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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]?

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The Long War Between God and Satan: Part 1

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” Revelation 12:7-9

Image result for satan falling as a star to earthIn the verses just before this passage, we read how Satan set himself up as God[Revelation 12:3; Isaiah 14:12-14] and then tried to stop God’s plan of redemption–Jesus–from being born [Revelation 12:4; Exodus 1:22; Matthew 2:16].

Satan, however, was not strong enough to carry out his boasts about being his own god. He was not strong enough, and no one could be strong enough, to stand against the Lord of hosts and King of Kings, God Almighty and His heavenly hosts [Revelation 12:7].

His claims about himself were treasonous and started a war in heaven. God versus Satan. A war that Satan cannot possibly and will never win.

The archangel Michael–who protects Israel and who will deliver her from the tribulation, the loud anguish, of the last days [Daniel 12:1]–leads the heavenly hosts in the battle against the first false god, Satan, and his fallen angels [Revelation 12:7].

Satan could not even stand against the strength of his fellow angel let alone God, and he and his followers are cast to the earth [Isaiah 14:15; Luke 10:18]. He styles himself a prince among men [John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2], because he deceived Eve and Adam in the garden, tempting them with the same lie he baited the angels–you can be your own god–and they believed him and disobeyed God [Genesis 3:1-7]. This original sin in the Fall of Man, therefore, revoked mankind’s heavenly citizenship. We estranged ourselves from God and each must choose to submit to his lordship in their lives in order to reinstate that citizenship.

But Satan is a liar and the father of lies [John 8:44]. He is a deceiver [Revelation 12:8, 20:8 & 10] and a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour [1 Peter 5:8]. And he has no intention of peacefully accepting the consequence for his treason. He will not go quietly to the fires of hell that are reserved for him and the angels that he led astray [Revelation 20:3 & 10].

No, Satan’s strategy is to take as many people as possible with him to his eternal punishment. Misery loves company. And he hates that we human beings have the opportunity to be redeemed. To make ourselves right with God as he can never do. So in this long war between God and Satan, Satan has only two tactics: 1) make believers apostate [that is steal or prevent faith in God from developing; John 8:44; Revelation 12:8]; or 2) kill off those who believe in God so that he can be more effective in achieving tactic #1 [Exodus 1:22; 1 Peter 5:8].

And the sad truth is, many refuse to acknowledge God as God. Many shake a fist at God and flagrantly renounce any claim on heavenly citizenship. Many will indeed follow Satan into the pit of hell, the place reserved for the devil and his followers [Matthew 25:41].

And it hurts God’s heart. He does not want anyone to choose to perish [2 Peter 3:9]. And make no mistake, it is 100% our choice where we spend eternity. God does not want any to have to pay the wages of death for their own sin, but when we refuse to acknowledge Him as God and to accept His redemption in our lives–the sacrifice of Jesus Christ–then we choose to accept Satan’s lie and to follow him straight to the pit of hell.

Despite Satan’s lie, you can never be your own god. Either you recognize God as God, or you accept Satan as lord of your life–because anything other than God’s ways are Satan’s ways.

There is no third option.

Which authority have you chosen to submit your life to?

 

Refusing to Acknowledge

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury. The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood–idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.” Revelation 9:17-21

Image result for revelation 9 horse and rider + image

The lion-headed, snake-tailed horse–arrayed in bold primary colors, joins the locust-scorpion as another hybrid creature that will appear during the trumpet judgment. From their mouths come more plagues, adding to the death toll with a full one-third of the earth’s population.

Three plagues.

One-third of mankind gone.

But the most staggering statement is the epitaph on the two-thirds who live. The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood–idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.

Even though it should be abundantly clear that God is God at this point in history, many will stubbornly refuse to acknowledge Him as such. In fact, they will continue to live their self-as-god lives, freely sinning against their Creator.

It’s like if someone refused to acknowledge that a government has any authority over them, despite all of the consequences being carried out against them. Can an inmate on death row refuse to admit that the laws–and therefore governing body–who put him there exist? Sure he could. Does that change the fact that they do exist and that he is still subject to them? No. It often just makes the inmate angry.

Ever notice how when someone else wrongs us we deny God because He must therefore be unjust? But when we are the one in the wrong, we deny God because if He truly is merciful, then therefore He should let me do whatever I want regardless of the often unseen ways in which it effects others. We try to play both sides of the coin–mercy and justice–in our own favor, quintessentially embodying Satan’s self-as-god lie. Forgetting that while God is both merciful and just, He is also holy. His ways are higher than our ways [Isaiah 55:9], His wisdom beyond searching out [Romans 11:33].

Have you acknowledged God in your life? If yes, how have you brought your life in submission to Him?

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?

How to Handle Difficult Analogies in Scripture

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months.” Revelation 9:7-10

Image result for locusts of revelation 8 and 9Here is where prophetic scripture can sometimes get a little difficult to discern. Analogy. Once again, John is defining something he has never seen before in terms of things he has seen. We see commonly identifiable nouns like: locusts, horses, heads, crowns of gold, human faces, women’s hair, lions’ teeth, breastplates of iron, wing sound of horses and chariots, and tails with scorpion stings. Even just listing these nouns one can form a semi-image of what John must have envisioned.

Some speculate that all of the likes indicate that John was actually seeing a piece of modern war machinery–i.e. a helicopter fitted with a laser gun–that he didn’t know the actual name for, so he just had to describe it. However, there are many pieces of this description that do not fit with this possibility.

Locusts like horses prepared for battle, so saddled and armored. The iron breastplates here refer to pieces of thin iron riveted to a leather base. However, locusts are quite a bit smaller than either horses or helicopters. So is John analogizing the size? Or just the shape? Scripture doesn’t say for sure.

