The Shining Saints of God
May 7th, 1972 @ 10:50 AM
THE SHINING SAINTS OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-7-72 10:50 a.m.
On television and on radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. The title of the sermon this morning is The Shining Saints of God. And it is an exposition of the first three verses of the twelfth chapter of Daniel. In our preaching through the Book of Daniel, we have come to the last part of the last vision. And I shall doubtless preach one more sermon on Daniel to close the series. Now this is the reading of the text:
And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
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.
Now we begin at the first verse: “And at that time shall Michael stand up” [Daniel 12:1]. What time? When the Bible was written, of course, there were no chapters to divide it and no verse divisions. So it was a continuous writing. And the last vision is chapters 10, 11, and 12 [Daniel 10:1-12:13]. And this is in the midst of that last vision. So “at that time” refers to the verses immediately preceding, which have described the great tribulation, and the arising of the final Antichrist, and the battle of Armageddon [Daniel 9:26-27]. In that time of trouble and darkness and sorrow, shall Michael, “the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people”—“at that time will Michael stand up” [Daniel 12:1]. Does he deliver the people? No. Michael’s presence does not keep the people of God from going through all of those times of trouble and trial.
And that ought always to be remembered by us who have found refuge in God. Because you are a Christian and because you belong to the Lord, does not mean in any wise that you won’t have all of the sorrows that anyone else experiences in this world. Sickness, and trouble, and frustration, and disappointment are the lot of everyone who pilgrimages through this earthly veil of tears. And you who are Christians will likewise experience those same dark days, and the tears will fall from your eyes, and you will know broken-heartedness. But the difference lies in the presence of God. Not that we are delivered from our troubles, and not that we do not know sorrows, and not that tears do not fall from our eyes, but God is with us, and His angels are for us, and the hosts of heaven war on our side. Yea, the very stars in their courses strive and work together for good to them who love God. So it is at the end time—in this time of great trouble, Michael, thy great prince who stands for the people, he shall stand up for you. But his presence does not keep them from the dark and evil day.
“And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation to that same time” [Daniel 12:1]. The whole course of prophetic Scriptures moves toward that same revelation—that history is consummated in a time of indescribable and unbelievable turmoil and conflict. And what I read in the Bible, I see in the development of human history. We are not becoming less belligerent, nor are we becoming less able to fight battles and to wage war. We are becoming more able. Our instruments of conquest are more frightful and fearsome and destructive. And don’t ever persuade yourself that there has ever been an invention of warfare or of destruction that has not been used against our fellow men. And these atomic bombs and these guided missiles and these submarines of death and attack that lurk beneath the surface of the seas are being prepared, and they are being manufactured, and they are being launched for a purpose. And that purpose is for war. The whole prophetic Scripture moves toward that end; that history looks forward, not to a time of peace and quiet but to a time of conflict and bloodshed. Now at the consummation of the age, the revelation says, the vision says that there will be a time of trouble for “thy people” such as there never was since the beginning of the world [Daniel 12:1].
Now “thy people,” of course, refers to Israel. Daniel’s people were Hebrew people. They were Jewish people. And this is a prophecy that concerns Jewish people, the Hebrew nation, Israel, and of course finally engulfs us all. Well, what about that? There shall be a time of trouble for thy people, such as never was since there was a nation even to this present time [Daniel 12:1]. All Hebrew prophecy follows that same pattern of prediction, namely, that for the children of God, for the nation of Israel, there is sorrow before salvation. There is tribulation before triumph; that Israel shall know sorrow indescribable and grief, grievous and heavy. All Hebrew prophecy is toward that end.
There are three things in the Bible concerning Israel that has an unvarying note. Over and over again, you hear that theme played. It comes back and it comes back and it comes back. One is this—that Israel will be a perplexity to the nations of the earth, that the problem of Palestine posits for the world an insoluble problem. There is no exception to that in Hebrew prophecy. I read—and these passages I read, remember, are just one out of a multitude that could be read, but we haven’t time. I read one that is typical: in Zechariah, chapter 12, verses 2 and 3. Listen. “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about . . .” Next verse—“And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people” [Zechariah 12:2-3]. There is no human solution to the problem of the Middle East. There are no men wise enough to solve it. It will not be solved by arms, by military conquest. It will not be solved by diplomacy. It posits, according to the prophecy, an insoluble problem; it finds no solution. That is exactly what I read and what I see.
As many of you know, a few months ago, I was invited to the White House in Washington for a briefing on the foreign policy of the United States. I was invited back again in the last few weeks and could not go. As the briefing circled around, largely concerned itself with our fighting in Vietnam, I asked the question to this man who stands next to the president of the United States in shaping the foreign policy of America—I asked him, “What of the Middle East and what of Israel?” And his reply was very frank and very direct, and I think very factual. He said, “There will be no great confrontation of world powers in Indochina, in Vietnam, however the war turns. But,” he said, “the great potentiality for confrontation between the great powers of the earth lies in the Middle East.”
