CDPCKL · The Beginning of Birth Pains (Daniel 11:36-12:13)

The Beginning of Birth Pains (Daniel 11:36-12:13)

In the beginning, we are told, God created the heavens and the earth. 

And, in the beginning of Daniel’s book, we were told, God delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand. 

And so, from the very beginning, we have understood that the God who created everything also controls everything — he even allowed the Babylonian empire to destroy his temple in Jerusalem, to carry his people away into exile and scatter them throughout the nations. 

And the scriptures make it clear that the reason God allowed this terrible defeat to come upon his people was so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end. 

But the scriptures also make it clear that the other reason God allowed this to happen was to guarantee the destruction of the Babylonian empire. The human princes of Babylon were busy devouring all the princes of the earth, while the angelic princes of Babylon were busy devouring all the princes of heaven: they needed to be stopped! And what better way to stop them than to allow them to devour the one nation on earth that God is honour-bound — covenant bound — to avenge? 

This lesson was confirmed for us last week as the messenger angel read Daniel a long passage from God’s Book of Truth. Over the next few hundred years, the tides of war are going to sweep back and forth across the land of Judea. Sometimes God’s people will just be in the way, and so they will get hurt. Sometimes God’s people will choose sides…and so they will get hurt. In the end a contemptible persona fierce-looking king, a master of intriguewill arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power: he will use deceit and betrayal to compensate for lack of royalty on earth, and the dark angelic princes of Greece will support him in the heavenly realms. And he will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. But his victory over God’s people is actually the very thing that guarantees his destruction: he will be destroyed, but not by human power. 

In short: the worst thing a government can do for itself is attack God’s people. 

And we saw last week how this promise from the Book of Truth has been fulfilled not just once! but again and again in history. The rise and fall of Antiochus IV — that ancient Greek king of Syria — is a model for the fate of every king, every emperor who tries to hurt God’s people. 

And that this prophecy is meant to be a model to guide us will become even more clear today as the angel continues to read. Because we are going to find that some of these next details were fulfilled by Antiochus IV…while other details were not. We are also going to find that the details will become less specific and more universal as we go along. And gradually we are going to realize that the angel is no longer prophesying about Antiochus IV, he is prophesying about an even more wicked king that must come later. 

So let’s get started: 

[36] “The king,“ the angel says, still talking about Antiochus IV, “will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place.” 

And we already know from Chapter 8 that this particular time of wrath will last for 2,300 evenings and mornings — somewhere between six and seven years. And we know from Chapter 9 that in the middle of that “seven” he will destroy an anointed prince of the covenant and seize control of God’s temple. 

But between verses 37 and 39, the language begins to change: the details begin to grow more general. 

Because it is true that Antiochus IV rejected his father’s god — Apollo — and replaced him with Zeus, for political reasons: Zeus strongly resembled a local Syrian god, and Antiochus needed local Syrian support. He actively rejected the god Adonis, also for political reasons: Adonis was the god of Egypt, his enemy — and it is true that Adonis was a god especially desired by women. It is also true that he named himself Theos Epiphanes — God Made Manifest — thus exalting himself above all gods. He spent a lot of money on his military, thus honoring the god of fortresses; he promoted those who acknowledged his rule, giving them lands of their — but only at a price. 

But changing religions for political reasons, and then calling yourself a god, is pretty common behaviour for kings. Using precious stones and costly gifts to win wars is normal, as well as promoting supporters. So already we can see that these details were fulfilled by Antiochus IV…and also by many other kings in history. 

Going on: [40] “At the time of the end — the end of what, we have to wonder? — the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood. [41] He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. [42] He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape. [43] He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Cushites in submission. [44] But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many. [45] He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.” 

And now the transition is complete. The details in this section are not about Antiochus IV at all: Antiochus never extended his power over many countries, he did not conquer Egypt and parts of Africa, he did not die in the valley between Jerusalem and the sea. Instead, this section is now pointing forward to yet another king who is destined to come, a king who will be far greater and more brutal than Antiochus IV ever was. 