Then there’s the human element–crowns on heads, human faces and women’s hair. Interestingly, the Bible has much hair symbolism that we won’t get into here, but suffice it to say that the reference to women’s hair is a cultural one that lets us know that these locusts have long hair–which was a glory to a woman at the time of these writings [1 Corinthians 11:15]. This is where the helicopter interpretation falls apart for me. Because the human face could be seen through the windshield, but then the hair would seem to be attached to this head–meaning all of the pilots are either women or long-haired men. But then, the whole windshield not being filled with the face, the hair is being called hair even though it is inside the so-called face/windshield. It’s a stretch, but not impossible. We really can’t be sure what John was seeing except to take his analogies for what they illustrate.

And clearly, lion’s teeth are so much larger than a locust jaw could handle, so here it must refer to shape rather than size. Again, lion’s teeth would be in the human head behind the windshield? Or somehow attached to the actual helicopter frame protruding up the front of the windshield?

The wing sound makes perfect sense. Thundering and pounding as they will be though, it could also be just the sheer size of this locust-scorpion army that creates such a cacophony.

The bottom line is that we don’t always have to be able to picture what is going to happen in the end to understand that: a) it will not be a pleasant time to have to live through; and b) the end will be like no other time before it on the planet. When we read a prophetic scripture that we can’t envision, we can still distill the most important facts from the passage. These locust creatures will judge the inhabitants of earth for a limited time after the fifth trumpet blast. They will spawn from the Abyss. They will torture, but not kill. And they will be like something no human–besides John in a vision–has ever seen before.

How do you handle difficult scriptures? Do you let them weigh your faith down with doubt and unbelief? Or do you ask the Holy Spirit to give you the discernment to understand what is important?

The Ever-Hardening Heart

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.” Revelation 9:5-6

Image result for scorpionThe storm of hybrid locust-scorpion creatures may not harm any of God’s sealed people, but everyone else is fair game. Their sting will create such a powerful reaction–worse than any bee sting, snake bite or natural scorpion strike–it will feel like torture. Scorpion stings induce painful burning, tingling, and/or numbness at the site. More severe reactions include symptoms that spread throughout the body, such as: widespread numbness, difficulty swallowing, swollen tongue, blurred vision, loss of eye muscle control, seizures, drooling and difficulty breathing. Imagine living with these effects in your body for five months.

However the five month time period coincides with the life cycle of a locust and the duration of the dry season in the Bible lands at which time locust invasions are a perpetual danger. So it may be used here to indicate a limit on the duration of the stinging-locusts’ presence on the earth, rather than an exact medical timeline of sting aftereffects.

The Roman poet, Cornelius Gallus, who lived and wrote in the same century that John wrote the book of Revelation, wrote, Worse than any wound is the wish to die and yet not be able to do so. The readers of Revelation would’ve recognized this poetic quote here in verse six. But all truth is God’s truth, just as every lie belongs to Satan. To be clear, there are remnants of truth in every culture and every human heart, but throughout history these have been dissolved in lies from the pit of hell until it is nearly impossible to distinguish the truth from the lie anymore.

And the truth herein is that God wants us to live, to have life to the full [John 10:10], that none should perish [2 Peter 3:9], but that all should come to eternal life [John 3:16 & 17]. Satan wants us to be destroyed and to die [John 10:10]. Moreover, he would like us to curse God and then die [Job 2:9], sealing our eternal death with him, Satan, in the pit of hell [Luke 13:27-28; Revelation 20:15].

Even now, the hard-of-heart view God’s mercies as unjust judgment. What has any done to deserve a fate worse than death? To be clear, all sin is worthy of this consequence. But those who believe on Jesus will not have to suffer the punishment their sin deserves. They will receive a merciful pardon.

Yet in the end, the hardened heart will choose to become harder. God will mercifully limit the punishment to a period of time that all can endure, and the hard of heart will–as Job’s wife suggested–wish to curse God and die. They will refuse His gift of abundant earthly life and eternal life in the hereafter, stubbornly clinging to the reality of themselves as god and all of the pain it brings, longing for the death that Jesus conquered [Revelation 1:18]. And it will not come.

Will you lay down yourself as god to surrender your life to the One True God and receive His gift of life?

Get Ready

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:13

This week’s solar eclipse came and went in a flash, but people prepared for it for a long time. Scientists studied and charted the exact time and date. They knew where the best views could be had of this natural phenomena. Non-scientist people heard the exciting news and the warnings that viewing with the naked eye could cause blindness. Many took the good news and the warning to heart and prepared to view the solar eclipse in a safe and fun way. People bought cheap approved glasses and expensive ones. They made all kinds of homemade possibilities. Parties and community viewings were planned. In some cases, many months of preparations went into watching an event that took only minutes.

But for anyone who didn’t hear about the eclipse, or heard and didn’t prepare, they may have missed one of the single coolest earth moments in recent history. If they pay close attention, they’ll have another shot in seven years.

However, as Christians, we have even better news to share with people: Jesus died on the cross for our sins so that we can be reconciled to God and have eternal life. And the only preparation needed for His return is to believe on Him [John 3:16]. But the Bible asks us some very pointed questions about our witness to others: How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? [Romans 10:14].

Unlike the solar eclipse, if there are people who do not hear about Jesus’ return, or those who hear and choose not to believe in Him, there will not be a second chance. Oh, they will have the opportunity as long as they live. But–until Jesus comes back–the offer expires when we do.

How do you keep watch for the Lord in your life? Does your life preach Christ–using words only when necessary? When non-Christians meet and get to know you, do they hear about the one who came to give them eternal life? And are you prepared to always give an answer for the hope you have within you [1 Peter 3:15]?