[“Hope is essential to all meaningful life. Unless there is some kind of light at the end of the tunnel, man ends in despair. Unless there is some kind of anticipation for a wonderful reality in the future, man finds himself unable to enjoy the moment in which he lives. Hope especially is important to those who suffer. Arnot wrote many years ago, “Hope is the tenant not of a heart that was never broken but of a heart that has been broken and healed, and healed- again. A pure bright star fixed high in heaven, it reaches with its rays the uplifted eye of the weary pilgrim. But stars shine not in the day, the darkness brings them out, so grief summons hope to the aid of the sufferer.” God knows well that in order for man to endure the present stress he has to have a future hope. And so all throughout the Bible, God presents to man a great hope, an eternal hope, a hope in the future, a hope beyond all other hopes that gives to man a full rich meaning to life. Now as you come to the close of the book of Daniel, this is precisely what Daniel does.” http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/27-30/the-great-tribulation-part-1] “Now at that time Michael, the great prince (the archangel – see Jude 9) who stands guard over the sons of your people (Israel), will arise. And there will be a time of distress (the Tribulation) such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people (Daniel’s people – Israel), everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake (resurrection), these (saved Jews) to everlasting life, but the others (will be resurrected) to disgrace and everlasting contempt (the unrepentant Jews). Those who have insight (or, who are wise) will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, (will shine) like the stars forever and ever (eternal rewards).” (Dan. 12:1-3) The remnant the apostle Paul spoke of in Romans 11:26 – “all Israel will be saved” – is rescued, resurrected and rewarded. This purging and salvation of believing Jews is also seen in Daniel 11: “He (this refers to Antiochus Epiphanes but is a foreshadowing of Antichrist) will flatter and win over those who have violated the covenant. But the people who know their God will be strong and will resist him. Wise leaders will give instruction to many, but these teachers will die by fire and sword, or they will be jailed and robbed. During these persecutions, little help will arrive, and many who join them will not be sincere. And some of the wise will fall victim to persecution. In this way, they will be refined and cleansed and made pure until the time of the end, for the appointed time is still to come.” (Daniel 11:32-35 NLT) Though this refers specifically to saved Jews and the nation of Israel (the 70th week in the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27) it has applications for all believers as we will see in this lesson.
As seen in the prophecies of Daniel, God continues to chasten His chosen people/nation Israel until, in the end (in the Tribulation), many turn to Him and put their trust in Jesus and He saves, protects and rewards them. “It will come about in all the land,” Declares the LORD, “that two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it. “And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’” (Zech. 13:8-9)
In Revelation 12 we see Michael’s defense and protection of the believing Jews: “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman (the nation of Israel) clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child (Jesus); and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon (Satan) having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven (the fallen angels who were cast out with Satan) and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child (Satan tries to kill Jesus). And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne (the ascension of Jesus). Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days (the second half of the Tribulation). And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Some say this means that Satan and his demons may lose some of their supernatural power at this point). Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.” And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child (the intense persecution of Israel in the Tribulation). But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth. So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children (the saved Jews in the Tribulation), who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”
Resurrected to eternal life/rewards or eternal death and hell – “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake (resurrection), these (the saved Jews) to everlasting life, but the others (unrepentant Jews) to disgrace and everlasting contempt.” (Dan. 12:2) [“The resurrection of tribulation saints will probably take place at the same time as the resurrection of Old Testament saints. (Revelation 20:4-6) There is not one general resurrection of the just and the unjust; but Daniel 12:2 and John 5:28-29 both combine these two resurrections in a single statement. Yet we can deduce that the first resurrection has multiple stages: Jesus Christ, the church (the rapture), martyred tribulation saints, Old Testament saints, and millennial saints. But the second resurrection (of the lost) consists of one gathering in the Great White Throne judgment.” http://www.kenboa.org/search/?q=daniel] Resurrection always refers to the resurrection of the body and thus a glorified body (like Jesus’) for all the saved and a body of “disgrace and everlasting contempt” and physical torment for the lost.
Eternal rewards – “Those who lead the many to righteousness, (will shine) like the stars forever and ever (eternal rewards).” (Dan. 12:3) Scripture teaches that some believers will receive greater rewards than others. Although this passage refers specifically to the Jews saved in the Tribulation, we know from other Scriptures that believers of all ages are resurrected and their works will be judged when Jesus comes again. This is not a judgment to determine if a person goes to heaven or hell. It is a judgment that determines which rewards they will receive. “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:10-15)
“If our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. And why should we ourselves risk our lives hour by hour? For I swear, dear brothers and sisters, that I face death daily. This is as certain as my pride in what Christ Jesus our Lord has done in you. And what value was there in fighting wild beasts—those people of Ephesus—if there will be no resurrection from the dead? And if there is no resurrection, “Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (1 Cor. 15:19, 30-32)
“All men seek happiness. This is without exception. It is the motive of every man – even those who hang themselves.” (Blaise Pascal, Pensees) Yet, without faith in the one true God our hopes for happiness are false, fleeting and will let us down sooner or later (maybe on our death bed). False and fleeting hopes (riches, sinful pleasures, status, temporal accomplishments, etc.) lure us away from regularly reading God’s Word and promises and thus our faith and obedience weaken and we, by default, put our hope in the things of this world – even good things – family, friends, work, etc., but not the BEST thing – living for the glory and honor of God as our Lord Jesus modeled as a Man. Thus our loving heavenly Father disciplines and refines us as believers for our spiritual and eternal good so we too will shine like stars in His eternal kingdom. Our capacity to reflect God’s glory in eternity is based on our faithful loving obedience to Him in this life. “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” (Phil. 2:14-16)
As with the Jews who finally turn to Christ in the end due to the severe mercy of God, we need to see the big and even little trials in our lives as God’s severe mercy to wean us away from the wood, hay and straw (sinful and spiritually worthless deeds) that will burn up at the judgment seat of Christ. See the questions below that relate to wisely and humbly allowing trials to transform us more and more into the likeness of Christ.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1) “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 12:7-11) What does the writer of Hebrews mean by “for those who have been trained by it”? What is God’s desired result of this training?
2) “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:16-18) What can tempt you to “lose heart”? Read Paul’s summary of his troubles in 2 Cor. 11:23-29. Why does Paul call his troubles, “light and momentary”? (Compared to Whom and what?) How did Paul and how can we “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen”?
3) “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18) What does Paul mean by this statement as it relates to God’s severe mercy; His loving discipline in our lives? [“From the explosion in West, Texas to the Boston Marathon bombings, from floods in the Midwest to the shootings in Seattle, the news continues to prove that life is fragile and tomorrow uncertain. So I’m going to follow the example of the Auschwitz survivor I met at the Holocaust museum. She refuses to allow the pain of her past to limit her purpose in the present and hope for the future.” Denison Forum – See http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=5369bb601ac44bfdda928110b&id=ced28dbd20&e=4867139a20]
4) “For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:19-21) Peter says that suffering righteously (versus reacting sinfully to suffering, even unfair treatment) is what God calls us to and that is what make us more like our Lord Jesus. Where may God be calling you to suffer by patiently enduring unfair treatment?