Daniel 12


Well, since we’ve come to the final chapter of the book of Daniel, let me summarise what we’ve seen so far. Back in chapter 1 we read how the people of Israel were taken into exile by the Babylonians. Among the exiles were Daniel and his three friends who were chosen to undergo a three-year re-education programme in which they learned all about the language and literature of the Babylonians so that they would forget about their old life in Israel and become good Babylonians. However, Daniel and his friends resolved not to defile themselves in any way and to remain faithful to the Lord their God. Though they were now living in a wicked and godless, pagan place, they resolved to stand firm and to remain faithful.

Then in chapter 2 we read of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great statue which was composed of different materials and which was knocked down and destroyed by a small rock which grew and became a mountain and filled the earth. With the help of the Lord, Daniel was able to interpret the dream and he explained to Nebuchadnezzar that the statue symbolised four great earthly kingdoms which would rise and fall as all earthly kingdoms will fall. And the rock in the dream symbolised Christ who came to establish his kingdom on the earth and his is an everlasting kingdom which will outlast all the kingdoms of the earth and he will rule for ever.

In chapter 3 we read that Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden statue and commanded everyone to bow down and worship it. Daniel’s three friends refused, because they knew it was wrong to worship an idol; and we must worship the Lord only. The king was angry with them and threw them into the fiery furnace. But the Lord was with them in the flames and protected them from harm so that they were brought up alive, just as all who trust in the Lord will be brought up alive from the grave.

In chapter 4 we read how Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about a great tree which was cut down. Daniel interpreted the dream for the king and explained that it was a warning about what would happen to the king if he did not repent of his wickedness. The king did not take heed of the warning; and a year later, after Nebuchadnezzar boasted about his own greatness, the Lord humbled him by making him go insane for a time so that he lived in the fields like an animal. But then, at last, his senses returned and he acknowledged the greatness of the Lord who rules over all.

Chapter 5 was also about the humbling of a great king, but this time it was Belshazzar. He defiled the Lord’s holy things which had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem. And immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote a message on the wall which only Daniel could interpret and which announced that the Lord had numbered the king’s days and his kingdom was about to end. And do you remember? That same night, the Medes and Persians captured Babylon and Belshazzar was killed.

And chapter 6 recounted the story of Daniel in the den of lions. Daniel’s enemies tricked the king into passing a law forbidding the people from praying to the true God. But Daniel kept praying to the Lord, just as he always did. And his enemies saw it and reported it to the king who had no choice, but to throw him into the pit. But the Lord was with Daniel and he closed the mouth of the lions and Daniel was raised up out of the pit unharmed, just as we too will be raised from the pit of death if we trust in the Lord as Daniel did.

And do you remember how things changed from chapter 7 onwards? Following the straightforward narrative of chapters 1 to 6, chapters 7 to 12 are apocalyptic literature. In these chapters we have all kinds of visions which Daniel received from the Lord and which contain pictures and images and numbers which symbolise various things. In chapter 7, he saw a vision of four beasts and a little horn. And the four beasts symbolise four earthly kingdoms which will rise and fall; and the little horn symbolised every anti-Christian power that will rise up to oppose Christ and his church in these, the last days in which we’re living. But Daniel also saw ‘one like a son of man’ who approached the Ancient of Days in heaven and received a kingdom which will never be destroyed. The ‘one like a son of man’ is the Lord Jesus, who died, but who was raised and who ascended to heaven, where he was installed as King over all; and his kingdom will never be destroyed, because it’s an everlasting kingdom.

In chapter 8, Daniel saw a vision of a ram and a goat: the ram symbolised the Medes and Persians; and the goat symbolised the Greek Empire and especially Alexander the Great. And there was another little horn, but this little horn symbolised a particular king, Antiochus IV, who persecuted the Lord’s people in terrible ways, but who eventually was destroyed by the Lord. And we thought about how Antiochus foreshadows Satan and every anti-Christian force that troubles the church, but which will eventually be destroyed by the Lord who is building his kingdom on the earth.

In chapter 9, Daniel prayed for the restoration of the temple and of Jerusalem. And while he was praying, the Lord gave him a vision about how the temple and city would be rebuilt in the short-term, but the time would come when the temple and the city would once again be destroyed. However, in the vision the Lord also foretold how God’s Anointed One — the Lord Jesus Christ — would be cut off and would die in order to atone for our sins.

