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Gates and Foundations

“It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on the them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Revelation 21:12-14

See the source imageRecently exiled to Babylon, a prophet arose among the Israelites–Ezekiel. He had the distinct travail of bringing a message of destruction to his fellow expatriates. They would not be returning any time soon to their homeland as they had hoped. Rather they would hear of their sacred temple burning to the ground.

But Ezekiel was also given the message of eternal hope. Israel–and all the nations–would one day stand judgment before God. Their words and actions weighed in the heavenly balance [Daniel 5:27]. The faithful would see Jerusalem restored like never before and the temple refashioned in all its heavenly glory. In this, Ezekiel’s fourth and final vision [Ezekiel 48], we find a description of the New Jerusalem much like the one here in Revelation 21:12, with the primary difference being that of size.

The city of Ezekiel’s vision had walls totaling 18,000 cubits or 6 miles around, while John’s vision of the New Jerusalem has four walls each 12,000 stadia or 1,400 miles long. Which means that each wall will be about as long as the distance from New York City to Oklahoma City. And each wall is just as high as it is long. A giant cube!

Both Temple visions show us that there will be three gates on each of the four city walls. Maps of the original city, show anywhere from 8-12 gates, with the city being a somewhat long, skinny, misshapen oval–not unlike an upside down, mini-Israel. Jerusalem has gone through several different wall building stages in its history. Through the years, gate names included: Dung Gate, Fountain Gate, Water Gate, Horse Gate, East Gate, Master Gate, Sheep Gate, Fish Gate, Old Gate and Valley Gate. Probably so named for the main transport through each.

The New Jerusalem, however, will be a perfect square–perfect being the operative holy standard. Three gates on each wall, like the triune godhead. And the gates will be named for the 12 tribes of Israel, because people have always been the ones whom God intended to enter His gates. The twelve foundations each with an apostles’ name [Acts 1:13 & 26], again showing that heaven is not just for God’s chosen nation, Israel, but for the church as well [Revelation 4:4]. For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord [Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13], who believes on Jesus and Him crucified [John 3:16], whose name is found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 13:8, 20:15 & 21:27], the redeemed, the forgiven will be saved and enter these gates with thanksgiving [Psalm 100:4].

The wall will be high, speaking of the wealth and splendor and might of God. The gates attended by angels–those beings who never faltered in their reverence for and worship of the Most High. Just as everything was perfectly prepared in anticipation for our arrival nearly 6,000 years ago on Day 6 of the Creation [Genesis 1], so is heaven perfectly prepared and ready to receive us back into the arms of our loving Father God [Luke 15:20-24 & 32].

Have you been made new? Will you enter the gates of the New Jerusalem with eternal thanksgiving? Or the lake of fire with eternal lament?

KCS

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Offering Thanksgiving–Part 2

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

See the source imageIn the Levitical sacrificial system, the thanksgiving fellowship offering required making a variety of breads to share with God [Leviticus 7:11-15]. It was a time of reconciling sinful man with our holy God in anticipation of the day when our sins would be forgiven and we could daily fellowship with Him for eternity–heaven.

It’s no coincidence then, that Jesus called Himself the bread of life [John 6:35] or that He referred to His crucified body as bread broken for us [1 Corinthians 11:24]. Jesus was prepared lovingly by the Father to be the bread God offered as the one true fellowship offering for all time.

Give thanks! God made us. He loves us. And He wants to restore our relationship to Him so that we can live for eternity the way He intended. He made the way through His son Jesus, and all we have to do is believe on Him [John 3:16].

God is actively pursuing the hearts of every man, woman and child at all times. But we should just as actively be pursuing the heart of God. Those who hunger and thirst for the things of God will be filled with them and be blessed by them [Matthew 5:6]. This is not a physical desire to eat and drink. This is referring to the appetite of the mind, emotion and soul.

When we hunger to know Jesus, the bread of life, He shows Himself to us. When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive them [1 John 1:9]. By faith in Him, we have eternal life [John 3:16]. He indwells us with His Holy Spirit so that we may live our lives in the power of God Most High [Acts 1:8]. When we thirst for eternal life, we ourselves do not rest until we take hold of it.

This drive for truth and righteousness results in finding them both. It is not a surface kind of hunger and thirst, it can only be satiated by digging deeper into the things of God, becoming more and more like Him with each passing day.

