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Bible Commentaries

Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Daniel 12

Verse 3

A GLORIOUS DESTINY

‘They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.’

Daniel 12:3

The words of Daniel are like the words of our Lord beforehand; and now that so much more of the Book of Daniel is read in our Sunday lessons, I hope that it, like the Revelation of St. John, will begin to be better known and studied by people generally. Putting all other considerations aside, there is this great gain in studying the prophets, namely, that they are so great a help to understanding the words of Christ and the arguments of the Epistles. When once you have mastered Isaiah you come to understand St. Paul as you never understood him before. When once you are familiar with Daniel you are prepared to study the Revelation. And I may add, also, that when you are familiar with Daniel you understand what our Lord was building upon in many of his addresses and discourses to His Apostles and to the Jews. It is a very old remark, that it is when the fortunes of God’s people on earth are at the worst, that He sends them the brightest lights of prophecy from heaven. Christ Himself was born just when the Jewish kingdom was on the wane.

I. Turn to the particular promise which is contained in our text.—‘They that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament’—this is the first part; ‘they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever’—this is the second. The wise here does not mean the learned, it means those who ‘know the Lord,’ and act upon that knowledge. All through the Old Testament the word ‘fools’ is applied to those who are so foolish as to be wicked; the word ‘wise’ to those who are wise enough not to be wicked, but to learn and obey the will of God. Remember that Daniel was one who, like St. Paul, had counted all things but dross that he might be blameless before his God. Think of this voice as coming forth from the den of lions. Think of it as being his meditation and his support when threatened with a dreadful death. And then ask yourselves whether, if we kept this glorious future in mind as we ought, we should not act very differently from what we do in our temptation. Let us think of the foolishness we are guilty of when we are afraid to do right because of the opposition or the ridicule of men. Think of the certainty of Daniel’s words coming true—words taken up again and enforced by our Lord. There is a brightness to come when they who have chosen the shady side in this life for Christ’s sake shall shine as the sun; and when ‘shame and everlasting contempt’ shall be ‘the promotion of fools’—of them, that is, who have been so foolish as to value ‘the praise of men more than the praise of God.’

II. Look next to the second half of our text—‘They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever.’ There is a practical turn about this which is very remarkable. The first half of the promise is a promise to the good. The second half is a special promise, over and above, to those who help others to be good as well. Or, as the two stand side by side, and are so very similar, may it not be meant to hint to us that the wise and they that turn many to righteousness are one and the same—in other words, that those who are good cannot but turn others to goodness too; so that the reward here promised belongs to those who have extended the Kingdom of God and the knowledge of Christ? For my own part, I cannot but think that this is what is meant, and that the great lesson which we ought to learn is the essential connection between being good and doing good, especially in the sense of leading others to be good also. I cannot help thinking that here once more we have an anticipation of our Lord’s own teaching when He tells His disciples that they are as a city set on a hill; that they are to let their light shine before men; and that a Christian who does not do so is as a candle placed under a bushel—in a word, that every Christian is bound in his measure to be a missionary as well, and to be extending his Master’s kingdom as well as serving in it for himself. My brethren, remember that these words were written by an exile in a heathen land, that those few who were its first readers were exiles too, and dwellers among those who knew not God. To them Daniel wrote that those who turned many to righteousness should shine as the stars. How much more will not our Master expect that each of us in our own way shall be careful to let our light so shine before men that they may glorify our Father in Heaven?

Illustration

‘As Daniel wrote, “They that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament,” so our Lord says (St. Matthew 13:43), “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” The very word “shame,” too, which Daniel uses comes up again in the Lord’s own prophecies of the judgment, “Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of Him shall the Son of Man be ashamed when He cometh in His glory.” The “Son of Man” again you see, so as to link the fuller prophecy of Christ with the earlier one of Daniel which the Lord is applying and expounding.’

Verse 6

TROUBLOUS TIMES TO CEASE

‘How long shall it be?… Blessed is he that waiteth.’

Daniel 12:6; Daniel 12:12

It is evident that in this chapter Daniel passes from the political resurrection of the Jews under the Maccabees to the literal resurrection, which will ensue on the final overthrow of Antichrist at the coming of the Lord. The ‘time of trouble,’ similarly, is applicable not only to the days of Antiochus, who was pre-eminently the persecutor of the Chosen People and the subverter of their religion, but to the last times, when the saints of God shall suffer as never before ( Matthew 24:21).

