At That Time
Text: Daniel 12:1-3
Proper 28, B
At the time of this reading from the Old Testament Daniel is grieving over the fate of his people and Jerusalem. God sends a divine messenger to strengthen him and prepare him for the words of truth he must hear. Revealed to him are the coming conflicts between Persia and Greece, Egypt and Syria all culminating in the wicked reign of that contemptible person King Antiochus IV Epiphanes. War and violence, are coming also the persecution of God's people, but only for the time appointed by the Lord. The divine messenger tells Daniel that these latter days will be a time of testing for God's people prior to the coming of the Saviour. This end time will see the coming of the archenemy of God and His people who will put forth a final effort to destroy the kingdom of the God of gods.
It would surely be scary stuff for us to hear, if we were not already living in the midst of it all! It is precisely as we read in the Gospel from St. Mark: 9“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 12And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.
It does not take much looking around us to see the truth of it. This world of ours, this country of Canada even our friends and neighbours run further from God with each passing year. The proud and arrogant opposition to Christianity, and our Scriptures becomes more vocal every day. Christians are routinely judged, and often harshly or unfairly, simply for being Christian or for holding to the authority of the Bible. The freedoms we once enjoyed in this society are drying up and disappearing. We or our children may live long enough to see them revoked altogether.
Yes, such Words of warning from both the Old and New Testaments might be scary indeed, if we did not have God's sure Word of promise as we face those who would stand opposed to God. Consider the divine messenger's words to grieving Daniel: 1“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time.
When the persecutor rises up to subdue the world, Michael, the archangel will also arise. Trials and tribulation will come, but we will not face it alone. As fearful as the enemy is who stands against us, so glorious and powerful is the one who has been given care over us until Christ's coming. This Michael is the guardian angel who will carry out the command to deliver God's people in the time of great distress. This Michael and the devil have faced off once before, and at that time Michael threw satan out of heaven. His victory will be no less in the day of our suffering.
But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. At that time, the end of time, those written in the book of life will be delivered. There are several places in the Holy Scriptures that speak of this book of Life, or the Lamb's Book of life. The picture it paints is both a clear and comforting one. God keeps careful accounting of those who are His. Not one will be lost to the raging of the devil. Their names are recorded and remembered. These are the elect of God, those who will be saved. But how does one's name come to be written thus? How is it that we are promised this deliverance?
Our Epistle states it beautifully: 18Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. 19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Your name, dear friends, is written in the Book of Life with the very blood of the Lamb of God. It was written there the moment the Holy Spirit brought you to faith in your Lord and Saviour. For most of you that was at the moment of your Baptism. The day God washed you with the pure water of His everlasting promise. The day He placed His Holy and precious name over you and your whole life. For others it happened as you heard the promise of forgiveness in Jesus Christ, and by the working of the Spirit your heart grabbed hold to the hope it held forth.
But however it came to be, at that time your name was recorded this eternal promise became yours as well. 2And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
What happens here is not the end. It is not the ultimate. It is not the finale or the conclusion. There is another act to follow. The final resurrection of the dead. Death does not last forever, there will be a resurrection of all who have lived. Christian and non-Christian alike. Indeed, these words spoken to Daniel are quoted almost verbatim by our Lord Jesus in John 5:28. Make no mistake, there is a resurrection both to everlasting life and to everlasting shame!
At that time of Christ's second coming everyone shall return to life in the final resurrection, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt. The believers raised and destined for heaven, the unbelievers, those who cooperated with the antichrist, to his hell with all its torments. Knowing what must be then, should give us a fierce motivation to make a difference now, in this time, this day, this place … for at that time there will be no turning back or changing of minds. Today is our opportunity to be a light to the world. Right now is our chance to point others to that free righteousness in Christ.
3And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. Those who are wise, or those who impart wisdom … Those instructing by word or deed, strengthening others in faith. Those leading others to the truth of Jesus Christ, making others wise unto salvation. In the face of opposition and persecution it is not an easy task. It is often a thankless job full of heartache. It is a job that will only get more difficult with time. Yet for those who are willing to step forward in faith. For those willing to follow Christ, to stand firm alongside Michael and the other angels ... Their promised glory is a blessing of God's grace. Their waiting reward, an everlasting gift from God.
23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
These three short verses of the our Old Testament reading are words of encouragement for Daniel at that time and for us in this one. The archangel Michael is in charge of God's people. They will be delivered no matter how fierce the suffering. On that final day, at that time, those whose name are written in God's book – you and me and all those washed by the blood of the Lamb – will rise to everlasting life in the end. We don't know when that time will come, nor can we. Don't waste your precious time worrying about when it might arrive. Better to go your way, knowing that we are always in God's hands always. Live the life he has given you to live. Share the good news with those who don't deserve it, but who so desperately need it. And do so all the while taking comfort that He has allotted a place in heaven for us through His Son. And at that time nothing will keep us away from it! AMEN.