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Demolition and New Construction

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.” Revelation 8:12

Image result for demolition and new constructionBeat four, enter the fourth trumpeter. This time the blast takes out one-third of the heavenly lights. Naturally darkening the skies for those who already live in a figurative darkness. Even those who live in highly light polluted areas and everyone clinging to human light sources will be effected by the dim.

Light plays into mental health as well as physical. Minds crack and bodies heal more slowly in diminished light. So it will be as the end of everything sinful nears.

But look again at these first four trumpets, in light of the days of Creation:

  1. Trumpet one destroys one-third of the land and plants with seed from day three of Creation [Genesis 1:11].
  2. Trumpet two destroys one-third of the sea from day two [Genesis 1:6 & 10] and its creatures from day five of Creation [Genesis 1:20].
  3. Trumpet three destroys more of the water from day two and, as a result, day six descendants of Adam and Eve die [Genesis 1:26].
  4. Trumpet four destroys one-third of the celestial bodies created on day four to govern light [Genesis 1:16].

Every day of Creation–except Day one, light and darkness [Genesis 1:3], and Day seven, Sabbath rest [Genesis 2:2]–is partially destroyed by the first four trumpets. How else can there be a new heaven and a new earth [Revelation 21:1] if the old is not destroyed? It’s like building a new skyscraper to replace an old, condemned one. There must first be demolition and disposal of the old to prepare for the new construction.

As Christians, this demolition of the old man–the person we were before accepting Christ as Lord–begins in this life. We are to flee from evil desires [2 Timothy 2:22], be transformed by the renewing of our minds [Romans 12:2], comport our bodies as the holy temple of God [1 Corinthians 6:19], clothes ourselves with Christ [Galatians 3:27] and live as living sacrifices [Romans 12:1].

It’s not easy and we’ll never be perfect, but in view of God’s mercy, we will be pleasing to Him as we grow more and more like His Son, Jesus, every day.

Have you submitted your old self to God for demolition and renovation? Is there any part of your old self that you stubbornly–or pridefully–cling to? Trust God, in His perfect wisdom and love, to make you new beyond all you could ask or imagine [Ephesians 3:20]. Knowing full well that He loves you [John 3:16], that He will never leave you or forsake you [Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5], and that He has prepared a place for you with Him in heaven [John 14:2-3]. Will you surrender all to His loving demolition?

Wormwood

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water–the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” Revelation 8:10-11

Image result for star falling in waterThe entrance of the third trumpet gives us a little more information about the celestial conditions after the sixth seal, the one in which the sky rolled back like a scroll, sun dark, moon to blood and stars fell [Revelation 6:13]. By this chapter 8 passage, and others to come, we learn that not every star fell from the sky. Just as the sun and moon did not stay black and bloodied [Revelation 8:12].

So a flaming meteor, a shooting star, penetrates earth’s atmosphere and collides with one third of the earth’s fresh water sources–rivers and springs–turning them bitter. Wormwood is a plant with a strong bitter taste, so the offending star is aptly named. It is not, however, poisonous. So the fresh water is becoming im-potable. Those who do drink it, will die. Just like drinking highly polluted or lead-filled or bacteria laden water or even an all saltwater diet can kill a person.

The prophet Jeremiah prophesied this very thing when the Lord filled his speech with understanding of the consequences of sin [Jeremiah 9:15] and when the Lord spoke through him against the false prophets who spread ungodliness in Israel [23:15]. In both instances, because the false prophets chose to conduct themselves in and promote sin–but specifically false religion–and the people chose to forsake God’s law and turn to idol worship, God foreshadowed the bitter water of Revelation that would come as the natural consequence for the choice to live in sin rather than to repent.

But it’s interesting that this bitter water comes from a star that falls to earth. Isaiah 14:12 describes Satan as just that, a star fallen to earth. Moreover, he embitters that water of life that is Jesus’ message [John 4:10 & 7:38], muddying the living water in our understanding as it freely flows from heaven [Revelation 22:1-6]. All who drink from the embittered waters of false religion–which includes no religion at all as in the case of atheism–will die for eternity in the second death [Revelation 2:11 & 20:14-15].

Notice that the number one-third appears over and over again in the trumpet judgments. That’s a devastating number if you’re a glass half-empty kind of person. But it’s a merciful number if you recognize that the majority of the planet will still be livable. The people of the end will repeatedly, like Pharaoh and the Egyptians, be given the opportunity to see God for who He is–both His might and His mercy–so they might turn and acknowledge Him as God before it’s too late.

Are you drinking at the fouled waters of false religion? Or do you know of God, but live in sin all the same, thereby encouraging others to do so as well? Will you accept God’s mercy in your life before it is too late?

A Blazing Mountain-Thingy

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” Revelation 8:8-9

Image result for Mountains and Ocean WavesBeat two, trumpet two enters. The result? Something like a huge mountain. Something like? John is seeing things he has to explain with words he knows, even if he has no words for the reality. Though God doesn’t correct Him as He could have.

