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3rd Sunday of End Times – Saints Triumphant

Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, “Get an exclusive look ‘behind the scenes’!” “Get a one-of-a-kind sneak preview!”  “Win a backstage pass to meet so-and-so in person!”  We hear things like that a lot, don’t we?  So many things in our world offer a “behind the scenes” look at something.  And it’s intriguing, isn’t it?  It whets our appetite, doesn’t it?  To get the opportunity to see the real thing, the reality, the real person behind the play acting before everyone else.  To get a perspective on something that most people don’t get the opportunity to do so.  Well, in a similar way, there’s a veil or curtain in front of every single living person today.  There are certain things about life that we simply can’t see.  We can’t see the great spiritual battle between the evil forces of the devil and God’s angelic forces that’s going on all around us.  We can’t see with our eyes the future and know exactly what’s going to take place.  We can’t see with our eyes exactly what it will be like after we die.  There is a veil; there’s a curtain that we can’t see behind.  But here in Daniel chapter 12 God gives us a glimpse behind that curtain, He gives us a look behind that veil, a look behind the scenes to the future and to the reality.  And it’s this look behind the scenes that gives us believers in Jesus a new perspective on life.

The book of Daniel is incredibly interesting.  Remember that Daniel was from a distinguished Jewish family, but in about 605 BC his nation was invaded and he, along with many others, was hauled off to captivity in Babylon and placed in the service of Nebuchadnezzar’s government.  Daniel lived to be around 90 years and went through a lot in his lifetime- a lot of which causes us to wince or have chills.  He watched as one of the most powerful people in the world at the time went utterly insane and started grazing like an animal.  Fellow believers Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were sent to be fried to a crisp in a fiery furnace for their faith in God.  He witnessed the entire nation of Babylon crumble and a new nation of the Medes and Persians take over.  Then Daniel for his faith in God was tossed into a pit to be chomped to pieces by hungry lions, but God rescued him.  Then, if that isn’t enough, God gave Daniel a series of visions in the last half of the book.  Visions about what would happen before the Messiah would come the first time and the second time.  There would be great armies battling each other, great kings- none Jewish! – would be in power, the temple would be desecrated, daily sacrifices would stop, even the anti-Christ would come set himself up in the midst of believers and lead many astray!

Can you imagine how Daniel felt?  I’m guessing he might have felt that was more of a behind-the-scenes tour than he had bargained for!  There were times in these visions he was afraid and frightened and collapsed with fear.  Well, our text for this morning is from near the end of the last vision.  And to top it all off we hear “There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.”  Wow!

These words of our text were not just a sneak preview for Daniel, they’re also meant for us.  Here God fast forwards from a few hundred years after Daniel to either our day today or sometime yet to come.  But the fact is, before the end there will be an unparalleled and unavoidable time of distress for God’s people.  In fact, Jesus promised the same thing.  So, can you relate to Daniel?  Have you looked at the world scene and been filled with fear, doubt, uncertainty, worry, fright?  Have you been there?  Have you found yourself worrying about the future and what’s going to happen?  There’s a lot of crazy stuff going on in the world.  Are we living in this last distress?

You see there is, beyond the ability of our eyes to see, a great struggle going on.  The world by right is God’s and yet at the same time the devil and his minions have counter claimed it.  There is a struggle and battle going on between the forces of God and the forces opposed to God.   The forces against God are after God’s people, you and I, and want nothing more than to undermine our faith in Christ.