There you see Russia with its Mediterranean fleet and the United States with its Sixth Fleet, and the powers of the free world and the slave world aligned on either side. There you see them, face to face. Our ships literally brush one another in the Mediterranean. And however the diplomat sits down, and however the United States calls sessions, however they censure or however they are encouraged, there is no solution to the problem of the Middle East. And that is exactly what God says in His Word; a time of trouble for thy people and the great trouble is yet to come [Daniel 12:1].
This also is a refrain that is all through the prophetic Scriptures. I take one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament—that there lies ahead for Israel, the people of God, an incomparably, indescribably sorrowful time and future. Listen to Jeremiah:
And these are the words that the Lord spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah.
For thus saith the Lord; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace.
Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child?
Did you ever hear of a man giving birth to a baby?—
Ask ye, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness?
Every man in the nation, as if he were in childbirth; the pangs and labor of giving birth to a child. And the face pale—
Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble.
As the text says there was no time like it [Daniel 12:1].
Now the passage from the New Testament is from the apocalyptic words of our Lord in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew:
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
First: there is no solution, the Scriptures say, to the problem of the Middle East. Second: that there awaits for Israel a time of indescribable sorrow and trouble; such as there never was. But third, and this also is the unwearying, unfailing, unchanging prediction of the Word of God: at that time, in those darkest hours, and in those days of deepest trial and trouble, and at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book [Daniel 12:1]. And this is the way the tragic prophecy of Jeremiah ends: “it is a time of Jacob’s trouble: but he shall be saved out of it” [Jeremiah 30:7]. “For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee” [Jeremiah 30:11]. Israel will be a people and a nation forever. And in that time of denouement, she will be restored and will lead the nations of the earth in a thousand ways known but to God—in peace, in faithfulness, in consecration, in worship, in devotion. And I would think in art, in literature, in music, in a thousand other ways has God endowed those people.
Now listen to that same prophecy in Romans 11, verse 26. After Paul has discussed the rejection of Israel’s Messiah and the troublous judgment of God upon the people [Romans 11:11-12, 20-22], then he says there is a time coming in the fullness—the plerōma—of the Gentiles, when the last Gentile has been saved [Romans 11:25]—at that time; then he begins, “And so all Israel shall be saved” [Romans 11:26], which I have said many times is the hardest verse to understand in the Bible. But it says it. I don’t understand it all, but I believe it! And I find assurance and comfort in it!
And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance—
without change or turning.
A man may make a promise and break it, but not God! And the Lord made an unconditional covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob [Genesis 35:11-12; Psalm 105:8-11]. And God will honor that “in that day” [Zechariah 12:3]. And that day, Daniel says, is in the day of the great tribulation, when God shall come down, when the Messiah shall personally intervene, and when the people of the Lord shall be restored to that heavenly favor of peace and glory that befits the Son of David, who shall reign on David’s throne and forever [Daniel 12:1-3].
Now as the prophet presents that vision—“At that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” [Daniel 12:1]. And I think that enlarges it, because of that book, that enlarges it to all of God’s people! Not only the chosen seed and family Israel, but to all who by faith have found forgiveness of sins and salvation in Israel’s Messiah, in our Christ and Lord.
“Every one found written in the book” [Daniel 12:1]—God has a book, and on the inside of those pages are written the names of those who have looked in faith and trust to Him. If you’re saved, your name is in that book. The idea of the Book of Life comes from the ancient habit of making genealogical tables, the families of the people of Israel, the book. And the idea was applied to God’s family and to God’s people. They are enrolled in a book, the Book of Life. That Book of Life is referred to in the Book of Exodus chapter 32 [Exodus 32:32]. It is referred to in the Book of Psalms: Psalm 56:8 and Psalm 69:28. It is referred to in Isaiah chapter [Isaiah 34:16]. It is referred to in Malachi 3:16. It is referred to in Philippians 4:3. It is referred to in Revelation time and again [Revelation 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27], the Book of Life. And these who are enrolled in that book, they are God’s children, they are saved of the Lord.
Then the vision continues to those who shall be presented to God in that heavenly and glorious day. “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” [Daniel 12:2]. In that great and final day, there shall be a resurrection from the dead. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.
Why does he use the word many? Why doesn’t he use word “all,” for he means all? But he uses the word “many.” There are two reasons for that word “many.” First, there are many that shall arise. That is in contrast to the few who shall be alive at the coming of the Lord. When the Lord comes, any day, any time, the living will be comparatively few in number. It is the dead who shall be the great, vast, multitudinous, innumerable throng—the “many” who are asleep in the earth, compared to the “few” who shall be alive to the coming of the Lord. And that word “many” refers to another thing. It is a partial resurrection, always. It is a fractional resurrection; that is, they are not all raised at the same time.
