The Hope of Heaven (Daniel 12:1-13)
A retired pastor, relating humorous incidents during his years of ministry, tells the story of a problem-plagued funeral service he conducted. Just as he was beginning the service, a woman called out for help. Someone in the congregation had collapsed from a heart attack and was lying on the floor. Managing to keep the victim alive until the medics came, the man was rushed to the hospital.
After a significant delay, the pastor resumed the funeral service, or so he thought. The graveside service was miserably cold and wet, with rain continuing to fall. Everyone tried to crowd under the tent where a small heater attempted to offset the bitter cold. As the pastor began to read the encouraging words of Romans 8, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, … ” he was interrupted by flames bursting from the heater, causing everyone to flee the tent. To remedy the problem, the funeral director leaped over the casket toward the heater to disconnect it, sending floral arrangements flying in all directions.
Once more, the group gathered under the shelter, and the pastor again began to read from Romans 8, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels…” From the corner of his eye, he could see the funeral director studying the tent roof where rain water had collected producing a sizeable overhead pool. Now the tent visibly began to bulge. Hoping to drain the water by pushing upward on the tent with his umbrella, the director slipped. His umbrella pierced the canvas, ripping a gaping hole in the roof of the tent as a river of ice cold water cascaded over the pall-bearers. Involuntarily, they yelped from the shock of the cold water, and once again rushed from the shelter.
The pastor questioned the wisdom of continuing, but he decided to once again read the precious words from the text of Romans 8: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels,…” Gratefully, he completed the service.
I have conducted many funerals, but never have I had an experience approaching this one. Nevertheless, every funeral service which I conduct presents me with a great challenge. Funerals must deal with the ugly reality of death and the reminder that each of us must come to terms with it.
Those without hope of eternal life try to avoid the reality of death. They are, in fact, enslaved by the fear of death (see Hebrews 2:15). Great amounts of money and effort are spent to conceal the ugly face of death. The gospel of Jesus Christ faces death head-on, with the proclamation that while death is the consequence of sin, Christ is the cure for sin and death.
Death prompts each of us to get to the “bottom line” of what life is all about and what comes after death. The final chapter of the Book of Daniel is occasioned in large measure by Daniel’s coming death. The last words of this chapter, and of the entire book, speak of death and of the believer’s hope beyond the grave.
Death poses more than a personal problem for Daniel. Death is the great dilemma of biblical prophecy. The prophets struggled with their own writings which spoke of the suffering and death of Messiah (see 1 Peter 1:10-12). How can the promised blessing of biblical prophecy bring hope to the believer who will die before they are fulfilled? There is only one way—resurrection. The promises of God which are not fulfilled in this life are fulfilled in the next. Resurrection is the means by which men pass from time to eternity.
Daniel 12 is the crowning chapter of this prophecy, as well as its conclusion. It takes the believer to the high-water mark of Christian hope—the assurance of the resurrection of the dead. Let us listen and learn, and gain hope and comfort.
In the Book of Daniel, chapters 10, 11, and 12 are a part of one revelation. Chapter 10 serves as the introduction; chapter 11 provides a number of the details of God’s prophetic program, and chapter 12 serves as the conclusion. Before we turn our attention to the conclusion of this section and the entire book, let us refresh our memory concerning the setting for this final prophetic revelation given to Daniel shortly before his death.
Verse 1 provides the timing of the vision and the revelation Daniel received—the third year of Cyrus. Verse 4 tells us where Daniel was when the vision appeared to him—by the bank of the great Tigris River. Verses 2 and 3 inform us of Daniel’s mental and spiritual state at the time of his vision:
2 In those days I, Daniel, had been mourning for three entire weeks. 3 I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all, until the entire three weeks were completed (Daniel 10:2-3).
Daniel was in mourning, although we are not told why he mourned, apparently for some period of time. We know the vision he received was in response to his request to understand that which the angel was sent to explain:
10 Then behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man of high esteem, understand the words that I am about to tell you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words” (Daniel 10:10-12).
