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Stealing Across the River

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. ‘Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.’ Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” Revelation 16:12-16

Image result for euphrates river imageThe mighty Euphrates, fourth river of Eden [Genesis 2:14], covenanted border of the Promised Land [Genesis 15:18; Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4; 1 Kings 4:21 & 24]. In modern times, the Euphrates appears to be nowhere near Israel’s borders, running instead from Turkey across Northern Syria and through Iraq. Only for a short time under the reigns of King David and his son Solomon did Israel’s territory extend all the way east to the great river [1 Kings 4:21; 1 Chronicles 18:3].

Still, it is significant that the river is removed altogether when the sixth bowl of wrath is poured out. With it, God’s covenanted Promised Land with the Israelites is without border, a border that delineated both divine protection and spiritual alignment in scriptures. Jacob fled from his father-in-law into the country of refuge across this river [Genesis 31:21], while enemy kings are noted as having come from beyond the river [1 Chronicles 19:16; Isaiah 7:20].

God’s hand of protection is removed from the earth along with his mercy [Isaiah 11:15; Jeremiah 46:6] to prepare for the final war–Armageddon. A demonic spirit comes out of Satan, his antichrist, and the false prophet, each one. The frog-like demons represent unclean spirits, since the frog was considered an unclean animal. They aid with the deception of the antichrist and the false prophet, and help unite the governments of the entire world against their Creator God.

Armageddon likely is a re-pronunciation/respelling of Har Mageddon, meaning the mountain of Megiddo. Throughout history, the plain of Megiddo, located in the main pass that runs northeast through the hill country between Sharon and Jezreel, was a frequent battleground because of its strategic location [i.e. Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:22; and in modern times–1468 & 1917].

Just as Jesus’ return to rapture the church to heaven will be like a thief in the home of the unsuspecting [1 Thessalonians 5:2 & 4; 1 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3], so will his appearance at the last battle be like a thief to the earthly governments who have fallen asleep, those who have not only denied God, but forgotten Him. There is a difference. But Jesus is warning them that, Hey look, you’re going to be defeated by virtue of aligning yourselves with the unholy trinity, but you don’t have to shame yourselves in the process. Be ready.

This can also be taken as reminder to believers to be ready for His return. Jesus coming will only seem like a thief in the night to the unsuspecting. We not know the exact day or the hour [Matthew 24:36], but we can see the signs of the times, recognize that it is near, and be ready for His return [Matthew 24:1-35].

Do you know the signs of the end times? Study God’s word to understand them better. Do you see the signs all around? Is your heart prepared so that Jesus’ coming does not take you by surprise?

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Last Plagues Ever

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues–last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: ‘Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:1-4

Image result for fire and glassThe vision of the winepress of God’s wrath is a vision within the vision of the final things to come, the seven plagues in the bowls and the end of “the woman and the beast” are the fulfillment of God’s wrath from the winepress vision.

Remember, seven is God’s number. It is the number of completion–aka perfection, for that which is perfect is complete. In six days, God created the earth and on the seventh He rested [Genesis 1]. The sevenfold spirit of God is repeatedly referred to in the book of Revelation [1:4, 3:1, 4:5 & 5:6]. The seven seals on the scroll in Revelations 5 each bear witness to a spirit of God in the will and testament of the Lamb. Later, in Revelation 8-11, seven angels will sound seven trumpets that usher in the next wave of God’s wrath against sin on the earth. In this, the victory of the saints over sin will be like the march around Jericho–seven sevens culminating in seven trumpet blasts which announce the Lord’s judgment on the enemy and therefore victory for the people of God [Joshua 6:13].

So seven angels carrying the last seven plagues ever is no surprise. God is completing His work [Leviticus 26:21], He is restoring the world to the same perfection with which He created it [Genesis 1:31].

