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Until The End Comes

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“Until The End Comes”

Daniel 12:1-13

 

*Intro – Well, we’ve come to the end of our study of the book of Daniel. It has truly been an interesting one. I have seen things this time around that I have not seen before. It is often studied and taught in fragments and I had not really studied the book in its entirety before. It is usually taught in children’s settings recounting fiery furnaces and the lion’s dens and statues of chocolate bunnies (at least in Veggie Tales!). It also has been taught in theology classrooms as students try to ascertain the events of the end times. I have found it to be most rewarding studied as a whole as I have seen afresh the importance of remaining faithful to God in the present, as well as remaining faithful to the very end of times.

We recall that the book of Daniel begins with a narrative portion describing the earlier events of Israelite captivity and the life and challenges that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah faced as they remained faithful to their God. They were spiritual (as well as physical) exiles in a foreign land. The book continues and recalls the favor God bestows on Daniel. He is able to interpret dreams and visions of the rulers of Babylon and Medo-Persia. We trace the rise and fall of many kings and kingdoms. There were rulers who thought more highly of themselves than they ought. The book prophesies the immediate future of the nation of Israel and the nations surrounding them. We are able to look back into history and see the hand of God fulfilling these prophecies in great detail and recognize that He is in control of all people, nations, and circumstances. And then finally, Daniel is given visions into the future. Though he cannot and does not understand completely the visions he is given, God paints a picture of what the end of all things will look like. So for us, as well as Daniel, this gives us great hope that we know that God controls all things beginning to end. He has predetermined everything that happens. We recall that much of what Daniel saw confused and sickened him. But this was truly intended to comfort him and us. Despite all the seeming randomness and chaos, trials and persecution, God is working everything to his determined end wherein all those who trust in Him anticipate an eternity with Him where there is no more sickness, death, war, sadness.

And so this is where our journey has led us this morning. Chapter 12 of Daniel further explains the end of times that was begun in some of these later chapters. And I would ask that you would open your Bibles this morning to Daniel chapter 12.   

**Let’s pray as we begin our study of God’s Word. Let’s begin reading in verse 1.**

We recall from last week that chapter 11 included prophecies regarding Israel’s near future and then ultimate fulfillment in the end times. This section picks up the events in last times when Daniel records the words “at that time”. We will begin this morning by looking at the Events Explained, then the contrast between the Wise and the Wicked, and then conclude with Exhortation and Encouragement “until the end comes”.

First, we look at Events Explained. We will deal with them only briefly. Many often study this book closely with the Book of Revelation because they discuss many of the same events – with more light shed on them by the Apostle John. So, because we will be studying Revelation in the Fall, we will look more closely at the details of the events when we get there. Verse one tells us that the great archangel, Michael, will arise to assist Daniel’s people. This is because it will be a time of trouble that has not been experienced before. It is the time of the arrival of the Antichrist. And we know that he will not operate on his own initiative or power, but by Satan himself. 2 Thessalonians tells us in chapter 2 verse 9 that the Antichrist or lawless one comes with the activity of Satan and with his power. The time of great trouble refers to the tribulation period that is often referred to throughout Scripture. Jesus also refers to this period in Matthew 24. The text reads in verse 21, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.” In fact, it will be so bad that our text reads in verse 7 that the Jews (or the “holy people”) will be utterly defeated in the latter half of the tribulation period.

However, all is not lost. For those whose names are found written in the book will be delivered, or saved. We know several other references to “the book” in Scripture. Luke 10:20 reads, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” And “the book” is also referenced several times when referring to the tribulation period. Malachi 3:16-4:3 reads,

16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. 17 “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. 1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.

And you are probably familiar with the multiple references to the book of life mentioned in Revelation. We recall in chapters 13 and 17 that it is only those whose names were written in the book of life of the Lamb would not worship the beast. In chapter 20 it is those that are not written in the book of life were cast into the lake of fire.  

In our context in Daniel, it appears to be the remnant of Israel that is spoken of. Though some physical blessings remain to be fulfilled to the nation, it is only those who proclaim Jesus as the Messiah that will be spiritually saved. We will talk more of the purpose of this Great Tribulation a little later.

Verse 2 is interesting because it is an Old Testament teaching on resurrection from the dead. The text actually says that it is those who sleep that will awaken. And we know from other passages that this is a figurative way of speaking of death. You remember Jesus’ friend Lazarus who was “asleep”. Stephen, the martyred one in Acts 7  was also said to “fall asleep”. And there are several other passages that refer to death as sleep. Baldwin seems correct in stating: “The reason for using ‘sleep’ here as a metaphor for ‘die’ is that sleep is a temporary state from which we normally awake, and so the reader is prepared for the thought of resurrection.”

