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That Which Has Become

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones of about hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.” Revelation 16:17-21

Image result for biggest hail in the worldSeven. Once again we come to the number of completion, only this time, there is no reprieve. The angel dumps his bowl into the atmosphere and God’s voice rumbles out of the heavenly temple. He proclaims, It is done–Gegonen–which in English, translates similar to Jesus’ words from the cross [John 19:30], It is finished–Tetelestai–though in Greek, they have unrelated roots.

Jesus’ Tetelestai declaration literally means have been fully developed, most likely related to the James 1:15 description of sin that is fully grown–apotelestheisa. The full-grown sinful nature of humanity weighed on Jesus as he hung, of His own free will, on the cross to pay the wage of that sin with His life blood.

God’s Gegonen proclamation, on the other hand, translates as many different phrases–took place [Matthew 1:22; et al], occurred [Matthew 24:21; et al], happened [Mark 5:33; et al], has been done/came to pass [Matthew 19:8; et al], has come [John 12:30; et al], come into being/made [John 1:3] and even fell [1 Timothy 2:14]–but all referring to a present perfect or completed action. Literally, it has become–the end of sin in the Creation has come to pass at long last, consummated by an earthquake to end all earthquakes.

An earthquake without the merciful restraint shown during the seal judgments [Revelation 6:12-14]. Every island and mountain will return to the deep from whence it was called. The plague of hail, once visited on Egypt, will be heaped one-hundred fold on the heads of those who worshiped the antichrist and his father, Satan.

And, bitterly clinging to their distorted perception of free will, humanity will, for the last time, shake their fists at God and curse Him for the result of their own arrogance and defiance.

The great city, Jerusalem [Revelation 11:2,8], is rent in three pieces, not unlike the Temple veil splitting in two at Jesus’ crucifixion [Matthew 27:51]. Every city on the planet will be destroyed in this great quake. Remembering the idolatry that began in Babylon, God will remove, once and for all, every trace of false religion from the Creation.

But He would rather that we will to love Him as He first loved us. He would rather that we invite His Holy Spirit to root out every trace of false religion and self-as-god defiance from our hearts. He would rather that we accept Jesus’ Tetelestai on our behalf instead of His Gegonen at the end of all things.

Will you?

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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?

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?

The True Triumphal Entry

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10

Image result for People Waving Palm Branches Palm Sunday JesusSome of the reason that the 144,000 number in the previous passage creates disagreement among biblical scholars is that it seems to limit who and how many can get into heaven. In reading the larger context of this next portion of scripture though, it seems clear that–like the twenty-four elders of Revelation 4–we are again seeing representation of both the Old and New Testament faithful.

This great multitude is uncountable, like the stars in the sky or sand in the seashore spiritual descendants promised to Abraham [Genesis 22:17; Galatians 3:29; Hebrews 11:12]. See how people from the whole earth–and likely throughout all of history, though time is not mentioned–stand before God the Father, who is on His throne. See Jesus, the Lamb and Son of God, is there before the people too.

It is a white robed multitude, the victorious by grace through faith [Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 3:5] from all the earth for all time. And they hold palm branches and proclaim the gospel, the good news. God is alive. He is on the throne of the whole universe–everything that ever was, or is or will be. He alone holds the power of salvation, and He has brought it through the perfect sacrifice of His spotless Lamb, the Son of God who laid down His earthly life to atone–make right–for our sins.

Do you see the heavenly original brought to light from an earlier scripture? The gospels record an earthly Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem [Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 12]. Here the people laid down their cloaks on the road and waved palm branches, heralding Jesus with shouts of Hosanna–meaning O Lord save us. The disciples thought they had backstage passes to the beginning of the kingdom of God in their day, especially when all of Jerusalem turned out to hail their Rabbi as king of the Jews, acknowledging only His ability to bring victory and deliverance from the Romans.

But Jesus knew better. His time had not yet come. The people’s hearts were not yet ready to truly worship and serve Him alone as King. They didn’t fully understand Who He Was and what His heavenly purpose was.

And now that John shows us this moment in heaven when only those who have accepted Jesus as Lord–who have laid down their lives for Him just as He did for us, who have stood faithful and forgiven to the end, who recognize no other as God–wave the palm branch, acknowledging God’s victory and deliverance for all time over sin and death. The true triumphal entry was not Jesus’ donkey ride through Jerusalem, but the day we stand in heaven acknowledging Him Lord. It is our return to perfect communion with God for all eternity. What an incredible day that will be!

Will you be numbered among the white robed multitude? Do you bow your life to Christ alone?

Death and Hades

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” Revelation 6:7-8

Image result for gapin beast jawsJesus slips His finger under the center seal, and the final living creature–which is His throne–beckons a fourth horse and rider. Pale, the color of lifelessness. Death. And right behind this personification of Death comes Hades.

Now Hades is the Greek underworld, but also the name of the god in Greek mythology that rules there. The Bible is not corroborating the existence of such a one as this. Rather, since the New Testament was written in Greek, it was using the Greek word for the Hebrew term Sheol that was used throughout the Old Testament to describe the grave and the gated depths of the dead [Job 17:16]. Death and Hades often appear together in scripture, showing the twin ends of life, death and grave.