Those who triumphed over the antichrist and refused his mark–possibly the 144,000 who had been sealed by God [Revelation 7:4, 9:4 & 14:1], although these scriptures seem to indicate that there will be a few who spiritually rise above the tribulation–are standing in the throne room of heaven, as evidenced by the sea of glass [Revelation 4:6]. This time, however, we see fire mixed with the glass–fire which was used to purify [Exodus 15:7; Isaiah 6:7; Malachi 3:2; 1 Peter 1:7].

God gives harps to these tribulation survivors and they naturally begin to sing praise to God, praise that hearkens back to the Exodus from Egypt [Exodus 15]. Praise for God’s great deeds. Praise that He is true and just–there is nothing corrupt about God, nor can He be tempted, bribed or corrupted in any way, unlike the authorities of this earth. Praise that rises in true fear of the Lord–not fear as in afraid, but the honest reverence that is due the One True God out of a heart of love for Him.

Because of God’s wrath, many choose to deny Him, as if denying His existence somehow makes it true. In this way, they can pretend that God is no more than a figment like Santa or the Easter Bunny, and they choose to blame believers for God being unchanging, as if we made Him up and therefore we are responsible for turning Him into someone that everyone can be happy with. They want Him to be just, but they want that justice to look like their personal definition of justice and in their cause and in their time. In effect, they want God to be themselves, just like Satan promised them.

How do you share the hope that you have within you in light of the wrath of God in passages such as these? Do you pray for and witness to those around you, sharing God’s heart that none should perish in His judgment on sin?

Preternatural Phenomena

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.” Revelation 7:1

Image result for wind and sunBefore Jesus–the slain Lamb–opens the seventh and final seal on the scroll, there is a heavenly time out to prepare for what the seal will bring. Chapter seven shows us behind the scenes of this time out.

Just like Daniel, John is shown the four winds of heaven in a prophecy of the end to come [Daniel 7:2]. But in Revelation, John sees four angels who stand in the cardinal directions of the earth, keeping these winds from blowing across the earth.

It’s interesting to consider the science of this. There are times when geographical pockets go prolonged periods without winds, but there is never a day where wind is absent from the entire planet all at once. Because the rotation and orbit of the earth, together with the heating and cooling created by lit and darkened areas, churn up the winds.

The book of Joshua explains a similar preternatural and impossible phenomena–the sun stood still in the sky for a full day after it had already been in the sky for almost a full day [Joshua 10:13]. And during King Hezekiah’s reign, the sun also reversed its course by several hours [2 Kings 20:8-11]. Knowing that the earth revolves around the sun to create the appearance the of sun moving around the earth from our perspective, means that in each of these instances it was the earth–by God’s command–that froze in place and reversed.

Similarly, for the winds to be held back, the world would probably stop its revolutions at God’s commands so that the natural processes that create wind would cease. However, that is not to say that is what will happen. God is certainly able to keep the world in motion and simply stop the winds. How ever He chooses to carry out this prophecy, the bottom line is that a windless world is a drudgery for all the living, and one that will wreak havoc on the earth itself.

I read many school articles and writings growing up that talked about the sun blowing up or another comet/meteor hitting earth or the ice caps melting and flooding us all out. Yet God’s Word is clear, everything will continue as God created it–day and night, summer and winter, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat–until He brings the end of these things [Genesis 8:22]. So when we read scientific predictions, just like when we hear so-called Christians trying to pin down an exact date for the return of Christ, we shouldn’t be afraid.

The Bible tells us exactly how the end will come. And even when we see the signs, we do not need to fear–only trust God our Creator, Protector and Provider who Himself is Love and Goodness, Holy and True.

Do you believe that God holds all things in His hand? Do you believe that He holds and cares for you personally? Do you trust God no matter what happens in the world around you?

Life Is Not A Screenplay

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.’ He also said, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.” Genesis 9:24-27

Image result for Cinematic TechniquesOn an individual level, Ham behaved sinfully. He could have repented and apologized to his father. He could have confessed before his son Canaan that his actions were wrong. And perhaps he did do some or all of these things. Scripture doesn’t say. However, even when we are sorry, actions always carry natural consequences. And one of the natural consequences of sin is coming under a curse [Genesis 3:14 & 17]. By curse, I don’t mean some magical incantation, rather an almost prophetic utterance of the wrong that will befall someone.

