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Fire Fall

“This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth–Gog and Magog–to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Revelation 20:5b-10

See the source imageIf there is a first resurrection, then there must also be a second resurrection. Later in this same chapter [Revelation 20:11-15] a second resurrection is described, though not so named. It occurs when the dead are raised at the white throne judgment. These dead will be judged for their deeds, and, their names not being found in the Book of Life, will be cast into the lake of burning sulfur with Satan for all eternity–the second death.

Chronologically, the millennial reign, first resurrection, Satan’s doom and second resurrection and death are difficult to pinpoint within the rest of the end time narrative. On one hand, the saints as judges comes after the antichrist [Revelation 13 & 16:2 & 10-11] because it includes those who resisted his reign [Revelation 20:4]. On the other hand, when Satan is released, he gathers the nations for battle [Revelation 21:8] just as is done for the battle of Armageddon [Revelation 16:14-16]. So is this a second battle after the millennial reign, or is scripture showing zoomed-in-and-out pieces of the end times timeline as it did with the Creation account?

More importantly are the key players–Gog and Magog. First mentioned in Ezekiel 38 & 39, Magog was a descendant of Japheth son of Noah and was prophesied to be joined by Cush and Put, descendants of Ham son of Noah. These two Gentile lineages here represent the wayward world, standing for one final rebellion against God.

In true Satan counterfeit fashion, the armies that battle God will number as many as the sand on the seashore–a number equivalent to the promised descendants of Abraham [Genesis 22:17; Hebrews 11:12]. They will march on God’s people–originally the line of Shem son of Noah, though now including all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ [John 3:16].

As the adversary encircles the holy city–counterfeit to the Israelites marching around Jericho to take hold of the Promised Land–fire falls and consumes them. A fire to which the generations offered their children in direct opposition to God [Leviticus 18:21 & 2 Kings 23:10, et al; Jeremiah 19:15]. A fire in which Christ stood with Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah [Daniel 3:25]. A fire that washes everyone who stands against God to their eternal demise with the father of deception, Satan.

Regardless of when the 1,000 years occurs and whether or not all believers will be resurrected to live through it, our citizenship is the most important thing. Is your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Have you accepted Jesus’ redemption of your heavenly citizenship?

KCS

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Offering Thanksgiving–Part 2

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

See the source imageIn the Levitical sacrificial system, the thanksgiving fellowship offering required making a variety of breads to share with God [Leviticus 7:11-15]. It was a time of reconciling sinful man with our holy God in anticipation of the day when our sins would be forgiven and we could daily fellowship with Him for eternity–heaven.

It’s no coincidence then, that Jesus called Himself the bread of life [John 6:35] or that He referred to His crucified body as bread broken for us [1 Corinthians 11:24]. Jesus was prepared lovingly by the Father to be the bread God offered as the one true fellowship offering for all time.

Give thanks! God made us. He loves us. And He wants to restore our relationship to Him so that we can live for eternity the way He intended. He made the way through His son Jesus, and all we have to do is believe on Him [John 3:16].

God is actively pursuing the hearts of every man, woman and child at all times. But we should just as actively be pursuing the heart of God. Those who hunger and thirst for the things of God will be filled with them and be blessed by them [Matthew 5:6]. This is not a physical desire to eat and drink. This is referring to the appetite of the mind, emotion and soul.

When we hunger to know Jesus, the bread of life, He shows Himself to us. When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive them [1 John 1:9]. By faith in Him, we have eternal life [John 3:16]. He indwells us with His Holy Spirit so that we may live our lives in the power of God Most High [Acts 1:8]. When we thirst for eternal life, we ourselves do not rest until we take hold of it.

This drive for truth and righteousness results in finding them both. It is not a surface kind of hunger and thirst, it can only be satiated by digging deeper into the things of God, becoming more and more like Him with each passing day.

With Thanksgiving behind us and the celebration of the birth of Christ looming, hold on to an attitude of thanksgiving. Earnestly seek God. Hunger and thirst for more of Him each day. Get in His Word. Pray. Give thanks to Him in all things. Daily.

What desires drive your life? Do you recognize God pursuing your heart in your life? Are you persistently pursuing God’s heart?

