The End Times, 1-13
Dan 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.”
Verses 1-4 conclude the prophecy which commenced in Dan 11:2. Verses 5-13 are an epilogue to the longer section which began in 10:1 and to the book as a whole. (Fyall)
‘It is usual with the prophets, when they foretell the grievances of the church, to furnish it at the same time with proper antidotes, a remedy for every malady. And no relief is so sovereign, of such general application, so easily accommodated to every case, and of such powerful efficacy, as those that are fetched from Christ and the future state; thence the comforts here are fetched.’ (MHC)
‘The political resurrection of the Jews under the Maccabees is the starting-point of transition to the literal resurrection about to follow the destruction of Antichrist by Christ’s coming in glory. The language passes here from the nearer to the more remote event, to which alone it is fully applicable.’ (JFB)
“At that time” – At the time of the conflict with and destruction of the antichrist figure, recorded at the end of the previous chapter: “He will come to his end,” Dan 11:45.
“Michael” – Represented here as the guardian angel of Israel (‘your people’) he ‘in pseudepigraphic literature is regarded as the patron of, and intercessor for, Israel (1 Enoch 20:5; 89:76). In the book of Daniel he is more particularly the guardian of the Jews from the menace of the godless power of Greece and Persia (12:1), and is styled as ‘one of the chief princes’ and as ‘your prince’ (10:13, 21). In this capacity it is peculiarly fitting that he should be the archangel represented (Jude 9) as ‘contending with the devil… about the body of Moses’, that great leader of God’s people to whom an angel (perhaps Michael) spoke in Mt Sinai. (Ac 7:38) Michael further appears in Rev 12:7 as waging war in heaven against the dragon.’ (NBD)
Some have identified Michael with the Angel of the Lord, Ex 14:19, the Commander of the army of the Lord, Jos 5:13-17, the mysterious figure in the Blazing Furnace, Dan 6, and the angel in the Lion’s Den, Dan 6. He appears to have a major role in executing the victory which had been achieved by Christ on the cross (they overcome ‘by the blood of the Lamb’, Rev 7:14). It is also noteable that the return of the Lord is heralded by ‘the voice of the archangel’, 1 Thess 4:16.
The mention of this mighty angel is a reminder that fact that we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Eph 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
“A time of distress” – This will be a time of trouble for the people of God in particular. Cf. Mk 13:19-20. ‘It was in no degree superfluous for the angel to predict such great calamities as impending over the Church, and in the present day the, same expressions are most useful to us. We perceive then how the Jews imagined a state of happiness under Christ, and the same error was adopted by the Apostles, who, when, Christ discoursed on the destruction of the temple and the; city, thought the end of the world was at hand, and this they connected with their own glory and triumph.’ (Mt 24:3) (Calvin)
“From the beginning of nations until then” – or, “from the beginning of the nation until then”.
The present age is characterised by unremitting warfare between the forces of good and evil. The new age will be ushered in by the complete victory of the kingdom of God over that of the Evil one.
The people of God will be protected against the powers of evil by being delivered out of them, not by being shielded from them.
Written in the book – Lk 10:20 “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” See also Ps 69:28; Rev 20:11-15. Here is a ‘metaphor from a muster-roll of citizens.’ (Ne 7:5) (JFB) Goldingay calls this ‘the citizen list of the true Jerusalem’.
“Will be delivered” – Cf. Zec 13:8,9; Jn 10:28,29; 16:33; Rom 8:38-39
Dan 12:2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
“Multitudes who sleep…will awake” – It is a major theme in the Book of Daniel that God’s purposes cannot be thwarted, and that none of his people will be lost. Verses 2-3 answer the question concerning all those who have died in faith, many as a result of martyrdom. Since they have already died, God must fulfil his purposes for them beyond death – that is, in resurrection.
