Saints Triumphant Sunday

November 14, 2021

Daniel 12:1-3

The Triumph of the Saints—

Shining Like the Stars!

 

“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise.  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.  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 for ever and ever.”  (NIV1984)

 

 

Dear fellow saints of God,

 

How much would you give to know the future?  What would you give to see what’s coming in the days or months or years ahead?  Many people would give quite a lot.  In general, we human beings are captivated by the future.  We speculate on the unknown, attempting to reach into tomorrow for some peace of mind today.  Unfortunately, this sometimes leads people into deceptive and dangerous practices such as:  horoscopes, psychics, astrology, fortune tellers, and the like.  But for most of us our interest in the future shows itself in a very different way.  We are, for instance, intrigued by time-travel movies which often depict what the world might look like in 50 or 100 or 500 years.  We listen carefully to analysts who make predictions about the future of the environment or the future of the economy or the future of the political landscape here in our country.

 

The only One who truly knows the answer to any and all questions concerning the future is God Himself.  For that reason God’s holy revealed Word is our only guide when it comes to what the future holds.  All of our Scripture readings for today speak about the future, but not about the specifics of everything that will happen.  Scripture’s concern is not about our country or the stock market or any political events.  Rather, Scripture is focused on the future of God’s Kingdom and God’s people.

 

God’s goal is not to simply tantalize us with signs and prophecies about what the future holds.  God’s goal is to calm our hearts and assure us that in Christ we are forever safe in His almighty and all-loving hands, regardless of what we might see or experience in our lives.  He reveals to us ahead of time some of the catastrophic and troubling things that will happen, so that when they do occur we won’t be shocked or think that our God has somehow lost control.  He also comforts us by showing us the “big picture” of how things will turn out for those who trust in Jesus.  Knowing the ultimate certainty of the future gives us the strength and the confidence we need to live with the uncertainties of the present.

 

That’s the situation behind our text for today.  The book of Daniel is a book about struggles and battles and war.  Daniel lived at a time when God’s people had been carried away into exile— a thousand miles away from “home.”  The first six chapters of this book are an account of God’s people as they lived in exile in Babylon.  This is where we read about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to “fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.” (Daniele 3)  This is where we read about Daniel being thrown into a lion’s den because he refused to stop praying to the Lord, the God of Israel, and to pray to King Darius instead.  (Daniel 6)  All of these men were “heroes of faith.”  All of these men were shining examples of what it means to stay focused on the future as they strive to remain faithful to the Lord in times of trouble and distress.

 

The second half of the book of Daniel describes even more battles that God and His people would fight.  Many of these battles would take place long after Daniel was in heaven.  The portion of Daniel that we have before us this morning focuses on the last battle described in the book of Daniel.  It is the battle that takes place just before the last judgment.  As we look at this ultimate battle, we have the joy of knowing that for the faithful people of God this battle will end— in triumph!  With the ultimate victory in the ultimate battle clearly before our eyes let’s study our text under the theme:  The Triumph of the Saints— Shining Like Stars!  As we walk through these inspired words of our God, we will see a two-step progression.  We will see how our text progressed from distress to deliverance.

 

The Holy Spirit inspired Daniel to describe the unparalleled distress that God’s saints will endure as the end draws near.  Daniel writes, “There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.”  These words are yet another reminder to us that for the saints of God it is a struggle to live in a world that has been completely ruined by sin.  The unbelieving world hates God’s message as well as God’s messengers.  As saints of God we also struggle with the weaknesses of our old sinful nature as well as the temptations that we encounter in this world.  It seems as though every generation of saints thinks that they are going to be the last generation because every generation of saints thinks that this unbelieving world can’t possibly get any worse than it already is.  Then it does.  The world continues to get further and further away from God and His holy Word.  When we read the local newspaper, when we see what’s on the Internet and on television we wonder— Where has love for God gone?  Where is even a basic concern for one’s neighbor?  As the saints of God we are indeed strangers in an unwelcoming and unholy world.

 

You may remember that almost two thousand years ago the apostle Paul pictures the earth “groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:22) because of the sin of mankind.  How much more must it be “groaning” today!  How much more will it be “groaning” as Judgment Day draws near?  To look at the world as it was just a generation or two ago, compare it with the world as we see it today and ponder how much worse it will get before Judgment Day arrives is a frightening thought!  And yet, that’s exactly the kind of “distress” that Daniel says is going to happen— “There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.”  Our dear Lord warned us of the exact same reality when He said, “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until  now— and never to be equaled again.  If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect (i.e. the saints) those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22).

