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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Daniel 12




Chapter 12. The Final End.

Having depicted the end days of the world in symbolism Daniel now looks at it from the point of view of the people of God. What is catastrophe for the world is the beginning of eternal glory for His people. The first three verses of this chapter sum up the end of time from their point of view. The final part then summarises the intent of the book.

Verse 1

The Destiny of The Righteous and The Unrighteous (Daniel 12:1-4).

‘And at that time will Michael stand up, the great prince who stands over the children of your people, and there will be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time. And at that time your people will be delivered, every one who will be found written in the book.’

‘At that time --.’ This refers back to Daniel 11:40-45. While the horn, the little one, is rampaging around the known world, Michael, the great prince of angels allocated to watch over God’s people, will be ‘standing over them’, ever on the alert to watch over them and protect them. Michael is one of only two angels mentioned by name in Scripture. He is described by Jude 1:9 as an archangel, and in Revelation he leads God’s army of angels (Revelation 12:7). His part is to deal with the activities of the evil angels who seek to control the world, and to intervene to prevent their final misuse of the people of God. There is never any thought of praying to such angels.

‘And there will be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time.’ Compare Jeremiah 30:6-7. This is the end of the world as we know it. No future is conceived of for the earth as it is, apart from that faced by the resurrected ones, and the ‘delivered’, which is in the everlasting kingdom (Ezekiel 37:25-28). This time of trouble is in direct contrast with Mark 13:19 and parallels, which speak of the great tribulation of the Jews at the time of the destruction of the temple by Titus in 70 AD and its aftermath (Matthew 24:21), and which see both a past and a future, the latter revealed by the words ‘nor ever shall be’ (missing from Daniel).

This time of trouble is different from that one, in that this one is final and is not said to be localised, although it too has in mind invasion and warfare, and the activities of Satan. But this one occurs at the end time against the people of God. On the other hand there is no suggestion that it is necessarily worldwide. It is simply indicating that at that time there will be intense trouble which the people of God will also face. It is concerned with how it affects God’s people.

‘And at that time your people will be delivered, every one who will be found written in the book.’ This phrase is very important. ‘Deliverance’ is now described. For those who have died it is by resurrection to the everlasting kingdom. For the living it means full deliverance, and again entry into the everlasting kingdom. In the end it refers to all who are God’s. The intensity of suffering will be followed by the intensity of blessing.

For Daniel this is the final climax to which the book has been leading. The idea here is of final deliverance, the result of the final smiting by the heavenly stone which fills the whole earth (Daniel 2:34-35), the result of the son of man receiving His kingdom and entering into His glory (Daniel 7:14), and the result of the saints of the Most High receiving the everlasting kingdom (Daniel 7:27). He does not enter into detail of how unbelievers will be dealt with, apart from those described in Daniel 12:2. He sees only the final glory of God’s people, and their final deliverance.

The Old Testament knew of no heavenly realm for men and women. The concept had not yet developed. That is why it had continually to depict the everlasting future in terms of this earth. It knew no other. But regularly the wording went beyond anything possible on this earth, having in view ‘new heavens and a new earth’ (Isaiah 65:17). This is the only thing that makes sense of the whole picture. It should be noted that there is no suggestion here of a ‘millennial’ kingdom’. For Daniel the ultimate has been reached.

Note also that only those ‘written in the book’ will find deliverance. It clearly therefore does not simply mean the Jews, for they are not all ‘written in the book’, it means all of God’s true Israel. They are the only ones who enjoy final deliverance.

‘Your people.’ Daniel would here think of the remnant of the people of Israel who would prove faithful to God, although he was not aware of how God would expand that Israel. For the New Testament makes clear that that remnant of Israel was increased by all who came to Christ and in Him became members of the true Israel (Galatians 6:16; James 1:1), fellow-citizens with ‘the saints’ (Ephesians 2:19). They too were built into the living temple which was God’s dwelling place (Ephesians 2:19-22) and were accepted as true sons of Abraham (Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:29). They were grafted in to the olive tree (Romans 10:17), and the bad branches removed. The Bible sees the true church as the true Israel. Israel’s future is the true church’s future, and vice versa.

