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God’s Morality Check

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

See the source imageBecause the Word is double-edged [Hebrews 4:12], scriptures often list those who will not inherit the kingdom of God in contrast to those who will [i.e. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-25]. Just as light would not be understood without the contrast of darkness, the life that God desires for us is not always clear to the human mind without looking at that which is in opposition to God’s will.

Since God is holy–meaning no impurity or sin is in Him–and since He is the sovereign of heaven–the authority before whom we will stand judgment–it is imperative that we understand what God expects of us, both to do and not to do.

So why does cowardliness make the list? Remember that this letter of Revelation is being circulated among the churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor. Jesus, through John’s writing, tells the churches that they were going to face persecution, hardship, imprisonment and even death for His name’s sake [Revelation 2:3 & 8, 9-11 & 13; 3:8-9]. In each instance, if they held boldly to their faith, if they did not cower from the physical, social and cultural threats of the world [Matthew 10:28], they would be called victorious and receive the inheritance of eternal life. We are not of those who shrink back from the world in fear, renouncing our faith to save our skin [Hebrews 10:39]. Rather we are to stand firm in our faith [1 Corinthians 6:13; Ephesians 6:11-14], boldly proclaiming salvation through Jesus Christ. The cowardly turn their back on God when times get tough. They do not acknowledge Jesus before others; in turn, they will not be acknowledged before God [Matthew 10:32-33].

Obviously, those who do not believe in God will not be saved. For it is, by grace we are saved through faith [Romans 1:5 & 5:2; Ephesians 2:8]. And even if we continue to struggle against sin we can experience God’s grace and, by faith, salvation in our lives. But if we do not have faith, then we will never see heaven.

Vile means morally corrupt. Since morals–standards of belief and behavior–are established by God who is holy, corrupted morals are anything that deviate from His norm. It makes sense then that those who buy into Satan’s lie that we can be our own God and make our own morals [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14], will never inherit the kingdom of God.

This corrupted moral system includes murdering, any sexual behavior that deviates from God’s plan of one man and one woman within the confines of marriage for life, trying to summon magical powers rather than rightly seeking the power of God, creating images of false gods and praying to/worshiping them, and telling lies. Many of these were addressed in the well-known 10-commandments [Exodus 20:1-17]. All of these are natural desires of sinful people, but can be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, and are completely forgiven us through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Who is God in your life? You or God? Not sure? Well, whose standard of right and wrong are you living by? Yours, the world’s or God’s?

KCS

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Are You Thirsty?

“He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” Revelation 21:6-7

See the source imageUnbelievable! The entire book of Revelation John has been spoken to by angels, and heard the voice of God the Father and God the Son. But this time, God doesn’t relay His message. He speaks right to John.

And what does God Almighty say? Just as He announced–when the angel poured out the seventh and final bowl of God’s wrath–that sin had met its end [Revelation 16:17], so now He proclaims Gegonen again. Only this time, all of heaven and creation have been made new. The work of the New Creation is done.

It’s interesting to note that, In the beginning [Genesis 1:1], derives from a different word than the Beginning used here. This totally makes sense since God is eternal and His creation is not. Like the Alpha and Omega that begin and end the Greek alphabet–an alphabet which does not contain every possible phoneme, or sound-letter-representative–God is the Beginning and the End of all things, though He Himself does not have a beginning or an end. He exists outside of created time just as His Word–that Word which created all things–exists outside of the Greek alphabet, and every other alphabet ever conceived.

He gives John the same gospel message to share with the world as Jesus brought–living water [John 4:13-14]. Water is so essential to the creation. It was the foundation of the world on which God created everything [Genesis 1:2]. It flows through every living organism, and without it, nothing can live.

Jesus is that spring of eternal living water. His death paid the wages of our sins, while we can freely receive His gift of eternal life [Romans 6:23].

