Daniel 12:1 “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.”
What is this time of distress to which Daniel refers? Here the prophet is speaking about the signs that the end is near, that the last day is upon us and Christ is returning as Judge.
Are we there yet? Don’t expect this time of distress to be so obvious we can predict the exact date. Jesus assures us that day will come like a thief in the night, at an hour we do not expect.
Rather, we know that all of God’s people in every age will be plagued with troubles in this world. Jesus told his disciples Maundy Thursday evening, “In this world you will have trouble.” These troubles and hardships have been growing around us as though we were frogs in a kettle. You are probably familiar with that illustration. Since a frog is a cold blooded animal, when you put it into hot water it immediately detects the danger and jumps out. But if you put it into cool water and slowly bring up the heat, it will sit there and boil to death. It can’t detect the gradual change in temperature.
So it is that we are living in a world whose troubles grow in intensity until the day of our Savior’s return. It is entirely possible that we are living in a time of such unparalleled distress that Jesus’ return could take place at any moment.
That means we can give up our utopian dreams for this present world. We are daily tempted to rest our hearts in this world. We try to carve out a slice of heaven right here on earth. This goes beyond what we commonly term “materialism.” Even when we have resolved to simplify our lives, and we stop trying to purchase our happiness, we suffer from an inbred worldliness that looks to create a paradise out of our present reality. In some cases the resolution to simplify our lives itself comes from the worldliness that makes us materialists. We entertain the false hope that we can create a peaceful and perfectly happy existence here.
Our churches will never be pristine moral havens untainted by sin. Our families will never be unfailing sources of love and nurture. Our country will never be a consistent champion of goodness and justice. That’s not to say we should stop fighting to make these things as good as they can be, but it will always be a fight. This is the place of distress and trouble and hardship. God’s solution is not to transform it into the happy home we all long for.
His solution looks like this: “But at that time your people–everyone whose name is found written in the book–will be delivered.” God will deliver us, and we will escape from this distress we know as earthly life. In the opening words of this verse Daniel gives us a clue as to how he will do this. “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise.” Some things we know about him suggest that Michael, which means, “Who is like God?”, may be another name for Jesus himself. We know that on the last day he will visibly return to put a final end to every enemy who is trying to keep us out of heaven. Jesus certainly protects his people and delivers them.
But this Michael may also be the chief of all God’s angels, the archangel who stands above all the rest. Whether we are being protected by Jesus or his angels, believers know that they are not exempt from the distress of these last times. But the Lord will not let it overwhelm us. We will escape from it with our souls. “Everyone whose name is found written in the book,” the book of life, “will be delivered.” Everyone will be clearly and definitely counted. The Lord will not allow a single one of his chosen children to be lost or overlooked.
For now our troubles may lead us right up to the edge of what we can stand. In the end we hold onto the promise: “…your people…will be delivered.”