The Last Days According to Daniel
Daniel 12Our journey through Daniel ends today. When we began in November, I noted in my first sermon that there were only 55 days until Y2K, which turned out to be a huge non-event. I also mentioned three reasons for studying this book. Those reasons seem even more relevant today than they did then.
We should study this book because …
Daniel’s situation parallels our own. Daniel spent his entire adult life as a believer living in a pagan culture. We can gain much insight from the way he handled his challenges.
Daniel’s prophecies may soon be fulfilled. After my sermon on the Antichrist last Sunday I received an e-mail message from someone claiming to know who the Antichrist is. But the name they gave is not one I mentioned in my long list of potential candidates. While that may show the dangers of attempting to figure out such things in advance, it also demonstrates the genuine interest in Bible prophecy in our day. I believe the stage is being set for the rise of the Antichrist. That day may be closer than we think.
Daniel’s God is our God too—and he is still on the throne. This may be the most important lesson of the book. God is in charge! Simple and clear. He is in charge of nations, families, and individuals. He is in charge of the past, the present, and the future. He is in charge of good times and bad days, of happiness and sorrow, of joy and heartache, of great victories and shocking defeats. He is in charge when a child is born and he is in charge when death knocks at your door. Studying this book ought to increase our confidence in the sovereignty of a God who makes no mistakes.
As we come to the end of this book, Daniel is an old man nearing the end of 70 years of ministry for God. He is over 80 years old and perhaps is almost 90. Daniel 12 brings us to the end of his career as a prophet.
I. Four Things in Israel’s Future
A) Tribulation 1a Top of page
At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then (Daniel 12:1a).
Since Michael is the appointed guardian of Israel, we may be sure that when he stands up, something is about to happen. The “time of distress” is elsewhere called the “time of Jacob’s trouble,” and the “tribulation.” The “time of distress” is the yet-future 70th “week” of seven years when God will let the Antichrist briefly rise to power. The last half of that seven years is commonly called the “Great Tribulation.”
B) Deliverance 1b Top of page
But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered (Daniel 12:1b).
The deliverance in view comes at the end of the tribulation period. And who will be delivered or saved by the Lord? Answer: Everyone whose name is written in “the book.” And what book is that? It can be no other book than the Lamb’s Book of Life. This is the “book” God keeps in heaven of the saved of all the ages. Only those whose names are written in that book will be admitted into heaven.
We all have “books” of names. We have address books and books of family genealogy. At Calvary we have a church directory and a formal membership list. Whenever we have a business meeting, only those whose names are written in the membership list can vote.
When you go to a nice restaurant, you are asked, “Do you have a reservation?” If you say no, and if it’s a busy night, the answer may be “I’m not sure we have a place for you.” The same is true if you go to the airport without a reservation. If your name isn’t in the computer system, and if the flight is full, you won’t get on the plane no matter how much you beg and plead. They even keep books on the Internet. Sometimes you’ll be searching for a particular file and you get a message that looks like this: Error 404 File Not Found.
God has his books too. He keeps records in heaven. He has “books” that record everything that happens on earth. And he also has “the book” which contains the names of all the Redeemed. In Daniel 12:1 the angel said that everyone whose name is written in the book will be delivered. That leads me to ask a very crucial question: Is your name written in God’s book? You’d better be sure before it’s too late.
C) Resurrection 2 Top of page
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2).
“Dust of the earth.” That’s all we are in the end. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Embalming slows it down but it doesn’t stop the process. Cremation speeds it up. After we die we all turn to dust. And from the dust of the earth God will one day raise the dead. Note that everyone is raised but not all are going to the same place. Some are raised to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
The first part we can understand. The saints will be raised immortal and incorruptible. To borrow a phrase from Peter Marshall, “We rise clothed in the shining mercy of God.” But for those who do not know the Lord, that resurrection will be a terrifying experience. They will find themselves raised from the dead only to be exposed to shame and contempt. This is not a resurrection for salvation but for judgment. Those who in this life abused their bodies through sin will discover that they will live with those same bodies throughout eternity. What will those bodies look like? Misshapen, swollen, scarred and marred by sin. They are raised not for salvation but for utter damnation. All that is good and holy has been removed. These ugly bodies are raised and then judged. Why? Because your body matters to God. You will be judged by what you did in your body, with your body, and to your body! That’s not good news for sinners.
