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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Daniel 12

Verse 1

This final chapter of Daniel is interpreted in various ways by different schools of scholars. Practically all of the critics limit the application to the last days of Antiochus, supposing that Daniel was totally mistaken about the resurrection which he mentioned, there being no resurrection whatever that marked the closing of the Antiochus persecution. We must reject this in its entirety, because we cannot believe that Christ would have quoted part of this chapter, applying it to the destruction of Jerusalem with antitypical overtones in the final judgment itself unless there had been much more here than a blunder on the part of the prophet Daniel. Such interpretations we leave without comment to those who prefer to disbelieve the holy prophecies of the "end times."

The various premillennial views of this chapter we also reject on the basis that "the millennium" of Revelation 20 is nothing more nor less than the entire dispensation of the Gospel, embracing all of the time between the First Advent and the Second Advent of Christ. (See extensive studies on this in the Book of Revelation. Also, we have given a summary of it under Daniel 7:25, above.)

The really destructive heresy regarding this chapter is the error of seeing nothing in it except the conclusion of the persecutions under Antiochus Epiphanes. Keil pointed out that the critical application of the first few verses of Daniel 12 to the times of Antiochus could be true and correct, "Only if the premises from which it is drawn were allowed."[1] These premises were confidently contradicted by Keil; and, as we found in our studies of the last paragraph of Daniel 11, there is no reference whatever in those verses to Antiochus. That impressive gap between undeniable references to Antiochus earlier in chapter eleven, prior to Daniel 11:36, and the introduction of the resurrection of the dead in the first three verses of this chapter, make it absolutely imperative to understand that in this chapter the focus of the prophecy moves to the climax of the Messianic kingdom itself in the Final Judgment and Second Advent of Jesus Christ.

In this connection, Albert Barnes declared that: "The full meaning of the language (Daniel 12:1-3) is not met by the events of the times of the Maccabees. The passage looks forward and onward to a higher and more important event than any that occurred in the times of Antiochus."[2]

What then is the meaning of these first few verses in Daniel 12? Young summarized them as follows: "When these events take place, those who are found written in the book will be delivered. The reference is to the elect, those destined to receive eternal life."[3] We hold that analysis to be absolutely correct. We are also certain that the resurrection of the dead mentioned here is the general resurrection of all the dead at the time of the final judgment, as we shall more fully explain in the notes on the text itself.

Daniel 12:1

"And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who standeth for the children of the people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as there 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."

Fortunately, this verse is crystal clear in its meaning, thanks to the direct comment of Jesus Christ himself regarding what is here prophesied.

"At that time ..." is a reference to Messianic times; and the fact of the final judgment and the Resurrection coming into view almost simultaneously should not be confusing. It is a thing common enough in the prophecies that "the last Days" is a reference to the whole times of the Messianic kingdom including the final judgment itself; and, since all of these events (first, and last, and in between) were in the same line of vision, they are often mentioned in the same passage. "The Lord himself coordinated the destruction of Jerusalem with the end of the world."[4] "It was no uncommon thing in the prophets to allow the eye to glance from one object to another lying in the same range of vision."[5] Even in astronomy today, two stars may appear in one photograph appearing to be almost touching each other, whereas in fact, they could be separated by thousands of millions of miles!

In understanding this prophecy it is imperative to understand that Daniel 10-12 are all one prophecy, not two or three. The chapter divisions here have been deplored by scholars ever since Cardinal Hugo butchered the job of dividing them in the 13th century; but to understand the passage before us, we must go back and read Daniel 10:14 -

"Now I am come to make thee understand

WHAT SHALL BEFALL THY PEOPLE IN THE LATTER DAYS, for the vision is yet for many days

(Daniel 10:14)."

