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Mercy Removed

 

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.’ The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died. The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.” Revelation 16:1-4

Image result for leprous skinThe thing that stands out most about this passage is that people who have a proper understanding of who God is–that is reverence for God, aka the fear of the Lord–know well and good that He has the power to heal and to judge with plagues, to create and to destroy. Why else would jokes about being strikened with a thunderbolt abound when somebody does something wrong? The understanding of God being an Almighty being still resides in the hearts of humankind, though many do not give it the full place that it ought to have.

Since people understand such things–that there is a God, that He is all-powerful, and that He has a standard of right and wrong–shouldn’t it cause them to stop and think, “Hey. I should get to know God and find out what He expects from me and why.” But the lie that Satan propagated in heaven [Isaiah 14:14] and in the Garden [Genesis 3:5], has so rooted in the prideful heart of human beings throughout world history that, even to shaking a fist at God and daring Him to unleash His worst wrath, many will harden their hearts to the truth.

In fact, the last seven plagues for all time are being reserved for those who refuse God and choose to serve an impostor instead. Many will follow the antichrist because they fear only for the physical [Matthew 10:28; Revelation 13:15-17], when they should fear the eternity to come.

As in the sounding of the seven trumpets, judgment comes. But this time, mercy has been removed. Rather than a short time period of painful welts from the hybrid scorpion-locust [Revelation 9:7-11], everyone bearing the mark of the beast will be subject to painful boils that they can never overcome [Exodus 9:9-11]. Just like the first trumpet brought hail mixed with fire and blood [Revelation 8:7] and the third trumpet resulted in a third of the ocean turning to blood [Revelation 8:10], the second bowl of wrath will turn the entire ocean into blood, killing every creature therein [Exodus 7:17-21]. And the third bowl will turn every other water source on the planet into blood. There will be nothing left clean for anyone to drink.

So at this point, there’s about 3 days to the end of human existence on planet earth–the length of time that people can live without water, though a few “doom’s day prepper types” may hoard fresh fruits and vegetables or have other ferretted stocks. The point is, it doesn’t really matter how long a person survives at this point. Their life, which is but a breath to begin with, will be forfeit [Job 7:7; Psalms 144:4]. Then again, anyone who chooses to deny God forfeits their life in the end anyway. Because there is only one way to eternal life–believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Will you accept mercy while it may still be found [Isaiah 55:6]?

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Live By

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“He who has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.” Revelation 13:9-10

Image result for listening ears + imageDuring the vision of the antichrist’s reign, God once again tells people to hear with their ears and not to be unperceiving. This scripture portion contains an Old Testament reference [Jeremiah 15:2].

In the original Jeremiah text, we read that Israel has rejected God, turned to lifeless idols–wood and stones that can neither see nor hear nor help them in any way–and refused to turn back to the one true God. As such, God basically says, Fine. If my people want to leave me so bad, let them be on their way. To which He adds, And if they realize at that point that they don’t have anywhere else to go, remind them what sin has prepared for those that choose it over Me. Because those who sin have no choice but to accept the wages of sin–death, sword, starvation and captivity.

On the other hand, God has come that we might have life and have it to the full [John 10:10]. He does not desire that any should perish by choosing the way of sin [2 Peter 3:9], rather He sent His one and only son, Jesus, into the world that all might be saved through Him [John 3:16-17].

Many people come to passages like Revelation 13 and Jeremiah 15 and conclude that God is anything but loving. They don’t see these scriptures through the lens of scripture itself–and the Bible is the best commentary on itself. If you look at the original language of Revelation 13:10, it says that if anyone will kill with the sword, then with the sword they will be killed. God is not condemning people to slavery and death by the sword in these verses, He is reminding them of the consequence of their sins. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Few people would disagree with that sentiment, religious or not.