So a blazing mountain-thing is hurled to the earth–like the censer and the hail-fire-blood mix–but this time into the ocean. Jeremiah 51:25 speaks of a destroying mountain that will repay Babylon for her idolatrous ways, leaving behind a pile of burnt rubble. Remember that Babel first introduced and spread false religions [Genesis 11:4-6], so false religion will be blotted out from the earth in the reversal of sin in the new creation at the end of time.

But Jesus also told believers that, with a mustard seed of faith, we could tell a mountain–an obstacle in our lives–to throw itself into the sea. And if we believe, it will happen [Matthew 11:23 & 21:21]. This something like a mountain being thrown into the sea, could very much represent the faith of believers moving the hindrance of false religion from the world, not by might, not by power, but by the spirit of the Lord [Zechariah 4:6].

And fire is used to refine [1 Peter 1:7]. It burns away the impurities, leaving behind pure gold, silver, and other precious metals. In scripture, a fire coal is also used for figuratively cleansing, in much the same way, the prophet Isaiah’s lips or his words/speech [Isaiah 6:6-7]. Any part of our life that is built on anything or anyone other than Christ will burn away in the refining fire of judgment [1 Corinthians 3:11-15].

Here again, we see a repeat of the first Exodus plague, water turned to blood [Exodus 7:14-24]. Just as in Egypt when the Nile’s fish died [Exodus 7:21], so the effected ocean life will die as a result of the fiery mountain turning one-third of the sea to blood. Not only that, but one-third of all the world’s ships–a creation of human hands–will also be destroyed.

Now you could probably name a dozen movies that glamorize this much ecological and nautical carnage. And many people have no problem attaching this type of thing to governments at war either. But one mention that God is involved and, all of a sudden, He is unjust. On the contrary, it is because God is just and holy and good that false religion cannot continue eternally. It is because of who He is that sin and death cannot exist eternally. And why would we want it to?

But if death is to be destroyed, then its root–sin [James 1:15]–must also be destroyed. And we each are responsible for choosing how the sin is removed from our lives. We can either accept Christ’s sacrifice to cleanse us from sins–as simply as believing in Him–or we can reject His sacrifice and accept the wages of our own sin [Romans 6:23], death in whatever form it takes.

Have you accepted Christ’s sacrifice for your sins? Do you have a faith in Him that moves mountains? Or do you intend to face death without Jesus?

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!

The True Triumphal Entry

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10

Image result for People Waving Palm Branches Palm Sunday JesusSome of the reason that the 144,000 number in the previous passage creates disagreement among biblical scholars is that it seems to limit who and how many can get into heaven. In reading the larger context of this next portion of scripture though, it seems clear that–like the twenty-four elders of Revelation 4–we are again seeing representation of both the Old and New Testament faithful.

This great multitude is uncountable, like the stars in the sky or sand in the seashore spiritual descendants promised to Abraham [Genesis 22:17; Galatians 3:29; Hebrews 11:12]. See how people from the whole earth–and likely throughout all of history, though time is not mentioned–stand before God the Father, who is on His throne. See Jesus, the Lamb and Son of God, is there before the people too.

It is a white robed multitude, the victorious by grace through faith [Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 3:5] from all the earth for all time. And they hold palm branches and proclaim the gospel, the good news. God is alive. He is on the throne of the whole universe–everything that ever was, or is or will be. He alone holds the power of salvation, and He has brought it through the perfect sacrifice of His spotless Lamb, the Son of God who laid down His earthly life to atone–make right–for our sins.

Do you see the heavenly original brought to light from an earlier scripture? The gospels record an earthly Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem [Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 12]. Here the people laid down their cloaks on the road and waved palm branches, heralding Jesus with shouts of Hosanna–meaning O Lord save us. The disciples thought they had backstage passes to the beginning of the kingdom of God in their day, especially when all of Jerusalem turned out to hail their Rabbi as king of the Jews, acknowledging only His ability to bring victory and deliverance from the Romans.

But Jesus knew better. His time had not yet come. The people’s hearts were not yet ready to truly worship and serve Him alone as King. They didn’t fully understand Who He Was and what His heavenly purpose was.

And now that John shows us this moment in heaven when only those who have accepted Jesus as Lord–who have laid down their lives for Him just as He did for us, who have stood faithful and forgiven to the end, who recognize no other as God–wave the palm branch, acknowledging God’s victory and deliverance for all time over sin and death. The true triumphal entry was not Jesus’ donkey ride through Jerusalem, but the day we stand in heaven acknowledging Him Lord. It is our return to perfect communion with God for all eternity. What an incredible day that will be!

Will you be numbered among the white robed multitude? Do you bow your life to Christ alone?

