At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:1-3)
People are often surprised to learn that the Old Testament doesn’t have a lot to say about what happens after we die. It’s not silent on the issue, but there’s not a lot of detail either. That’s one of the things that makes this passage from the Book of Daniel, written about four hundred years before the coming of the Messiah, so important. For it refers to the resurrection of the dead, which is a uniquely biblical understanding of the afterlife. The way a lot of people talk about it, however, one would think we simply believed that after we died, we are going to float around in heaven with the angels, rather than live forever in the presence of God physically on a renewed earth. But that’s not the topic I want to address. We’re going to look at purity. You might be wondering what in the world does this passage have to do about purity. In verse three we see an aspect of what God’s people will be like in the age to come: “those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” Those who are right with God through personal and sincere faith in Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah are going to shine and shine big. If you are truly his child, that’s God’s end-goal for you no matter how dull you may be now. Whatever stains you are struggling to remove from your life now, you’re gonna shine! You can count on it.
It’s amazing how expectations affect us. When we are convinced that something is going to happen, then we act as if it will. Convinced you’re going to fail? You probably will. But if you’re convinced you’re going to succeed, it makes all the difference. And with Yeshua, you’re going to succeed with regard to purity. So let’s play like winners.
But this purity thing is no game; it’s a battle. It can be really hard to live godly lives. Lives that shine now. And we don’t just have an opponent, we have an enemy. But with God the impossible is possible. We can do this thing, because not only will we be fully and absolutely pure one day, but because the power that will bring about that future reality is at work in us right now.
We are not alone in this process. Being a follower of the Lord is not a self-help program. The Bible is not a bunch of pointers on how to improve your life, as in a “Just get with it”, sort of thing. He promised to be with us each and every day—every moment of every day to lead us, to teach us, and to pick us up when we fall. He’s the master trainer, using all sorts of tools at his disposal to train us in godliness. And discipline isn’t simply doing things to us, but a process to enable us to do what we should do. So while purity is our certain destination, and God is with us in the process, we need to cooperate with that process. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 reads: “train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Note the connection with the resurrection.
Even though we need to work hard at purity, the power to do it doesn’t come from ourselves, but from God. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he writes to a community of believers who really knew the Lord, but they lacked understanding of the spiritual resources they had at their disposal. So Paul takes time to share with them what he has been praying for them. I want to point out the results Paul expected:
that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come (Ephesians 18b-21)
My bank’s slogan is “You are richer than you think!” That’s what Paul is saying. You and I have far more spiritual resources at our disposal than we think. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us. If that power can raise the dead, there’s nothing in our lives that God’s power can’t overcome: no addiction, no compulsion, no weakness. I know it often doesn’t feel like that. But what do our feelings have to do with the reality of the power of God?
So purity is our destination, God is with us in the process, and his infinite power is at work in us. One more thing. In this fairly well-known passage, also from Paul, there’s something easily missed that relates to this subject:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).
The process to the end-goal of purity (predestined, called, justified, glorified) is something God initiatives and accomplishes. We need to cooperate with the process but if it were up to us, we would be lost. That’s not my main point here, however. The end-goal of the process, “glorified” means to show forth visibly an internal reality, demonstrating the true character of something. It’s the shining we read of in Daniel chapter twelve. But notice its past tense, “those whom he justified he also glorified.” Paul isn’t saying here that those who are called by God and justified by him will one day in an eternal future be glorified. That’s true, but it’s also true that in a very real sense, due to what Yeshua has done for those who trust in him—the reality of our certain future when we will be absolutely pure, shining like the stars, is a reality now! God lives in us now. We can shine now. If only we would let him.
All scriptures, English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible