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The Fire Coals of Forgiveness

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” Revelation 8:1-5

Image result for burning coalsAfter our brief intermission to learn the whereabouts of the sealed and the saints, we return to Jesus opening the seven-sealed scroll [Revelation 5 & 6]. He picks up right where He paused while heaven prepared, the seventh and final seal. He slides His finger under the wax, loosing the last thing holding the scroll together, and all of heaven draws a collective breath, silently holding it to see what will happen next.

Seven angels stand before God’s throne and accept trumpets, which were used of old to announce important events or to signal troops during war.

But before the announcements being, an eighth angel comes to the altar, carrying a golden censer–the firepan used in the Old Testament temple and tabernacle to carry live coals for burning incense. Incense, representing the sweet aroma of praise to God, and the prayers of His people. Both of these mingle in the angel’s hand and waft up to God on His throne.

The censer, or firepan, the angel then fills with live coals and throws it down onto the earth. Where have we heard about live fire coals in the Bible before? Proverbs 25:22 and Romans 12:20 speak about the fire coals of forgiveness. That when we repay the evil that others to do to us with good instead of retaliation, our forgiveness heaps burning coals on their head.

Could it be that God is foreshadowing His vengeance on our behalf [Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19-21]? We are commanded not to judge, because He alone is Judge of all, and we are also told that if we present the truth of God to nonbelievers they may repay us with violence [Matthew 7:5-6]. Those who neither accept our message nor God’s forgiveness, call down the burning coals of their own rejected forgiveness on their heads. This rejection should sadden us, knowing what they will receive in the end, rather than enrage us to the point of seeking revenge in this life. It’s a tragic choice to reject faith in God, but it is every person’s choice to make.

On two other occasions, Revelation shows that peals of thunder, rumblings and flashes of lightning emanate from God’s throne [Revelation 4:5, 11:19]. This fire-coal judgment elicits a grievous response from the Almighty God who does not want any to perish, but all to come to eternal life [2 Peter 3:9]. But it also brings another earthquake–though not the last [Revelation 6:12, 11:13 & 19, & 16:18].

It breaks God’s heart when we choose our destruction, when we reject His love and grace and forgiveness. Does you heart break like God’s when people around you choose sin? Do you understand the seriousness of your own sin? Do you freely forgive those who do you wrong?

Heavenly Domino Effect

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Revelation 7:11-12

Image result for worshipPraising and worshipping God has a domino effect in heaven. Remember back in Revelation 4, every time the four-living-creature [cherubim]-throne of God praised Him [4:8] then the elders would bow down and worship God as well [4:11]. And again in chapter 5, the cherubim and elders sang a song of praise to the Lamb [Revelation 5:9-10] –God’s Son, Jesus–which prompted the millions of angels to sing praise [5:12], which prompted every living thing on the entire face of the earth to sing praise [5:13], culminating full circle with the cherubim and elders falling down in worship [5:14].

Here again, when the innumerable multitude of the saved praise God for who He is [7:10], then the 4 cherubim and 24 elders and millions of angels all three will fall down in worship.

Perhaps you’ve noticed this same domino effect in a church worship service here on earth. A loud voice cutting over the music or moment of worshipful silence, giving glory to God for the things He has done. Others hear this praise and join in with praises of their own. Voices go up and the presence of God descends into the midst of His people [Psalm 22:3].

It can all feel quite euphoric, but, at the same time, extremely heavy with the tangible presence of God. It’s a momentary glimpse of the true joy that restored communion with God brings. Heaven will carry this feeling forward eternally [Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17, 21:4]. So it’s a good sign of church health when worship naturally spreads throughout the body of believers.

Beware of naysayers and counterfeits. I’ve heard some celebrities who have left the church try to downplay their past experiences of God’s presence by saying things like, “Oh, I got the same feeling at a concert or when my team scored the winning touchdown.” Karl Marx–the German philosopher and economist whose ideas formed the basis for later communism–tried to reduce worshipping God to an experience that is just, “the opium of the people.” In other words, he said God worship is no more than a drug high. Naysayers do so because–like Nimrod at the Tower of Babel [Genesis 11:4]–they refuse to accept God, instead choosing to elevate self, however falsely.

Satan is always at work to undo our minds and experiences with the question, “Did God really…?” And he is always ready with counterfeit moments of euphoria. Fleeting experiences and temporary happiness triggers come in many forms–food, clothes money, relationships, jokes, media, drugs, alcohol, you name it–but they are all empty and none lasting. Only God can give true joy, the fullness of which is eternal.

Are you in a healthy worshipping church? If not, pray that God would use you to relight the fire, restore health in your church situation. Or if He chooses to move you, pray for guidance to bring you into a healthy church body. Do naysayers of your faith bring you down? Pray for strength to endure. Do counterfeits threaten to overtake the time you devote to true worship? Hold on. Jesus is coming soon!

Merciful Bread of Truth

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a black horse. Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” Revelation 6:5-6

Image result for balance scaleJesus’ finger continues to slide under the scroll edge, and He looses the third harden wax closure. As He does so, the third living creature–which is His throne–beckons a third horse and rider. Black this time.

We can see from the grain dialog and the pair of scales that this rider holds–which was a balance beam hung with trays from both ends to measure two weights against one another–that the black rider symbolizes pestilence, famine. The cherubim quote market prices. Just enough wheat for one person or barely enough barley–less nutritious–for a small family for your whole day’s pay!

Now there are many places in the world today where such prices and malnutrition are at work, but in the time and place that John wrote, food in the Roman empire was plentiful, just as we enjoy here in America. So readers would be shocked to hear of such prices. They would understand instantly that only severe famine would drive consumers to be willing to pay such highway robbery.

