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Hagion

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” Revelation 14:12-13

Image result for persecuted churchTwo times the book of Revelation calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints–first during the reign of the antichrist [Revelation 13:10] and now while those who followed and worshipped him are judged.

Hagion–rendered here as saints–appears 39 times in the New Testament. It refers to faithful believers who endure suffering [Acts 26:10; Romans 8:27; 2 Corinthians 9:12], but it is also used as the adjective holy to describe prophets [Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; 2 Peter 3:2], angels [Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Revelation 14:10] and places [Hebrews 8:2, 9:8, 10:19]. The Holy of Holies from Tabernacle and Temple times is referred to in Hebrews 9:8 as the hagion. This was the inner sanctuary where the high priest would offer the prescribed sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people [Leviticus 16:2; 1 Chronicles 6:49].

The writer of Hebrews recognizes, then, that the saints are the temple of God and indwelled by His Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 3:16]. To be holy is to be set apart for a special–usually a Godly–purpose. God is holy. Where He is, sin cannot be also [1 John 3:9]. When God lives in our hearts, then sin has to move out. Because He is holy, we too are to become holy–set apart unto Him [1 Peter 1:16].

As God’s saints, we must patiently endure the effects of sin in the world, faithfully holding to Jesus all the while.

Then the voice reminds us that John is seeing a vision. Write to the churches that those who believe on Jesus and die [1 Corinthians 15:12-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:16], they will be extremely joyful–aka blessed. Those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will find rest from the toil that sin brought through eternal life [Genesis 3:17-19; Matthew 11:28-30], and they will store up for themselves treasures in heaven [Matthew 6:20].

Do you have this hope within you? Do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and none else? Do you love Him?

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The Razor-Edged Gospel

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth–to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” Revelation 14:6-7

Image result for flying angelIn Revelation chapter 8, an eagle flew in midair pronouncing three woes to come. Here, the angel flying in midair proclaims the eternal gospel, literally glad tidings often translated as good news as the angel brought to the shepherds in the Christmas story [Luke 2:10].

This so-called good news, will not be good news at all to everyone living on the earth at this time, because it will mean that their time is up. They have no more opportunity to accept Jesus as Lord of their lives.

Good news is always double-edged though [Nahum 1:15]. For someone to celebrate a win in this life, someone else has to lose. For one candidate to be blessed with a new job, another candidate has to be rejected. For there to be a recipient of a life-saving transplant, a donor has to lose their life. And for the good news of Jesus’ victory over Satan to be completed and the faithful to go on to eternal life, all those who have chosen to follow Satan–that is everyone who has rejected God–have to go on to eternal damnation.

Make no mistake about this moment, it breaks God’s heart that any should choose to perish [2 Peter 3:9]. Even now He withholds His hand of judgment so that others can choose eternal life.

The angel commands everyone to fear God, but throughout scripture God, or His theophanies, command people, Do not fear. The fear of the Lord, however, is a right respect for who God is. It’s like, when you meet world leader, you recognize their position of authority and honor them accordingly. So with God, we are to reverence Him for who He is. Those who have rejected Him, in this moment, come to the place where they will bend their knee to Him fully understanding the error of their ways [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10].

Worship Him, the angel says, acknowledge His true worth. Creator. Sustainer. Provider. God Almighty. There is none like Him.

The angel invokes the image of Creation through the heavens and the earth [Genesis 1:1] and the seas [Genesis 1:10 & 22]. And he invokes an image of the flood when the springs of the great deep burst forth [Genesis 7:11], an image equated to the lostness of sinful humankind [2 Peter 2:17] that only Jesus can set to right [Revelation 7:17].

Do you know people on the other side of the gospel’s razor edge? People who will pass to eternal damnation when you take your place in eternal life? Does your heart break for their salvation as God’s does? Share your hope with them and everyone you meet.