But throughout scripture God also reminds us of His love and grace and forgiveness. At any time, we can choose to believe on Him and our sins will be removed as far from us as the east is from the west [Psalm 103:12]. When we read Revelation 13 and Jeremiah 15, if we read through the lens of scriptural understanding, then we see that this harm is not what God wants for any of us, though many will choose it for themselves despite His desperate love reaching out across the ages to turn us from the folly of our own hearts [Proverbs 22:15].

Do you recognize God’s love, grace and mercy in your life? Have you accepted His forgiveness and driven sin far from your heart? Are you always read to give an answer for this hope you have within you [1 Peter 3:15]?

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 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?

Life Eclipse

by Bridget Sileo

“Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

Image result for eclipseWhat is an eclipse? An eclipse is when one object moves between two other objects, blocking the view of one from the other. When the moon blocks our view of the sun during the day, does that mean that the sun is no longer there?

No. In fact, it is still dangerous to look directly at the sun.

Sometimes our circumstances seem to eclipse God and we question whether He is still there. We can’t see Him because other things in our lives stand in the way.

Psalm 46:10 tells us to be still and know that He is God. Even a total eclipse only lasts a short time before we can see the sun again. Eventually, our circumstances will no longer be blocking our view of God.

We can’t control the solar system or its timing, but God can and does. In the same way, we can’t always control our life circumstances, but God is bigger than all of them. Sometimes we just need to wait for the eclipse to pass, knowing that God is still there.

Heavenly Domino Effect

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Revelation 7:11-12

Image result for worshipPraising and worshipping God has a domino effect in heaven. Remember back in Revelation 4, every time the four-living-creature [cherubim]-throne of God praised Him [4:8] then the elders would bow down and worship God as well [4:11]. And again in chapter 5, the cherubim and elders sang a song of praise to the Lamb [Revelation 5:9-10] –God’s Son, Jesus–which prompted the millions of angels to sing praise [5:12], which prompted every living thing on the entire face of the earth to sing praise [5:13], culminating full circle with the cherubim and elders falling down in worship [5:14].

Here again, when the innumerable multitude of the saved praise God for who He is [7:10], then the 4 cherubim and 24 elders and millions of angels all three will fall down in worship.

Perhaps you’ve noticed this same domino effect in a church worship service here on earth. A loud voice cutting over the music or moment of worshipful silence, giving glory to God for the things He has done. Others hear this praise and join in with praises of their own. Voices go up and the presence of God descends into the midst of His people [Psalm 22:3].

It can all feel quite euphoric, but, at the same time, extremely heavy with the tangible presence of God. It’s a momentary glimpse of the true joy that restored communion with God brings. Heaven will carry this feeling forward eternally [Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17, 21:4]. So it’s a good sign of church health when worship naturally spreads throughout the body of believers.

Beware of naysayers and counterfeits. I’ve heard some celebrities who have left the church try to downplay their past experiences of God’s presence by saying things like, “Oh, I got the same feeling at a concert or when my team scored the winning touchdown.” Karl Marx–the German philosopher and economist whose ideas formed the basis for later communism–tried to reduce worshipping God to an experience that is just, “the opium of the people.” In other words, he said God worship is no more than a drug high. Naysayers do so because–like Nimrod at the Tower of Babel [Genesis 11:4]–they refuse to accept God, instead choosing to elevate self, however falsely.

Satan is always at work to undo our minds and experiences with the question, “Did God really…?” And he is always ready with counterfeit moments of euphoria. Fleeting experiences and temporary happiness triggers come in many forms–food, clothes money, relationships, jokes, media, drugs, alcohol, you name it–but they are all empty and none lasting. Only God can give true joy, the fullness of which is eternal.

Are you in a healthy worshipping church? If not, pray that God would use you to relight the fire, restore health in your church situation. Or if He chooses to move you, pray for guidance to bring you into a healthy church body. Do naysayers of your faith bring you down? Pray for strength to endure. Do counterfeits threaten to overtake the time you devote to true worship? Hold on. Jesus is coming soon!