I. Whatever tribulations may await the Church, there is one clear issue to which we may all devote ourselves, namely, the turning of men from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God.—For this the blood of the Cross was shed, and the Spirit given, and for this we are continued in the world. This work of soul-winning needs wisdom of the highest order, which can only be communicated by the Saviour Himself, Who is made unto us wisdom.

II. It is not within our power to explain the references of these epochs, which are herein described.—For my part, I believe that the ‘time, times, and a half,’ refers to the rule of Mohammed over the Holy Land ( Revelation 11:2-Leviticus :; Revelation 11:9). Whilst the 11th verse definitely refers to the tyrannous outrage of Antiochus on the Holy City, it has probably an ulterior reference to the reign of Antichrist, which shall overlap the long desolations to which the Mohammedan rule has subjected the Chosen Race. But at the best, we can only guess at the meaning of these words, which will be made plain when the Church comes to need them. Our duty is clear to go on doing the will of God, and looking for the blessed hope, when we shall stand ‘in our lot,’ at the end of the days.

III. Let us gather two lessons.—(1) Whatever we do, let us make sure of our part in the First Resurrection. May we live ever in the light of ‘that blessed Hope.’ (2) Let the glory of our reward stimulate to all patience and energy—‘to shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars’ ( Revelation 11:3)!

Illustrations

(1) ‘Two periods (at least), of supreme suffering and final deliverance are here alluded to: (1) The persecution of the Jews by Antiochus Epiphenes (about 148 b.c.); and (2) Israel’s crowning sorrow yet to come from the Antichrist. “Michael, the great prince, which standeth for the children of thy people” ( Revelation 11:1)—not the Lord, but Israel’s Archangel guardian ( Jude 1:9). Again we see that in each case “the transactions on earth affecting God’s people have their correspondencies in heaven in the conflict between good and bad angels.” “And many of them that sleep,” etc. ( Jude 1:2)—Tregelles translates, with the support of Jewish commentators: “Many from among the sleepers … these shall be unto everlasting life; but those,” i.e.—the sleepers who do not awake—“shall be unto shame.” The righteous only shall arise ( Revelation 20:3; Revelation 20:5-Joshua :; 1 Corinthians 15:23; and 1 Thessalonians 4:16). “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” ( 1 Thessalonians 4:4). This refers, not to modern locomotion and science, but to the deepened interest in prophecy, and fresh insight into it, that will come as the end draws near. They will “run to and fro” in their eagerness—which is very much what we are seeing to-day.’

(2) ‘For however brightly and powerfully the Gospel moves, and however strong the Church may be, there must still be heretics and false teachers to prove her, in order that the approved ones may be manifest; and these same heretics are fond of taking sides with kings and great lords. Consequently the heretics will continue to the end.… But to the godless he (the prophet, or, rather, his prophecy) is of no service, as he himself remarks: the wicked shall remain wicked, and not regard it. For this prophecy and similar ones were not written that we might (beforehand exactly) know history and the troubles of the future, so as to feed our curiosity as with an item of news; but that the pious might comfort themselves and rejoice over them, and that they should strengthen their faith and hope in patience, as those that see and hear that their wretchedness shall have an end, and that they, delivered from sin, death, the Devil, and every evil, shall come to Christ in heaven, in His blessed eternal kingdom.’

(3) ‘Luther’s comment on 1 Thessalonians 4:1, is as follows: “This does not signify physical sufferings, which were far greater at the destruction of Jerusalem, in Rome, and in many other cities and countries; but the suffering of souls, or the spiritual affliction of the Church, as prefigured by the sufferings of Christ. For physical sufferings are temporary, and cease with the body. But the question here is whether the Church shall fall or stand, which the Devil had attacked in two directions through the agency of Antichrist: on the one hand, by an Epicurean contempt for the sacraments and the Word of God, on the other, by the terrors and despair of conscience, in which no proper comfort of the graces (was found), but only wretched tortures, which vexed men with the sufficiency of their own doings and with their works (of which, however, the Epicureans and heathen know nothing); hence, that it was time that Michael should arouse himself, and not suffer Christendom to be destroyed at its last gasp, but to comfort and collect it again by his beneficent word of grace.” ’

Verses 8-9

MAN’S RELATION TO DIVINE MYSTERIES

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

Daniel 12:8-1 Samuel :

We are shut in on every side by mysteries, and move about like men in a mist, only partially discerning, and sometimes misinterpreting objects. This is an inevitable consequence of the limitation of our faculties. Bold strides beyond well-known boundaries bring us into difficulties, from which extrication is not easy, and sometimes impossible. There is much, and must be much, that we cannot understand. The true spirit in which grave difficulties are to be met and dealt with is that which ‘the man clothed in linen’ recommended to Daniel in the words of the text.

I. Divine mysteries.—These are (1) The mysteries of God’s Word. It is a revelation, but any revelation from God must, at points, touch on insoluble problems, and start unanswerable questions. This is the case with the Bible, but this can form no valid objection to it. (2) The mysteries of Divine Providence. We seek in vain to know ‘the end of these things.’ Daniel saw the development of Divine Providence in the rise and fall of empires, in the periods of affliction meted out to the Church, ‘time, the times, and the half-time’ in a series of visions, but could not see the end. There are mysteries in the development of our own lives. (3) The mysteries of the last things. Much is told but more remains in darkness.

II. Man’s relation to Divine mysteries.—(1) There is a natural curiosity with regard to them. This quenchless feeling is at the bottom of inquiry and speculation. (2) Practical action is the best check to an undue curiosity. ‘Action is the solution of doubt.’ ‘Go thy way.’ Live and do thy duty. ‘Do the duty that lies nearest the rest will become clear.’ (3) Patient waiting is the right attitude towards them. ‘Till the end be.’ Wait until the curtain is unrolled. It is vain to strain your vision to see through the impenetrable. ‘The words are closed up and sealed till the end of the time.’

Verse 12

TROUBLOUS TIMES TO CEASE

‘How long shall it be?… Blessed is he that waiteth.’

Daniel 12:6; Daniel 12:12

It is evident that in this chapter Daniel passes from the political resurrection of the Jews under the Maccabees to the literal resurrection, which will ensue on the final overthrow of Antichrist at the coming of the Lord. The ‘time of trouble,’ similarly, is applicable not only to the days of Antiochus, who was pre-eminently the persecutor of the Chosen People and the subverter of their religion, but to the last times, when the saints of God shall suffer as never before ( Matthew 24:21).

I. Whatever tribulations may await the Church, there is one clear issue to which we may all devote ourselves, namely, the turning of men from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God.—For this the blood of the Cross was shed, and the Spirit given, and for this we are continued in the world. This work of soul-winning needs wisdom of the highest order, which can only be communicated by the Saviour Himself, Who is made unto us wisdom.

II. It is not within our power to explain the references of these epochs, which are herein described.—For my part, I believe that the ‘time, times, and a half,’ refers to the rule of Mohammed over the Holy Land ( Revelation 11:2-Leviticus :; Revelation 11:9). Whilst the 11th verse definitely refers to the tyrannous outrage of Antiochus on the Holy City, it has probably an ulterior reference to the reign of Antichrist, which shall overlap the long desolations to which the Mohammedan rule has subjected the Chosen Race. But at the best, we can only guess at the meaning of these words, which will be made plain when the Church comes to need them. Our duty is clear to go on doing the will of God, and looking for the blessed hope, when we shall stand ‘in our lot,’ at the end of the days.

III. Let us gather two lessons.—(1) Whatever we do, let us make sure of our part in the First Resurrection. May we live ever in the light of ‘that blessed Hope.’ (2) Let the glory of our reward stimulate to all patience and energy—‘to shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars’ ( Revelation 11:3)!

Illustrations

(1) ‘Two periods (at least), of supreme suffering and final deliverance are here alluded to: (1) The persecution of the Jews by Antiochus Epiphenes (about 148 b.c.); and (2) Israel’s crowning sorrow yet to come from the Antichrist. “Michael, the great prince, which standeth for the children of thy people” ( Revelation 11:1)—not the Lord, but Israel’s Archangel guardian ( Jude 1:9). Again we see that in each case “the transactions on earth affecting God’s people have their correspondencies in heaven in the conflict between good and bad angels.” “And many of them that sleep,” etc. ( Jude 1:2)—Tregelles translates, with the support of Jewish commentators: “Many from among the sleepers … these shall be unto everlasting life; but those,” i.e.—the sleepers who do not awake—“shall be unto shame.” The righteous only shall arise ( Revelation 20:3; Revelation 20:5-Joshua :; 1 Corinthians 15:23; and 1 Thessalonians 4:16). “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” ( 1 Thessalonians 4:4). This refers, not to modern locomotion and science, but to the deepened interest in prophecy, and fresh insight into it, that will come as the end draws near. They will “run to and fro” in their eagerness—which is very much what we are seeing to-day.’

