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A Dark and Terrible Night

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given the power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.” Revelation 16:8-11

Image result for sun scorchedThese next two plagues deal in day four of the Creation–sun, moon and stars–plague nine from Egypt–darkness. We know that the end of the physical earth is near, because God promised that seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease as long as the earth endures [Genesis 8:22].

But here we see that the sun’s stability will begin to unravel without God’s mercy to hold it together. Unlike mythology which tries to explain scientific law with made up folktales, the Bible has always explained science before scientists even know it’s a thing.

Almost a thousand years before global warming, the ability to monitor sun spots, calculate the mass of the sun and hypothesize about the rate at which it will wear out, the Bible told us that, just like God started it, the sun will run out exactly when God withdraws His mercy. First, sunspots will intensify and scorch the earth. Then the sun will go completely dark, plunging the antichrist’s kingdom on earth into pitch blackness.

Yet so hardened will be the hearts of human beings at this time, that they will find the words and the strength to curse God, but not the contrite heart to acknowledge their sinfulness or the humility to ask forgiveness. They will follow their beast into the darkness, grumbling and complaining against God for all the wrong befallen them, never admitting to themselves that since God exists, He is in control and therefore must be reverenced as God. Never accepting His love and mercy in their lives.

As long as it is day, we must do the works of God [John 9:4] and encourage one another so that no one may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness [Hebrews 3:13]. Night is coming, Jesus said [John 9:4]–this dark and terrible night at the end of the world as we know it is coming. Will the people you have love be lost in the dark? Will people that know you face these final days of wrath? Are you, like Christ [John 9:5], a light to this world that is ever plunging deeper into the darkness?

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The Mercy-Justice Coin

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: ‘You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged; for they have shed the blood of your saints and the prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.’ And I heard the altar respond: ‘Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.” Revelation 16:5-7

Image result for justice is blindJustice is often portrayed as a woman wearing a blindfold, holding up scales. She weighs the faults of men, impartial to their race or religion or gender or financial station or political persuasion. But the woman, justice, must also mete out consequences for the unlawful and protect the law abiding. She must decide between right and wrong based on a moral absolute–the law of the land.

Very few disagree that this must be done or civilized nations would rapidly decay into violent chaos. But these same advocates of legal justice often decry scriptural descriptions of God’s justice–not because of what it entails, but because of what it means. If God is just, then we must obey His laws. He is the absolute authority, not myself, that sets the standard for my life. It grates against every grain in Satan’s lie that we, as sinful humans, know and love–be your own god.

But when we throw out God as just judge, we also throw out His mercy, because they are two sides of the same coin. In scripture, justice would not be portrayed as blind, but mercy would be.

God does not show favoritism [Romans 2:11]. Everyone is invited to lay their burdens down at the cross, receiving forgiveness for sin–no exceptions.

In God’s eyes, no human distinction matters, only that we come to a saving knowledge of His Son, Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. From there, we allow His lordship in our lives to transform us by the renewing of our minds [Romans 12:2]. So that we can see His third of the ocean to blood in chapter 8 for what it truly is–mercy. So that we can understand why the water-keeping angel here proclaims God’s wrath as just–those who have rejected God’s authority and supported the total eradication of Christianity will receive the consequence of their choices. They will intoxicate themselves for a time by the witch hunt and bloodlust of Christian extermination, and they will be enraged, declaring God unjust when He revisits them with the same in one fell swoop of the third bowl judgment.

The only justice that the sinful-heart seeks, is the one that says I’m right. Anything else is an affront to our Satan-appointed-self-as-God-position. Don’t let sinful pride get the better of you in this life and eternity to come. Seek to know God for who He is. Seek to understand the truth of our sinful nature.

Ask yourself, would you reject His mercy in order to be your own justice? And at the end of the day, if you choose to be your own justice, whose mercy will have to lean on when you stand before the Just Judge of all eternity?

The Razor-Edged Gospel

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth–to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” Revelation 14:6-7

Image result for flying angelIn Revelation chapter 8, an eagle flew in midair pronouncing three woes to come. Here, the angel flying in midair proclaims the eternal gospel, literally glad tidings often translated as good news as the angel brought to the shepherds in the Christmas story [Luke 2:10].

