“November 18, 2018 – Saints Triumphant”
From November 18th, 2018
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Daniel’s End Time Prophecy Assures Us That We are Saints Triumphant
Daniel 12:1-3

The apostle Paul tells us that we are “more than conquerors” through Jesus; that nothing in this world, not even death itself “will be able to separate us form the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” And that is where this Sunday of the church year focuses our attention – Saints Triumphant. In Christ Jesus, the victory is ours and we know with certainty that the glories of heaven that await us. But do you feel like a triumphant conqueror? Does the fact that you are Christian that you are a Christian always make you joyful? Or are there times when you become discouraged with life; times when you wonder whether the effort is worthy it; times when it seems that there is no reward in being a Christian.

As we look around our world and our society, more and more the Christian faith is ridiculed and mocked. More and more, Christians face persecution and trouble. When we see terrible things happen in our world, when we hear about the horrors of war or the destruction brought about by some natural disaster, when wickedness and evil seem to prosper – we might be tempted to wonder: where is God? Why doesn’t he do something? And then when problems and sorrows affect our own lives, those things can seek to weigh us down and seek to overwhelm us. What a comfort in those situations, we find in the Bible’s teachings concerning the End of Time and Judgment Day.

The Bible’s teachings concerning the end of the world are not given to us to satisfy our curiosity. The Lord doesn’t give us all the details. Many people have a fascination with what will happen at the end of the world – the problem is that often they get so wrapped up in the details of the end of the world that they lose sight of what is truly important – they lose sight of Jesus and the victory that he won for us. They spend their time trying to decipher every last detail of what will happen on that last day and in their efforts to discover details that God really has not revealed to us, they often take obvious figurative language – such as visions and parables – and apply them very literally to the last day. They fail to see the forest for the trees. They miss the simple message of comfort that God intends for us. The Bible’s teaching about the last times contain a warning of things that will happen so that we don’t lose heart and despair and fall away from faith. And there is a word of comfort – that God will watch over his chosen people and bring them safely through to eternal life in heaven. Ultimately, the Bible’s teachings on end times are a message of triumph for Christians.
That is the case with the word of God before us this morning. Daniel’s end time prophecy assures us that we are saints triumphant.
What do we see when we look at life in this world? We see a world filled with evil. The church looks weak and helpless. Our lives are filled with trouble and problems. At times, it seems as though wicked people prosper while the godly struggle. It seems as though the world as a whole has no interest in the Lord and his word; no interest in anything but its own pleasure. And then, after a life filled with troubles and problems a person must face death. That is the sad reality of life in this world because of sin. Even the happiest person living in the best of circumstances doesn’t go through life without trouble and sorrow. No Christian is immune from the attacks of the devil, the sinful world and our own sinful flesh. And finally, since everyone is a sinner, everyone must one day face death.

God told Adam and Eve, immediately after the fall into sin, what some of the consequences of sin would be. The curse, the punishment for sin is death, and ultimately eternal death in hell. God told Adam, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” But God promised a Savior who would overcome sin and rescue from eternal death. God promised, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” But those effects of sin in this world, and physical death are still thing that we must put up with until we reach our home in heaven.
And in fact, the Bible warns us that things will get worse and worse as the end of the world draws ever closer. Jesus warns us, “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 those days will be shortened.” And the apostle Paul warned Timothy, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” All the evils in this world, the Bible tells us “All these are the beginning of birth pains.” A woman may experience contractions well in advance of the actual birth of her child. But as the moment for the child to be born draws ever closer, those contractions become closer together and more intense. So it is with the end of the world. As that time draws nearer, things will get worse.

That goes against what our society and what human philosophy would tell us. Our world strives to achieve some type of paradise on earth. It points to the great accomplishments of mankind, and tells us it can be done. But despite the best efforts of some, what we so often see is more hatred and discord. And there is no cure for death.

