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A Dark and Terrible Night

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given the power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.” Revelation 16:8-11

Image result for sun scorchedThese next two plagues deal in day four of the Creation–sun, moon and stars–plague nine from Egypt–darkness. We know that the end of the physical earth is near, because God promised that seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease as long as the earth endures [Genesis 8:22].

But here we see that the sun’s stability will begin to unravel without God’s mercy to hold it together. Unlike mythology which tries to explain scientific law with made up folktales, the Bible has always explained science before scientists even know it’s a thing.

Almost a thousand years before global warming, the ability to monitor sun spots, calculate the mass of the sun and hypothesize about the rate at which it will wear out, the Bible told us that, just like God started it, the sun will run out exactly when God withdraws His mercy. First, sunspots will intensify and scorch the earth. Then the sun will go completely dark, plunging the antichrist’s kingdom on earth into pitch blackness.

Yet so hardened will be the hearts of human beings at this time, that they will find the words and the strength to curse God, but not the contrite heart to acknowledge their sinfulness or the humility to ask forgiveness. They will follow their beast into the darkness, grumbling and complaining against God for all the wrong befallen them, never admitting to themselves that since God exists, He is in control and therefore must be reverenced as God. Never accepting His love and mercy in their lives.

As long as it is day, we must do the works of God [John 9:4] and encourage one another so that no one may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness [Hebrews 3:13]. Night is coming, Jesus said [John 9:4]–this dark and terrible night at the end of the world as we know it is coming. Will the people you have love be lost in the dark? Will people that know you face these final days of wrath? Are you, like Christ [John 9:5], a light to this world that is ever plunging deeper into the darkness?

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What’s In Your Heart?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one ‘like a son of man’ with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, ‘Take your sickle and reap, because the time has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.” Revelation 14:14-16

Image result for cloud pillarBy day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way [Exodus 13:21]. John sees the white cloud with the Son of Man [Daniel 7:13; Revelation 1:13 & 6:2] seated on it–Jesus, wearing the victor’s crown. But Jesus is also holding a sickle.

If you’re not familiar with antiquitous farm equipment, you may still recognize a sickle as the blade usually wielded in portrayals of the grim reaper. Jesus is anything but grim. He is not death incarnated to frighten the nations into submission. On the contrary, He is a merciful and loving Savior, friend to all who know Him as Lord.

Still, the sickle he wields–just like the double-edged sword of His mouth, His word–will cut two ways. The harvest of the faithful to eternal life [John 4:35] and of those who rejected God to eternal death in the fires of hell [Joel 3:13; Jeremiah 51:33].

John 12:24 and 1 Corinthians 15:42 liken our eternal soul-man and our physical bodies to a seed. We are each born with a young faith plant in our hearts and enough childlike faith for food to sustain us while we are nurtured in the truth. But what happens when God’s word is not taught? When prayer and praising God Almighty are not apart of the life that a child leads? It’s like leaving a seed to dry up and die. It may look whole on the outside, but it will never grow into the plant that it was meant to be.

We are the same way. And those who have grown in their faith will be good, mature plants. When our end comes our souls will live on. But those who allow their faith to lie dormant, or to shrivel and die, they will grow other plants in their heart that have no place in heaven. When their end comes, their soul will not find peace with God as they never made that peace in life.

One swift fell of the sickle. The hour and day unknown. What’s in your heart? Growing faith? Or growing discord with God?

Live By

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“He who has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.” Revelation 13:9-10

Image result for listening ears + imageDuring the vision of the antichrist’s reign, God once again tells people to hear with their ears and not to be unperceiving. This scripture portion contains an Old Testament reference [Jeremiah 15:2].

In the original Jeremiah text, we read that Israel has rejected God, turned to lifeless idols–wood and stones that can neither see nor hear nor help them in any way–and refused to turn back to the one true God. As such, God basically says, Fine. If my people want to leave me so bad, let them be on their way. To which He adds, And if they realize at that point that they don’t have anywhere else to go, remind them what sin has prepared for those that choose it over Me. Because those who sin have no choice but to accept the wages of sin–death, sword, starvation and captivity.