And, of course, we want to know: has this king shown up at some point in history? Has this section of the Book of Truth been fulfilled already? 

And the answer is: no. We are still waiting for this particular king. 

So it seems that, when the angel says this will happen “at the time of the end” he is actually referring to “the time of the end of the world”! 

And — by the way — that is how the New Testament writers interpreted this section. When the Apostles Paul and John studied Daniel’s writings, they also recognized that all Daniel’s visions of Antiochus IV were just previews of a much more terrible king to come. And they recognized that this section in particular was pointing forward to that future king. And, guided by the Holy Spirit, both Paul and John made prophecies of their own about this future king. Paul called him “the man of lawlessness, the man doomed to destruction”. John called him ”the antichrist”, and “the Beast”, and in John’s final book — the Book of Revelation — he describes in much greater detail how this king will meet his end in the great valley between Jerusalem and the sea, a valley known by the locals as Armageddon. 

So: now that we know this section of Daniel’s book is actually about the antichrist, we are set, right? All we have to do is wait and watch for a king who comes from the North, conquers Egypt, Libya, Cush — that is Ethiopia, by the way — and Israel, but fails to conquer Edom, Moab, and Ammon. When we see such a king, then we will know he is the antichrist and that the end is near! 

But right away we run into a problem with that approach. Egypt, Libya, Ethiopia, and Israel still exist. But Edom, Moab, and the Ammonites are all extinct. So how are we supposed to verify the antichrist if these ethnic groups are no longer around? 

It is very easy to fall into that old trap of trying to match up Daniel’s prophesies with events and conditions in our own day. But as we have discovered several times already, Daniel’s apocalyptic prophesies are not designed to be interpreted in that way. The details that are very specific and obviously fulfilled in history are there to encourage us that God has been in complete control in the past. The details that are more general and univeral are there to call us into faith that God is still in complete control of the future. 

“But hang on!” someone is going to protest, “some of these details here are very specific! ‘The king of the North’. Egypt. Libyans. Edom. Moab, ‘between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain’. How can you say these details are general and universal?” 

Well, see, because — by this point — the language of this prophecy has completely changed. It has taken on what literary people call “mythical qualities”. 

Basically, what the angel is doing, as he reads from God’s Book of Truth, is borrowing concepts from the history of Daniel’s people and applying them to the time of the end. If the angel started talking about Malaysia or Zimbabwe or Peru, this would only confuse Daniel. So the angel translates all these future movements into terms Daniel can understand. 

For instance, all of Israel’s worst enemies always attacked from the north: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks. And most of those northern kings conquered Judea as sort of a side-project, simply because Judea was along their way to attack Egypt, Libya, and Ethiopia, which were among the richest nations on earth at that time. The great valley of Armageddon, which runs from north to south past the city of Jerusalem, was simply the fastest highway available for armies to travel on, and I read somewhere once that there have been more battles fought in that single valley than anywhere else on earth. 

So there is really nothing mystically specific about “the valley of Armageddon” — it was simply a very very convenient place to kill people and win wars. When the angel says that this future king will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain, this is just another way of saying that this king — like most kings before him — is going to seize the strongest, most strategic position he can along his way to conquer the rest of the world. But even so, he will come to his end, and no one will help him. 

Okay. But what about Edom, Moab, and the leaders of Ammon? That seems pretty specific. 

Well, yes. But we have to remember that the Edomites, the Moabites, and the Ammonites were all related to the Jewish people. Their nations were like cousins to Israel. Even so, the Edomites, the Moabites, and the Ammonites often helped the northern kings conquer Judea, selling out their cousins for a share of the plunder. That is why, in the past, Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon were not conquered by the northern kings: because they actually joined the northern kings, and betrayed their own relatives. 

So, again, there is nothing mystically specific about Edom, Moab, and the leaders of Ammon — this is simply another way of saying that, at the time of the end, there will be people, supposedly related to God’s people, who will turn against God’s people and help the antichrist, and just like Antiochus IV did before, the antichrist will show favour to these people who forsake the holy covenant. 