Are we in this time now?  Our world has certainly seen many distressful things, but this final distress tops them all.  Well, we might say, “At least we aren’t experiencing the atrocities that Daniel and his friends experienced.”  True, but how many of us would be ready and willing to be burned alive for confessing our faith in Christ our Savior?  Yes, today we have many modern conveniences, technology like no other generation before us, mass communication, transportation, we might think we have it pretty good and don’t live in distressful times.  But what about spiritually? The number of people who regularly attend church, at least in this country, is in a rapid decline.  And even among those who do go to church, so many churches today have wandered so far from God and His Word that you can hardly consider them a church.  We do live in distressful times.  And yet even for us we are so often distracted from what is most important.  A few generations ago when the only book people had to read was the Bible, they knew it well.  Today we have computers, internet, TV, magazines, trillions of books, and we find increasing difficulty in our own lives to open God’s book.  Leaving our souls as open targets for the devil.  We live in distressful times.  So should we worry, fear, collapse on the ground in fright?

It may seem pretty bad, but take a look as God gives you a glance behind the scenes.  He has employed His great angelic prince Michael to defend His people.  “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people will arise”; commissioned by God and at His service.  We can’t see it with our eyes but throughout history God’s angels have been actively working behind the scenes to accomplish God’s purposes.  And even today and in the final distress we have the assurance from God that He will send His angelic forces who will successfully deliver “everyone whose name is found written in the book.”  What comfort for you to know!  No matter how bad it gets, God remains in control and will deliver His people no matter what!  The huffing and puffing of God’s enemies will come to a stop when God delivers all those who are in his family registry, loved and chosen by Him from the beginning!

But what about that one enemy that each of us dreads?  That enemy that causes us such sadness and turmoil?  Death.  Death is the unwelcome guest in every household.  And, as someone once said, the death rate is amazingly consistent: one per person.  No matter what medical advances are made, no matter what diet program we go on, no matter what pills we take, one day death will catch up to each one of us.  Why? Because we are sinful and the wages of sin is death.  Death is our final enemy.  Should we fear it and dread it?  God gives us a look behind the scenes:

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”  You see, even that enemy has been conquered.  Jesus took death head on.  He died on the cross, but then he rose from the grave!  Jesus defeated death, He triumphed over death by rising from the dead!  Death couldn’t hold Him and it can’t hold you either!  The worst thing that can happen to you is death and even that Jesus has turned into a mere sleep from which He will wake you up.  On the Last Day Jesus will victoriously raise you and give you a glorious and glorified body fit to live forever in an existence that is absolutely perfect and never ending!

However, that day will be utterly horrible for those who spent their lives evading God.  On that fateful day God will say to them, “You want to be rid of me, you want to be rid of my Word, fine, be rid of me – forever!”  God isn’t some spineless being who won’t do more than slap someone on the wrist.  That’s not the way God pictures himself.  God is perfectly just, those who reject Him pay the price.  And it’s this look behind the scenes and knowing how awesome it will be for the believer but how horrible for the unbeliever that makes us want to tell them, the share the truth, the wisdom of Christ crucified by inviting a friend to church, studying Scripture with a friend, an acquaintance, a coworker, bringing our children faithfully to church and God’s promise is that, “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.”

What’s behind the scene, what awaits you in heaven?  Glory far too imaginable for your mind to comprehend here on earth, no tears, no sorrow, no pain, no hardship, eternal blessedness, eternal joy, eternal peace!  An amazing and glorified body, cleansed of sin and all its effects, life forever with Jesus, feasting at the marriage banquet of the Lamb!  Wow!  And knowing that makes all the difference.  Yea, there may be difficult times in your life, you may experience trouble or pain or suffering, life might throw some curveballs, you may wonder what in the world is going on, but that isn’t the full reality.  Through the eyes of faith God’s given you an exclusive preview of ultimate reality, of the glory that awaits you beyond the grave in heaven.  So you can deal with anything.  Why?  Because you know the reality, you’ve seen behind the scenes, you know what awaits!

And so today on Saints Triumphant Sunday we remember those who have gone before us.  We aren’t filled with sadness or melancholy, but joy.  They have WON, they have finished the race, they know joy like none other, they know what it’s like to be free of pain and sorrow, to have their tears wiped away and to see Jesus face to face.  They are saints triumphant.  And one day?  We’re going to join them!  Then behind the scenes will become the reality!  Amen.