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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:At the End of Days
Text:Daniel 12:1-13 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

“At the End of Days”
Daniel 12:1-13
As we close out our study of Daniel’s prophecy, we are given a glimpse into the future. The first two verses of chapter 12 describe the end of time and the final judgment yet to come (as we saw last week). What will those days be like? In the days preceding the return of Christ and the final judgment we see (first) that one of the characteristics of the end times is an increase in wickedness. 
Our world has been wicked ever since the fall. Ever since Cain murdered Abel, we have witnessed the cruel effect of sin on the societies of the world. At times societies are marked with unrestrained sin that is especially heinous. For instance, in the days of the Judges, “there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25) and it led to ever increasing wickedness.
Or consider the era of Antiochus Epiphanes; he destroyed the temple 168 years before the birth of Jesus and was such an evil ruler that he serves as a type, or forerunner, of the antichrist. Add to that, Roman society; it is depicted in Romans 1 as clearly knowing who God is, yet rejecting him and being plunged into the evil desires of their hearts.
And then we have the world of our day. Immorality and godlessness abound. Great atrocities, cruelty of war, and slavery still rage. Often the slaves are young children and women, sold into unspeakable acts of degradation and debauchery.
And the Bible, here in Daniel 12, teaches that it will get worse. Verse 1: “There will be a time of distress that has not happened from the beginning of the nations until then.”  Verse 7 adds: “When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.”
And the reason why wickedness will increase until “the power of the holy people has been finally broken” is because wickedness doesn’t stay stagnant; wickedness is just like righteousness in one respect: it cannot remain stagnant; it will inevitably grow and multiply.
If you are a Christian, you will not remain stagnant in your faith. You might stagnate for a brief time, you may even backslide into great sin, as David did. But ultimately God, through his indwelling Holy Spirit, will cause you to grow – even through your sins and short comings.  Philippians 1:6 comforts the true believer with this assurance: “Being confident of this that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Just as wickedness doesn’t remain stagnant but grows more evil, so too, as God graciously sanctifies his people, there is spiritual growth even among the many setbacks and sins which plague the life of every true Christian.
But wickedness also grows. One lie leads to another. Then to cover the lie, an evil plot is hatched. When that plot backfires, a greater evil is employed. That is true, even in the lives of fallen believers.
David’s sin with Bathsheba is a tragic example of how one sin always leads to another. First there was the sin of laziness, as David did not join his forces in battle, which was customary for kings in those days to do. Instead, he idly lounged on the palace roof and there caught the sight of Bathsheba bathing. The lust in his mind’s eye led to the sin of adultery. The sin of adultery led to lies and deceit as a vain plot was formed to cover the sin. The initial sin led to a repercussion of further sins, and ultimately to the arranged death – the murder – of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah, and to the death of the baby born out of that illicit affair.
Sin has immense power to destroy and cause distress even in the lives of believers. We should not be surprised, then, that in unbelievers sin grows even more rapidly and does far greater damage. Consider the hardness of heart described in Revelation 16:11. It describes some of the great calamities that come on the earth and says: “Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.” 
That is also why Jesus likened sin to yeast. Just as yeast causes dough to rise, so sin increases. It never remains stagnant. And we will see that reflected in the culture of the world just before Jesus returns. Paul described it this way in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
Scripture is clear in many places that we will see an increase in wickedness before the Lord returns. “When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.” (v. 7)
An Increase in Knowledge
A second mark of the end times will be an increase in knowledge. The last phrase in verse 4 teaches that Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”
We live in a day of unprecedented knowledge in virtually every field. And all that knowledge, unthinkable just decades ago, is now put before us even on the smallest of screens. Everything in the world is reduced to an electronic screen, even to a very small one, such as a smart phone. We receive news from around the world in an instant. Trips to the bank are no longer necessary. You can direct deposit your pay or take a picture of a check and send it electronically. Many of us check our phones before driving even to a familiar place. We know the way, but the GPS will let us know the exact time of arrival and warn us of any delays and caution us against speed traps and red-light cameras. And we also have a variety of social media that enables us to keep up with everyone imaginable.
Yet are we any better off? Has our quality of life improved? Has the knowledge that is in a “smart phone” led to wisdom, which is the practical application of knowledge? For some it has. The electronic era has been wonderful for the spread of the gospel. Every type of Bible study tool imaginable is available electronically. The young people in church looking at their phones aren’t on social media – I hope – but instead are in the Bible. We can have at our fingertip’s commentaries, concordances, interlinear translations, lexicons and other helps in studying the Bible.  
