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Mercy Removed

 

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.’ The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died. The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.” Revelation 16:1-4

Image result for leprous skinThe thing that stands out most about this passage is that people who have a proper understanding of who God is–that is reverence for God, aka the fear of the Lord–know well and good that He has the power to heal and to judge with plagues, to create and to destroy. Why else would jokes about being strikened with a thunderbolt abound when somebody does something wrong? The understanding of God being an Almighty being still resides in the hearts of humankind, though many do not give it the full place that it ought to have.

Since people understand such things–that there is a God, that He is all-powerful, and that He has a standard of right and wrong–shouldn’t it cause them to stop and think, “Hey. I should get to know God and find out what He expects from me and why.” But the lie that Satan propagated in heaven [Isaiah 14:14] and in the Garden [Genesis 3:5], has so rooted in the prideful heart of human beings throughout world history that, even to shaking a fist at God and daring Him to unleash His worst wrath, many will harden their hearts to the truth.

In fact, the last seven plagues for all time are being reserved for those who refuse God and choose to serve an impostor instead. Many will follow the antichrist because they fear only for the physical [Matthew 10:28; Revelation 13:15-17], when they should fear the eternity to come.

As in the sounding of the seven trumpets, judgment comes. But this time, mercy has been removed. Rather than a short time period of painful welts from the hybrid scorpion-locust [Revelation 9:7-11], everyone bearing the mark of the beast will be subject to painful boils that they can never overcome [Exodus 9:9-11]. Just like the first trumpet brought hail mixed with fire and blood [Revelation 8:7] and the third trumpet resulted in a third of the ocean turning to blood [Revelation 8:10], the second bowl of wrath will turn the entire ocean into blood, killing every creature therein [Exodus 7:17-21]. And the third bowl will turn every other water source on the planet into blood. There will be nothing left clean for anyone to drink.

So at this point, there’s about 3 days to the end of human existence on planet earth–the length of time that people can live without water, though a few “doom’s day prepper types” may hoard fresh fruits and vegetables or have other ferretted stocks. The point is, it doesn’t really matter how long a person survives at this point. Their life, which is but a breath to begin with, will be forfeit [Job 7:7; Psalms 144:4]. Then again, anyone who chooses to deny God forfeits their life in the end anyway. Because there is only one way to eternal life–believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Will you accept mercy while it may still be found [Isaiah 55:6]?

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The Cause of Christ

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” Revelation 12:10-12

Image result for the cause of christAfter the red dragon is hurled to the earth, along with his followers, heaven rejoices. Loud proclamations resound. Salvation results when Satan is removed from his self-appointed place as God in our hearts. God’s power manifests itself in removing this enemy. God’s kingdom grows as people accept this redemption. The authority of Christ–Greek for Messiah, or savior–reveals itself in the conquest of the adversary.

All of the tangle of human history–past, present and future–unravels with the triune Godhead casting Satan from heaven and establishing redemption through Jesus as Lord.

Satan is an accuser. He accuses God to His own face [Job 1:9-11] and he determines to remind God of our sins as well. But cast out of heaven, he has no audience with the Almighty, no opportunity to accuse us any longer. The blood of Jesus wiped our slates clean and our testimony, that we proclaim Jesus as Lord, seals our innocence before the Creator. Moreover, when we keep a proper perspective on our earthly lives, when we recognize that death is just a doorway to the promise of eternal life–not out of depression, despair, or morbidity, but in the way we lives our lives to give Jesus honor and glory in all things. We do not seek death. But we will stand for the cause of Christ and the salvation of a lost and dying world.

Again, heaven rejoices when the adversary is thrown out of heaven, but it pities the earth. This is another indicator of historical allegory in this Revelation 12 passage. The devil is and has been the prince of the air or the prince of this world [Ephesians 2:2; John 12:31] since his banishment from heaven. In his fury, he has wreaked havoc on human understanding seeking whom he many devour [1 Peter 5:18], seeking to steal, kill and destroy all who live by faith in the one true God [John 10:10].

Satan’s time is short [Revelation 12:12]. God is not too long in coming [1 Peter 3:9]. Jesus is coming soon [Revelation 22:12].

Have you placed your full faith in the one true God? Have you accepted the redemption of His Son in your life? Are you standing for the cause of Christ before our lost and dying world?

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?

Locust Storm

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those  people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” Revelation 9:1-4

Image result for locustAfter the eagle interlude, angel number five takes a deep breath and blows his trumpet, adding to the earthly discord wreaked by the first four. At the blast of his horn, a single star–sometimes referring to angels in scripture [Job 38:7; Daniel 8:10; Revelation 1:20 & 12:4]–is given the key to the Abyss.