And Daniel’s final vision is found in chapters 10 to 12. From chapter 10 we learned that there’s a great spiritual battle going on in the unseen, heavenly realm which affects what happens on the earth. And in chapter 11, the Lord revealed to Daniel what would happen in the world from the time of the Persians until a time near the end, when a wicked king will arise to persecute the Lord’s people. The Apostle Paul refers to this wicked king as the man of lawlessness who will oppose and exalt himself over the Lord and his people. And yet, he will come to his end, because the Saviour will come again to destroy the Devil and every other anti-Christian force that stands against him and his church.

So, Daniel lives in a godless, pagan place, surrounded by those who do not believe. But believers in every generation also live in godless, pagan places, surrounded by those who do not believe and who hate the Lord and his church. Even near the end, God’s people will face terrible persecution. And so, what should we do? Well, we must remain faithful and trust in the Lord to help us, just as Daniel and his three friends did. And in the end, when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead, every power that stood against him will be destroyed; his kingdom alone will be left; and his people will be raised from their graves to live with him and to reign with him for ever and ever in glory. So, we must stand firm.

And that’s the message in this final chapter of the book of Daniel. It can be divided into two parts: in verses 1 to 4 we read about the resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous; and in verses 5 to 13 the Lord concludes his revelation to Daniel. As one preacher puts it: we have the end of death and we have the end of the book.

Verses 1 to 4

And so the Lord revealed to Daniel that at that time — at the time when this wicked king will appear — Michael the Archangel will arise to protect the Lord’s people. So, think of the angelic figure who was with Daniel’s three friends in the furnace. Or think how the Lord shut the mouths of the lions when Daniel was thrown to them. The Lord is with his people and sends his angels to help us.

Nevertheless, according to verse 1, the coming of this wicked king will mean there will be a time of distress unknown to previous generations of believers. So, while we go on living on the earth, we’ll face trouble and trials and persecution; nevertheless, something worse will take place when this wicked king, this man of lawlessness, this Antichrist, appears on the earth.

However, there’s a word of comfort for believers at the end of verse 1, because the Lord reveals to Daniel that at that time ‘Daniel’s people’ will be delivered. So, the church will undergo a terrible time of distress, but the Lord will deliver ‘Daniel’s people’ from it. Who are Daniel’s people? Well, the Lord explains that they are everyone whose name is found written in the book.

Now, the Bible mentions this ‘book’ in various places. In Exodus 32, for instance, after the incident of the golden calf, Moses went to the Lord to intercede for the people. And he asked the Lord to forgive them; if not, he said, blot me out of your book which you have written. This book is also mentioned in Psalm 69 where the psalmist refers to it more specifically as ‘the book of life’ and it contains a list of the righteous. It’s mentioned four times in the book of Revelation: in Revelation 3 the Lord promises not to blot out the names of his faithful people from the book of life; in Revelation 13 he refers to it as the ‘book of life belonging to the Lamb’; furthermore he said that those whose names are not in it will worship the wicked beast; in Revelation 17 we learn that the names written in it have been written in it from the creation of the world; and in Revelation 20 we’re told that anyone whose name is not written in this book will be thrown into the lake of fire.

So, the book the Lord refers to here in Daniel 12 is the book of life which belongs to the Lamb, Jesus Christ; it’s a book which was written before the creation of the world and it contains the names of all those who will be spared the pains of hell, and who will instead inherit eternal life in the presence of the Lord. In other words, it’s a list of all the righteous: all those who have been or who will be accepted as righteous in God’s sight for the sake of Christ who died for sinners. And according to the Lord in Daniel 12, when this wicked king appears, and causes this time of great and unprecedented distress, everyone whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will be delivered from it. So, though this time of distress is coming on the world, the Lord’s people can look to him and trust in him to deliver them from it.

And, of course, God’s people will be delivered because the Lord Jesus Christ will return with glory and in power to destroy this wicked king. Do you remember that’s what Paul says in 2 Thessalonians? Paul said that this man of lawlessess is doomed to destruction. He will oppose and exalt himself over the Lord, but the Lord will overthrow him with the breath of his mouth; and will destroy him by the splendour of his coming.