Up until this time, the revelations Daniel had received of the times of the end were a mystery to him, even though they were divinely revealed and explained:
15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. 16 I approached one of those who were standing by and began asking him the exact meaning of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things.
28 At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself” (Daniel 7:15-16, 28).
27 Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days. Then I got up again and carried on the king’s business; but I was astounded at the vision, and there was none to explain it (Daniel 8:27).
Partly because of the troubling subject matter of his visions, compounded by his inability to understand what the visions meant, Daniel was greatly distressed and sought to understand their meaning. His distress and desire to understand more fully is spoken of at the beginning of chapter 10, providing the setting for the entire revelation, including chapter 12. The final revelation of Daniel 10-12 gave Daniel more details and a greater, though far from complete, grasp of what it all meant. Daniel, distressed, mourning, and praying for insight finds the answer to all of his petitions in this final revelation.
The final words spoken to Daniel are words of comfort, words intended to turn the sorrow of verses 2 and 3 of chapter 10 into joy. They are words which also bring joy to the heart of the believer of any age and terror into the hearts of the wicked.
The Structure of The Text
As many commentators agree, the chapter division at this point is less than satisfactory, with no real break between the last verse of chapter 11 and the first verse of chapter 12. Daniel 11:40–12:4 is one paragraph. Daniel 12:1-4 describes the final events of human history paving the way for the second coming of Christ, the defeat of His enemies, and the establishment of His kingdom. They sum up for Daniel the destiny of Israel as a nation, the saints, and the wicked. Verse 4 contains Daniel’s instructions to conceal what has been revealed to him.
Verses 5-7, a final vision of two angels and of the glorified Lord, raises and answers the question, “How long will these wonders be?” Verses 8-13, the final paragraph, explore the outcome of the events. The text can be outlined:
(1) Israel and the Last Days 11:40–12:13
(2) Israel and the “little horn” 11:40-45
(3) Israel’s distress and deliverance 12:1-4
(4) The length of Israel’s distress 12:5-7
(5) The outcome Israel’s distress 12:8-13
Israel’s Distress and Deliverance
1 “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. 4 But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”
The events of history from Daniel’s day down to the “day of the Lord” are described in chapter 11 in terms of the on-going struggle of two world powers: “the king of the North” and the “king of the South.” The final “king of the North” is introduced in Daniel 11:21 and is the central figure in the remainder of chapter 11. He comes into frequent contact with the nation Israel because of its location in relationship to the “king of the South.” At least three times in our text, the “king of the North” wages war with the “king of the South.” 113 The first and last attacks are successful, while the second ends in retreat. On each of these occasions, the king passes through Israel and gains a growing hatred and animosity toward the God of Israel, His people, and the holy place. At the end of chapter 11, the “king of the North” is encamped between the sea and the “beautiful Holy Mountain” ready to attack and to destroy.
Verses 1-4 of chapter 12 are generally considered part of the paragraph beginning at Daniel 11:40. In defense of the chapter division as we have it in our Bibles, a significant change is evident in Daniel 12:1, one which explains (if it does not also justify) the ending of chapter 11 at verse 45. Never again is the “king of the North” (or the “king of the South”) mentioned in the remaining verses of Daniel. If chapter 11 describes the approach of the last days from a human standpoint, chapter 12 describes the end in terms which are divine.
The first verse of chapter 12 reveals two facts pertaining to the end times we would not have expected apart from divine revelation. First, the angel Michael114 is the instrument through whom the period of the Great Tribulation is initiated. There is a definite link between the “king of the North” and the Great Tribulation to be sure. But the text leaves this evil king behind in chapter 11, linking the beginning of the tribulation to Michael, who will arise and bring about a “time of great distress,” a time particularly directed toward the Jews.
It is easy to see that the first half of verse 1 pertains to Michael and the last half to the period of the Great Tribulation, but it is difficult to accept the connection between the two. When Michael arises, the time of Israel’s trouble begins. At first this does not seem possible. Michael is “Israel’s prince” (10:21), the “great prince who stands guard” over the sons of Daniel’s people, Israel (12:1). How could the “protector of Israel” precipitate this time of such great suffering?
