DANIEL - CHAPTER 12
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
12:1. “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.”
This concluding chapter of Daniel continues the prophecy of events that will occur in the final three and a half years of the seven-year Tribulation period, those final three and a half years being the Great Tribulation. The fact that Michael “the great prince” of the Jewish people, will “stand up,” indicates an extraordinary activity on his part on behalf of Israel during that terrible time, the awful nature of which is declared in the words, “there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation....” The need of his extraordinary activity will be due to the fact that this will be Satan’s final desperate pre-millennial attempt to destroy Israel. (His final attempt will be after the Millennium).
“... and at that time thy people shall be delivered.” This declares the outcome of the Armageddon conflict - though Satan will employ every weapon in his arsenal for the destruction of Israel, she will not be annihilated. This deliverance, however, will be physical, without regard to spiritual state. That physical deliverance at the Lord’s return will be followed by His judgment of those delivered, a judgment that will result in the unbelieving being banished “into everlasting punishment” (Mt 25:46): while “every one that shall be found written in the book” will hear His gracious invitation, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25:34), and they will remain on the earth to enjoy the blessings of the millennial kingdom. Those “written in the book” are they who will have put their trust in Christ during the Tribulation period, for there can be no question that “the book” is the Lamb’s book of life (Re 20:15; 21:27).
12:2. “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
The prophecy next deals with the subject of resurrection, and in order to understand what is obscured by the KJ translation of verse two, it is necessary to understand the order of the resurrections. There are two: the resurrection of life, and a thousand years later the resurrection of death (Jn 5:29; Re 20:5). Following the Lord’s return to end the Tribulation, there will be the final stage of the resurrection of life, the preceding two stages of which will have been His own resurrection, followed by the resurrection of Church-age believers at the Rapture prior to the beginning of the seven years of the Tribulation period. The third and final stage will be that which is described here in Da 12:2: the resurrection of Old Testament and Tribulation-age believers. This will complete the resurrection of life, for since believers will not die in the Millennium, there will be no other believers to be raised. Following the Millennium there will be the resurrection of death, i.e., the resurrection of the unbelievers of all the ages. The purpose of that resurrection will be to arraign them at the great white throne for appointment of their punishment to be suffered eternally in the lake of fire, Re 20.
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake....” The “many” who will “awake” are literally the multitudes of all the dead whose bodies lie in the earth. At the end of the Tribulation all the believers of the Old Testament and Tribulation-age eras will awake “to everlasting life.” Since the prophecy is concerned with the results of resurrection, rather than the order, the thousand-year interval between this final stage of the resurrection of life, and the resurrection of the unbelieving dead, is ignored. The “some” who shall awake “to shame and everlasting contempt” will be the unbelievers of all the ages raised at the resurrection of death following the Millennium, the result of that resurrection being their judgment at the great white throne, and their being consigned body, soul and spirit, into the eternal torment of the lake of fire, see Re 20.
12:3. “And 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.”
As at the resurrection of death there will be the great white throne judgment to determine the degree of eternal punishment of unbelievers in the lake of fire, so, following the resurrection of life, will there be the apportionment of eternal reward for believers. The Church-age saints will receive theirs at the judgment seat of Christ; the saints of the OT and Tribulation ages, theirs at the Lord’s return to establish His millennial kingdom. It is the reward of the latter that is referred to here in verse three. Their shining “as the brightness of the firmament,” and “as the stars for ever and ever” declares the character and duration of their reward. It will include glorification, and it will be eternal. The value God sets on the preaching of the Gospel is declared in the fact that those who act as His “stars” to guide men to the Savior (as the star guided the wise men at the time of His birth), will themselves throughout eternity “shine as the stars.”
In all ages “they that be wise” live for eternity. Only the fool lives for the passing prizes of time.
12:4. “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”
Many take this to mean, not that Daniel was to shut and seal the book to prevent others from reading it, but that he was to shut and seal it to protect it from harm, and preserve it so that it would be available for others to study down through the years, and particularly in the Tribulation age. This view cannot be lightly dismissed in view of the fact that God obviously intends men to read and understand what He has written.
“... many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased,” is likewise understood by many to refer, not to the busy activity of this present age, with its great increase in secular knowledge, but rather to the fact that in the end times, particularly the Tribulation, the running to and fro describes the activity of many busy in the study of the prophetic Scriptures, and to the great increase in the understanding of those same Scriptures. The two views are not mutually exclusive, and the ambiguous nature of the language indicates the need to avoid dogmatism.
12:5. “Then I Daniel looked, and, behold, there stood other two, the one on this side of the bank of the river, and the other on that side of the bank of the river.”
12:6. “And one said to the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?”
In chapter ten, verse five, Daniel’s eyes had been focused upon “a certain man clothed in linen,” (obviously the same One as is described here), Whom we have taken to be the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the authority of Whom Daniel was being given this revelation of the future. This present verse declares that the prophet then saw two angels appear, taking their places, one on either side of the river (Hiddekel or Tigris), while the Lord stood on (some say “above” the waters; others, “further up the river”). In our study of chapter ten we noted that the river here appears to be the symbolic representation of “the river of Truth,” i.e., the Scriptures. The Lord’s standing over that “river” signifies that He is the Author of the Scriptures. They are both the revelation of Himself, and the declaration of His will. Not one word of those Scriptures will go unfulfilled.