The Mourning Sky

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.” Revelation 6:12-14

Image result for blood moonJesus slides his finger under the second to last seal. Again no rider, but also no reprieve. The broken sixth seal brings an earthquake of such magnitude that even the heavens seem to be affected. But Jesus said that earthquakes would be the beginning of birth pains and that after these signs, the end was still to come [Matthew 24:7-8]. And Revelation 16:18 records an earthquake to end all earthquakes, so as terrible as this scroll seal earthquake is, it is not the end.

Notice the comparison of the sun to sackcloth. In Jewish custom, a person receiving bad news–such as the passing of a loved one or, in the case of kings, lost battles, et al–would tear the clothes they were wearing and put on sackcloth. This fabric was made of goat hair and was a very dark color, akin to wearing black clothes for mourning. But the fabric was also very itchy and uncomfortable and worn directly against the skin to physically display the emotional grief and mourning. So even the heavens appear to be grieving and mourning over the calamity on the earth.

Remember, it is not God’s desire that any should perish [2 Peter 3:9], but these things must take place [Matthew 24:6].

Now there have been many predictions and expectations of blood moons in recent history. They are a phenomena that have appeared sporadically throughout history, but in rare years have occurred in groups of three. Some find this significant. I will not pretend to know anything about this. However, the particular blood moon listed in this passage is a result of, or at least coincides with, this gargantuan earthquake. Directly following, stars will fall from the sky.

The late figs mentioned here are green–or unripe figs–that sometimes grow in winter. Since the tree has no leaves to protect the fruit, winter winds easily blow them to the ground. The sky being rolled back like a scroll is hard to imagine what that might look like or mean atmospherically. Does it mean that our visible light spectrum blocks our vision of heaven? Surely we are so minute that our whole universe rests in the palm of God’s hand orbiting like the fidget spinners that are so popular today. Perhaps the visible light maintained by our atmosphere will peel back, revealing our true station among the heavenly hosts and the throne room of heaven–maybe a little like the speck-city of Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who.

Regardless, these heavenly signs marking the time of the end were spoken of in both the Old and New Testaments [Isaiah 13:10, 34:4; Matthew 24:29]. Jeremiah [4:24] mentions the impact of the great earthquake on the mountains. The earthquake will be so violent that mountains will bow and the islands will move or be swallowed up.

God created everything good, but disasters came on the earth when the Fall of Man ushered in Sin. In each generation, the closer the world comes to the end of times, the more intense and destructive sinful-natural disasters become. But we don’t need to be afraid of these troubles [John 16:33]. God is no less God. His heavenly throne is no less real. His promise of eternal life no less faithful or accessible. We need only believe. Keep our eyes on Him. Stand firm to the end, even unto death [Revelation 2:10]. And then we will truly live.

Poured Out for God

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.” Revelation 6:9-11

Image result for drink offeringThe fifth seal is a reprieve from the devastation of the last three. This time, the living creatures that make up God’s throne are silent. No horse and rider is sent to the earth. Instead, we see an altar in heaven, just like there was an altar in the Tabernacle and Temple of the Old Testament. Now the altar was where the lifeblood of the sacrifice was poured out, and this was done at the base of the altar.

So here, under the base of the heavenly altar, God recognizes those who have laid down their lives for their faith in Him, the martyred. In John’s vision, God portrays the martyrs’ personal sacrifice as the origin of the earthly sacrificial system. This system foreshadowed the coming savior and taught people to see their need for a savior, but it also foreshadowed the call to daily take up our cross and follow Jesus. Lay it all on the line for our faith. Pour out our lives to the glory and honor of God alone.

However, just like the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin, neither can our own blood wash away our sins. Only Jesus’ blood can take away sin. So we do not seek to be martyred. It is not a requirement for heavenly admission any more than regular church attendance or daily Bible reading. Again, by God’s grace, only our faith–believing on the Lord Jesus Christ–will bring eternal life [Ephesians 2:8-9]. There is nothing we can do in our power, including choosing martyrdom, that can open the gates of heaven to us.

These martyrs recognize God for who He truly is and address Him as such–Sovereign. Lord. Holy. True. They speak to Him about avenging their blood–the injustice created by sin that one should die for faith in the One True God–because vengeance belongs to God alone [Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19]. And God gives them the promised white robes of victors [Revelation 3:5], but He tells them to wait.

Be patient. Jesus is coming soon [Revelation 1:7, 22:7, 12, 20], but with God a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day [2 Peter 3:8]. My kids put in this perspective for me the other day when they were thinking of insect lifespans. They said, “What if each minute was a year? Then we’d only live 120 minutes–2 hours!” And so earthly time is for God. What feels like years, decades, centuries and millennia to us, are nanoseconds to God.

Jesus is coming soon. Judgment to avenge the blood of the martyrs will also be coming soon.

Do you recognize, as the martyrs do, that God alone is the Sovereign Lord? Do you believe that He is holy and asks us to abstain from the sinfulness of the world, to set our lives apart for Him? Do you believe that He is true and will come again soon, avenging the martyrs, just as He said?