The answer is found in the second surprising fact revealed in verse 1: The deliverance of God’s people is that which occurs in the time of her greatest trouble—the Great Tribulation.115 If we are surprised to see Michael associated with the suffering of Israel, we should also be surprised to see Israel’s deliverance associated with the time of her greatest suffering. Those whose names are found written in the book of life116 will be rescued.
God has chosen to bring about the salvation of his chosen ones by means of suffering. God does save men and women from suffering, but He also saves through suffering. Consider for a moment the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. God was well aware of their suffering and heard the cries of His people. He sent Moses to deliver His people from their suffering. But the deliverance of the Israelites came through suffering. When Moses appeared before Pharaoh and demanded that he let God’s people go, Pharaoh only made things more difficult for the Jews. The Jews protested that Moses had only made matters worse. In a sense, they were right. Things were going to get worse before they got better. It looked as though the entire nation would be wiped out by the Egyptian army as they found themselves trapped between the Red Sea and the approaching Egyptian forces. But God opened the sea, bringing about the salvation of His people and the destruction of their enemies.
The salvation of sinners has been accomplished by our Lord Jesus Christ. He delivers us from sin, from suffering, and from death, but He did so by means of His own suffering and death. So too the nation Israel will be delivered from its sins and suffering, but this will happen by means of the suffering of the nation in the time of the Great Tribulation. Then the people of God will be rescued.
For this reason, Michael, the guardian prince of the nation Israel, is revealed as the one who will arise, bringing about the Great Tribulation. Israel’s time of great suffering is God’s appointed means for her deliverance; thus, the angel appointed to protect her precipitates by his actions the time of her suffering. When Michael arises and the tribulation begins, it is like the doctor who “breaks the water” of a woman as she nears the time to give birth to her child. A time of pain will come upon her, but it is through this pain that the joy of new life will come to pass.
The righteous do not receive their full reward in this life. When the wicked rule, the righteous may suffer persecution and even death because of their faith in God and their obedience to Him:
33 “And those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder, for many days. 34 Now when they fall they will be granted a little help, and many will join with them in hypocrisy. 35 And some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge, and make them pure, until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time (Daniel 11:33-35).
In order for justice to be meted out at the coming of the Messiah and of His kingdom, the dead must be raised so that all men receive their just reward. This resurrection of the righteous and the wicked is very plainly prophesied in verse 2 of our text. The righteous will be raised and rewarded with everlasting life, while the wicked will be raised and given the recompense of everlasting contempt.
In verse 3, the reward of the righteous in eternity is directly linked to their faithfulness to the task they were given in time. Those who “let their light shine” in the dark days of persecution and opposition, and thus led many to righteousness, will shine brightly forever in eternity.
In verse 4, the angel turns from the fate of the saints of the latter days to the fate of Daniel whose life and ministry is drawing to a close. Daniel need not worry about these future days of distress; he has seen difficult times in his life, and remained faithful. Daniel was instructed to conceal the words revealed to him and to “seal up the book until the end time.” I understand the angel to mean that this final vision has completed the revelation of the Book of Daniel; now that the book is complete, it is to be sealed.
Why should the book be sealed? If the saints of the end times were faithful to proclaim their faith and to lead many to righteousness, why should the revelation of the Book of Daniel be kept concealed until the later days? The reason is given in the last half of verse 4: “many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”
The prophecy of Daniel is not the revelation of God’s plan of salvation; it is the revelation of God’s plan for the future. It reveals how God’s salvation will be fulfilled, not how it is made possible. Daniel focuses on the manifestation of God’s salvation in history, not its means through the coming, death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
In the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is recorded as told by our Lord. When the rich man died, he went to hell, while Lazarus went to Abraham’s bosom. In his place of torment, the rich man begged that someone be sent to warn his five brothers of the wrath to come. Abraham’s response to this request was: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29). The brothers of the rich man did not need new revelation nor did they need to hear a word of warning in a unique and dramatic way. What this man’s brothers needed was to obey the revelation they had already received from the Old Testament Scriptures.