‘Written in the book.’ This book is the record of the righteous (Psalms 69:28; Malachi 3:16 see also Psalms 139:16). Jesus said to His disciples that they should rejoice because their names were written in Heaven (Luke 10:20). It is to be differentiated from the book of the living, which was simply a record of those alive who were reckoned among the people of God (Exodus 32:32; Psalms 69:28 compare Isaiah 4:3; Ezekiel 13:9; Revelation 3:5), from which names could be blotted out if they proved unworthy. It can be more compared with the Lamb’s book of life, the record of those chosen and redeemed by God through Christ, from which no name could be blotted out (Revelation 13:8; Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27). (But we must remember that these are all symbolic descriptions and not particularise too much).

Verse 2

‘And many of those who sleep in the ground of dust will awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.’

This occurs ‘at that time’. While this clearly teaches bodily resurrection, its main emphasis is on the ‘many’. Daniel may have specifically had in mind those who have been going through the time of trouble and will be delivered from a martyr’s death by resurrection. They have been laid in the dusty ground, but they will arise. However, it would also include those who had died in other ways (compare Daniel 12:13). It was a hope offered to the righteous. Death was not the end. Compare also Isaiah 26:19.

But an alternative is to see Daniel as meaning rather that ‘many’ (always an indefinite number in Daniel) will arise. That is that the resurrected will be a huge number. Those who awake will be many and not few. They include the multitude that no man can number out of all nations (Revelation 7:9).

But others would rise only to face shame and everlasting contempt, their bodies cast onto the burning rubbish dump outside the walls of Jerusalem, their bodies ever being eaten by maggots and burned in shame (Isaiah 66:24). The contrast was between the faithful and the unfaithful, those who knew their God (Daniel 11:32), and those who did not. As always they were not all Israel, who were Israel (compare Isaiah 49:5-6). Being a member of the true Israel meant a genuine submission to God through the covenant.

‘Shame and everlasting contempt.’ The root idea is not of physical suffering. Rather the idea is that, having been raised and judged, they will be shamed and punished as described in Isaiah 66:24, their bodies lying in the valley of Hinnom, everlastingly a symbol of the consequences of sin, with no way by which their shame can be removed. Jesus gave His seal of approval to the advancement of this idea into an other-worldly Gehenna where the wicked would be finally punished (Mark 9:47-48).

We should note that both Isaiah and Daniel thought in terms of resurrection back to earth in the coming everlasting age. The idea of life in a heavenly realm was not then mooted. But Jesus added to it when He made clear that the resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous would take men into another ‘world’ to which this pointed, where they would be eternally in, or excluded from, God’s presence.

‘Who sleep.’ Death is likened to sleep from which a man will again awake as one raised from the dead to face his judgment.

‘The ground made of dust.’ The phrase is not exactly the same as in Genesis 2:7, although similar roots are used. It was also to the dust that man was consigned when he fell (Genesis 3:19). Here is the reversal of that process, the reversal of the curse. Man lives again as ‘a new creation’. The fall has been reversed. Man (adam) will again rise from the ground (adamah).

Verse 3

‘And those who are wise will shine as the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.’

This is not indicating where they will go, but what they will be revealed to be. ‘Those who are wise’, that is those who have understanding and have demonstrated it by their lives and faithfulness to God’s covenant. ‘As the brightness of the firmament.’ Daniel may have in mind a glorious day when the whole of the sky is shining with the glory of the sun. Their lives will be glorious. Having been raised by God, and having been refined in the fire of trial, their future is glorious. Others would refer it to the glory of the moon and stars in the night sky.

‘Those who turn many to righteousness.’ This does not refer to the famous names (although if they are faithful they will be included), but to all who participate in the forward-going of God’s purposes. For each who is faithful plays his full part in the work of turning many to righteousness. And he who is in any way unfaithful hinders that work.

‘Turn many to righteousness’, that is, to faithfulness to the covenant, to lives that thereby reflect the glory of God.