In these verses, we have therefore come to that part of the prophecy that particularly deals with the TRUE ISRAEL OF GOD in the beginning of Messianic times. It is most important to separate this prophecy and its application from the APOSTATE ISRAEL; FROM THE DEGENERATE VINE; FROM THE HARDENED; SECULAR ISRAEL. After that Israel rejected and crucified the Son of God Himself, they lost forever their status as God's chosen people. That distinction now belongs only to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and to no other. Without seeing this vital fact, no one can understand this prophecy. This reference, therefore is not of what is going to happen to the Jews (racially) but to the Church of Jesus Christ.

Very well, what does this first verse say?

"At that time ... 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 ..." Now, when was that? Christ said it would occur at the destruction of Jerusalem, which we can definitely pinpoint as an event occurring in A.D. 70. In his prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, Christ said: "Then shall be great tribulation, such as there hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24:21). Thus the very terminology of Daniel's prophecy was used by the Lord and applied to the end of Jerusalem (with overtones of the final judgment also). But the people who cannot understand this verse have a stumbling block in the next clause, "And at that time, thy people shall be delivered." They say this cannot apply to the destruction of Jerusalem because that is when 1,100,000 Jews were put to the sword; and how could God have said, "Thy people shall be delivered?" They just don't understand WHO God's people were in that holocaust! They were the Church, the TRUE ISRAEL OF GOD; and it is history that they were indeed delivered, fleeing to Pella, as every student of history knows. The Jews at that time were not, nor have they ever since been, God's chosen people.

The study of this passage, together with the fact of Christ's having definitely applied it to the destruction of Jerusalem raises the possibility that Christ himself relied in part upon this promise of God regarding the safety of his church during the siege of Jerusalem when he warned the Christians to flee. One of the most important, and one of the most universally unknown, facts about the ISRAEL of GOD is that the true ISRAEL today is a far different group of people from what it was in the days of Daniel.

"Everyone that shall be found written in the book ..." Here is the definition of God's people who shall be saved from the horrible holocaust of the destruction of Jerusalem. Who are these? They are the Christians. This is a reference to the "Lamb's Book of Life," where the names of the redeemed are enrolled. "This is the book of life (Psalms 69:28; Revelation 3:5)."[6] The very idea that the racial Jews who had engineered the crucifixion of Christ and hounded the holy apostles all over Europe in their vicious efforts to prevent the spread of the Gospel all had their names written in the book of life because they were racially descended from Abraham is ridiculous.

It is absolutely certain, as Keil put it, that, "These verses do not treat of the times of Antiochus and the Maccabees."[7] The notion that the persecutions under Antiochus were of the dimensions of those which Christ associated with the end of the city of Jerusalem (which are the ones found in this verse) is contradicted by no less authority than Christ himself.

Verse 2

"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 big problem with this verse is the word "many," construed by some as an indication that "some" or a "major number" of the dead shall rise, with the conclusion that the general resurrection of all the dead is not in view in this passage. We disagree with that. It is undeniable that in Scripture the word "many" is often used as a reference to all. Note this passage:

"For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous" (Romans 5:19).

A comparison with verse 18 in that same passage indicates positively that "many" in both of the references here actually means "all." Therefore, it is a gross error to fasten a limited denotation upon the use of "many" in Daniel's reference to the general resurrection. Thus the principal idea to be derived from the use of many in this verse 2 is the great multitudes that shall rise from the dead. "No one can doubt that the word 'many' is used to denote all."[8] Thomson and many other dependable scholars have mentioned this same thing. "We cannot, therefore, deduce that 'many' here excludes 'all'; the idea suggested is rather multitudinousness."[9]

The Resurrection of the Dead

There are a number of important revelations connected with this verse. The resurrection of both wicked and righteous persons shall occur simultaneously. Here is the only reference in the Old Testament to "everlasting life."[10] Note also that "everlasting contempt" for the wicked appears in the same verse.

Although a number of other Old Testament passages speak somewhat ambiguously of the resurrection, these being: Ezekiel 37:11; Isaiah 55:10ff; 26:19; Ecclesiastes 3:18-22,

Isaiah 53:10ff; Psalms 17:39,49,73; Hosea 6:2; Job 19:26, etc, nevertheless this is the most forthright promise of the resurrection to be found in the Old Testament.

