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by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:13
This week’s solar eclipse came and went in a flash, but people prepared for it for a long time. Scientists studied and charted the exact time and date. They knew where the best views could be had of this natural phenomena. Non-scientist people heard the exciting news and the warnings that viewing with the naked eye could cause blindness. Many took the good news and the warning to heart and prepared to view the solar eclipse in a safe and fun way. People bought cheap approved glasses and expensive ones. They made all kinds of homemade possibilities. Parties and community viewings were planned. In some cases, many months of preparations went into watching an event that took only minutes.
But for anyone who didn’t hear about the eclipse, or heard and didn’t prepare, they may have missed one of the single coolest earth moments in recent history. If they pay close attention, they’ll have another shot in seven years.
However, as Christians, we have even better news to share with people: Jesus died on the cross for our sins so that we can be reconciled to God and have eternal life. And the only preparation needed for His return is to believe on Him [John 3:16]. But the Bible asks us some very pointed questions about our witness to others: How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? [Romans 10:14].
Unlike the solar eclipse, if there are people who do not hear about Jesus’ return, or those who hear and choose not to believe in Him, there will not be a second chance. Oh, they will have the opportunity as long as they live. But–until Jesus comes back–the offer expires when we do.
How do you keep watch for the Lord in your life? Does your life preach Christ–using words only when necessary? When non-Christians meet and get to know you, do they hear about the one who came to give them eternal life? And are you prepared to always give an answer for the hope you have within you [1 Peter 3:15]?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” Revelation 8:8-9
Beat two, trumpet two enters. The result? Something like a huge mountain. Something like? John is seeing things he has to explain with words he knows, even if he has no words for the reality. Though God doesn’t correct Him as He could have.
So a blazing mountain-thing is hurled to the earth–like the censer and the hail-fire-blood mix–but this time into the ocean. Jeremiah 51:25 speaks of a destroying mountain that will repay Babylon for her idolatrous ways, leaving behind a pile of burnt rubble. Remember that Babel first introduced and spread false religions [Genesis 11:4-6], so false religion will be blotted out from the earth in the reversal of sin in the new creation at the end of time.
But Jesus also told believers that, with a mustard seed of faith, we could tell a mountain–an obstacle in our lives–to throw itself into the sea. And if we believe, it will happen [Matthew 11:23 & 21:21]. This something like a mountain being thrown into the sea, could very much represent the faith of believers moving the hindrance of false religion from the world, not by might, not by power, but by the spirit of the Lord [Zechariah 4:6].
And fire is used to refine [1 Peter 1:7]. It burns away the impurities, leaving behind pure gold, silver, and other precious metals. In scripture, a fire coal is also used for figuratively cleansing, in much the same way, the prophet Isaiah’s lips or his words/speech [Isaiah 6:6-7]. Any part of our life that is built on anything or anyone other than Christ will burn away in the refining fire of judgment [1 Corinthians 3:11-15].
Here again, we see a repeat of the first Exodus plague, water turned to blood [Exodus 7:14-24]. Just as in Egypt when the Nile’s fish died [Exodus 7:21], so the effected ocean life will die as a result of the fiery mountain turning one-third of the sea to blood. Not only that, but one-third of all the world’s ships–a creation of human hands–will also be destroyed.
Now you could probably name a dozen movies that glamorize this much ecological and nautical carnage. And many people have no problem attaching this type of thing to governments at war either. But one mention that God is involved and, all of a sudden, He is unjust. On the contrary, it is because God is just and holy and good that false religion cannot continue eternally. It is because of who He is that sin and death cannot exist eternally. And why would we want it to?
But if death is to be destroyed, then its root–sin [James 1:15]–must also be destroyed. And we each are responsible for choosing how the sin is removed from our lives. We can either accept Christ’s sacrifice to cleanse us from sins–as simply as believing in Him–or we can reject His sacrifice and accept the wages of our own sin [Romans 6:23], death in whatever form it takes.
Have you accepted Christ’s sacrifice for your sins? Do you have a faith in Him that moves mountains? Or do you intend to face death without Jesus?
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
Bible 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.
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:8-10
Jesus alone, the slain Lamb and Lion of Judah, is able to take the scroll from God’s hand. And when He does, it causes all of heaven to break out in worship. They fall prostrate, which seems to be the most natural response to recognizing God the Son and God the Father for who they are. And then they sing a song that embodies the reason for why they find Jesus so worthy.
