She sprints through the dark, dense woods— panting, heaving, gasping. She stumbles towards a tree and stops. Fingers dig into its rough, coarse bark; spine pushes flat against its straight trunk. Ever so slowly she reaches into her jean pocket, fidgeting for any sign of her slim, smooth cellphone. She finds it. Grabs it. Looks down. No service. Head slowly twists over her right shoulder and catches a glimpse of her grey SUV. Her other hand clenches the key. One last breath. Go! Sprint! Hurry! Crashes into the car door. Opens it. Slams it shut. Key thrust into the ignition. Turns. Nothing. Turns again. *Click.* Nothing. Her eyes immediately lock onto the cabin. That’s her escape. Open the car door. Left foot out. Go! Hurry! Out of the car. Dashing towards the front door— when, suddenly, behind her, leaves rustle. He’s here! He’s moving faster. Faster. Faster— after you! She scrambles onto the porch. Kicks open the door. Turns. Slams it shut. Clicks the deadbolt. Leans against it. Silence. Nothing. Quiet. No, wait! The window! He’s at the window staring right at her!
A bell rings. The director shouts: “Cut!” The terrifying creep at the window relaxes. He pops out from behind the Hollywood set and high-fives the girl, who is now smiling at the door. It’s just a movie. That means, this terrifying scene of killer chasing girl is not real. That means, the girl is not really scared; she’s just pretending. That means, the creep is not really a murderer; he’s just acting.
Have you ever considered that? You watch those previews of horror movies on television. Maybe they even frighten you (and you do not want to watch that movie). Yet, the terrifying figures are just actors. The villain wears makeup. He has a family, wife, and kids. At the end of his filming session, he will hop into a car, drive to the suburbs, enter his one-story ranch house, and sleep in a warm, cozy bed. He celebrates Christmas and hands out presents to his loved ones. He has friends, dinner parties, and plays games. Look behind the Hollywood sets and you see an entirely different life. You see what is real.
But do you see what is real about this life? So often, it appears God has lost all control over his creation. Violence strips away safety. Natural disasters destroy life. Oppression and injustice stokes anger. Is this really what life is all about— forever sitting under the veil of misery? God pulls back the curtain so that you can Look Behind Life’s Scenes and see what’s really going on. See the Ancient of Days come. Watch the Ancient of Days judge.
You get to Look Behind Life’s Scenes through the eyes of Daniel. Daniel, before he’s ever thrown in the lion’s den, lies on his bed one night, relaxing in his upstairs room— a room that is not his own. Not his own because he’s a captured man. The stronger, more powerful nation of Babylon had come and choked off his home nation’s food supply. Its army marched through the city walls and raided God’s temple, stealing the offerings of gold, the candle-stands, the furniture— everything. Then they turned on the people. Wise men, politicians, teachers, educators are arrested. Ropes bind their wrists, chains shackle their feet, and soldiers shove them towards a new land, with a new culture, with a new religion, with a new government, and into an entirely new way of life. Daniel has no other choice but to live under orders of another king.
This Babylonian captivity feels real, as in: God cannot help Daniel now. This is the way life will be: a new king, new oppression, new persecution against his beliefs. What a future to look forward to!
Yet, Daniel falls asleep and falls into a dream. Through that dream God pulls back the veil, showing Daniel what is going on behind the scenes. It is as though God pushes ‘PLAY’ on the movie of world history. Daniel watches oceans, enormous bodies of water churned up by powerful winds, massive waves slap into each other. Suddenly, four beasts rise up from the raging torrents, reaching into the heavens like skyscrapers. One beast, like a ferocious lion with four wings. Another, an enormous bear gnawing on three meaty ribs. Still another, a leopard dashing around the world with four wings and four heads.
Terrifying unsettling images playing before him, but images that reveal what will soon happen. Ferocious nation after nation will rise in power. Mighty armies swiftly devour empire after empire. Multiple heads of state rise to power, governing, ruling. Harsh laws oppress innocent people. And just when it doesn’t seem like it could get any worse, a final beast rises up, a beast with iron teeth, ten horns, and a little horn with human eyes and a boastful mouth. That boastful horn tries to shout over God’s voice. That horn pretends to be a leader in God’s church, but shouts lies and leads many people into false teaching and false beliefs.
What a sight Daniel sees! It looks like his world is spinning chaotically out of control—and God has no power to intervene. Like life now?