And when the Lord comes again, the dead will be raised. And the Lord refers to this in verse 2 where he says that multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake. When he refers to those who sleep in the dust of the earth, he’s referring to the dead. After all, what did the Lord say to Adam after Adam ate the forbidden fruit? He said:

For dust you are and to dust you will return.

But since the dead will one day rise, it’s as if they’re only sleeping now; sleeping in the dust of the earth, waiting for the resurrection.

And, of course, everyone who has died will rise. Did you know that? The New Testament speaks mostly about the resurrection of the righteous. However, when the Lord comes again, everyone who has died will be raised: the righteousness and the unrighteous. The Lord Jesus speaks about this general resurrection in John 5 where he says:

an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

And Paul refers to the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked in Acts 24 where he was speaking to Felix. And here in Daniel 12, the Lord refers to the resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous. So, multitudes who sleep will awake: some — those who have been made right with God through faith in his Son — will awake to everlasting life; others — the unrighteous who never believed in God’s Son — will awake to shame and everlasting contempt. Furthermore, those who are wise — that is, believers — will shine like the brightness of the heavens; and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like stars for ever and ever. So, believers will shine like the sun and the stars, which is no doubt a reference to the Lord’s promise to Abraham that his descendants will be like the stars in the sky. Abraham’s spiritual descendants — all those who share Abraham’s faith in God’s promises — will shine like the sun and the stars. But unbelievers will be covered in shame and contempt.

And so, here’s the Lord, who has revealed to Daniel what will happen in the world from the time of the Persians to the time when Christ returns; and he makes clear that in the end there will be a great division. Up until the time of the end, we will all live together on the earth. But in the end, when Christ comes again, a great division will take place. The whole of the human race will be divided into these two groups: the righteous and the unrighteous. The righteous will awake from the dead to enjoy everlasting life in the presence of the Lord, where they will shine like the sun and the stars. But the unrighteous will awake from the dead to suffer everlasting condemnation away from the presence of the Lord.

That’s what will happen when Christ the Lord returns in glory and with power. As he tells us himself in Matthew 25, he will take his seat as the great king over all, and he will separate the people, one from the other, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will say to one group:

Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

And he will say to the other group:

Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

‘And these will go away into eternal punishment’, he said, ‘but the righteous [will go] into eternal life.’

And the way to become righteous in the sight of God is by believing in his only Son, who shares his own perfect righteousness with all those who believe in him. By ourselves, we’re covered in sin and shame; we’re defiled because of all the wicked and sinful things we have said and done; even our best deeds are spoiled by sin; and we’re unable to wash out the stain of our sin. But whoever believes in Christ is washed and cleansed and pardoned by God; and we’re given his righteousness to wear like a spotless robe which covers over our own sin. And if you believe in him — if you’re trusting in Christ alone as your righteousness before God — then you don’t need to fear his coming, because when he comes again, he’ll awaken you from your grave to live with him for ever and ever in glory.

Right now the world might despise you and treat you with contempt. But if you trust in the Lord and stand firm in the faith, the day is coming, when you will shine like the sun and the stars in the presence of the Lord.

And so, the Lord commanded Daniel in verse 4 to close up and seal the words of this scroll. In those days, they sealed up a scroll to keep it safe for future generations to read. And so, the Lord is telling Daniel to keep this message safe, so that future generations of believers may read it and learn from it. ‘Many will go here and there to increase knowledge’, the Lord said. And he means that they’ll go here and there, back and forth, to investigate these things carefully to learn what the Lord has revealed. And so, future generations of believers — those like us, living in these, the last days — will be ready to do as Daniel did and resolve to stand firm and to be faithful despite all the troubles and trials which the Lord has said are coming on the earth. Learn from these things, because although the Lord has foretold that days of great distress are coming, nevertheless the Lord rules over all; and in the end his people will be delivered and will live with him in glory.

Verses 5 to 11

Well, Daniel tells us in verse 5 that he looked and saw two other figures. Presumably these two figures are two angels. And one of them spoke to the Lord and asked him:

How long?

How long will be it before these astonishing things are fulfilled? And the Lord — described here as ‘a man clothed in linen’ — lifted up both his hands to indicate that he was making a very solemn oath. And he said:

It will be for a time, times and half a time.

