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Head and Hand and Knees Will Bow

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.” Revelation 17:4b-6a

Image result for drinking from golden wine cupBabylon–that is false religion–masquerades as royalty. Wearing purple and scarlet and fine jewels, all symbols of wealth, she intoxicates the nations with her temptation and is herself intoxicated by the blood of those faithful to God who are killed in her name. She flaunts a golden goblet, which a king would have used to drink wine, but her cup is full of all things morally offensive and spiritually reprehensible.

In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to bind His Word to their foreheads as a form of remembering both His identity and their identity in Him [Deuteronomy 6:8]. Then in the book of Revelation, we see that God seals 144,000 Jews with His mark on their forehead [7:3-4]. Satan counterfeits this seal with the mark of the beast which can be taken on either the forehead or the right hand, which also calls back to Deuteronomy 6:8.

A forehead tattoo is clearly visible to everyone else. It is an identification mark. You wouldn’t put anything on your forehead that you didn’t want anyone else to know about you. And the right hand is the hand of honor. So those who accept the mark of the beast, identify themselves with Satan and his antichrist and they bring honor to them both by wearing their mark. False religion–Babylon herein–aligns herself with her true father, Satan. And no one can serve two masters [Matthew 6:24]. Either you choose to honor God or you choose to give His honor to someone else and defy God in this life.

But one day, every knee will bow to God [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10-11]. Even those who spend their whole earthly existence shaking their fist at our merciful, loving Savior, or putting their fingers in their ears and chanting la, la, la, la, la–hear no God, see no God. Like that will make the truth of His reality go away.

With whom do you choose to identify? Who is honored by your life?

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The Many Watered Death

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries. Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls.” Revelation 17:1-4a

Image result for watersWhen the destruction of sin concludes, an angel takes John to see what happened to the mother of false religion–Babylon [Revelation 14:8]. She is said to be a wayward woman who sits on many waters [Jeremiah 51:13].

Ancient coins often depicted prosperous cities as a wealthy goddess sitting on a throne on a river bank. It perhaps symbolized the international trade that could be had thanks to the water access.

However, the Proverbs liken the purposes of the heart to deep waters [20:5] and the wayward woman to a deep ditch [23:27]. Being drawn into the purposes of the unrepentant heart and the temptations of self-as-god–a.k.a. spiritual waywardness–is like falling into deep waters and sinking. Most believe that they can swim or navigate by their own strength, but that is the ultimate deception of the enemy–to make the deceived believe that they are in control, when actually they are drowning.

Rulers throughout history have propagated the false religion began at Babylon–out of greed, hunger for power, tradition et al.

The Holy Spirit takes John to the desert where Babylon, the counterfeit woman to Israel [Revelation 12:6], is found sitting on a beast the color of sin–scarlet [Isaiah 1:18]. She herself is dressed in finery, mimicking the royalty of Christ and the jewels of the heavenly foundation. But make no mistake, her proposition is false, her offerings deadly.

She offers many waters. Easy going. Whatever you want, whatever you feel, whatever you think is good for you–go that way. But Jesus offers living water [John 4:10 & 13-14], and small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to eternal lifeand few find it [Matthew 7:14].

Which water runs through your life? The many watered death of Babylon, false religion and self-as-god? Or the living water of Christ?

 

The Consummate Charlatan

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.” Revelation 13:14-18

Image result for pasquino statueThe unholy prophet has already established himself as a deceiver, a liar, a consummate charlatan. Everyone on earth will be deceived by him. He will find a way to make an image of the first beast speak and kill dissenters–possibly through the ancient literary means of hollowing out the image and hiding people or mechanisms inside, or using ventriloquism and booby traps. Whatever his tactics, they will seem so real that the earth will bow to the unholy trinity–prophet, antichrist and dragon.

The only possible way for everyone to be fooled is for no one to be holding onto the truth [2 Thessalonians 2:9-10]. And this passage tells us that there may be those who refuse to worship, whether that be because of truth or principal they will be killed for their refusal.

This is where the beastly trinity really distinguishes themselves as the antithesis of the adorable triune Godhead. Whereas God created us with free will and allows each to choose whom he will serve, the beast will kill everyone who refuses to serve him. Whereas God mercifully seals those who have chosen to serve Him in order to protect them, Satan paranoically forces his followers to be sealed under threat of starvation–to protect his own self-serving, temporal authority.

Such seals were seen in the practice of branding slaves or enemy soldiers, stamping official documents, the sign of the cross on new believers’ foreheads, and in the emperor worship of Rome. But it is the ultimate sign of disavowing God in the days of the antichrist, the final nail in the proverbial coffin. Not to mention just one more counterfeit in Satan’s uncreative bag of lies. God instructed His chosen people to bind His commands on their hands and on their foreheads as a way of impressing godly instruction on their children [Deuteronomy 6:8].