But while some use knowledge wisely, many others fit the description of verse 4: “Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.” But unfortunately, they fit the description of 2 Timothy 3:7, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
For them knowledge is often used to increase wickedness. The flood of knowledge – or what is portrayed as knowledge – has enhanced the ability to “invent ways of doing evil” (Romans 1:30). The same Internet that can bring a flow of interesting facts and enhance the study of God’s Word can also bring a flow of pornography, a multitude of deceptive emails to rob one’s identity and finances, and a mailbox full of spam. 
These two characteristics – increased knowledge and an increase in wickedness – go hand in hand. They are two characteristics of the end times, the time right before Jesus returns. And they also give us a strikingly accurate portrait of the world we live in today.
Although we know the end of this world is certain, we don’t know when that will happen.  In verse 5 and 6 Daniel writes: Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank.  One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, ‘How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?’” 
That verbal exchange with an angel gives us insight into what Peter wrote about in his first New Testament letter. He described how the prophets of the Old Testament “searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”  Peter concludes that section about the saving grace of God in the lives of his people by writing, “Even angels long to look into these things.” (1 Peter 1:10-12)
The angel described in verse 6 was asking the man clothed in linen, when the end will come. And the answer is simply, “It will be for a time, times and half a time.” We have seen before in our study of Daniel that is simply a way of describing a certain amount of time. In other words, it will happen when a definite period of time is over, but only God the Father knows exactly when that time will be. We see in verse 11 and verse 12 a number of days listed:  Verse 11 speaks of 1290 days and verse 12 mentions 1335 days.  Both periods are a little over 3 and a half years.  Ultimately those numbers belong to God. They are on his calendar, not ours.
The numbers were not on Harold Camping’s calendar, or the calendar of innumerable others who have tried to predict the end of the world as we know it. These verses remind us that just as the Lord knows the exact number of days you and I will live, he has also determined the time for this world to exist.  As Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36)
But this last chapter was not written to frighten us with its predictions, or to cause us to live in anxiety about the end of time and the return of the Lord. Rather, these verses were written to tell us how to live in a fallen, sinful world, and to encourage us with the promises of God as we do so.
We looked briefly last week at the promise of God in verse 1 where we are told that “Michael, the great prince who protects your people will arise…” and “…your people – everyone whose name is written in the book – will be delivered.”
Michael is also mentioned in the New Testament, both in Jude 1:9 and also in Revelation 12:7.  From those references we see that he, along with Gabriel, is an “archangel.” In the realm of angels there are positions of greater and lesser glory and power, and he is one of the most powerful and distinguished of angels.
Part of his work in God’s kingdom is to defend God’s people and to fight for the cause of Christ. In Revelation 12 we read how “Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” (Rev. 12:7-9).
Although Satan has great power and influence in this world, he has already been defeated. He was defeated in heaven and cast out. And he has already been defeated on earth through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Consequently, we are given full assurance of our own deliverance. We have full assurance of deliverance from the curse of sin and deliverance from the evil of this world as we are drawn to the glory of heaven.
You and I, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, have the same assurance of deliverance that Michael promised to Daniel. We have the same assurance of deliverance that the Apostle Paul described to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:18, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever…”
We have the assurance that in this ever increasingly evil world we are held in the hand of both the Father and the Son (John 10:28, 29); we have the assurance that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who guarantees our deliverance (2 Cor. 1:22). In addition, we are guarded by angels for God “will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” (Psalm 91:11)
We who by God’s grace have saving faith in Christ alone are also delivered from “the abomination that causes desolation.” That expression is used by Daniel three times (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11) and is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 24:15.
The abomination that causes desolation is a reference with multiple applications. In its original setting it refers to an evil Greek ruler by the name of Antiochus Epiphanes. One hundred sixty-eight years before the birth of Jesus, he desecrated the temple, sacrificing pigs on the alter and setting up an alter to the false god, Zeus. He also slaughtered many of the Jews.
But when Jesus quoted from Daniel, in his Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24, he taught that “the abomination which causes desolation” also refers to Titus and the Roman army as they desecrated and destroyed the temple in the year A.D. 70.
Daniel’s usage of the term is sometimes called “prophetic fore-shortening.”  It likens prophecies to mountains that are seen from a distance. From a distance it may look like one set of mountains, but as you get closer you see there are several mountain ranges beyond. The same is true of some Old Testament prophecies, such as Daniel’s. Initially it appeared to apply just to Antiochus Epiphanes, but then, beyond that application, it also applied to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple there.
