Text – Daniel 9
When I was just a little girl,
I asked my mother, ‘What will I be?’
‘Will I be pretty, will I be rich?’
Here’s what she said to me:
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.
Then there is the Hindu hope of reincarnation after death, either as a higher life form (if we have been good this time around) or as a pig or a slug (if we have not). There is the Buddhist hope of floating off into spiritual nothingness when we die. There is the atheistic humanist’s despairing belief in complete oblivion at death.
We all have our hopes for the future. It has been said that a person can live for about 30 days without food, about 3 days without water, about 3 minutes without air, but scarcely 3 seconds without hope. What do you hope for?
We are all headed on a journey. Some of us have come further than others. But we are all going in the same direction. We are moving into the future. Do you know where you are going? What does the Bible teach?
Them of Daniel – Psa 137:4 ‘How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?’ The people of God are given encouragement by the reassurance that, despite all appearances, God is in control. He is the Lord of the nations, the Lord of history; the Lord of the future.
Chapter 12 – a glimpse into the more distant future.
Caution: there is much about the future that we do not know, and cannot know. V6 – one angel asks another about the time-scale of events. Cryptic answer. Daniel ‘heard, but did not understand.’
1. The possibility a hazardous journey
‘There will come a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.’ The refeence here is to the events of 168 BC, when the mad, bad king Antiochus Epiphanes began a bitter persecution of the Jews. He sent his army to invade and destroy Jerusalem. He established pagan sacrifice and prostitution in the temple. He subjected the Jews to every kind of degradation and brutality.
Then Jesus picked up this idea of a troubled future for the people of God, Mt 24:21. We suppose that Jesus was referring to the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 60. But was there a pre-echo of some great tribulation that would afflict God’s people in later days?
Later, Paul uses the same idea 2 Thess 2:3f.
There is this pattern, then, of ‘times of trouble’ for the people of God. And those times of trouble are not finished yet.
To paraphrase the words of Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego, Dan 3:17f ‘If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, but even if he does not, we will trust and serve him, and him alone.’
But what kind of God is it, that allows his beloved people to suffer and even to die?
2. The certainty of a save arrival
‘But at that time your people – everyone whose made is found written in the book – will be delivered.’
This involves a resurrection, Dan 12:2. This is the clearest reference to a final resurrection in the whole of the OT. Already, Scripture is speaking of a great separation. Jesus uses very similar language, Jn 5:28f.
It will be unspeakably glorious, Dan 12:3; Mt 13:43.
Our God is indeed Lord of the Future, 2 Tim 1:12; 4:7f.
Our faith in God as Lord of the Future is not escapism. It is, rather, essential to both our sanity and to our usefulness as Christian men and women. There are some people who never think about the future consequences of their behaviour; we call such people ‘psychopaths’.
C.S. Lewis wrote: ‘A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.’
The present life is best thought of as a preparation for the next. What we sow now we will reap in the hereafter. Those in Daniel’s vision who awake to everlasting life and shine like the stars for ever and ever are those who have in this life been ‘wise’; who have led many to righteousness, v3.
There was once a man who had lost his job, his money, his wife, and his home, and had very nearly lost his faith. One day he stopped to watch some men building a church. One of them was chiseling a triangular piece of rock. ‘What are you going to do with tat?’ asked the man. The workman said, ‘Do you see that little opening up there near the spire? Well, I’m shaping this down here so that it will fit up there.’
This, then, is our faith in God as Lord of the Future. Not a belief in some impersonal force such as luck or fate. Not a trust in our own ability to make our way in an alien and unfriendly world. Not a belief in an almost endless cycle of reincarnations. Not a hope of being lost in Nirvanha. But a trust that, though the journey may be fraught with difficulty, the final destination will be reached, because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, Rom 8:35-39.