‘As the stars for ever and ever.’ This is no kingdom age. This is the everlasting future. All would be familiar with the glorious heavenly lights illuminating a dark night. They had shone as stars in the darkness of the world, now they would shine as stars for ever.

Verse 4

‘But you, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end. Many will run to and fro, and knowledge will be increased.’

The idea is not that the book is made so that it cannot be read, only that its final fulfilment awaits the time of the end. The book can now be shut up and sealed because it is completed. Then an official sealed copy can be preserved for official consultation while other copies are made available to all. Then the end will reveal its truth. The sealing was for authentication and identification.

‘Many will run to and fro, and knowledge will be increased.’ For the meaning of the verb compare Job 1:7 b, ‘going too and fro on the earth’. Amos 8:12 depicts men as running to and fro to seek the word of YHWH but as being unable to find it. So the picture here is that because men ignore this book they will run to and fro around the world, seeking the word of YHWH, gaining a kind of knowledge, but never able to find the truth, because they do not turn to this book or to the Scriptures.

Verse 5-6

The Final Analysis.

‘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 at that side. And one said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be to the end of these wonders?” ’

We must assume that the two men were angels (compare Daniel 8:13). They were there only to observe and question, and to witness the oath. Possibly they are to be seen as attendants on the man in the linen clothes, emphasising his importance. He himself was ‘above the waters’ (repeated in Daniel 12:7). This repetition emphasised that this great river, which was one of the two sources of the fruitfulness and life of the area, was under his authority. Their question was a simple one. How long would it be before all these awesome events were fulfilled?

The word used for river is one regularly used for the Nile, but not exclusively (see Isaiah 33:21). It signifies a great river that produces fruitfulness. But Daniel must have chosen it deliberately. He may well have had Isaiah 33:21 in mind, ‘but there YHWH will be with us in majesty, a place of broad rivers and streams --’, for he had here met with God through one who was truly majestic.

‘These awesome events (wonders).’ There is no clear indication of what specifically these words cover. It may be the whole of what has been revealed in Daniel 11:2 to Daniel 12:3. There is no reason for restricting them to any section.

Verse 7

‘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 to heaven, and swore by him who lives for ever and ever, that it will be for a time, times and a half. And when they have made an end of breaking in pieces the hand of the holy people, all these things will be finished.’

For the man clothed in linen compare Daniel 11:5-6; Daniel 11:13. He was a mighty angel, but not almighty (Daniel 11:13). Yet his authority was such that he could swear in the name of the Everlasting One how long it would be. It would be for ‘a time, times and a half’. The phrase is similar to the one in Daniel 7:25 but not the same (the one was in Aramaic, this is in Hebrew). Its significance is that it is not a complete period. It is not ‘seven times’ but a broken period of ‘a number of times plus a half’. Here was no equivalent of the divinely perfect seven times, denoting a divinely perfect period, but a foreshortened period indicating that it ended before God’s final purposes were complete. The one acting in this period has no control over it. And yet its length was fixed by God who determined the length of ‘a time’.

This foreshortened period will end ‘when they have made an end of breaking in pieces the power of the holy people’. God will not be specific. But He will assure His people that the time is limited. The breaking in pieces of the power of the holy people will cease in the end. And then will be accomplished all the promises of Daniel 9:24, and then will follow the resurrection.

It is possible that this has reference to the final part of the seventieth seven in Daniel 9:27. When the Temple has been destroyed (the sacrifices have ceased) there will be a period of desolation and persecution for God’s people which will continue until the consummation (it has now lasted for nearly two thousand years). His people will be as pilgrims in the world, ever subjected to desolation and persecution. If we consider that he is speaking of the world of his day, which to us is the Middle Eastern world, it is that world which above all has persecuted and desolated the people of God.

The raising of both hands indicated that all was in the hands of God (compare Exodus 17:11-12), although some have seen it as indicating the intensity of the oath. Normally for an oath one hand would be held up to heaven.

Compare here the one who calls for the end of time in Revelation 10:5-6. There it was indicating the finishing of the mystery of God, in other words that which only God had known, but had by then been revealed, the mystery of the seven seals. Here it is signifying another mystery, now revealed, that of the finish of what has happened to God’s holy people.