The same was true for those in Daniel’s day as well as for those in the last days. They needed no new revelation. They needed to believe God’s promise of salvation which was revealed to them in the Old Testament Scriptures, just as every Old Testament saint was saved by faith (see Hebrews 11). While the last days would be characterized by a rapid increase in knowledge, this will not turn men toward God. Instead, men in the last days will vacillate, manifesting no consistency. They will go here and there seeking new knowledge (see Acts 17:16-21). The prophecy of the Book of Daniel proves to be of great value to those living in the last times, for it gives insight into the events taking place around them.
The Length of
Israel’s Time of Trouble
5 Then I, Daniel, looked and behold, two others were standing, one on this bank of the river, and the other on that bank of the river. 6 And one said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be until the end of these wonders?” 7 And I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed.
Daniel did not ask the question. Instead, one of the angels standing on the shore of the Tigris river asked for him. The answer was given by the One whom Daniel saw in the vision of 10:5-6—our Lord Himself. He raised both hands and swore by the eternal Father117 who “lives forever” that the end of these wonders would come after a time, times, and half a time. This is generally understood to mean a period of three and one-half years.
While Daniel would surely be concerned with the length of time his people would suffer in the Great Tribulation, the emphasis of this paragraph does not seem to fall on the length of Israel’s suffering but on its purpose. The suffering will end when its purpose has been fulfilled: “as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed” (verse 7).
Israel’s deliverance does not come about because God will make them strong, but rather because God will use wicked men to shatter the power of His holy people. Here again we come to a biblical principle which defies human logic but consistently underlies the way God deals with men.
The principle is this: God’s power and our deliverance come not through our strength but through our weakness.
We see this principle at work all through the Bible. God provided the means for Abram’s blessing through a son, whom Abram and his wife were powerless to produce (Genesis 12:1ff.). God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, not by their power but in their weakness, through His power. They were powerless to resist the Egyptian army or to cross the Red Sea. God opened the Red Sea, making a path for Israel’s escape and the means for the destruction of the Egyptian army (Exodus 3-15). God provided man’s salvation when we were too weak to save ourselves:
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).
Jesus said that He came not to minister to those who were healthy but to those who were sick (Luke 5:31-32). He pronounced blessings on those whom the world would consider weak and unworthy and cursings on those who were strong (see Matthew 5:1-12; Luke 6:20-26). Paul reminded his Corinthian readers that God saved the weak, not the strong, for His own glory (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). He further spoke of the way God allowed Satan to afflict him, so that he would be weakened and depend upon God’s strength rather than his own:
5 For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; 7 and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more. 8 For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while—9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death (2 Corinthians 7:5-10).
Like all sinners, unbelieving Israel’s self-righteousness and self-sufficiency turns this people from God, trusting in themselves for righteousness, strength, and eternal life. In His grace, God brings the nation Israel into the most terrible time of their national existence to press them beyond the limits of their power, wisdom, and strength and to turn them to Himself for salvation.
Before we can be saved, we must be broken. We must cease to trust in ourselves and cast ourselves upon God. We must recognize our deeds of righteousness as filthy rags and receive the righteousness of God, which God provided in the person of His son, Jesus Christ (see Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:19-26; Titus 3:5-7). Before we can be used of God, we must cease to trust in our own strength and wisdom, and turn to Him in our weakness for the strength He provides (Romans 12:1-8; 2 Corinthians 3:1-8; 4:7-15).
The breaking of Israel’s power takes place through a very painful process, as does the bringing about of new life in the pains of labor. The goodness and grace of God is seen in both. God graciously stops this self-righteous, self-sufficient people in their tracks, breaks all their power, and then turns them to Himself for salvation. Such is the way God has always worked with men. Such is the way He has worked and does work in us. And so it will be with Israel in the day of her deliverance.
Three-and-a-half years is the measure of Israel’s stubborn unbelief. God takes this long to break this people, shatter their power, and turn them to faith in the Messiah whom they have rejected. Three-and-a-half years is not the measure of God’s severity, but the measure of Israel’s sin and of God’s patience.
