As in years past, there are many people and ministries who have an unhealthy obsession with the end-times. And the temptation with some people who get caught up in focusing on the latest headlines to advance theories about the date of Christ’s return is one of dropping out from society and the church. There can be a sense of anticipation that leads them to throws off the seemingly mundane responsibilities of life, causing life to exist in a sort of mid-point between here and then. Some have even gone so far as to buy into specific predictions of Christ’s return, running up his credit cards and not worrying about making payments! Certainly, the New Testament is clear that the Christian life involves a certain anticipation of the return of our King, but is this really how we should live?
In Daniel 8, the prophet is given a vision of future events for the life of his people, Israel. In some ways, it was a disturbingly clear vision to Daniel as he saw how Israel would again suffer because of their disobedience, being attacked once again by a foreign power who tried to strip away their Jewish identity and rob them of fellowship with God (8:9-14). While these events had a specific fulfillment which came about 150 years before Christ (8:15-26), they foreshadow even darker days before the end of all things—an end that we anticipate even today.
Daniel is given a vision of the future. He knows what is coming. But how does he respond? How does he go about living his life? Verse 27 says, “And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.” First of all notice that he didn’t just care about himself. He’s been shown what will happen four hundred years in the future and he is nearly knocked over by it. He is sick for days, not only in awe of the vision itself, but what the coming generation of his people will have to face. The weight of the spiritual realities doesn’t rest lightly on him.
But then second, he gets back up and goes back to work because he has a job to do. He doesn’t scare or worry himself into inactivity. He gets about the king’s business. He keeps living life as he normally would and did his duty. It reminds me of the time a man came to John Wesley and asked him, “Mr. Wesley, if you were to die this time tomorrow, what would you do in the remaining twenty-four hours?” Wesley pulled out his itinerary from his pocket, he read it to the man, saying “That is what I would do.”
Just as Daniel went about the king’s business, so must we. And though we have responsibilities to earthly employers and officials, all the more do we have business for heavenly king, King Jesus himself. So, what kind of business are we to be about? If you have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ who died to saved sinners and bring them to God with forgiveness and life, and you have been brought into his kingdom, then you have at least three standing orders from your King.
1. Pursue Fellowship with God
In his vision, Daniel saw that Satan would use the powers of this world to stop the daily sacrificial offerings of Israel (8:13-14). For three and half years, he is trying to caught off God from his people. He is trying to circumvent their regular life of faith. Likewise today, Satan is going to come at you from every angle he can, poking and prodding until he finds the chink in your armor that leads you to lay off pursuing your fellowship with God. But that is the very thing we are called to. This was a gift and calling secured by the shed blood of Christ—to the love the Lord our God with all of mind, heart, soul, and strength; to walk with him as our heavenly Father (Matt 22:37; Matt 6:5). Therefore, as you wait for the end to come, whenever that may be, faithfully strive in your calling to pursue fellowship with God.
2. Preserve Unity with God’s People
The sacrifices not only connected the people to God, but the temple also connected the people to one another. It was a sacred place where life with God intersected with life in the community. And Daniel saw that through a human tyrant, Satan would try to erase the identity of God’s people by outlawing their obedience to the covenant. The goal of course was to bring division and disharmony to Israel. Likewise today, Satan delights to see his people in disarray. He loves to see them bickering and fighting, harboring ill-will, and nursing bitter thoughts. Yet what did Jesus say? Not just to love your neighbor as yourself but to love one another—to love God’s people—even as he himself loved them (Matt 22:39; John 13:34-35). Community matters. Relationships matter. Fellowship as God’s people matters. Therefore, as you wait for the end to come, whenever that may be, faithfully strive in your calling to preserve unity among God’s people.
3. Plunder the House of God’s Enemy
Unlike Israel, we aren’t called to dwell in the promised land and enjoy the fruit of blessings that come from obedience. We are called to go. We are called, not just to maintain the kingdom, but to advance it (Matt 28:18-20). We do this because Christ has all authority over all things and Satan’s reign has been curtailed! Do you remember what happens in Luke 10? There, Jesus first sends out the seventy-two disciples, commanding them to preach the gospel and heal diseases as a sign that the kingdom has come. And they come back excited because of all they saw God do, and Jesus says in all of this, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). What does he mean? He means his power and influence have been disrupted. Remember Mark 3? Jesus says, “no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house” (Mark 3:27). I love that. Jesus is speaking of Satan as the strong man. And now that Jesus has come Satan has been bound and cannot hinder the progress of the gospel. While he used to come and go and deceive the nations, now King Jesus stands over him as it were, having bound him with chains, with a scared covered foot on his neck as the Church advances into darkest corners of the world with the light of the gospel. Therefore, as you wait for the end to come, whenever that may be, faithfully strive in plundering the house of God’s enemy. Faithfully strive to preach Christ and make disciples.
History shows that though the Axis powers were essentially defeated on D-Day with the invasion of Normandy, Hitler didn’t quit. In fact, the bloodiest battle—the Battle of the Bulge—came after his certain defeat. Likewise, though Satan has been defeated at the cross, though he can no longer deceive the nations as the gospel goes forth, he nevertheless throws the forces of hell itself in our path. This is why, in John 16, Jesus tells us that living in this world as one of his disciples mean we will endure suffering. We will encounter tribulation. But he also gives us hope. He says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (16:33).
Therefore, as we wait for the end, by faith in Christ, we should follow Peter’s advice and “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Pet 5:8-9).