(2) ‘For however brightly and powerfully the Gospel moves, and however strong the Church may be, there must still be heretics and false teachers to prove her, in order that the approved ones may be manifest; and these same heretics are fond of taking sides with kings and great lords. Consequently the heretics will continue to the end.… But to the godless he (the prophet, or, rather, his prophecy) is of no service, as he himself remarks: the wicked shall remain wicked, and not regard it. For this prophecy and similar ones were not written that we might (beforehand exactly) know history and the troubles of the future, so as to feed our curiosity as with an item of news; but that the pious might comfort themselves and rejoice over them, and that they should strengthen their faith and hope in patience, as those that see and hear that their wretchedness shall have an end, and that they, delivered from sin, death, the Devil, and every evil, shall come to Christ in heaven, in His blessed eternal kingdom.’

(3) ‘Luther’s comment on 1 Thessalonians 4:1, is as follows: “This does not signify physical sufferings, which were far greater at the destruction of Jerusalem, in Rome, and in many other cities and countries; but the suffering of souls, or the spiritual affliction of the Church, as prefigured by the sufferings of Christ. For physical sufferings are temporary, and cease with the body. But the question here is whether the Church shall fall or stand, which the Devil had attacked in two directions through the agency of Antichrist: on the one hand, by an Epicurean contempt for the sacraments and the Word of God, on the other, by the terrors and despair of conscience, in which no proper comfort of the graces (was found), but only wretched tortures, which vexed men with the sufficiency of their own doings and with their works (of which, however, the Epicureans and heathen know nothing); hence, that it was time that Michael should arouse himself, and not suffer Christendom to be destroyed at its last gasp, but to comfort and collect it again by his beneficent word of grace.” ’

Verse 13

‘AT LAST IT RINGETH TO EVENSONG’

‘Go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.’

Daniel 12:13

God said one word to Daniel—the last word in this Book: ‘Go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.’ Sweet word for the servant of God closing a life of devotedness to Him! Such shall be the word to all who cast in their lot with God. They shall have the sweet assurance, ere they pass through the dark river of Jordan, that they are passing on to their rest. They have cast in their lot with Jesus. With Him they shall rest. With Him they shall dwell for ever.

I. Daniel knew God. It was no abstraction, no form, no dogma, no creed.—It was God Himself. Do you know Christ, or do you know of Christ? It is one thing to know of Him; it is quite another to know Him. ‘Thousands know of our Queen, but only a few know her. Yet how many identify knowing of God with knowing God! A man reads about God, hears about God, thinks about God, sees God in nature, traces God in providence, admires God in revelation, and then he thinks—I know God. All the time he knows not God. It is only of God. To know God is much closer and more personal. It is to have heard Him speaking to us as none other ever has spoken to us. It is to have seen sin in the light of His presence, and heard Him saying, ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee.’ It is to come into spiritual contact with God. It is to have grasped Him with faith’s hand as a grand reality, an actual living presence. It is to have felt the sunshine of His smile; to have felt what He is in His breakings, and what He is in his healings, of our inward spirit. Till there have been some such passages between your soul and God, you can never know Him. This is what goes to make real religion. This is conversion. This is peace. This will be heaven. All the rest is merely to know of God. This is to know God.

II. And what is our joy in Christ? It is this, that Christ knows not of us, but that He knows us.—‘I know My sheep, and am known of Mine.’ Yes, Christian reader, Jesus knows you, not of you. You know Jesus, not of Jesus. He knows all about you; and your heaven on earth is that you know Him.

Rev. F. Whitfield.

Illustrations

(1) ‘Daniel had been receiving partial insight into the future by the visions recorded in previous chapters. He sought for clearer knowledge, and was told that the book of the future was sealed and closed, so that no further enlightenment was possible for him. But duty was clear, whatever might be dark; and there were some things in the future certain, whatever might be problematic. So he is bidden back to the common duties of life, and is enjoined to pursue his patient course with an eye on the end to which it conducts, and to leave the unknown future to unfold itself as it may.’

(2) ‘On a stormy October night many years ago, the Royal Charter went down three hours from Liverpool, when the passengers had met in the saloon and voted a testimonial to the captain because he had brought them across the ocean in safety. Until the anchor is down and we are inside the harbour we may be shipwrecked if we are careless of our navigation. “Go thou thy way until the end.” And remember, that until that end is reached you have to use all your power, and to labour as earnestly, and guard yourself as carefully, as at any period before.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Daniel 12". Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/daniel-12.html. 1876.