‘When they have made an end of breaking in pieces the hand of the holy people, all these things will be finished.’ The ominous message here is that the holy people are to be subjected to attempts to break them in pieces, to utterly destroy them. It spoke of persecution and suffering which would attempt to break their ‘hand’, to break their resistance to sin, to tempt to faithlessness, to destroy their faith in God. But it will eventually come to an end in God’s timing. Yet it brings out how important God’s people are to Him. For this is mentioned because all is in consideration of their welfare. ‘The holy people’ are, of course, the true people of God, those who truly believe. In Daniel’s time they represented those among the Jews who were truly responsive from their hearts to God. They would continue on as the people of the Messiah (the Apostles and those who truly believed in the Messiah), ‘the elect race, the holy nation’ of 1 Peter 2:9, in other words the true believing church of Jesus the Messiah.

Verse 8

‘And I heard but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what will be the end of these things?” ’

Daniel was still puzzled by it all, and no doubt concerned by the accounts of desolation and persecution. Thus he wanted to know the final results of it. What would happen to the people of God?

12. 9-11 ‘And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed till the time of the end. Many will purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined. But the wicked will do wickedly, and none of the wicked will understand. But those who are wise will understand. And from the time when those things which are continual shall be taken away, and the Abomination that Appals set up, there will be a thousand, two hundred and ninety days.”

The angel is enigmatic. He will not give Daniel the information that he seeks. The words have been shut up and sealed until the time of the end by Daniel himself (Daniel 12:4). But two pieces of information he will give. Firstly that the purpose of all this is the refining and purifying of the righteous. They will ‘purify themselves and make themselves white (Psalms 51:7; Isaiah 1:18) and be refined’ (Daniel 11:35) by how they respond to the suffering in faith and obedience (compare Isaiah 1:25; Isaiah 48:10; Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:3; Romans 5:3-5; Hebrews 12:3-12; Revelation 7:14).

But the wicked, those who are not faithful to God’s covenant, will go on doing wickedly. They will not understand. On the other hand the wise (Daniel 11:33; Daniel 11:35 compare Daniel 1:4; Daniel 1:17; Jeremiah 9:24; Psalms 119:99) will understand, even though they have to go through such suffering.

‘And from the time when those things which are continual shall be taken away, and the Abomination that Appals be set up, there will be a thousand, two hundred and ninety days.’ He here puts a limit on the period of direst persecution, dating it from the cessation of the ‘continual things’; the sabbaths, the sacrifices and offerings, the morning and evening sacrifices, the regular rituals (a cessation for which we do not know the exact date). But no ending event is mentioned.

In Daniel there is only one reference to the Abomination that Appals, and that is in Daniel 11:31, so we are immediately taken back to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. How we see this will depend on our interpretation of Daniel 8:14. If we see that as referring to two thousand three hundred days then the end event here may be the date of the purification of the temple. Thus the one thousand two hundred and ninety days would lie between the two events of the cessation of true worship by demand of Antiochus, prior to the setting up of the heathen altar, and the purifying of the temple after the defeat of Antiochus’ army.

But if we see Daniel 8:14 as referring to one thousand one hundred and fifty days (see on that verse) then that refers to the period between the commencement of the cessation of the continual worship and the repurifying of the temple, so we will have to look for another event that ends the one thousand two hundred and ninety days.

One possible explanation is that one thousand two hundred and ninety days is one hundred and forty days more than one thousand one hundred and fifty days, representing twice seven times ten, a period of divine perfection intensified. This may then refer to the length of time taken to fortify Mount Sion and rebuild its walls and fortify it with towers after the purification of the temple lest the Gentiles come and tread them down (1 Maccabees 4:60). For that would be almost as important as the purification of the temple. It would hopefully prevent its future desecration. Compare how previously the Temple was restored in the time of Zerubbabel, while the building of the walls awaited the time of Nehemiah.

