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Preparing For Tomorrow

Daniel  12

(Dan 12 NIV) "At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people--everyone whose name is found written in the book--will be delivered. {2} Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. {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. {4} But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge." {5} Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. {6} 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?" {7} The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, "It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed." {8} I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, "My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?" {9} He replied, "Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. {10} 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. {11} "From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. {12} Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days. {13} "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."

There is always a question when studying prophecy: “Why am I doing this?” It can seem confusing to many, particularly when the prophecy seems to be beyond interpretation. Even Daniel tells us, “I heard, but I did not understand.” (Verse 8). So why do we study prophecy?

·        First, that by seeing its fulfillment we may know that His Word is sure.

·        Second, that we may know who controls the universe and its destiny

·        Finally, that in knowing what is to come tomorrow we may prepare for it today. For the Bible is an intensely practical book.

Consider it this way. Do you have life insurance? Why? Are you planning on dying any time soon? Yet you know you will die, sooner or later, so to provide for those you love you make a bet with the insurance company. You are doing the work today of preparing for tomorrow. So it is with prophecy.

The Other Six Last Things

The ancients held that there are seven last things, one of these being the resurrection of the dead. Here are the other six, with a brief lesson on each:

The Tribulation

(Rev 7:14 NIV) I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "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.

And the lesson from this? That tribulation will come, whether it be the one referenced here or not, and that we must endure it. How are we to endure it?

(1 Pet 4:12-17 NIV) Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. {13} But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. {14} If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. {15} If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. {16} However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. {17} For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

Do you see the point? Rejoice, you are blessed when you suffer in Christ’s name - so praise God for it. (And see also the point of verse 17).

The Second Coming

(Acts 1:11 NIV) "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

That Jesus will return is proclaimed here and in other passages. The most common note in these passages is that He will return “like a thief in the night” -- suddenly, without warning, expecting us to be doing what He has commanded. The warning is very clear:

(Mat 25:31-46 NIV) "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. {32} All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. {33} He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. {34} "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. {35} For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, {36} I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' {37} "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? {38} When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? {39} When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' {40} "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' {41} "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. {42} For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, {43} I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' {44} "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' {45} "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' {46} "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

The message? Be Ready!


(Rev 16:13-16 NIV) Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. {14} They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. {15} "Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed." {16} Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

This is the only place in Scripture where the final battle is named, as are most battles, for the place at which it will take place. The word has come in English to mean doomsday, the end of life, the last battle because of its destruction. But this is not why it is the last battle -- it is the last battle because God says so. The lesson? “Guess who wins?”

The Millennium

(Rev 20:1-5 NIV) And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. {2} He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. {3} He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. {4} I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. {5} (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.

The age of peace to come is an age of peace -- because the cause of war and deception, Satan, is bound. When your enemy is bound, you have peace! And what kind of peace is that?

(Isa 11:6-10 NIV) The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. {7} The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. {8} The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. {9} They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. {10} In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.

The message? Good times are coming - after the storm.

The Judgment

(Rev 20:11-15 NIV) Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. {12} 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. {13} The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. {14} Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. {15} If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

It is curious how we view the judgment. The Old Testament writers saw it as a good thing; somewhat like getting civil judgment in court against those who had cheated or persecuted them. The New Testament writers see it more clearly. The court is not a civil court of complaint; it is the criminal court of sin. Why the change in view? I think Jesus gives the answer:

(John 15:20-24 NIV) Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. {21} They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. {22} If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. {23} He who hates me hates my Father as well. {24} If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.

(italics added). You see the point? He has come, and now there is no excuse for those who have heard. The judge is coming -- beware!

The New Heaven and New Earth

(2 Pet 3:10-13 NIV) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. {11} Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives {12} as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. {13} But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

Here Peter tells us (see also Revelation 21:1) that all creation will be renewed. This is part of our hope. It is also motivation to live holy and godly lives.

May I submit also that it is motivation to consider the glory of God? For if we admire the grandeur of nature -- which is His first creation, marred by our hands -- how much more admirable will be the new creation? Consider how marvelous our Lord is!

Rapture and Resurrection

The oldest book in the Bible, Job, references man’s greatest hope:

(Job 19:25-27 NIV) I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. {26} And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; {27} I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

Since that time, the Scripture has clearly taught the resurrection of the dead. It is shown here in Daniel. The clearest exposition of it in the New Testament is in I Corinthians 15, especially in verses 51-52. Ezekiel gives us a prophetic picture of it (musicians will remember “dem dry bones”):

(Ezek 37 1-14 NIV) The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. {2} He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. {3} He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" I said, "O Sovereign LORD, you alone know." {4} Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! {5} This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. {6} I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.'" {7} So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. {8} I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. {9} Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.'" {10} So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet--a vast army. {11} Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' {12} Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. {13} Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. {14} I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.'"

Scholars disagree on the number of different resurrection events prophesied in Scripture, and when they will occur.

·        Daniel seems to imply one resurrection event, at which both the evil and good are raised.

·        John, in this passage, distinguishes two:

(Rev 20:4-5 NIV) I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. {5} (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.

·        Others make a case for three resurrections:

·        First, the resurrection of the church age saints at the beginning of the tribulation.

·        Next, martyrs of the tribulation and the Old Testament saints at the end of the tribulation.

·        Finally, the wicked at the end of the Millennium.

The nature of the resurrected body is not well described, but there are some facts we can gather about it from the Scriptures:

·        Marriage (and by implication, sex) are no longer a part of the picture (see Matthew 20:23-32, especially 30).

·        But in that same passage, in Luke’s version, we see that death is also gone from the picture:

(Luke 20:35-36 NIV) But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, {36} and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection.

·        If, as is generally considered, the idea that Christ is the “first fruits” of the resurrection means that our bodies will be like His, we can look forward to:

·        being able to walk through walls and locked doors (John 20:19)

·        being recognizable - or not, as we seem to want (Luke 24:13ff)

·        but having a physical nature - as in, He ate with them (John 21)

·        The change itself will happen “in a twinkling of the eye” as the old King James Version had it:

(1 Cor 15:51-52 NIV) Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- {52} in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

·        It is also clear that the dead in Christ rise first, then those who are alive will meet them:

(1 Th 4:16-17 NIV) For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. {17} After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

(Some hold this is at practically the same moment; others hold this event to be interjected with the tribulation period -- who can say?)

The Point

So, the dead are going to rise. So what?

Paul makes these points in I Corinthians 15:

·        Faith is useless if there is no resurrection.

(1 Cor 15:13-14 NIV) If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. {14} And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

·        If there is no resurrection, we are suffering miserably for Christ for no profit:

(1 Cor 15:19 NIV) If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

(1 Cor 15:32 NIV) If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."

·        Jesus Christ is our guarantee of the resurrection:

(1 Cor 15:20-21 NIV) But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. {21} For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

It is no wonder that the attack on the faith centers on two things: the divinity of Jesus and the reality of the resurrection. Without these our faith is worse than useless. With these we inherit the kingdom of God.

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