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What’s In Your Heart?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one ‘like a son of man’ with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, ‘Take your sickle and reap, because the time has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.” Revelation 14:14-16

Image result for cloud pillarBy day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way [Exodus 13:21]. John sees the white cloud with the Son of Man [Daniel 7:13; Revelation 1:13 & 6:2] seated on it–Jesus, wearing the victor’s crown. But Jesus is also holding a sickle.

If you’re not familiar with antiquitous farm equipment, you may still recognize a sickle as the blade usually wielded in portrayals of the grim reaper. Jesus is anything but grim. He is not death incarnated to frighten the nations into submission. On the contrary, He is a merciful and loving Savior, friend to all who know Him as Lord.

Still, the sickle he wields–just like the double-edged sword of His mouth, His word–will cut two ways. The harvest of the faithful to eternal life [John 4:35] and of those who rejected God to eternal death in the fires of hell [Joel 3:13; Jeremiah 51:33].

John 12:24 and 1 Corinthians 15:42 liken our eternal soul-man and our physical bodies to a seed. We are each born with a young faith plant in our hearts and enough childlike faith for food to sustain us while we are nurtured in the truth. But what happens when God’s word is not taught? When prayer and praising God Almighty are not apart of the life that a child leads? It’s like leaving a seed to dry up and die. It may look whole on the outside, but it will never grow into the plant that it was meant to be.

We are the same way. And those who have grown in their faith will be good, mature plants. When our end comes our souls will live on. But those who allow their faith to lie dormant, or to shrivel and die, they will grow other plants in their heart that have no place in heaven. When their end comes, their soul will not find peace with God as they never made that peace in life.

One swift fell of the sickle. The hour and day unknown. What’s in your heart? Growing faith? Or growing discord with God?

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The Babylonian Seed

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“A second angel followed and said, ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.’ A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.” Revelation 14: 8-11

Image result for toppled stone statueThe first angel proclaims the truth of who God is. The second angel proclaims the truth of false religion in human history. It began at Babel with Nimrod, the mighty hunter before the Lord [Genesis 10:9]. He incited the post-flood world to denounce God and show Him that people didn’t need their Creator, they could live all by themselves and for themselves. He encouraged people to worship images and idols of made up beings for their own good pleasure, not the least of which were statues of his wife Semiramis who called herself the Queen of Heaven.

The Babylonian seed of rebellion against God is so significant in human history that scripture mentions Babylon no less than 315 times. About 100 of those occur in Jeremiah as a warning to repent of the Babylonian began sin before captivity overtook the Israelites. But in the end, all false religion is not of God, so it will not last [Acts 5:38-39]. Jesus has the victory over false religion.

The third angel proclaims the truth of who Satan and his unholy trinity are. There will be no forgiveness for those who worship the antichrist or accept his name on their forehead or hand. Because those who do, do so by rejecting the One True God. After a lifetime of opportunities to acknowledge God for who He truly is, these unfaithful will belligerently denounce Him as Lord and God and accept another in His place. And when the antichrist is shown for who he truly is, the day of God’s wrath, the day of judgment will already be upon the world. It will be too late to realize Oh, there really is a God? and switch sides out of fear and convenience rather than love and understanding.

The Greek enopion here translates as before the angels and Jesus. This same term occurs 95 times in the New Testament and is sometimes rendered as in the presence of [Luke 1:19, 8:47, 13:26, et al], sometimes as in the sight of [Luke 1:15, 14:10, 15:18, et al], sometimes as in earlier than/previous [Luke 1:7] and sometimes used as before as in the sense of in front of [Luke 1:76, 4:7, 12:9, et al]. It is clear in scripture that God is all-seeing, there is nowhere that any can hide from His searching out [Jeremiah 23:24]. Even with the Creation restored and the new heaven and new earth established, there will still be eternal death in the fires of hell and this will not be hidden from the Lord’s sight.

But it is not God’s will that any should join Satan and his fallen angel followers in this eternal torment [2 Peter 3:9]. Even now He stays His hand, waiting for one more to come to a saving knowledge of Him. Is He waiting for you? Have you committed your life to Him? Or is He waiting for others that you know? Can they see your light? Do they know God because of you?

Preparing for Victory

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths. They are blameless.” Revelation 14:1-5

Image result for Mount Zion in the BibleZion. The holy mountain that served first as a fortress before the Israelites established the city of Jerusalem. Later, it became synonymous with Jerusalem itself. And in Hebrews 12:22-24 as well as here in Revelation, it connotes the heavenly Jerusalem in which God and His people will live for eternity.