And then, just as mountains have one range after another range, a third application is given to “the abomination which causes desolation.” That third reference is used to describe the image of the antichrist who will come to power just before the Lord returns. But the antichrist, with his abominable actions and personality, will be totally defeated by Christ, and again God’s people will be delivered.
But this passage not only assures us of our deliverance but also teaches that we are delivered for a purpose. That purpose is given in verse 3, “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.”
Yes, our culture is dark. It is wicked and grows more evil with the passage of time. But we are called, not just to be delivered out of this sinful world, but to shine the gospel of salvation into the world. You know the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
A second great promise to hold on to in this evil world is that God will sanctify us. Verse 10 assures us, “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”
­Since God, in grace, has justified us by faith in Jesus Christ, he promises to sanctify us, even using the trials of our life in a fallen world for our good. A crucial part of our sanctification is in the faithful, consistent, and thorough study of God’s Word, the Holy Bible. We see that when we compare Daniel 12 with Revelation 22. They both have reference to the last days and to eternity, but there is a different perspective between the two.
For instance, in Daniel 12:4 the angel tells Daniel, “But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.” By contrast, in Revelation 22:10 the Apostle John is told, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.”
You see, the sealing of the words of the scroll for Daniel meant that the vision was coming to an end. God had spoken to his servant. Daniel, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote the words he had received in a scroll. He added nothing to them. That is the essence of him sealing the scroll.
But the rest of the Scripture tells us to take that scroll and remove the seal, read the Word, meditate upon it, seek to understand and strive to live it out in our lives. That is the sense of the passage in Revelation 22 – not to seal up the words of the prophecy, but to inwardly digest the Word, for the time is near.
It is through the Word of God that we become wise (Psalm 19:7). What separates believers from unbelievers? It is the Word of God. Our worldview is radically different from those in our culture. Our worldview is shaped by the scroll – by the Word of God. As verse 10 puts it, “None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” Or, in the words of 1 Corinthians 1:18, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
It is because of the revealed Word of God – the scroll of Scripture – that we believe in the creation of the world and not the evolution of the world. It is through Scripture that we believe with saving faith in God – manifested in Jesus Christ – who created the world. As 2 Timothy 3:15 puts it, “The holy Scriptures…are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Our Inheritance
And then, it is by that faith in Jesus Christ that we are granted, for the sake of Christ, our allotted inheritance.
Did you catch the beauty of the promise given in verse 13? This promise is given to 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.”
The world will grow increasingly wicked. Evil is like a deadly mold that grows and spreads and kills. But we are to go about our day to day lives trusting in the promises of God, joyful that for the sake of Christ we have an allotted inheritance. All who have true saving faith in Jesus are guaranteed a heavenly home, a perfect and eternal home in “the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb. 11:10)
The allotted inheritance – which is eternal and can never be taken from us – is all due to the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. It is a result of God’s grace, through saving faith in his Son. Lord’s Day 23 of the Heidelberg Catechism describes the basis for our allotted inheritance beautifully as it asks the question, “How are you right with God?”
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.
Even though my conscience accuses me
    of having grievously sinned against all God's commandments
    and of never having kept any of them,
and even though I am still inclined toward all evil,
     without my deserving it at all,
     out of sheer grace,
God grants and credits to me
the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,
     as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner,
     as if I had been as perfectly obedient
        as Christ was obedient for me.
All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.
Have you, by God’s grace and Spirit’s power, accepted God’s gift of salvation through saving faith in his Son, Jesus Christ?
If so, then no matter what happens in your life and in the world, no matter how evil and antagonistic the world becomes, you and I are “to go our way” trusting in the promises of God and looking forward to the allotted inheritance that Christ earned for all who truly believe in Him! Amen.
Sermon outline:
“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.” - Daniel 12:13
                                   “At the End of Days”
                                         Daniel 12:1-13
I.  This chapter gives us a glimpse into the time preceding the Lord’s
     return and the final judgment (1-2). That era will be marked by:
     1) An increase in wickedness (1b, 10b; 2 Timothy 3:1-5)
      2) An increase in knowledge (4; 2 Timothy 3:7)
      3) Uncertainty as to when the Lord will return (6-7, 11; Matt. 24:36)
II. By His grace and power God promises to:
      1) Deliver us (1) and equip us to shine His light into our culture (3)
       2) Sanctify us (10)
       3) Grant us, for the sake of Christ, our allotted inheritance (13)
   III. Our response: No matter what happens in our lives and in the
          world, we are “to go our way” (9) trusting in the promises of
          God (Revelation 22:10-11)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Ted Gray

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