praise that rises in true fear of the Lord–not fear as in afraid, but the honest reverence that is due the One True God out of a heart of love for Him.

Because of God’s wrath, many choose to deny Him, as if denying His existence somehow makes it true. In this way, they can pretend that God is no more than a figment like Santa or the Easter Bunny, and they choose to blame believers for God being unchanging, as if we made Him up and therefore we are responsible for turning Him into someone that everyone can be happy with. They want Him to be just, but they want that justice to look like their personal definition of justice and in their cause and in their time. In effect, they want God to be themselves, just like Satan promised them.

How do you share the hope that you have within you in light of the wrath of God in passages such as these? Do you pray for and witness to those around you, sharing God’s heart that none should perish in His judgment on sin?

The Razor-Edged Gospel

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth–to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” Revelation 14:6-7

Image result for flying angelIn Revelation chapter 8, an eagle flew in midair pronouncing three woes to come. Here, the angel flying in midair proclaims the eternal gospel, literally glad tidings often translated as good news as the angel brought to the shepherds in the Christmas story [Luke 2:10].

This so-called good news, will not be good news at all to everyone living on the earth at this time, because it will mean that their time is up. They have no more opportunity to accept Jesus as Lord of their lives.

Good news is always double-edged though [Nahum 1:15]. For someone to celebrate a win in this life, someone else has to lose. For one candidate to be blessed with a new job, another candidate has to be rejected. For there to be a recipient of a life-saving transplant, a donor has to lose their life. And for the good news of Jesus’ victory over Satan to be completed and the faithful to go on to eternal life, all those who have chosen to follow Satan–that is everyone who has rejected God–have to go on to eternal damnation.

Make no mistake about this moment, it breaks God’s heart that any should choose to perish [2 Peter 3:9]. Even now He withholds His hand of judgment so that others can choose eternal life.

The angel commands everyone to fear God, but throughout scripture God, or His theophanies, command people, Do not fear. The fear of the Lord, however, is a right respect for who God is. It’s like, when you meet world leader, you recognize their position of authority and honor them accordingly. So with God, we are to reverence Him for who He is. Those who have rejected Him, in this moment, come to the place where they will bend their knee to Him fully understanding the error of their ways [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10].

Worship Him, the angel says, acknowledge His true worth. Creator. Sustainer. Provider. God Almighty. There is none like Him.

The angel invokes the image of Creation through the heavens and the earth [Genesis 1:1] and the seas [Genesis 1:10 & 22]. And he invokes an image of the flood when the springs of the great deep burst forth [Genesis 7:11], an image equated to the lostness of sinful humankind [2 Peter 2:17] that only Jesus can set to right [Revelation 7:17].

Do you know people on the other side of the gospel’s razor edge? People who will pass to eternal damnation when you take your place in eternal life? Does your heart break for their salvation as God’s does? Share your hope with them and everyone you meet.

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 Heavenly Mercy Seat

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence you name, both small and great–and for destroying those who destroy the earth. Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.” Revelation 11:15-19

Image result for jesus on his throneThe first six trumpets each heralded disaster on the earth. Moreover, trumpets five and six each culminated in fulfilling one of the eagle’s three woes [Revelation 8:13]. The sixth trumpet also provides an interlude in the vision in which John sees the angel and eats the scroll [Revelation 10] and then the two witnesses appear, minister and come to their demise [Revelation 11:1-14].

Now, finally, the seventh trumpet sounds. But this time it begins with a royal praise. It’s significant that in Bible days trumpets were blown when a new king took his throne. And the heavenly  voices tell us that the new king at this time is, in fact, Jesus Christ.

After all of the powerful destruction, people have finally given glory to God [Revelation 11:13]. As promised to his human ancestor, King David, Jesus’ throne will last for eternity [Luke 1:32-33].

Rightly so, Jesus’ ascension to the throne sets off praise in heaven. The twenty-four elders–who represent the Old and New Testament faithful–thank God for reigning in His power. We can see the evidence today of angry nations, but we can be assured that the wrath of God will bring human violence to an end. The only reason to fear His wrath is to be on the receiving end of it. But those of us who have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, by faith, have been justified and have nothing to worry about. Jesus has made peace with God on our behalf [Romans 5:1-3; Ephesians 2:14].

Unbelievers scream that this is unjust, but they too have the same opportunity to avoid God’s wrath and judgment by choosing His love and mercy.

Mercy.

The exact thing that we see in the midst of the heavenly temple. The ark of the covenant served as the mercy seat–the altar of sacrifice–in the earthly temple [Psalm 99:1; Exodus 25:17-22]. In appearance, it was the literal throne of God in the midst of His chosen people. When called upon to reward and judge, God shows John His heavenly mercy seat. A reminder that everyone who is about to receive their due has had the opportunity to take hold of the mercy seat in repentance. But many refused.

God’s throne intones thunder once again [Revelation 4:55, 11:19], but this time, it is accompanied by an earthquake and hailstorm of judgment.

Have you bowed your heart before the mercy seat?

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?