So here, when Death is allowed to consume one-fourth of humanity, its fellow Hades is permitted to lock these dead in the depths of the grave. It is interesting to note that Sheol is sometimes portrayed in the Old Testament as a fearful beast with gaping jaws [Isaiah 5:14, 14:9; Habakkuk 2:5] and in each case this reference is to the grave.

As humans, it is our sinful natural tendency to fear death, but as Christians we should place our faith and trust in Jesus instead. He conquered death, hell and the grave [Sheol/Hades] [Revelation 1:18]. He holds the keys to them. No one who has died or will die will remain dead in the grave. And everyone who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ will be present with the Lord when they are absent from the body [2 Corinthians 5:8]. That is to say that we can be assured, like the thief on the cross who accepted Jesus’ lordship, that the day we are parted from our mortal bodies we will be with Jesus in paradise [Luke 23:43].

But woe to those who perish without acknowledging Jesus as Lord. Now that is something to truly fear [Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4], because those who refuse to bow their knee to Jesus will face a second death in the lake of fire [Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 20:14, 21:8].

It is interesting to note that Jesus rides out first [Revelation 6:2], a merciful opportunity for people to recognize and accept Him as Lord. Then war, famine, and death come next [Revelation 6:4, 6, 8]. Still opportunities for unbelievers to recognize God for who He is and repent, though many will further harden their hearts against Him instead. It is also, unfortunately, a time when believers who are not firmly rooted in faith, will fall away [Mark 4:15-20].

We are living in such times. There are wars and rumors of wars, though these may intensify before the end [Matthew 24:6]. There are famines [24:7]. There are people and nations turning to slay one another [Matthew 24:7; Revelation 6:4]. There is death and the grave seemingly for more all the time. Though again, these things may yet intensify before the end.

Is Jesus Lord of your life? Do you have faith that will persevere in the tough times ahead, even to death [Revelation 2:10? Hold onto Jesus through it all, and He will hold onto you.

God’s Promise

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: ‘I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you–the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you–every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” Genesis 9:8-11

Image result for covenant agreement + imageCovenant. Agreement. Guarantee. Pledge. Commitment. Contract. God promises Noah and his family, but also all of the creatures on the ark, that He will never again destroy the world in a flood. He will never again wash away sin by a physical deluge.

This speaks so poignantly to the character of God. People find God inconsistent because He sent worldwide destruction through the flood one time and never again. But I for one am glad that I don’t have to worry. That every time the worldwide sin levels rise, they won’t trip the divine deluge trigger. I am so thankful for God’s promise that I can live in peace, by grace through faith, until He comes again and I meet Him in the air.

And the fact that God promises the animals too, that says something about their importance to Him. For while human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creation, the animals are no less the work of His hand. Scriptures tell us that not a sparrow falls to the ground that He doesn’t know about [Matthew 10:29].

All life is sacred to God. And He commands us to steward it [Genesis 1:26; Mark 12:31].

Do you value human and animal life as God does? Do you have peace, resting in God’s promises?

God’s Plan or Yours?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how to are build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits  [450 feet] long, fifty cubits [75 feet] wide and thirty cubits [45 feet] high. Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit [18 inches] high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks.” Genesis 6:14-16

Image result for wood construction + imageWe’ve already seen that God had a very specific plan when He created. And after the Creation fell into sin, He was ready with a very specific plan of redemption. Now, here again, when God tells Noah that He plans to save him, out of all the earth, from the pending destruction, God–not surprisingly–has a very specific plan.

But have you ever thought what might have happened if Noah or his boys got lazy? Or started questioning God’s design?

Cypress, Dad? Are you kidding? Do you realize how far we’re going to have haul that from?

Pitch the whole thing? Inside AND out? Do you know how long that’s going to take?

“What if we shrink those dimensions just a smidge?” Or, “Skip the extra deck and let’s go for one large main room on the other two.” Or, “Let’s leave a bigger space under the roof.” Or maybe, “No space at all.”

It’s laughable because, basically, if they had deviated from God’s plan in anyway, we know that the result would have been disastrous. You don’t hear from God that He’s going to rescue you, receive a specific plan for your escape, and then do your own thing. Not if you want it to work together for your good.

So then, why do we as human beings think that in every other part of our life we can deviate from God’s plan? He gave us His plan for marriage, family, finances, friendship, authority, work and rest, stewardship of the earth, health, citizenship, and–basically–just about every aspect of every area of our private and corporate lives.

And His plan for our earthly life is simple: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength; AND Love your neighbor as yourself [Mark 12:30-31].

His plan for our eternal life is just as specific and just as simple: Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved [Acts 16:31].

So doesn’t it make perfect sense that Satan–who is out to steal, kill and destroy [John 10:10] God’s Creation–would tempt us to become our own god and to deviate from God’s very specific, very simple plan for our life now and for eternity?

Are you listening to God’s Word? Do you know His plan of salvation? Are you doing your own thing in this life in any way hoping that God will work your plan together for your good?