A sermon on Daniel 12:1-3 for the 26th Sunday after Pentecost, November 15/18, 2018.
We roll around. Our eyes, barely open, squint at the clock. All of a sudden a shot of adrenaline rushes through our body. We jump out of bed. We run around trying to make up for lost time. The alarm failed to go off. Frantically, the scream goes out, “Wake up!” The kids quickly need to get ready for school. We hastily dress in order to go to work.
This situation can be very frustrating. We have our morning routine down. We plan out the amount of time it takes to get ready. We don’t mind hitting the snooze button every now and then, but when the alarm fails to go off, we wake up in a panic rushing around trying to get ready for the day.
A time is coming when the cry will go out for all people to wake up. It will not to awaken the world from a physical sleep, but it will wake all from the sleep of death.
- Free from distress.
- Free from death.
Famous stories abound in the book of Daniel. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar wanted them burned to a crisp for disobeying his decree to worship the statue he made. King Darius reluctantly tossed Daniel into a den to be served as supper for the waiting lions. Daniel’s enemies, who tricked the king, wanted Daniel punished for praying to the God of Israel. In each instance God rescued these men from harm. They escaped without a scratch or the smell of smoke on them.
These stories capture the attention of young and old alike. Most would end their knowledge of the book of Daniel there. However, God desires us to learn so much more from this book. In the final chapters of Daniel God pulls back the curtain for the people to see events still to come. God gives Daniel a vision of future kingdoms that will rise and fall. The vision ends with a glorious sight. The resurrection of the dead will take place on Judgment Day, and the life everlasting believers will receive.
As Christians we know that day will come. We confess it in the Creed, “I believe in Jesus Christ…from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit…the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” The inspired authors of the Bible prophesy about Jesus’ second coming to earth, which will be much more glorious and festive than his first coming.
Although we know all of this, we still find ourselves being lulled to sleep. The days continue as they always do. Weeks pass by without any change. Months continually come and go. The years all too quickly fly by. The world continues as it always has. Our watchfulness turns to laziness. Our readiness is replaced by drowsy eyelids.
We need to wake up and realize that we live in the end times. Our hearts need to always be ready to meet our Savior. No one knows the day or the hour when Jesus will return. Our hearts need to be on a constant state of alert. Wake up and be ready for that day to come. Let us not be found unprepared for this great day.
Even before that day comes we know that times of great distress will arise in the world. We turn on the news only to have our hearts melt. We want to be uplifted, but we only become downtrodden with all the news before us. Wildfires displace thousands of people from their homes. A person loses their life to senseless violence. Accidents, robberies, drugs, cheaters, hate filled speech leave us wondering what is going on.
We wonder how much worse things can get, if they can possibly get any worse. “There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then” (Daniel 12:1). As the end of this world nears, things will get worse, much worse. Much of this distress comes from the Antichrist, the earthly agent of the Devil, who tries to overthrow many. This Antichrist, the great enemy of the church, rises to destroy the work God has laid out among his people. Great turmoil infects the believers. As the believers wonder how much more they can withstand, all of a sudden they receive good news.
The Antichrist will meet his end. God’s people will be delivered. The time of distress will be cut short. “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise” (Daniel 12:1). Michael serves as God’s chief angel, often referred to as the archangel. Earlier Michael was the one who worked behind the scenes to keep the Persians from inflicting their intended harm upon God’s people in captivity. This angel will continue to fight for God’s people. He will come to defend the believers who face the great distress.
We will overcome. God will deliver us. The Christian wakes up to gain relief from the great tribulation around them. Our eyes look to God, who already won this for us. Our enemies have been defeated. Jesus’ death conquered the devil and all his cohorts. No one can lay a hand upon us. We wake up knowing that we will be free from the great distress of the world.
Free! Free from the distress and hardships this world’s prince and his army throw in our direction. We will be victorious! We also wake up free from our greatest enemy, death.
There are two sure things in life, death and taxes. We won’t speak about taxes, but we will say something about death. Just a couple weeks ago we celebrated All Saints Day, when we give thanks to God for the rest he has given to those he brought to his side this past year and all through history. We long for the day when we can retire from the church militant to enter the church triumphant with all those saints who have gone before us.
Until that time comes, we continue our journey upon the earth. We know, unless Jesus returns before that time, that we will die. Those in the prime of their life might not want to focus on their own mortality. Yet, at various times throughout our life we are faced with our own mortality in very startling ways. It might be in the unexpected death of a friend. We need to face our own end, when the doctor delivers not so good news about our health.
When death comes knocking at our door, how will it find us? Will we be unprepared? Our hearts build upon the shaky foundation of everything this world has to offer only to find disappointment. We busy ourselves building up a storehouse of all the things in this world rather than focusing on the true treasure of heaven. We grow weary in our walk of faith thinking that we will always have time to return to church on our timetable. Yet, all of a sudden our time is cut short. There will be no second chances. God will not say, “I am sorry. I will give you a pass since you were not ready.”
Or will we be prepared once death comes? Our eyes of faith will be focused on Jesus. We know that at any moment God can call us home to be with him or return as our Judge. We long for that day. We know this life is only temporary, but our eternal home is located in heaven. May our Lord always find us ready. May our hearts always long for our Savior to call us home.
It is that Last Day that Daniel points us to next. “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). Throughout the Bible death is referred to as a sleep. When we go to sleep at night, we expect to wake up in the morning. God tells us that all the dead will wake up on the Last Day. Jesus will come back as Judge of the living and the dead. The bodies of all those who have died will be called forth from the grave. The body and soul will reunite. All will stand before God.
The unbelievers will look forward to this day with dread. Their eyes will see the one that they have denied. Their knees will bow before the one they rejected. Their lips will sing the praises of the one they failed to recognize.
They will also hear their fate. They will go off to everlasting shame and contempt. They wanted nothing to do with God and his Word during their earthly life, so they will spend their eternal life separate from God’s love. They rejected God’s Word of forgiveness, so they will face their destruction.
Believers will have a much different story to live out. They will rise to see the one they longed for. Their knees will bow before the one who created them, redeemed them, and called them to faith. Their lips will sing the praises of the one who will bring them home.
“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 12:3). The names of all those written in the book of life will live forever. This book contains the names of all those who have endured in the faith. These are those that will receive the crown of righteousness won for them by Jesus himself
The believers will wake up to new bodies. These bodies will be like Jesus’ glorified body. They will be free from the decay of death. They will shine in glory everlasting with God. We will wake up to a new life. We will wake up to be with Jesus. We will wake up to live in heaven.
It all sounds too good to be true. We will not want to be waking up in a panic. We long for this day. We pray for it to come quickly. Free from the distress of this world. Free from death. We long for that day when God will call out for all, “Wake Up!” Amen.