So it is not surprising that John sees the Lamb, Jesus, standing on Mount Zion with the 144,00 who were sealed [Revelation 7:4-8 & 9:4]. We learn a little more about this group. Previously we saw that they consist of 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. Then we saw that they were protected from the hybrid locust-scorpions that came out of the Abyss.

Now we learn that they kept themselves pure from women. This does not mean that the group is made up entirely of unmarried men. Not at all. Before Israel used to go into battle, the soldiers would keep themselves from their women for a time to prepare [Deuteronomy 23:10; 1 Samuel 21:5; 2 Samuel 11:11]. Now in Revelation, we see that Babylon is portrayed as a woman, a prostitute really, that represents all of the false religion in the world [Revelation 17:1-5]. And that those who remain faithful to God are like a pure spouse [Revelation 19:7 & 21:2, 9]. So the 144,000 are Jews living in the last days, the end times, who refuse to participate in the false religions of the world, regardless of the persecutions it invites.

Heaven opens up on this scene, with a roar of rushing waters [Revelation 1:15, 4:5 & 22:1] and peals of thunder. The sound of harpists followed by the 144,000 singing a new song, signifies the celebration of victory in battle [Exodus 15:20]. And they sing this song in heaven before the four living creatures and the elders that surround God’s throne [Revelation 4:4 & 6]. None else in heaven will be capable of learning their song, because none else can understand what is like to come through the end times faithful to God. Just as the four-living creatures sing a different song than the twenty-four elders [Revelation 4], who sing a different song than the angels [Revelation 5], who sing a different song than the great multitude in white robes [Revelation 7], so the song of praise that the 144,000 will offer up will be a personal testimony to God’s work in their life. A story that no one else can sing, because no one else has lived it.

The amazing thing about this passage of scripture, is that it will lead up to the final battle–Armageddon [Revelation 16:16]. Many speculate about and fear having to live through such a battle. But Revelation shows us how calm and cool Jesus and his army are while preparing for Armageddon. They’re standing on the fortress. They’re keeping themselves pure as they would for any routine battle. And they’re already celebrating the victory. Before the battle even ensues, they’ve won with Christ, and they know it.

Are you living in victory today? Are you living a life of spiritual purity, garrisoned on the mountain of Christ, celebrating in advance the victory that He has already won?

Living Willingly

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” Revelation 13:5-8

Image result for Solomon's temple + imageFor three and a half years–like the number of days that God has brought Israel into safe-keeping [Revelation 12:6] and the number of days that the two witnesses will minister in the holy city [Revelation 11:3]–likewise, the antichrist will establish himself as ruler over the earth.

He will boast and he will violate and misuse both God’s words and his own words against God. That is, he will blaspheme, the unforgivable sin, setting himself up as god before the entire world and profaning the one true God in all things [2 Thessalonians 2:4]. He will slander–make false statements about God, further damaging people’s faith in Him and in eternity. By this he will lead all the world astray.

The devil, the red dragon who gave the beast his pseudo-authority [Revelation 13:4], will also empower the antichrist to make war against the saints and to conquer them. But we have to remember that while it may appear to be a victory for Satan, this life is only temporary. The real triumph is eternal life which Satan will never have. He may strike the heal of the faithful in this life, but Jesus will crush his head [Genesis 3:15].

With all believers now out of the way, the whole rest of the world freely worships the lie that is the antichrist. He attributes to himself the praise from every tribe, nation and language as is only fitting of Christ [Revelation 5:9]. But Revelation is clear that only those who have not had their names written in the book of life will suffer to worship this false-Christ.

We who have believed and have lived by faith will bow our knee to no one but Christ alone. We belong to the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ [Revelation 5:6], and Him slain from the foundation of the world because God knew how He would redeem humankind to Himself from the moment sin entered the world [Genesis 3:15]. Our sin put Jesus on the cross. And He willingly died for us, because He didn’t want to live in eternity without us.

Do you recognize the enormity of this truth? Do you live just as willingly for Him?

The Uninhabited Place

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.” Revelation 12:13-14

Image result for wildernessBy God’s mighty hand and under Moses’ leadership, the Israelites left Egypt, crossed the parted Red Sea and arrived at Mt. Sinai in the desert. It was here, just before the giving of the ten commandments, that God said to Israel, You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself [Exodus 19:4]. The desert-care timeline of a time, times and a half time echoes the interpretation of Daniel’s four-beast-dream [Daniel 7:25] in which the beast represents world government and each body part represents an historically specific empire or kingdom.

