What a magnificent Bible passage is this very last verse of the Book of Daniel (12:13)! Perhaps you recall the man in the midst of the water [The Lord Jesus Christ] not telling Daniel the exact time of the very end but related these three things:
An advanced age, said to be ninety at the time, Daniel was told to go his way, until life claimed him.
But then he would rest! The Bible calls it sleep, an intermediate step between death and the Resurrection.
That he would stand in his lot at the end of the days. Indeed, Daniel will stand up in resurrection glory in the first resurrection, along with all those others who died in Christ, as the doors to the Kingdom of God open to the believers. Imagine, to be with Christ, as Philippians 1:23 depicts, or as Jesus Himself said in Luke 23:43, “To be with Him in paradise”.
Still, let’s examine this intermediate step between death and the Resurrection, the Bible calls it “sleep”. It is so different from our modern concept of Christians going to Heaven when they close their lives. Or Purgatory, as Catholics believe.
We become living souls when God breathes the breath of life at birth and it is this breath that is recalled by God when this part of our journey ends. And it is at this point that the departed enter the intermediate stage called “Sleep” or “Rest” in the grave. Here’s some proof. Jesus said (John 11:11), “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep”. His disciples were relieved so Jesus had to express it in the manner we all understand, he said (verse 14) “Lazarus is dead”. Here’s another, Paul, in writing about the return of the Lord in 1 Thess. 4:15, wrote, “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep”. Verses 13-14, in the same chapter, also refer to those who sleep. Jesus made it crystal clear in John 11:25 when He said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead (resting) yet shall he live. Then, to give encouragement to the living in Christ, He said in verse 26, “And whosever liveth and believeth in me shall never die…..” And to provide proof, He resurrects Lazarus (Verse 43). He does it with a loud voice, a shout akin to the one in 1 Thess. 4:16. Jesus said, “Lazarus, come forth”. Some scholars relate “Lazarus” to “Israel”, others suggest it means “Christians”. Whatever, had He simply said, “Come forth” then all in the grave would have been resurrected but we know from the Bible that those in the grave who did not die in Christ, although resting, will be in a second resurrection, 1,000 years after the first, and be subject to final judgment.
I have a very close relative who has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour and the prognosis is not favourable. I cannot believe that coming from the household of God-fearing parents that she was not among those the Father directed to the Son (John 6:37) and that Jesus would lose her (Verse 39). Yet, she has claimed for years she is an atheist; I think quite likely as a result of her academia association, particularly with the growing, widespread apostate teaching at our universities and schools. There are other countless thousands of former Christians who have abandoned belief in God, His Laws, the Bible, the Second Coming and the Resurrection. Caught up in once Christian nations that have opened their borders to all faiths and the resulting political correctness, it probably just seemed natural to these individuals to march to a new reality of the faith, or, no faith at all, as drummed into us daily by a media controlled by those marching to an evil agenda. And most of our theologians have willingly joined the march. Many of the marchers with milk-toast faith will be in the Kingdom but will find themselves the least in the Kingdom. The atheists will not, the best they can hope for is a favourable judgment in the second resurrection, but even this is a gamble.
You know, life is truly meaningful when we grasp the key. David said it best as he described men and women who walk with God having their happiness centered in the law of the Lord. Even stalwart Christians lose focus often but in our hearts and minds we are in tune with Almighty God Jesus Christ and we recognize life is a journey, but a confident one because of the knowledge that our sins are forgiven. Sadly, not so for the atheist, David pictures a grim end for these people and in Psalm 53:1 writes, “The fool hath said in his heart. There is no God”. These days, we often hear, “Jesus Christ is not Divine, he is just a messenger, not God”.
Yet, like my relative, these misguided brethren could well find themselves in a position of “weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30). But why, when a little faith and a little study will offer them the greatest possible gift. I really like the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) and the first paragraph outlined in the Study Book, “Man Thinking.” I know there are also deeper meanings for this mystery but, quoting, I also see that the “day” mentioned is the story of a person’s lifetime, and that the workers mentioned in the parable are individuals who come into Christian experience and service in youth, middle age and advanced years. The workers who come at the eleventh hour are those who come to Christ at the very end of life. The “penny” is the reward for all the workers, the ticket to Salvation and the Kingdom. There will be those that consider this very unfair, as they did in the parable, perhaps they are of different religions. But, we must remember that it is God the Father who chooses those for the next part of His Great Plan, not our interpretation of fairness or justice.
If I could say one thing to all those misguided individuals who refuse a relationship with Christ, it would be to quote Revelation 20:6, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years”.