The right sauce can perk up otherwise marginal food. My grandboys are nuts about tater tots as long as there’s a big squirt of ketchup beside them. Today’s tidings aren’t altogether joyful, so I’m giving you the spoonful of sugar up front to help the medicine go down. Turns out, it’s quite a lot of sweetness, actually.
I hope you’ll agree.
Here is another post about Daniel’s vision that began in chapter 10, was fleshed out in chapter 11, and concludes in chapter 12. I’ve whined that I’m not really getting it and that Daniel didn’t either, but by chapter 12, a few things are making some sense to both of us.
For one thing, Daniel’s stopped feeling sick with dread over his dream. He finds some closure, I think, too, in being told at the end of this vision that he’s to continue living as he has and to look forward to his rest, resurrection, and reward. It’s thought that he was about 84 years of age by this time and that his death was imminent, (I’ve forgotten the source of his age info. Please excuse.)
A man clothed in linen who is “above the waters of the river” tells Daniel, “As for you, go your way till the end, You will rest and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance,” Da 12:13.
Being told to continue on as he has lived would have felt like a significant “attaboy” to Daniel, I’m guessing. I’d love to think that if angels came to me near the end of my life, they could say the same thing, to keep living as I’ve been living, rather than to say it’s time to get my ducks-in-a-row.
Daniel’s “keep on keeping on” verse above is the last verse of the book of Daniel, and at first when I read it, I thought, that’s it? I’m not sure what else I wanted at the end of his book, but clearly, the idea of resurrection and heaven is so much a part of my thinking, I wasn’t overjoyed or dumbfounded to read about them here.
But it would have had a more profound impact on Daniel, I think. For one thing, Jesus hadn’t come and lived and died and risen and ascended back to heaven. So his example of love and suffering and dying in order to live again hadn’t been understood.
The Jews of Jesus’ day seemed to have missed this idea altogether, even though some of the Old Testament writers spoke of it, such as David in Ps 16:9-10 and Isaiah in all of chapter 53. Like much in the OT, the suffering of the Messiah was cloaked in mystery and scattered throughout prophecies. It was never so plainly spoken before as it was after the fact, as in, after Jesus came. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth after Jesus ascended, “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ,” 2 Co 1:5.
So when Jesus comes on the scene, the Messiah the Jews are expecting is one who will throw off Roman rule and usher in God’s kingdom on earth militarily, bringing material prosperity and political peace in the here-and-now. But Jesus was nothing like this.
A Messiah that is lowly, that is poor and suffers, that is hung on a cross and dies, despised? Surely not! This confounded everyone except those whom the Father enabled to understand it by faith. Jesus’ parables were cloaked in mystery, his life was unpredictable, and his death even more so, even for the men who were closest to him, who deserted him and hid the night he died.
So while a suffering Savior was foretold, most missed the “suffering” part and chose instead to dwell on what his coming would do for them on earth. But God has had a broader view all along than just what happens on earth. His vision is of a kingdom that transcends the here-and-now, that includes heaven-on-earth, an eternal prosperity and peace and joy for people of all races and nationalities with him, Re 7:9-17.
What does this have to do with Daniel? Daniel isn’t privy to all of this information. He knows nothing of how the Messiah will come except for scattered references in Scripture, which are somewhat sketchy. And while the idea of resurrection has been mentioned in the Old Testament, it’s not been the pivotal doctrine of hope that it becomes in the New Testament after Jesus rises, (http://bible.org/seriespage/13-hope-heaven-daniel-121-13).
All of that to say, the news of Daniel’s own rest and rising and rewarding would have been hugely comforting and maybe even surprising news to this faithful man, who has endured quite a lot of upheaval and suffering in his lifetime. Living in Babylon as an exile, his concern has been twofold: to be faithful to God in his circumstances and to understand what’s ahead for his people, God’s people, in exile. The vision in chapters 10-12 is the answer to his agonizing prayer in chapter 9, that God would bring his people back to their land without delay.
Daniel asked God to do what God had promised and bring them back in the next three or four years. But the answer God sends via angel speedy-delivery is much more than Daniel asks for. The angel tells him the news of what will happen in the next three or four hundred years before the Messiah comes. And he tells him even more than that: he gives him an overview of what will happen from Daniel’s day until the last day, an overwhelming perspective of the rest of life on earth as we know it, Da 9:24-12:13.
Commentators I’ve read agree that this passage for today (Daniel 11:36-12:13) refers to what are known as “the last days” for several reasons, the most compelling ones being because both Jesus and Paul referred to this passage in Daniel when speaking of the end times, Mt 24:15; 2 Thes 2, (see links to commentators below).
I’m guessing that by the end of his vision, Daniel is undone with the same kind of relief Julian of Norwich penned 1700 years later, when she wrote, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Daniel’s worries for his people, the folks he oversees and grieves for, turn into praises for the God who will use all of their tears and fears and bring about what he’s planned all along: a glorious eternity together where every wrong will be made right and the repentant forever rewarded.
As far as I know, this is the clearest description thus far in the Old Testament of what will happen at the end of time, when righteous bodies rise and the wicked are thrown down, and it’s given to this humble, faithful man near the end of his life. What a privilege and what a gift. While Abraham believed in resurrection, and Job, David, and Isaiah wrote about it, none of them include anything like the detail of Daniel’s vision of the end times, Ge 22:5, 8; Jb 19:25-26; Psalm 16; Is 26:19.