Well, we’ve met that expression before back in chapter 7 where I suggested that this strange expression is another way of referring to the last days, the days which we’re living in. The last days began when the Lord came to earth the first time; and they will end when he comes again. And the expression — a time, times and half a time — is another way of referring to these, the last days, because a time, times and half a time adds up to three and a half, because a time is one; and times is two; and half a time is a half. And three and a half is half of seven; and seven in the Bible signifies fullness and completion. And so, if you think of the fullness of history, the whole of human history, it can be divided into two halves: the time before Christ’s incarnation which are known as the former days; and then there’s the time after the incarnation which are known as the last days.

And so, the angel asked how long before these astonishing things happen? How long before this wicked king comes? Well, it will not happen until the last days are almost over.

Now, we learned from the Apostle Paul that all through this period of human history. the mystery of lawlessness is at work, to deceive and to persecute the Lord’s people. That’s our daily experience in these, the last days. However, here’s the Lord warning us once again in verse 7 that near the end of the last days, this wicked king will appear in person. And when he comes, the power of God’s holy people will be broken, because the church will face times of distress and times of persecution like never before. However, lest we become overly frightened, we need to remember the good news from earlier that when these things happen, the Lord will come to deliver his people by raising them from the dead to live with him forever.

Now, many of us will sympathise with Daniel who said in verse 8 that he heard, but did not understand. These things are hard to understand. And so, he asked the Lord what the outcome, the end, will be? And the Lord answered and said:

Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end.

In other words, these things which the Lord has revealed to Daniel are not really for him or for his generation, but they’re for later generations of believers; they’re for those like us who live in these, the last days. And according to verse 10, in these, the last days, many will be purified and made spotless, because many will believe in the Saviour, through whom we are washed and cleansed and made spotless. And many will be refined through the troubles and trials and persecutions which the Lord will use in order to renew us in the likeness of our Suffering Saviour. Many will be washed, he promised in verse 10. But also according to verse 10, many others who are wicked will continue to be wicked, because they refuse to believe in the only Saviour of the world; and instead of believing in him, they will continue in the wickedness of their unbelief and sin.

And so, what will these, the last days be like? Well, many will continue in their unbelief and rebellion. And many will be washed and cleansed by believing in the Saviour. Wicked forces will try to deceive and persecute the church. Then, near the end, this wicked king will appear and there will be a terrible time of distress. But then the Saviour will come again; and when he comes, he will raise the wicked to be punished; and he will raise his people to enjoy everlasting life. That’s what will happen in the world, in these the last days.

Verses 12 and 13

And so, we come to the last two verses, where the Lord mentions two more time periods: 1,290 days and 1,335 days. No one really knows what these two times periods refer to, although one intriguing suggestion is that 1,335 days refers to the period of time from the days of Daniel until the second coming of Christ; and the 1,290 days — a slightly shorter period of time — refers to the period of time from the reign of Antiochus until the second coming of Christ. And the Lord pronounced a blessing on the one who waits for, or who longs for, and reaches the end. In other words, blessed is the faithful believer who perseveres through all the troubles and trials the church faces, and through all the persecution the church suffers, and through all the wicked schemes of the Devil who wants to deceive and persecute the members of the church in these, the last days. Blessed is the believer who perseveres through it all, and who looks with faith beyond our present trials to the glory which will be revealed in us when Christ the Saviour comes again to destroy his enemies and to deliver his people. Blessed is the one who resolves to stand firm and to remain faithful.

And having pronounced a blessing on his faithful believers, the Lord reminded Daniel that he will rest — he will rest in his grave — but at the end of the days he will rise to receive his allotted inheritance, which is everlasting life in the presence of the Lord. Years before, Daniel and his friends were taken from the Promised Land of Israel to live in the pagan land of Babylon. They longed to return to Israel and to return to the Promised Land. But here’s the Lord promising him something far, far greater than that. Here’s the Lord promising him an eternal inheritance, not in the land of Israel, but in the new heavens and the new earth, where all of God’s faithful people will one day come; and they will dwell with the Lord Almighty and with the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour for ever and for ever in glory. And while we wait for that day, we must resolve to stand firm and to remain faithful, trusting that — despite all that happens in the world around us — our God is the Most High God, who rules and reigns over all.