David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
Daniel 12 - Israel's Time of Trouble
A. The time of trouble destined for Israel.
1. (1a) A future time of trouble for Israel.
At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time.
a. At that time: This does not mean that what is described in Daniel 12:1 happened immediately after what the events in Daniel 11:36-45. It means that it happened in the same era.
b. Michael shall stand up: The angel Michael is often associated with spiritual battle (Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:21, Jude 1:9, and Revelation 12:7). Since Michael is called the archangel (Jude 1:9), he is Satan's true opposite. Satan is not the opposite of Jesus; he is the opposite of Michael, this high-ranking angel.
c. The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people: In addition to his role as a spiritual warrior, Michael has a special job in protecting Israel. God appointed Michael as a spiritual guardian over Israel.
d. There shall be a time of trouble: This refers to the time of persecution for Israel and world calamity known as the Great Tribulation. This period is also called the time of Jacob's trouble in Jeremiah 30:7.
e. Such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time: The Jewish people have known many a time of trouble through their history. From the horrors at the fall of Samaria and Jerusalem to the terrors wrought by Antiochus Epiphanes, to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, to the persecutions from the church during the Dark Ages, to the pogroms of Europe, to the 20th Century Holocaust, it often seems that all Israel's history has been a time of trouble. Yet this time of trouble will be different. This will be a worse time of trouble than Israel has ever seen before.
i. Jesus quoted this passage in Matthew 24:21: For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. With great sadness, we must say that the Bible teaches that the worst has yet to come for Israel and the Jewish people.
ii. This phrase "establishes its connection with the final or 'great' tribulation above mentioned, for there can manifestly be only one 'time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time.' " (Newell)
iii. Revelation 12:13-17 tells us what makes this time so terrible. It describes the fury of the devil directed against the Jewish people during this time. The trumpets, seals, and bowls of Revelation all described the horrific conditions of the world in general during this time. The Jewish people will be targets of the full fury of the devil and his antichrist during this period, and will live in a world that is in incredible upheaval because of the judgment of God.
iv. "The Jew has always been a target of Satan. He has sought to destroy them because he knew that God has ordained to accomplish His purposes through this nation. And thus Satan has attempted in times past to destroy the nation of Israel in order to thwart the purposes of God." (Smith)
2. (1b) A promise of deliverance.
And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book.
a. And at that time your people shall be delivered: Despite the terrors of that time, deliverance is assured. No matter how great the attack is against the Jewish people, God promises to preserve them. He will never break His promise to Abraham: And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you (Genesis 17:7).
b. Every one who is found written in the book: This promise of deliverance is not for every last person of Jewish heritage, but for these who are found written in the book. Not every person of Jewish heritage will be saved, yet Israel as a whole will be known as a people who trust in Jesus as their Messiah, and truly turn to the Lord (Romans 11:25-27).
B. The resolution of resurrection.
1. (2) The resurrection of the dead.
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.
a. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake: Some think this refers to the resurrection of Israel as a nation. But the plainest meaning is that it refers to the resurrection of the body in general.
b. Some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt: The Bible clearly teaches two resurrections, one for the saved and one for the damned (John 5:29, Revelation 20:4-6, and Revelation 11-15). If we really believed every one of us would live forever, it would profoundly change our life.
i. Everlasting contempt: The terror of hell never ends. There is not blissful annihilation after some period of punishment. This passage denies a rising doctrine within the church: a modified annihilationism that teaches that unjustified sinners are sent to Hell and they suffer torment for a while, but then their beings perish for eternity.
ii. Revelation 20:10 also certainly describes eternal punishment for the Devil and the Antichrist. "There would be no way possible in the Greek language to state more emphatically the everlasting punishment of the lost than here in mentioning both day and night and the expression 'forever and ever,' literally 'to the ages of ages.' " (Walvoord)
iii. Logically, Hell must be eternal, because it is where imperfect beings must pay a continual penalty for their sins because they cannot ever make a perfect payment. Principles behind Old Testament sacrifice remind us that an imperfect payment for sins must be a continual payment for sins.
c. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake: The Scriptures as a whole teach us that there are not only many resurrected. There is evidence that the Hebrew word for many in Daniel 12:2 can also be used for all. "The emphasis is not upon many as opposed to all, but rather on the numbers involved." (Baldwin)
i. As well, the Bible states that all are raised but not all at the same time or in the same manner (Revelation 20:5-6).
ii. "The wicked also shall 'come forth,' but by another principle, and for another purpose; they shall come out of their graves like filthy toads against this terrible storm." (Trapp)
2. (3) A promise for the righteous.
Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.
a. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament: Those who live in God's wisdom will shine. Despite the entire calamity, all the difficulty coming upon Israel, God has those who are wise, and they shall shine.
b. And those who turn many to righteousness like the stars: Here, the wise among God's people are those who turn many to righteousness.
i. All God's people are like stars in the sense that they radiate light and help others to see and find their way. But certainly, those who turn many to righteousness shine even more brightly, helping even more people to see the light and find their way.
ii. This promise applies to all the wise, and all of those who turn many to righteousness through all ages. But it may have its most specific application to the 144,000 evangelists from Israel's tribes during the Tribulation (Revelation 7).
c. Forever and ever: The brightness of God's wise ones, and those who turn many to righteousness, will last forever. It isn't fading. It endures, when so many other things that we put our effort into, even if they succeed, give only a temporary "shine." It is worth it to invest our lives into the things that last forever and ever.
C. Conclusion of the book.
1. (4) Instructions to seal the book.
"But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase."
a. Shut up the words, and seal the book: To shut up the words implied that the words should be kept safely until the time when they were needed. Seal the book has the double sense of authenticating the message and preserving it.
b. Until the time of the end: Daniel's prophecy certainly was of some value in his own day. But there would come a day, the time of the end, when his prophecy would be of even more importance. Therefore, it was important to shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end.
i. "We must wait 'till the time of the end;' and this, it appears from the following calculations, will not arrive before the twentieth century. We here see the reason why these prophecies are at present so imperfectly understood. God has sealed them." (Adam Clarke, 1825)
c. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase: Here, Daniel describes a characteristic of the time of the end. Many take this prediction as being fulfilled in the travel (run to and fro) and information explosions (knowledge shall increase) of our modern age.
i. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase: This has more the idea of searching after knowledge rather than rapid forms of transportation.
ii. "The idea is that people would run about trying to find answers to important questions, especially in reference to future events." (Wood)
iii. "The correct sense is that 'many shall search it through and through,' and that as a consequence 'knowledge of the book itself shall be increased.' " (Newell)
d. Shut up the words, and seal the book: Daniel has revealed enough to us so that the book really can be sealed. From Daniel 11:36 to Daniel 12:3, we see:
A world ruler, utterly opposed to God
A world religion, based on the abomination of desolation
A world war, which defeats the ruler
A time of great tribulation for Israel lasting three and one-half years
Deliverance for the people of God after the tribulation
Resurrection and judgment
The reward of the righteous
2. (5-7) How long will the time of trouble be?
Then I, Daniel, looked; and there stood two others, one on this riverbank and the other on that riverbank. And one said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, "How long shall the fulfillment of these wonders be?" Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.
a. Two others, one on this riverbank and the other on that riverbank: Daniel is back to the riverbank first mentioned in Daniel 10:4. The visions of Daniel 10 through 12 all took place as Daniel stood at this riverbank.
b. One said to the man clothed in linen . . . "How long shall the fulfillment of these wonders be?" Seemingly, these other men on the riverbank were angels. One angel asked the other, not for the benefit of the angel, but for Daniel's benefit and our benefit.
c. Held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever: In a solemn oath, one angel announced that the time of trouble would last three and one-half years (a time, times, and half a time).
i. The prediction was emphasized by the solemn oath, and by the miracle that accompanied the words: who was above the waters in the river. The angel "walked on water" when he told the other angel and Daniel that these things would happen within a three and one half year period.
d. A time, times, and half a time: This three and one-half year period is well known in other passages of Biblical prophecy.
Daniel 7:25 described it as the period that saints are given into Antichrist's hands.
Daniel 9:27 described it as the period between the breaking of Antichrist's covenant with Israel, the erection of the abomination of desolation, and the establishment of Jesus' kingdom.
Daniel 12:7 described it as the duration of "the time of trouble" for Israel.
Revelation 11:2 described it as the period that the holy city will be tread underfoot by Gentiles.
Revelation 11:3 described it as the period of ministry for the two witnesses.
Revelation 12:6 and 12:14 described it as the period that Israel (perhaps only its remnant) is preserved by God in the wilderness.
Revelation 13:5 describe it as the duration of Antichrist's authority to rule, persecute and blaspheme.
i. Taking all these together, we are obviously dealing with the last half of Daniel's seventieth week (the Great Tribulation); and we know very little about the first half.
e. When the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished: The people of Israel will seem completely crushed as these things end, but at that time, the Messiah - upon whom they will trust before He returns - will return to rescue them.