Power and Persuasion

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” Revelation 13:1-4

Image result for beast from the seaWe just saw in chapter 10, the christophanic angel standing on both the sea and the land, holding the open, bitter scroll [verse 2]. But this appearance of Christ comes down from heaven. Whereas, here the beast–in reality a human being–climbs up out of the sea, indicating where he has been held throughout the course of human history, or at least the Satanic nature of his origins.

Remember that Satan was cast out of heaven to the earth where he has ruled and reigned as prince of the air [John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2]. And his fallen angel, that is demonic hordes, were long said to live in the Abyss, a Greek term meaning very deep or bottomless [Luke 8:31]. The readers of Revelation would have recognized–as per ancient beliefs–the allusion to the beast coming from subterranean confinement, that is being sent from Satan rather than from God.

Satan–the dragon–gives this beast his authority, which is no authority at all. Because of this, the beast is a mastermind of deception [John 8:44], captivating the hearts of the world with impressive speech and faux-miraculous signs.

Again, in true counterfeit motif as always comes from the devil who has not one unique idea of his own, he twists and mocks the crucifixion of Jesus Christ by staging a near death and miraculous resurrection of this anti-Christ figure. Though the world spurned and rejected salvation through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, they will be seduced by the illusion of power of this counterfeit holds.

Probably one of the saddest commentaries in the whole of scripture comes next, that the whole world will follow the anti-Christ and worship the devil during this time. Not one will stand for the truth of our Creator God and His plan of redemption, Christ. In fact, people will once again attribute what is rightfully God’s to the prince of the world [John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2], asking, “Who is like this anti-Christ? Who can stand against him?”

These questions can be asked of no one except God Himself. Who is like the Lord our God [Psalm 113]? And who can stand against Him [Acts 5:39; Romans 8:31]?

No one. And no one.

But people who refuse to turn their hearts back to God, who cling to the Satanic lie of self as god, will once again denounce the Almighty. They will readily accept this false-Christ and the prince who has held their hearts since the Garden, because, in a twisted way, the beast’s apparent power will give them hope that they have not been wrong all this time. It will seem to justify that they have always been right. That God is not the ultimate absolute to whom they will eventually bow their knee [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10]. They will be fooled into believing that anyone can rise to the place of god.

Who is like the Lord our God? If God is for you–and that inherently means that you are for God–then who can stand against you? Do you understand the powerful importance of these two questions in your life?

The Long War Between God and Satan: Part 1

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” Revelation 12:7-9

Image result for satan falling as a star to earthIn the verses just before this passage, we read how Satan set himself up as God[Revelation 12:3; Isaiah 14:12-14] and then tried to stop God’s plan of redemption–Jesus–from being born [Revelation 12:4; Exodus 1:22; Matthew 2:16].

Satan, however, was not strong enough to carry out his boasts about being his own god. He was not strong enough, and no one could be strong enough, to stand against the Lord of hosts and King of Kings, God Almighty and His heavenly hosts [Revelation 12:7].

His claims about himself were treasonous and started a war in heaven. God versus Satan. A war that Satan cannot possibly and will never win.

The archangel Michael–who protects Israel and who will deliver her from the tribulation, the loud anguish, of the last days [Daniel 12:1]–leads the heavenly hosts in the battle against the first false god, Satan, and his fallen angels [Revelation 12:7].

Satan could not even stand against the strength of his fellow angel let alone God, and he and his followers are cast to the earth [Isaiah 14:15; Luke 10:18]. He styles himself a prince among men [John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2], because he deceived Eve and Adam in the garden, tempting them with the same lie he baited the angels–you can be your own god–and they believed him and disobeyed God [Genesis 3:1-7]. This original sin in the Fall of Man, therefore, revoked mankind’s heavenly citizenship. We estranged ourselves from God and each must choose to submit to his lordship in their lives in order to reinstate that citizenship.

