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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
Beat 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?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.” Revelation 7:13-14a
Verses like this are sprinkled throughout the Revelation account to remind us that John is still in a vision and being shown things that will happen in the future. An elder takes John aside to make sure that he understands what he is seeing, because John has been charged with reporting it with accuracy to the world at large.
In this instance, just like in Revelation 1:20 with the symbolism of the lamps and the stars, John is clearly told what the literal white-robed multitude means. But the elder does so through a question, much like God employed with Adam and Eve in the garden [Genesis 3:9, 11 & 13] and with Cain [4:6, 9 & 10].
The Genesis questions were not for God’s sake, not because He didn’t already know the answer, but to cause Adam and Eve, and Cain to consider the truth. Here in Revelation, the elder’s question is not because the elder doesn’t know the answer, but to prompt John to be an active observer–not passive. He needs to know what he is seeing, and the elder’s question causes John to ask for understanding.
We, like John, are not to be passive consumers of Christianity. We too need to understand what we read and hear of God’s Word so that we can always be ready with an answer for the hope we have within us [1 Peter 3:15]. And when we don’t at first understand, all we need to do is ask God for wisdom and believe that He will show us the truth of His Word [James 1:5].
What questions is the Spirit prompting your heart with today? Are you seeking His understanding? Are you listening for His answer?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” Revelation 3:1-3
It is extremely important that the church of Sardis recognized Jesus as the One holding the spirits of God and the stars that represented the angels of the Asia Minor churches. It reminded them that He alone is God. There is no other.
Why was that particularly important to this church? Because they’d found a way to avoid persecution. A way to worship God in their house churches without suffering for their dissenting faith. They simply stopped dissenting with other belief systems. “You want to believe Judaism is the way or that pagan worship is for you? Go for it. It’s all good. And we’ll just do our Christian thing over here and leave you alone.”
It’s a stance that we see imitated in modern American society. How many times I’ve heard someone say, “Well, being a Christian works for me, but I don’t try to push my views on other people. They can do what works for them.”
But Jesus calls out the church on this approach, saying, “You are dead.” People see a church that appears to be alive with the love of God, but your message is dead.
It is not enough to hide the light of Jesus under the bushel of our comfortable lives [Matthew 5:14-16]. We claim that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. There is no other. So how can we keep this truth to ourselves? Knowing that no one will receive eternal life who does not believe in Jesus. So again, how do we keep this to ourselves? We were called to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything I [Jesus] have commanded you [Matthew 28:19-20].
Jesus commands the Church of Sardis–and us today–to wake up! Get the message back on track. Do not cut short the truth in order to get along and have social peace in this life. Repent–rethink this in the light of God’s truth. If they didn’t, they would be like the history of their own city. Twice, Sardis was conquered because the enemy discovered a weakness through the fault of the city’s own guard. That enemy overwhelmed them like a thief in the night, caught the city unaware in their complacency.
Jesus is coming back soon and we have to be watchful, but also faithful with His truth, His whole truth and nothing but His truth. Not just as hearers of His word, but as doers [James 1:22].
Would you say that your Christian walk is dead or alive? What does the Spirit testify within you? Does your Christian walk challenge those around you to examine their own lives? Or do you silently coexist with unbelievers despite conflicting worldviews? Does your light shine for Jesus? Or does your comfort shade it?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” Revelation 2:19-23
Like Ephesus, the church at Thyatira had a lot going for it. But also like Ephesus, there was one major problem–Thyatira allowed a false prophetess among them, a mistake that Ephesus hadn’t made.
Jesus calls this false prophetess Jezebel–not likely her real name, and certainly not a compliment. The wickedest Israelite queen in their entire history, Jezebel ordered the killings of every prophet in Israel [1 Kings 18:4]. Her husband, King Ahab, did more to rouse God’s anger than every king before him [1 Kings 16:33].
This so called Thyatiran Jezebel taught the church that it was well and good to participate in the local pagan temples, which involved sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols as an expression of worship to the false gods. Apparently, God was patient with this woman, and He gave her opportunities to change her ways. Perhaps He sent people to try to set her straight. Perhaps He allowed the natural consequences of sin to manifest in her life in hopes that she would return to Him.
But she refused God. And just like every one who refuses the Creator of the Universe, they give themselves over to the destruction of sin and death, both of which are replete with suffering [James 1:15; Romans 1:21]. Even in this, God is mercifully patient, still allowing those who followed this prophetess the opportunity to repent.
Though some may say that because He said He would strike her children dead that He is anything but a good and loving God. Consider this: Jezebel was luring God’s children to die eternally. And God ends this portion of scripture saying that He would repay each according to their deeds. Jezebel herself was luring her own children to die eternally.
Why do we always blame God for allowing us to choose when that is exactly what we as humans want so much? We want to choose. To do whatever we feel like whenever we feel like it. And we want God to be an all anticipating fairy godmother that keeps anything bad from happening to us despite our choices. And if He ever lets us feel the consequences of our choices, then we get indignant. Surely God isn’t really good or loving or actually God if He lets “bad” things happen. This mindset has riddled humanity for too long. Since the Garden actually [Genesis 3:5]–remember the be your own god lie? Except, when we screw it up for ourselves, then we can blame the real God, right?
Is there a Jezebel spirit at work in your life? Someone mixing God’s word with a more culturally appealing teaching? Ask God to give you discernment and the boldness to cling to His truth in an intolerant generation.
