Daniel 12:1-3 (25th Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 28—Series B)
“Trouble, Deliverance, Resurrection”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
November 15, 2015
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is today’s Old Testament lesson, from Daniel 12:
“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
Week after week the Church on earth confesses the Christian faith according to the Creeds of the Church. Included in that statement of the Christian faith is the confession of “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,” the acknowledgement of “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” This is our confession of what we believe, teach, and confess as Christians. Unfortunately, we don’t always live as if this were our confession of faith. We live as if the grave is our end, as if dying and going to heaven is our end. But it’s not! There’s more—the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come!
In our readings today Daniel prophesies and Jesus clarifies that we live in a time of distress. We live in the time of sin, Satan, and death. We live under the power and authority of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. The effects of a fallen, sin-filled world are all around us. They affect us and impact our lives. Diseases of all persuasions—physical and mental—destroy individuals and relationships. Natural disasters destroy lives and property. Reputations are butchered by gossip and people are deeply hurt by unkind words and lies. Alcohol and drug abuse are rampant. Pornography is a huge money-making industry. And it’s not just the non-Christians abusing alcohol, drugs, and sex. The attacks on Christians by the devil, the world, and their own flesh are real and devastating and damning. On a regular basis, before our own eyes, we see the “wages of sin” reaping its payment—death—against loved ones, friends, and people we don’t even know. Every day the news is filled with obituaries, with stories of this murder and that suicide, with accounts of another tragic accident that claimed a life.
Wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, and famines. A time of distress and trouble. A time of sin, Satan, and death. The beginning of the birth pains, says Jesus. The one who endures to the end will be saved, says Jesus. And that salvation is real in Jesus.
Daniel writes by the power of the Holy Spirit, “And at that time your people will escape, all of those written in the scroll.” What is that scroll or “book”? Scripture tells us that it is the Book of Life. Jesus refers to it this way in Luke 10:20, speaking to His disciples who had just come back from their work of ministry, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” This idea of a book with the names of God’s people written in it suggests to us that our salvation is planned (all the way back to eternity, in fact!) It suggests that our salvation is a sure thing because there is an air of finality when something is written down, recorded for all time. God means business when it comes to salvation.
And He certainly didn’t mess around when it comes to saving people from sin, Satan, and death. God the Son took to Himself human flesh and blood so that He might stand in as humanity’s substitute. God the Son became man so that He might, on our behalf and in our place, keep 100% perfectly God’s Commandments. The devil, the world, and our sinful nature tempt us and we fall into sin, placing things and desires before God. We misuse God’s name. We fail to honor authorities. We murder with our words. But where we sin, Jesus did not. Jesus’ perfect record is credited to you as your perfect record because Christ is your substitute. He kept God’s Law, His commands, perfectly for you. Therefore, you are right to stand before God in holiness and perfection, credited with Jesus’ holiness and perfection.
Jesus’ fulfilling of the Law for us takes care of our inability to do so. We are given credit for Christ’s obedience so that God views us in Christ as having kept His Law and commands. But what about the punishment for our failures? God in His holiness can’t excuse our sins against Him and His commands. That’s why Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, willingly assumed that punishment as His own. He suffered death and hell as He suffered on the cross, bearing our sins in His own body on the tree. Jesus shed His blood for you, for your sins, to redeem you from sin, death, and the power of the devil. “The blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
According to the perfect plan of God, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Tim. 1:15) And that salvation from sin and death is a done deal. It’s a sure thing. Jesus has died. He has shed His blood on the cross to save you. “It is finished!” You are forgiven. You are redeemed. You are saved from sin. You are saved from death. Jesus lives! He is risen from the dead, never to die again. Christ’s resurrection also means your resurrection. Jesus has saved and redeemed not just your soul, but the whole you—body and soul! Therefore, in the words of the Prophet Daniel, “Those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
As certain as your salvation is, so is your bodily resurrection from the dead. In fact, believers and non-believers alike will be raised again when Jesus comes again in glory on the Last Day. Jesus in John 5:28-29 tells us, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29). As with Daniel, notice the distinction. Those who received the gift of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone as Savior will rise to everlasting life, good works being the outward sign of faith in the heart. Those who rejected the gift of salvation in Jesus will rise to everlasting contempt and judgment.
You and I then, who confess the gift of saving faith, acknowledging that “Jesus is Savior and Lord,” will rise again with our bodies from death’s grave. Death has no power over us. (Rev. 20:6) Salvation is ours because of Jesus and that includes the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting! As Pastor N.T. Wright has written there is “life after life after death.” It’s the resurrection. And it’s guaranteed!
So with the surety of salvation and forgiveness, with the guarantee of resurrection to everlasting life because of Jesus Christ, how are our lives different? First, we know for certain that forgiveness, resurrection, and life eternal are ours through Jesus Christ. We have a hope and a future, the hope and future of resurrection and life with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in a new creation where He will dwell with us face to face forevermore. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’” (Rev 21:1, 3) That’s the promise for us. That’s the guarantee for us. Because that is our hope and future, because it is God’s promise and guarantee, we now seek to make many righteous by proclaiming the Good News message of Jesus Christ—His death and resurrection for forgiveness and resurrection to life everlasting. With the power and grace of the Holy Spirit working in us through Word and Sacrament, we seek to shine like stars, reflecting the glorious light of Christ to a world living in the darkness of sin, Satan, and death. We desire to share Jesus and His salvation with those who are in the distress and trouble of this world. We want to give the hope and future of resurrection and life to as many we can because that is what God wants. He wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4)
And the truth is that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the whole world on the cross. He rose again from the dead conquering death. Jesus gives forgiveness of sins through His Word and Sacraments, guaranteeing our bodily resurrection from the dead and the life everlasting. That is our hope and our future. It is what live for. It is what we believe, teach, and confess. And it is the message that you and I are privileged to proclaim and share with many others so that, by the working of God the Spirit, it may become their hope and future too. Amen.