‘This is one of the great Old Testament affirmations of the final resurrection of the body. It has a universal ring. It was when the great thinkers of the Old Testament viewed most clearly and felt most acutely the devastating effects of the power of evil, the wretchedness and unjustices of the wronged and the abject misery of all innocent sufferers, that they turned their eyes upward and looked at the power, justice and love of God, and they were suddenly enabled at times to rise to their strongest and clearest expression of hope in the after life.’ (Wallace)
‘This passage is worthy of especial notice, because the prophets do not contain any clearer testimony than this to the last resurrection, particularly as the angel distinctly asserts the future rising again of both the righteous and the wicked.’ (Calvin)
A number of other OT passages teach, or at least allude to, the resurrection of the dead, Job 19:25-27; Ps 16:8-11; 17:15; 49:12-15; 73:24-26; 102:25-28; Isa 12:6-19; 53:10-12. Cf. Heb 11:13,35. Moreover, ‘mention of the tree of life and the possibility of living for ever (Ge 3:22) must have kept the thought alive before the Israelite believer from early times. The phrase dust of the earth is reminiscent also of Genesis 3, and suggests that that chapter was in mind.’ (Baldwin)
The word ‘multitudes’ does not refer to ‘many’ as opposed to ‘all’, but on the numbers involved (Baldwin). ‘The word many seems here clearly put for all’ (Calvin)
“The dust of the earth” – Cf. Gen 2:7; 3:19.
“Everlasting life” – This is the only time this expression occurs in the OT. ‘Everlasting’ is contrasted with the temporary nature of the trials which have just been spoken of. Cf. Rom 8:18.
“Shame and everlasting contempt” – See Isa 66:24 for a close parallel. According to Henri Blocher, these two verses may help us to understand the final state of the condemned as one of unrelieved remorse, as they perceive with utter clarity the wrongfulness of their own sins and the rightness of God’s judgment: ‘All creatures will share in God’s abhorrence; the lost will be ashamed, theirs will be the ultimate “confusion of face” as they shall be unable to escape the truth of their past actions.’ (in Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, ed. N. M. de S. Cameron).
“Some…some” – Cf. Mt 25:46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” See also Jn 5:28-29; Acts 24:15. The equal use of words such as ‘eternal’ and ‘everlasting’ to describe the destinies of both the righteous and the wicked furnishes a strong argument against the currently popular notion of *annihilationism.
Milne draws attention to the stark ‘either/or’ here. There is no third option. All must face one of two ultimate destinies.
‘The most conspicuous references to a resurrection are to be found in later apocalyptic literature, as the salvation leitmotif moves closer to the comprehensive perception that is later spelled out in Christ’s resurrection. A resurrection of the just and the unjust is affirmed in Dan 12:2-3 “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 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.” Unlike the “resurrections” of 1 Kings 17:17-24, 2 Kings 4:31-37, and 2 Kings 13:20-21, which are resuscitations to the conditions of earthly life, Dan 12:2-3 apportions a future allotment by the use of the future tense (both in the Hebrew text and LXX).’ (EDBT)
Dan 12:3 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.
“Those who are wise will shine…” – Mt 13:43 “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” The expression ‘those who are wise seems significant, cf. Dan 2:21 11:33,35. Only truth has staying power. The OT Wisdom literature itself develops this theme, and the Book of Job subjects it to rigorous scrutiny. But Daniel himself, along with his friends, provides a glowing example of the ultimate triumph of godly wisdom. But here, the reward is not just worldly success, but a share in the glory of heaven. On this transfiguration, see 1 Cor 15:51-52
“Those who lead many to righteousness” – Cf. Isa 53:11 ‘In New College, which houses the Divinity Faculty of Edinburgh University, there is a splendid theological library in the part of the college buildings which was once a church. In the basement there is a small chapel commemorating a minister who served there last century. A wall plaque quotes Dan 12:3 in the King James Version: “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” Many times when I was a student there I found this was a place to go and remmeber the true priorities of the Christian ministry – “turning many to rightouesness”.’ (Fyall)
Daniel and his friends had sought to introduce others to God, 4:34; 6:26, by witnessing to the presence of the living God.
“Like the stars” – Think of those who are considered ‘stars’ in our own day – the actors, the sportspeople, the celebrities. Theirs is a shortlived stardom, but that of ‘those who are wise’ will be eternal.
Dan 12:4 “But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”
“Close up and seal the words of the scroll” – Daniel is to preserve the words until they are needed, ‘much as a present is kept a treasured secret until the day for presentation arrives’ (Baldwin). The ‘seal’ carries notions of authenticity, security and secrecy.