We recognize here that there are actually two resurrections. There are some who awake to everlasting life and others to shame and everlasting contempt. This is the distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous. And a distinction between those that are wise and those that are wicked. We will zero in on this for our second point. This text seems to indicate that both resurrections occur at the same time. But as we peruse other passages in Scripture it becomes apparent that these take place on different occasions.

Referring to the resurrection of the righteous, Revelation 20:4-6 says, “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.”

The resurrection of the wicked seems to always be associated with judgment. And so it would appear that the righteous will be raised to life at the inauguration of the millennial kingdom of Christ and reign with Him. After that comes the judgment wherein those who had not placed faith in Christ will be raised, judged, and doomed to the lake of fire. Daniel 12:2 tells us that they will be raised to shame and everlasting contempt. Stephen Miller in his commentary writes that they “will be ashamed and disgraced as they stand before the Lord and realize the gravity of their sin, particularly the sin of rejecting God’s loving Messiah”. Not only will they have to give an account of their sinful and unrepentant lives, but they will have to answer to their rejection of the Savior. Jesus endured the physical and spiritual agony so that He might redeem mankind from their sin. And they rejected Him. And they will have to live with the consequences for all eternity. People that have chosen to live for themselves in this lifetime will be forever separated from their Maker. And for them it will be everlasting shame and contempt.

In verse 5, Daniel is back on the bank of the river with two angels, one of whom questions a man clothed in linen. Now we recall that we have encountered this man before. Do you remember? It was in chapter 10 verses 5-6. It reads, “I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude.” Listen to the words from Revelation 1:13-14 and tell me if this sounds like the same guy. “And in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire. You know who that is. It is none other than Jesus himself.

And the angel asks him, “How long till the end of all of this?” By this he is likely referring to the sufferings and deliverances from chapter 11 verse 31 up to chapter 12 verse 3. The response comes with a physical gesture. The Man raises both arms to heaven and swears by him who lives forever. One commentator notes that the raising of both hands is a 'more complete guarantee of the truth of what is about to be affirmed'. It is an appeal to heaven as an attestation to the truth. It is an appeal to the One who lives forever for He alone qualifies to be the guarantor of the prediction to be made. The answer we receive is one we have encountered before. It will be for a time, times, and half a time. In other words the great tribulation spoken of would be for 3 ½ years. It is referred to in Daniel’s 70th week from chapter 9. It anticipates the time, times and half a time of trouble when the “little horn” persecutes the saints from 7:25. And it is also mentioned as 42 months, and a time, times and half a time in Revelation 12:14, 11:2, 3; 13:5.

It is also to be when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end. There will be great persecution of the saints. But at the predetermined time, all of this will come to an end.

But Daniel did not fully understand and so he asks, “What is the outcome?” To which he receives the reply that it really doesn’t pertain to him. He is told to go his way for this pertains until the time of the end. The words will be sealed up as if by the authority of the King. The man in linen continues explaining events saying that there will be many who will purify themselves and be refined. The wicked will act according to their nature and will not understand the events. In verse 11, we have reference to the abomination of desolation that will initiate the end of times. The Great tribulation will be introduced when the Antichrist abolishes worship and sets up this abomination. We talked about it a bit in Daniel 9:26-27. The Antichrist enters the scene and puts an end to sacrifice and offering in the temple which will be for half of the 7 year period – or 3 ½ years.

And as we studied previously, we know that there was an earlier fulfillment of these prophecies in the person of Antiochus Epiphanes. But we also discussed that often in prophetic and apocalyptic literature there are multiple fulfillments of certain prophecies. And we are certain that this particular one requires a later fulfillment because Jesus himself alludes to a future event pertaining to these circumstances. In Matthew 24:15ff, Jesus says, “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak.”

Jesus indicates that this abomination would be in the “holy place” or the temple immediately before His return. Stephen Miller adds that, “the exact nature of the Antichrist’s “abomination” is unclear, but its presence in the temple will cause believers to cease worshiping there and thus render the temple desolate, that is, empty of worshipers.”

Now you need to know that there is a bit of ambiguity also in the numbers listed. Please bear with me. We have already seen that the “sevens” referred to previously are identified as weeks of years. So we can associate the 70th week as the tribulation period, which is seven years. We have listed several passages that talk of a time, times, and half a time referring to the later half of the 7 year period – or 3 ½ years. In Revelation 11:2-3, it is identified as both forty-two months and one thousand two hundred and sixty days. Here it is also listed in the form of days albeit one thousand two hundred and ninety, not sixty. Some have suggested that the number is symbolic and emphasizes the perseverance of the saints “to the end”. Some have indicated that 3 ½ years is approximate and 1,290 is the more exact figure for the length of the Antichrist’s persecution. I think that Leon Wood has the best explanation for he proposes that the extra days will be the time in which the nations are judged by the Lord immediately following his return as discussed in Matthew 25:31-46.

