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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?

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Last Plagues Ever

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues–last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: ‘Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:1-4

Image result for fire and glassThe vision of the winepress of God’s wrath is a vision within the vision of the final things to come, the seven plagues in the bowls and the end of “the woman and the beast” are the fulfillment of God’s wrath from the winepress vision.

Remember, seven is God’s number. It is the number of completion–aka perfection, for that which is perfect is complete. In six days, God created the earth and on the seventh He rested [Genesis 1]. The sevenfold spirit of God is repeatedly referred to in the book of Revelation [1:4, 3:1, 4:5 & 5:6]. The seven seals on the scroll in Revelations 5 each bear witness to a spirit of God in the will and testament of the Lamb. Later, in Revelation 8-11, seven angels will sound seven trumpets that usher in the next wave of God’s wrath against sin on the earth. In this, the victory of the saints over sin will be like the march around Jericho–seven sevens culminating in seven trumpet blasts which announce the Lord’s judgment on the enemy and therefore victory for the people of God [Joshua 6:13].

So seven angels carrying the last seven plagues ever is no surprise. God is completing His work [Leviticus 26:21], He is restoring the world to the same perfection with which He created it [Genesis 1:31].

Those who triumphed over the antichrist and refused his mark–possibly the 144,000 who had been sealed by God [Revelation 7:4, 9:4 & 14:1], although these scriptures seem to indicate that there will be a few who spiritually rise above the tribulation–are standing in the throne room of heaven, as evidenced by the sea of glass [Revelation 4:6]. This time, however, we see fire mixed with the glass–fire which was used to purify [Exodus 15:7; Isaiah 6:7; Malachi 3:2; 1 Peter 1:7].

God gives harps to these tribulation survivors and they naturally begin to sing praise to God, praise that hearkens back to the Exodus from Egypt [Exodus 15]. Praise for God’s great deeds. Praise that He is true and just–there is nothing corrupt about God, nor can He be tempted, bribed or corrupted in any way, unlike the authorities of this earth. Praise that rises in true fear of the Lord–not fear as in afraid, but the honest reverence that is due the One True God out of a heart of love for Him.

Because of God’s wrath, many choose to deny Him, as if denying His existence somehow makes it true. In this way, they can pretend that God is no more than a figment like Santa or the Easter Bunny, and they choose to blame believers for God being unchanging, as if we made Him up and therefore we are responsible for turning Him into someone that everyone can be happy with. They want Him to be just, but they want that justice to look like their personal definition of justice and in their cause and in their time. In effect, they want God to be themselves, just like Satan promised them.

How do you share the hope that you have within you in light of the wrath of God in passages such as these? Do you pray for and witness to those around you, sharing God’s heart that none should perish in His judgment on sin?

Preparing for Victory

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths. They are blameless.” Revelation 14:1-5

Image result for Mount Zion in the BibleZion. The holy mountain that served first as a fortress before the Israelites established the city of Jerusalem. Later, it became synonymous with Jerusalem itself. And in Hebrews 12:22-24 as well as here in Revelation, it connotes the heavenly Jerusalem in which God and His people will live for eternity.

So it is not surprising that John sees the Lamb, Jesus, standing on Mount Zion with the 144,00 who were sealed [Revelation 7:4-8 & 9:4]. We learn a little more about this group. Previously we saw that they consist of 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. Then we saw that they were protected from the hybrid locust-scorpions that came out of the Abyss.

Now we learn that they kept themselves pure from women. This does not mean that the group is made up entirely of unmarried men. Not at all. Before Israel used to go into battle, the soldiers would keep themselves from their women for a time to prepare [Deuteronomy 23:10; 1 Samuel 21:5; 2 Samuel 11:11]. Now in Revelation, we see that Babylon is portrayed as a woman, a prostitute really, that represents all of the false religion in the world [Revelation 17:1-5]. And that those who remain faithful to God are like a pure spouse [Revelation 19:7 & 21:2, 9]. So the 144,000 are Jews living in the last days, the end times, who refuse to participate in the false religions of the world, regardless of the persecutions it invites.

Heaven opens up on this scene, with a roar of rushing waters [Revelation 1:15, 4:5 & 22:1] and peals of thunder. The sound of harpists followed by the 144,000 singing a new song, signifies the celebration of victory in battle [Exodus 15:20]. And they sing this song in heaven before the four living creatures and the elders that surround God’s throne [Revelation 4:4 & 6]. None else in heaven will be capable of learning their song, because none else can understand what is like to come through the end times faithful to God. Just as the four-living creatures sing a different song than the twenty-four elders [Revelation 4], who sing a different song than the angels [Revelation 5], who sing a different song than the great multitude in white robes [Revelation 7], so the song of praise that the 144,000 will offer up will be a personal testimony to God’s work in their life. A story that no one else can sing, because no one else has lived it.

The amazing thing about this passage of scripture, is that it will lead up to the final battle–Armageddon [Revelation 16:16]. Many speculate about and fear having to live through such a battle. But Revelation shows us how calm and cool Jesus and his army are while preparing for Armageddon. They’re standing on the fortress. They’re keeping themselves pure as they would for any routine battle. And they’re already celebrating the victory. Before the battle even ensues, they’ve won with Christ, and they know it.

Are you living in victory today? Are you living a life of spiritual purity, garrisoned on the mountain of Christ, celebrating in advance the victory that He has already won?

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 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?

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 white robed multitude + imageSo 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!