The denials of most critical scholars that the general resurrection is here promised should be set aside. The passage cannot possibly refer to anything else. To deny this is to assert that Daniel made a false prophecy, because there has never been even until this day such a resurrection as is promised here. Some of course would get around this by declaring this to be the "first resurrection"; however, Jesus Christ left no doubt at all that "the first resurrection" is a resurrection from the deadness in sins by hearing and obeying the gospel (John 5:25-29). Still others have tried to make it out that the saints who came out of their graves upon the occasion of the resurrection of Christ constituted the resurrection mentioned here; but that cannot be true, because only "the saints" were raised on that occasion (Matthew 27:53).

Therefore, in this second verse we have a prophecy of the general resurrection of all the dead, and also the assignment of his true destiny to every man. Thus Daniel, as did our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 25, made the Final Judgment and the general resurrection of the dead to be concurrent events coming at the end of the age.

That our Lord Jesus fully approved of this chapter is demonstrated by his use of it in the prophecies which he himself uttered. If men would heed their Saviour's words instead of following the wild speculations of Biblical enemies they would find little difficulty in believing every word of this prophecy.

Verse 3

"And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever."

Here again we have a Messianic promise focused upon the post-resurrection glory of the saints who have been glorified. This is a Scriptural promise to be fulfilled in the Final Judgment, that day mentioned by Paul when all of the saints in Christ shall receive the crown of life that never fades away (2 Timothy 4:8).

Although the apostle Paul did not quote Daniel, he nevertheless applied this conception of the saints being glorious like the stars in this passage:

"For one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:41,42).

It should be observed from these words who are the truly wise. "True religion is wisdom, and sin is folly, and those who live for God and for heaven are truly wise."[11] The utter foolishness of sin and rebellion against God is stressed by the words of the Saviour. Regarding that rich farmer who mistook his stomach for his soul and said, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up," the Lord said, "Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee" (Luke 12:20). Of those virgins in the parable who took no oil for their lamps, Jesus said, "Five were foolish" (Matthew 25:2). Concerning the man who heard the sayings of Jesus and did them not, our Lord said, "He shall be likened unto a foolish man who built his house upon the sand" (Matthew 7:27). What an incredible folly characterizes every person who does not strive to live in a manner well pleasing to God!

"They that turn many to righteousness ..." "This is a reference to those who are instrumental in converting men to the worship of the true God and to the ways of holy religion."[12] This is frequently applied to preachers of God's Word; but there are many others who qualify. This writer still recalls the example of Sgt. Herbert F. Elrod, of the United States Air Force at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, who was baptized in 1932, and who, within the period of a single year, was the chief instrument in the baptism of twenty-three other persons!

Verse 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."

"Shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end ..." Keil stated that the true meaning of shut up and seal is that of "guarding and protecting the message" that it might be available to future generations."[13] Moreover, it is perfectly obvious that the instructions thus to guard and protect the message "refers to the whole Book of Daniel."[14]

"Men shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased ..." Some interpreters have tried to apply this to persons letting their eyes run to and fro searching for the truth; but we cannot find anything like that in the passage. If men will just look at the travel to and from upon the planet earth by men of all nations throughout this whole century, they could not fail to be impressed with the truth that this going "to and fro" on the earth has been multiplied fantastically above everything that was even dreamed of a hundred years ago. Is not this prophesied here as being a development "at the time of the end"?

Likewise, has not knowledge been "increased"? In the field of medicine, more knowledge has been learned in the past century than in all previous centuries put together. Furthermore, this same phenomenon may be noted in any one of a hundred different fields of knowledge. Take transportation, chemistry, biology, agriculture, space travel, etc., etc., Is it not a fact that "knowledge has been increased"? Does this mean, therefore, that we are indeed approaching the time of the end? Our own conviction is that the answer is undoubtedly affirmative.