KCS

Offering Thanksgiving–Part 1

“These are the regulations for the fellowship offering anyone may offer to the Lord: If they offer it as an expression of thankfulness, then along with this thank offering they are to offer thick loaves made without yeast and with olive oil mixed in, thin loaves made without yeast and brushed with olive oil, and thick loaves of the finest flour well-kneaded and with oil mixed in. Along with their fellowship offering of thanksgiving they are to present an offering with thick loaves of bread made with yeast. They are to bring one of each kind as an offering, a contribution to the Lord; it belongs to the priest who splashes the blood of the fellowship offering against the altar. The meat of their fellowship offering of thanksgiving is to be eaten on the day it is offered; they must leave none of it till morning.” Leviticus 7:11-15

See the source imageThroughout the Old Testament, the Israelites were bound up in a sacrificial system that was designed as a divine awareness campaign [Romans 7:7-8]. It is so easy, as sinful humans, to walk around believing that we are right and everyone else is wronging us. But under the Mosaic law each person had to analyze themselves, they had to consider their actions and their motives, then offer sacrifice according to the measure of their wrongdoing.

To be clear, the law and sacrificial system were never meant to provide forgiveness for sins, just to make people aware of themselves from an eternal perspective [Acts 13:39; Romans 8:3; Hebrews 10:4].

But there was also a sacrificial offering prescribed for those who wanted to give thanks to God. A variation on the fellowship offering–in which man could commune with the God from whom he was estranged–the thanksgiving offering required the making of bread. Yeast-free loaves both thick and thin. Thick yeasty loaves. Each with a variation on the use of olive oil. [It makes me imagine being in a French bakery!] Think of how wonderful all of this fresh baked bread smelled, all warm and crusty on the outside, soft and butter-melting on the inside–though they probably didn’t do the butter thing at that time.

The command is to prepare loaves–plural–but only to share one of each kind with the priest making the blood-offering at the altar. So where does the rest of the bread offering go? And what about the meat from the animal whose blood gets sprinkled?

Well, fellowship meant truly that. The people prepared their gifts to eat with God. He wasn’t-and still isn’t–aloft and untouchable, though He is holy and sovereign. To bring a fellowship offering was to share a meal with God. Though He Himself is not flesh and blood, so His representative, the priest, ate the thanksgiving meal in God’s stead.

In this way, the people were reminded of the guilt of their sin and how it separates them from God. They were also shown that God wanted to make an offering on their behalf–an offering to reconcile Him to them–so that, one day, all humans everywhere could fellowship with Him the way He intended from the Creation. It was a time of divine thanksgiving as well as for those who wanted to actively give thanks to God for His goodness in their lives. God rejoices when we, His beloved Creation, draw near to Him with thanksgiving.

The law and the sacrificial system no longer regulate our behavior, but God’s desire to reconcile and commune with His Creation is unchanging.

Have you an offering of thanksgiving for God? Will you draw near to Him during this time of corporate thanksgiving to fellowship with your heavenly Father?

KCS

The Altar of the Heart

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.” Ecclesiastes 9:5

Image result for day of the dead altar heartOne of the customs of Day of the Dead is to build an altar and fill it with the favorite foods and possessions of those who have died. This act of remembrance is done in the belief that the souls of the departed will return and be happy to know that you have remembered them.

Scripture is clear, however, that the souls cannot return to us or enjoy this world anymore. They cannot hear or feel or choose to follow God if they did not accept Him in life [Ecclesiastes 9:5]. We should not become superstitious or fearful about them, or in anyway devote our time and passions to the dead [Leviticus 19:28; Deuteronomy 14:1 & 26:14]. Therefore, while it can be healthy and good to remember those who have gone before us, remembering is for the living. The dead cannot enjoy the smells and sights of a painstakingly prepared altar memorial.

Image result for kneeling altarHowever, altars are mentioned 384 times and offerings 728 times in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, so they do have a very significant spiritual place in the Christian life.

The first altar is mentioned when Noah gets out of the ark and makes a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God [Genesis 8:20]. Each altar is built as a place of remembering God.

The first offerings, on the other hand, go all the way back to Cain and Abel [Genesis 4:3-5]. Very specific offerings and times are prescribed. God instituted this sacrificial system so that the Israelites would be aware of their sinful state, though the sacrifices themselves could not fix the sins [Hebrews 10:4].

God, however, asks us to prepare our hearts as an altar for our lives [Romans 12:1]. That is, He asks us to remember Him with our whole heart–intellect, will and emotion. By doing so, we will recognize our sinful state and repent. Through repentance we accept Jesus’ lordship in our lives, allowing His forgiveness to cover our sins.

Satan would have us forsake altars and offerings or misuse them, but he does not want our cultural understanding to be made whole or our spiritual vision to be made clear. He does not want human beings to restore the heavenly altar of our hearts.

Will you consecrate your heart to Christ? Will you lay your life on the altar of a Godly heart?

Witchcraft and Divination

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.” Deuteronomy 18:9-11

Image result for cauldron and broom + imageOne of the most highly associated figures with Halloween is the witch. Do such people exist? Do they really have powers to turn themselves or others into different creatures or to cast evil spells? Is there such a thing as magic?

