Saints Triumphant Sunday
November 18, 2018
We Are People of “The Book”
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 in the eyes of God,
Something rather eye-opening happened to me last Sunday afternoon. After I got home from Windsor and after I finished up what needed to be done in the office I sat down in my recliner. No sooner had I sat down when Brenda asked me if Isaac asked me his question. When I said no, she showed me his bulletin from the service that morning. When Isaac heard me talking about what I include in my “little book” (my Day-Timer) he wrote on the back of his bulletin, “Do you ever write play with Isaac in your book?” It reminded me that Isaac and I used to have a lot more “guy time” than we do now. I need to change that. It also reminded me of when our son Jonathan was about Isaac’s age. He came to me one day and asked me if I would pencil him into my “book.” When I asked him what he meant, he said that some of the kids at school have their parents come in and eat lunch with them. So he wanted to know if I would “pencil him in for lunch.” I smiled and said, sure! We had lunch at his school later that week and he introduced me to some of his friends.
We all know that there are certain books that contain our name. Back when telephone books were the norm we could all find our name in the white pages. If I am talking to fellow WELS pastor and he wants to know how to contact me, I just tell him that I am in “the book” and he will know exactly what I mean. It means that I am listed in the WELS yearbook. But if the conversation were to center on a different book— such as the “Guinness Book of World Records” or a book like “Who’s Who in America” now my name is nowhere to be found.
In our text for today the prophet Daniel makes what some may consider to be a simple passing reference to a “book.” In reality, however, the Lord’s prophet focuses our attention this morning on the most important “book” there is! The most important “book” of all, the one “book” that has an eternal impact on each and every single human being is known in the Bible as: “The Book of Life.” (See Exodus 32:32, 33; Psalm 9:5; Psalm 69:28; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; 20:15; 21:27) Today, my friends, as we gather in God’s house to celebrate Saints Triumphant Sunday let’s use these words of the prophet Daniel to remind ourselves and to reassure each other that: We Are People of “The Book”!
As soon as we hear the name Daniel most of us probably think of the lion’s den. (Daniel 6) Daniel was a man who was so devoted to the Lord his God that he was willing to be torn apart and eaten by hungry lions rather than deny or dishonor the one and only living God. But there is so much more to Daniel than just the lion’s den. Daniel had been taken as an exile to Babylon in about 606 B.C. While in Babylon Daniel was given an important position in the government even though he was technically just a prisoner of war. The Lord had given Daniel the ability to interpret dreams. Daniel was the one who interpreted the “writing on the wall.” (Daniel 5) As we will see in next Sunday’s sermon Daniel was given a vision of the four major empires that would rule the earth— even long after Daniel had gone home to heaven. (Daniel 7) Our text for today occurs at the end of Daniel’s fourth and final vision. With these words Daniel give us a glimpse of both what will happen as the end of the world draws near as well as what will happen when the end of the world arrives.
With that let’s look at the opening verse of our text. Daniel writes, “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.” I believe that these words of Daniel are a reference to the times in which you and I are living, my friends. To help you see that this is not just my “opinion” I’d like to remind you of the “signs” that the Lord Jesus Himself says will precede Judgment Day. (See Matthew 24) I don’t want to spend a great deal of time on this because we still have a lot to cover in our text for today, but remember what our Savior tells us. Jesus says that as the end of the world draws near there will be “false Christs.” Is that happening today? Is there anyone claiming to be Christ or at least the earthly equivalent of Christ? Yes! Jesus says there will be “wars and rumors of war.” Is that happening today? Yes! Jesus says there will be “natural disasters”— famines and earthquakes, floods and droughts. Is that happening today? Yes! Jesus says that Christians will be persecuted and jailed and put to death because of their faith in Him. (Pointing to the cross) Is that happening today? Yes! In short, Jesus warns us that the world is only going to get “worser and worser” as the end of the world draws near. Fewer and fewer people will be willing to stand up for the Truth of Scripture and those who do will be criticized as being “intolerant” and “unloving” and “judgmental.” That’s what Daniel predicted. That’s what Jesus warned us about. That’s what I see happening in the world today.
And yet, no matter how “bad” it gets for God’s Church here on this earth, no matter how difficult things get for you in your own life as a child of God, the good Lord does not and will not leave us to fend for ourselves! Not only has the Lord Himself promised to help us and defend us, but it seems as though the Lord God has assigned the archangel Michael to protect God’s people. Here in our text we are told, “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise.” And in Jude 9 we are given this example, “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” To me it is unbelievably comforting to know that the Lord God Almighty and His archangel Michael are “protecting” God’s saints!
