Aug. 31 Explore the Bible: Keys to surviving tribulation
Aug 26, 2014
By MARK A. RATHEL
DANIEL 9:20-27; 12:9-13
Church historians affirm that more Christians experienced martyrdom in the 20th century than the previous 19 centuries of the Christian faith. The 21st century evidences harsh persecution by many Christians throughout the world in places like China, Iraq and Sudan. An ancient church leader referred to bloody persecution as the “seed of the church.” As the Roman Empire increased persecution of Christians, the church grew. Recently, a major British newspaper —The Daily Telegraph—reported that China might become the world’s most Christian nation within 15 years. The blood of the martyrs is becoming the seed of the growth of the church throughout the world. American Christians, in contrast, consider mere ridicule persecution.
Daniel provided encouragement to believers experiencing tribulation and persecution. What lessons can we learn about surviving tribulation?
First, tribulation helps believers focus on what is most important (Daniel 9:1-19). The Jewish people focused on a privileged status with God by glorifying in the Promised Land, temple and Jerusalem. Many Jews, including Daniel, experienced life without land, temple or Jerusalem in the land of Babylon. Persian leaders, such as Darius, defeated the Babylonians. Daniel realized that Jeremiah’s prophecy of 70 years of exile might soon end (Jer. 25:11-12). During difficult days, Daniel modeled the proper response of believers. He meditated upon the Word (9:2), He confessed (v. 4) and petitioned God on behalf of the people. His prayer celebrated the character of God as a covenant-keeping, faithful God. The prophet acknowledged that the people, including himself, sinned against God (9:5, 8, 11, 15). God is Great! We are sinners! He petitioned God for forgiveness (15-16) and the positive restoration of God’s favor (17-19). During tribulation, the most important factor of life is one’s relationship with God. Rather than praying for the cessation of persecution, many believers in other countries pray American Christians may experience persecution so that we may focus on what is most important.
Second, the ultimate victory of God assures believers during tribulation (Daniel 9:20-27). Daniel focused on a prophecy of Jeremiah concerning 70 years. God challenged Daniel to look beyond the 70 years of trial to the future victory of the Kingdom. By the end of 70 weeks of years, God would accomplish six things. Three of God’s accomplishments relate to sin: ending rebellion, stopping sin and wiping away iniquity. The next three of God’s accomplishments relate to the Kingdom: establishing righteousness, authentication of God’s work described as “sealing” and anointing the holy one (some English translations prefer “holy one” rather than “holy place”). The anointing of a holy one refers to Jesus the Messiah. The “cutting off” of the Messiah is the central truth. The Messiah will die (Isa. 53:8). After the death of the Messiah, a “coming prince” (the Antichrist) will wage war against God’s people. The ruler’s persecution of God’s people includes intrusion into their religious practices (v. 27).
God announces an assurance of victory in the last part of verse 27. The coming ruler’s time is limited. The ruler will experience “decreed destruction” at a time established by God. God will pour out desolation upon the desolator.
Third, believers have a responsibility to live faithfully during difficult times (Daniel 12:9-13). In the context of suffering, believers often ask the question, “How long until the end …?” (v. 6). Daniel asked for additional clarification. God responded to Daniel’s question with a challenge to faithfulness despite Daniel not understanding all the details (v. 9). Suffering potentially leads to purification and refinement if approached with wisdom (v. 10). God instructed Daniel to “go your way,” that is, persevere in faithfulness until the end of his life. Even if a believer experiences death in persecution, the promise of God to Daniel communicates a powerful truth. Believers will rise in resurrection!
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