Canaan was cursed to become a slave to his own family, while his uncles–Shem and Japheth–received blessings for their righteous choices. Looking ahead, we learn that Canaan became the father of the: Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, Arvadites, Zemarites, and Hamathites [Genesis 10:16-18].

The Canaanites–aka descendants of Canaan–became the inhabitants of the Promised Land [Genesis 15:18-21]. The five clans in bold, are repeatedly mentioned in scripture as the people that the Israelites–descendants of Shem–needed to drive from the land in order to take possession of it [Exodus 3:8, 17; 12:5; 23:23; et al]. However, the Israelites were not faithful to drive out all of the Canaanite peoples. Some did in fact become their slaves, others were killed or driven out, and a small remnant were left alive and later intermarried [contrary to God’s command].

But history was not written by God in advance as a screenplay for us to walk through. Despite the pronouncement of the curse, Canaan could have repented and raised his children in the fear and admonition of the Lord as his grandfather Noah had done. Imagine how different scripture and world history would be if that had been the case. If each generation faithfully passed on and received, not just the truth of God, but the desire to enter into a personal relationship with Him.

Many generations later, a Canaanite descendant would choose to revere God, to make the kind of righteous choice that her ancestors Canaan and Ham did not. And God brought Rahab back into His blessing, made her a member of his own family by her faith [Joshua 6:25; Matthew 1:5]. God is not willing that any should perish [2 Peter 3:9], but each one is allowed to choose all the same.

We are all descended from sinners, but like Shem, Japheth and Rahab, we can also all make righteous choices by faith. Despite your sin, God is not willing that you should perish, but what do you choose? Do you choose to read books/magazines, or watch TV shows/movies that gratify the desires of your body? Or do you choose righteousness–to save those pleasures for the time and place in life for which God has designed them?

Confronted with the Truth of God

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” Hebrews 11:31

Image result for scarlet cordRahab was a woman of ill-repute among her people. We don’t know why she came to this profession, and we don’t need to. Because–like all sinners–her past was washed away when she was justified by her faith–her absolute certainty in what she hoped for, but couldn’t see. But how did a poor, sinful woman of an idolatrous nation come to place her faith in a God she had never known?

In her own words, Rahab told the Israelite spies–the ones that she had hidden from her own King’s messengers–“I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear of you. We have heard how the Lord…and our courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below,” [Joshua 2:8-11].

Even though Rahab was not raised in the fear of the Lord, when she heard of His great works, her whole heart–intellect, will, and emotion–turned to Him. She recognized Him for who He alone is–the One True God of heaven and earth.

And the scriptures write that, “she was not killed with those who were disobedient,” [Hebrews 11:31]. Meaning that everyone else who heard of God’s works also had the opportunity to recognize that there was no other like the God of Israel. Everyone else had the opportunity to acknowledge Him as the One and Only God and to submit their lives to Him by faith. Like Rahab, God would’ve seen all of the inhabitants of the Promised Land–rather than be routed by the sword–turn back to Him.

Instead the king and citizens of Jericho maintained faith in themselves. They believed that they could withstand the Israelites in their own power despite what they’d heard about their God. Perhaps they didn’t believe that the stories were real. Perhaps they thought themselves stronger than the Egyptians or better defended than other cities. Perhaps they truly believed the stone idols made by their own hands were really real. Regardless, when God presented Himself to the people of Jericho, they denied Him as God.

Rahab alone turned to Him. Rahab alone did not fear those who could kill the body, but feared instead for the loss of her soul [Matthew 10:28]. And not only was she physically saved, God brought her into his literal family–the line through which Jesus would be born [Matthew 1:5].

If you are a Christian, you know how Rahab felt when she recognized who God is and that she needed and wanted to trust in Him alone. But what about those around us?

