The evidence in the world around us tells us that we are living in the time described in the Bible as the time of the end. Our world is rapidly moving toward a final climax point, and God will soon take the reins in His own hands. If we are alive when these events happen, then it is important to know what the characteristics of this final generation will be, and most importantly, how we can be on God's side when the world as we have known it comes to an end.
This text tells us that those who are wicked will stay that way, and those who are righteous will stay that way at a certain point in time. A short time after this point, Jesus will come "quickly." We call this point the close of probation, because that ends the time when human beings can change loyalties from one side to the other. Probationary time--the time for making eternal choices--has ended. We are not told how long it will be from the close of probation to the second coming, except for the word "quickly." It will not be a long period of time, but it will be an important time period.
Chapter 11 of Daniel describes events in world history from the days of Daniel to the very end of earth's history. After these world events play out, then Michael (another name for Christ) stands up to begin a new phase of God's plan for earth and the human race. When He does this, a terrible time of trouble for the human race will begin. Once again, we are not told how long this time of trouble will be, but since God's people will be delivered "at that time," it cannot be a lengthy period of time.
The time of trouble described by Daniel will be like no other time in earth's history because this earth has never experienced disasters like the plagues described in Revelation 16. Only by God's protecting hand will His people be able to survive what is coming on this earth.
These verses describe the work of angels in bringing our prayers for forgiveness to the attention of God. Here we learn that at some point, no more prayers and incense will be offered upon the golden altar, because the censer will be cast into the earth, which will cause much trouble on the earth. This period corresponds to the close of probation and the period of the seven plagues. Shortly before Jesus returns, there will be a time when no more prayers for forgiveness will be accepted by God, and there will be no more changing of loyalties from one side to the other. All decisions will be made, and they will be final. Surely this is the most serious time that has ever been known in all of earth's history.
We are in the period just before the final time of trouble breaks upon the earth. God's angels have been commissioned to hold back the winds of destruction for a specific purpose.
This may be the most important text of all our lessons. God says that He will not allow the winds of destruction to come upon the earth until He has sealed His people. This means that we now have the answer as to what is holding up the final events of this earth's history. God is not waiting for more evil to accumulate. He is not waiting for a temple to be rebuilt in Israel. He is not waiting for pronouncements by the pope in Rome. He is waiting for a special people, a people whom He can seal as His very own. When He has found and sealed this final generation, then the climactic end of this world's history will rapidly follow. (Incidentally, do not get sidetracked by interesting but non-essential questions, like, Are the 144,000 a literal or symbolic number? or, How can there be 12,000 out of every tribe?)
Now we know what the seal of God is. It is His name, meaning His character, written permanently in the minds of His people. They belong totally to Him and their decision is final. They have decided to be righteous and holy forever. They are all through rebelling. All sin, of every kind, is gone forever from their lives.
This is an incredible, almost impossible, description of a group of human beings--previously sinners like all of us. If we might have any doubt about what "without fault" means, 1 Peter 1:19 and Hebrews 9:14 use this same phrase to refer to Jesus Christ. There is simply no sin in their lives. They are actually living sinless lives in sinful natures, something that Satan said could not possibly be done. This will not happen because God pushes some magic button in their brains or because He takes away their fallen natures to make it easier to obey, but because they have allowed the Holy Spirit to control their lives so completely that they can live the same quality of life that Christ lived while on earth.
Conclusion: If the Bible really teaches that there is a close of probation, and that God is demonstrating something special after the close of probation, then it seems that we must also believe in full character maturity, which means living without yielding to sinful desires. If the priestly ministry of forgiveness comes to an end at the close of probation, that means that there will be no more forgiveness of sins after that time. If the ministry of forgiving sins will have ceased, then it seems imperative that there be no sinning on the part of those who are sealed to God. If we take seriously the Biblical admonitions to overcome sin, the reality of the close of probation, and the challenge of the 144,000, then we must also take seriously the truth of living without sinning.
This can be an overwhelming thought, with lots of room for pessimism and discouragement. Right here, we need to review the previous lessons we studied. First, we are dependent on God's promises and power, not our own abilities. If He can create the world in six days and raise Lazarus from the dead, then He can perform miracles in our lives too. Second, because forgiveness has ended does not imply the end of the enabling power of Jesus dwelling within His people on earth. In fact, we will need Him more and closer than ever before. Christ abiding within--constantly--will be our only hope of success. Third, living without sin is the goal--the end result. Our focus must remain on justification and sanctification, because this is the method of achieving sinlessness. Jesus forgives us of our sins. He comes into our lives with power and victory. As we focus on justification and sanctification, the end result or goal will naturally follow. It will be the natural result of letting God do His full work in our hearts. As an athlete running in a footrace focuses on the next few yards while remembering the tape that is at the end of the race, so the Christian focuses on his relationship with Christ today while remembering that there is a goal at the end of the race.
If God is really waiting for a special group of people before He initiates the final events of earth's history, shouldn't we be spending all our time and energy learning how to be a part of that special group? This needs to be our number one priority, with all other interesting issues a distant second in our lives. Let us strive with all our hearts to be part of God's 144,000.