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Wormwood

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water–the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” Revelation 8:10-11

Image result for star falling in waterThe entrance of the third trumpet gives us a little more information about the celestial conditions after the sixth seal, the one in which the sky rolled back like a scroll, sun dark, moon to blood and stars fell [Revelation 6:13]. By this chapter 8 passage, and others to come, we learn that not every star fell from the sky. Just as the sun and moon did not stay black and bloodied [Revelation 8:12].

So a flaming meteor, a shooting star, penetrates earth’s atmosphere and collides with one third of the earth’s fresh water sources–rivers and springs–turning them bitter. Wormwood is a plant with a strong bitter taste, so the offending star is aptly named. It is not, however, poisonous. So the fresh water is becoming im-potable. Those who do drink it, will die. Just like drinking highly polluted or lead-filled or bacteria laden water or even an all saltwater diet can kill a person.

The prophet Jeremiah prophesied this very thing when the Lord filled his speech with understanding of the consequences of sin [Jeremiah 9:15] and when the Lord spoke through him against the false prophets who spread ungodliness in Israel [23:15]. In both instances, because the false prophets chose to conduct themselves in and promote sin–but specifically false religion–and the people chose to forsake God’s law and turn to idol worship, God foreshadowed the bitter water of Revelation that would come as the natural consequence for the choice to live in sin rather than to repent.

But it’s interesting that this bitter water comes from a star that falls to earth. Isaiah 14:12 describes Satan as just that, a star fallen to earth. Moreover, he embitters that water of life that is Jesus’ message [John 4:10 & 7:38], muddying the living water in our understanding as it freely flows from heaven [Revelation 22:1-6]. All who drink from the embittered waters of false religion–which includes no religion at all as in the case of atheism–will die for eternity in the second death [Revelation 2:11 & 20:14-15].

Notice that the number one-third appears over and over again in the trumpet judgments. That’s a devastating number if you’re a glass half-empty kind of person. But it’s a merciful number if you recognize that the majority of the planet will still be livable. The people of the end will repeatedly, like Pharaoh and the Egyptians, be given the opportunity to see God for who He is–both His might and His mercy–so they might turn and acknowledge Him as God before it’s too late.

Are you drinking at the fouled waters of false religion? Or do you know of God, but live in sin all the same, thereby encouraging others to do so as well? Will you accept God’s mercy in your life before it is too late?

A Blazing Mountain-Thingy

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” Revelation 8:8-9

Image result for Mountains and Ocean WavesBeat two, trumpet two enters. The result? Something like a huge mountain. Something like? John is seeing things he has to explain with words he knows, even if he has no words for the reality. Though God doesn’t correct Him as He could have.

So a blazing mountain-thing is hurled to the earth–like the censer and the hail-fire-blood mix–but this time into the ocean. Jeremiah 51:25 speaks of a destroying mountain that will repay Babylon for her idolatrous ways, leaving behind a pile of burnt rubble. Remember that Babel first introduced and spread false religions [Genesis 11:4-6], so false religion will be blotted out from the earth in the reversal of sin in the new creation at the end of time.

But Jesus also told believers that, with a mustard seed of faith, we could tell a mountain–an obstacle in our lives–to throw itself into the sea. And if we believe, it will happen [Matthew 11:23 & 21:21]. This something like a mountain being thrown into the sea, could very much represent the faith of believers moving the hindrance of false religion from the world, not by might, not by power, but by the spirit of the Lord [Zechariah 4:6].

And fire is used to refine [1 Peter 1:7]. It burns away the impurities, leaving behind pure gold, silver, and other precious metals. In scripture, a fire coal is also used for figuratively cleansing, in much the same way, the prophet Isaiah’s lips or his words/speech [Isaiah 6:6-7]. Any part of our life that is built on anything or anyone other than Christ will burn away in the refining fire of judgment [1 Corinthians 3:11-15].

Here again, we see a repeat of the first Exodus plague, water turned to blood [Exodus 7:14-24]. Just as in Egypt when the Nile’s fish died [Exodus 7:21], so the effected ocean life will die as a result of the fiery mountain turning one-third of the sea to blood. Not only that, but one-third of all the world’s ships–a creation of human hands–will also be destroyed.

Now you could probably name a dozen movies that glamorize this much ecological and nautical carnage. And many people have no problem attaching this type of thing to governments at war either. But one mention that God is involved and, all of a sudden, He is unjust. On the contrary, it is because God is just and holy and good that false religion cannot continue eternally. It is because of who He is that sin and death cannot exist eternally. And why would we want it to?

But if death is to be destroyed, then its root–sin [James 1:15]–must also be destroyed. And we each are responsible for choosing how the sin is removed from our lives. We can either accept Christ’s sacrifice to cleanse us from sins–as simply as believing in Him–or we can reject His sacrifice and accept the wages of our own sin [Romans 6:23], death in whatever form it takes.

Have you accepted Christ’s sacrifice for your sins? Do you have a faith in Him that moves mountains? Or do you intend to face death without Jesus?