Verse 5

"Then I, Daniel, looked, and, behold, there stood other two, the one on the brink of the river on this side, and the other on the brink of the river on that side. And one said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, How long shall it be to the end of these wonders? And 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, and sware by him that liveth forever and ever that it shall be for a time, and times, and a half; and when they have made an end of breaking in pieces the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished."

"How long shall it be to the end of these wonders ..." (Daniel 12:6)." This means, "How long shall it be to the end of the world, the general resurrection of the just and the wicked, and the glorification of the saints of God? The answer came back that all of these wonders would come at the end of time, and times, and a half. Fortunately, we know exactly what this means. It is the totality of all the time between the First Advent of Jesus Christ and the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. (See under Daniel 7:25 for an elaboration of this.)

The most dreadful and terrible thing in this little paragraph is the raw prediction that, "THEY SHALL MAKE AN END OF BREAKING IN PIECES THE POWER OF THE HOLY PEOPLE." That cannot possibly have any reference to Antiochus Epiphanes, for his persecutions in no manner made an end of breaking in pieces the power of the holy people (The Jews). The meaning here comes far beyond the events of the Maccabean period. "The breaking in pieces of the power of the holy people" is a reference to the near-extermination of Christianity which shall occur near the end of the whole dispensation when the time, and times, and a half are about concluded. Revelation 16 develops this very same idea, revealing a future time when the total spiritual environment on the whole earth shall be seriously if not indeed fatally polluted. It was of this period that Christ inquired, "When the Son of Man cometh shall he find faith on the earth" (Luke 18:8).

Note the terminology here, "breaking in pieces the power of the holy people." What can this be if not indeed the utter fragmentation of Christendom by literally hundreds and hundreds of denominations, sects, cults, fads, etc?

Note in this connection that "the holy people" is by no stretch of the imagination a reference to racial Israel. No! The reference is to God's TRUE ISRAEL, the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is positively the ONLY ISRAEL God has ever had since the birth of the Son of God.

Verse 8

"And I heard, but I understood not; then said I, O my lord, what shall be the issue of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed till the time of the end."

One of the favorite dictums of Bible enemies is that we should look for what was "probably in the mind of the prophet" to understand and interpret his words; but the Holy Scriptures in this passage offer the complete denial of such a bastard ruling, which, alas, influences much of the so-called "interpreting" of the ancient prophecies. Here Daniel freely admitted that he did not understand the words which the holy one spoke unto him and which he wrote down and sealed. He asked for information about what the words meant, but the holy one refused to enlighten him further, saying, "Go thy way, the words are shut up and sealed till the time of the end."

There was no way, really, that Daniel could have understood these words. Why? (1) The holy people whose power was to be broken in pieces in the mind of Daniel was doubtless a reference to the OLD ISRAEL; but we have known since Jesus Christ that HE, and HE ALONE is the true Israel of God (John 15:1,5). (2) The expression, "time, and times, and a half a time" could have had no practical meaning whatever for Daniel. (3) The prophecies of knowledge being increased and men going "to and fro" could never have been fully understood by any person living prior to the 20th century!

In this connection, one should read 1 Peter 1:10-12, where this phenomenon of the prophets not understanding their own prophecies is specifically stated.

Verse 10

"Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand; but they that are wise shall understand."

Daniel desired to know, "What shall be the issue of these things...(Daniel 12:8)." Well here it is. Many shall indeed obey the gospel of Christ and be saved, or "refined" as stated here; but there shall continue to be wicked men who shall act wickedly and shall not be able either to understand or comprehend spiritual things in any manner whatever. This little sentence is a picture of the entire dispensation of the Gospel of Christ. The great cleavage of mankind into the two Biblical groups is seen here: the saved and the lost, the good and the bad, the wheat and the chaff, the wise and the foolish, the wheat and the tares, the keepers and the rejects (the parable of the fish-net), those on the fight hand and those on the left, etc. etc.

