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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 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 tribulationSo 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!

Goodness and Godliness at War

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.” Revelation 6:3-4

Image result for red horseOnce again, Jesus slips his finger under the loose edge of the scroll and breaks a waxen seal, the second of seven. So the second living creature–that is His throne–beckons a second horse and rider. Red this time.

Red. The color of Mars, named for the Roman god of war–as counterfeited by Satan. Red is the color of war, but the god Mars is no more than a figment of ancient imaginations. Yet, Christian and non-Christian readers or hearers of John’s vision would’ve recognized the meaning of this horse and rider immediately. War.

So first Jesus the victorious conqueror rides out across the earth. Then, He is followed by war. Surely Jesus reminds us that, in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world, [John 16:33]. But His other words also come to mind. Words of end time signs. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come, [Matthew 24:5-6].

Jesus rides victoriously across the earth, while many false “Christs” present themselves and continue to turn hearts. Jesus is armed with a bow and arrows that pierce the heart straight and true. It is not His desire that any should perish [2 Peter 3:9], but that all should have eternal life [John 3:16-17] and even here He mercifully shows Himself to the world again, allowing one more opportunity.

Yet war directly follows. War–that two-sided weapon that decides once and for all who has conquered. Make no mistake, Jesus said that he did not come to bring peace, but a sword [Matthew 10:34]. Peace, meaning that He did not come to accept everything done by human kind despite His holy nature. But God’s Word–His sword–clearly shows us time and again, that God’s holiness demands decisions be made, right be done, evil be forsaken.

Throughout history, Satan has placed it in the hearts of men to war with one another over trivial things, earthly things that will all pass away. He desires only to steal, kill and destroy human life [John 10:10], and war accomplishes exactly that. Jesus’ presence on the earth has maintained a modicum of peace, so that the whole earth does not turn and destroy one another. But He will remove His presence in the end, and allow men to see what life without God is truly like. Because Satan has also placed it in human hearts to war against God Almighty for the right to be our own gods [Genesis 3:5].

And many who think they are good enough by their own measure, would not see a problem with being allowed to be their own god. They twist the sentiment to make God seem unloving and unjust for not allowing such a system. They want, like a spoiled child, to be allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want, without God’s opinion on the matter, because they’re basically a good enough person to handle themselves.

But let me ask, if people are really good and God is good, then why do we choose to fight Him? Wouldn’t goodness demand that we at least work to get along with God as well as with all other people? And if we’re working to get along, wouldn’t our goodness bring us to recognize that true goodness needs a governing authority? And wouldn’t this recognition humble us to realize that only the One who is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good and all-wise is worthy of such a position? Wouldn’t we then joyfully lay down our insistence to rule ourselves for the good of all if our self-imbued good was really good enough?

No Participation Trophies in Heaven

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.” Revelation 6:2

Image result for participation trophiesNotice that the thunderous voice emanates from God’s living throne, the same voices that continually lift up praise to God throughout eternity. So when we read about the peals of thunder coming from God’s throne elsewhere in scripture, we can know that this thunder is the praise rising from the throne itself. Praise that proclaims, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty [Revelation 4:8].

Perhaps that is why as young children we so fear thunder. Because our spirits–in childlike faith [Matthew 19:14]–recognize God’s holiness in it.

The breaking of the seal and the beckoning of one of the living creatures–that is God’s throne–usher in a rider on a white horse, symbolizing righteous justice and victory. The rider holds an archer’s weapon and receives a crown before riding out. And as prophesied from the Fall of Man [Genesis 3:15], it is time to finish crushing Satan.

The adversary never had the power of God, and yet throughout history he has deceptively promised to be able to give just that. He struck at Jesus’ heal with the crucifixion. But was crushed when Jesus conquered death, hell and the grave [Revelation 1:18]. Still, his final defeat, and those of his deceived followers, will come at the end of time with the seal and bowl judgments of Revelation, starting with the conqueror on the white horse–Jesus Himself [Psalm 45:4, Revelation 19:11].

Remember the double-edgedness of God’s Word–it cuts two ways. For Satan to be vanquished, all that were faithful to him must also share in his punishment. For the righteous to be victorious, their adversaries have to be overcome. There has never been a war that ended in a tie, or a victor without a loser.

It’s no wonder that Satan’s anti-God campaign in our time is a message of tolerance and participation trophies. Everyone can do what they want, when they want, how they want, and everyone should be honored with a participation trophy for whatever they did. No one should be allowed to feel bad for anything they have done, no matter what.

But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to many in the world and foolishness to the rest of it [1 Corinthians 1:23]. Because all have bought into Satan’s lies, Did God really say?…You will not surely die…You can be like God… [Genesis 3:1,4 & 5]. We like to be so empowered and so emboldened to believe that we’re never wrong and we don’t really deserve to ever face a consequence for anything we do. But it’s a lie from the pit of hell. It is entangling sin [Hebrews 12:1], because it denies that there is a God in heaven. One God. That He alone is Almighty. And that He is holy.

