For more study see commentary on Daniel 12.
Today we draw our study of the book of Daniel to a close. Daniel 12 closes the vision that spans Daniel 10-12 with an explanation of what will take place at the end of the tribulation. Daniel 11 gave us a picture of the antichrist as well as his doom.
Daniel 12 depicts the final 3 ½ years of the antichrist’s reign until the time of Jesus’ return. To fill in some of the gaps of what will take place in what Daniel has recorded, we’ll look at the book of Revelation. For an explanation of why I’m doing this, let’s look first at Daniel 12:4, 8-10
4 But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”
8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?”
9 He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
What does it mean that the prophecy is sealed until the time of the end? There are numerous possible and even probable explanations. The first is simply that the prophecies of Daniel could not be understood from Daniel’s perspective. They made sense after the fact and were useful for verifying the word of God but no one would realize that the Romans were the next empire to come in Daniel’s prophecy until the Romans had actually arrived on the scene.
It’s the same case today. We understand some prophecies because we have the benefit of hindsight and we can see how they were fulfilled. The prophecies that are yet future we can speculate about but ultimately we don’t know how they will be fulfilled, only that they will be. Those who live during the final events of Daniel may be able to recognize that these prophecies are being fulfilled.
The second explanation is that we are living in end times. I’m not talking about the “world is going to end soon, everybody better repent” kind of end times. Instead I’m talking about simply the fact that Jesus has come to earth and we live in the church age. The only thing left on the prophetic calendar is for Jesus to return. There is stuff that precedes Jesus’ return, like the tribulation but that isn’t actually part of God’s plan of redemption. By this definition we are living in the end times and the prophecy has been somewhat unsealed because John has given us more information to understand what will take place.
“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.
So, what does this mean concerning Christians and concerning Israel? First and foremost, Christians and Jews are saved the same way – through Jesus. There is no salvation without Jesus. The Old Testament saints were saved by performing sacrifices but it wasn’t the sacrifices that saved them. Instead, it was their faith in a coming Messiah – Jesus – that saved them. It will be the same thing for the Jews in the end. They will be saved because they place their faith in Jesus and for no other reason.
The tribulation is meant as a time to call the Israelites to repentance. This is one of many reasons why I believe that the church will be raptured before the tribulation begins and that we won’t experience the many horrors found in the book of Revelation. Paul explains that the Israelites will experience tribulation in order to bring about their salvation in Romans 11:25-32
25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27 And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
Paul makes it clear that Israel will be saved but it won’t be by virtue of the fact that they are Israelites. They will be saved because they repent. But that repentance won’t take place until they experience the tribulation and finally cry out to God for forgiveness.
2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
There will be a resurrection for all who die (there will be some who do not experience death because of the rapture and others who will still be alive at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.) Some will rise to reward while others will rise to punishment. Revelation 20:11-15 gives us a picture of this judgment.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Both Daniel and John confirm that there will be a day of judgment. No one will escape judgment. Daniel speaks of both rewards and punishment while John speaks of punishment for non-believers. They will experience the second death in the lake of fire. There is a saying concerning the second death – born once, die twice; born twice, die once. I won’t bother to explain it and just say that you might have to think about it for a while if you don’t get it right away.
Daniel 12:5-7, 11-12
5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. 6 One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?”
7 The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.”
11 “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.
Despite recent predictions about the exact day of Jesus’ return, no one knows when that day will be. No one knows that is, until the middle of the tribulation. Those who have become Christians since the rapture will be able to count down to the exact day when Jesus will return. It will be 3 ½ years or 1290 days from the time that the antichrist stops the daily sacrifices and sets up an abomination in the temple.
What does it mean, “blessed is the one who waits for and reaches 1335 days?” This probably isn’t an arbitrary number meant to mean blessed is anyone who survives the tribulation. Instead, we need to remember what is taking place during the tribulation, particularly toward the end.
At the end of the tribulation the armies of earth gather and they will wage war against Jesus in the Battle of Armageddon. It won’t end well for them as Revelation 19:11-21 depicts:
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.”
19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
So obviously many who are against Jesus are killed in the Battle of Armageddon at His Second Coming. But this does not mean that all who are still alive after this are Christians. There will be many who are too old or young or sick or for whatever reason are not caught up in battle. Before Jesus begins the reign of His Millennial Kingdom, there will be a separation of the sheep and the goats. Only Christians will enter into Jesus’ Millennial Kingdom.
Matthew 25:31-33 describes this judgment. It is not the final judgment that comes after the Millennial Kingdom and takes place at the throne of God. This is a separate judgment which occurs on earth and will take place as Jesus takes His place, seated on the throne of David.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
This is a physical judgment and it would make sense that it would take time to gather all of the people before Jesus. It may even take 45 days for all of the judgments to be completed. Whatever the exact case, it would appear that the Millennial Kingdom has started 45 days after the return of Jesus or 1335 days from the middle of the tribulation. Hence anyone who makes it until then will be blessed.
So how does it all end? As for Daniel, Jesus informed him not to be concerned about such things. As an old man he would soon be with the Lord. Daniel 12:13 says:
“As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”
Daniel would receive his inheritance soon enough. He would hear the words “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
John gives us some closing thoughts in his book. Unlike Daniel, he is told not to seal up his prophecy. Let’s close with Revelation 22:10-12:
10 Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. 11 Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.”
12 “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.
Throughout Daniel we’ve seen the power of God on display. We’ve seen history revealed and we are privy to seeing how much of it has already been literally fulfilled. We’ve seen to moral corruption of the antichrist as well as some other leaders of the world’s empires. But in the end the message is very important and very personal.
There is a judgment day coming. While some have made Christians look foolish by attaching a date to the judgment of God, this does not mean that the day is not approaching. It may be today or it may not be until we draw our final breath but we will stand before God and give an accounting of all that we have done. In the end it will not be whether we were good or bad that determines whether we go to reward or punishment. All that matters is if we have been forgiven. If our name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life we can look forward to the day that we will receive our inheritance like Daniel. Then we too will hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”