So this is a prophecy of the antichrist who will be revealed at the time of the end. But this is not meant to be a detailed checklist for us to tick off as we see the events happening. This is a generalized portrait of the final world-conquering king, using some of the details of past world-conquering kings to say, “the future will be just like that, but turned up to 11!” 

But that is not the end of the story. The angel goes on: [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. [2] Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” 

So in the end there will be one last king, one last empire on earth that will reach up to the host of heaven, and throw some of the starry host down to the earth. But then the armies of heaven will respond. The archangel Michael will arise. There will be a war, which the commander of the Lord will win. 

And then, just as Daniel saw in his vision back in Chapter 7, thrones will be set in place, the Ancient of Days will take his seat, and Judgement Day will commence. The bestial empires of the world will be brought in and stripped of their authority. The rebellious princes of heaven will be destroyed. And every person who has ever lived will be resurrected, brought back to life, to pass before the throne and learn their fate. 

[3] “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

[4] “But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end.” 

Here ends the angel’s reading from the Book of Truth, the book of God’s pre-written history. So he tells Daniel to copy it down and then seal it. 

And as we have noticed earlier in the Book of Daniel, the idea here is not that Daniel’s prophecies are supposed to be locked away so no one can read them until the time of the end; the idea is that this prophecy is now complete. And putting God’s official seal on it means that no one is allowed to change it. That way, even hundreds or thousands of years in the future, when the end finally arrives, people will still be able to read Daniel’s book and know that it is a verified copy of God’s Book of Truth. 

And, really, the angel explains why Daniel needs to seal the words of the scroll: because “many will go here and there to increase knowledge.” 

And this future search for knowledge sounds like a good thing, right? But actually it is not: the angel is describing a time, as the end draws near, when people will increasingly reject God’s Word, while at the same time they become increasingly desperate for some Truth that will give meaning to their existence, some explanation for why we are all here. 

Another prophet in the Old Testament — Amos — also talked about this concept: The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.” 

So the reason the angel wants Daniel to preserve a stamped and verified copy of God’s Word is actually to serve as a further condemnation of those who refuse to love the truth and so be saved. The Truth they will be looking for will be right there in front of them, stamped and verified and confirmed by thousands of years of fulfilled prophecy! and yet they will reject it and wander the earth looking for some other source — any other source! — of knowledge and wisdom, anything that will keep them from having to submit their lives to God. 

But the wise will know where to turn. The wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to this source of righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever 

And now Daniel takes us back to where this whole episode started in Chapter 10: with Daniel standing there on the banks of the Tigris river, transfixed by this vision of the heavenly high priest, terrified by the messenger angel’s reading from the Book of Truth: 

[5] Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. [6] One of them said to the man clothed in linen — the heavenly high priest — who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?” 

[7] The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.” 

[8] I heard, Daniel says, but I did not understand. 

Because here, again, in very simple and direct language, God has just told him that his people will not be delivered until after they have been completely defeated. 

And just like Daniel, we also hear, but we do not understand how this can be our Father’s plan for us. Or perhaps it might be better to say that we understand but we do not want to accept. 

So Daniel goes on to ask the question that we would ask if we got the chance: “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” 

In other words: “My lord, is this really the only way? Is there really no other way to establish your kingdom on earth?” 

[9] He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end: you have all the information you need for now. Your job, from now on, is simply to pray and to instruct many, to lead as many people as you can to this verified Book of Truth so that they also might be saved from the Day of Judgement. 

“And remember what my angel told you earlier, about how some of the wise will stumble, but this only happens so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless, remember that? Well, let me tell you now that [10] many will be purified, made spotless and refinedbut the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand why world history has to happen this way, but those who are wise will — eventually — understand. 

“Especially this next part: [11] From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.” 

And that does add up to three and a half years — or we could also say: it will take a time, times and half a time for power of God’s people to be completely broken by that final persecution. 

However, [12] “blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.” 