The question addressed to the Lord by one of the angels concerning the time of fulfillment reminds us that the Lord is not only the Author, He is also the Interpreter, of the Scriptures. To the man out of Christ the Bible is a riddle, an enigma beyond his ability to comprehend.
12:7. “And I heard the man clothed with linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.”
The response of “the Man clothed in linen” was to raise his arms to heaven, and swear by God the Father that everything would be fulfilled in three and a half years, i.e., in the last half of Daniel’s seventieth “week” - the Great Tribulation. Others have noted the similarity to the scene described in Revelation chapter ten, where “a mighty angel (Christ),” standing astride earth and sea, declares also with an oath that in the same period of time, the Great Tribulation, “the mystery of God” would be finished.
It is significant that God also guaranteed Abraham’s blessings with an oath, “For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee” (Heb 6:13-14). The connection between the Divine oaths of Daniel and Revelation, and that recorded in Hebrews, becomes apparent when we remember that the completion of the Tribulation judgments will bring fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.
“When he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished,” is generally taken to mean that when God, by means of the Tribulation judgments, has broken the power of Israel (the holy people), that is, when He has taught them the folly of trusting in anyone or anything except Him, then His program for the blessing of Israel and the nations will be complete. Just when it will seem that nothing can save them, Christ will return in power and glory, and an Israel scattered and broken will learn that salvation comes not from man, but from the Lord.
12:8. “And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?”
12:9. “And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.”
“... what shall be the end of these things?” Daniel desired to know what will follow the Lord’s return at the end of the Tribulation, but he was told only that fulfillment of the prophecy would not be until “the time of the end,” and his being told, “Go thy way, Daniel,” implied that it would be after his lifetime. “... the words are closed up and sealed” are taken by some to mean, not that knowledge was being withheld, but that the closing up and sealing of the prophecy guaranteed the certainty of fulfillment. Even if this is correct (and the present writer is not convinced that it is), the fact remains that it was obviously not God’s will to give to Daniel any further knowledge than that which had already been given him.
12:10. “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.”
This declares that as a result of the Tribulation judgments, many will be led to put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and by that act of faith will be purified, and made spotless, but that it will be a terrible time of trial for those believers is disclosed in the words “and tried.”
The wicked (unbelievers), however, will continue in their wickedness, and by that folly will do what unbelievers do today: rob themselves of the privilege of understanding what God has written, see 1 Co 2:14. The believers (the wise), on the other hand, like believers of this present age, will be enabled to understand clearly, and that knowledge will bolster their faith through those terrible days as they wait for the Lord to return and deliver them.
This is the OT announcement of the same truth as is recorded in Re 22:11 “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still.” In other words, the same judgments that will lead some to repent, will simply harden still more the rebellious hearts of others. In spite of the fact that the unfolding of history, which makes possible the verification of prophecy, will by then be so complete as to leave only the last few details beyond historical verification, the unrepentant sinners of the Tribulation age will refuse to belief that incontro-vertible evidence. That evidence which they will reject, however, will convince others, causing them to turn to Christ, making them “the wise (who) shall understand.”
12:11. “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.”
That day will be the mid point of the Tribulation, as recorded in 9:27 “... and in the midst of the week he (the Roman beast ruler) shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease. And for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it (the temple) desolate even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate (more correctly the desolator, i.e., the beast). See comments on 9:27.
The 1290 days, however, are thirty days more than three and a half years of the Great Tribulation (the final half of the seven years of 360 days each of the whole Tribulation era, variously designated as three and a half years, forty-two months, or twelve hundred and sixty days, the prophetic year being one of three hundred and sixty days). Several suggestions have been offered to explain the purpose of these additional thirty days, but that which seems most satisfactory is that there will be an interval between the end of the Tribulation and the beginning of the Millennium. Others have suggested that such an interval would provide time for Christ’s judgment of the nations, the setting up of the millennial governmental machinery, etc. This, however, is speculation, and is better avoided. As is indicated, there are some prophetic truths which are reserved for disclosure nearer to the time of the their fulfillment, and this appears to be one of them.
12:12. “Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.”
Here is another period of forty-five days more than the 1260 of the final three and a half years of the Great Tribulation, and again, in the absence of Scriptural enlightenment, speculation is unwise. No doubt the reason for these two sets of days will be clear to those living at that time.
12:13. “But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.”
As we are reminded in other Scriptures, even a long human lifetime is brief in the context of the ages. Daniel’s life - long by human reckoning - had been one of privilege and honor such as is accorded to only a very few. His stewardship had been outstand-ingly faithful, marked by a jealousy for God’s glory, and the result was that when it came time to pass from this earthly scene, he faced, not a dread unknown eternity, but the assurance that his faithfulness was to have its reward: he was going to his rest to await that glorious day of resurrection when there would be added to that rest the Lord’s abundant recompense of His servant’s faithful stewardship.
These studies are concluded with the prayer that if everything else is forgotten, there might remain the inspiration of Daniel’s life, to encourage us also to live for eternity, so that when we come to the end of our course it might be to have the assurance that we too have exercised our stewardship with at least a measure of his faithfulness.