Verse 11

"And from the time that the continual burnt-offering shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days."

The big problem with this verse is that of the one thousand two hundred and ninety days. It so nearly corresponds with the one thousand two hundred and sixty days that one is at a total loss to account for the discrepancy. We agree with Thomson that, "No satisfactory solution to this mystery is possible."[15] Probably the best view of it is to understand it as a symbol of the same period, namely, the whole Christian dispensation, as that of the "time, and times, and a half a time," the one thousand two hundred and three score days. One possible meaning, which is as reasonable as any we have encountered is that, since the one thousand two hundred and threescore days stands for the whole period between the First and the Second Advents of Jesus Christ, these tabulations in verse 11 (one thousand two hundred and ninety days) and the one in verse 12 (one thousand three hundred and five and thirty days) also represent the whole dispensation, the slightly different numbers indicating God's adjustment of the exact time of Christ's coming in order more exactly to conform to his infinite will. It will be recalled that there was mentioned "a shortening" of certain days (Matthew 24:22).

Some have vainly tried to get Antiochus into this passage; but many have pointed out that there is positively no period whatever in the life of that evil ruler that could possibly have been fulfilled by these predictions even if viewed as literal days, or upon any other reasonable conjecture.

Assuming, then, that the one thousand two hundred ninety days is but a slightly variable reference to "the time, and times, and a half a time," which we understand to be the entire Christian dispensation, the "terminus ad quem", or starting point for the calculation of this period is described in this verse as, "the time when the continual burnt-offering shall be taken away and the abomination that maketh desolate shall be set up." That time, of course, was pinpointed by the Christ himself as occurring at the destruction of Jerusalem when the Christians were warned to flee from the city. At first thought, one might hesitate to place this event in A.D. 70 as concurrent with the beginning of the Christian era in A.D. 30; but in the prophetic sense, that was precisely the date when Jesus Christ consigned the Herodian temple to complete destruction and removal, even to the extent that not a single stone would be left on top of another. In this light, we see no difficulty at all in finding the entire Christian dispensation indicated by this time reference.

"The continual burnt-offering was taken away forever in the destruction of Jerusalem. The short period of time when Antiochus caused the daily sacrifices to cease was a trifling and unimportant event compared with the actual and permanent removal of the continual burnt-offering in Christ's condemnation and commitment of the Temple to complete destruction.

Verse 12

"Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days. But go thou thy way till the end be; for thou shalt rest, and shall stand in thy lot, at the end of the days."

It is strange that the "thousand three hundred and five and thirty days" should have been identified by the definite article "the," as if this time period had already been mentioned earlier. This is the grounds upon which many hold this to be merely a variable of the "the time, and times, and half a time," featured in these final verses, and in the Book of Revelation. However, as Barnes pointed out, "The article is not used in the original."[16]

"There is much apparent abruptness here. What the angel said in these closing communications has much the character of being fragmented...hints, or detached and unexplained thoughts thrown out, upon which the angel did not elect to enlarge, or explain."[17]

It is simply a mystery to us as to why these variable time-periods are used here; and our conviction remains that in some general sense, at least, they appear to have reference to the whole Christian dispensation, exactly as does "the time, and times, and a half a time."


"Thou shalt rest, and shall stand in thy lot, at the end of the days ..."

Young's beautiful comment on this is, "Daniel himself is assured of his salvation, and that he shall stand in his lot at the end of the days. May this same destination be that of all who read these words!"[18]

Our studies in Daniel remind us of those done in the Book of Jonah. Both books have come under the most vicious fire of the critics; but it turns out that both afford very rich rewards for the student. Both Daniel and Jonah were approved and endorsed, quoted and made applicable to the ministry and kingdom of Christ by the Lord himself. There is no intelligent reason for rejecting a single line of either book. Each one of them carries its own imprimatur of the Holy Spirit.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Daniel 12". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.