With Thanksgiving behind us and the celebration of the birth of Christ looming, hold on to an attitude of thanksgiving. Earnestly seek God. Hunger and thirst for more of Him each day. Get in His Word. Pray. Give thanks to Him in all things. Daily.

What desires drive your life? Do you recognize God pursuing your heart in your life? Are you persistently pursuing God’s heart?

KCS

The Path of No Return

“And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.’ Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.” Revelation 19:17-21

See the source imageAn angel calls all of the scavenging birds to a great feast that contrasts to the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is the bitterness of sin juxtaposed to the sweetness of salvation–many will choose to perish. Kings who have become drunk on their own authority. Generals, their captains and their soldiers who fought for the things of earth in the name of the kings of the earth. And all people–regardless of social status–whose name is not written in the Lamb’s book of life [Revelation 13:8].

Unlike the mythological phoenix, new physical bodies will not regenerate from the ashes and dust to which we return [Genesis 3:19]. Only spiritual bodies will live in the new heaven and the new earth [1 Corinthians 15:42 & 52]. So flesh will be no more.

As we make choices in life, it is wise for us to remember that we are all appointed to die once and after that to face judgment [Hebrews 9:27]. The things of earth bring us much trouble and ultimately will pass away [Matthew 6:19; 1 Corinthians 3:12-13; 1 John 2:17]. Our physical bodies too will pass away [John 12:24; 1 Peter 1:24].

How much more dreadful for those who resist God to the end. Who stand against Him in the battle of Armageddon, siding with the enemy–Satan’s unholy trinity of self, antichrist and unholy prophet. Like the enemies of any bloody rebellion, there will be no peace in their passing, no body to return to mourning loved ones. Like the soldiers who fell in the No-Man’s-Land between the trenches of WWI, there will be no way to intercede and rescue those who wage war against God without also bringing death on oneself.

Armageddon will be a point of no return, a line that, once crossed, can never be undone.

But for many, they have already chosen a path of no surrender and, therefore, no return. Many have already decided that they would rather live this life denying and defying God, than to worry about the things to come [Revelation 1:19].

Refusal to acknowledge God is a choice. Surrender is a choice.

Which path have you chosen [Matthew 7:13-14]?

KCS

Do You?

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelation 19:11-16

See the source imageJohn, still looking into the wide open vision of heaven saw, once again, the rider on the white horse [Revelation 6:2]. If there was any question of His personage in the earlier reference, this passage should clear it up.

Revelation 3:14 agrees that this is the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. Isaiah 11:4 speaks of His righteous justice–an attribute that scoffers hold as oxymoronic, because we live in a time where what God calls wrong, the world calls right and what God calls right, the world calls wrong [Isaiah 5:20].

Here again we see his eyes of fire, his crowns and bloodied robe [Revelation 1:14, 5:6, 6:2, 11:15 and 12:10].

Here again we see the unknown name inscribed as on the invitation stones [Revelation 2:17]–new names fitting of a new Creation. Yet His name is the Word of God [John 1:1]. He is the living Word. He is truth. He is the way, the truth and the life [John 14:6; 1 Corinthians 8:6]. Son of the I am that I am [Exodus 3:14]. Through Him all things were created [John 1:1] and have their being [Colossians 1:16-17].

He leads the faithful–made righteous by the forgiveness of sins–as the victorious army over the sins that once held them captive.

The sword of His mouth is the truth of eternity [Revelation 1:16 and 17:14]–the bittersweet, double-edged sword that falls in judgment. Though He does not desire any to choose to perish [2 Peter 3:9], all who deny the truth of His kingship, all who refuse to accept the forgiveness of His lordship in their lives will receive the eternal wage of their own sin [Psalm 2:9; Romans 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 2:27].

Vengeance belongs to Him alone [Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19], for He alone will step into the winepress to tread out the harvest [Isaiah 63:2-3; Revelation 14:20]. For He alone is the King above every king that has ever ruled, is now ruling and will ever rule on earth. He alone is Lord–sovereign authority–above every scientific law and government issued decree, statue, law, ordinance, rule, et al.

