************ Sermon on Daniel 12 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 14, 2006
In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia Daniel was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris. He looked up and there before him was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude (cf Daniel 10:1,4-5).
The man clothed in linen talked to and with Daniel; the words of their conversation are found in Daniel 10, 11, & 12. In Daniel 12:6 it is the same man clothed in linen that we see "above the waters of the river." As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the man dressed in linen was an angel sent by God to comfort and strengthen and protect Daniel and the people of God.
In chapter 10 the man in linen tells Daniel that he – and all angels, for that matter – come in response to the prayers of God's people; it is the prayers of the saints that mobilize the angels of God to come to their aid. In chapter 11 the man clothed in linen tells Daniel three things:
1. The church, the covenant people of God, is central to world history.
2. The Antichrist hates and attacks the church.
3. The Antichrist's opposition to the church will lead to his downfall.
Now in chapter 12 the man clothed in linen tells Daniel about the final deliverance of the people of God.
A As we have been going through the last 6 chapters of Daniel we have discovered all sorts of horrible, fearful prophecies. We have read about wars and nations in turmoil, about kings and kingdoms that rise and fall. We have heard of frightening beasts and the Antichrist. We've been told about the sufferings of the church.
At the beginning of chapter 12 Daniel is once more shown this dark picture. The man clothed in linen says to him:
(Dan 12:1b) ... There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.Jesus Himself used words very similar to this in warning us about the days to come:
(Mat 24:21-22) For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now -- and never to be equaled again. (22) If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive ...
What is obvious is that the last days will be very difficult for the people of the Lord. The worship of the one true God Who reveals Himself to us in Christ will be banned. Christians will no longer be allowed to fellowship with and draw strength from other Christians. Those who confess the name of Christ will be without work or out of business, for only those who bear the mark of the beast can buy and sell. Day after day, God's children will be subjected to heresy and blasphemy. The blood of the martyrs will flow as never before. Satan's goal is to break and destroy the power of God's people (Dan 12:7). He wants to drive the church underground, like rodents fleeing for their holes in fear and trembling. He wants to remove the church's influence, its light, its effect upon the world of men.
B Against this dark background the man in linen also tells Daniel some good news:
(Dan 12:1c,2a) ... at that time your people -- everyone whose name is found written in the book -- will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake to everlasting life ...We see that it is not the will of the Lord to let the story of Daniel end on a negative note. The enemies of God and His church cannot and may not have the last word. The book of Daniel, you see, is good news; it is a proclamation of the triumph of Christ! Therefore, the final chapter of Daniel includes a song of deliverance.
The man clothed in linen tells Daniel that the church will not go under. God will not permit His holy ones to be destroyed. "At that time your people ... will be delivered."
We don't need to be told where this deliverance will come from, for we all know. The people of God will not be saved through the strength of their faith or through their courageous perseverance but only through Christ. No matter what the situation the church knows not to look to the left or to the right but only straight up to the throne of heaven.
What happens when the church falls on its knees and implores God for His help, His strength, His power, and His grace? The man clothed in linen tells Daniel that God's angels from above will come to rescue the church:
(Dan 12:1) At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise.At the right moment, the legions from heaven will take up their positions alongside the people of God.
Daniel is not told exactly what the angels will do. But just as evil spirits influence the children of this world in an invisible way, so the power of God's angels will influence God's saints. Just as an angel strengthened Jesus in Gethsemane, so will angels give strength to Christians to drink their own cup of suffering. We may not see them, but those shining figures are there. Who can say how much we already owe them and how many dangers we have escaped because of their intervention.
This does not mean we ought to be thankful to the angels for their protecting and strengthening care. Rather, we are to be thankful to Christ. It is He Who sent them and they come on His behalf.
C Who will be saved when the great deliverance comes? The man in linen tells Daniel that those who are saved are those "whose name is found written in the book" – every single one of them. In this book are the names of all those whom God recognizes as His own. Much to our surprise some are not on that list that we would expect to be; and, some are on that list that we would not expect to be. The reason for this is that God looks into the heart whereas we only look at the outward appearance.
Those who are saved in the great deliverance have their names written in the book. This means they are sinners – for don't forget, it is the Lamb's book. Their names appear in the book not because of anything they have done but only because of the Lamb, whose blood has washed away all their sins. Therefore, no one whose name is recorded in heaven has any reason to be proud. Instead, the Savior asks us to rejoice and be amazed that even our names appear in the book. Praise God, in other words, for the wonder of His grace!