‘John, on the contrary, is told (Rev 22:10) not to seal his visions. Daniel’s prophecy refers to a distant time, and is therefore obscure for the immediate future, whereas John’s was to be speedily fulfilled. (Rev 1:1,3 22:6) Israel, to whom Daniel prophesied after the captivity, with premature zeal sought after signs of the predicted period: Daniel’s prophecy was designed to restrain this. The Gentile Church, on the contrary, for whom John wrote, needs to be impressed with the shortness of the period, as it is, owing to its Gentile origin, apt to conform to the world, and to forget the coming of the Lord (compare Mt 25:13,19 Mk 13:32-37 2 Pet 3:8,12 Rev 22:20).’ (JFB)
“Many will go here and there to increase knowledge” – ‘whereas now but few care for this prophecy of God, “at the time of the end,” that is, near its fulfilment, “many shall run to and fro,” that is, scrutinize it, running through every page. Compare Hab 2:2 CALVIN: it is thereby that “the knowledge (namely, of God’s purposes as revealed in prophecy) shall be increased.”‘ (JFB)
See also Amos 8:12, of which this phrase is possibly an echo.
J.C. Ryle’s words are even more true today than when they were penned well over a century ago: ‘We live in days when the words of Daniel are fulfilled before our eyes: “Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.” (Dan 12:4) Schools are multiplying every where you look. New colleges are set up. Old Universities are reformed and improved. New books are continually coming out. More is being taught-more is being learned-more is being read than there ever was since the world began. It is all good. I rejoice at it. An ignorant population is a perilous and expensive burden to any nation. It is a ready prey to the first who may arise to entice it to do evil. But this I say-we must never forget that all education a man’s head can receive will not save his soul from hell, unless he knows the truths of the Bible.’
Dan 12:5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank.
The river – cf. Dan 10:4
Dan 12:6 one of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?”
The man clothed in linen – described in Dan 12:5-6
“How long…?” – Daniel will receive only an enigmatic answer to this question. Cf. Acts 1:7.
“These astonishing things” are the disasters and deliverances of Dan 11:2-12:3.
Dan 12:7 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.”
The lifting up of the hands provides solemn confirmation of what he is about to say.
Him who lives for ever – An entirely appropriate title for God within the context of the book as a whole and of this question in particular. Cf. ‘Deut 32:40
“A time, times and half a time” – Cf. 7:25. Some conservative Christians have attempted to ascribe a precise meaning to this expression. Most frequent is the theory that a ‘time’ means one year, and so the whole expression means three and a half years. It may be best, however, to be less precise, and to recognise the following nuances: (a) a limited time – it will not last for ever, and its end is subject to divine decree; (b) a time which includes varying and separate lengths and degrees of distress.
‘Its meaning is very simple”]. Time means a long period, times a longer period, and half means the end or closing period. The sum of the whole is this: many years must elapse before God fulfils what the prophet has declared…as if he has said, while the sons of God are kept in suspense so long without obtaining an answer to their petitions, the time will be prolonged, nay even doubled…with respect to half a time, this is added for the comfort of the pious to prevent them from sinking under the delay and from despairing through excesssive weariness.’ (Calvin)
The Geneva notes take a similar view: ‘it means a long time, a longer time, and at length a short time: signifying that their troubles would have an end.’
“When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed” – ‘The implication is that there are yet to be other Antiochus-like oppressors, that time will apparently roll on uneventfully as if belying the truth of the prophecy (cf. Eze 12:22), but that suddenly and surely, at the appropriate moment, divine intervention will interrupt history’s course. The visible sign of that moment, of interest only to those enduring suffering, is the utter helplessness of believers in the face of their persecutors; thus, paradoxically, when they are enduring the greatest agony of unjust intervention and torture they are to look expectently for the promised intervention of God’s delverance (cf. Lk 21:28).’ (Baldwin) See also Mar 13:13
‘The main point is that before it all takes place even Daniel can come to no clear understanding of when the end is to come. Only time will reveal the times.’ (Wallace)
Dan 12:8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?”
I heard, but I did not understand – ‘This should warn us against over-confident interpretation of all the details.’ (Fyall)
“What will the outcome of all this be?” – Daniel’s puzzlement was especially with the temporal aspect of the prophecy. Cf. Acts 1:7 1 Pet 1:10-12.
Dan 12:9 he replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end.”