Let’s go back to Daniel, shall we? Look at what Daniel goes on to reveal to us, “But at that time your people— everyone whose name is 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.” In Matthew 24:22 we are told that God in His grace and mercy is going to “cut short” the “distress” of the last days and “deliver” His people. This glorious “day of deliverance” is the day on which every human being will be raised from their grave and humanity as a whole will stand before the Lord, the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth, and be judged. On that day there will be only two proclamations possible. Some will awake “to everlasting life.” Others will awake “to shame and everlasting contempt.” This is yet another reminder that from God’s perspective there are only two “classes” of people on the face of the earth. There are the “sheep” and there are the “goats.” There are the believers and there are the unbelievers. The determining factor as to whether we or anyone else will spend eternity in the presence of the living God or be cast away in the unquenchable fires of hell is whether or not a person’s name is found written in the “Book of Life”!
The “Book of Life” is one of those “details” of Scripture which has long captured my attention. The picture given to us in the book of Revelation is that on Judgment Day the Lord is going to have this huge “book.” Written in this “book” will be the name of every last person who believes that Jesus died on the cross to pay for their sins and was physically raised to life again as God’s guarantee that the Kingdom of heaven is now open to us! Personally, I have always pictured the names in the “Book of Life” as having been handwritten by God Himself— in the blood of Jesus Christ. To me that picture emphasizes that the only way for us sinners to be saved is through faith in what the apostle John records for us in his first epistle: “the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (I John 1:7). (See also I Peter 1:18-19; Hebrews 9:12-14; Hebrews 9:22; Hebrews 10:1-18). Do you believe that Jesus is the eternal Son of God who came into this world as your true flesh-and-blood Brother? Do you believe that Jesus lived an absolutely perfect life in your place? Do you believe that Jesus shed His holy precious blood on that cross to completely pay for all of your sins? Do you believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead on the third day just as He promised He would? Then your name is written in the “Book of Life”! When our victorious Lord returns to this earth, opens up the “Book of Life” and calls your name— you will inherit the eternal triumph of the saints!
What the triumph of the saints means for us as people of “The Book” is found in the closing verse of our text for today. Daniel writes, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like stars for ever and ever.” Through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ we have been made “wise”— “wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Through the power of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism we have been “clothed” in the beautiful white robe of perfect righteousness that Jesus won for us on the cross. (See Galatians 3:26-27; Revelation 7:14) Through the power of the Sacrament of Holy Communion whatever “mud spots” we have gotten on our robes, whatever sins we have committed are completely washed away. (See Matthew 26:28) Through faith in what Jesus has done for us we share in His victory— a triumphant victory which guarantees to us that one day we shall “shine like the brightness of the heavens.” (See also Philippians 3:20-21; I John 3:2) And to remind us that the triumph of the saints is not only something that we treasure, but it is also something for us to share Daniel says in our text that “those who lead many to righteousness (will shine) like the stars for ever and ever.” Through our words, through our actions, through our offerings, through our example we can help lead others— our children and our grandchildren, our friends and our family, our neighbors and our co-workers— we can help lead others to the righteousness that can only be found in the triumphal victory secured for us on cross of Jesus Christ. (Pointing to the cross)
We all know that there are certain books that contain our name. Sometimes we might be thrilled or even impressed to find our name written in a book and sometimes not so much. While we may be thrilled or even impressed to find out that our name has been penciled into someone’s daily planner, personally I was never thrilled or impressed to find my name in the white pages of the telephone book. Now that my Mom is in heaven walking on streets of gold I seriously doubt that anyone would be thrilled or impressed by opening up the Synod yearbook and finding my name. Even if we are thrilled or impressed because we know someone whose name is in the Guinness Book of World Records or in the Who’s Who in America books, eventually even they will fade away and be forgotten. We, however, we will never fade away! We will never be forgotten! By the grace of God we know that no matter how difficult or how sad our journey here on this earth may become, we have been given the triumph of the saints! Through faith in the holy precious blood of Christ we have the joy of knowing that our names have been written in the “Book of Life.” Take a moment, my friends, take a moment each and every day to ponder that precious truth. For when we remember that we are indeed people of “The Book” then we will always have reason to say:
To God be the glory!