On the other hand, God has come that we might have life and have it to the full [John 10:10]. He does not desire that any should perish by choosing the way of sin [2 Peter 3:9], rather He sent His one and only son, Jesus, into the world that all might be saved through Him [John 3:16-17].

Many people come to passages like Revelation 13 and Jeremiah 15 and conclude that God is anything but loving. They don’t see these scriptures through the lens of scripture itself–and the Bible is the best commentary on itself. If you look at the original language of Revelation 13:10, it says that if anyone will kill with the sword, then with the sword they will be killed. God is not condemning people to slavery and death by the sword in these verses, He is reminding them of the consequence of their sins. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Few people would disagree with that sentiment, religious or not.

But throughout scripture God also reminds us of His love and grace and forgiveness. At any time, we can choose to believe on Him and our sins will be removed as far from us as the east is from the west [Psalm 103:12]. When we read Revelation 13 and Jeremiah 15, if we read through the lens of scriptural understanding, then we see that this harm is not what God wants for any of us, though many will choose it for themselves despite His desperate love reaching out across the ages to turn us from the folly of our own hearts [Proverbs 22:15].

Do you recognize God’s love, grace and mercy in your life? Have you accepted His forgiveness and driven sin far from your heart? Are you always read to give an answer for this hope you have within you [1 Peter 3:15]?

The Allegory of Israel

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.” Revelation 12:1-2

Image result for pregnant womanHere John’s vision seems to hold a vision within a vision. The Greek word for heaven here, ourano, appears 38 times in scripture. Only two of these mentions receive an English translation of sky, and this only in a newer English version. The majority of scriptures agree that ourano is heaven while the word hassamayim appears 236 times in scripture and is translated more interchangeably as sky, heavens, and prepositional phrases ending in heaven.

So John is seeing a vision of heaven, ourano, [Revelation 1:10-12 & 4:1] and in his vision he sees a sign appear in heaven, ourano [Revelation 12:1-2]. This woman clothed with sun would’ve been understood by New Testament readers to represent Israel, God’s chosen people. The Old Testament prophets often portrayed the nation as a mother to the future remnant [Isaiah 54:1 and 66:7-10; Micah 4:9-10] as well as to a bride [Isaiah 62:5].

Clothed in sun, like the face of Christ her groom [Revelation 1:16], crowned with twelve stars likened, possibly, to the twelve tribes of Israel. Moon under her feet, meaning darkness subdued as in the enemy as footstool motif [Psalm 110:1; Luke 20:43; Acts 2:35].

Childbearing pains seize Israel in the vision [Matthew 24:8]. A labor that is not fruitless, but that is fraught with opposition. A labor that fulfills the very first messianic prophesy[Genesis 3:15].

This allegorical passage encapsulates both the messianic prophecies and the Jewish history leading up to the birth of Christ. It simplifies both, concentrating the overview of world history into the single most important person of all time and eternity–Jesus Christ. In this way, the reader’s perspective is strengthened and clarified for the very real events yet to come.

Are you familiar with the messianic prophecies that Jesus fulfills? Are you ready and able to give an answer for this hope that you have within you [1 Peter 3:15]? If not, study to show yourself approved [2 Timothy 2:15].

From the Student Question Board: What is Labor Day?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

Image result for labor day + image

Ironically, Labor Day is the day we celebrate having jobs by staying home from them. Seriously though, we can be very thankful that as Americans we have good work through which we can enjoy financial stability and meet our own basic needs.

The Bible advocates for us as people being gainfully employed, whether for self or for bosses, for money or just to survive. Proverbs in particular has much to say on the subject of hard work versus laziness. For example, “Lazy hands make poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth,” Proverbs 10:4. “Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare,” Proverbs 20:13. This doesn’t mean we should never sleep, rather that we shouldn’t oversleep–as many enjoy and insist on through our teen years.

