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Shards of Heaven

“The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. This first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.” Revelation 21:18-21

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Walls made of jasper–the stone of the tribe of Benjamin–meaning son of my right hand [Genesis 35:18], or honored son. The New Jerusalem is the city of God’s Son. A city of pure gold–His people refined in the fire [1 Peter 1:7; Revelation 3:18]. Pure as glass–transparent. Nothing sinful. Nothing hidden [Genesis 3:8 & 10].

The first foundation, also jasper–the last son of Jacob, the last Adam–Jesus Christ [1 Corinthians 15:45]. Look at how the last shall be first [Matthew 20:16]–the tribe of Benjamin before all his brothers and Jesus Christ the Alpha and Omega before the first man Adam.

Each foundation stone representative of the tribes of Israel as was worn on the priestly ephod when they ministered before the Lord in the Tabernacle and the Temple [Exodus 28:17].

Reuben: carnelian [aka sardius or ruby]

Simeon: topaz/chrysolite [aka peridot, emerald or topaz]

Manasseh, Levi, Judah: beryl [aka carbuncle or emerald]

Judah, Zebulon: emerald [aka carbuncle or beryl or diamond]

Issachar: sapphire

Nephtali: jacinth [aka ligure]

Gad, Ephraim: chalcedony [aka agate or onyx]

Gad, Ephraim: chrysoprase [aka calcedony, agate or onyx]

Asher: amethyst

Ephraim: sardonyx [aka onyx alternated with sardius]

Benjamin: jasper

The book of Job tells about how we human beings plumb the depths of the earth for hidden riches [Job 28:1-19]. In the name of beauty, wealth and greatness, we ferret out every nugget of gold and precious gem the ground produces.

But before Adam and Eve ushered sin into the world, riches like these were abundant, even laying on the ground as commonplace as gravel or river rock [Genesis 2:12]. After sin, though, all of Creation was broken. The truth of eternity hidden from human understanding.

What does this have to do with the foundations of heaven? As aliens and strangers in this world [Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11], we are naturally drawn to the wonder, beauty and riches of our heavenly home. We dig into the earth seeking treasure to fill the need for something that we are missing. It is the natural response of the eternity in our hearts [Ecclesiastes 3:11]. Yet because of sin, we do not recognize the shards of heaven when we find them. Rather they become the impetus for greed and the root of all kinds of evil [1 Timothy 6:10].

Beauty is fleeting [Proverbs 31:30]. Earthly wealth will pass away [Proverbs 13:22]. Greatness belongs to God alone [Psalm 145:3]. True wonder emanates from Him alone.

Do you search for God as for hidden treasure [Proverbs 2:4]? Do you seek Him while He may be found [Isaiah 55:6]?

KCS

 

 

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Foundation for Life

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’ The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more–cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; bodies and souls of men.” Revelation 18:9-13

False religion. Earthly governments. Economic pursuits at any cost. Misplaced worldview or life perspective. All are temporal. All will come to ruin.

And when the time of the end comes, when judgment comes, those who placed their hope, faith and trust in such temporalities will grieve their error.

Babylon trusted in her self-ascribed power. Rome too. And how many others? Yet their empires were short lived in the expanse of eternity–naught more than an hour. A breath–like the vaporous, rapidly withering human lives that constructed them [Job 7:7; Psalms 144:4; Matthew 6:30; James 4:14; 1 Peter 1:9 & 24]. Bankrupt systems brought to further ruin by the truth of heaven.

Earthly gold, silver and precious stones will pass away in the fire [1 Corinthians 3:12-13], yet heaven will be paved with and foundationed on them [Revelation 21:18-21].

Earthly pearls will also pass away, yet heaven is analogized to their worth in the human heart [Matthew 13:45-46].

Earthly fashions, wealthy wardrobes, stately furnishings and trendy trinkets will all pass away, many ensnaring and dragging their owners into the fires with them [Matthew 19:24; Mark10:25].

Even the earthly gifts presented to baby Jesus that helped support his family in Egypt [Matthew 2:11] and God’s merciful restraint in the Revelation plagues [Revelation 6:6] had and will have no eternal value.

Animal and human trafficking was never God’s intention and will have no place in heaven.

All these financial and flesh indulgent snares for which human beings trade away their souls. All temporal. All carrying the world away to ruin at a breakneck pace.

Is your heart set on the things of this world? Are your building your life on the things that are passing away?

From the Students Question Board: Are Ghosts Real?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your mind? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Luke 24:37-39

Image result for flashlight faceAfter Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to his disciples–alive! And not just alive, but in bodily form–flesh, blood, hair, fingernails, you name it. But the disciples couldn’t believe it. They couldn’t wrap their understanding around Jesus’ appearance. He didn’t come through the door, He simply stood before them. A dead man. Standing before them. Not even a little bit dead. With all the same human body features that they themselves had. It blew their minds.

The English translation here is problematic in our culture, because the Greek word pneuma or spirit is rendered as ghost. To be clear, there is a spiritual world all around us–angels and demons at war for our souls. Sometimes we can see this spiritual dimension. But ghosts, the supposed spirits of deceased humans, are not a part of it. It’s kind of like the popular myth that when people die they become angels. Like humankind, Angels are uniquely created beings [Hebrews 2:7]. So when we die, though we go to heaven, we do not morph from human to angel. The saints will still be the saints and the angels will still be the angels in heaven [Revelation 7:9-11]. Similarly, when people die, our spirits do not join the spiritual warfare of the angels and the demons, nor we do not haunt those still living.

Rather, just as Jesus told the thief on the cross–who acknowledged Him as Lord–that he would be in heaven with Jesus that same day they died [Luke 23:43], so we believe that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord [2 Corinthians 5:8]. And for those who are not believers, their souls sleep with their bodies in the ground until the judgment [Revelation 20:11-15].

Christians are often spiritually sensitive, even from a young age, sensing the spiritual battles around us. But we do not need to be afraid. God reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light [Job 12:22]. He is our lamp that turns our darkness into light [2 Samuel 22:29]. Where He is, darkness cannot be because darkness cannot stand in the presence of light [John 1:5]. That is, darkness cannot overcome or overtake the light.

When spiritual fears and worldly superstitions threaten to overwhelm our senses, we need only to call on the name of Jesus. If we remain in Him, He is with us. His authority will drive out every demonic spirit that tries to come against us [Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 1:21-34 & 5:1-17] and, at the same time, He will fill us with a peace that beyond anything we could understand [Philippians 4:7].

Is the Lord your lamp? Does the truth of His word light your way [Psalm 119:105]?

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]?

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?