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Hagion

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” Revelation 14:12-13

Image result for persecuted churchTwo times the book of Revelation calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints–first during the reign of the antichrist [Revelation 13:10] and now while those who followed and worshipped him are judged.

Hagion–rendered here as saints–appears 39 times in the New Testament. It refers to faithful believers who endure suffering [Acts 26:10; Romans 8:27; 2 Corinthians 9:12], but it is also used as the adjective holy to describe prophets [Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; 2 Peter 3:2], angels [Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Revelation 14:10] and places [Hebrews 8:2, 9:8, 10:19]. The Holy of Holies from Tabernacle and Temple times is referred to in Hebrews 9:8 as the hagion. This was the inner sanctuary where the high priest would offer the prescribed sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people [Leviticus 16:2; 1 Chronicles 6:49].

The writer of Hebrews recognizes, then, that the saints are the temple of God and indwelled by His Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 3:16]. To be holy is to be set apart for a special–usually a Godly–purpose. God is holy. Where He is, sin cannot be also [1 John 3:9]. When God lives in our hearts, then sin has to move out. Because He is holy, we too are to become holy–set apart unto Him [1 Peter 1:16].

As God’s saints, we must patiently endure the effects of sin in the world, faithfully holding to Jesus all the while.

Then the voice reminds us that John is seeing a vision. Write to the churches that those who believe on Jesus and die [1 Corinthians 15:12-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:16], they will be extremely joyful–aka blessed. Those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will find rest from the toil that sin brought through eternal life [Genesis 3:17-19; Matthew 11:28-30], and they will store up for themselves treasures in heaven [Matthew 6:20].

Do you have this hope within you? Do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and none else? Do you love Him?

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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?

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].

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?