But if it’s that easy to be saved–and it is–then what does God mean that we must overcome? Just as He counseled Cain so long ago, we must overcome the crouching tiger of sin who is waiting around every corner to devour us [Genesis 4:7]. But not in the way that we must defeat sin of our own accord. We are not gladiators thrown into a ring of divine entertainment. Jesus overcame it all [John 16:33] and–by His Holy Spirit living in us–we can stand firm in the faith [Ephesians 6:10-18].

When we choose to will and to act in obedience with God’s commands, then, like Christ, we show ourselves to be overcomers of this world–we show ourselves to be conduits of living water. And we become children of God [Galatians 4:7] and co-heirs with Christ [Romans 8:17]. Our inheritance? Heaven for all eternity.

Are you thirsty?

KCS

Sin or Shine

“Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: ‘With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. Your merchants were the world’s great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray. In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.” Revelation 18:21-24

See the source imagePerhaps this is the same mighty angel who asked to know who was worthy to open the seven-sealed scroll [Revelation 5:2]. Picking up the donkey millstone [Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42] to represent the sinking of Babylon is significant. It is better to meet this end by our own choosing, than to lead the faith of others–and children in particular–astray.

Jeremiah prophesied this millstone sinking [Jeremiah 51:63]. And Revelation assures us that once Babylon, and all that she represents, have been destroyed, the sinful systems of the world will never rise again. No music, career, daily chore or light will come from those who made their homes in false religion and sinfulness, though once earthly fame abounded therein.

By Babylon’s deceptive promise to influence fortune and fate–for that is what the rebellion of sorcery and witchcraft is–many, many, many lose their way on the straight and narrow [Matthew 7:13-14]. Our flesh is weak and easily tempted to behave according to our sinful nature [Galatians 5:19-21]. But by His spirit in us, God calls us to overcome the fleshly temptation and sin in our lives, just as He overcame this world [Genesis 4:7; 1 Corinthians 10:13; John 16:33].

All those who live by the world’s ways, bear the bloodguilt of the prophets, saints and martyrs. That is, if we live like the world, sinning against God, then we are guilty of the world’s bloodshed because we are a part of those who oppose God’s people.

But those who–by faith–live by God’s word, will be forgiven the guilt and penalty of their sin, and will be counted among the just and the righteous by God [Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38]. They will be like a city on a hill whose light shines for all to see the truth of their way in the darkness [Matthew 5:14].

Are you bearing your own sin and guilt and that of a complicit world? Or have you been saved through faith by grace?

KCS

Witchcraft and Divination

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.” Deuteronomy 18:9-11

Image result for cauldron and broom + imageOne of the most highly associated figures with Halloween is the witch. Do such people exist? Do they really have powers to turn themselves or others into different creatures or to cast evil spells? Is there such a thing as magic?

The Bible speaks against the sin of witchcraft, meaning that there are people who “practice” such acts. In fact, witchcraft is mentioned on 6 different occasions [Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 9:22; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Micah 5:12; Nahum 3:4; Galatians 5:20] and the related sin of divination 24 times [Genesis 30:27, 44:5 & 15; Leviticus 19:26; et al]. In each instance, God warns against doing such things.

Divination is trying to know what will happen in the future by means outside of human ability. Witchcraft is Old English for the power or skill of a witch, while witch is an Old English synonym for the Medieval Latin sortiarius–one who influences fate or fortune. So is it just that God doesn’t want people to know the future? Not at all.

God Himself reveals the future to us at many times and in various ways [Hebrews 1:1]. The whole book of Revelation deals in near and distant future disclosures from God to man as do many other Biblical passages. However, in the sin of divination, people are not seeking Godly knowledge and understanding, they are consorting with the fallen angel–that is the demonic–spirits. For the cost of rebelling against God, for that’s what God likens unto witchcraft [1 Samuel 15:23], Satan’s lackeys will sell you lie. Because they cannot see the future or understand what will happen therein.