Then we come to verse 12 and a different number is introduced. Now the one is blessed who waits and arrives at 1,335 days. Without giving you all the different options for this understanding, I believe that Wood again has the best solution. He asserts that the additional time here is the time needed to set up the millennial government. And those that arrive there are blessed. Archer writes, “these saints are called blessed because ‘they are about to become citizens of the most wonderful society governed by the most wonderful ruler in all human history – the millennial kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ!’”

So those are the Events Explained. Next, let’s look at the contrast between the Wise and the Wicked. We see both throughout this chapter. The first place we see those that are wise is in verses 1-2. It is those who will be delivered. Those that are saved are those whose names are written in the book. And you recall that “the book” refers to those who are spiritually saved. They are the same who will awake to everlasting life. In Revelation 21, the Apostle John describes the new heaven and new earth. He adds that “nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Only those who have placed their faith in Christ alone for salvation will awake to everlasting life.

The wicked, on the other hand, are not found in this book. They shall not be delivered from destruction. They have nothing good to look forward to. They have chosen to live for self. They have pursued the treasures of earth – the things that are temporal. And they will regret that decision for all eternity.

Let me park right here for just a moment. I hope you see the importance and urgency of the decisions you make regarding Jesus Christ. He is the only Savior. And before you declare that this is unfair, let me remind you what the deal is here.

Since the beginning of time, human beings have decided to rebel against their Maker. It began in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God and in perfect relationship with Him. But that wasn’t enough for them. They decided to disobey their very Creator and thus introduced sin into the world. They stand as the representatives for all humanity. Because of their sin, all humanity is brought forth in sin. And there is nothing that we can do on our own to remedy the situation. That’s the bad news. The good news is that God in his infinite wisdom knew that we would rebel against Him. And he predetermined that He would also provide the remedy – though we did not deserve it. In fact, He chose a way that would cost Him. The only solution to the problem was that the very Son of God would have to pay the price for our sin debt. Jesus who sat on the throne in heaven from all eternity would descend to this itty bitty planet called earth and become on of the traitorous race. He would be tempted, mocked, abused, and killed on a piece of wood at the hands of men. Why? Ultimately, Jesus did this to glorify the Father. But you know why else? He did it because of His great love for you and me. Without delving to deep into theology here, let me tell you that Jesus loves you and me so much that he was beaten to a bloody mess, unrecognizable. He bore the tremendous weight of OUR sin on the cross because He loves you. Jesus wants us to wallow in our sin no longer. He wants to have an eternal relationship with his children. Let’s talk about fairness, shall we? The only thing that we deserve is death and judgment for our sin. But Christ paid that sin debt so that we can stand before Him as righteous. And so we can awake to everlasting life with Him.

Because you may come here every Sunday does not indicate that you know Him. Now this may shock you: not even if you place an envelope in the offering with a bit of money in it! It is only in repentance and placing our faith in Jesus for salvation that we can be righteous in his sight. I would encourage you to do business with God this morning if you have not already. It is for life everlasting with your Creator.

Verse 3 tells us that the wise will shine like the brightness of the sky above and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. It is those who are wise that comprehend and obey spiritual truth. They understand the privilege and responsibility to proclaim Jesus Christ to the nations and to reap the harvest. And those that do will be rewarded. 1 Corinthians 3:8 says, “He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.” The rewards in this endeavor are eternal. Remember, this promise is given in the context of intense persecution.

There is also the contrast between the wise and the wicked in verse 10.  The text reads, “Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.” The wise are those who during the tribulation will seek for answers. Verse 4 tells us that Daniel’s book is sealed up for this time and will provide answers for those who seek them. This period will be a time when many look for answers. And that is why Daniel is instructed to seal it until the end.

The wise will know where to find true wisdom: in God’s Word. The wise will understand. It is those who believe that will understand the words of the prophecy. And it is only by God’s enabling that people can believe and understand. Recall the words of 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 with me, “14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”

It is not unlike today where many search to and fro, looking for answers to their questions. Listen to the words of Iain Duguid: “This stress on the wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of God’s people is an important point for us to grasp because we live in an age that despises doctrine and plays down knowledge in favor of the claims of experience. Our postmodern era is profoundly a time when people are going here and there seeking knowledge. Our age affirms the validity of every possible form of spirituality because it views all truth as relative and our experience as normative. Truth becomes whatever philosophy gives me the experience that I desire. In our age, the idea of unique, authoritative Truth revealed once and for all in God’s inspired Word, the Bible, is therefore highly countercultural.”

The wicked, on the other hand, shall act wickedly. They will continue to rebel against God and live contrary to what He desires. And thus, they will not understand. None of them will understand. Their minds are darkened and their hearts are hardened. And they get their just penalty. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death.

