November 17-19, 2012
Third Weekend in End Times – Saints Triumphant Sunday
Pastor Don Sutton
“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 will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”
A number of years ago I was visiting a shut-in member at Sleepy Eye Care Center and we got to talking about the senior years. He told me, “Whatever you do, do get old!” I relied, “I only have one alternative.” Then I went on to say, “I thought when you get old, those are the golden years.” He replied, “Yah. But they get tarnished quickly.”
As God speaks to us today, he reminds us that not do elderly people become tarnished in the “golden years,” we are all tarnished in this life affected by sin. Illnesses, accidents, problems, pressures, and age tarnish us in one way or another. But at the same time God gives us an important message:
“We May Be Tarnished; But We Will Be Glorified”
….at that time
“At that time…” This picture points us ahead to the end times just before and including the return of Jesus at the end of time. “At that time…,” Daniel prophesies, “There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.”
This week we saw and heard about the distressing and horrible things that happened to a missile and bomb exchange between Israel and the Palestinians. It was only weeks ago we heard of the devastation caused by hurricane Sandy. This year we have also heard of earthquakes, tornados, crime and other unsettling things. This has been going on for centuries. All these things in addition to the illnesses, accidents and other problems of life, have a way of tarnishing life.
Daniel pictures, however, a time of trouble never equaled through all of history. In teaching his disciples about the last times, Jesus spoke of the time in this way, “For then there will be a great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again.”(Matt 24:21) This is a time, spoken of in the Bible, when Satan will be given more freedom from his bondage and will make one last-ditch effort to bring down the Church of God and lead God’s people into an eternity in hell. But God’s word indicates that although Satan will cause much distress in the world, his defeat which Christ brought about with Jesus’ death and resurrection, will result in Satan’s ultimate downfall.
So why does the Lord tell us these things? To prepare us. The Lord is also telling us, “If this distress happens in your life-time, don’t give into the devil. Don’t give up the faith. Don’t lose hope.”
The great prince – Michael
God gives assurance that in these last times he will be there to help. As we look at God’s picture painted by Daniel, we see the Great prince, the arch-angel Michael. He is the chief of angels. Remember that angels are not people who have died and whose spirits have gone to heaven. Angels are spirits whom God created to serve God and his people. They are many in number. They are powerful. The devil was a good angel of God until he and other angels rebelled against God and were thrown out of heaven and into hell.
Now the devil causes all kinds of distress in the world and in the last times will cause the greatest distress the world has ever know.
Daniel shows us that through all the distress caused by the devil in this world, Michael, the arch-angel, along with all the other angels of God, is protecting God’s people. Isn’t this wonderful thing to know? As we live through the difficulty of the last years and enter the final days of life, God’s angels are here to minister to us in ways that perhaps we do not see or hear. This means, too, that in these difficult days of decisions to be made and sorrows to be dealt with, God’s angels are ministering to you as they did for Elijah, for Daniel, for the three men in the fiery furnace and for Jesus when he was tempted by Satan or in turmoil in the Garden of Gethsemane. God’s angels are with us and all of God’s people to get us through the grief of time and preserve us for the glory of eternity. God himself is at work with his angels to deliver us from this sinful world so that everyone whose name is written in the book of life will be delivered.
The book of life
We see and hear of the “Book of Life.” This is really a listing of the family of God. It was written before the world every came to be when God chose his people in Christ in eternity. This is when he wrote your name into the Book of Life. Your name is there not because of what you would do or not do. Sin has made you incapable of deserving such a membership just as it does for me. God, out of grace, wrote our names in the Book of Life in view of what Jesus did for us. He perfectly obeyed God for you; he suffered sin’s curse and died for you. So already when you were conceived and born into this world, your name was written in the Book of Life. You came to faith because of that. You will remain a believer until death because of that. God’s angels are with you because of that. And because God, before the foundations of the world were ever laid, wrote your name in the Book of Life, we see you in another part of Daniel’s picture.
Take a closer look -”Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” In this picture of Daniel we see the resurrection of the dead on the last day. St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise ……” Daniel wrote and Jesus emphasized in John 5 that not only will the bodies of believers rise, but also bodies of unbelievers. So Daniel shows crowds coming out of the cemeteries, and the seas and the dust of the earth. Those who didn’t want anything to do with God in time, will find that God doesn’t want anything to do with them in eternity. At death, if they have died before Jesus’ second coming, God sent their souls to an eternity in hell. At the resurrection, God will publicize that decree and extend it to the body. So the unbelievers, body and soul, will be forever in everlasting contempt and shame.
But as we look at the picture, we also see those whose names were written in the Book of Life. Their bodies have risen to everlasting life. If we could see all the fine details, if we could look at all the faces, if we have died before Jesus returns, ours is among them. We are alive. We are glorified. We shine like the brightness of the heavens, like the stars for ever and ever. This is what Daniel pictures – “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens and those who lead many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” There is no disease. There is no pain. There are no problems. The old order of things is remembered no more. There is only peace, joy and pleasure forevermore.
God, through Daniel, shows us that this is what happens to the wise. God is not speaking of those who are worldly wise, but of those who through the use of the Bible became aware that they were sinful, deserved death and hell from God because of their condition, but saw Jesus the Savior and believed. As a Christian you are wise in this way. By God’s grace, through God’s word you came to see your sinfulness and what you deserved because of it – hell. By God’s grace you saw Jesus, holy and pure in your place. Through God’s word you saw Jesus, carrying your sin, my sin and that of the whole world, suffering for us, dying for us, and then on the third day, rising again for us that we might have forgiveness and eternal life. By the power of the Holy Spirit you saw this in God’s word and became wiser than the greatest of worldly philosophers, scientists, historians, mathematicians, etc. You became wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus.
Shine like the stars
Right now the souls of those who died with faith in Jesus shine like the brightness of the heavens, like the stars forever. When Jesus comes and the archangel, Michael, with him, the body that likes in the darkness of the casket within the depths of the earth, will shine in the same way. Should you die before Jesus comes, your soul will shine in glory. When he returns and raises the dead, then your body, reunited with your soul, will shine too. Should Jesus come before you die, when he glorifies you, both body and soul will shine in glory. So in this life we may get a bit tarnished, but we will live in glory.
But there is something else we need to take home with us. Daniel wrote in verse 3, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” Daniel isn’t talking about two different groups of people. This emphasizes God’s plan that those who are wise to salvation through faith in Jesus, will not keep this wisdom to themselves. They will want to share with others so that the too may become wise to salvation through faith in Jesus and wear his righteousness. We may think of ministers, church school teachers, missionaries and evangelists. But this is parents bringing their children in baptism, teaching their children God’s word and setting an example of godly living for their children. This is the family member or friend who comforts family or friends with the good news of the gospel. This is the Christian who in talking with others has an opportunity to witness to their faith in Jesus, do so with the result the Holy Spirit works faith in a person. The point the Lord makes is this, “I want you to tell others about Jesus.”
“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” We may be tarnished in life, but we will be glorified.