Are you going through some tough times? Is it the end of a relationship or a job? Maybe your health or a loved one’s health is bringing you down and you are asking yourself, how do I survive this?
Today is the last day of another calendar year and the end of a season in your life if you get these four observations from the book of Daniel. It’s no wonder that when things are coming to an end (such as this year is), we tend to think hard about our lives. We think about what we have accomplished and what we didn’t. We think about the things and the people we lost and the ones we gained. Some people make promises to themselves to eat better and exercise. We call these promises, “New Year Resolutions”. Other people just take it one day at a time and don’t really make promises to themselves that they know will be broken in three or four weeks. If you do nothing else on this last day of this year, I want you to reflect on these four things that can, with God’s will, transform your life forever.
Today I want to make four observations from Daniel chapter 12. I believe that without going into ALL the detail, this will nicely summarize what God is saying to us at the end of this year. If you are going through some tough times, I especially encourage you to dig deep into these four observations.
1. WE CAN EXPECT THE TOUGH TIMES TO CONTINUE.
Verse 1 — “At that time Michael, the archangel who stands guard over your nation, will arise. Then there will be a time of anguish greater than any since nations first came into existence…”
Remember, the Jewish people were in exile in Babylon and they were on the verge of returning to their homeland.
They could see it coming. They could feel it and they could taste it. And they were thinking – Wow, once we get back to Jerusalem, everything is going to be A-OKAY.
But all of the terrible kings and conquerors and periods of persecution was probably taking a lot of the wind out of their sails. And then to top it all off the messenger says: “Then there will be a time of anguish greater than any since nations first came into existence...”
You can imagine how Daniel’s heart sank.
Aren’t things suppose to get progressively better?
We are just like that, aren’t we? We are working on getting back to our Jerusalem. What is your Jerusalem? Is it a job or a health issue? Could it be a relationship? We think that once we get that promotion, or that once we get married, or that once we have children, everything is going to be A-OKay. But then there are terrible things and circumstances that take the wind out of our sales and just when we think that it can’t get any worse, it does! God tells us that … “Then there will be a time of anguish greater than any since nations first came into existence...”
I am Guilty
I’ve been thinking about this during this whole year. For me and for my family, it’s been a challenging year full of grief and difficult times. A year plagued with loss and hardship that has led me in particular to wonder about the meaning of all of this. I am a product of “American optimistic positive thinking” and in some ways, the “Prosperity Gospel” has also made a mark in my thinking. Everytime things go south, I think: “Things can only get better! We can pull together and we can face any challenge! I will come out on top”.
Think about all those things you have accomplished in your lifetime. Marriage, children, jobs, upward mobility and many other things. Is it because you are a Christian? Don’t the unbelievers also prosper? Let’s take a look at this from a bird’s eye view.
We are Americans!
Look how much we’ve accomplished as a people in just the last 100 years – equal rights, radio, tv, cars, air travel, microwaves, movies, the Internet, Starbucks. We are unstoppable. WE ARE AMERICANS!
However, those are the modern suppositions that I bring with me when I read scripture. And then I bump into the kind of stuff we see in Daniel and I realize that in spite of all the progress we’re making technologically and in terms of civilization – things continue to get worse. I realize that in spite of all the personal progress we have made, things have in fact continued to get worse.
“Then there will be a time of anguish greater than any since nations first came into existence…”
Families continue to fall apart – not only in the US, but in Mexico, and, and Israel, and Jaspan, and the UK.
We all live on the defensive. Husbands and wives and children are all being affected. I mean, even at church we have predator screening for everyone who works with our children (That’s a good thing).
The point is, we should not expect that somehow everything is going to magically get better and that we’ll all wake up someday and the problems will be gone. From the perspective of the prophet things continue to go down hill.
2. SOME PEOPLE WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND.
Look at verse 10 – “Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined by these trials. But the wicked will continue in their wickedness, and none of them will understand. Only those who are wise will know what it means.”
This is the positive spin on a nasty situation. There are two kinds of people in the world, those who find their lives are improved because of the ordeal, and those who are so caught up in the evilness of the era that they will remain clueless for eternity.
These are the people who are so distracted by the wickedness that they never see the train coming while they’re stopped across the track. You know how some people are in their cars, they are lost in their own worlds, music blaring, )bump, bump, boom, boom), puffing away, chattering with their friends and yet they are oblivious to the outside world.
“They don’t understand.”
But the good news is that these tough times, the opposition, the persecution, the marital strains, the addictions, all the trouble in the world will bring out the best in many of us.
Not that we’re looking for trouble as a means of self-improvement but we grow smarter and wiser through tough times than we do through the easy times.
“Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined by these trials.”
If you are old enough to remember the 9-11 attacks on America, I want you to take a look at the results of the tragedy. The terrorists thought that they would disrupt the nation but really it only strengthened the resolve and the character of the country. True, there were some disruption and the economy struggled in the midst of the uncertainty. But a lot more good came from this than the evil that was put into it.
Fire has a purifying effect on a lot of people.
In metal shop we used to melt soft drink cans (some of which was authorized and some not) which at that time were bi-metal. Once we got things hot enough the metals would separate and we’d scrape off the cheap scrap stuff that surfaced. And then we’d pour the purified aluminum into molds to make things out of it. Purification by fire. That’s what God is doing in your life when you are going through those difficult times.
