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The Long War Between God and Satan: Part 2

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

Image result for crush snake headGod could have crushed Satan in a nanosecond back in the Garden of Eden. So why has this war dragged on for nearly 6,000 earth years and counting?

For one thing, God gave Adam and Eve–and every one of their descendants, us–free will. We can choose to love and obey Him or we can choose to despise, reject and disobey Him. But God didn’t want robotic love, just like we wouldn’t want to know that someone was loving us because they had to. He wanted, and still wants today, for us to choose Him. Of our own free will.

That’s why there were two trees to choose from in the middle of the Garden of Eden. And that’s why, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey, God didn’t just crush Satan on the spot. He still loved the people He created and wanted them to choose to love Him back–like a parent and a wayward child. If God obliterated Satan, then man didn’t have a choice, he wouldn’t be coming to God out of free will.

So God has been patiently waiting, carrying out His plan of redemption and giving every human being the opportunity to make their choice–God or Satan. There’s only those two ways about life when it comes down to it.

Again, when Jesus was born during the oppressive Roman Empire, the Jews were looking for a conquering hero Messiah. And Jesus will certainly establish His kingdom for all eternity, conquering death, hell, grave and every opposition. But He did not do so on the Jewish-Roman-time-schedule as they would have liked. He was patiently following through with the Father’s plan of redemption for the whole world, rather than temporally meeting a social and political need for one race, albeit the chosen nation.

God is love and love is patient [1 Corinthians 13:4], therefore God is supremely patient. But He also will not be taunted or in any way coerced to prove Himself to a person, or to Satan. While the enemy continues to attack, eroding faith from the hearts of men, God patiently preserves our free will–choose Me or don’t. Your choice.

While the war sometimes feels long, our life is but a breath in eternity. How are you choosing to spend your?

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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?

How Much Longer?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.” Revelation 11:7-10

Image result for shoes worn outThe days of the two fire-breathing witnesses, possibly neo-Elijah and neo-Moses, will be limited. Their testimony to the earth about God will come to an end. And when it does, the antichrist will be able to out-muscle their plague-ability and fire-breathing self-defense. He alone will be able to kill them.

If any has been unsure to this point whether or not this world ruler is in fact the antichrist, his ability to subdue these to men of God should allay any doubt.

Why would God allow the antichrist to kill His witnesses? And in death, why would He allow their bodies to be treated in such an unholy way? I mean, in the days this prophecy was written, to deny burial was bold indecency. Then add international gloating and a gift swap, well, it’s truly audacious.

As humans, we often think of God sitting on His high throne controlling every little jot and tittle of human existence. So if good things happen, praise God He allowed it. If bad things happen, curse God and cease to believe in His existence.

While God did create the world and set everything in motion, He also endowed humans with freewill–that is the unmitigated ability to choose our thoughts, words and actions. Although He hates sin, for Him to  disallow sinful people to choose to sin means that He has revoked freewill. This is not in God’s nature any more than deception or unholiness.

So the question should never be, why. The question has always been, how long. The Lord voiced this to Moses, asking, How long will these people treat Me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in Me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? [Numbers 14:11]

How long will God put up with humans choosing to do violence to one another? On one hand, He wants to give second chances and we love to have these opportunities to do better. On the other hand, people don’t seem to be responding to these opportunities with the repentant hearts they truly need. In the big picture of eternity, God hates to see us suffer each other’s wrong doing, but He allows humankind to exercise freewill all the same in hopes that we will ultimately use that freewill to choose Him of our own accord. And He waits–long suffering–hoping to give everyone the opportunity to come to Him.

But His spirit will not contend with man forever [Genesis 6:3]. He will return in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye at an hour we do not know [1 Corinthians 15:52].

Will you be ready when He comes? Even now, is your heart right before God?

Speak Life

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: ‘Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.’ So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, ‘Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’ I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.” Revelation 10:8-11

Image result for eating paperThe thunderous heavenly voice from verse 4 speaks again. This time instead of telling John to seal up words, the voice tells him to prophesy.

First, however–in his vision–he is to approach the Christ-like angel and take the scroll. John, demonstrating a proper fear of the Lord, asks rather than takes in his own power. The angel gladly hands over the scroll, with the command that John is to eat it.

This sounds strange to us. Who would eat a thirty foot roll of parchment paper? But John–in his vision–does just that. The prophet Jeremiah speaks of eating the word of the Lord that came to him, and they were his joy and delight [Jeremiah 15:16]. God also commanded the prophet Ezekiel in a vision to eat a scroll rather than to be hard-hearted and rebellious like the Israelites to whom God was sending him [Ezekiel 2:8-3:3].

Both John and Ezekiel said the scroll tasted sweet like honey, and honey is often the figurative standard in the Bible, indicating just how pleasant something really is. However, the pleasantness may not necessarily end well. In John’s case, for example, his stomach churns in his gut, aching, no doubt. The angel warned him ahead, but he still obeyed the command to eat.

So feeling sick to his stomach, he receives the command to prophesy again. The cross-reference notes in my Bible connect this command to Ezekiel 37:4-9, in which Ezekiel–in a vision–sees a valley of dry bones and is told to prophesy to the bones. He does, and the bones come together and grow back into perfectly formed, healthy human beings. John may be being commanded to speak life into the coming days of the end. The ever-intensifying tribulation will claim a massive death toll, and yet there are those who will find eternal life even now.

The specific command to prophesy concerning many peoples, nations, languages and kings likely means that all of these will bow and acknowledge God as God and Jesus as Lord [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10]. Many before the rapture of the church, and some in the midst of great tribulation. How difficult it will be for them in those days. But how joyous to know that eternal life, free from any more tears or pain or fear of death, is still available during these dark hours [Revelation 21:4].