The Outcome of Israel’s Distress
8 As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, “My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?” 9 And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time. 10 Many will be purged, purified and refined; but the wicked will act wickedly, and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand. 11 And from the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days! 13 But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age.”
In chapter 10, we were told that Daniel “understood the message and had an understanding of the vision” (verse 1). I do not think this meant he understood everything concerning the future, but he did have a general grasp of the prophetic program of God and of its meaning and message for him (unlike previous revelations he received). As a result of the vision and revelation of chapters 10-12, Daniel understood all he needed to know about the future. As I understand the words of Daniel 10:1, they refer to Daniel’s understanding after the vision was given and the message was conveyed and explained. Daniel’s understanding came not at the beginning but at the end of the process.
From Daniel’s question in verse 8, it is clear he did not yet understand where the prophetic program of God was going, and so he asked, “My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?” The answer Daniel is given in verse 9 seems to be a gentle refusal to supply the information he requested. It is as though he were told, “That’s really none of your concern, Daniel, for these things will take place in the distant future, long after your death. What you have asked needs only to be revealed to those who live in those last days.”
What Daniel needs to know is that the time of Israel’s suffering will have a two-fold effect. Those who are righteous will be purged and purified by their suffering, prepared for the coming of the King and His kingdom (compare 1 Peter 1:6-7). Those who are wicked will not understand what God is doing, and they will persist in their sin, awaiting the day of their judgment (compare 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12; Revelation 22:11). While the wicked will blindly pursue the same course of sin, those who have insight will understand and see the hand of God divinely guiding the course of human history in such a way as to fulfill His purposes and promises.
Verse 11 reveals one more detail: the period between the time the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up will be 1,290 days. Those will be truly blessed118 who persevere throughout these 1,290 difficult days, from the time the regular sacrifice is stopped until the abomination of desolation, and then the 45 additional days (1,290 + 45 = 1,335) until the evil “horn” is destroyed and the kingdom of God comes).
While the specifics of God’s plan for the future will remain a mystery to Daniel and to us, God does not leave Daniel in doubt as to the implications of prophecy for this Old Testament saint. The final verse of the chapter and of the Book of Daniel spell out the hope of Daniel and every Old and New Testament saint:
13 “But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age.”
The first words spoken to Daniel in verse 13 should set the standard for every Christian. Daniel’s death was surely not very far away in time. The day of his departure was near, yet he was encouraged to “go his way;” he was to keep on just as he had been. I wonder how many of us could be told the same thing. As the day of our death or the day of our Lord’s return draws near, is there anything we would wish to change? I know many changes are needed in my life. But from the first chapter of Daniel through all those many years of his bondage and service in captivity, Daniel remained faithful. He did not need to change as death drew near, for he had lived all of his life in the light of eternity and of his glorious hope in the God of Israel.
His death would be the “entrance into his rest.” His hope was that he would rise from the grave to receive the blessings which God had promised. The prophecies of God’s Word, in which Daniel found courage and comfort, were certain because he would rise from the dead to receive his “allotted portion at the end of the age.”
Daniel 12 brings us to the crowning revelation of the Book of Daniel, the doctrine on which the Christian hope rests: the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Early in the Book of Daniel the subject of the promised kingdom of God is introduced. In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, recorded in chapter 2, the mysterious stone “fashioned without human hands” strikes the statue, putting an end to temporal kingdoms and commencing the eternal kingdom. The “stone” is none other than the promised Messiah, whose coming will terminate earthly kingdoms and inaugurate the kingdom of God.
In Daniel’s vision of chapter 7, the same four Gentile kingdoms seem to be in view as described in chapter 2. The four metals of chapter 2 are replaced by the four beasts of chapter 7. In chapter 7, a new element of prophecy is introduced in Daniel—the “little horn” who boasts (verses 8 and 20), speaks against the Most High (verse 25), and successfully opposes God and His saints (verses 21, 25). Now the success of the “little horn” and the suffering of the saints is shown to precede the coming of the kingdom of God, when the “little horn” is destroyed and the promised kingdom is granted to the saints (verses 9-12, 22, 26-27).
