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Stealing Across the River

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. ‘Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.’ Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” Revelation 16:12-16

Image result for euphrates river imageThe mighty Euphrates, fourth river of Eden [Genesis 2:14], covenanted border of the Promised Land [Genesis 15:18; Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4; 1 Kings 4:21 & 24]. In modern times, the Euphrates appears to be nowhere near Israel’s borders, running instead from Turkey across Northern Syria and through Iraq. Only for a short time under the reigns of King David and his son Solomon did Israel’s territory extend all the way east to the great river [1 Kings 4:21; 1 Chronicles 18:3].

Still, it is significant that the river is removed altogether when the sixth bowl of wrath is poured out. With it, God’s covenanted Promised Land with the Israelites is without border, a border that delineated both divine protection and spiritual alignment in scriptures. Jacob fled from his father-in-law into the country of refuge across this river [Genesis 31:21], while enemy kings are noted as having come from beyond the river [1 Chronicles 19:16; Isaiah 7:20].

God’s hand of protection is removed from the earth along with his mercy [Isaiah 11:15; Jeremiah 46:6] to prepare for the final war–Armageddon. A demonic spirit comes out of Satan, his antichrist, and the false prophet, each one. The frog-like demons represent unclean spirits, since the frog was considered an unclean animal. They aid with the deception of the antichrist and the false prophet, and help unite the governments of the entire world against their Creator God.

Armageddon likely is a re-pronunciation/respelling of Har Mageddon, meaning the mountain of Megiddo. Throughout history, the plain of Megiddo, located in the main pass that runs northeast through the hill country between Sharon and Jezreel, was a frequent battleground because of its strategic location [i.e. Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:22; and in modern times–1468 & 1917].

Just as Jesus’ return to rapture the church to heaven will be like a thief in the home of the unsuspecting [1 Thessalonians 5:2 & 4; 1 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3], so will his appearance at the last battle be like a thief to the earthly governments who have fallen asleep, those who have not only denied God, but forgotten Him. There is a difference. But Jesus is warning them that, Hey look, you’re going to be defeated by virtue of aligning yourselves with the unholy trinity, but you don’t have to shame yourselves in the process. Be ready.

This can also be taken as reminder to believers to be ready for His return. Jesus coming will only seem like a thief in the night to the unsuspecting. We not know the exact day or the hour [Matthew 24:36], but we can see the signs of the times, recognize that it is near, and be ready for His return [Matthew 24:1-35].

Do you know the signs of the end times? Study God’s word to understand them better. Do you see the signs all around? Is your heart prepared so that Jesus’ coming does not take you by surprise?

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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?

Unraveling the Mystery

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, ‘There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” Revelation 10:5-7

Image result for I Pledge HandOaths are not common in our modern American culture. We often see them only in pomp and circumstantial events like presidential inaugurations and courtroom witness stands. But once upon a time, oaths were common, everyday practice. You see an oath is basically a weighty promise. Today people sign contracts and all kinds of other paperwork acts to affirm their intentions. If broken, contracts can bring legal action against the person who failed to honor the commitment.

In the Bible, the right hand–which was used to swear the oath–carried significance. It embodied the character and authority of the person. Abram raised his right hand and swore on God the Father before the King of Sodom [Genesis 14:22-23]. The song of Moses sings of God raising his right hand to swear on heaven [Deuteronomy 32:40]. When this Christophany lifted his right hand heavenward and swore an oath on God the Father, Creator of All, it packed a power punch into the promise of the Godhead Three-in-One.

After seven seals and six trumpets with an interlude for this angelic Christophany, straddling land and sea, the end will come swiftly–without delay. In the days leading up to the sounding of the seventh trumpet, God’s great mystery will be accomplished.

What is this mystery? During the time of this writing, mystery cults abounded in the Roman provinces, such as Asia Minor where this book circulated. Ephesus notably dealt with the mystery cults which the apostle Paul addressed in his epistle to them. Primarily, the mystery cults claimed to have secret knowledge of the workings of the world, of principalities, and of God Himself. If you weren’t in the cult, you had no hope of understanding the mysteries of the world. But Paul said that God’s great mystery was that the Gentile believers were coheirs with the Jewish believers and that God had always intended it to be that way [Ephesians 1:7-10 & 3:2-6]. A huge shock to the religious devout of that day.

Here in Revelation, however, we read that God’s mystery will be accomplished in the days before the seventh trumpet, which would be days of loud anguish, or certain tribulation. One commentator suggests that this refers to God having won the victory over the forces of evil and reigning forever and ever. Later, this passage seems to confirm this viewpoint [Revelation 10:11].

As believers, apocalyptic literature like this Revelation 10 passage is interesting or maybe even intriguing. We like to read it and consider what it might look like, maybe debate with others about differing ideas. But we do so from a place of considerable comfort, knowing that we enjoy the security of either having been raptured by this point or having been sealed by God. Either way, we have nothing to fear. Many, however, still do not know God or the good news of Jesus Christ. Many still fear this mystery unaware.