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“After the flood Noah lived 350 years. Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.” Genesis 9:28-29
The sinful saga continues. Noah’s epitaph mirrors Adam’s final verse so closely [Genesis 5:5]. It’s clear that God wants the reader to be aware that His plan of redemption did not come through the flood in the day of Noah. Yes, the majority of sin was purged from the earth with its inhabitants, but Noah still sinned, and then he died–old and full of years, but he died nonetheless. And sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death [James 1:15].
Jesus conquered death, hell and the grave to fulfill the Genesis 3:15 prophesy, but it won’t be fully realized in us until we have eternal life. Until Christ comes again and we believers meet up with him in the sky [1 Corinthians 15:52-53], we are still confined to sinful human bodies which, themselves, are subject to death.
But what we do with our lives while we are clothed in mortal array matters immensely. Do you live in such a way that you would find favor with God in your generation? Do you live by faith? Are you governed by righteousness? Have you accepted the atoning sacrifice of Jesus’ blood for your sins? And when you sin, do you repent, asking the Lord for forgiveness?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.” Genesis 8:10-12
After 265 days of life aboard the ark, what’s another 14 days [2 weeks]? On Day 272, the dove came back with a fresh olive leaf! Not bedraggled and waterlogged from flood debris, but freshly picked from a growing tree.
Clearly, God was at work once again. Just as He had prepared the Creation before placing Adam into a perfect garden home, so He ensured that Noah and his family would be able to survive the post-flood earth.
However, if–during the flood–mountains were covered to a depth of 23 feet, then trees were covered to depths of possibly hundreds of feet. The types of waves and riptides produced by a worldwide deluge would be enough to rip most of the trees out of the saturated earth and toss them around like pick-up-sticks. According to the Biblical account, every living thing died in the flood save those on the ark. So forests, fields, jungles, and all the creatures therein–birds, mammals, humans, and reptiles…including dinosaurs–died in the flood.
Do you know that there is evidence of this death toll everywhere? Trees have been found coalified and petrified and coalified [again…as in the same tree crossing through three different geologic layers] standing straight up, though not rooted. Human artifacts have been discovered inside coal. And fossil fuels are termed such because scientists know that they are the pressurized decomposed remains of once living organisms. Only there had to be a whole lot of organisms deceased and squished all at once under an inordinate amount of pressure to form the coal, natural gas, and oil seams that we have today. [Or the organisms had to be a whole lot larger…maybe like dinosaur size?]
So an olive leaf was a great sign! Trees do not grow up over night–at least not without divine intervention. Olive leaves/branches are a symbol of peace, as are doves and doves carrying olive branches. All symbolism has an origin, and we today use these as symbols of peace, because of this moment in history right here when God made peace with man. The man named peace, whose father had prophesied would bring peace to all the earth, received the sign of peace from God.
The earth was almost inhabitable again, but Noah waited one more week to be sure. With worldwide mud, I’m sure he did not want to get stuck, maybe lose a sandal that couldn’t easily be replaced. He also, as Adam in the garden before him, was caretaker for the animals the Lord had sent him. So besides his own well being, Noah remained on the ark until he felt sure that the world was ready to receive back life in the midst of all the death.
And when the dove–that clean bird–did not return, then Noah knew for sure that the life had returned upon the earth.
Sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death [James 1:15]. The world we live in is full of sin growing to its fullest. Our own lives not withstanding. Death abounds. Judgment leading to second death is coming. But where there is death, there are also those ready to receive new life. And just like in Eden and the post-flood world, God is at work, but this time, preparing hearts.
Look at your life through God’s Word and ask yourself, if you had been alive during the days of Noah, would God have chosen you? In the post-flood aftermath we live in 4,000 years later, are you prepared to plant life in the hearts and minds of those God sends your way?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:17-19
Adam’s turn–third to sin, third to learn the consequence for his actions. And God lets him know on no uncertain terms that following his wife into sin–the excuse he gave when he admitted his disobedience–is exactly the reason why he too is subject to the effects of sin.
Scripture is clear that, “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed,“[James 1:14]. If Adam hadn’t already considered eating the forbidden fruit, Eve’s offer wouldn’t have been so tempting. She affirmed his evil desire to disobey God, and he acted on it. “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death,” [James 1:15].
Adam’s first death–as Eve’s and every other sinful human being after–was the broken relationship with God. His second death came in the form of a broken relationship with the world that he was created to care for [Genesis 2:15].
Where once he could walk freely among the trees and eat of any fruit that God had prepared for him, now Adam was exiled to plant seeds, tend their growth and harvest their fruit. But the ground wouldn’t cooperate with him so easily. Where he planted seeds, he would receive weeds for his trouble. And if he intended to eat [which of course he did], then he would have to hoe and sow, weed and water, fight blight and inspect for insects in the burning sun and hot winds. Adam would have to work hard for every meal that he and his family ate for the rest of his life!
And then he would die, physically, just as God warned would happen if he ate from the forbidden tree. He lost his free meal ticket. He lost his home. His wife subjected herself to pain and heartbreak. And Adam subjected himself to frustrated labor. All because they gave in to their temptation.
But while we all certainly face temptations today, we do not have to succumb. Scripture promises us that, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it,” [1 Corinthians 10:13].
Do you ever find your self-defense starts with, “But s/he did it too?” Ask God to reveal your inner desires, those enticements threatening to grow into full-blown sin and death. Ask Him to show you His provision of a way out of your temptation so that you can endure it.