Again, Satan, furious over his banishment, prowls across the earth seeking whom he may devour, steal, kill and destroy [John 10:10; 1 Peter 5:18]. He pursued Israel–the woman in this allegory and the line through which the promised seed would come [Genesis 3:15]–but God takes care of her in a desert place. The same desert through which the Israelites wandered? Or perhaps the same one in which Jesus was tempted by the devil?

Many scholars study passages such as this to try to discern deeper meanings and correlate to historical timelines. This is a good thing. It is also good to remember that while we may be able to draw human conclusions about such things, we are reading an apocalyptic book filled with End Times prophecies. In it we will find a reversal of sin through to a new Creation. So it is also possible that the governmental representations in this historical allegory may happen again in the future [Ecclesiastes 3:15]. Not because of some cosmic deja vu, but in God’s perfect plan of redemption to restore His beloved Creation to its original intent.

It is also good not to get hung up on debates over exact interpretations of what the fulfilled prophecies will look like or when they will come to pass. Rather, understanding the spiritual significance–the role of Israel and Satan in the history of humankind and the eternal perspective that this overview provides–is key.

Like Israel, God promises that those who wait on Him will renew their strength and rise up on eagle’s wings [Isaiah 40:31]. The desert place was originally translated as a wilderness, a place without inhabitants, not a place without water or flora. Many times, God calls us to walk where no one around us dares to walk, to prepare like we’re going to live forever, but live like there’s no tomorrow.

Are you in the desert place even now? Are you waiting on Him for renewed strength no matter where you are on your spiritual journey?

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?

 

Which Came First–the Dragon or the Serpent?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.” Revelation 12:3-6

Image result for red dragon scalesDid you know that the word dinosaur didn’t appear in the dictionary until the 1800’s? So what did people call dinosaurs before that?

Dragons.

Pay attention to the stories that are now called myths and legends, because these are based in some truth. Dragons–aka dinosaurs–lived well after Noah’s flood, and there may even still be some today, just not in populated areas. The stories of people slaying dragons rose up because, well, people moving into new areas had to first drive out the dragons, aka dinosaurs, aka giant lizards that lived there. It was as natural as hunting the local grizzly bear or panther to extinction to make an area safe for families to live.

Did you know that reptiles never stop growing? A dragon, or dinosaur, is nothing but a very old reptile. And this allegory in John’s vision shows an enormous red dragon. A dragon known as Satan [Revelation 12:9] who started as a lowly, small snake in the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:1-15] and never had enough of devouring [1 Peter 5:8] and growing. A red dragon, as in the color of war [Revelation 6:4]. Dragon, because they have become the thing of myths, so he has identified himself with the substance of legend.

The father of lies is promenading in counterfeits [John 8:44]. Jesus is shown as a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes, striped red from his sacrifice [Revelation 5:6]. Satan puts on airs of the seven heads, which would seemingly double his vision potential, and ten horns, to try to trump Christ’s seven-horn power at least in appearance, and wears seven diadems, the crowns of true rulers, on his heads. Seven being the number of God, it’s no wonder that Satan would choose to mimic and pass himself off, since his number one lie has always been that each can be their own God. Satan believed his own lie first.

Following this description, we see the next piece of the historical allegory. A third of the angels–in this passage, stars–of heaven fell with him [Revelation 12:4 & 7-8]. They were confined to the earth. And thanks to the first messianic prophecy [Genesis 3:15], Satan was determined to kill any possible fulfillment of the male child who would crush the serpent’s head. He convinced pharaoh to eliminate the boy babies in Moses’ day [Exodus 1:22]. He convinced Herod to do the same in Jesus’ day [Matthew 2:16].

But Jesus was born nonetheless. He lived and died to save us from our sins. He rose again and ascended to the right hand of God the father in heaven. And He will one day rule the nations with an iron scepter.

The woman, Israel, took refuge in a dry and barren land for 1,260 days–the same amount of time that the witnesses have in the last days [Revelation 11:2]–or about 3 1/2 years.

Regardless of whether this vision within the vision is historical allegory to recap the spiritual significance or whether there will one day be a literal woman and red dragon sign in the skies, the message to you and me is the same, Jesus is Lord.

Will you accept Him as Lord of your life? Or will you continue to follow the counterfeit–Satan, the red dragon–until he takes you with him into the Abyss?