You know, it is interesting how the Bible will unfold that revelation of the resurrection from among the dead. There are four things that it will do. One: the Bible will present that there is a resurrection, the fact of the resurrection. We shall be raised from the dead! An example of that is what Martha said to Jesus in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John, speaking about Lazarus who had died and had been buried for four days. Martha said to Jesus, “I know that he shall live again in the resurrection at the last day” [John 11:24]. She had been taught from the Word of God there will be a resurrection.
But second, the Bible continues in that revelation: there will be a divided resurrection. There will be a resurrection of the saved, and there will be a resurrection of the lost. It will be a divided resurrection. You have a good instance of that in the words of our Lord in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John. He said, “Marvel not at this,” at the resurrection of the dead, “for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice”—the voice of the Son of Man—“and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” [John 5:28-29]. So there is not only a resurrection, there is a divided resurrection. There is a raising of those who are saved. There is a raising of those who are lost; a divided resurrection.
Third: there is at that time a great separation in it, an eternal separation in it. In the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord said that all of the people in this world are like wheat and tares, and they grow in the same field. But at the end time, they are separated, the wheat gathered into the garner, and the tares bundled and burned with unquenchable fire [Matthew 13:36-43]. There is to be a great separation in the resurrection. Here, we live in this same world. We are buried in this same planet, the same earth. But when we are raised, there will be two resurrections: one for the lost, one for the saved. And at that time there will be a vast separation. You find that in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. When the nations, the Gentiles of the earth, are gathered before the throne of Christ and, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats, so Christ shall divide the saved from the lost [Matthew 25:31-34]. There is to be a great separation!
And then last, the revelation in the twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse, out of which we read together a moment ago: there is to be a thousand year interval between those two resurrections, the resurrection of the saved and the resurrection of the lost [Revelation 20:4-6]. And “blessed and holy is he,” said the apocalyptic writer, “blessed and holy is he who hath part in the first resurrection: upon him the second death hath no effect” [Revelation 20:6]. To belong to the house of God, the family of the Lord, and to be raised to the glory of Christ in heaven is God’s benedictory gift to those who look in faith and trust to Him.
Then that leads to the next verse. In the resurrection, how blessed those who are saved; what tragedy for those who are lost: “some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” [Daniel 12:2]. O dear God, that we might be ready, that we might be saved, that when we die our souls are with God in heaven, and, in the great denouement and consummation of the age when our bodies are raised, that we might find a place with Thee in heaven. But the tragedy of those who are lost! Then he says, “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever” [Daniel 12:3]. Oh, oh, that we might be among those who are wise, who believe in Christ and are saved, and that we might be used of God to turn others to a like salvation! And for them is this eternal reward: they shall shine as stars! These who win souls, they shall shine as stars forever and ever [Daniel 12:3].
Do you notice the beauty of that verse? “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever” [Daniel 12:3]. The beauty, the poetic flow of those words is precious. And the reason that I notice it so much is where I find the verse. It is found in one of the darkest visions in the Bible, for this vision concerns the great tribulation. It concerns the rise of earth’s final and awesome and fearsome dictator. And it arises and finds its lodgment here in a vision that is portraying the final battle of Armageddon and the destruction of the kingdoms and nations and armies of the world [Daniel 11:2-45]. And yet, in that darkness is this glorious diamond beauty—this verse, this stanza [Daniel 12:3]. Isn’t that an unusual thing? And it is always like that.
Look, here in the prophecy of the tribulation, the great tribulation, the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth chapters of the Book of Daniel—the prophecy of the great tribulation, the Antichrist, Armageddon [Daniel 10:1-14, 11:2-12:3]. You find that prophecy enlarged in Revelation, beginning at chapter 4 clear through chapter 19; those awesome days of the tribulation [Revelation 4:1-19:21]. Now, in those days—in those days, in the darkest days of trouble the world shall ever know—in those days you have earth’s greatest revival, the greatest turning to God! Just read the seventh chapter of the Book of Revelation [Revelation 7:1-17]: erchomenoi—“these are they who are coming”—hoi erchomenoi—“are coming out of”—ek tēs thlipseōs tēs megalēs—“the tribulation, the great” [Revelation 7:14]. When John sees them, it is a multitude whose robes are washed white in the Lamb [Revelation 7:14]—a multitude no man could number [Revelation 7:9]. It is always like that. There is never a time but that God has His witness in the world. There is never a time but there is a star shining in the sky. There is never a time in the deepest darkness but that the sunrise is just beyond the horizon. And thus it is here; in the darkness of this vision is this most glorious word and promise: “they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever” [Daniel 12:3]. What God has to bestow upon those who win souls to Him!
