Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel, Day 39. Conclusion

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 39

The angel has been telling Daniel of the wicked king of the end times known as the Antichrist. This person will establish a one-world government, which will be a dictatorship. He will be the leader of the government and also the general of the war machine, into which he will pour all the resources he can muster. He will also set up a one-world religion and demand that all worship be directed to him. But before the angel informs Daniel that it will be a time of trouble for the Jews like never before, he paused at the end of Chapter 11 to assure Daniel that the wicked king will come to his end. The time of trouble won't last forever.

Now we move on to Chapter 12, the conclusion of the book of Daniel. The angel says, "At that time Michael, the prince who protects your people, will arise." (Daniel 12:1a) The phrase "at that time" picks up where Chapter 11 left off, when we found the Antichrist waging war on every front. 

Michael is the archangel assigned to the nation of Israel. Earlier in Daniel we found the angel Gabriel referring to him as "one of the chief princes" (Daniel 10:13) and calling him "your prince" to Daniel (Daniel 10:21) In Chapter 10 we found Michael fighting on the side of the people of Israel. He is also mentioned in the book of Jude, "But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of  Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'" (Jude 1:9) Moses died on a mountaintop after viewing the promised land from a distance, then the Lord buried him there. No man knows the location of Moses' grave. Evidently two of the Lord's angels (the fallen angel Satan and the faithful archangel Michael) argued over the interment of Moses' body. Satan may have wanted Moses' resting place made known, perhaps to entice the children of Israel into idolatry. The devil may have hoped the people would revere Moses as a type of God, worshiping him and praying to him, building a shrine or temple to him at the location of his burial. Michael, acting on behalf of God and in God's power, won the dispute and to this day no human being knows where Moses is buried. Satan knew idolatry lurked in the hearts of the people who had been brought out of Egypt, where idolatry was in their face twenty-four hours a day. He intended that the grave of Moses be a snare to them, but God's will prevailed as it always does. The book of Revelation tells us that Michael and his angels fought against Satan and his rebellious angels, overcoming them and throwing them out of heaven. (Revelation 12:7-9) The world often tries to present Satan to us as God's counterpart, His arch enemy, as if they are equals. But Satan isn't even the equal of the archangel Michael, much less the equal of God. 

In the time of the fiercest persecution, Michael the archangel will stand and fight for Israel in the most heated battle of all. "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." (Daniel 12:1b) The prophet Jeremiah foresaw the Great Tribulation and said of it, "How awful that day will be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it." (Jeremiah 30:7) If we thought leaders like Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Adolf Hitler hated the Jews, their rage will pale in comparison to that of the Antichrist. Satan hates God's covenant people because Satan hates God. The only way he can strike back at God is through God's people. But he will not prevail over them anymore than he prevailed over the body of Moses. In that day, "They will serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them." (Jeremiah 30:9) "David their king" here is the Lord Jesus Christ, the king from the line of David, the Messiah and Risen One. The last thing Satan wants is for Israel to accept Jesus Christ as Messiah and King, but he will not be able to prevent this.

Next we find one of many Old Testament references to the resurrection of the dead, "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 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 12:2-3) There will be people still alive on the earth when Christ returns to rule the world, so the angel does not say all will rise but that multitudes will rise. If we ever needed any more proof that there is no such thing as a universal salvation, this is it. All of mankind will not be saved, but in the end each person receives the fate he or she chose for themselves. Those who were faithful to the Lord rise to everlasting life, receiving rewards for what they have accomplished in His name, such as sharing the gospel and leading others to the Lord. These bear no shame or contempt because they accepted Christ who bore the shame and contempt for them. Those who rejected Him rise from the dead to spend eternity in exile from His presence, condemned by their sins, forever bearing their burden of shame. 

"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." (Daniel 12:4) It was customary to place important documents inside jars and to seal the lids with wax to protect and preserve the documents. Daniel is not told to keep the prophecy from the people, but to preserve it. It was also sealed in the sense that it could not really be understood until the things contained in the prophecy began to come to pass. 

