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The Loud Anguish

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Revelation 7:14b

Image result for tribulationSo who is this white-robed multitude? The elder says they are the people who have come out of the great tribulation. So what is the great tribulation?

Tribulation was actually a death penalty in Rome, as was crucifixion. However, in tribulation, large flat stones were stacked on a person’s chest–one at a time–until all of the air was crushed out of them. They died then of suffocation/asphyxiation. In this way, the word tribulation is a figurative description of the end times.

The Greek word thlipseos, translated tribulation here, is translated elsewhere in the Bible as: affliction, anguish, and persecution. The Greek word for great, megales, is also translated as loud, and great in both the sense of magnificent and the sense of very large.

Jesus assured all believers that they would have trouble in this world [John 16:33]. The seven churches of Revelation faced persecution under the Roman government, and many other times and places in history–including several countries in our world today–have also shared in very large scale, hard hitting persecution.

I love that this can also be translated the loud anguish. Because it expresses more fully that the sin and death of this life clamor to a tumultuous, agonized wailing. But all the more as the great and glorious day of the Lord approaches. The end times that Revelation begins to describe with the six broken seals leading up to this moment and which will continue with trumpet and bowl judgments yet to come, will feel like one rock at a time being laid on the chest of all–believer and unbeliever alike–until the Lord, in His mercy, raptures us home [1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:17].

How much will believers have to experience? We don’t know exactly, only that God has promised to protect us through whatever we may endure [Revelation 6:6, 7:2]. His strength is perfect in our weakness [2 Corinthians 12:8-10]. We may be struck down, hard pressed and persecuted from every side, but we will not be crushed by the tribulation of this life [2 Corinthians 4:8-9]. His breath of life fills our lungs and will sustain us through it all [Genesis 2:7; Psalm 46:1 & 118:14].

Our robes–a symbol of our righteousness or goodness–have been made paradoxically white through blood that we know to be red. But it is again a symbol of the Old Testament sacrificial system. Life is in the blood [Leviticus 17:11], and more specifically, eternal life rests in Jesus’ blood alone. When we put Him on as a robe [Galatians 3:27], by accepting His sacrifice on the cross as the payment for our sins, then our sinful-self-righteousness–which is like filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6] next to His Holy Glory–are washed white as snow. Sinless. Perfect enough to stand before a Holy God.

Can you hear the loud anguish rising all around? Do you feel pressed down in life or persecuted by the world today? Hold on. Jesus is coming soon!

Hard Rock Heart

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” Revelation 6:15-17

Image result for rock heartDespite the wide spreading insistence to the contrary, when this great earthquake shakes even the heavens, every person of every station of life–whether the most famous and wealthy and powerful or the least known and most impoverished–on the face of the earth will recognize that there is a God in heaven.

And as the mountains and islands are shaking from their foundations, slipping, sliding and moving in ways no human has ever seen or could ever bring to pass, people will actually speak to the rocks instead of even now turning to God. That’s how great the hardness of the human heart, the pride that we can do it for ourselves and never have to face up to our Creator. It’s a lie from the pit of hell.

God offers us love–always has and always will. But love comes with discipline–the positive discipline of a life well lived, forsaking things that hinder or hurt, and the harsh discipline of consequence for disobedience, as even our human legal systems recognize to be necessary. God never stops loving us, but one day earthly time will stop. When it does, every knee will bow and acknowledge that God is God [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10-11].

The day of the sixth seal is not that end of time day. People will be so bold and arrogant–and yet aware of their sinful ways–that they will try to once again go it alone. Though the rocks themselves cry out to God when people will not [Luke 19:40], the people living on the day of the sixth seal will cry out to the rocks, “Hide us from God!”–just like Adam hid in the garden because of the awareness of his sin against God [Genesis 3:10].

But we can never hide our sins, because God sees even the most hidden things about us. He sees inside our hearts [1 Samuel 16:7; Hebrews 4:12]. Only those who have believed on Jesus, God’s Son, will be free from the guilt and shame of sin [Leviticus 14:13; John 3:16; Hebrews 10:10, 14 & 17; 1 John 3:5]. Only those who have repented their self-as-god ways, acknowledging Jesus as Lord, will find forgiveness for their sins [Acts 2:38, 3:19].

When time stops, where will your faith lie–in God or in yourself-as-god? How hard is your heart? Would you sooner call out to the rocks to hide you or do you gladly bow your knee to your Creator?

Merciful Bread of Truth

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a black horse. Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” Revelation 6:5-6

Image result for balance scaleJesus’ finger continues to slide under the scroll edge, and He looses the third harden wax closure. As He does so, the third living creature–which is His throne–beckons a third horse and rider. Black this time.