Whether we have been saved since a young age or only recently, we become a light to everyone we encounter. When they look at us, do they see the Almighty God at work? Do they hear of His great works in our lives and through our speech? Are they confronted with the truth of God in us?

Seed of Faith or Spore of Doubt?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land: but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.” Hebrews 11:29-30

Image result for tree and mushroomIt’s not often that we read about the Israelites’ corporate faith, but here the writer of Hebrews–as inspired by God–commends their faith. By absolute certainty in what they hoped for, but couldn’t see, the Israelites walked through the parted Red Sea.

By Moses’ faith, God parted the sea, but if the people failed to believe God they would never have walked through the watery walls. They would have turned back, or been crushed by the Egyptians, or–like the Egyptians–been drowned by the waves.

But despite witnessing God’s awesome power at work, this generation turned from their faith and grumbled against God [Numbers 14:1-4]. Consequently, they passed away in their desert wanderings.

Forty years later, by a renewed corporate faith, the youth from the Red Sea parting  obediently marched around Jericho behind the ark of the covenant. Armed with nothing but trumpets, marching orders and the command to shout on cue, this next generation stormed the gateway city to the Promised Land and saw God deliver it miraculously into their hands.

This generation went in to take hold of the Promised Land, but their faith–and that of the generations after them–eventually gave way too [read Joshua, Judges, Kings, Chronicles, and the prophets].

Without their initial belief, the Israelites would never have seen these two great miracles. But even having seen them, they lost their absolute certainty in what they hoped for, but couldn’t see.

The difficulties of life and the murmurs of others seeded doubt. And just like a tiny mustard seed of faith can grow into a mighty tree that moves mountains, so a tiny spore of doubt can decay the faith of individuals and, eventually, an entire nation.

We must be careful then what we allow to inform our faith–family, friends, feelings, circumstances–or God Himself? Have you surrounded yourself with those who seed faith or spread spores of doubt? Both can take root and grow, but only one to the glory of God.

How about you? Do you tend to be a seed or a spore to those around you?

Telling the Story Again

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.” Hebrews 11:22

Image result for Egyptian heiroglyphics about IsraelitesDuring Joseph’s life, the Israelites were living in Goshen, a nice Egyptian neighborhood, where they were treated fairly and lived as freely as any Egyptian citizen. However, Egypt was not their home. So Joseph spoke about the exodus that would take place over 400 years after his death and left instructions to make sure that his bones were carried out and buried in his homeland.

This was not the first mention of the exodus in scriptures. In Genesis 15:12-16, when God made His covenant with Joseph’s great-grandfather, Abraham, He foretold that the Israelites would be foreigners and then slaves for 400 years. He also let Abraham know about the good things that would happen when his descendants came out of this slavery.

No doubt Abraham told his promised son, Isaac, what God had said concerning their descendants, as well as about the promised inheritance. And Isaac told his son Jacob who told his sons, including Joseph, who now told the story with the promise again to the generation after him. And for 400 years of slavery, the Israelites faithfully passed down the family history of God’s promise and Joseph’s request to take his bones with when the time came.

In Joshua 24:32 we see that the Israelites kept this inherited responsibility–just as God kept His covenant with Abraham–and they buried Joseph’s bones in his homeland–the Promised Land.

We who have accepted Christ have also been adopted into Abraham’s inheritance [Galatians 3:29]. We too have a story to tell and a promise to pass on. Like Abraham and Joseph, God has already told us what will happen in the end, both times of great tribulation and of great blessing [see Revelation]. By faith–absolute certainty in what we hope for, but cannot see–we too can leave instructions about what to do when Christ returns for us; though if we have told the story faithfully, hopefully those we know will also have accepted Christ and left with us.

Are you telling the gospel story to everyone you know? Are you giving each person you encounter an opportunity to choose eternal life? Aren’t you glad that someone was faithful to tell you the story again and give you that opportunity?