And how are we supposed to understand this last number? 1,335 days is 1,290 days plus 45 days. But 45 is not a significant number anywhere else in the bible. It is not a combination of 7s and 10s or 7s and 3s or 3s and 6s or 12s or any other significant symbolic number in scripture. It does not correspond to anything. 

So how are we supposed to intepret it, then? 

Well, once again, this is a detail that is purposely left unexplained simply to remind us that we should “Go our way,” just as Daniel should, trusting that we already have all the information we need to live in this exile, in the midst of this clash of empires at the end of time. At best, all we can really say is this: after the time, times and half a time it will take to break the power of the holy people, there will be a few survivors of that tribulation, a remnant, who will have to continue on for a brief time before all these things will be completed. 

[13] “As for you, Daniel,” the heavenly high priest says, “go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.” 

Daniel has spent his life in service to foreign kings. His dearest hope was to see God’s temple finally re-established in Jerusalem! and then retire. That hope was dashed when the Persian governors revoked the rebuilding permits, and Daniel then spent three weeks fasting and praying, trying to understand why God would allow this defeat. 

Now he has received God’s answer. He has heard God’s explanation, he understands intellectually why history has to work this way, but still he does not understand understand. 

But as the bible points out in another place, there is no end to gathering knowledge and explanations: eventually we either die exhausted under the weight of our never-ending search for certainty — or we begin to live by faith. That is what God is asking Daniel to do now. He is telling Daniel that he will not live to see the temple completed. He is not going to make it back home, not in this lifetime. Can he still lie down, and sleep in peace, knowing that God will still do all that he has promised? 

And, by the way: these closing words — this closing promise — from God’s mouth would have been more precious to Daniel than we can probably imagine. 

Because, if you recall, in the very first chapter of Daniel’s journals we realized that Daniel is most likely a eunuch. Which means that, according to God’s Old Testament law, he would be forbidden to enter the temple even if it was completed, even if he was strong enough to make the pilgrimage back to Jerusalem. According to God’s Old Testament law, as a eunuch without a wife, without children, Daniel would have no inheritance among God’s people, even if he managed to make his way back home. 

But here God has promised him that “at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.” God is telling Daniel to rest in his promise that one day there will be a New Testament, a new covenant to replace the old one: the rules about eunuchs are going to change. 

God is asking Daniel to put his faith in Isaiah’s description of what that new covenant will be like. These are Isaiah’s words: For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant — to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.” 


And now: here we are, at the end of the Book of Daniel. 

And we have to ask the question: what does all this have to do with us? How are we supposed to apply all this to our lives? 

Well, on a big picture level, I hope it is clear by now that Daniel’s journals were published for our benefit. This book was written so that God’s people — in every generation — will know how to survive in our exile between the empires. The wars of earth and heaven sweep back and forth across us, like monstrous ocean waves across our little ark, our little ship of faith. Sometimes we get caught up in the violence and crushed simply because we are in the way. Sometimes we are deliberately targeted. Sometimes we get hurt because we choose one side or another, and paint a target on ourselves! 

But last week made it clear what we are supposed to do while we live through this great storm at the end of time: we are supposed to pray, and we are supposed to instruct many. And this week has simply confirmed our calling: those who are wise are supposed to lead many to righteousness. We are supposed to drag the drowning into our little lifeboat, and then pray God to bring us all safely to our rest on the shores of the New Earth, the land called Beulah: the land where we shall at last meet our bridegroom face to face, the land where we shall be married to the King. 

Last week also made it clear to us that even our failures and our defeats are necessary to God’s plan. And this week has simply confirmed this truth: that all these things will be completed only after the power of the holy people has been finally broken. And, like Daniel, we understand this intellectually, we understand this in part; but now — because of Daniel’s book — we understand that we will not understand this fully until we have passed through the fires and the waters ourselves. 

