Shining Ones – Daniel 12:1-4

 
This is a chapter which accentuates the preacher’s opportunity to take verses out of their context. For example, I once heard a message taking the last words of verse 4 and seriously abusing them. “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” The point of the sermon was that we are living in the last days, and recent advancements in knowledge and technology are proof. The preacher went on to describe the computers and mobile phones of the late 80’s and early 90’s. He spoke about the ability of television to broadcast to all the world the deaths of the two witnesses of Revelation. He described some of the radical advancements in medical procedures – all of which are passe today. Not only is the technology of this moment incomparable to that of 20 and 30 years ago, if we stay within the context of these verses, the angel was not talking about iPads, Blackberries and Space Shuttles. The running back and forth has nothing to do with highspeed trains, supersonic flight or Smart cars. This is a description of God’s people striving to understand this and other prophecies about the end-times.

Another example of Bible abuse is something that we will consider this evening. Before we finish the chapter, there are references to 1,290 days and then to 1,335 days. I have no doubt that the great experts who lecture and preach about prophecy can tell you exactly what those time periods mean. But the fact is that the angel was telling Daniel that he shouldn’t loose any sleep trying to figure them out. And furthermore, the words, numbers and dates are to be closed and sealed until the time of the end. It appears to me that only those saints of God who are alive during the Tribulation will be able to determine, without a doubt, what exactly those numbers mean.

Another abuse – one which isn’t quite as off-centered as the others – is to make the last words of verse 3 into a text for modern soul-winning. “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” While the “turning many to righteousness” probably is referring to the work of the evangelist, and the principle declared in this verse applies to any and every evangelist of God, rarely does the modern revivalist remind his hearers about the context. This is talking about evangelism during the Tribulation – towards the end of ordinary human history. It is about a special group of evangelists – not about every evangelist.

Having said that, let’s consider the principles which light up these shining ones.

“They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament – as the stars for ever and ever.”
We know all what stars are. Our telescopes and other instruments tell us that they are the suns of distant galaxies and solar systems. Many of them are the size of our sun, but many more of them are so large that our sun looks like a speck of dust on a basketball in comparison to them. On the other hand, when we are camping out away from the lights of our cities, and when the moon has not yet risen, but the sun is fully gone, and we look up into the night-time sky, the vast differences in size and composition of all those stars mean nothing. Our eyes can’t recognize them. All that we see are several thousand pinpoints of light – twinkling, and sometimes moving above us.

That sky is what the Bible calls “the firmament.” At night, the firmament is filled with stars and often the moon, but during the day it is dominated by the sun. One of my Bible dictionaries has this for its article about the firmament. “The expanse of the heavens immediately above the earth. The Hebrews seem to have viewed this as an immense crystalline dome, studded with stars, resting on the far distant horizon all around the spectator, and separating the waters above us from those on the earth. Through its windows the rain descended. It is not necessary to suppose they thought it was solid, It is not the aim of Scripture to give scientific statements of natural phenomena. Teaching religion, not astronomy of physics, it does not anticipate modern discoveries, but speaks of natural objects and occurrences in the common language of men everywhere.” I can live with that, even though there is much more that could be said.

For example, God Himself said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.”

Isaiah 40 doesn’t directly apply to this, but the Lord was quarreling with the idolaters in Israel, asking them…. “To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains. He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved. Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? \It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.”

In our text the angel tells Daniel – “they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” The question then becomes, does this mean that the wise will actually become stars or suns? Is this to be taken literally? Are the saints of God – are we – to become as bright as the Saviour was at His transfiguration? He was “transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” I have my doubts, because Revelation tells us that the Lord Jesus will be the light and illumination of the New Jerusalem and the New Heavens. We will not be the light source of our own personal heavenly mansion. Even though we shall be like Him, I don’t think that is what the Bible means in I John 3. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” Not two thousand years ago – not today – not ever will anyone rival the Son of God in any way.

And yet…. consider Matthew 13 and Jesus’ Parable of the Tares. “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. “Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

Who are these shining souls?
The first mentioned are those that be wise. Despite the slipshod way that some preachers interpret verse 4, this is not the wisdom of the classroom. This is not the wisdom of the experienced politician, or the scientist, or the engineer. As far as the Bible is concerned there is only one wisdom worthy of the word. There is a wisdom of the world, but that is not the angel’s subject. “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”

These wise souls of the Tribulation are those who have humbled themselves before the Lord and His Word. Speaking of His word, God has said, “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.” Paul said of the Lord Jesus that in Him “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” And speaking to Timothy he said, “from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Who are these bright and shiny wise people? They are those who have been regenerated by the grace of God, and who have learned the principles of the Word of God. This verse, even though it is speaking of the people of the Tribulation, could be speaking of the saints of God in any day and age. This verse could be speaking about you and me.

But there is an additional description – they are those who turn others to righteousness. Think about the words “to righteousness.” That Hebrew word is ten times as often translated “to justify” as it is “righteousness.” “Justification” is usually considered a New Testament term far more often than something Old Covenant. And in the language of Paul, justification is the act in which God declares specific sinners to be righteous. Justification is the gracious act of God which makes a wicked sinner into a saint – a sanctified one.

Turning others toward justification – towards salvation – towards faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is a glorious service to God and man. There is no more important or useful occupation under the firmament of Heaven. There is no occupation on the planet more beneficial to mankind. To solve the riddle of cancer might make a person temporarily famous and rich for the rest of his life, but that wouldn’t be one one-hundredth as important as to lead one soul to the Saviour. To be a statesman and garner a lasting peace between constantly warring parties is not the same thing as brokering peace between a sinner and God. To be the next Bill Gates, designing an unheard of new technology might make us fabulously wealthy. To become the greatest basketball or football player of all time might give us a few years of fame. But to be instrumental in pointing a broken heart to Christ, would make us like the stars in God’s firmament for ever and ever.

Unlike some modern revivalists, I’m not implying that evangelists actually turn sinful hearts into righteousness. No, we are more like the flagman at the side the of the road, rather than like the road crew itself. We have all seen the man or woman standing at the side of the road, or perhaps right in the driving lane, directing cars around and through some road construction. The pavement up ahead is in terrible shape, or perhaps there has been a terrible accident. This person’s job is to make the driver think, to be aware of the problem, to take the proper evasive action. That is the work of this evangelist – hopefully, turning many into the right path – toward the Lord’s imputed righteousness. Those people directing traffic along the highway may not be much appreciated, but they are important. And those people who direct lost souls toward the Saviour are important as well. This angel says that “they shall shine as the brightness of firmament and as the stars for ever and ever.”

Have you ever turned anyone to righteousness? Maybe it was a child, or a sister, or a neighbor. Who was the last? When was the last? Will you be one of this chapter’s “shining ones?”

Perhaps the problem is that you, yourself, have not yet turned to the Saviour. Have you ever come to the realization of the wretchedness of your sins before God? Have you come to the conclusion that you deserve to die right now and to spend the rest of eternity in the Lake of Fire? Have you ever repented – had a change of heart and mind about your sin and your relationship to God? Have you ever thrown yourself upon the mercy of the Lord? Have you ever put your trust in what the Son of God did on the cross when He died there that dark and dismal afternoon?

The work of the evangelist boils down to two words – “repent” and “trust.” The evangelist says to you – “Repent before God and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”