The Bible also has much to say on overworking purely in pursuit of wealth. “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil,” 1 Timothy 6:9-10a. Workaholics miss out on the joys of life and often find that, while they’ve amassed much financially, ultimately their life is empty. Likewise, lazy people–who put stock in gambling or lottery tickets hoping to strike it rich quick–often lose more money than they ever win. And even those who have won very large jackpots are known to blow their sudden wealth faster than it appeared, often ending with greater debts than before having won. They too feel empty despite the temporary financial gain.

The straight and narrow life is all about balance. “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” 1 Timothy 6:6. The wealthiest people are those who enjoy the work of their hands and do so as unto the Lord. They are satisfied with the love of family and content to live within their means, no matter how simple. These people feel richer than the wealthiest people on the planet, because they are rich with God’s love and the love of fellow man. They have stored their treasures up where it counts–in heaven [Matthew 6:20].

If you’re too young to work, be thankful for child labor laws on this Labor Day and be thankful for loving parents that provide for your needs in this blessed nation in which we live. If you’ve already had your first job, consider Godly financial principles and work hard for your boss as God would have you to do. Discipline yourself even now in your teen years to rise early, serve diligently and work with an attitude of gratitude for all that God has provided for you through your faithfulness. Be content. And be blessed.

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?

What Bends the Knee and Bows the Heart

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon. The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come. The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ And the angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number.” Revelation 9:11-16

Image result for Knee Bowing ChristThe final piece of the hybrid scorpion-locust puzzle is that these creatures are ruled by the Destroyer. [Abaddon and Apollyon both mean destroyer in their respective languages.]

Remember that the Abyss refers to the subterranean demon hold [Revelation 9:1-2], the same place from which the locust horde originates. This would also seem to contradict the helicopter analogy idea, in that the destroyer would not have in his subterranean captivity an army of humans to man the flying machines.

But the more important focus here is the announcement that one woe is now complete. The eagle [Revelation 8:13], however, cried Woe three times–one for each woe to come to pass. Two more trumpets will sound, ushering in more anguish on the earth.

Angel six blasts his trumpet and the heavenly altar horns start speaking. Again, we see the original Temple as being the heavenly one after which the earthly one was fashioned. The heavenly altar has horns, or projections, at each of the four corners. Anyone fleeing judgment could seek mercy by taking hold of these horns. However, here in the end, we see mercy mixed with judgment extended by the altar itself.

What a terrible day indeed when the very horns of mercy command the release of the killing angel. One-third of human life on the planet will fall to the two-hundred million mounted troops. Even now, God’s desire is for mankind to see and repent [Revelation 9:20-21], not that any more should perish [2 Peter 3:9].

So many people read scriptures such as this and close the Bible, asking, “How can God be loving and merciful if He allows or causes such things to happen?” But the better question is, what is love? And what is mercy? The Bible tells us that greater love has no one than he who lays down his life for another [John 15:13]. Jesus laid His life down on the cross to pay the death wages of everyone’s sin–all people for all time. He didn’t have to. He chose to. And even though human beings spit on his sacrifice time and time again, God mercifully allows us more time and more opportunities to recognize the truth for ourselves and come to a saving knowledge of Him.

He reveals Himself to us in His creation. He teaches us to love one another, just as He loved–with the greatest kind of love there is. In His loving mercy the blind see, the lame walk and the dead are raised [Matthew 11:5]. And as Christians, if we believe, we can and will do even greater things than these [John 14:12] to His glory and honor.

In all of this peaceful love and mercy, many choose to reject God as God. But that does not change the truth of the matter. He alone is God. There is no other. And if you will not bend your knee to love and mercy. If you will not acknowledge Him as Lord when His blessings are abundant, the only other opportunities will come in times of loud anguish.

Your choice. Which will it be? When will you bend your knee?