That is the difference between knowledge and wisdom: knowledge does not become wisdom until it has been experienced. And that is why, ultimately, we have to realize that the Book of Daniel is a Book of Wisdom, a Book of Truth. From its very first episodes, Daniel’s book has outlined for us the conflict between the wisdom of God and the knowledge of mankind. The empires of our world operate on the assumption that, with enough power, reality can be controlled, manipulated; while the kingdom of God is built upon the belief that there is a deeper level to reality, a level that cannot be accessed simply through the accumulation of knowledge or the application of power, but only through the experience of God and his plan. 

Daniel’s book has given us knowledge, but it has also shown us — through the lives of Daniel and his friends — what knowledge looks like when it is transmuted into wisdom through long and faithful experience. It looks like death, and defeat. It looks like rest. And it looks like resurrection into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. 

So what are we supposed to do now, right now, because of what we have read together today? What is the practical application we are going to draw from these closing verses of Daniel’s book? 

Well, we live in an age that many call the Information Age: we live in a world today where ever increasing knowledge is the idol of our time. Experts tell us that, thanks to the internet — thanks to social media — there are more words being written every day now than were written in the last two thousand years of human history. ”Knowledge” — data — is increasing every day at a faster and faster rate. But are we better off now than we were 30 years ago, 100 years ago, 1000 years ago? Physically, in some ways. We are conquering the natural world with our knowledge — and yet somehow, the more knowledge we accumulate, the unhappier people become. The more our knowledge increases, the more people stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, going here and there to increase knowledge. They do not know it, but they are searching for the Word of God, and the harder people search without finding the more they fall into the despair of believing that our existence is ultimately meaningless. 

Basically, our societies are drowning in words, words, words, but our world is perishing for the lack of wisdom. 

And what can we, the People of God’s Word, do about this rising flood? 

Well, we are supposed to instruct many. But we need to do this…wisely. Because, if we are not careful, we will just end up adding to the increase of words, words, words. Our world already worships “Knowledge” as if it is a god. How can we give people the knowledge of God’s deeper reality without also feeding this terrible idol, and so leading them — by accident — to put their faith in the knowledge instead of in Jesus Christ? 

Let’s do what Daniel did: let us teach this knowledge as a story, a story that is not just spoken but also lived. We must instruct many, but we must also show the world — through our lives — what this knowledge looks like when it is transmuted into wisdom through long and faithful experience. Just like us, the world wants to understand how the defeat of God’s people can be an essential part of God’s plan — and why anyone would want to join in such a terrible plan?And it is our job to explain it to them even while we struggle to accept it ourselves… 

So in closing here, let me tell one version of this great story, one outline of God’s deeper reality, the story that Daniel has been telling us through his journals: 

Our world is a bit like a giant playground where human nations are the children, and angelic princes are the parents. And God is the parent who actually owns the playground, he built the playground for his own children, his own human nation — but he has graciously opened up the park to anyone who wants to come and play. 

So if I was like God, if I was like a wealthy nobleman who built a park, then I would be responsible for it, and I would set up some rules for everyone to follow. I would post those rules at the gate, and I would instruct everyone in what they mean and how these rules are actually for their protection and for the protection of the park. 

But the thing is this: I could only really discipline and protect my own children. If visiting children break the rules, my options are somewhat limited: I can instruct them again, hoping that they learn obedience before they seriously hurt themselves or someone else. Or I can call upon their parents to discipline them and protect them. But if their parents fail to do this, or — even worse — if they deliberately teach their children to break the rules, then the hurt their children experience and dish out is their responsibility, not mine. If, in the end, those families absolutely refuse to respect the rules of the playground, then all I can really do is revoke their membership and ban them from the park. 

But that is the most extreme penalty. And I am reluctant to do that. I like to see children enjoying my park. I like to see them growing up into wisdom and maturity. So I am very slow to kick whole families out. I will try every possible solution to fix the underlying problem before I do that. 

So, for instance, if I see some other parent’s children starting to bully others on the playground, I might try to instruct those children myself. I would definitely alert the parents of those bullies so they can instruct and discipline their own children: that is their right and their responsibility. I would remind them that Rule #7 says, “You shall not murder”. Now, bullying is not murder, but it is aggressive behaviour which will lead to murder if it is not disciplined. Being a bully, being an aggressor, is not a sin that gets you banned from the park, but it is a sin that can lead to a sin that will get you banned. 