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 tribulationSo 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!

Heavenly Domino Effect

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Revelation 7:11-12

Image result for worshipPraising and worshipping God has a domino effect in heaven. Remember back in Revelation 4, every time the four-living-creature [cherubim]-throne of God praised Him [4:8] then the elders would bow down and worship God as well [4:11]. And again in chapter 5, the cherubim and elders sang a song of praise to the Lamb [Revelation 5:9-10] –God’s Son, Jesus–which prompted the millions of angels to sing praise [5:12], which prompted every living thing on the entire face of the earth to sing praise [5:13], culminating full circle with the cherubim and elders falling down in worship [5:14].

Here again, when the innumerable multitude of the saved praise God for who He is [7:10], then the 4 cherubim and 24 elders and millions of angels all three will fall down in worship.

Perhaps you’ve noticed this same domino effect in a church worship service here on earth. A loud voice cutting over the music or moment of worshipful silence, giving glory to God for the things He has done. Others hear this praise and join in with praises of their own. Voices go up and the presence of God descends into the midst of His people [Psalm 22:3].

It can all feel quite euphoric, but, at the same time, extremely heavy with the tangible presence of God. It’s a momentary glimpse of the true joy that restored communion with God brings. Heaven will carry this feeling forward eternally [Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17, 21:4]. So it’s a good sign of church health when worship naturally spreads throughout the body of believers.

Beware of naysayers and counterfeits. I’ve heard some celebrities who have left the church try to downplay their past experiences of God’s presence by saying things like, “Oh, I got the same feeling at a concert or when my team scored the winning touchdown.” Karl Marx–the German philosopher and economist whose ideas formed the basis for later communism–tried to reduce worshipping God to an experience that is just, “the opium of the people.” In other words, he said God worship is no more than a drug high. Naysayers do so because–like Nimrod at the Tower of Babel [Genesis 11:4]–they refuse to accept God, instead choosing to elevate self, however falsely.

Satan is always at work to undo our minds and experiences with the question, “Did God really…?” And he is always ready with counterfeit moments of euphoria. Fleeting experiences and temporary happiness triggers come in many forms–food, clothes money, relationships, jokes, media, drugs, alcohol, you name it–but they are all empty and none lasting. Only God can give true joy, the fullness of which is eternal.

Are you in a healthy worshipping church? If not, pray that God would use you to relight the fire, restore health in your church situation. Or if He chooses to move you, pray for guidance to bring you into a healthy church body. Do naysayers of your faith bring you down? Pray for strength to endure. Do counterfeits threaten to overtake the time you devote to true worship? Hold on. Jesus is coming soon!

The Mourning Sky

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.” Revelation 6:12-14

Image result for blood moonJesus slides his finger under the second to last seal. Again no rider, but also no reprieve. The broken sixth seal brings an earthquake of such magnitude that even the heavens seem to be affected. But Jesus said that earthquakes would be the beginning of birth pains and that after these signs, the end was still to come [Matthew 24:7-8]. And Revelation 16:18 records an earthquake to end all earthquakes, so as terrible as this scroll seal earthquake is, it is not the end.

Notice the comparison of the sun to sackcloth. In Jewish custom, a person receiving bad news–such as the passing of a loved one or, in the case of kings, lost battles, et al–would tear the clothes they were wearing and put on sackcloth. This fabric was made of goat hair and was a very dark color, akin to wearing black clothes for mourning. But the fabric was also very itchy and uncomfortable and worn directly against the skin to physically display the emotional grief and mourning. So even the heavens appear to be grieving and mourning over the calamity on the earth.

Remember, it is not God’s desire that any should perish [2 Peter 3:9], but these things must take place [Matthew 24:6].

Now there have been many predictions and expectations of blood moons in recent history. They are a phenomena that have appeared sporadically throughout history, but in rare years have occurred in groups of three. Some find this significant. I will not pretend to know anything about this. However, the particular blood moon listed in this passage is a result of, or at least coincides with, this gargantuan earthquake. Directly following, stars will fall from the sky.

The late figs mentioned here are green–or unripe figs–that sometimes grow in winter. Since the tree has no leaves to protect the fruit, winter winds easily blow them to the ground. The sky being rolled back like a scroll is hard to imagine what that might look like or mean atmospherically. Does it mean that our visible light spectrum blocks our vision of heaven? Surely we are so minute that our whole universe rests in the palm of God’s hand orbiting like the fidget spinners that are so popular today. Perhaps the visible light maintained by our atmosphere will peel back, revealing our true station among the heavenly hosts and the throne room of heaven–maybe a little like the speck-city of Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who.

Regardless, these heavenly signs marking the time of the end were spoken of in both the Old and New Testaments [Isaiah 13:10, 34:4; Matthew 24:29]. Jeremiah [4:24] mentions the impact of the great earthquake on the mountains. The earthquake will be so violent that mountains will bow and the islands will move or be swallowed up.