Finally, the number riddle follows patterns of puzzles that John’s readers in the seven churches would have recognized and possibly have been able to actually solve. Often numbers and ancient alphabets were used in place of one another to create cipher codes for such brain teasers. However, the number could also represent a trinity [three] of falling short of the glory of God’s [Romans 3:23] perfect number, the number of completion and the spirit of God [Revelation 3:1, 4:5, and 5:6], 7.

Whatever the actual number significance, the implications are clear–we don’t want to be around to accept or reject the mark of the beast. We want to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and serve Him only. We want to choose to love Him as He loves us.

But it is a choice.

Whom have you chosen to serve with your life?

The Unholy Prophet

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men.” Revelation 13:11-13

Image result for lamb from the earthTrue to his counterfeiting nature, Satan will masquerade in the End Times not only as a god, but as a god-like trinity: the dragon [Revelation 12:9], the beast [Revelation 13:2] and the second beast [Revelation 13:11]–also referred to as Satan, the antichrist and the unholy prophet. Again, he counterfeits the lamb image of Christ [Revelation 5:6] though with only two horns to signal that the lamb really has less power than what God tells us.

This lamb is subservient to the antichrist–as Satan wishes Jesus were, but will never be. And this lamb also speaks like the dragon, Satan himself, because he is Satan’s puppet on behalf of the antichrist. In modern reference? The unholy prophet is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, speaking again to the deceptive nature of Satan and his counterfeit theology.

This unholy prophet will also have authority, he will act on the antichrist’s behalf so that the antichrist himself will become almost like a figurehead leader, though without relinquishing his authority. The prophet will turn the hearts and attention of the world to the antichrist, just as the antichrist turned their hearts to the dragon, Satan, and the antichrist himself will be worshipped as god. Ironically, part of the reason for this will be his apparent death and resurrection–the very attribute of Christ that the world is hot to disprove today.

But the counterfeiting doesn’t end there. This prophet will borrow the appearance of Elijah [1 Kings 18:37-38] and the two witnesses of God [Revelation 11:5]. He will, like the Egyptian magicians in Pharaoh’s day [Exodus 7:22], mimic God’s miracles believably enough to hold the hearts of the people. But true Satan’s nature and like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, this dragon in lamb’s wool is a liar. A liar who masquerades in images of godliness to deceive the hearts of those who are desperate to justify their rejection of the one true God.

This calls for discernment–the ability to see and know what is true despite the lies and deception that abound. Even today, Satan tempts and deludes, just as he has throughout time and will continue to do until his end. But when we know the word of God–truly know the word of God, we can stand on God’s truth to give us wisdom to understand the things meant to befuddle us. And even if you don’t know everything in God’s word, study it regularly and come to know what He says. Search His word and ask His Holy Spirit to help you find the truth in situations that are unclear.

Have you been deceived by the prince of this world, Satan? Have you been hurt or shamed by his lies before? We all have. The question is, what do you do when you realize that his lies and deception have touched your life and your understanding? Have you turned to God’s Word for discernment?

Power and Persuasion

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” Revelation 13:1-4

Image result for beast from the seaWe just saw in chapter 10, the christophanic angel standing on both the sea and the land, holding the open, bitter scroll [verse 2]. But this appearance of Christ comes down from heaven. Whereas, here the beast–in reality a human being–climbs up out of the sea, indicating where he has been held throughout the course of human history, or at least the Satanic nature of his origins.

Remember that Satan was cast out of heaven to the earth where he has ruled and reigned as prince of the air [John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2]. And his fallen angel, that is demonic hordes, were long said to live in the Abyss, a Greek term meaning very deep or bottomless [Luke 8:31]. The readers of Revelation would have recognized–as per ancient beliefs–the allusion to the beast coming from subterranean confinement, that is being sent from Satan rather than from God.

Satan–the dragon–gives this beast his authority, which is no authority at all. Because of this, the beast is a mastermind of deception [John 8:44], captivating the hearts of the world with impressive speech and faux-miraculous signs.

Again, in true counterfeit motif as always comes from the devil who has not one unique idea of his own, he twists and mocks the crucifixion of Jesus Christ by staging a near death and miraculous resurrection of this anti-Christ figure. Though the world spurned and rejected salvation through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, they will be seduced by the illusion of power of this counterfeit holds.

Probably one of the saddest commentaries in the whole of scripture comes next, that the whole world will follow the anti-Christ and worship the devil during this time. Not one will stand for the truth of our Creator God and His plan of redemption, Christ. In fact, people will once again attribute what is rightfully God’s to the prince of the world [John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2], asking, “Who is like this anti-Christ? Who can stand against him?”