In Daniel’s vision of chapter 8, the “little horn” of this vision extends his kingdom toward the “Beautiful Land” (verse 9), overcomes some of the host of heaven (verse 10), and exalts himself as though he were equal with the “commander of the host” (verse 11). He also removes the regular sacrifice (verse 12) and tramples the holy place (verse 13). It will be 2,300 evenings and mornings until the holy place is properly restored. Once again, the coming of the kingdom of God will take place only after the rise and success of a wicked but powerful king who opposes God and His saints and defiles the holy place.
In Daniel 9:24-27, the nation Israel and her Messiah are in view when the time of the first coming of Messiah is predicted, the timing being reckoned from the time the decree to return to Israel and to restore the temple is issued. After the Messiah is “cut off,” a time of great tribulation is foretold along with a prophecy concerning the timing of the abomination of desolation.
In chapter 11, another reference is made to the coming of the antichrist, the termination of the regular sacrifice, and the abomination of desolation (verses 29-35). As a result of the reign of this evil king, many of the saints will be persecuted and some will die:
“And those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder, for many days (Daniel 11:33).
Any hope for Israel and for the saints must be a hope which extends beyond the grave. The hope of the Old Testament saint required the resurrection of the dead. The faith of the Old Testament saints included the assurance of resurrection:
25 “And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. 26 Even after my skin is flayed, yet without my flesh I shall see God (Job 19:25-26).
19 Your dead will live; their corpses will rise, you will lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew is as the dew of the dawn, and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits (Isaiah 26:19)
14 I will ransom them from the power of Sheol; I will redeem them from death. O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight (Hosea 13:14).
16 For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 (as it is written, “A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU”) in the sight of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. 18 In hope against hope he believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, “SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE.” 19 And without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; 20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waiver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform. 22 Therefore also IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. 23 Now not for his sake only was it written, that “IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM,” 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be reckoned, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification (Romans 4:16-25).
13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them; 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; 18 it was he to whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR SEED SHALL BE CALLED.” 19 He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type. 20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. 21 By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones (Hebrews 11:13-22).
While the Old Testament saint trusted in God to raise them from the dead, so that they could receive the promised blessings, they did not grasp as fully that their resurrection from the dead would be the result of the death and resurrection of Messiah. This was promised in the Old Testament and declared to be fulfilled in the New:
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living, For the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due? 9 His grave was assigned to be with wicked men, Yet with a rich man in His death; Although He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. 10 But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:7-12).
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. 10 For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; Neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to see the pit (Psalm 16:9-10).
5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of his death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:5).
14 Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives (Hebrews 2:14-15).
The prophet Daniel was indeed a godly man. From the first time we are introduced to him as a young lad in chapter 1 to the time of his approaching death in chapter 12, Daniel was a man who was faithful to his God. He faced death on several occasions, but he did not deny his faith or convictions. He prayed for his people, and for their restoration, only to learn that the day of Israel’s restoration was a distant one, one that would come long after his death.
In God’s final revelation to this great prophet, He spelled out the way in which the triumph of evil men, and the suffering of the saints and the holy people, contributed to the fulfillment of God’s plans and promises. Beyond this, He assured Daniel that he, along with all mankind, would be raised from the dead to receive either eternal life or eternal contempt. The resurrection of the dead was a logical necessity, in order for divine prophecy to be fulfilled. The resurrection of the dead is the truth which God withheld in Daniel until the final chapter.
The certain hope of the resurrection of the dead is the basis for godly living, even in times when godliness brings persecution. The saints are encouraged to live godly lives because they know that even if they are killed for their faith, God will raise them from the dead to give them their allotted portion at the end of the age. They are also encouraged when they see wicked men persecuting the righteous and seemingly getting away with it, for these men will be raised from the dead as well to stand before the Sovereign God of the universe and to give account.
What better truth to end the prophecy of Daniel than that of the resurrection from the dead! For the saint, the doctrine of the resurrection is the basis for our hope. For the sinner, the doctrine of the resurrection is the basis for fear and for repentance.