Again Matthew 24:7 tells us that this famine is a sign of the end of time. But Jesus also–in His temptation in the wilderness–reminds us that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God [Matthew 4:4].

Even when physical lack of food comes, we should remember that our spiritual nourishment is of more value. Because the world will fail, but God will never fail. He will never fail in His promises [2 Corinthians 1:20]. He will never fail in His love [Psalms 136]. He never fails in His rewards for obedience [Leviticus 26:9-12], He does not fail in punishment for disobedience [Leviticus 26:23-26] nor does He fail to show Himself merciful to those who repent [2 Chronicles 7:14].

The interpretation of this pestilence goes spiritually and prophetically deeper, but for now it is good to understand the most basic premises herein. And these end with an exhortation to the black rider not to damage the oil and the wine. Oil and wine were not necessities, but niceties of the diet. So here we see God’s mercy once again portrayed. There is still some food, though it is costly and scarce due to famine, and there are still the pleasures of oil and wine. People have to work hard and trust God to provide in times like these, but He will show Himself faithful to those who remain in Him.

No matter what else this passage signifies in terms of end times happenings, where does your daily bread [Genesis 2:9; Exodus 16:4; Matthew 6:11; John 4:32] come from?

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?

 

Come and Truly See

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, ‘Come!” Revelation 6:1

Image result for inviting handRemember that John is watching a vision of things to come [Revelation 1:19]. These book of Revelation visions–along with some other scriptures–are commonly referred to as End Times Prophecy. In his vision, John is in heaven’s throne room with God Himself and all the heavenly hosts. The Lamb at the center of it all is Jesus, still in appearance of having been slain [Revelation 5:6]. He is the only one worthy to open up the seven seals of the scroll in God’s right hand [Revelation 5:7-9], so herein He begins to do just that.

When Jesus runs a finger under the loose scroll end to break the first waxen seal, He’d already beckoned John to come closer and see what happens [Revelation 4:1]. God intends for John to accurately write what His Spirit is showing Him about the future.

This is a very intimate look at what the Bible means when it tells us that all scripture is God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16]. Not every biblical author is recorded as having had a revelation like John did, but we can be assured that God, who spoke the world into perfect existence, also breathed–that is inspired–His word perfectly into being through His chosen instruments.

Throughout history, Satan also uses willing instruments, people, to persuade believers away from the faith on a key issue like the origin of the world and the origin and maintenance of the Bible. As Jesus appealed to the seven churches, hold firm to your faith in God’s Word [Ephesians 6:10-18]. If ever doubt creeps in, it will come from outside of scriptures and should be countered by getting back into them. God’s Word is unchanging and eternal [Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:25], it is truth [John 17:17] and life [John 6:63]. And to those who are victorious in holding to His truth, God will give eternal life [Revelation 2:7,11,17, & 26-28; 3:5,12 & 21].

God is still alive–always has been and always will be [Revelation 4:8]. His throne is alive and, just as it beckoned to John on the aisle of Patmos to come closer to God and see, so it calls to the hearts of all people in every nation throughout the history of the world. Will you answer the call from God’s throne? Will you come nearer to God? Will you allow Him to open your eyes that you might truly see?

Worship that Wholly Recognizes God

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousand upon thousands, and ten thousand time ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever. The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshipped.” Revelation 5:11-14

Image result for host of angelsLook how many angels there are! I’ve read this verse before, but it never really registered how large the heavenly hosts really are. This is a comfort, knowing that angels–besides praising and worshipping God–guard [Psalm 91:1], warn [Genesis 19:15], fight spiritual battles [Matthew 13:41; 2 Thessalonians 1:7] and minister [Hebrews 1:14; Revelation 1:20] on behalf of we who are faithful to God.

Together with the Cherubim and the elders, the angels praise God in His holy, heavenly throne room. They recognize Jesus as being worthy of all the things that Satan tries to deceive us into thinking we ourselves should receive.

Power. How many power hungry people in this world have rejected Christ? Do we fall prey to small power trips in our own lives? Guard against that spirit.

Wealth. All riches are God’s riches. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills [Psalm 50:10], dresses the lilies and cares for every sparrow, and yet He provides for us [Matthew 6:26-31].

Wisdom. God is omniscient–that is all-knowing. He is all wise. He alone judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, our unspoken motives, because He alone knows them even better than we do ourselves [Hebrews 4:12]! No one can know God’s mind or counsel or instruct Him [Romans 11:34].

Strength. Umm, does this go without saying? God is almighty and omnipotent–that is all-powerful. Strong enough to create everything that ever was, is or will be with His word. Strong enough to hold it all in motion by the same. And that’s just what His word can do! What about the strength in His hands and feet?

Honor and glory. Who do we honor? Who do we glorify? People that amaze us. We give them our best words, our undivided attention, the decoration spaces on our walls, our time and money, and our accolades. But only God is truly worthy of any and all of this adoration, all our honor and all our glory.

Praise. The words of honor and glory that we speak and sing. If only God is worthy of the honor and glory–and without question He is–then only He is worthy to be praised.

The angels recognize it. The cherubim and the elders recognize it. And every creature, man, woman, child, nation and language will recognize it on this day. All of Creation [Genesis 1:27-28; Philippians 2:10; Romans 14:11] will finally confess God for who He alone is.

Ask the Holy Spirit to examine your life. Seek God’s Word to reveal to you where your worship of Him fails to recognize God truly and wholly.