 

Thankfully, both Daniel and our Lord assure us that even in the midst of all this “distress” there is deliverance!  Through Daniel the Holy Spirit assures us, “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people will arise… at that time your people— everyone whose name is found written in the book— will be delivered.”

 

In the midst of a world gone mad with sin our God promises to use His mighty angels to protect us— His saints!  While we cannot see them, there are guardian angels all around us!  That’s why the writer to the Hebrews poses this rhetorical question, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14)  While we would never want to pray to the angels and while we would never want to worship the angels, we do want to pray to the God whom we worship and ask Him to send His angels to guard us and protect us and deliver us— especially as we experience the “distress” of these last days!  (See Psalm 90)

 

Another extremely powerful assurance of deliverance in times of distress is found in words that are easy to overlook.  They are the words, “Everyone whose name is found written in the book will be delivered.”  This is a reference to one of the “little details” contained in Scripture, a “little detail” that I personally find fascinating!  This is a reference to the Book of Life!  The Book of Life contains all the names of all the saints of God.  The Book of Life is God’s personal record of everyone who will live with Him in His eternal heavenly Kingdom!  Everyone whose name is recorded in the Book of Life is guaranteed deliverance— even in the midst of the worst “distress” that might overwhelm them as they journey through this world.

 

Your name is written in the Book of Life, my friends— as is mine!  When God the Holy Spirit brought us to believe and trust in Jesus as our Savior, when God the Holy Spirit graciously dressed us in the robe of perfect righteousness that Jesus won for us on the cross of Calvary’s hill (Pointing to the cross), when God the Holy Spirit used the waters of Holy Baptism to wash us clean of all of our sins and make us saints in the eyes of our God, our names were written in the Book of Life!  The fact that our names are written in the Book of Life guarantees to us that we have been given the ultimate deliverance— the Triumph of the Saints!

 

The Triumph of the Saints is what enables us to shine— to shine like the stars!  Look at the closing verses of our text.  Daniel writes, “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 for ever and ever.”

 

Through the power of the Gospel we have been made “wise”— “wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).  As the saints of God, as believers in Jesus Christ, we know that when our Savior raises our weak mortal bodies from our graves, He will “transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).  For all of eternity we will shine with a glory and a power that is even greater than the stars we see in the nighttime sky.

 

Does this mean that we have to wait until we get home to heaven to shine like the stars?  Not at all!  As the saints of God we shine like the stars now— as we let the light of our faith shine in a world darkened by sin.  (See Matthew 5:13-16)  To be even more specific, as the saints of God we shine like the stars now as we “lead many to righteousness.”  Whether we are a parent or a grandparent who is striving to lead our children and our grandchildren to righteousness by having them baptized in the Name of the Triune God and by bringing them up “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), or a Sunday school teacher who is striving to lead little children to righteousness by faithfully watering the seed of faith that God has planted in their tender hearts, whether we are a Christian who is striving to lead others to righteousness by encouraging a brother or sister in the faith, or by helping them carry their burdens in life (Galatians 6:1) and/or by assuring them of the forgiveness that Jesus won for them on the cross (Ephesians 4:32), or a neighbor who is striving to lead others to righteousness by the example that we set for them— there are many different ways for us to shine like stars in a world darkened by sin!

 

Have you ever been out at a lake or up in the mountains and looked up at the nighttime sky?  It is an amazing sight, isn’t it!  My prayer this morning is that sometime this week you will indeed take a moment to go outside at night and look at the stars.  As you gaze at their beauty, as you marvel at how many there are— stop to remember and rejoice.  Remember that by the grace and power of God you are like the stars because by the grace and power of God you are one of God’s saints.  Then rejoice.  First, rejoice in knowing that as you let the light of your faith shine in your life you have the opportunity to be a star shining in a world darkened by sin.  Then rejoice in knowing that one day— when you reach the glory and perfection of heaven— you will shine even brighter than the stars in the sky.  Shining like the stars both now and forever— that, my friends, is the Triumph of the Saints!

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen