Living for God in a Secular World
The End – Daniel 12
Youth & Young Adult Pastor Brian Pell
Good morning, everyone. It’s a joy to be with you, and you’re more stuck with me than you realize because in a few short days we’ll be celebrating communion together…and, you’ll have to listen to me preach again.
I’m excited to wrap up the book of Daniel with you, and I want to remind you a little bit of where we’ve been:
In the beginning of the book we’re given a picture of Daniel and his buddies being taken by King Nebuchadnezzar.
And, over the course of time we get to see God intervene in power in their lives…whether it’s Daniel’s ability to interpret dreams and getting promoted, or Nebuchadnezzar thinking awfully highly of himself and throwing Daniel’s friends into a fiery furnace and them being saved, or Nebuchadnezzar thinking too highly of himself again and God humbling him, or the handwriting on the wall for King Belshazzar, or Daniel and the lions’ den with King Darius. Time and time again we see God at work.
Halfway through the book we get a change, though. And, we get to see the vision that God sends to Daniel of the way that history unfolds.
Today, we get to wrap up that history a little bit.
So, about four years ago, when I was a sophomore in college, my brother enrolled at West Point for his freshman year. All during that school year my good friend/roommate and I had talked about going to visit my brother. For those of you that don’t know, freshman year at any of the military academies is a bear. So, we wanted to be able to visit him and cheer him up, and we’d never gotten to explore West Point at all. It seemed like a cool idea.
Well, during the spring (right near the end of the year) we decided we were finally going to follow through and go visit him.
Now, my good friend (his name is Anthony) is a pilot. As a matter of fact, he’s building his own airplane right now. But anyway, he was going to fly us from western Pennsylvania to Southeast New York on the Hudson.
We decided to leave on a weekend when there was a big, formal dance on campus because we didn’t want anything to do with that (it was before I met my wife). We went to the little airport where his plane was, and the weather was just not cooperating. We needed a certain amount of visibility to legally take off and fly. So, we sat at the airport, constantly checking the weather. After about two or three hours of checking and checking and doubting whether or not we should go, the cloud coverage got to the bare minimum that is technically legal for us to take off…so, naturally, we ran over to his plane and got her fired up. And, we took off.
If the FAA knew about what we were doing, I’m quite confident it wouldn’t have happened. Fortunately, Anthony is an unbelievably talented pilot, and we make it to West Point.
We hung out with my brother and had a great weekend. We stayed with the chaplain in the Cadet Chapel and discovered that there’s a secret bookshelf door between the house and the chapel itself, which is awesome.
Sunday night came and we headed back home…we took off and almost immediately were bombarded by rain and clouds again. So, Anthony decided it wasn’t a good idea to take off. We went back, stayed another night, skipped a day of classes, and left again on Monday.
Monday, we took off and were flying relatively close to the ground (scud running) and avoiding the pockets of rain and clouds that we could see. Eventually, we decided to land near where my grandparents live in Pennsylvania. We stayed the night, and left before the crack of dawn the next morning.
So, early Tuesday morning we’re flying again towards Grove City. We avoided the bad weather but needed to get gas. So, we flew towards an airport, then diverted to another one, then diverted to another one…
And, before we knew it, we’re in the middle of the mountains and the only thing we could see was snow pounding against the windshield and the ground below us.
It’s in those moments that he and I are both at our finest…cool and calm under pressure. But, internally we were both freaking out. We can’t see anything. We could fly into a mountain at any moment.
I had a few seconds there where I really wrestled with my own mortality. I genuinely didn’t know if I was going to make it out of that airplane, and, honestly, very few people knew that we were even up there.
Can you remember the first time that happened to you? Like, “I don’t know if I’m going to make it through this.”
Fortunately, once again, he’s an incredible pilot, and we got out of it without any issues…and sure enough we were in cloudless skies less than ten minutes later.
But that’s what Daniel forces us to do at the end of this book – wrestle a bit with our own mortality, the mortality of the world, and what all of that means for us today.
So, let’s dive in. Doug has asked me to have you guys stand, and we’ll read Daniel 12 together.
- The Reality of the End
So, why tell you a story about when my life flashed before my eyes? Because, it’s in those kinds of moments that I’m reminded that my life is only temporary. And, the same is true of your life and the world you’re operating in
Due to the timing of everything, we weren’t able to dive into Daniel 11. But, in Daniel 11 God gives Daniel a vision for all of history, really. So fittingly, in Daniel 12 we get a picture of the end of all things.
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. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. -Daniel 12:1
But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase. -Daniel 12:4
But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days. -Daniel 12:13
First of all, that’s awesome. Michael, one of God’s angels, is sort of a watchtower and guardian angel to Christians all over the world.
Second of all, there will be a time of trouble that leads up to the end of all things as we know it. There are a number of different places in Scripture that we get a picture of the sort of things that will be happening to Christians and to the world at large. We’re not going to go into the details of those things right now, but it’s important to note the reality of them because we’re not promised an easy life.
In some ways we were promised a more difficult life because of Christ. And, according to Daniel’s vision, the grand scheme of history is culminating in such a way that things only get more difficult.
However, I know for a fact that there are three different types of people out there, as far as your feelings for the end of all things as we know them. I feel the need to address each of you right now. In fact, I know some of each of these personally:
There are those that don’t really care about thinking about the end of all things…and, I got to be honest, this is probably the group of people I’m most closely aligned with.