3. PERSEVERE, THERE WILL BE AN END TO THE TROUBLE.
Verse 11 – “From the time the daily sacrifice is taken away and the sacrilegious object that causes desecration is set up to be worshiped, there will be 1,290 days. And blessed are those who wait and remain until the end of the 1,335 days!”
I think that the numbers have more symbolic value than literal value. Over the years various people have tried to assign these numbers to specific dates in calendars. Some have made predictions about the end of history and the return of Christ. But nobody has got it right to this point.
And that’s because numbers have more symbolic value than literal value in apocalyptic visions and dreams and they are trying to deal with them in an overly literal fashion.
Now, don’t ask me what that symbolic value is! I don’t know. But God knows and that is the message. God has an end in mind. It’s a mystery to us, but he knows. There will come a time when He will wrap things up (all in His time). Enough is enough!
The point is that there are only so many days of trouble and then when the end comes, it’s over. Therefore, perseverance is the name of the game. Don’t give up! You may be on the the 99th yardline with one to go, but you don’t know it because in this game only God can see how much yardage there is.
So trust him and keep on moving the ball down the field. The goal is down there somewhere.
4. BE CONFIDENT! YOU WILL RECEIVE YOUR INHERITANCE.
This is the underlying message to Daniel in verses 9 and 13. It’s kind of like the charge at the end of the worship service, except it’s at the end of all these visions.
Verse 9 – “But he said, ‘Go now, Daniel…’”
Verse 13 – “As for you, go your way until the end.”
When our kids were toddlers I used to push them on the swing and as I was pushing them I’d always say something like “Scram, get out out of here, get moving”. But, of course, they kept coming back. Gravity does that! And I’d harass them saying, “I thought I told you to get going, but you keep coming back.” And they’d giggle and giggle.
I was reminded of that when I read these verses because they sound a lot like what I was saying to my kids, except here the message to Daniel isn’t teasing.
Just Do It
Get going! Move out! The dream is over! No more visions! Get on with your life! And your life as the people of God.
And move out with confidence! the confidence that comes from knowing that things really will swing back God’s way and that God will recall us.
The second half of verse 13 – “You will rest, and then at the end of the days, you will rise again to receive the inheritance set aside for you.”
You aren’t going to see it all now but the inheritance that God has for you will eventually be yours. And you probably won’t see it all until the final resurrection.
Jump back to verse 1 — “At that time Michael, the archangel who stands guard over your nation, will arise. Then there will be a time of anguish greater than any since nations first came into existence. But at that time every one of your people whose name is written in the book will be rescued.”
God’s Family Registry
If your name is recorded in God’s family registry, you are scheduled for rescue.
And who are these people whose names are in the book? Those who put their faith and trust in God and persevere!
The Apostle Paul in Phil 4:3 – “And I ask you, my true teammate, to help these women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. And they worked with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.”
The Revelation of John (the book of Revelation) picks up this theme in 3:5 – “All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.”
Revelation 20:15 — “And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Revelation 21:27 — “Nothing evil will be allowed to enter” (that is, the new Jerusalem) “— no one who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty — but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”
The Ticket to the Future
Having your name written in God’s book of life seems to be the ticket to the future.
It’s not how good you’ve been, or how many little old ladies you’ve helped across the street, or how long you’ve been sober, or how much you didn’t cheat and steal. But it’s a matter of putting your trust in the author of the book. And when you do that, when you acknowledge him as Savior and as Master of your life, he writes you into the story in his book of everlasting life.
Daniel 12:2 – “Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
The idea of a future life is really kind of muted in the Old Testament. The idea of resurrection is not very explicit, except here in Daniel 12. This, by the way, is the only reference to “eternal life” in the entire Old Testament.
Some will rise to everlasting life because their names appear in the book, but others will rise to shame and everlasting contempt.
So, in John 11, when Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life” Jesus’ listeners were hearing him in the context of this Daniel 12 passage – for this was the most explicit reference to resurrection in the scriptures they had.
Daniel couldn’t have possibly seen or understood the whole thing. But the prophecy is really rooted in the resurrection of Jesus.
Verse 13 again – “…and then at the end of the days, you will rise again to receive the inheritance set aside for you…”
This is the good news.
This is what the Jewish prisoners of 6th century BC needed to hear. And really this is what we need to hear. There is hope! And it’s rooted in the resurrection.
All of this brings us back to the key point, which really is the key point for this end of year message.
IN THE END, IT BECOMES CLEAR THAT GOD IS IN CONTROL.
It’s looks like things are spinning out of control now, but that’s only because we lack perspective and because we’re not taking the resurrection factor into account.
Well, actually, that’s no longer true for you. You now know what the book of Daniel says. So let it shape the way you see the world. And let is shape your response to the challenges that the world throws at you.
May the tough times you are experiencing find a purpose in your future as you become the man that God created you to be.
Daniel Chapter 12 – The End Times
1“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. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise Or who impart wisdom will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. 4 But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”
5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. 6 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?”7 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. Or a year, two years and half a year When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.”
8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?”9 He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 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.11“From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.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.”
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