"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) The man clothed in linen is the one who has been giving Daniel the prophecy and he says that the worst part of the Great Tribulation, the time of Jacob's trouble, will last for three and a half years. As we recall, the Antichrist will broker a peace deal in the Middle East, a seven-year cease fire, but halfway through the seven years he will stop all sacrifice and offering to God and will set himself up in the temple and demand to be worshiped. The final three and a half years of the Great Tribulation will be the worst trouble the Jews have ever experienced. The Lord Jesus predicted this day and gave the people a sign to watch for, "So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel---let the reader understand---then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains." (Matthew 24:15-16) In Jesus' day the desecration of the temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes was in the past, and the people understood that Daniel's prediction of this had already been fulfilled. They could, therefore, also trust that Daniel's prediction of the wicked king of the end times would come to pass. The Antichrist will desecrate the third temple in a manner similar to that of Antiochus, and when the people of Israel see it they are to flee Jerusalem while they still can. 

From his standpoint on the timeline of history, Daniel could not make sense of all the kings and kingdoms that have been involved in this prophecy, or how all these things would come about. "I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, 'My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?'" (Daniel 12:8) 

"He replied, 'Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled 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.'" (Daniel 12:9-10) Looking back through time, we can now see that much of Daniel's prophecy has already been fulfilled. The kings and kingdoms described in it have risen and fallen. All that remains to be fulfilled is the final portion regarding the times of the end. Daniel lived before Christ and since Daniel's day many have been purified and made spotless by the blood of the Lamb. Many more will be purified and made spotless as they come to faith in Him. But there are those who will never want to know Him, who wouldn't choose Him under any circumstances. These are those of whom the Lord said, "If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." (Luke 16:31) So the angel says that the wicked will continue to be wicked, they will never be convinced, they will never surrender their lives to the One who surrendered His life for them. They will not understand, not because they are incapable, but because they choose not to understand. If the inability to understand was something they could not help, there would be no punishment for it. But since the reward of the wicked is exile from the presence of God and the presence of His saints, along with eternal shame and contempt, we know that the failure to understand is voluntary.

"From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of 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 12:11-12) We find another reference to three and a half years in the 1,290 days. There is also the addition of forty-five days, at the end of which there is a blessing for the ones who wait for it. There is so much debate and confusion and disagreement about the meaning of the extra forty-five days that I can't offer a firm conclusion about it. Christ returns at the end of the three and a half years, so some scholars believe it takes forty-five days to judge the people of the earth, and blessed are the ones who reach the end because this means they have made it through the judgment and have been found not guilty through the blood of Christ. Another, and quite good, theory is that it may take forty-five days to cleanse the temple of the desecration perpetrated upon it by the Antichrist. This is probably one of those prophecies we will not understand until the appointed time comes.

Like anyone else would in his situation, Daniel wants to know more. Like any other child of God, he eagerly desires to understand all the details about the Lord's coming kingdom. But the angel says, "As for you, go your way until the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance." (Daniel 12:13)

When we read the beautiful and precious promises of Scripture, we look around at this old fallen world and long for Christ's appearing. We pray not only "Your kingdom come" but "Your kingdom come today". We want to be done with troubles and trials. We long to see Christ seated on David's throne ruling the world in peace and righteousness. There are days when we receive unpleasant news or turn the TV on only to hear horrific stories of inhumanity, and our hearts cry out, "My Lord, what will the outcome of all this be?" And our Lord says to us the same thing the angel said to Daniel, "Go your way. Keep being an example of the faith. Keep sharing the gospel and leading others to righteousness. The end is not yet and there is work still to be done."

I've had a hard time saying goodbye to several of the Bible characters we've studied, and Daniel is one of them. But it isn't really "goodbye". It's "see you later", because we know where Daniel is today: he is resting in the Lord. We also know where Daniel will be when Christ reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords: in His presence with us. Someday Daniel can tell us in person all the things that happened in his life and about all the awesome revelations he received. And we will be able to tell him what an example he has been to us in the faith and how his life encouraged us to live lives of purpose.

Rest well, Daniel. See you later.

We close our study of the book of Daniel with this beautiful worship song.

No comments:

Post a Comment