These questions can be asked of no one except God Himself. Who is like the Lord our God [Psalm 113]? And who can stand against Him [Acts 5:39; Romans 8:31]?

No one. And no one.

But people who refuse to turn their hearts back to God, who cling to the Satanic lie of self as god, will once again denounce the Almighty. They will readily accept this false-Christ and the prince who has held their hearts since the Garden, because, in a twisted way, the beast’s apparent power will give them hope that they have not been wrong all this time. It will seem to justify that they have always been right. That God is not the ultimate absolute to whom they will eventually bow their knee [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10]. They will be fooled into believing that anyone can rise to the place of god.

Who is like the Lord our God? If God is for you–and that inherently means that you are for God–then who can stand against you? Do you understand the powerful importance of these two questions in your life?

The Uninhabited Place

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.” Revelation 12:13-14

Image result for wildernessBy God’s mighty hand and under Moses’ leadership, the Israelites left Egypt, crossed the parted Red Sea and arrived at Mt. Sinai in the desert. It was here, just before the giving of the ten commandments, that God said to Israel, You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself [Exodus 19:4]. The desert-care timeline of a time, times and a half time echoes the interpretation of Daniel’s four-beast-dream [Daniel 7:25] in which the beast represents world government and each body part represents an historically specific empire or kingdom.

Again, Satan, furious over his banishment, prowls across the earth seeking whom he may devour, steal, kill and destroy [John 10:10; 1 Peter 5:18]. He pursued Israel–the woman in this allegory and the line through which the promised seed would come [Genesis 3:15]–but God takes care of her in a desert place. The same desert through which the Israelites wandered? Or perhaps the same one in which Jesus was tempted by the devil?

Many scholars study passages such as this to try to discern deeper meanings and correlate to historical timelines. This is a good thing. It is also good to remember that while we may be able to draw human conclusions about such things, we are reading an apocalyptic book filled with End Times prophecies. In it we will find a reversal of sin through to a new Creation. So it is also possible that the governmental representations in this historical allegory may happen again in the future [Ecclesiastes 3:15]. Not because of some cosmic deja vu, but in God’s perfect plan of redemption to restore His beloved Creation to its original intent.

It is also good not to get hung up on debates over exact interpretations of what the fulfilled prophecies will look like or when they will come to pass. Rather, understanding the spiritual significance–the role of Israel and Satan in the history of humankind and the eternal perspective that this overview provides–is key.

Like Israel, God promises that those who wait on Him will renew their strength and rise up on eagle’s wings [Isaiah 40:31]. The desert place was originally translated as a wilderness, a place without inhabitants, not a place without water or flora. Many times, God calls us to walk where no one around us dares to walk, to prepare like we’re going to live forever, but live like there’s no tomorrow.

Are you in the desert place even now? Are you waiting on Him for renewed strength no matter where you are on your spiritual journey?

The Long War Between God and Satan: Part 2

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

Image result for crush snake headGod could have crushed Satan in a nanosecond back in the Garden of Eden. So why has this war dragged on for nearly 6,000 earth years and counting?

For one thing, God gave Adam and Eve–and every one of their descendants, us–free will. We can choose to love and obey Him or we can choose to despise, reject and disobey Him. But God didn’t want robotic love, just like we wouldn’t want to know that someone was loving us because they had to. He wanted, and still wants today, for us to choose Him. Of our own free will.

That’s why there were two trees to choose from in the middle of the Garden of Eden. And that’s why, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey, God didn’t just crush Satan on the spot. He still loved the people He created and wanted them to choose to love Him back–like a parent and a wayward child. If God obliterated Satan, then man didn’t have a choice, he wouldn’t be coming to God out of free will.

So God has been patiently waiting, carrying out His plan of redemption and giving every human being the opportunity to make their choice–God or Satan. There’s only those two ways about life when it comes down to it.

Again, when Jesus was born during the oppressive Roman Empire, the Jews were looking for a conquering hero Messiah. And Jesus will certainly establish His kingdom for all eternity, conquering death, hell, grave and every opposition. But He did not do so on the Jewish-Roman-time-schedule as they would have liked. He was patiently following through with the Father’s plan of redemption for the whole world, rather than temporally meeting a social and political need for one race, albeit the chosen nation.

God is love and love is patient [1 Corinthians 13:4], therefore God is supremely patient. But He also will not be taunted or in any way coerced to prove Himself to a person, or to Satan. While the enemy continues to attack, eroding faith from the hearts of men, God patiently preserves our free will–choose Me or don’t. Your choice.

While the war sometimes feels long, our life is but a breath in eternity. How are you choosing to spend your?