But Satan is a liar and the father of lies [John 8:44]. He is a deceiver [Revelation 12:8, 20:8 & 10] and a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour [1 Peter 5:8]. And he has no intention of peacefully accepting the consequence for his treason. He will not go quietly to the fires of hell that are reserved for him and the angels that he led astray [Revelation 20:3 & 10].

No, Satan’s strategy is to take as many people as possible with him to his eternal punishment. Misery loves company. And he hates that we human beings have the opportunity to be redeemed. To make ourselves right with God as he can never do. So in this long war between God and Satan, Satan has only two tactics: 1) make believers apostate [that is steal or prevent faith in God from developing; John 8:44; Revelation 12:8]; or 2) kill off those who believe in God so that he can be more effective in achieving tactic #1 [Exodus 1:22; 1 Peter 5:8].

And the sad truth is, many refuse to acknowledge God as God. Many shake a fist at God and flagrantly renounce any claim on heavenly citizenship. Many will indeed follow Satan into the pit of hell, the place reserved for the devil and his followers [Matthew 25:41].

And it hurts God’s heart. He does not want anyone to choose to perish [2 Peter 3:9]. And make no mistake, it is 100% our choice where we spend eternity. God does not want any to have to pay the wages of death for their own sin, but when we refuse to acknowledge Him as God and to accept His redemption in our lives–the sacrifice of Jesus Christ–then we choose to accept Satan’s lie and to follow him straight to the pit of hell.

Despite Satan’s lie, you can never be your own god. Either you recognize God as God, or you accept Satan as lord of your life–because anything other than God’s ways are Satan’s ways.

There is no third option.

Which authority have you chosen to submit your life to?

 

The Allegory of Israel

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.” Revelation 12:1-2

Image result for pregnant womanHere John’s vision seems to hold a vision within a vision. The Greek word for heaven here, ourano, appears 38 times in scripture. Only two of these mentions receive an English translation of sky, and this only in a newer English version. The majority of scriptures agree that ourano is heaven while the word hassamayim appears 236 times in scripture and is translated more interchangeably as sky, heavens, and prepositional phrases ending in heaven.

So John is seeing a vision of heaven, ourano, [Revelation 1:10-12 & 4:1] and in his vision he sees a sign appear in heaven, ourano [Revelation 12:1-2]. This woman clothed with sun would’ve been understood by New Testament readers to represent Israel, God’s chosen people. The Old Testament prophets often portrayed the nation as a mother to the future remnant [Isaiah 54:1 and 66:7-10; Micah 4:9-10] as well as to a bride [Isaiah 62:5].

Clothed in sun, like the face of Christ her groom [Revelation 1:16], crowned with twelve stars likened, possibly, to the twelve tribes of Israel. Moon under her feet, meaning darkness subdued as in the enemy as footstool motif [Psalm 110:1; Luke 20:43; Acts 2:35].

Childbearing pains seize Israel in the vision [Matthew 24:8]. A labor that is not fruitless, but that is fraught with opposition. A labor that fulfills the very first messianic prophesy[Genesis 3:15].

This allegorical passage encapsulates both the messianic prophecies and the Jewish history leading up to the birth of Christ. It simplifies both, concentrating the overview of world history into the single most important person of all time and eternity–Jesus Christ. In this way, the reader’s perspective is strengthened and clarified for the very real events yet to come.

Are you familiar with the messianic prophecies that Jesus fulfills? Are you ready and able to give an answer for this hope that you have within you [1 Peter 3:15]? If not, study to show yourself approved [2 Timothy 2:15].

The Heavenly Mercy Seat

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence you name, both small and great–and for destroying those who destroy the earth. Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.” Revelation 11:15-19

Image result for jesus on his throneThe first six trumpets each heralded disaster on the earth. Moreover, trumpets five and six each culminated in fulfilling one of the eagle’s three woes [Revelation 8:13]. The sixth trumpet also provides an interlude in the vision in which John sees the angel and eats the scroll [Revelation 10] and then the two witnesses appear, minister and come to their demise [Revelation 11:1-14].