Isn’t that a strange thing how opposite you see in this world? Who are the great in this world? To whom are the plaudits and the encomiums and all of those pages of history and glory? To whom are most of those pages dedicated? Why, bless your heart, a schoolboy could answer that. The men who are great in the pages of history are almost without exception men who have organized armies of destruction and led them and deployed them over the face of the earth. Their names are household words: Caesar; in Greek, kaisaros; in the German language, the Kaiser; in the Russian language, the czar. The name has come down for the rulers of the nations through the years—Caesar, the great soldier and general!
If you went to Paris it would be unthinkable that you not stand at the tomb of Napoleon. If you went to London it would be unthinkable that you did not visit Trafalgar Square with its tall monument to Admiral Nelson. If you went to New York City you would see Riverside Drive and the tomb of Ulysses S. Grant. If you visited the great cities of South America, in every one of those cities you would find equestrian statues to the great military leader, Bolivar. They named a nation for him—Bolivia. These are the great of the earth.
But who are the great of God? “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever” [Daniel 12:3]. Who are these great? In God’s sight, who is great? Who shall shine for ever? In God’s sight and in God’s Book of Life and in the rewards that are handed out in glory, the great are these who turn many to a saving faith in God. They are God’s great ones. Am I talking about famous pulpiteers and eloquent, stentorian, oratorical preachers? No, not at all! This is a nobility and a greatness that belongs to the humblest of God’s saints.
There was a rich man, merchandiser, who was dying—a Christian man. And his wife, his Christian wife, said to him, “Shall I call for the pastor of the church that he come and pray for you?’ And the sinking man replied, “No. No. Send for John, the porter at the store. Send for John, the porter at the store. I have watched him and known him for more than twenty years. He is Christ’s man. He is God’s man. Send for John and have John pray for my soul.”
“Well,” you say, “that is an insult to me, pastor.” Listen, when I read that this last week preparing this sermon, I liked it. I liked that. Who are God’s great, these that shine forever and ever? And it isn’t they that the world magnifies and exalts and applauds. It is God’s humblest who point souls to Jesus. Oh, I just think that is one of the most magnificent things that God reveals to us in His Word.
Listen, how fleeting, how transitory and temporary and ephemeral is the nobility of the world. It passes like a mist. Tell me, in 1370—in 1370, who were the lords, and the dukes, and the viscounts, and the rulers of the earth? Who were they? I have no idea. But I remember John Wycliffe, the translator of this Holy Bible who shines as a star forever and ever [Daniel 12:3]. John Wycliffe, whose body they dug up, and burned, and scattered his ashes on the River Swift that runs into the Severn that runs into the Avon that runs into the sea that laves the shores of the earth. I know of John Wycliffe. Tell me, in the year 1660, who were the lords and the viscounts and the kings and the rulers of the world in 1660? Some of us might guess one or two like Charles II. But I know John Bunyan, who shall shine in God’s galaxy forever. Tell me, who were the lords and the viscounts and the dukes of the world in say, 1750? I don’t know. I have no idea. But I know of John Wesley and Charles Wesley—the hymn we sang a moment ago—and George Whitefield. These are stars in God’s sky who shall shine forever and forever.
Ah, think of the reward. “And they that turn many to righteousness”; why, to turn one—and I had a passage to read out of a saint’s life, but I don’t have time for it—to turn one to righteousness. Do you remember how James, the pastor of the church of Jerusalem, closes his epistle? James 5:20: “Let him know”—let him know. God telling him, “Let him know, that he that converted the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” Just one. Just one. Here it says, “they that turn many to righteousness” [Daniel 12:3]. Think of introducing two to the Lord. Think of introducing three. Think of introducing many—“shall shine as the stars forever and ever” [Daniel 12:3]. Lord, give to us that noble inheritance, somebody we have introduced to Christ, your children, a friend, O Lord, grant it to us.
Now we are going to stand and sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing the song, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, a family, a couple, or just you, if you’re in the balcony, down one of these stairways, at the front and at the back and on either side, and there is time and to spare; come. If you are in the last row of that second balcony and God bids you here, come this morning. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Pastor, today I have decided for God and I’m coming.” To put your life with this dear church, to give your life in a new way to the Lord, to answer God’s call for you, to accept Jesus as your Savior, to be baptized as the Lord says in His Book [Matthew 28:19-20], as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, come now. Make it now. Decide now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand up to sing this hymn of appeal, stand up walking into that aisle and down here to the front. “Here I am, pastor, this is my hand. I’m coming.” Do it now. Make it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE SHINING SAINTS OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Time of trouble
A. Deliverance delayed
B. God’s people will go through suffering for greater blessing
B. Divided resurrection
III. Everlasting rewards