3. (8) Daniel's last question: how will it all turn out?
Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, "My lord, what shall be the end of these things?"
a. Although I heard, I did not understand: This comforts us. Daniel didn't understand it all either, even though he heard it first hand.
b. What shall be the end of these things? Perhaps Daniel asked this question because he was anxious, as he understood just how terrible the time of trouble would be.
4. (9-13) Answer: God will purify and preserve His people, and has set a limit of days to the time of trouble.
And he said, "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand. And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days."
a. Go your way, Daniel: The command to go your way is literally merely "to go" but it is not meant physically. The angel told Daniel to make a mental departure from the questioning. More details would be revealed later; but Daniel must be content with what God has revealed thus far.
b. For the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end: Daniel must make a mental departure from his questioning, because the revealing of these things will not come till the time of the end. Until then, there is a sense in which these prophecies are closed up and sealed.
i. We shouldn't think there was no instruction, no blessing, or no benefit in these words for any generation until the time of the end. But the meaning of these prophecies would be less mysterious at the time of the end.
ii. The massive interest in prophecy, and the incredible development in understanding of Biblical prophecy in the last 150 years should make us see that we truly are at the time of the end.
iii. One of the common arguments against some understandings of Biblical prophecy is "Your ideas are new. The early church or Christians through the ages didn't teach these things. Your ideas are wrong because they are new." But this word to Daniel, that the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end should make us think differently.
iv. Additionally, when we look at Church history, we see that God has successively had the church focus on specific areas of doctrine at different periods. Our present understanding of many areas of Biblical teaching were only most carefully and precisely defined after God appointed the church to focus on that doctrinal area.
v. For example, in the second through fourth centuries, the church focused on the doctrine of Scripture. In the fourth century, the focus was on the doctrine of God (in the Trinity). In the fifth century, the focus was on the doctrine of Christ. In the fifth through seventh centuries, the focus was on the doctrine of man. In the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, the focus was on the doctrine of salvation. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the focus was on the doctrine of the church. So it should not surprise us that it was not until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries - the time of the end - that the focus would turn upon the doctrine of last things and the return of Jesus.
c. Many shall be purified, made white, and refined: This is another prediction for what was future to Daniel, because this degree of purification is only possible after the finished work of Jesus on the cross.
d. But the wicked shall do wickedly: Most specifically, we would say that this prediction has to do with the end times, when wickedness will abound more than ever (as in the Antichrist and his government), but an innumerable multitude will also be saved (as is seen in Revelation 7:9-10).
e. And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days: This was an amazingly specific prophecy. Daniel said that from the time of the abomination of desolation, you can simply start marking off your calendar to the final consummation of all things, 1,290 days later.
i. This is why Jesus pointed to Daniel's prophecy of the abomination of desolation as the sign that would mark the immediacy of His return (Matthew 24:15).
f. Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days: It is difficult to say what the relationship is between the three and one-half years mentioned in many places and the 1,335 days mentioned here. We could say that at the end of the 1,260 days Jesus returns. At the end of the 1,290 days, Jesus' government is officially installed. At the end of the 1,335 days the nations are judged (Matthew 25:31-46).
i. "It is quite possible that this period of judgment of those that have lived through the tribulation period and have survived somehow during this holocaust when God's judgment will be poured out upon the earth, when they are brought to stand before Jesus at this judgment, that this judgment of the Lord will take a forty-five day period." (Smith)
g. But you, go your way till the end: Daniel's mind was filled with exciting and frightening prophetic thoughts. Perhaps it was easy for those things to become a distraction instead of a blessing to him. So the angel concluded with an important reminder: go your way till the end. God had a course He wanted Daniel to complete, and Daniel needed to remain focused on that.
i. Adam Clarke draws the following points from Daniel 12:13:
Every man has his way to go.
Every man has an end.
There is a rest provided for the people of God.
There is an inheritance for the people of God.
ii. At the end of the gospel of John, Jesus told Peter about his destiny to die as a martyr for Jesus. Peter wanted to know about John's destiny, so he asked Jesus, "What about John?" Essentially, Jesus replied, "It's none of your business. You follow Me" (John 21:22). In the same way, Daniel was not to spend all of his time and energy speculating and worrying about things he couldn't know. Instead, he should simply obey the word to go your way till the end - something we must all do.
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