The word of God is double-edged [Hebrews 4:12], both tasting sweet and leaving that sour feeling in the pit of the stomach. Like our Creator, as humans we don’t want others to have to perish [2Peter 3:9], but many choose this end. Our salvation tastes sweet, while the stubborn refusal of our closest friends and family can sour our stomachs. What a mercy to know that even in the end of the age, God will extend His hand of mercy. He will raise up prophets to speak life into the dry bones of those who will endure the tribulation.

But what if they gave their hearts to Him today? What if you spoke that life to them now?

What Bends the Knee and Bows the Heart

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon. The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come. The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ And the angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number.” Revelation 9:11-16

Image result for Knee Bowing ChristThe final piece of the hybrid scorpion-locust puzzle is that these creatures are ruled by the Destroyer. [Abaddon and Apollyon both mean destroyer in their respective languages.]

Remember that the Abyss refers to the subterranean demon hold [Revelation 9:1-2], the same place from which the locust horde originates. This would also seem to contradict the helicopter analogy idea, in that the destroyer would not have in his subterranean captivity an army of humans to man the flying machines.

But the more important focus here is the announcement that one woe is now complete. The eagle [Revelation 8:13], however, cried Woe three times–one for each woe to come to pass. Two more trumpets will sound, ushering in more anguish on the earth.

Angel six blasts his trumpet and the heavenly altar horns start speaking. Again, we see the original Temple as being the heavenly one after which the earthly one was fashioned. The heavenly altar has horns, or projections, at each of the four corners. Anyone fleeing judgment could seek mercy by taking hold of these horns. However, here in the end, we see mercy mixed with judgment extended by the altar itself.

What a terrible day indeed when the very horns of mercy command the release of the killing angel. One-third of human life on the planet will fall to the two-hundred million mounted troops. Even now, God’s desire is for mankind to see and repent [Revelation 9:20-21], not that any more should perish [2 Peter 3:9].

So many people read scriptures such as this and close the Bible, asking, “How can God be loving and merciful if He allows or causes such things to happen?” But the better question is, what is love? And what is mercy? The Bible tells us that greater love has no one than he who lays down his life for another [John 15:13]. Jesus laid His life down on the cross to pay the death wages of everyone’s sin–all people for all time. He didn’t have to. He chose to. And even though human beings spit on his sacrifice time and time again, God mercifully allows us more time and more opportunities to recognize the truth for ourselves and come to a saving knowledge of Him.

He reveals Himself to us in His creation. He teaches us to love one another, just as He loved–with the greatest kind of love there is. In His loving mercy the blind see, the lame walk and the dead are raised [Matthew 11:5]. And as Christians, if we believe, we can and will do even greater things than these [John 14:12] to His glory and honor.

In all of this peaceful love and mercy, many choose to reject God as God. But that does not change the truth of the matter. He alone is God. There is no other. And if you will not bend your knee to love and mercy. If you will not acknowledge Him as Lord when His blessings are abundant, the only other opportunities will come in times of loud anguish.

Your choice. Which will it be? When will you bend your knee?

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?

How To Study Puzzling Bible Passages

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, from the tribe of Zebulon 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.” Revelation 7:4-8

Image result for puzzleI’m going to be honest, I’m not exactly sure the significance of the numbers in this passage. But when I come across a piece of scripture that perplexes me, it is exciting to start hunting through God’s Word for understanding. The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself. It makes the simple wise and enlightens the eyes [Psalm 19:7-8].

Obviously, 144,000 is the product of 12,000 sealed from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. But my question is why 12,000 from each tribe? I’ve searched through the commentaries to see what others have said and the agreement is inconclusive. This is a point of Scripture on which we can pray for God’s understanding and that, if it still pricks our hearts to know, we can ask Him about in heaven .

A few thoughts to consider when delving into the Word to understand this matter:

1) The tribes are given out of order and two are omitted, but there are still twelve total–so in all things we can know that God’s purposes prevail [Proverbs 19:21];

2) These same 144,000 are mentioned again in Revelation 14 with the Lamb–so we can read within the larger context of Revelation to see if anything else can be disclosed about who and why;

3) There are many Old Testament passages that refer to the twelve tribes in list fashion, often with social/spiritual commentary about the state of each [i.e. Genesis 49, Numbers 26 and Deuteronomy 33 to name a few]. I’m particularly interested to study through these scriptures to see what light they can shed on the puzzling Revelation 7 passage, because they may give insight into the order rearrangement and omissions mentioned above. But also because they give snapshots of the tribes over distant points of time and place.

In Genesis 49, the patriarch Jacob is blessing his sons, the tribal heads, on his death bed. Blessing in this instance meaning that he speaks to the character and lets them know what it will produce in their life, so not always a positive. While the Deuteronomy 33 passage is Moses blessing the twelve tribes before they part ways–him to his death and them to possess the Promised Land. This blessing is as it sounds, good things spoken on behalf of each tribe, good things spoken with future blessing in mind.

4) One other factor not to be overlooked in interpretation of difficult Scripture passages–the Holy Spirit. As I puzzled over this the last few days and looked for other passages that might give insight, the Holy Spirit spoke to me about the equality of the number 12,000.

No matter what each tribe’s patriarch behaved like or the decisions he made, no matter what the particular history of each Israelite tribe throughout scripture and beyond, God does not show favoritism [Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25]. He forgives each of us equally. He loved each tribe equally. No matter their position or their history, when they devoted themselves to God they inherited the same measure of blessing.

What’s your Bible study routine? Do you dig deep into passages that perplex you or skip over them? Do you have sound Bible study tools and practices?