If He tells the sun to stand still or reverse in the sky, then it obeys [Joshua 10; 2 Kings 20:8-11]. If He commands the wind and the waves, they obey [Matthew 8:27; Mark 4:41; Luke 8:22-25]. The sick are healed, the lame walk, the blind see, the dead are raised, demons cast out [Matthew 10:8 and 11:5]–by one name alone. Jesus.

All of Creation obeys its Creator. Every authority will confess that He alone is Lord God [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:11]. Do you?

KCS

The Altar of the Heart

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.” Ecclesiastes 9:5

Image result for day of the dead altar heartOne of the customs of Day of the Dead is to build an altar and fill it with the favorite foods and possessions of those who have died. This act of remembrance is done in the belief that the souls of the departed will return and be happy to know that you have remembered them.

Scripture is clear, however, that the souls cannot return to us or enjoy this world anymore. They cannot hear or feel or choose to follow God if they did not accept Him in life [Ecclesiastes 9:5]. We should not become superstitious or fearful about them, or in anyway devote our time and passions to the dead [Leviticus 19:28; Deuteronomy 14:1 & 26:14]. Therefore, while it can be healthy and good to remember those who have gone before us, remembering is for the living. The dead cannot enjoy the smells and sights of a painstakingly prepared altar memorial.

Image result for kneeling altarHowever, altars are mentioned 384 times and offerings 728 times in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, so they do have a very significant spiritual place in the Christian life.

The first altar is mentioned when Noah gets out of the ark and makes a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God [Genesis 8:20]. Each altar is built as a place of remembering God.

The first offerings, on the other hand, go all the way back to Cain and Abel [Genesis 4:3-5]. Very specific offerings and times are prescribed. God instituted this sacrificial system so that the Israelites would be aware of their sinful state, though the sacrifices themselves could not fix the sins [Hebrews 10:4].

God, however, asks us to prepare our hearts as an altar for our lives [Romans 12:1]. That is, He asks us to remember Him with our whole heart–intellect, will and emotion. By doing so, we will recognize our sinful state and repent. Through repentance we accept Jesus’ lordship in our lives, allowing His forgiveness to cover our sins.

Satan would have us forsake altars and offerings or misuse them, but he does not want our cultural understanding to be made whole or our spiritual vision to be made clear. He does not want human beings to restore the heavenly altar of our hearts.

Will you consecrate your heart to Christ? Will you lay your life on the altar of a Godly heart?

The Unrepentant Leading the Unrepentant

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then the angel said to me, ‘The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” Revelation 17:15-18

Image result for falling into waterHow interesting that false religion is shown sitting on waters that represent every people, multitude, nation and language–the very wayward hearts that will all one day bow and confess Christ is Lord [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10-11]. The human heart is an ocean of purpose [Proverbs 20:5]. God created it to be just that. But fraught with sin, the unrepentant heart is as the deep pit of the wayward woman [Proverbs 23:27]. The unrepentant heart is a blind heart leading other blind hearts to stumble and fall into the pit of false religion [Matthew 15:14; Luke 6:39].

More interesting yet is that the antichrist and his puppet kings will actually hate false religion–meaning they will prefer atheism to people believing in a fractured pantheon. They will promote atheism, denouncing any belief in any god–real or imagined–until the sin began at Babel is old news.

It is so much easier to prevent the sprouting of faith in the hear that has removed all possibility of faith. As long as the idea that some intelligent being greater than ourselves is out there–no matter how twisted and bankrupt this idea of a god is–then this view f God can be corrected and cultivated into true and lasting faith. But when the seed of childlike faith has been smothered out from infancy, it is a near impossibility that belief can ever take root in the heart and mature.

Babylon has long held the hearts of the rulers of this world. She has offered the illusion of worldly power and authority, the opportunity to choose the eternal ending to one’s life story–but it is all just fantasy. Not only that, but when the world throws off the veil of false religion, they will be confronted with the true face of their love–Satan, the adversary of the One True God. They will have to boldface accept Him, denouncing the Creator once and for all, bringing to full culmination the sin began in the Garden [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:13].

From the beginning, though, God prayed for every human heart [Deuteronomy 5:29]–Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever! He prayed that we would choose to care for the childlike faith that He placed in each of our hearts. He prayed that we would love Him and one another as He intended from the start [Luke 10:27; Mark 12:30-31]. He prayed that we would accept His plan of redemption by faith and, thereby, live eternally with Him [John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9].

Are you an answer to God’s prayer?

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?