When I think about what this news must have meant to Daniel’s heart, I’m embarrassed not to have rejoiced with him when I read it the first time. He can die in peace and joy, knowing his people will be safe, and that he will live again and experience eternal bliss with them. [I think I miss a lot reading the Bible so much from my own perspective 🙄.]
So with the sure, secure, happily-ever-after promise of heaven in mind (this was the spoonful of sugar), what else is there in this passage to learn about the end times? Though specifics are shrouded, some things seem plain, (and this is the medicine I mentioned):
–The antichrist will exalt himself above all known gods and say “unheard-of things” against Almighty God, Da 11:36-37.
–The antichrist will be successful only for as long a time as God has determined, for God’s purposes, Da 11:36.
–The antichrist will honor “a god of fortresses” with great wealth, Da 11:38. It’s thought that this means he will magnify military power and spend a lot of money building it, http://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/daniel-11/).
–The antichrist will attack the strongest nations and “greatly honor” those who side with him, giving them positions of power under him, Da 11:39.
–There will be a major war between the antichrist and his allies versus those who oppose him, Da 11:40.
–The antichrist will invade Israel during this war, Da 11:41.
–The antichrist will seemingly win the war and gain control of many countries along with great wealth, Da 11:42-43.
–The antichrist will hear reports that “alarm him” and bring him to the “beautiful holy mountain,” where he will be defeated, and “No one will help him,” Da 11:44-45.
–There will be “a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then,” Da 12:1.
–“Everyone whose name is found written in the book will be delivered” from this distressing time, Da 12:1.
–All who have died, “who sleep in the dust of the earth,” will rise to everlasting life or to everlasting contempt, Da 12:2.
–“Those who are wise” and “those who lead many to righteousness” will shine brighter than others in that day, Da 12:3.
–Many will be refined and purified (presumably during the time of distress)–“the wicked will continue to be wicked” and won’t understand, but the wise will understand, Da 12:10.
I’m including all of this because it’s in the Bible, but the part I’m hanging onto myself is the fact that the time of distress, while disturbing to read about, won’t ultimately harm God’s people. It will purify them. It will be used for their good. They will also be saved out of it at some point, either before, during, or afterward. (It’s not clear by the text when they’ll be delivered). Da 12:1.
More good news is that the antichrist will be defeated. God knows that he’s coming and won’t let him prevail. God’s got his days numbered and has already determined his time to rise and fall, Da 11:36, 45.
But the best news is that everyone whose name is in God’s book, including everyone who has already died, will be included in the reward of heaven. If I wasn’t sure of my repentance before Almighty God, and my faith in his Son, Jesus the Messiah, this chapter wouldn’t give me any good news except that there’s still time for me to get down on my knees before that day comes.
I’m surprised to learn that some of the righteous will be shinier somehow than others, evidently depending on how they’ve lived on earth, 12:1-3. Whether shinier hair, skin, or nails–or some other kind of shine–I’m liking the sound of that.
Maybe I should get to work on those ducks.
These are the commentators who have informed me:
1 John 4
Interestingly, John writes about the spirit of the antichrist, dovetailing with Daniel today. He also uses more of the “This is how…” language from yesterday’s passage, 1 John 3.
“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God:
“Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirt of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world,” 4:2-3.
“This is how we recognize the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of falsehood:“
Spirit of Truth
–listens to “us,” i.e., God’s people and God’s word,
spirit of falsehood
–from the world
–listens to the world,
“This is how God showed his love among us:
“He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him,” 4:9.
This is how “we know that we live in him and he in us:
–he gives us his Spirit, 4:13.
–we acknowledge that Jesus is God’s son, sent to be the Savior of the world, 4:14-15.
–we know and rely on God’s love for us, 4:16.
–we live in love of God, 4:16
–we live in love of one another, 4:19-21
The call from God is always to love–to love God and to love each other. Hate is the mark of the world, but love is the mark of the believer. The only way to love is to know God and to believe in Jesus as Savior.
The world can imitate love and redefine it, but they can’t fabricate it. It is unmistakable when seen in its purest form: laying down one’s life for someone else, just like Jesus did, 1 John 3:16-18.
This is what the antichrist cannot do.
He takes glory by taking life away from others.
Jesus shares his glory by giving his life away to others.
This psalm is about what makes love hard–contempt and ridicule from the proud. Funny that God doesn’t let us get away with getting all dreamy-eyed about loving others and loving him without bringing up the reality of enemies.
I”m reminded of what someone once said, “I could love other people if it weren’t for people.”
The psalmist says that as a slave or servant looks to their master for what they’re given, let me look to you as my Good and Loving Master, an always and forever source of mercy I don’t deserve.
My life is determined by God’s mercy to me, not by the arrogant and their contempt of me. It’s God’s mercy that I need; it’s God on whom I wait.
Because God is the one I look to, I can have freedom from contempt that otherwise would be crushing.
“I lift up my eyes to you,
to you whose throne is in heaven.
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he shows us his mercy.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us,
for we have endured much contempt.
We have endured much ridicule from the proud,
much contempt from the arrogant.”
My take away today is to take to heart the call to love, to fight the spirit of hate, the spirit of the antichrist, the spirit already in the world. It’s easy to think I have to wait for others to go first, or to be likable at least, or to think that because of their contempt, I’m exempt from loving them.
But the truth is, if good overcomes evil, then I have what it takes. I can lift up my eyes to you, to the God who gives mercy. And I can turn and share mercy, because it’s been undeservedly shared with me.
It’s easy to write words, God. Give me the sauce to do them.