We can see from the grain dialog and the pair of scales that this rider holds–which was a balance beam hung with trays from both ends to measure two weights against one another–that the black rider symbolizes pestilence, famine. The cherubim quote market prices. Just enough wheat for one person or barely enough barley–less nutritious–for a small family for your whole day’s pay!

Now there are many places in the world today where such prices and malnutrition are at work, but in the time and place that John wrote, food in the Roman empire was plentiful, just as we enjoy here in America. So readers would be shocked to hear of such prices. They would understand instantly that only severe famine would drive consumers to be willing to pay such highway robbery.

Again Matthew 24:7 tells us that this famine is a sign of the end of time. But Jesus also–in His temptation in the wilderness–reminds us that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God [Matthew 4:4].

Even when physical lack of food comes, we should remember that our spiritual nourishment is of more value. Because the world will fail, but God will never fail. He will never fail in His promises [2 Corinthians 1:20]. He will never fail in His love [Psalms 136]. He never fails in His rewards for obedience [Leviticus 26:9-12], He does not fail in punishment for disobedience [Leviticus 26:23-26] nor does He fail to show Himself merciful to those who repent [2 Chronicles 7:14].

The interpretation of this pestilence goes spiritually and prophetically deeper, but for now it is good to understand the most basic premises herein. And these end with an exhortation to the black rider not to damage the oil and the wine. Oil and wine were not necessities, but niceties of the diet. So here we see God’s mercy once again portrayed. There is still some food, though it is costly and scarce due to famine, and there are still the pleasures of oil and wine. People have to work hard and trust God to provide in times like these, but He will show Himself faithful to those who remain in Him.

No matter what else this passage signifies in terms of end times happenings, where does your daily bread [Genesis 2:9; Exodus 16:4; Matthew 6:11; John 4:32] come from?

There. Is. No. Other.

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shown like an emerald encircled the throne.” Revelation 4:1-3

Image result for Apperance of Ruby and JasperDid you notice? Jesus just told the Church of Laodicea that He stood at the door knocking [Revelation 3:20], and He told the Church of Philadelphia that He placed an open door in front of them that no one on earth could shut them out of [Revelation 3:8]. Now here, John begins by seeing this door to heaven. And he hears that same trumpeting voice of Jesus that dictated the letters to the seven churches [Revelation 1:10].

This time though, the voice calls John to Himself and shows him a prophecy–the after this that He spoke of in Revelation 1:19.

Jesus ushers John into the throne room of heaven–a throne room with an occupied throne just as He told the Laodiceans it was [Revelation 3:21]. God is alive! And He alone is seated on the throne of heaven! There. Is. No. Other. From Nimrod’s lie at Babel to Nietzsche’s proclamation that God is dead, from astrology to human sacrifice, all are empty attempts to unseat God from His throne. But it can never be done. There. Is. No. Other. God. But God Most High! Hallelujah!

And what does God look like? As brilliant and as indescribable as light passing through prismatic gems. More than that, here we see the First and Last, Alpha and Omega imagery again. In the Levitical descriptions of the high priest’s vestment, they were to wear a breastplate fitted with twelve precious stones, each representing a tribe of Israel [Exodus 28:17-20]. If you read through this list carefully, the first stone of the first row is to be a ruby and the last stone of the last row is to be jasper. The God of Israel represented Himself to His people through the priestly vestments in such a way that they would understand that He alone is before all things and in Him is the end of all things. He. Alone. Is. God. The Beginning. And. The End. Hallelujah!

But He gives these two stones in reverse order, jasper–last of last–then ruby–first of first. I’ll admit I’m speculating a little here, but it seems to me that He perhaps did this to also illustrate that the first shall be last [Matthew 20:16]. All of this encircled by His emerald rainbow–the heavenly original after which the earthly rainbow was patterned. The promise that God will never destroy the world by a worldwide flood again [Genesis 9:13-15], eternally before God’s eyes and on His mind as He waits patiently for the return of His Son to make all things new.

It’s hard to consider God on His throne in heaven without being moved to give Him alone praise. And yet, the world offers many distractions to keep us from considering God in the first place so that our hearts will never be moved to adore Him. Are you distracted by things of this world? Or are you looking to God alone? Is He alone the Almighty of your life? The Beginning and the End of all that you are and say and do?

Humbled

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds–everything that moves on land–came out of the ark, one kind after another. Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.” Genesis 8:18-20

Image result for bonfire barbecueThe ark was emptied in order to replenish the earth. What a sight to see all of the animals of the world–literally–parading out in two by two formation.