D) Rewards 3 Top of page
Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:3).
This lovely verse reminds us that God has his ‘stars’ in many places. They shine in the darkness of this world. Many of you have seen pictures of the famous Hollywood Walk of Stars. Those stars are metal plates fastened to the sidewalk. I’ve been there and seen those metal stars dedicated to people like Bob Hope, George Burns, Lucille Ball, and many others. Each year Hollywood honors its stars in the annual Oscar presentations. Hundreds of millions watch to see who wears the most revealing dress and which movie will win the most awards.
Who are God’s stars? Not the ones the world applauds. God’ s stars are those who lead many to righteousness. They point others to Jesus. They and they alone will shine like the stars in the heavens.
Who are God’s stars?
The mother who patiently teaches her children about Jesus.
The office worker who answers questions from her friends.
The son who witnesses to his parents.
The coach who shares Christ with his players.
The friend who tells his buddies about Christ.
The Sunday School teacher who prays for her children to be saved.
The young couple who goes to Mozambique as missionaries.
They are God’s heroes, and they will one day shine like the stars.
Sic transit Gloria mundi. “Thus passes the glory of the world.” But those who tell others about Christ will still be shining ten thousand years from now.
If you want what you plant to last a year, plant some flowers.
If you want it to last a lifetime, plant a tree.
If you want it to last forever, plant the Good News of Jesus inside the heart of a lost person.
Then we come to verse 4: “But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.” This book will grow in significance in the end times. Men will run to and fro seeking answers to the deepest questions of life. They want to know what the future holds. Many things in Daniel that seem mysterious will make perfect sense the closer we come to the return of Christ.
II. Two Final Questions
Did you ever feel like you have so many questions that you’ll never run out? If so, you’re in good company because the book of Daniel closes with two questions. The first one comes from an angel, the second from Daniel himself.
Question 1: How long? 5-7 Top of page
“Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, ‘How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?’ The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, ‘It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed’” (Daniel 12:5-7).
Evidently one of the angels wondered when the time of trouble for Israel would finally be over. The answer comes in verse 7: “A time, times and half a time.” Since a “time” is a year, the whole phrase refers to 3 years, specifically, the last half of the seven-year tribulation period when the Antichrist will unleash his reign of terror on the world.
The same verse also gives us a crucial insight into the purpose for the tribulation. It is to break the power of the Holy People, that is, the nation of Israel. God allows the Antichrist to rise to power in order to break Israel’s pride and to prepare the nation (those who survive to the end) for salvation. This ties in with Romans 11:26, “and all Israel shall be saved.” Today blindness in part has come to Israel, which is why the majority of Jews still have not accepted Christ. But in the future the blindness will be removed and “they will look upon him whom they pierced,” and with broken hearts will embrace him as Savior and Lord.
This shouldn’t surprise us because we all have to be broken in order to be saved. And some people have to hit rock bottom two or three times before they will cry out to the Lord for help. The tribulation is not simply a judgment, it is also a prelude to an outpouring of divine grace upon Israel.
Question 2: How long? 8-13 Top of page
What will be the outcome?
A) For Israel 8-12
I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days (Daniel 12:8-12).
When Daniel asks for further clarification, he is politely told not to worry about it since the events will take place in the distant future at the end of time. But he could rest in confidence knowing that the end-time suffering will separate the righteous from the wicked. The righteous will see God’s hand at work even during the tribulation while the wicked will continue in their wickedness. Thus does God deal with the free moral choices we make. The tragedy that breaks one heart hardens another. One man cries out to God, another curses him, and still another ignores him altogether.