D Daniel is also told the greatness of the deliverance. The man in linen says:
(Dan 12:2) Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Here, the man in linen indicates the glory of the children of God by means of a double contrast.
The first contrast has to do with death versus life. The angel speaks of those who sleep in the dust of the earth. He wants us to picture death after death and grave after grave. But listen! A trumpet will sound! Those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake! This makes me think of Ezekiel. The hand of the Lord put Ezekiel in the middle of a valley full of dry bones. Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy to the bones.
(Ezek 37:7-8,10) So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. (8) I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them ... (10) So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet--a vast army.Wow! That's the sort of vision Daniel was given.
The second contrast has to do with the fate of the righteous as compared to the wicked. The righteous will be awakened to everlasting life. What a glorious awakening that will be! That glorious morning will never be followed by evening. On that day God's people will be given bodies of glory just like Christ's; they will exchange sinner's rags for garments of righteousness; they will be given the glory of the heavens and will shine like the stars.
Those who don't believe, on the other hand, will awaken to shame and everlasting contempt. They, too, will be reunited with their bodies – monstrous bodies, misshapen bodies, revolting bodies, bodies full of the horror and ugliness of sin.
E Tribulation and deliverance. What a message given to Daniel. Terrifying and exciting at the same time. But is it the truth? How does Daniel know he can believe what the man in linen tells him? To prevent any doubt or question in Daniel's mind, the angel says:
(Dan 12:4,9) But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end ... Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end.This doesn't mean Daniel is to keep the words secret, locked away, hidden, out of sight. Rather, Daniel was to seal them so that he would be able to preserve them, just as valuables are locked away for safe-keeping in a vault. God wants His Word preserved because it is only by searching the Scripture that God's people are reminded and assured of God's great deliverance.
II How Long?
A There must have been great joy in Daniel's heart as he listened to the angel's message about deliverance. Yet, imagine the pain he felt as he thought about the severe tribulation that would come before the deliverance. It was one of the other two angels who suddenly appeared who asked the question that is on Daniel's mind:
(Dan 12:6b) How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?How long?
Daniel didn't have to wait long to get an answer. In fact, he didn't have to wait at all:
(Dan 12:7) 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. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed."
Daniel heard but Daniel did not understand, so he asked his question again. Again the angel gives an answer:
(Dan 12:11-12) "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.
These are all rather mysterious words. But as we all realize, no one can know the day or the hour of Christ's return. Thus the angel did not intend to give Daniel or us a date that can be marked on the calendar. The language used here, then, can only be figurative. In fact, the Lord Jesus strips these words of a literal meaning when He simply reformulates them to say, "... he who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Mt 24:13).
When we start to puzzle over what these words mean, we notice that the length of the final struggle is reckoned in days. The angel could have said months or years or even centuries, but instead he mentions days. This means that the oppression of the church will not be a matter of centuries or generations or decades but only of days. There will certainly be some very difficult days, but they will only be days. One by one we can mark them off on the calendar knowing full well that someday the last day will be marked. On that day the tribulation will end and the deliverance will begin.
B In a certain sense the answer to Daniel's question must be seen as God's refusal to answer. God did not and does not want to answer the question, "How long?" The answer was withheld from Daniel because he did not need to know it. There are only two things that Daniel needs to know. The first thing Daniel needs to know is that Christ will eventually deliver His chosen ones. The people of God may lose all their power, they may be horribly persecuted, but the Lord's right hand will intervene and rescue them. So take courage! Don't worry! In the end Jesus is going to win and you will be saved!
The second thing that Daniel needs to know is that he must continue to be faithful to the Lord. Instead of worrying about times and dates and seasons, Daniel must make sure that he is diligently doing the work the Lord has called him to do. "As for you," says the angel, "go your way till the end" (Dan 12:13). This reminds me of what we read in the book of Acts. Just before the Ascension the disciples asked Jesus, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?" Jesus' reply is most instructive:
(Acts 1:7-8) "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. (8) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Jesus is telling them not to worry about times or dates; instead, they must concentrate on being witnesses; instead of asking when or how long, they are to ask instead if they are doing Christ's work.
Like Daniel, we too don't know or understand all that will happen at the end. But this we do know: in the end it is Jesus Who is going to win! And, like Daniel, we must make sure we are doing the work the Lord has called us to do.
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