He is worthy because He can take God’s sealed document from His hand and open it so that all can know what it says. And no one else can.
He is worthy because He died on the cross for our sins, redeeming–that is regaining possession of–every human life, just as was promised in the garden [Genesis 3:15]. Taking us back from death, hell and the grave so that we can be reconciled to–or our relationship made right with–God the Father. And no one else could have done it.
He is worthy because He has given to us His righteousness to put on [Galatians 3:27] in place of our filthy, sinful rags [Isaiah 64:6]. And no one else can do this for us either.
He is worthy because by this righteousness purchased for us on the cross, Jesus restored our heavenly citizenship, making us into the kingdom of heaven that God always intended us to be. And not just that, but priests–a group selected by God because they chose to be set apart for God, a purified people who ministered in God’s presence. Furthermore, this kingdom of priests will reign on the earth [1 Peter 2:9]. Not over each other, but like Adam was created to steward the earth [Genesis 1:26], Creation will once again be subject to those made righteous through Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And Satan will no longer have dominion over the world [Ephesians 2:2].
This praise is punctuated with more heavenly Temple original artefacts. Bronze bowls were used in the earthly Tabernacle and Temple for sprinkling blood, water and possibly oil as prescribed in the sacrificial rites. However, incense–a special blend of four spices that was only to be used in the Temple worship–was kept burning before the Lord day and night as a pleasing aroma [Exodus 30:8 & 34-38].
But this incense was a copy of the original. Our prayer is the incense that should rise to God without ceasing [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. It is a fragrant reminder to Him of our faith, love and desire to commune with Him.
In your worship of Jesus, have you ever been moved to physically bow before Him as Lord of your life? Do you lift up your prayers without ceasing to Him alone who is able to hear and to answer? Are you continually moved to honor God for who He is?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah and said, ‘He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.’ After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other, and then he died.” Genesis 5:28-30
Seven generations after Seth, Lamech was born to the oldest man who ever lived–Methuselah [whose father had such a devout relationship with God that he was raptured thousands of years before Jesus even came and prophesied about our future rapture!] And, unlike the Lamech born in the line of Cain, it seems that this Lamech held some of his granddaddy Enoch’s regard for God.
Here we hear Lamech prophesying over his son, Noah’s, life [5:29]. Noah–meaning peace, rest, repose, consolation–would bring comfort. But who’s the us referred to? Obviously, Lamech himself may have found Noah a comfort in his lifetime as fathers and sons should be to one another. And Noah may have in fact spelled Lamech from some of his work when he was of age to help.
But look deeper. In the world, sinful man was alienated from their Creator God. In other words, there was hostility between man and God. Human beings needed not only to be redeemed [restored to their rightful sonship to God], but they also needed to be reconciled [restored to their rightful relationship with God–a relationship of peace].
Lamech named Noah peace because he understood that God would restore the peace of mankind to Himself through Noah and his line. He references the Genesis 3:17 curse spoken to Adam, which was only reversible by God’s plan of redemption, which, in Lamech’s lifetime, had not yet come to pass.
However, through Noah, God would bless the one family whose patriarch still held onto a right faith in God, and He would condemn all other lifestyles through the destruction of the only worldwide flood in world history. Through Noah, God would restart the world as at the Creation and preserve a family line through which He could send His promised redemption to restore the peace between God and man. Through Noah’s line, the world would come to have the Way, the Truth and the Life in the person of Jesus Christ, who Himself is our peace. Who Himself is coming again–having prepared a place for those who believe in Him [John 14:1-3]–to find eternal rest from the painful labor and toil of the sin-cursed earthly life.
How sad, that 595 years of childrearing Noah and his siblings, that Noah is the only one who remained faithful to God. Many of those destroyed in the flood were his immediate family. But Lamech died before the flood at a good old age of 777. Unlike his distant-great-uncle, Lamech McCain, who claimed 77 fold vengeance for the murders he committed [Genesis 4:24], Lamech MacSeth was blessed 777 fold for his faith in God.
There is no middle ground. No fence to walk between sinfulness and holiness. Either we believe in God and pursue right living. Or we deny God and pursue self-living. Which Lamech are you? Do you believe in God? Will you accept His redemption in your life? Will you be reconciled to Him and know peace?