These saints in the tribulation period will be purified and refined through their trials. Most of the translations that I consulted, render the beginning of verse 10 in a passive sense – many will be purified. I believe that to be the best understanding because elsewhere in Scripture it indicates that the purpose of the tribulation is to purify God’s people and prepare them for Christ’s return. Joyce Baldwin in her commentary notes, "the purpose is clearly shown to be to keep in the faith those who will be severely tempted to give up in the face of opposition. The suffering is neither accidental nor meaningless, but serves the positive goal of purifying, cleansing and refining God's people.”

I think they same can be said of our personal spirituality. Many of you that I have spoken to are going through some rough times or have gone through some. But God is teaching you things about himself that you may not have learned any other way. You now have a greater sense of his faithfulness, of his sovereignty, his love, his mercy that you may not have known in times of comfort and ease. He is refining and purifying you, drawing you nearer to Him and giving you joy that you may not have known before.

What does this look like in the church? What happens when the church is persecuted? This one is a bit more difficult to answer because we live in North America. It is still somewhat cool or fashionable or at least somewhat traditional to attend Sunday services. What do you think will happen if and when persecution comes to Christianity here? But when you look at those in countries where people are persecuted, you quickly realize that they know the cost of following after Jesus.

Glen Penner who works for Voice of the Martyrs writes this, “I find it interesting that the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:12 that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Paul did not see the suffering he endures as exceptional, but rather typical for anyone who wants to live a godly life. So I’m forced to ask myself, is there a reason why we have it so easy here in Canada? Will persecution make us better Christians? Perhaps. It seems to me, however, that the witness of scripture and the testimony of today’s persecuted Church is better reflected in the phrase, “Better Christians tend to produce persecution.” In other words, the more outspoken and bold we are in our faith, the more we will be persecuted.

So my question to you is, what will happen to you if persecution comes to Canada, even Squamish. I’m not merely referring to ridicule (though that is included). Will you continue to count yourself a disciple of Jesus Christ should the future of your job be on the line? How about the well-being of your family? Or your very life? If you cannot say that you would be willing to surrender all for him, you cannot truly count yourself as his disciple.

I think that there is little doubt when you hide underground (as some do) to worship your Saviour that the person next to you is a committed follower of Jesus Christ. I wish my entire being that could be said of us here. And that is my challenge this morning. The author to the Hebrews wrote in chapter 3, “12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. (and here is our job) 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”

Persecution is not always entirely bad, though I would have a difficult time praying for it. Persecution purifies and refines us. Baldwin provides some insight when she writes, “the refining process which improves the quality of gold and silver at the same time separates out the dross, that is the wicked. No longer are the two indistinguishable, but only by fire can the separation be made, and the metal's purity be assured." This is true in the church and will certainly be the case in the tribulation period. There will be no confusion who follows after Christ and who does not.

Stephen Miller again adds, “In this present world many times believers are persecuted, misunderstood, misrepresented, suffer economically because of their spiritual priorities, and are overlooked by the world. Yet someday things will be different. The decision to follow Christ and put his kingdom first will be rewarded.”

With the wisdom that has been acquired from God through His Word, God’s people respond. They respond with obedience because they understand. But it does NOT lead to their best life now. It leads only to persecution.

            Finally, let’s look at some brief Exhortation and Encouragement. What is it that Daniel is told to do? And why? We already know that he was instructed to seal up the book to the end. I think the exhortations for Daniel and for us are to go our way till the end, to understand the times, and to wait and arrive. This is a call for perseverance. This chapter (and book) indicates that things will get worse before they get better. Many will go through the Great Tribulation before the establishment of the Millenial Kingdom.  

However, it is not a call for panic. These words were meant for comfort and encouragement. They were given by God to Daniel so that he could understand the times, and that God had predetermined these things, and was in control of these things. In fact there were even numbers given that, though Daniel could not completely grasp it, God could pinpoint the end of suffering and tribulation.

My friends, though we are not going through the time of great tribulation now, I understand that we all face trials of many kinds. My encouragement to you is that the Father knows what you are enduring. In fact, He has predetermined the length and end of your suffering. If you know Jesus as Savior and Lord, then only the best things await you. Blessed is the one who waits and arrives, the one who overcomes, the one who holds his confidence to the end. For the encouragement for Daniel is the same for you: “You shall rest and stand in your allotted place at the end of the days”. Jesus said in John 14 that he has gone to prepare that place for you. It stands waiting. One commentator rightly concluded this chapter with this: “Well shall it be for us if in the end of our days we too are able to depart hence with such consolation of hope!” This “consolation of hope” belongs to all who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. May every person who reads these words be part of that great host of the redeemed who “will shine like the brightness of the heavens” and “like the stars for ever and ever!”

 

Let’s Pray

 

 

Benediction

Philippians 3:12-14
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

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