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Paying the Wage of Sin

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, ‘Take your sharp sickle and gather clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.’ The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.” Revelation 14:17-20

Image result for Wine StompingAn angel with a much smaller sickle, the curved knife blade used for harvesting grape clusters from the vine, comes out of the heavenly temple next. Following him is the angel in charge of the fire for the heavenly altar–another evidence of the earthly temple being patterned after the original in heaven [Leviticus 6:13]. The fire-angel passes the harvest command to the grape-knife angel.

The grapes are ripe. The time for God’s patient love has passed.

The image of God’s wrath as a winepress was common in the Old Testament [Isaiah 63:3; Lamentations 1:15; Joel 3:13]. To make wine, harvested grapes were filled into the vat and then workers would tread barefoot–that is walk through the vat, squishing the grapes underfoot so that their juice flowed into the lower levels of the winepress.

Again, it is not God’s desire that any should choose this end [2 Peter 3:9], but everyone has the free will to do just that–choose or reject God–despite His desire for all to come to eternal life [John 3:16-17].

Those who choose sin, thereby choose to pay the wages of their own sin by themselves. The Bible tells us clearly that the wages of sin is death [Romans 6:23; Leviticus 17:11]. And just as Jesus suffered outside the city gate [Hebrews 13:12], those who reject God will face their end in this place of disgrace. They will give their own life blood in their appointed time of death–as all must face [Hebrews 9:27]–only their blood can never bring forgiveness of sins. So when the unforgiven die, they face the second death, that is eternal punishment in the fires of hell [Revelation 2:11, 20:6 & 14, 21:8].

So great is the number of those who refuse God in this life, that John sees a vision of blood rising somewhere between 4 and 6 feet high, covering an area the length of the Holy Land from north to south.

Everyone’s sins must be paid for. But no one has to pay the penalty for themselves. Have you accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for your sins? Or will you choose to pay for yourself?

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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?

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 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 Cause of Christ

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” Revelation 12:10-12

Image result for the cause of christAfter the red dragon is hurled to the earth, along with his followers, heaven rejoices. Loud proclamations resound. Salvation results when Satan is removed from his self-appointed place as God in our hearts. God’s power manifests itself in removing this enemy. God’s kingdom grows as people accept this redemption. The authority of Christ–Greek for Messiah, or savior–reveals itself in the conquest of the adversary.

All of the tangle of human history–past, present and future–unravels with the triune Godhead casting Satan from heaven and establishing redemption through Jesus as Lord.

Satan is an accuser. He accuses God to His own face [Job 1:9-11] and he determines to remind God of our sins as well. But cast out of heaven, he has no audience with the Almighty, no opportunity to accuse us any longer. The blood of Jesus wiped our slates clean and our testimony, that we proclaim Jesus as Lord, seals our innocence before the Creator. Moreover, when we keep a proper perspective on our earthly lives, when we recognize that death is just a doorway to the promise of eternal life–not out of depression, despair, or morbidity, but in the way we lives our lives to give Jesus honor and glory in all things. We do not seek death. But we will stand for the cause of Christ and the salvation of a lost and dying world.

Again, heaven rejoices when the adversary is thrown out of heaven, but it pities the earth. This is another indicator of historical allegory in this Revelation 12 passage. The devil is and has been the prince of the air or the prince of this world [Ephesians 2:2; John 12:31] since his banishment from heaven. In his fury, he has wreaked havoc on human understanding seeking whom he many devour [1 Peter 5:18], seeking to steal, kill and destroy all who live by faith in the one true God [John 10:10].

Satan’s time is short [Revelation 12:12]. God is not too long in coming [1 Peter 3:9]. Jesus is coming soon [Revelation 22:12].

Have you placed your full faith in the one true God? Have you accepted the redemption of His Son in your life? Are you standing for the cause of Christ before our lost and dying world?

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?

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?