26th Sunday after Pentecost
November 18, 2018
“Here He Comes…”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior and Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is the First Lesson read from Daniel 12.
My dear friends,
The Birchdale dump is conveniently located about 5 miles south of Birchdale, MN in the middle of nowhere. That’s the best place for a dump. Once I had a driver’s license, it became one of my jobs to take the garbage to the Birchdale dump. Our dad had a ’67 Chevrolet pick-up that we lovingly called “The Beast.” When it ran, it ran like a champ. When it didn’t run or when the roads were icy…not so much. On one trip back from the dump, the Beast suddenly conked out on the gravel road back to Birchdale. This is WAY before cell phones and oddly enough there are no phone booths at the dump! There was only 1 choice – walk the 5 miles back to Birchdale through a bear-infested, mosquito-riddled area. I had only walked less than a mile and, looking up, I saw what I heard – a fellow resident was coming down the road also making a dump trip at the same time. I was saved! It is amazing that someone came along when my situation was so desperate.
That’s what’s going on in our text for today…and I don’t mean a trip to the dump. Daniel comes at a time when God’s people are in serious trouble. The first wave of Israelites had been taken into exile in Babylon, a thousand miles from home. The first six chapters of the book are the history of God’s people as they were taken and lived in Babylon. Daniel became an advisor to King Nebuchadnezzar by interpreting the king’s dream. He was thrown into a den of lions for continuing to pray to the true God. His friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were cast into a fiery furnace for not bowing down to an idol. The second six chapters of Daniel are apocalyptic prophecy, most of which are in symbolic, picture, language like the Book of Revelation: strange creatures, symbolic numbers, battles between spiritual forces in heaven and on earth. In the text for today, we look at the last battle in the Book of Daniel and the coming of Michael.
Daniel says, “And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time” (v 1b). Worse than the exile? That’s like walking from here to Houston, Texas; Google Maps says that will take 2 weeks! We speak of this troubling time between Jesus’ first coming and second coming as the “end times” or the “age of the Church,” which we are living in right now!
Every generation thinks it’s going to be the last generation because every generation thinks society can’t get any worse than it already is. And yet the world continues to get further and further away from Christ and his Word. When we look in the newspapers, on the internet, on TV, we wonder: Where has the love for God gone? Whatever happened to love your neighbor as yourself? The Christian life is a pilgrimage and we are pilgrims – I’m but a stranger here; Heaven is my home – in an unwelcoming and unholy land, then ponder how much worse it will get between now and Judgment Day. It’s a frightening thought! And what Daniel sees coming is horrific. The Hebrew word translated “time of trouble” that Daniel uses contains the idea of getting squeezed in on every side, almost like being squashed in a vise grip. Ever feel like that?
Wouldn’t surprise me if you did. There is little doubt that our nation is losing its way. It doesn’t respect life in the womb or before the tomb. More and more people openly mock Christian teachings and religious freedoms are at risk. It is such a double standard. To mock Christ and His Church is okay, but insult any other organization, and you’re “hateful.” What?! It’s all happening just as foretold, a time of unparalleled trouble has come; a time of all-out opposition to God, a time of false prophets and persecution, of famines and earthquakes. Trouble is all around us and in us.
How can we get through this messy journey called “life”? God gives Daniel the answer—an answer that was as good back then as it is now. God has given us more than a prophecy of doom. He gives us a promise of deliverance. “At that time,” he says, “shall (come) Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people” (v 1a). Michael is the only archangel specified in the Bible, and one of only 3 that we know by name (Satan, Gabriel). He is the general of God’s army of angels, which protects God’s people from the forces of spiritual evil in the world. We are promised that we will not be abandoned, encouraging us to be faithful unto death because that final time of reckoning is definitely coming.
In the midst of a world gone mad, God reminds us that he will deliver us. Through faith in Jesus, we belong to the people of God, and we will be saved. At the last trumpet call, in the blink of an eye, God’s angels will gather up all of his people. It’s a breathtaking picture God gives: Jesus coming down out of the clouds with the archangel shouting the command for all to appear before the Christ. At his call, the graves give up their dead, and body and soul are reunited. Then the judgment will commence. Granted, there is much we don’t know: what will we look like, how long will the line be, do I stand in a cue line with all humanity? I thought the check-out lines at Publix were bad!
Regardless, all will come before the throne, both believers and unbelievers. On that throne will be Jesus, our Savior. He was given that position by his Father as the Redeemer of all mankind, the One who gave his life on the cross for the sins of all mankind. Those who do not believe in him as their Savior and Lord are doomed to everlasting contempt—which is hell, eternal separation from God.
“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” (v 3). In a difficult and complex world, it really is this simple: whoever believes in Jesus will be saved. Where he is, there they will be also, at home with him forever in heaven, where there will be no more suffering, pain, tears, or death. There they will shine like the brightness of the heavens and sing God’s praises together with the angels. Here is the source of courage we need to face our own death and the source of comfort we need as we mourn the deaths of our family and friends who loved the Lord.
Jesus will come on the Last Day; a date only the Father knows. Jesus wants us all to be ready to meet him. And we are ready, because He comes to us in Word and Sacrament and is coming to deliver us. “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20). Will you be ready when He comes? By faith, you will!