But the enemy isn’t interested in accuracy. His only intent is to steal, kill and destroy [John 10:10]. He steals faith in God by offering the lie that you can be your own God [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14]. He kills the body of all who trust him with themselves or with their children [Deuteronomy 8:10]–sometimes slowly through the harmful effects of smoking, drinking, drugs, promiscuity and the like, and sometimes quickly through murders, violent riots, drunkenness, human sacrifice rituals, et al. He destroys mental, emotional and spiritual health through addiction, even to such things as believing in omens, luck, fate, spells and magic.

You see, when we believe that we can do things in our own power, we turn our eyes from the One True God from whom our help comes, the maker of heaven and earth [Psalm 121:1-2] and turn them onto self or lifeless idols or Satan himself.

But there is no such thing as magic, just optical illusion. There is no such thing as an omen, just vain superstition that ties the heart in knots with fear. There is no such thing as fate, God gave us free will. And there are no such things as spells or incantations that hold any power whatsoever.

God so desired that we understand this that He Himself doesn’t answer people in the Bible the exact same way twice. There is nothing we can chant to make God do our will, though we can seek to learn what His will is for us. There is no incantation or potion by which we command the authority of heaven, though, through prayer, Christians certainly have access to God Himself and can petition Him to act on our behalf in His mercy.

Do you worry about superstitions, omens and fate? Focus your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith [Hebrews 12:2]. Do you seek spiritists, mediums or fortune tellers to try to learn the future? Ask God for wisdom and trust Him to show you the way, one step at a time.

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?

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 Loud Anguish

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Revelation 7:14b

Image result for white robed multitude + imageSo who is this white-robed multitude? The elder says they are the people who have come out of the great tribulation. So what is the great tribulation?

Tribulation was actually a death penalty in Rome, as was crucifixion. However, in tribulation, large flat stones were stacked on a person’s chest–one at a time–until all of the air was crushed out of them. They died then of suffocation/asphyxiation. In this way, the word tribulation is a figurative description of the end times.

The Greek word thlipseos, translated tribulation here, is translated elsewhere in the Bible as: affliction, anguish, and persecution. The Greek word for great, megales, is also translated as loud, and great in both the sense of magnificent and the sense of very large.

Jesus assured all believers that they would have trouble in this world [John 16:33]. The seven churches of Revelation faced persecution under the Roman government, and many other times and places in history–including several countries in our world today–have also shared in very large scale, hard hitting persecution.

I love that this can also be translated the loud anguish. Because it expresses more fully that the sin and death of this life clamor to a tumultuous, agonized wailing. But all the more as the great and glorious day of the Lord approaches. The end times that Revelation begins to describe with the six broken seals leading up to this moment and which will continue with trumpet and bowl judgments yet to come, will feel like one rock at a time being laid on the chest of all–believer and unbeliever alike–until the Lord, in His mercy, raptures us home [1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:17].

How much will believers have to experience? We don’t know exactly, only that God has promised to protect us through whatever we may endure [Revelation 6:6, 7:2]. His strength is perfect in our weakness [2 Corinthians 12:8-10]. We may be struck down, hard pressed and persecuted from every side, but we will not be crushed by the tribulation of this life [2 Corinthians 4:8-9]. His breath of life fills our lungs and will sustain us through it all [Genesis 2:7; Psalm 46:1 & 118:14].

Our robes–a symbol of our righteousness or goodness–have been made paradoxically white through blood that we know to be red. But it is again a symbol of the Old Testament sacrificial system. Life is in the blood [Leviticus 17:11], and more specifically, eternal life rests in Jesus’ blood alone. When we put Him on as a robe [Galatians 3:27], by accepting His sacrifice on the cross as the payment for our sins, then our sinful-self-righteousness–which is like filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6] next to His Holy Glory–are washed white as snow. Sinless. Perfect enough to stand before a Holy God.

Can you hear the loud anguish rising all around? Do you feel pressed down in life or persecuted by the world today? Hold on. Jesus is coming soon!