When you face the reality of death, my friend, will it be with hope or with fear? The answer to this question has much to suggest concerning your relationship with Jesus Christ. May you trust in Him for eternal life, before and beyond the grave.
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).
8 But what does it say? “THE WORLD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART” —that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; 10 for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation (Romans 10:8-10).
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, “FOR THY SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:31-39).
Questions and Answers
(1) How does the time period in which Michael arises (12:1) relate to the preceding context? What is the relationship between Michael and the time of distress referred to in verse 1?
According to Daniel 12:1, it is “at that time” that Michael arises. From chapter 11 we know that that “time” is the period of the end time (11:40) when the “king of the North” engages the “king of the South” militarily, and when the “king of the North” is very successful. Rumors from the East and the North reach him, and he becomes very hostile and aggressive, destroying and annihilating many (11:44). At this time, the “king of the North” will encamp his troops between the seas and the “beautiful Holy Mountain” (11:45), and then Michael will arise.
In the first half of verse 1, we are told that Michael arises. In the second half of this same verse, we are told that the time of Israel’s great tribulation begins. It is almost unavoidable to conclude that Michael’s rising is the reason for the commencement of the Great Tribulation. Just as the angel’s “rising” (so to speak) in response to Daniel’s prayer precipitated angelic conflict (10:12-13), so Michael’s “rising” precipitates the heavenly and earthly conflict of the Tribulation. In a similar way, our Lord’s coming to earth also precipitated demonic opposition and conflict.
(2) According to verse 1, who will be rescued, and from what will they be rescued? Is there any clue in the text as to how will they be rescued?
In verse 1, Daniel is specifically assured that “his people” (literally “your people”) would be rescued. This statement is then given the additional clarification, “everyone who is found written in the book.” There are some who take this to mean that the tribula- tion affects only the Jews and that only believing Jews will be rescued. While this is possible, other biblical texts may inform us that it is only the believer, Jew or Gentile, who is a true Israelite (see Romans 4:16; Galatians 3:29).
The “rescue” of verse 1 seems to be described largely in terms of the resurrection in verses 2 and 3. It would seem that many will be put to death because of their faith in Messiah, and that the rescue of these can only be by means of resurrection. There is another aspect of divine rescue in that the Messiah will come and will defeat and destroy the “king of the North” and His opponents, but this does not seem to be the focus of this chapter.
(3) Compare Daniel 12:2 with Hebrews 11:13-16, 39-40. What was the hope of the Old Testament saint? Does the hope of the Old Testament saint differ substantially from that of the New Testament believer?
In Hebrews 11, the faith of the Old Testament saint is spoken of as a resurrection faith. Every Old Testament saint died without having received the promise, and thus they came to understand by faith that the greatest blessings promised by God were not earthly, but heavenly, not temporal, but eternal, and that they would receive these promised blessings after their death at the resurrection. The resurrection faith of the Old Testament saint can be seen in Genesis 22:1-20 (especially verse 5); Job 19:25-26; Psalm 16:9-10; Isaiah 26:19; Hosea 13:14.
(4) What is the hope described in Daniel 12:3?
This verse describes the believer’s hope of heavenly rewards. Those who have insight, and by it are encouraged to “let their lights shine” in the midst of opposition and persecution, will shine even more brightly in heaven. Heavenly rewards are here, as elsewhere, linked to earthly faithfulness and service.
(5) In verse 4, what was Daniel commanded to do, and why?
Verse 4 is puzzling. In the first half of the verse, Daniel is told to seal up the book of revelation he has received and to conceal the words he has been told. These words have been given for the benefit of those who live in the end time. The last half of the verse describes the end times as having a great increase in knowledge but lacking stability or direction. The increase of knowledge in the last days will not produce righteousness nor will it serve as a guiding light. The revelation Daniel has been given will do so for those who have insight. The Book of Daniel will be a guiding light for those with insight in the last days.
(6) What is the difference between the “insight” of verses 3 and 10 and the “knowledge” of verse 4?
The answer to this question comes more from inference than from direct statements in this text. A number of other biblical texts speak to this matter. As I understand it, “insight” comes only to believers, who have and heed the Word of God, and who also benefit from the ministry of the Holy Spirit. “Knowledge” is that information available to all, which most often does not originate from Scripture or from the Spirit.