But let’s say those parents are actually encouraging their children to be bullies. What can I do? 

Well: not much. Not yet. Because that rule against becoming an aggressor is a rule that I am determined to follow myself, because it is a righteous law. Just because those other parents are bad parents does not mean that I should use my powerful position — as the owner of the park — to swoop in and snatch their children away and discipline them as if they belong to me. That would violate their parental rights and responsibilities, and that would make me the bully! 

So even if other parents come to me complaining about how those bullies’ parents are not doing their job, really all I can do is instruct those complaining parents in their duty to protect their own children. As the owner of the park, I cannot be seen to “take sides”, I must remain impartial. When it comes to other parents’ children, I can instruct, or I can pass judgement; I can remind everyone of the rules, or I can simply kick whole families out of the park — but I cannot do the detailed work of disciplining or protecting other parents’ children: that is the right and the responsibility of those parents, and I will not violate their rights. 

In the meantime, I will be instructing my own children in how to endure, how to respond with restraint. 

But maybe my children don’t listen to me. Maybe they start choosing sides on the playground. Maybe they start taunting the bullies, boasting about how their dad can beat up all the other dads. What would I do then? 

Well, I would remind them of Rule #7 and how it works: I would warn them I am not actually allowed to beat up the bullies or their dads unless and until they attack my children first. If I attack them before they have attacked me, then I am the aggressor, I become the bully. And because I am a righteous man…I am not going to do that. I am not going to break my own good laws. 

But maybe my children ignore me. Maybe the confrontation moves from insults to pushing and shoving. Then I would move, I would stand between them and the bullies. I would discipline my children, warning them to humble themselves and be quiet; at the same time I would be warning the bullies and their parents to back down. 

But if my children insist on provoking the bullies, if they insist on pushing me out of the way so they can deal with the bullies themselves…then eventually I will step out of the way. I will pause in my protection of my children. Because, by pausing in my protection I will accomplish two things: 

First, my children now get to learn what it feels like to be punched in the face. If they refuse to grow in wisdom through my instruction, then eventually it is my duty, as their father, to make sure they grow in wisdom through painful experience. 

Second, the whole playground now gets to learn what it looks like when the owner of the park gets really really angry. Because at that point I don’t care if my children picked the fight through their own stubborn foolishness, I don’t even care if my children turned into bullies themselves and started the fight: I am going to end it. Once the situation turns physical, I am now legally released — by my own law — to beat up those bullies and their dads, and bring peace to the playground. 

After the fight is over, I will have a trial and figure out which children are to blame for what, and which parents are guilty of encouraging aggression in their children. The truth will come out. I will pay the penalty for any damage my children have done through their bullying. But I will also offer to pay the penalty for any damage any other bullies have done — if their parents submit to my judgement and sign over custody of their children to me. 

Any parent that refuses my offer is instantly banned from the park: their authority is revoked and they are cast out. 

But their children get to stay back for a few more minutes, while I make the same offer to them: they can stay, and become my children, and come under my discipline and my protection, and have all their penalties paid. Or they can follow their bullying parents out through the gate, and pay the penalties themselves. 

Some of those children will accept the offer. But the painful truth is this: children who have been taught aggression and ambition — children who have been taught to lust after power and prosperity — such children have been taught to believe that they really can pay the penalties themselves and come out on top. And so most of them will choose to follow their parents into the outer darkness, into eternal lives of frustration and shame and everlasting contempt. 

Those who accept, however, get to stay back. Their names are written in the book that lists everyone in my family. They will be delivered into everlasting life. 

Here is the short version of the same story: 

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 

In the end, God will create the new heavens and the new earth. 

That is the story Daniel wrote in his journals. That is the story he lived during his sixty or seventy years in exile. 

It is our story also. So let’s remember it. Let’s keep sharing it with one another and with many others. As we do this it will change us, it will transform our lives. It is just as God told Daniel: None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand. 

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