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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?

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Live By

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“He who has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.” Revelation 13:9-10

Image result for listening ears + imageDuring the vision of the antichrist’s reign, God once again tells people to hear with their ears and not to be unperceiving. This scripture portion contains an Old Testament reference [Jeremiah 15:2].

In the original Jeremiah text, we read that Israel has rejected God, turned to lifeless idols–wood and stones that can neither see nor hear nor help them in any way–and refused to turn back to the one true God. As such, God basically says, Fine. If my people want to leave me so bad, let them be on their way. To which He adds, And if they realize at that point that they don’t have anywhere else to go, remind them what sin has prepared for those that choose it over Me. Because those who sin have no choice but to accept the wages of sin–death, sword, starvation and captivity.

On the other hand, God has come that we might have life and have it to the full [John 10:10]. He does not desire that any should perish by choosing the way of sin [2 Peter 3:9], rather He sent His one and only son, Jesus, into the world that all might be saved through Him [John 3:16-17].

Many people come to passages like Revelation 13 and Jeremiah 15 and conclude that God is anything but loving. They don’t see these scriptures through the lens of scripture itself–and the Bible is the best commentary on itself. If you look at the original language of Revelation 13:10, it says that if anyone will kill with the sword, then with the sword they will be killed. God is not condemning people to slavery and death by the sword in these verses, He is reminding them of the consequence of their sins. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Few people would disagree with that sentiment, religious or not.

But throughout scripture God also reminds us of His love and grace and forgiveness. At any time, we can choose to believe on Him and our sins will be removed as far from us as the east is from the west [Psalm 103:12]. When we read Revelation 13 and Jeremiah 15, if we read through the lens of scriptural understanding, then we see that this harm is not what God wants for any of us, though many will choose it for themselves despite His desperate love reaching out across the ages to turn us from the folly of our own hearts [Proverbs 22:15].

Do you recognize God’s love, grace and mercy in your life? Have you accepted His forgiveness and driven sin far from your heart? Are you always read to give an answer for this hope you have within you [1 Peter 3:15]?

Living Willingly

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” Revelation 13:5-8

Image result for Solomon's temple + imageFor three and a half years–like the number of days that God has brought Israel into safe-keeping [Revelation 12:6] and the number of days that the two witnesses will minister in the holy city [Revelation 11:3]–likewise, the antichrist will establish himself as ruler over the earth.

He will boast and he will violate and misuse both God’s words and his own words against God. That is, he will blaspheme, the unforgivable sin, setting himself up as god before the entire world and profaning the one true God in all things [2 Thessalonians 2:4]. He will slander–make false statements about God, further damaging people’s faith in Him and in eternity. By this he will lead all the world astray.

The devil, the red dragon who gave the beast his pseudo-authority [Revelation 13:4], will also empower the antichrist to make war against the saints and to conquer them. But we have to remember that while it may appear to be a victory for Satan, this life is only temporary. The real triumph is eternal life which Satan will never have. He may strike the heal of the faithful in this life, but Jesus will crush his head [Genesis 3:15].

With all believers now out of the way, the whole rest of the world freely worships the lie that is the antichrist. He attributes to himself the praise from every tribe, nation and language as is only fitting of Christ [Revelation 5:9]. But Revelation is clear that only those who have not had their names written in the book of life will suffer to worship this false-Christ.

We who have believed and have lived by faith will bow our knee to no one but Christ alone. We belong to the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ [Revelation 5:6], and Him slain from the foundation of the world because God knew how He would redeem humankind to Himself from the moment sin entered the world [Genesis 3:15]. Our sin put Jesus on the cross. And He willingly died for us, because He didn’t want to live in eternity without us.

Do you recognize the enormity of this truth? Do you live just as willingly for Him?

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 Measuring Reed

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, ‘Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there.” Revelation 11:1

Image result for Jordan River ReedsJohn becomes present in his vision again and is told to take measurements. New Testament time readers would have envisioned a bamboo-like cane known as a reed that usually grew to about 20 feet tall. They were straight, light and grew in abundance on the banks of the Jordan so they were a very handy tool. We find similar rods used in the visions in Ezekiel 40 where the Temple is, once again, being measured and in Zechariah 2 in which the city of Jerusalem is measured.

Again, the Ezekiel passage contains a vision given during the Babylonian captivity and a great international upheaval. After prophesying to the exiles that Jerusalem would be sacked and the Temple burned to a pile of rubble, Ezekiel receives a vision of restoration and new life. This Temple measuring is part of the hope that Israel received.

Zechariah’s ministry was to the returned exiles back at home in Jerusalem. He had the joy of prophesying growth into the new life breathing again in the heart of Israel. The measuring line herein showed that Jerusalem would grow until it outgrew itself. Then, only the Lord God of Israel would be able to surround and fortify the city. He Himself would be there protection. However, Zechariah was also given the message that the Messiah would come and be rejected, and then later, that the Messiah would return and be acknowledged as Lord of all by all.