Now, finally, the seventh trumpet sounds. But this time it begins with a royal praise. It’s significant that in Bible days trumpets were blown when a new king took his throne. And the heavenly  voices tell us that the new king at this time is, in fact, Jesus Christ.

After all of the powerful destruction, people have finally given glory to God [Revelation 11:13]. As promised to his human ancestor, King David, Jesus’ throne will last for eternity [Luke 1:32-33].

Rightly so, Jesus’ ascension to the throne sets off praise in heaven. The twenty-four elders–who represent the Old and New Testament faithful–thank God for reigning in His power. We can see the evidence today of angry nations, but we can be assured that the wrath of God will bring human violence to an end. The only reason to fear His wrath is to be on the receiving end of it. But those of us who have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, by faith, have been justified and have nothing to worry about. Jesus has made peace with God on our behalf [Romans 5:1-3; Ephesians 2:14].

Unbelievers scream that this is unjust, but they too have the same opportunity to avoid God’s wrath and judgment by choosing His love and mercy.

Mercy.

The exact thing that we see in the midst of the heavenly temple. The ark of the covenant served as the mercy seat–the altar of sacrifice–in the earthly temple [Psalm 99:1; Exodus 25:17-22]. In appearance, it was the literal throne of God in the midst of His chosen people. When called upon to reward and judge, God shows John His heavenly mercy seat. A reminder that everyone who is about to receive their due has had the opportunity to take hold of the mercy seat in repentance. But many refused.

God’s throne intones thunder once again [Revelation 4:55, 11:19], but this time, it is accompanied by an earthquake and hailstorm of judgment.

Have you bowed your heart before the mercy seat?

The Second Woe

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“But after three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on. At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.” Revelation 11: 11-14

Image result for earth quake damageThere are so many scriptural cross-references pertaining to this small passage about these two dead witnesses. Three and a half days–pretty close to Jonah’s three days in the belly of the great fish [Matthew 12:40] and Jesus’ three days in the grave [1 Corinthians 15:4]. God breathed His breath of life into them, just as He did to Adam in the garden so many years before [Genesis 2:7].

The two witnesses rose back to life and it caused great fear. In the same way, when Jesus rose from the dead, the natural response was fear and Jesus had to tell those who saw Him, Do not be afraid [Matthew 28: 5 & 10]. Then, the voice from heaven speaks, as it did following Jesus’ baptism [Matthew 3:17; Luke 3:22] and as it has to John throughout Revelation [10:4 & 8, 14:13, 18:4].

The two witnesses ascend into heaven, rising in a cloud as Jesus was hidden by a cloud in His ascension [Acts 1:9]. Only this time, enemies not disciples are watching. Once the revived and glorified witnesses have left the atmosphere, God’s great power breaks out in the city that dishonored them [Mark 6:4; John 4:44]. One tenth–a tithe’s-worth of the city–collapses in a severe quake, killing seven thousand, more than twice as many as were lost in the attacks on the twin towers.

Again, it is not God’s will that any should perish [2 Peter 3:9], and sadly, these seven thousand could have stopped their demise had they chosen to lead their city to listen to the witnesses and then to repentance [Jonah 3:3-6]. But the hardened heart, in the end, will always have to face the very absolute whose existence they deny.

And those who survive this catastrophe will finally soften their hearts enough to recognize and give glory to God. Man! This is so not how God wants to have to get people’s attention to show Himself real. God can do earthquake and God can do fire, but He prefers to show Himself to us in the still small voice [1 Kings 19:11-13], gentle as a newborn babe [Matthew 1:18-25]. He prefers when our hearts turn to Him in love and adoration for His goodness. But those who reject His loving kindness, will see His awesome power displayed and acknowledge, unquestionably, that He. Is. God.

Two woes down. One more woe to go, quoth the eagle [Revelation 8:13].

Does your heart bend to God’s still small voice? Or does it take furious fire to focus your attention on heaven?