Used here, Abyss is a Greek term meaning very deep or bottomless. It was believed in ancient times to be a place beneath the earth’s surface where all demons were confined. The Hebrew word equivalent refers back to the deeps of the earliest recorded moments of the earth [Genesis 1:2] and the springs of the deep that loosed Noah’s flood [Genesis 7:11; Proverbs 8:28]. The legion of demons in Luke 8:31 begged Jesus not to send them into this Abyss.

This should be warning enough for Christians not to dabble in séances and other rites or activities that claim to call demons forth. Because it is not just a game, it opens up the deep and it opens up our spirit to the forces of darkness.

John records such vivid imagery of the opening of this Abyss. Smoke pouring out of a large furnace, like the chimney stacks of factories or nuclear plants that cloud the horizon for miles. Smoke enough to screen the sun and the entire sky like a stormy, black-clouded day. The eighth Exodus plague bursts back onto the scene with locusts pouring out of the smoke and raining onto every inch of earth [Exodus 10:1-20].

But this is not your ordinary locust. This is a supernatural hybrid of locust with scorpion power–aka venomous barbs–and the express mission of stinging people, rather than destroying the vegetation [as locusts normally do]. All people, that is, except for those sealed by God [Revelation 7:1-8].

Interestingly, these seals were initially given after the opening of the sixth of seven scroll seals [Revelation 6:1-8:5]. At the time, God expressly forbid the land and sea harming angel to touch anything until He sealed the foreheads of His people. Here in Revelation 9, we see that the locust-scorpion hybrids are commanded not to harm the land at all and not to touch anyone who has this seal. God’s mercies are at work.

Later on in the tribulation, Satan will counterfeit this seal with his own version–the mark of the beast [Revelation 13:16-17]. As Christians, we do not need to worry about whether or not we will relent and take this mark, because it is clear by this timeline that we will either have already been raptured or received God’s seal on our foreheads. And if we’ve been sealed by God, taking the mark will not be an option.

Do you worry about end times events? Study the Word to understand them better. Understanding can dispel many fears. Trusting God will quell them all. Do you trust Him as you love Him–with all your heart, and with all your strength and with all your mind?

 

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.

From the Student Question Board: How Does God Knit Babies Together?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. And she again bare his brother Abel.” Genesis 4:1-2a KJV

Image result for unborn baby + imageFor the sake of our younger students, I used the KJV here and have paraphrased the question asked, “How does God make babies since babies come from human parents?” A reasonable question.

First of all, without doubt babies come from both God and human parents. God set every system in the cosmos in motion from the Creation of the world, including the reproductive system of human beings and the marriage relationship, within whose confines He intended babies to come. So God is in the baby business largely because He established it.

However, just as plants reproduce according to the natural order God created and the earth continues in its orbit around the sun while the moon orbits the earth itself, creating tides and weather patterns in perpetuity, parents produce offspring according to God’s natural design. That is to say that God created the process and is intimately aware of every cell of every human being, but that He allows the natural processes He created to continue to function without divine intervention.

Still Eve recognizes that this process wasn’t possible if not for the Creator God [Genesis 4:1]. And King David [Psalm 139:13] and Job [Job 10:11] both attribute their lives to God’s sovereignty as well.

The popular Psalm 139:13 is often quoted to say, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” This appears to give God a more active process in the Creation of each individual child. And while each of us is God’s handiwork, God only created one man and one woman in the beginning and gave them–and their descendants after them–the ability to bring forth more human beings. Here the King James Version stays closer to the original Hebrew which says, “For you have possessed my reins, you have covered me in my mother’s womb,”[Psalm 139:13]. This original version makes it much more clear in English that God maintains the reproductive processes, not that He creates each individual as he did Adam and Eve.

But that is not to say that God never intervenes in this process. Certainly God answers the prayers of His people. And pregnant mothers and fathers often call out–as they should–to God for His protection or healing of an unborn life. Many times God answers with a happy, healthy delivery for mother and child. But there are also times when it seems that God has not heard, or not answered, or not cared, because the outcome is less than happy and healthy. In these times we have to remember that the effects of sin are still at work deteriorating our physical bodies and our physical world.

We do not always understand why God allows things to happen as He does, why He intervenes miraculously in some instances and not in others, nor do we need to fully understand in this life. Only to fully trust in Him who can work everything together for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose [Romans 8:28].

Do you–as did King David and Job–recognize God’s handiwork in your life? Are you committed to living according to God’s design and purposes in all things?