Do you know someone who needs to know God? Are you willing to push through your own temporal fears to bring the truth of eternity to them?

Locust Storm

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those  people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” Revelation 9:1-4

Image result for locustAfter the eagle interlude, angel number five takes a deep breath and blows his trumpet, adding to the earthly discord wreaked by the first four. At the blast of his horn, a single star–sometimes referring to angels in scripture [Job 38:7; Daniel 8:10; Revelation 1:20 & 12:4]–is given the key to the Abyss.

Used here, Abyss is a Greek term meaning very deep or bottomless. It was believed in ancient times to be a place beneath the earth’s surface where all demons were confined. The Hebrew word equivalent refers back to the deeps of the earliest recorded moments of the earth [Genesis 1:2] and the springs of the deep that loosed Noah’s flood [Genesis 7:11; Proverbs 8:28]. The legion of demons in Luke 8:31 begged Jesus not to send them into this Abyss.

This should be warning enough for Christians not to dabble in séances and other rites or activities that claim to call demons forth. Because it is not just a game, it opens up the deep and it opens up our spirit to the forces of darkness.

John records such vivid imagery of the opening of this Abyss. Smoke pouring out of a large furnace, like the chimney stacks of factories or nuclear plants that cloud the horizon for miles. Smoke enough to screen the sun and the entire sky like a stormy, black-clouded day. The eighth Exodus plague bursts back onto the scene with locusts pouring out of the smoke and raining onto every inch of earth [Exodus 10:1-20].

But this is not your ordinary locust. This is a supernatural hybrid of locust with scorpion power–aka venomous barbs–and the express mission of stinging people, rather than destroying the vegetation [as locusts normally do]. All people, that is, except for those sealed by God [Revelation 7:1-8].

Interestingly, these seals were initially given after the opening of the sixth of seven scroll seals [Revelation 6:1-8:5]. At the time, God expressly forbid the land and sea harming angel to touch anything until He sealed the foreheads of His people. Here in Revelation 9, we see that the locust-scorpion hybrids are commanded not to harm the land at all and not to touch anyone who has this seal. God’s mercies are at work.

Later on in the tribulation, Satan will counterfeit this seal with his own version–the mark of the beast [Revelation 13:16-17]. As Christians, we do not need to worry about whether or not we will relent and take this mark, because it is clear by this timeline that we will either have already been raptured or received God’s seal on our foreheads. And if we’ve been sealed by God, taking the mark will not be an option.

Do you worry about end times events? Study the Word to understand them better. Understanding can dispel many fears. Trusting God will quell them all. Do you trust Him as you love Him–with all your heart, and with all your strength and with all your mind?

 

The Fall Reversed in the Greatest Commandments

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them of springs of living water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:15-17

Image result for lamb leading to waterBible scholars–and often the various church denominations–hold to differing views on which point of the end times the church will be raptured into heaven [1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:17]. There are usually three views of this: pre-tribulation [before all the bad stuff happens], mid-tribulation [sometime during while all the bad stuff happens] and post-tribulation [after all of the bad stuff happens].

Since no one knows the day or the hour that Jesus is coming–not even Jesus Himself [Matthew 24:36]–God doesn’t want us to spend our time debating it [2 Timothy 2:14]. We’re not even supposed to concern ourselves with anything except believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and trusting Him in all things. That does not mean that we won’t experience anything bad in our physical bodies. On the contrary, so long as sin remains and our bodies remain here in the sinful world, we will have trouble [John 16:33]. But our fear is not to be bound up in the physical [Matthew 10:28].

Rather, as we can see here, an innumerable multitude stays faithful through at least the opening of six seals which release increasing hardship on the earth, and then they are standing before God’s throne in His heavenly temple. The temple here signifying the presence of God and the tent, spread out over them, His tabernacle.

The next verses begin to show that God is undoing sin–in the exact reverse that He pronounced the consequences of sin in Genesis 3–and creating everything anew.

In heaven, we will not hunger, thirst or be scorched by sun–a reversal of Adam’s curse [Genesis 3:15-17]. And why will this happen? Because Jesus–the Lamb–will lead us. Having restored the reverence for God in our hearts, we will once again submit to His perfect authority and do the good things that He intended for us from the Creation. When He leads us to the eternal living waters and the banquet tables of heaven, we will follow without exception out of a free will governed by our love for God.

In heaven, we will no longer cry–a reversal of Eve’s curse [Genesis 3:16]. Not because women tend to be more emotional than men, but because the result of her sin was painful childbearing–meaning childrearing, as in broken relationships. Relationship breaks that lead to emotional strife–arguments, hurtful words and actions, betrayed trusts, mistreatment, abuse, oppression…heartbreak on so many levels in every type of relationship–and that escalates even to the point of war and death. All of our imperfect human relationships will be made whole out of a free will governed by our love for our fellow human beings, the way God intended for us from the Creation.