Certainly the number is a difficulty to all other interpretations. All attempts to trace it have failed. Nor is it possible to see it as signifying three and a half years, for it represents three and a half years plus a month, and surely if he had wanted us to understand it as three and a half years he would have made it one thousand two hundred and sixty days. (Daniel nowhere speaks of one thousand two hundred and sixty days). John in Revelation clearly did not see one thousand two hundred and ninety days as signifying three and a half years, for when he wanted to indicate that length of time he did use one thousand two hundred and sixty days (confirming our doubt above).

It is true that an intercalary month could bring it to mean three and a half years, but why then did Daniel disguise it in that way so that even John did not recognise it? And it would certainly conflict with other criteria. Most have accepted this and have tried to find an added reason for the extra month, although not very satisfactorily.

If then we see Daniel 8:14 as signifying two thousand three hundred days , we may see this one thousand two hundred and ninety days as simply meaning ‘a little over three and a half years’, during which the persecutions were at their worst, a time commencing from the cessation of true worship and ending with the righting of the situation.

We may also see it in fact as indicating that he did not want it to be connected with references that might be confused with it such as ‘a time, times and half a time’ (although there is really no reason why that should mean three and a half years either, except for those who want it to).

We must bear in mind in all the discussion that the real purpose in stating the amount of time may be mainly to indicate the shortness and brevity of it, and to indicate that God wanted His people to know that he had set a limit on the time of suffering, and this must not be lost sight of in dealing with the problem. For even if we are not able to trace the exact period due to lack of information, what we do know is that it was a length of time reasonably relating to their suffering under Antiochus, commencing from the cessation of true worship and finishing around the time when things were set right.

However, if Daniel 8:14 refers to one thousand one hundred and fifty days then this is one hundred and forty days longer, which may be seen as necessitating a slightly different solution (for which see above).

(But if the two thousand three hundred was intended to indicate days commencing from the date of the appointment of the false Menelaus, or the date from which he commenced his sacrilegious ministry, or the date when he arranged the murder of Onias, or the date when he purloined the temple vessels which Onias had reproved him for, then there is no conflict).

Jesus takes this picture of ‘the Abomination that Appals’ (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14) and applies it to approach of the Roman army on Jerusalem in 70 AD. In the end, therefore, it is a reminder that all acts of sacrilege against God’s people are seen as summed up in the Abomination that Appals. To attack God’s people is an abomination to God. But all such attempts will finally fail, for a time limit has been put upon them by God.

Verse 12

‘Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty five days.’

This suggests that it is this final period which is the most important of the two. The one thousand two hundred and ninety being a stage on the way to this final figure. But what can the one thousand three hundred and thirty five days refer to? It indicates a further one and a half months onto the one thousand two hundred and ninety days. If the end of the one thousand two hundred and ninety days refers to the recommencement of sacrifices then this could be the period of building the fortifications of the walls.

Those who saw that work completed would certainly count themselves as blessed. True worship would not only have been restored, but would also have been firmly secured.

But if the one thousand two hundred and ninety brings us to that point we can only see the extra one and a half months as due to a period which cannot be explained. Perhaps then the one thousand two hundred and ninety days can be seen as a stage in the process, possibly referring to the date of completion of some important section of it, clearly recognisable then, and thus as itself building up to the final day of blessing.

But the important lesson that comes from this is the need for the people of God to endure with perseverance under all persecution, because they can be sure that a time limit has been put upon it by God. He has even numbered it in days. The advancing lengths of time indicate the need to persevere that little bit longer even in the darkest hour, because even though God might allow it to go on longer than we expect, we can be sure that finally it will all come to an end.

Verse 13

‘But go your way until the end be. For you will rest and will stand in your lot at the end of the days.’

In a closing benediction the angel tells him that his task is finished. He may now go his way satisfied that he has fulfilled God’s will. ‘The end’ is probably the end of his life, for it is the point at which he will rest. Then he will sleep, taking his rest until at the end of the days he is resurrected to enjoy his destiny, and shine as the stars for ever and ever.

Or ‘the end’ may signify the time of resurrection (Daniel 12:2-3), when he will stand in his appointed position ‘at the end of the days’, that is at the consummation, at the time of the resurrection of the righteous.


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Daniel 12:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 25th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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