This so-called good news, will not be good news at all to everyone living on the earth at this time, because it will mean that their time is up. They have no more opportunity to accept Jesus as Lord of their lives.

Good news is always double-edged though [Nahum 1:15]. For someone to celebrate a win in this life, someone else has to lose. For one candidate to be blessed with a new job, another candidate has to be rejected. For there to be a recipient of a life-saving transplant, a donor has to lose their life. And for the good news of Jesus’ victory over Satan to be completed and the faithful to go on to eternal life, all those who have chosen to follow Satan–that is everyone who has rejected God–have to go on to eternal damnation.

Make no mistake about this moment, it breaks God’s heart that any should choose to perish [2 Peter 3:9]. Even now He withholds His hand of judgment so that others can choose eternal life.

The angel commands everyone to fear God, but throughout scripture God, or His theophanies, command people, Do not fear. The fear of the Lord, however, is a right respect for who God is. It’s like, when you meet world leader, you recognize their position of authority and honor them accordingly. So with God, we are to reverence Him for who He is. Those who have rejected Him, in this moment, come to the place where they will bend their knee to Him fully understanding the error of their ways [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10].

Worship Him, the angel says, acknowledge His true worth. Creator. Sustainer. Provider. God Almighty. There is none like Him.

The angel invokes the image of Creation through the heavens and the earth [Genesis 1:1] and the seas [Genesis 1:10 & 22]. And he invokes an image of the flood when the springs of the great deep burst forth [Genesis 7:11], an image equated to the lostness of sinful humankind [2 Peter 2:17] that only Jesus can set to right [Revelation 7:17].

Do you know people on the other side of the gospel’s razor edge? People who will pass to eternal damnation when you take your place in eternal life? Does your heart break for their salvation as God’s does? Share your hope with them and everyone you meet.

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?

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?

Fire Breathers

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.” Revelation 11:5-6

Image result for fire breathingMany say that these two witnesses are neo-Elijah and neo-Moses because of their attributes in these verses. The ability to protect themselves with fire from their mouths has a few scriptural precedents.

In 2 Kings 1:10, 12 and 14, King Ahaziah is trying to command Elijah to come to him, but he keeps sending military bands to fetch the prophet. The first two commanders make the demand, calling Elijah man of God. To which Elijah replies, If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you… The fire does rain down and consume the men, verifying Elijah’s relationship with the one true God. The third commander demonstrates wisdom and humility. He recognizes God for who He is and Elijah’s relationship to God. He doesn’t come shooting his mouth off by order of the king, but humbles himself with a petition for his very life. In the end, the wise commander and his men are spared, and Elijah relents and goes to see the king. Unfortunately for the king, the message he insisted on receiving from Elijah was not a good one.

Elijah also prayed that it would not rain for three years and it didn’t [James 5:17].

In Numbers 16, Moses also spoke of divine consequence for unholiness among the tribe of Levi. The ground split and consumed the offenders, followed by fire from the Lord Most High.

Of course, Moses also commanded Pharaoh to let God’s people go, and pharaoh’s hardened heart response resulted in the Exodus plagues [Exodus7:17-19].

Not to mention, when Jesus was transfigured on the mount in Matthew 17, who should appear with Him but Moses and Elijah.

The prophet Jeremiah was told that his words would be a figurative fire that would consume the spiritually dried up people who heard them [Jeremiah 5:14]. And certainly, words that bring the realization of our own sinfulness and guilt are burning words in our soul.

When Moses proclaimed the coming plagues, he did so in hopes that Pharaoh would relent and repent before God. Before his words split the ground and brought fire from heaven, he begged the Levite offenders to reconsider their complaints before God. When Though Elijah prayed for rain to be withheld and for the rain to be released, and though his remarks called down a hail of fire, Elijah lived to bring glory and honor to God alone.

So shall these two witnesses be in the End Times. It will still not be God’s will that any should perish [2 Peter 3:9], but respecting the freewill with which He created all men, God will show Himself God. Mercifully, He will send these powerful witnesses upon the earth so that even the Gentiles audaciously trampling and desecrating the Temple will be given the opportunity to know God and repent of their ways before the final moments of this earth.

Are your words ablaze with the truth of God’s Word? Do the dry souls around you catch fire to God’s glory and honor alone?