As Christians, we shouldn’t look for or expect that this life will be filled with comfort and ease. When that happens, when we know good times, what a wonderful blessing from the Lord – but we should expect trouble and persecution; we should expect the cross in this life.
The Lord warns us concerning these things so that we aren’t alarmed by them. In fact, as we see evil and distress happen in our world, we should be reminded that our Lord’s return is near and we can actually take comfort in that fact, because that means our eternal salvation. Jesus tells us, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Daniel too knew distress in his time. He was an exile in Babylon. Judah had been conquered. Daniel and others carried off into captivity. Jerusalem and the temple destroyed. In fact, Daniel had been thrown into a den of hungry lions because he had prayed to the true God against the decree of the king. But God had delivered Daniel. And the Lord would bring back a remnant to the Promised Land. Jerusalem and the temple would be rebuilt and God would keep his promise to send a Savior. God would protect his people and deliver them.

And The Lord will do the same for us. The Lord promises to watch over us in this life and bring us safely to himself in heaven. Even though we will one day have to face death, one day we will be raised to stand before God in judgment. The outcome for us will be everlasting life. In the book of Revelation we are given a picture of the multitude of believers in heaven praising God and the Lamb Jesus for their salvation. “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Jesus has delivered them from distress and raised them to everlasting life. He has made them worthy of eternal life. Our robes were dirty and stained with sin. There is only one way to wash out that sin so that we might have the proper dress of righteousness for eternity, only one way to make our robes white and pure and holy. There is only one way to eternal life in heaven and that is through the Lamb Jesus and his blood shed on the cross. The apostle John writes in his first letter, “the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” Jesus blood is so special and able to cleanse us from sin because it is the holy, innocent, precious blood of the perfect Son of God. Jesus was the perfect, the complete and only sacrifice to pay for sin. As our substitute he lived a perfect life. On the cross on Calvary he shed his blood to wash away our sins.

Now by God-given faith, that righteousness of Jesus is given to us to wear. “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” When we stand before God in the judgment, he sees the robe of Jesus righteousness and not our many sins. Because of Jesus righteousness, God welcomes us into the glories of heaven. And so we can sing with the hymn writer – “Jesus, your blood and righteousness my beauty are, my glorious dress; Mid flaming worlds, in these arrayed, with joy shall I lift up my head.”

Our names are written in the book. We read in Revelation – “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” What should be recorded in that book? It should have all our sins. It should have that time that I got angry with someone and lost my temper. It should have the time that I failed to keep my word, the time that I failed to help someone in need – every time I was selfish in my thoughts and actions – every time I sinned. That is what should be recorded there for everyone to see. But instead, what is credited to my account is Jesus perfection. As the apostle John writes, “if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” So God welcomes me into everlasting life in heaven.

What a triumphant day that will be for us. God will give us heaven as a reward of his grace. So for us, death is now just a sleep from which we shall wake to eternal life in heaven. And eternal life is certain. The fact that our names are written down in God’s book of life points to the certainty of eternal life. God isn’t going to forget us. He isn’t going to fail to give us that reward – our names our written down so that he can’t forget them. What great comfort.

God will glorify us – make us shine – in the glories of heaven, but God makes us shine already now. He causes the light of our faith to shine for others to see. Jesus encourages us – “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” It is the Lord who has created faith in our hearts and he is the one who motivates and enables us to do good works. The apostle Paul reminds us – “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

One of those good works is to share that message of eternal life with others – to lead others to righteousness. Here the Lord points to a special blessing, a special reward for those who are faithful witnesses. He says, “those who lead many to righteousness, (will shine) like the stars for ever and ever.” God does in different places in the Bible promise a special blessing to those who share his word. Again though, this is not something that we earn. It too is a gift of grace. Even by witnessing our faith – we are only doing what we’re told. Jesus has told us to “preach the good news to all creation.” We are only being faithful servants. But God in his grace grants a special reward to his faithful servants. God in grace cause us to shine – now as we confess and live our faith and eternally in the glories of heaven.

What words of comfort for us as we travel through this sin filled world with all its evils. There will be distress and evil, but God will not desert his people. Through his archangel Michael, God will protect us and bring us safely to the glories of eternal life. We truly are saints triumphant.