“Insight” is that God-given understanding of what is happening, and how this is being used of God to achieve His overall plan and purpose. Knowledge is the assimilation of facts and information, but without the ability to see beyond that which is material, physical, and temporal to that which is spiritual and eternal. A brilliant scientist may have great knowledge, while a manual laborer with little education may have great God-given insight. Knowledge has given us the atomic bomb and a vast arsenal of lethal weapons, but it has not given us world peace.
(7) What is the message of verses 5-7? Why the emphasis of these three verses? What was to happen during the time specified, and why?
The question raised relates to the length of time God’s people will suffer in the tribulation period. It is not raised by Daniel but by one of the angels. It is answered, as I understand it, by our glorified Lord who is described in Daniel 10:5-6. The Lord swears by “Him who lives forever.” Our hope of resurrection rests with the God who lives forever. The emphasis is not so much on the length of this time of suffering but on its purpose. Its purpose is to “shatter the power of the holy people,” so that they will cease to trust in themselves and will turn to God.
(8) In verses 8-13, what is Daniel’s question, why is it asked, and how is it answered?
The question Daniel asked inquired as to the outcome of all these amazing and perplexing events (which he calls “wonders”). The outcome of this suffering (as with all suffering and adversity) is two-fold. Some will be purged and purified, prepared for the glory of God’s coming kingdom. Some will be undaunted by it, continuing on in their sin until the time of their judgment. This is consistent with the teaching of 2 Thessalonians 2:11-13 and Revelation 22:11.
(9) What is the relationship between the doctrine of the resurrection and prophecy?
Prophecy is the declaration of God’s purposes and promises. Some prophecies have already been fulfilled, giving us hope and confidence that the remainder of His promises will also be fulfilled. Some prophecy may be fulfilled in our own lifetime. But most of the prophecies which remain unfulfilled will likely be fulfilled after our death.
The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is fundamental to the Christian’s hope and to the literal fulfillment of the prophecies of God. The resurrection of our Lord is the “first-fruits” of the full and final resurrection of all men, who will receive rewards or recompense from the Righteous Judge. Without the resurrection, there is no prophetic hope. It is little wonder that the Book of Daniel concludes with this comforting doctrine and that God assures Daniel of the truth of this doctrine shortly before his death.
113 The first attack of the “king of the North” against the “king of the South” is recorded in verses 25-28. It is a successful military campaign. The second attack is his return, recorded in verses 29-39. This campaign is successfully resisted, and the “king of the North” must retreat in humiliation, taking out his vengeance on Israel as he draws back. His final conflict with the “king of the South” is recorded in verses 40-42 along with other victories. This last campaign leaves the “king of the North” encamped between the sea and the “beautiful Holy Mountain” (verse 45).
117 “Whereas it was usual to lift one’s hand (singular) in taking an oath (Gn. 14:22; Ex. 6:8; [Deut. 32:40]; Ezk. 20:5), here the heavenly messenger raised both his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, ‘as the more complete guarantee of the truth of what is about to be affirmed.’” Cambridge Bible: The Book of Daniel, by S. R. Driver, p. 204, as cited by Joyce Baldwin, Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1978), p. 207.
118 There are several specific, but different, time indicators in the Book of Daniel. In Daniel 7:25 we are told that “they” (apparently the Jewish saints) will be given into the hand of the antichrist for “a time, times, and half a time.” In Daniel 8:14 we learn that there will be “2,300 evenings and mornings” from the time the regular sacrifice is stopped until the time when the holy place is restored. In Daniel 12:7 we are again told that it will be “a time, times, and half a time” until the “end of these wonders.” In Daniel 12:11, we read that there will be 1,290 days from the time the regular sacrifice is stopped until the abomination of desolation, and in Daniel 12:12 it is 1335 days (45 additional days) until the time of blessing for the saints who endure. I do not believe that we can expect to explain the differences between these time indicators until all of the events have taken place.
Related Topics: Prophecy/Revelation