God created everything good, but disasters came on the earth when the Fall of Man ushered in Sin. In each generation, the closer the world comes to the end of times, the more intense and destructive sinful-natural disasters become. But we don’t need to be afraid of these troubles [John 16:33]. God is no less God. His heavenly throne is no less real. His promise of eternal life no less faithful or accessible. We need only believe. Keep our eyes on Him. Stand firm to the end, even unto death [Revelation 2:10]. And then we will truly live.

Death and Hades

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” Revelation 6:7-8

Image result for gapin beast jawsJesus slips His finger under the center seal, and the final living creature–which is His throne–beckons a fourth horse and rider. Pale, the color of lifelessness. Death. And right behind this personification of Death comes Hades.

Now Hades is the Greek underworld, but also the name of the god in Greek mythology that rules there. The Bible is not corroborating the existence of such a one as this. Rather, since the New Testament was written in Greek, it was using the Greek word for the Hebrew term Sheol that was used throughout the Old Testament to describe the grave and the gated depths of the dead [Job 17:16]. Death and Hades often appear together in scripture, showing the twin ends of life, death and grave.

So here, when Death is allowed to consume one-fourth of humanity, its fellow Hades is permitted to lock these dead in the depths of the grave. It is interesting to note that Sheol is sometimes portrayed in the Old Testament as a fearful beast with gaping jaws [Isaiah 5:14, 14:9; Habakkuk 2:5] and in each case this reference is to the grave.

As humans, it is our sinful natural tendency to fear death, but as Christians we should place our faith and trust in Jesus instead. He conquered death, hell and the grave [Sheol/Hades] [Revelation 1:18]. He holds the keys to them. No one who has died or will die will remain dead in the grave. And everyone who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ will be present with the Lord when they are absent from the body [2 Corinthians 5:8]. That is to say that we can be assured, like the thief on the cross who accepted Jesus’ lordship, that the day we are parted from our mortal bodies we will be with Jesus in paradise [Luke 23:43].

But woe to those who perish without acknowledging Jesus as Lord. Now that is something to truly fear [Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4], because those who refuse to bow their knee to Jesus will face a second death in the lake of fire [Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 20:14, 21:8].

It is interesting to note that Jesus rides out first [Revelation 6:2], a merciful opportunity for people to recognize and accept Him as Lord. Then war, famine, and death come next [Revelation 6:4, 6, 8]. Still opportunities for unbelievers to recognize God for who He is and repent, though many will further harden their hearts against Him instead. It is also, unfortunately, a time when believers who are not firmly rooted in faith, will fall away [Mark 4:15-20].

We are living in such times. There are wars and rumors of wars, though these may intensify before the end [Matthew 24:6]. There are famines [24:7]. There are people and nations turning to slay one another [Matthew 24:7; Revelation 6:4]. There is death and the grave seemingly for more all the time. Though again, these things may yet intensify before the end.

Is Jesus Lord of your life? Do you have faith that will persevere in the tough times ahead, even to death [Revelation 2:10? Hold onto Jesus through it all, and He will hold onto you.

Come and Truly See

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, ‘Come!” Revelation 6:1

Image result for inviting handRemember that John is watching a vision of things to come [Revelation 1:19]. These book of Revelation visions–along with some other scriptures–are commonly referred to as End Times Prophecy. In his vision, John is in heaven’s throne room with God Himself and all the heavenly hosts. The Lamb at the center of it all is Jesus, still in appearance of having been slain [Revelation 5:6]. He is the only one worthy to open up the seven seals of the scroll in God’s right hand [Revelation 5:7-9], so herein He begins to do just that.

When Jesus runs a finger under the loose scroll end to break the first waxen seal, He’d already beckoned John to come closer and see what happens [Revelation 4:1]. God intends for John to accurately write what His Spirit is showing Him about the future.

This is a very intimate look at what the Bible means when it tells us that all scripture is God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16]. Not every biblical author is recorded as having had a revelation like John did, but we can be assured that God, who spoke the world into perfect existence, also breathed–that is inspired–His word perfectly into being through His chosen instruments.

Throughout history, Satan also uses willing instruments, people, to persuade believers away from the faith on a key issue like the origin of the world and the origin and maintenance of the Bible. As Jesus appealed to the seven churches, hold firm to your faith in God’s Word [Ephesians 6:10-18]. If ever doubt creeps in, it will come from outside of scriptures and should be countered by getting back into them. God’s Word is unchanging and eternal [Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:25], it is truth [John 17:17] and life [John 6:63]. And to those who are victorious in holding to His truth, God will give eternal life [Revelation 2:7,11,17, & 26-28; 3:5,12 & 21].

God is still alive–always has been and always will be [Revelation 4:8]. His throne is alive and, just as it beckoned to John on the aisle of Patmos to come closer to God and see, so it calls to the hearts of all people in every nation throughout the history of the world. Will you answer the call from God’s throne? Will you come nearer to God? Will you allow Him to open your eyes that you might truly see?