Measuring, then, serves two purposes to show what has been and what will be. To prophesy destruction–a demolition–making way for new construction and new life. So when John is told to measure, we can be sure that God is going to, once again, oversee a heavenly reconstruction project. The earthly Temple, while certainly sacred, was just a copy and a shadow of the real Temple to come in heaven. Heaven will not be limited by earthly measurements, but God wanted the readers of Revelation to wrap their heads around something tangible. Jerusalem would, as it has so many times before, face overwhelming hardship and desecration even, but God already has the renovation plans well in hand. And we can trust Him to do the work that needs to be done. Beyond anything that we could ask or imagine [Ephesians 3:20].

Has God applied His measuring reed to your life? Likely if you’ve read His word and accepted His Holy Spirit, then He has asked you to measure with His intent to renovate your life. Do you trust Him?

From the Student Question Board: What is Labor Day?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

Image result for labor day + image

Ironically, Labor Day is the day we celebrate having jobs by staying home from them. Seriously though, we can be very thankful that as Americans we have good work through which we can enjoy financial stability and meet our own basic needs.

The Bible advocates for us as people being gainfully employed, whether for self or for bosses, for money or just to survive. Proverbs in particular has much to say on the subject of hard work versus laziness. For example, “Lazy hands make poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth,” Proverbs 10:4. “Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare,” Proverbs 20:13. This doesn’t mean we should never sleep, rather that we shouldn’t oversleep–as many enjoy and insist on through our teen years.

The Bible also has much to say on overworking purely in pursuit of wealth. “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil,” 1 Timothy 6:9-10a. Workaholics miss out on the joys of life and often find that, while they’ve amassed much financially, ultimately their life is empty. Likewise, lazy people–who put stock in gambling or lottery tickets hoping to strike it rich quick–often lose more money than they ever win. And even those who have won very large jackpots are known to blow their sudden wealth faster than it appeared, often ending with greater debts than before having won. They too feel empty despite the temporary financial gain.

The straight and narrow life is all about balance. “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” 1 Timothy 6:6. The wealthiest people are those who enjoy the work of their hands and do so as unto the Lord. They are satisfied with the love of family and content to live within their means, no matter how simple. These people feel richer than the wealthiest people on the planet, because they are rich with God’s love and the love of fellow man. They have stored their treasures up where it counts–in heaven [Matthew 6:20].

If you’re too young to work, be thankful for child labor laws on this Labor Day and be thankful for loving parents that provide for your needs in this blessed nation in which we live. If you’ve already had your first job, consider Godly financial principles and work hard for your boss as God would have you to do. Discipline yourself even now in your teen years to rise early, serve diligently and work with an attitude of gratitude for all that God has provided for you through your faithfulness. Be content. And be blessed.

How to Handle Difficult Analogies in Scripture

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months.” Revelation 9:7-10

Image result for locusts of revelation 8 and 9Here is where prophetic scripture can sometimes get a little difficult to discern. Analogy. Once again, John is defining something he has never seen before in terms of things he has seen. We see commonly identifiable nouns like: locusts, horses, heads, crowns of gold, human faces, women’s hair, lions’ teeth, breastplates of iron, wing sound of horses and chariots, and tails with scorpion stings. Even just listing these nouns one can form a semi-image of what John must have envisioned.

Some speculate that all of the likes indicate that John was actually seeing a piece of modern war machinery–i.e. a helicopter fitted with a laser gun–that he didn’t know the actual name for, so he just had to describe it. However, there are many pieces of this description that do not fit with this possibility.

Locusts like horses prepared for battle, so saddled and armored. The iron breastplates here refer to pieces of thin iron riveted to a leather base. However, locusts are quite a bit smaller than either horses or helicopters. So is John analogizing the size? Or just the shape? Scripture doesn’t say for sure.

Then there’s the human element–crowns on heads, human faces and women’s hair. Interestingly, the Bible has much hair symbolism that we won’t get into here, but suffice it to say that the reference to women’s hair is a cultural one that lets us know that these locusts have long hair–which was a glory to a woman at the time of these writings [1 Corinthians 11:15]. This is where the helicopter interpretation falls apart for me. Because the human face could be seen through the windshield, but then the hair would seem to be attached to this head–meaning all of the pilots are either women or long-haired men. But then, the whole windshield not being filled with the face, the hair is being called hair even though it is inside the so-called face/windshield. It’s a stretch, but not impossible. We really can’t be sure what John was seeing except to take his analogies for what they illustrate.

And clearly, lion’s teeth are so much larger than a locust jaw could handle, so here it must refer to shape rather than size. Again, lion’s teeth would be in the human head behind the windshield? Or somehow attached to the actual helicopter frame protruding up the front of the windshield?

The wing sound makes perfect sense. Thundering and pounding as they will be though, it could also be just the sheer size of this locust-scorpion army that creates such a cacophony.

The bottom line is that we don’t always have to be able to picture what is going to happen in the end to understand that: a) it will not be a pleasant time to have to live through; and b) the end will be like no other time before it on the planet. When we read a prophetic scripture that we can’t envision, we can still distill the most important facts from the passage. These locust creatures will judge the inhabitants of earth for a limited time after the fifth trumpet blast. They will spawn from the Abyss. They will torture, but not kill. And they will be like something no human–besides John in a vision–has ever seen before.

How do you handle difficult scriptures? Do you let them weigh your faith down with doubt and unbelief? Or do you ask the Holy Spirit to give you the discernment to understand what is important?