To these people, I’d like to read…
For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. -1 Thessalonians 4:15-18
Paul makes it clear that the return of Christ is something we should be thinking about. In fact, it’s something we should be using to encourage each other, as we think about our eternal future.
There are those that get anxious about the idea of the end of all things. It sounds scary and unnecessary, and they don’t want to see friends and family get separated forever by all of the things that’ll be happening.
To these people I’d like to read…
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” -Revelation 21:1-5
Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught. -Proverbs 3:25-26
The end of all things is going to be awesome. You’re missing the point entirely if you allow it to bother you. “But, I want to live an awesome life in the here and now.”
This life, quite literally, cannot compare to the life we’ve got coming forever. And, the sooner it gets here, the better off you’ll be. We’re going to be hanging out with other believers and hanging out with God Himself. We’ll be worshiping and enjoying everything.
There are those that are anxiously awaiting the end of all things. They’d much rather be there, so much so that they let that future reality make their current reality seem like a waste.
To these people I’d like to caution…
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. -Philippians 1:21-26
Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” -Luke 17:20-21
If you look too strongly to the future, you’re going to miss the beauty of the Kingdom of God in the here and now. God is doing incredible things in our midst, and there is a great amount of work to be done.
So, know that the end is coming. We don’t know when, but it is coming. And know that it’s going to be awesome and exciting, but know that there’s a lot of great things that are happening and need to be done in the here and now.
Let’s keep moving…
- The Recognition of the Options
“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. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And 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. -Daniel 12:1-3
Okay, so what is this telling us? It’s saying that the end is coming, and for the life of every single human being there are only two outcomes. That’s it.
Doesn’t matter what you believe. Whether you’re a scientific naturalist and you think all of this is shenanigans. Whether you’re spiritualist and think that everybody ultimately worships the same thing/s. Whether you’re an agnostic and just flat out don’t know what to think about God and the universe. There are two possible outcomes for you in the grand scheme of eternity.
One – people shall be delivered, some to everlasting life, those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above
Two – some to shame and everlasting contempt
That’s it. Those are the options, and we know that every single human being in history has the offer for the former, but many, many people have chosen and will choose the latter.
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. -1 Timothy 2:3-4
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. -Romans 1:18-25
That’s the harsh reality that comes with the end of all things. And, you have to face it. As much as I’d rather tell you that, “everybody should just love everybody, and everything is going to be fine in the end.” I can’t do that because the Bible doesn’t do that. God wants us to have the truth.
And, this one’s difficult because we like to play this game subconsciously, or even consciously, that there are more options than that…something like, “When I die, or when my family dies, we’ll all be together because we’re a good, relatively well-behaved family.” Or, “when it’s all over, I’ll just rest in peace because there’s nothing after this.”
It’s kind of like my dog, Ryder, who was staying at a friend’s house this week for a few hours. He managed to sneak out the back of their fence and nearly got hit by various vehicles at a major intersection near rush hour. Fortunately, there were some boys there that helped him cross the street by baiting him with Doritos, and we got him picked up and taken care of…
But now, when we’re at these friends’ house, he doesn’t understand that there are only two options…if he’s going to be in the backyard, someone has to be with him. Or, he’s not going out. In his mind, things should be like they were when he could roam and do his thing, but that’s not in the cards now. These two options are his reality, and the same is true for us, no matter how badly we want there to be more options.
To the ones that God reveals Himself…to the ones that fall in love with the person and work of Christ, we see that the trajectory of all things works out in the best possible way. We can have that first option for the outcome of our lives. Our sin and separation from God get taken care of, and we simply get to enjoy Him and grow in Him for all of eternity. We’ll be fulfilled, and we’ll be free.
We’ll be delivered. We’ll be have everlasting life. We’ll shine like the brightness of the sky above.
How does that happen? Let’s keep reading…
- The Reign of the Savior
And someone said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream, “How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?” And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream; he raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished. -Daniel 12:6-7
We see Daniel is still discussing things with the angels that are helping along the visions, and they run into a guy clothed in linen. Does anybody have any guesses as to who that might be?
Very good, Sunday school answer…Jesus.
It’s Jesus. And, to whom does Daniel send his questions? Right, to Jesus. And, who has the answers to his questions? Exactly – Jesus.
Daniel is being shown the end of all things, and who is perfectly in charge? Who understands what’s going on? Who has a perfect picture of where things should be? You got it – Jesus.
The God of the universe is in control of everything, and His name is Jesus.
He is the one that knows where history should go and how it should unfold. He’s the one that is able to take us from shame and contempt to freedom and fulfillment. And, that only comes through what He was willing to do for you and me.
We intentionally and fully separate ourselves from God, but He bursts into our reality and makes Himself known. Once He does that, we know life. We know what it means to have joy and be free. This is the offer on the table.
I like to use a metaphor with our students that I learned from a professor in college in college:
You’ve probably heard that those who haven’t been saved are like people that are drowning in the middle of the ocean during a storm. God reaches out a hand and you can grab it or you can drown…
Actually, a more accurate description is that, instead of swimming and struggling, we’re actually at the bottom of the ocean…we’re faced down…and, we’re happy about it.
The only way we’re getting out of that is if God invades our space and shows us Himself.
And, He does that through Jesus
It’s when we’re at our dirtiest and grimiest that He loves us…not when we’re pretty and have our act together.
It’s the God-man that came down two thousand plus years ago and strolled into town on a colt to a bunch of people with palm branches shouting, “Save us…bring us salvation.”
And, He has. He’s done it for you and for me, and He’d love nothing more than to continue that work in you today.