Are you tempted by tolerance? Or do you recognize God and His holiness? Are you embarrassed to speak God’s truth in the face of majority opposition [Luke 9:26]? Or victoriously emboldened to stand for Jesus?

 

Continually Moved

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

Image result for Offering IncenseJesus 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?

Three Acknowledgments

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say, ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” Revelation 4:9-11

Image result for bow down in worshipRemember that there were no bold texts, italics or highlighters at the time of this writing, so repetition is emphasis in the Bible. The emphasis here is that God alone sits on the throne in heaven and that He is eternally existent. His living throne acknowledges this continually. As they do so the representatives of the Old and New Testament bodies of Christ alike prostrate themselves before the throne–a sign of submission–and worship–that is ascribe to God all that He alone is worthy of.

During this time of corporate worship, the elders also lay down their crowns. Here again, we are reminded that heaven will be filled with those who have been victorious in this life. That we who win the victor’s crowns [Revelation 2:10, 3:11]. A reminder that though we may store up such treasures in heaven [Matthew 6:20], our righteous response before our Creator will be to lay it all down at His feet, to recognize that He alone–the author of life who sent His Son to conquer death, hell and the grave [Revelation 1:18]–is worthy of the honor of our victory over life.

Notice the difference between the worship of the living creatures and that of the elders. The creatures proclaim God’s holiness–His moral righteousness and purity–His power over all, and His eternality.

While the elders worship from a more personal experience. They acknowledge God as their personal Lord and God.

They speak directly to Him–using the pronoun You–and tell Him that He is worthy to receive, that is for humans to relinquish back to Him all glory, and all honor, and all power that we tried in this life to assume ourselves. Finally we will recognize that these things are perfect in His hands alone and we will gladly submit to His authority in all.

Finally, they acknowledge that God created everything. Obviously leading up to the time of Noah, even though people may have understood that God was Creator, they didn’t find this fact worthy of respect and obedience. Then again after the flood, Nimrod incited the people not to just disrespect and disobey God, but to erase His existence from their minds altogether. But if we would just recognize God for who He truly is–Creator of all–then it would be hard to live our life for any other. Only those who, in this life, acknowledged the Godhead for who He truly is will be permitted to worship around His eternal throne [Psalm 1 & 15].

Do you acknowledge God with your life? Do your words and actions point to the truth of who He is?

Original Intents and Patterns

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.” Revelation 4:4-6a

Image result for glassNumbers hold significance in scriptures, they’re not arbitrary. So the fact that John notes exactly twenty-four elders seated on twenty-four thrones surrounding the throne of God means something. But what?

Many biblical scholars agree that the number twenty-four–which is twelve times two, as in twelve tribes of Israel in the Old Testament and the twelve disciples in the New Testament. However, the scripture does not specifically name these elders as such. The Old Testament does use the term elders to describe the heads of tribal Jewish bodies or groupings [Exodus 19:7, 24:1; et al], and the New Testament also used it to delineate heads of the Christian Church [Acts 14:23, 20:17, 21:18; et al]. Regardless of whether the number consists of the actual patriarchs of the twelve tribes plus the disciples or not, it is clear that these twenty-four elders represent the complete body of Christ both past and future, both Old and New Testament.

Notice that they are dressed in white with gold crowns on their heads. These are representatives of the victorious that Jesus spoke about to the seven churches of Revelation [2:7, 11, 17, 26-28, 5, 12, & 21]. The white robes also speak of righteousness and priesthood, their sins have been washed away and they have been into the holy priesthood [1 Peter 2:9] able to commune with God Himself, the very thing He’d always intended for us, His most cherished Creation.

I wonder at the lightning and thunder coming from God’s throne. Obviously, John was writing to a people within a culture who believed Zeus to be the God who controlled such things. And Zeus was chief among the gods because of the power he wielded. However, Jesus through John clearly tells the people of that day that Zeus is a fraud, he does not possess lightning. Rather it emanates from the very throne of the One True Almighty God, Creator and Lord of all.

From here, Jesus, through John, shows us around the Temple of Heaven, a virtual tour if you will. And we begin to see the original that the Jewish Temple was patterned after. The Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple had seven lamps [Numbers 8:2] that were kept burning before the Lord night and day. They represented the seven spirits of God–seven being the number of completion and therefore perfection–to the Israelites, just as they are said here to represent the seven spirits [or sevenfold Spirit] of God in heaven. Also, the earthly Tabernacle and Temple had a basin used in the sacrifice system that was called the Sea [1 Kings 7:23-25] that was positioned in front of the holy of holies where the mercy seat, or God’s earthly throne, was. That Sea, however, was bronze though it was meant to be reflective and it was here that the priests washed themselves before going about their work. But the Sea before the throne in heaven is clear as glass. No more need to mirror man’s sins for him to see. No more need to be cleansed, because everyone will be eternally washed, clean, forgiven. Amen!

Are you washed and forgiven by God? Do you seek to recognize His heavenly patterns here on earth? Do you then testify about them to others?