You and I live in this world— a world you can see and touch. You and I live in this nation, with a government you can see and touch. You and I live with people— people you can see and touch. And maybe your world appears frightening, like a beast with iron teeth seeking to devour you. You see a world that praises sexual immorality, calling once-shameful-behaviors “normal,” “acceptable,” and “tolerable.” Some within your government consider your personal beliefs on sexuality and pro-life matters to be an infringement on the First Amendment. The nightly news replays a rented Home Depot truck plowing over streams of innocent people strolling through a park; it speaks of a maniac raining down bullets on tens of thousands of Las Vegas concert-goers. You hear reports of powerful people who violate people’s personal boundaries. False teachers stream out into your neighborhoods, sharing teachings that do not come from Scripture. You see real tragedy. You see violence spreading. You see anger and hatred march through city streets. How is God possibly in control?
Or, do you not worry about that anymore? Has your conscience been lulled to sleep by the shouts: “Peace and safety!” (1 Thessalonians 5:3) After all, trouble has existed in this world ever since Adam and Eve brought sin into this world. After a while, tragedy, heartache, evil can just seem normal. People live together outside of marriage and so you shrug off God’s desire for marriage. Your friends get drunk, and it doesn’t really look too bad. Society grows increasingly God-less. They like God, but do not want to hear God’s guidance on life issues, and so you try to keep God in church and out of your home life. It may feel like that terrifying beast with iron teeth and God-less horn is not really that dangerous. It will not hurt you spiritually.
But thrones were set in place. Yes, just when it that it appears life will continue on with heartache and sorrow, thrones were set in place. Just when it feels like God is not going to show up during your lifetime, thrones were set in place. God suddenly rips back the curtain before your eyes and shows you what is going on behind life’s scenes. God is still in control. God is still watching. He always has been because God is the Ancient of Days. “Ancient” because God the Father has been around before time began. “Days” because he will remain well after your final breath. The Ancient of Days will come. Understand this is not a wish, but rather God telling you what will happen. Thrones were set in place. The Ancient of Days took his seat. Past tense verbs. God speaks as though the world’s last day has already happened.
Look Behind Life’s Scenes. See the Ancient of Days come and bring life to a sudden halt. And continue Looking Behind Life’s Scenes because the Ancient of Days will judge.
Yes, judge. You confess every Sunday: Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead. Everyone who has ever lived, those who live now, those who will live will be brought before his flaming throne of fire. You, who live now, will one day stand before the Ancient of Days. The Ancient One who kept record of the times you shrugged off your faith for the sake of convenience. He sees the times you, as a child, couldn’t wait to get out of this church and away from this [so-called] boring worship. He sees the times you, as a parent, turned a blind eye to your child in your house who willfully skip time with God. He sees the times you, as a spouse, threw a tantrum to get your way. He sees the times you, as a single person, acted as if God has no bearing in your life. The Ancient of Days has seen it all.
He is perfectly pure— his white clothes and hair reveal that he is without fault. He holds the standard of his holy Ten Commands and measures your life against them. Fire rips out from his throne—a fire not to destroy you, but to devour every excuse you (and I) want to make for our actions. With every excuse burned away, there’s nothing left but to stand loaded with our guilt. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him— those angels serving the God you (and I) are expected to serve with undivided heart. The court was seated, and the books were opened.
Are you still Looking Behind Life’s Scenes? Do you understand what God is showing you here in Daniel? Life as you know it will reach an end. You may live out your years— living until you fall asleep in death. Life may end suddenly unexpected— in a car crash, a heart attack, cancer, accident. As you stand before the Ancient of Days, as you watch him judge, as you watch him open up the book on your life, what will he find? He will see your every single failure wiped away with the blood of Jesus.
Jesus carries your (and my) book of sin to the cross. The Holy One of God cancels out each crime with his own blameless life. With his own blood as ink Jesus writes your name into God’s book of life. When the court was seated, and the books were opened, what will the Ancient of Days see? Your name in the book of life. How will he judge? He will declare the sentence Jesus has won for you: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)
My dear friends, pay attention to the words you speak in the Nicene and Apostles’ Creed. Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead. God is telling you what will happen. God is pulling back the curtain of this life so that you may Look Behind Life’s Scenes and prepare yourselves for that Final Day.
Notice where you stand in world history. Beasts have come and gone; kingdoms have risen and fallen. Kings have reigned, only to lose their kingdom. Jesus has been born, suffered, died, buried, and risen again. What’s left? This. Here. The Ancient of Days coming. The Ancient of Days judging.
Look Behind Life’s Scenes and see what’s really going on. See the Ancient of Days come. Watch the Ancient of Days judge.
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