The Bible speaks against the sin of witchcraft, meaning that there are people who “practice” such acts. In fact, witchcraft is mentioned on 6 different occasions [Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 9:22; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Micah 5:12; Nahum 3:4; Galatians 5:20] and the related sin of divination 24 times [Genesis 30:27, 44:5 & 15; Leviticus 19:26; et al]. In each instance, God warns against doing such things.

Divination is trying to know what will happen in the future by means outside of human ability. Witchcraft is Old English for the power or skill of a witch, while witch is an Old English synonym for the Medieval Latin sortiarius–one who influences fate or fortune. So is it just that God doesn’t want people to know the future? Not at all.

God Himself reveals the future to us at many times and in various ways [Hebrews 1:1]. The whole book of Revelation deals in near and distant future disclosures from God to man as do many other Biblical passages. However, in the sin of divination, people are not seeking Godly knowledge and understanding, they are consorting with the fallen angel–that is the demonic–spirits. For the cost of rebelling against God, for that’s what God likens unto witchcraft [1 Samuel 15:23], Satan’s lackeys will sell you lie. Because they cannot see the future or understand what will happen therein.

But the enemy isn’t interested in accuracy. His only intent is to steal, kill and destroy [John 10:10]. He steals faith in God by offering the lie that you can be your own God [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14]. He kills the body of all who trust him with themselves or with their children [Deuteronomy 8:10]–sometimes slowly through the harmful effects of smoking, drinking, drugs, promiscuity and the like, and sometimes quickly through murders, violent riots, drunkenness, human sacrifice rituals, et al. He destroys mental, emotional and spiritual health through addiction, even to such things as believing in omens, luck, fate, spells and magic.

You see, when we believe that we can do things in our own power, we turn our eyes from the One True God from whom our help comes, the maker of heaven and earth [Psalm 121:1-2] and turn them onto self or lifeless idols or Satan himself.

But there is no such thing as magic, just optical illusion. There is no such thing as an omen, just vain superstition that ties the heart in knots with fear. There is no such thing as fate, God gave us free will. And there are no such things as spells or incantations that hold any power whatsoever.

God so desired that we understand this that He Himself doesn’t answer people in the Bible the exact same way twice. There is nothing we can chant to make God do our will, though we can seek to learn what His will is for us. There is no incantation or potion by which we command the authority of heaven, though, through prayer, Christians certainly have access to God Himself and can petition Him to act on our behalf in His mercy.

Do you worry about superstitions, omens and fate? Focus your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith [Hebrews 12:2]. Do you seek spiritists, mediums or fortune tellers to try to learn the future? Ask God for wisdom and trust Him to show you the way, one step at a time.

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?

Paying the Wage of Sin

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, ‘Take your sharp sickle and gather clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.’ The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.” Revelation 14:17-20

Image result for Wine StompingAn angel with a much smaller sickle, the curved knife blade used for harvesting grape clusters from the vine, comes out of the heavenly temple next. Following him is the angel in charge of the fire for the heavenly altar–another evidence of the earthly temple being patterned after the original in heaven [Leviticus 6:13]. The fire-angel passes the harvest command to the grape-knife angel.

The grapes are ripe. The time for God’s patient love has passed.

The image of God’s wrath as a winepress was common in the Old Testament [Isaiah 63:3; Lamentations 1:15; Joel 3:13]. To make wine, harvested grapes were filled into the vat and then workers would tread barefoot–that is walk through the vat, squishing the grapes underfoot so that their juice flowed into the lower levels of the winepress.

Again, it is not God’s desire that any should choose this end [2 Peter 3:9], but everyone has the free will to do just that–choose or reject God–despite His desire for all to come to eternal life [John 3:16-17].

Those who choose sin, thereby choose to pay the wages of their own sin by themselves. The Bible tells us clearly that the wages of sin is death [Romans 6:23; Leviticus 17:11]. And just as Jesus suffered outside the city gate [Hebrews 13:12], those who reject God will face their end in this place of disgrace. They will give their own life blood in their appointed time of death–as all must face [Hebrews 9:27]–only their blood can never bring forgiveness of sins. So when the unforgiven die, they face the second death, that is eternal punishment in the fires of hell [Revelation 2:11, 20:6 & 14, 21:8].

So great is the number of those who refuse God in this life, that John sees a vision of blood rising somewhere between 4 and 6 feet high, covering an area the length of the Holy Land from north to south.

Everyone’s sins must be paid for. But no one has to pay the penalty for themselves. Have you accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for your sins? Or will you choose to pay for yourself?