B) For Daniel 13
As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance (Daniel 12:13).
The Lord’s final word to Daniel contains four important messages:
Go your way. You’ve been faithful. Now stay the course. You’ve been through the lion’s den. Keep standing strong and you’ll be all right. Be faithful until God calls you home.
You will rest. Not in a retirement home but in heaven! You’re gonna die. Don’t worry about it. Your body will be in the earth, your soul will be with God in heaven. Daniel, you’ve had a long life filled with many struggles. Hang on a little longer and your day of rest will come.
You will rise. This is a promise of bodily resurrection. Though Daniel will die, he will eventually rise again.
You will receive your allotted inheritance. This would have been a precious promise to a man who had lived his whole life in a pagan land. For 70 years he had been far from his home. Although other Jews returned, Daniel evidently died in Babylon. He died as an exile in exile. But God promised him that one day he would receive his promised inheritance.
Here, then, is God’s last word to the aged prophet: “Daniel, be faithful till the end. You will die but God will not forget you. You will have your place on earth once again at the end of time. You will be raised and will live again!!”
We will see Daniel again. Not just as a figure from history but as a real, historical person.
A prominent citizen in town was dying. As he lay in his lovely home, the best doctors surrounding him heard him whisper with a note of despair, “I’m leaving home; I’m leaving home!” Across town, there lay a solitary figure in modest surroundings. In her eye was a gleam of joy. Before she died she was heard to say, “I’m going home, I’m going home.” When you leave this world, will you say, “I’m leaving home” or, “I’m going home?”
If you are saved, then go your way. Be faithful till the end. Never forget that this world is not your home. When we leave this world, we’re going to go home. Until then, let’s live like foreigners in this world. We are “strangers in a strange land.” For those who believe in Jesus, this world never quite feels like home because our citizenship is in heaven.
As I close this final message from Daniel, I’d like to return to the first message in the series for a moment. Here are few sentences from the close of that message. They seem appropriate as we wrap up our journey through this ancient book.
Our Hearts in Heaven
How will we survive the continual onslaught of the world in our day? The same way Daniel did. By putting our hearts in the right place. For us that means that even though our bodies are on earth, our hearts must continually be in heaven. And if our hearts are in heaven, then it doesn’t matter where we happen to be on earth because the world can’t touch us.
This week I ran across a wonderful statement that seems to fit our text and the strange, difficult days in which we live. “Christians should be the calmest people on earth.” What a thought that is. We have no right to run around wringing our hands. Not when our God is on the throne working out his purpose on the earth.
The book of Daniel opens with what appears to be a clear triumph of evil over good. Yet God allowed it to happen for his own higher purposes. I’m sure Nebuchadnezzar didn’t know that and I’m sure the Jews had trouble believing it but it was true nonetheless.
Now skip to the end of book and see what has happened:
Kingdom of the earth destroyed
God’s kingdom established
What starts with defeat ends in a blaze of glorious victory. In that light the final words to Daniel mean so much more: “Now, Daniel, go and rest for a better day is coming.”
I close this message with two questions. The first is a question my friend Gary Olson liked to ask: “Jesus is coming. Are you ready? What a question that is! I reflect on the wonderful truth that when Gary died, he was ready to meet the Lord. “Are you ready?” Some are, some aren’t. What will you do if Jesus comes back today? Will you be glad to see him? Or will you hide your face in shame?
When I preached this at Calvary, I stopped in all three services and had people turn to one another and ask this question: “Are you ready?” Many could answer with a joyful yes; others weren’t so sure. What would your answer be?
The final question is even more basic: Is your name written in The Book? By that I mean, Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Are you enrolled in heaven as a true child of God? Have you ever been saved by the blood of Christ? Have you trusted him and him alone as your Lord and Savior? If you are unsure, I urge you to run to the cross of Christ and lay all your sins on Jesus. With all your heart come to Christ and as you come, you will discover that your sins are forgiven and that your name is written in the Book of Life in heaven. May God help you to trust Christ right now. Amen.
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