“The words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end” – ‘We too must be prepared for the same kind of waiting, confident simply in this: that when the end comes we will know that we are experiencing what is written and that the end is upon us. Only when these things are really being re-enacted in history will we recognise them. This is why these apocalyptic passages are in the Bible – not to help us to calculate exactly, but to help us to recognise signs of the times. The prophets did not understand what exactly they were writing about. They heard and recorded their testimony about something that is much clearer to us than it was to themselves then 1Pet 1:12.’ (Wallace)
Dan 12:10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
“Many will be purified” – Such, of course, is repeatedly taught to be the purpose of suffering for God’s people in Scripture. The idea of being made purified is implicit in the notion of the church as ‘the bride of Christ’.
“The wicked will continue to be wicked” – The wicked will persist in their course, Rev 22:11. Such was the case with Belshazzar and Antiochus. ‘This does not mean they were puppets driven headlong by an inexorable fate; rather that they made choices which gradually hardened into an inexorable anti-God attitude and thus a destiny of judgement.’ (Fyall) ‘The refining process which improves the quality of gold and silver at the same time seaprates out the dross, that is the wicked’ (Baldwin)
Dan 12:11 “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.”
Grant Osborne (The Hermeneutical Spiral) has written of the principle of multiple fulfilment as exemplied in this passage: ‘The prophecy was originally fulfilled when Antiochus Epiphanes forced the Jews to sacrifice pigs on the altars and entered the Holy of Holies in 167 B.C. However, it was fulfilled again in the destruction of Jerusalem and will be fulfilled a final time in the end-time events (Mk 13:14 and parallels; compare Rev 13:14).’
1,290 days – Some commentators take the number literally, assuming that it refers to the interval between the desecration of the Temple by Antiochus and (say) its rededication. Some further suggest that the three periods of 1,150 days (8:14), 1,290 days, and 1,335 days (12:12) are successive corrections, made when the expected end did not arrive. But a symbolic interpretation is probably to be preferred, given Scripture’s constant pull away from precise calculation and towards practical endurance. ‘Remain faithful,’ is the message, ‘even when the end does not take place when you expected it to’, cf. Mt 24:45-51.
Whatever should be made of the precise times given in this and the next verse, we are clearly taught that God has limited the duration even of the most vile wickedness. Such times may seem to us to be endless, but in the larger perspective they represent ‘light momentary troubles that are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.’ (2 Cor 4:17.
Dan 12:12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.
Perseverance in times of trouble is a leading theme of Jesus’ teaching in Mar 13, and of the parables in Mt 24 25.
Dan 12:13 “As for you, 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.”
‘This verse finely illustrates to habitual emphasis of biblical eschatology. This always has two sides: the first is to live faithfully in the present and the second is the promise of future reward.’ (Fyall) See Isa 57:2
“Go your way” – ‘The way Daniel began when he risked unpopularity and yet was given favour, the way he continued when he risked everything to interpret the dream of the frantic king, trusting only in God, the way he went quietly about his routine of devotion and duty when he was basely slandered and shamefully betrayed, is the way he is to continue to the end.’ (Fyall) Cf. 2Thess 2:2-3.
“You will rest…you will rise” – Daniel was an old man, and would soon die. But this would not be the end. He will be raised to take his part in God’s glorious new kingdom. Cf vv2-3.
Fyall quotes the following benediction: ‘Now to God Almighty, whose plans for us do not end in death, to our Lord Jesus Christ, who entered our world so that we might enter his, and to the Holy Spirit, who works in our hearts constantly preparing us for that great day, be all praise and love until we meet him face to face. Amen.’
Milne (the Message of Heaven and Hell) draws out the following implications:-
- We should be wise, v3. In the previous chapter, they are ‘those who know their God’. They ‘instruct many’, Dan 11:33, and ‘lead many to righteousness’, Dan 12:3.
- We should be aware, v10. In contrast to the wicked, God’s people are to understand what is happening in the world as the end draws near. Despite appearances to the contrary, God remains on his throne and his purposes will not be thwarted.
- We should be content, vv6, 8. Like Daniel, our questions will not all be answered, and mysteries will remain (see also 1 Cor 13:12.. But we can have confidence in the things that are revealed, putting our trust in God our Saviour and believing him to be fair, and just, righteous and holy, loving and compassionate.
- We should be assured, v13. Even in tough times, we are called to ‘go our way’, living out our lives ‘to the end’, then to ‘rest’ from our labours and trials. God has not, and will not, abandon us, but will ‘raise us up’ to share in the ‘inheritance’ he has prepared for all who love him.