And Noah’s first response is to honor God.

The burnt offering of Leviticus 1–first seen here in Genesis 8–is an atonement sacrifice. Now Abel also offered an atonement sacrifice when he offered the fat portions of the firstborn of his flocks [4:4], but Noah’s sacrifice here is the first time that we learn of a burnt offering. And he did so using clean animals.

In human logic, this makes perfect sense. Remember that of clean animals there were seven pairs–fourteen total of each kind! Naturally, you wouldn’t sacrifice any of the animals that only had one pair, that would bring the extinction of their whole kind after God just went to all this length to preserve them. Still, Noah could have done it. He could have said to himself, “But tigers and peacocks look so much cooler and more powerful than goats and bulls. If I were God, wouldn’t I want that as a sacrifice instead?”

Because often, that’s our human logic in dealing with God. “If I were God”–*cough…Satan’s lie…cough*–then I would think… or I would want… So I don’t get why God thinks the way He does or wants what He does, because, you know, I certainly wouldn’t.”

Time out.

Do you see where this line of thought comes from and leads to? Comes from Satan. Leads to death and destruction. Because any line of reasoning that substitutes self as God is the line of reasoning that felled a third of the angels of heaven and barred Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, cursing the earth with the nature of sin.

But to this point in scripture, just as with Abel, there is no mention of God instituting or requesting a sacrifice of any kind. Abel knew God though–in an intimate, experiential way–as did Noah, and both men acted on this faith, this absolute certainty of what they hoped for but could not see.

Noah knew God. He knew that God hated sin, and that there was sin even in him. He didn’t become conceited by the fact that God noticed his righteousness and saved him out of the whole world. On the contrary, he humbled himself before the Almighty Creator, the Holy of Holies, and he offered a right sacrifice to atone–make amends/repairs/peace with–God for that sin.

Has God ever chosen to use you in a situation? Do you let this make you proud or does it humble you? Do you know God by the same kind of faith that Abel and Noah did? Have you asked God to atone for your sins through the shed blood of Jesus Christ?

Holding Back the Flood

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The Lord then said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.’ And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.” Genesis 7:1-5

Image result for Holding Hands WaterEver wonder why God gave Noah the command to actually get on the ark–that he so willingly built–one week in advance? A couple reasons probably: 1) After about 100 years building, it was finally time. 2) It was hard. And God coupled this command with a reminder of what He was about to do.

All that time that Noah was building, people had a witness of the judgment to come AND the opportunity to repent. These were his extended family, his sons’ wives families and extended families, his neighbors and their families. His whole community! [Plus people who lived way beyond his community that he’d never even met.]

And God was holding back the flood, giving Noah the opportunity to build and to tell others about God’s plan. God would’ve loved for even one more to turn from their wicked ways and be forgiven [2 Chronicles 7:14]. But no one did. Not one other in his whole generation was found to be righteous.

Yet not only did Noah’s righteousness mean that the human race would continue through his family, God also planned to save the seed of the rest of His handiwork as well. Mated pairs of animals came to Noah. God sent them to him two-by-two. And of the animals that God considered clean [Leviticus 11], Noah received seven pairs, while only one pair of the so-called unclean animals was sent.

But scripture does not say that God sent every species. Kind is a broader term, like family. So there were likely two dogs on the ark and from these two dogs descended all the dog breeds we have today. Remember that Eden’s genetics began with every kind of animal [again, possibly only two dogs] which contained the genes for every other possible dog breed [and so on for each other animal kind]. So many of the extinct species, that we read about in science texts today, likely went extinct at the time of the flood because their genetic combination ended.

The same was true of human genetics, so there were possibly many human genetic possibilities that no longer existed after the flood simply because these genes were not present in Noah’s sons and daughters-in-law.

Noah did all he was commanded to do. What a great divine epitaph for your life and mine. You know, not only was Noah the faithful and righteous remnant through which God was establishing the line of Christ, Noah’s story also parallels our world today.

Once again, God is holding back a flood of judgment. Only this time, rather than water, He will come again, opening the seals and pouring out the bowls of His judgment with horse and rider and trumpet blasts. A great spiritual–but very physically real–battle will be fought for the souls of men [Revelation].

And once again, God is holding back, giving us the opportunity to build the witness in our lives and to tell others about God’s plan. He desires for all men to accept His plan of redemption [John 3:16] and escape the fires of hell.

Are you building your witness? Are you telling others of God’s plan of salvation? Does your life speak to both of these even if others choose not to listen to your words?