Though we are not in heaven and have not been made perfect yet, each day we ought to become more and more like Christ [Colossians 1:28], we ought to grow more and more in our love for God and fellow human beings [Matthew 22:36-40; 1 John 4:7-21].

Amazing isn’t it? The culture around us cries out for love for all, but deny the God who is love and who is trying to restore this very thing.

The Loud Anguish

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Revelation 7:14b

Image result for white robed multitude + imageSo who is this white-robed multitude? The elder says they are the people who have come out of the great tribulation. So what is the great tribulation?

Tribulation was actually a death penalty in Rome, as was crucifixion. However, in tribulation, large flat stones were stacked on a person’s chest–one at a time–until all of the air was crushed out of them. They died then of suffocation/asphyxiation. In this way, the word tribulation is a figurative description of the end times.

The Greek word thlipseos, translated tribulation here, is translated elsewhere in the Bible as: affliction, anguish, and persecution. The Greek word for great, megales, is also translated as loud, and great in both the sense of magnificent and the sense of very large.

Jesus assured all believers that they would have trouble in this world [John 16:33]. The seven churches of Revelation faced persecution under the Roman government, and many other times and places in history–including several countries in our world today–have also shared in very large scale, hard hitting persecution.

I love that this can also be translated the loud anguish. Because it expresses more fully that the sin and death of this life clamor to a tumultuous, agonized wailing. But all the more as the great and glorious day of the Lord approaches. The end times that Revelation begins to describe with the six broken seals leading up to this moment and which will continue with trumpet and bowl judgments yet to come, will feel like one rock at a time being laid on the chest of all–believer and unbeliever alike–until the Lord, in His mercy, raptures us home [1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:17].

How much will believers have to experience? We don’t know exactly, only that God has promised to protect us through whatever we may endure [Revelation 6:6, 7:2]. His strength is perfect in our weakness [2 Corinthians 12:8-10]. We may be struck down, hard pressed and persecuted from every side, but we will not be crushed by the tribulation of this life [2 Corinthians 4:8-9]. His breath of life fills our lungs and will sustain us through it all [Genesis 2:7; Psalm 46:1 & 118:14].

Our robes–a symbol of our righteousness or goodness–have been made paradoxically white through blood that we know to be red. But it is again a symbol of the Old Testament sacrificial system. Life is in the blood [Leviticus 17:11], and more specifically, eternal life rests in Jesus’ blood alone. When we put Him on as a robe [Galatians 3:27], by accepting His sacrifice on the cross as the payment for our sins, then our sinful-self-righteousness–which is like filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6] next to His Holy Glory–are washed white as snow. Sinless. Perfect enough to stand before a Holy God.

Can you hear the loud anguish rising all around? Do you feel pressed down in life or persecuted by the world today? Hold on. Jesus is coming soon!

The Alpha and Omega

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,’ and ‘every eye will see him, even those who pierced him’; and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of him.’ So shall it be! Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:7-8

Image result for alpha and omega bible imageHere John’s  vision invokes Old Testament scriptures, Messianic prophesies given pre-Christ.

Daniel saw one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven [Daniel 7:13] in a vision given in a dream. But the verses that follow make it clear that Daniel did not understand what he saw; so he approached one of the angels in his vision for an interpretation. John, however, receives a more complete revelation. He knows who this one like a son of man is–Jesus–and he passes on the angelic prophesy of Christ’s future return [1 Thessalonians 4:17].

Zechariah also prophesied pre-Christ that they [Israel] will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn [Zechariah 12:10]. Now Zechariah was given many Messianic prophecies, however, it is not clear whether he knew the full extent of his own message. But John, again, knows the one who was pierced–Jesus–and he speaks to the people’s response when they recognize what they have done.

Then John stamps these Old Testament revelations with a so let it be done, meaning, let God’s word come to pass as it is written.

Jesus speaks in verse 8, calling himself the Alpha and Omega. He’s not talking about wolf packs or lion prides though. When he says Alpha, he means the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and Omega is the last letter. That is to say that Jesus was the beginning of all things and he is the end of all things. He reaffirms this title by defining his eternality, saying, who is, and who was, and who is to come. In John’s gospel, he wrote that Jesus was at the Creation [John 1:1-10]. He was here before everything and everyone else. And in Revelation, we learn that Jesus’ kingdom will have no end. He will exist after everything else on this earth has passed away and after our earthly bodies have been made a new creation.

Not only that, but speaking of himself as letters, Jesus reminds us of the Creation being spoken into existence. Jesus is that word. John 1 tells us that through him all things were made.

Jesus alone is the Almighty–all powerful, sovereign Son of God.

Have you recognized Jesus as such? Do you worship him as sovereign of your life?