Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Daniel 12

3. The distant future 11:36-12:4

In the revelation given to Daniel about the 70 sevens (Daniel 9:24-27), we observed that what Gabriel told the prophet in Daniel 11:24-26 has already happened. Those verses described what would happen in the first 69 sevens. Daniel 11:27 predicts things that have not happened yet. It reveals what will happen in the seventieth seven. There is a similar break between Daniel 11:35-36 of chapter 11. What was predicted in Daniel 11:2-35 has happened. What follows in this chapter has not happened. [Note: See Andrew E. Steinmann, "Is the Antichrist in Daniel 11?" Bibliotheca Sacra 162:646 (April-June 2005):195-209.] Young also believed that the preceding verses describe Antiochus Epiphanes, but with Daniel 11:36, Antichrist becomes the subject. [Note: Young, pp. 246-249.] Even liberal scholars, who believe that a second-century writer wrote the book as history rather than as prophecy, admit that all of what follows has had no literal fulfillment in the past. [Note: E.g., Montgomery, p. 465.] A few scholars, liberal and conservative, believe that Antiochus Epiphanes fulfilled some of these predictions, especially those in Daniel 11:36-39. [Note: E.g., ibid., p. 461; R. Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and D. Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, pp. 762-63; Goldingay, p. 304; Baldwin, p. 197; and Chisholm, p. 326.] However, I am not aware of anyone who believes that he fulfilled them all literally.

"No commentator claims to find precise fulfillment in the remainder of this chapter." [Note: Walvoord, Daniel . . ., p. 270.]

In view of later revelation, in the Olivet Discourse and in the Book of Revelation particularly, what the angel told Daniel in these verses must refer to the last one of Daniel’s seventy weeks. This is the last seven-year period before Jesus Christ returns to the earth to establish His kingdom. Jesus called the end of it a time of great tribulation (Matthew 24:21), and Daniel’s angel called it the worst period of distress that the Jews have ever seen (Daniel 12:1; cf. Jeremiah 30:7). Therefore it seems reasonable to conclude that what follows will occur in that seven-year period, the Tribulation. [Note: Culver, "Daniel," p. 797, gave seven reasons for believing that the prophecy shifts from Antiochus to Antichrist at Daniel 11:36.]

Verse 1

At the time of the end (Daniel 11:40), Michael, the angel responsible to protect Israel (cf. Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:21), will arise in defense of this nation. This revelation focuses the reader’s attention again on the invisible and supernatural dimension to the events that will take place. "Now at that time" introduces additional information about this end time; it does not introduce a chronologically subsequent event.

This period generally will be a time of extreme distress for the Jews, worse than any other time in their national history (cf. Deuteronomy 4:30; Jeremiah 30:7; Matthew 24:21; Revelation 6-19). Showers argued that the Day of the Lord, the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, and the Great Tribulation are all terms that Scripture uses to describe a three and one-half year period of intense trouble yet future, namely, the last half of Daniel’s seventieth week. [Note: Showers, pp. 40-43.] I agree, though the term "the Day of the Lord" refers to other times as well (i.e., the seven-year Tribulation, the Millennium, both periods together, and other times at which God breaks into history dramatically). The repetition of "your people" in this verse clearly identifies the Jews, not all believers. They will be the focus of intense persecution, though many non-Jews will also suffer, and Israel’s land will become an international battlefield (cf. Matthew 24:22).

Nevertheless, all those Jews whose names are in "the book" will experience rescue (cf. Daniel 7:18; Daniel 7:27). This is not a promise of spiritual regeneration; that comes only by faith in Jesus Christ for Jews living then. Rather it is a promise of national deliverance from human enemies (cf. Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 13:8-9; Romans 11:26). Archer and Ironside, however, took this as spiritual deliverance from the second death. [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 151; Ironside, p. 231.] "The book" probably contains the names of all the Jews living in that region then who will experience physical deliverance (cf. Revelation 12:13-17). The figure of a book connotes a divine record, written beforehand, that is the basis for this rescue. There are several books that God keeps (Revelation 20:12; cf. Exodus 32:33; Psalms 69:28; Malachi 3:16; Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:15; et al.). [Note: See Charles R. Smith, "The Book of Life," Grace Theological Journal 6:2 (Fall 1985):219-30.]

Verses 1-3

The deliverance of Israel 12:1-3

Whereas the previous verses have focused on the Antichrist, those in this pericope concern Israel. Here we learn that this "end time" will definitely be a time of intense persecution of Jews. This section constitutes the climax of this revelation (chs. 10-12), as well as the climax of the whole series of prophecies that this book records. It highlights God’s faithfulness to His promises to His chosen people Israel.

Verse 2

Why did the angel say "many" will awake and not "all?" Apparently he did so to stress the fact that those Jews who die because of Antichrist’s persecutions will experience resurrection at the end of this period (i.e., the Tribulation; cf. Revelation 20:4-6). [Note: Young, p. 256.] He referred to the hope of those Jews in particular. Furthermore, this wording clarifies that not all will arise then. Some will experience resurrection at other times in history (e.g., 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; Revelation 20:4-6). [Note: Bevan, p. 201.]

The angel meant a physical resurrection, rather than just a renewal of the soul (cf. Isaiah 26:19; Hosea 13:14). This seems clear since he specified that they will arise from "the dust of the ground." Some writers have taken this description as figurative for the national revival of Israel in that day, evidently to avoid confusing this resurrection with the one that will occur at the Rapture. [Note: E.g., Gaebelein, p. 200, Kelly, pp. 225-26, and Ironside, pp. 231-32.] Young took "the dust of the ground" as figurative for the grave. [Note: Young, p. 256.] I agree with Young on this point.

"The OT’s standard way of envisaging dying and coming back to life is by speaking of lying down and sleeping, then of waking and getting up. The former is an extreme form of the latter, which thus provides the metaphor for it (2 Kings 4:31; 2 Kings 13:21; Isaiah 26:19; Jeremiah 51:39; Jeremiah 51:57; Job 14:12). Further, dying means lying down with one’s ancestors in the family tomb, with its nonmaterial equivalent, Sheol; so coming back to life would mean leaving such a ’land of earth’ (cf. also Psalms 49; Psalms 73). The image presupposes a restoring to life of the whole person with its spiritual and material aspects." [Note: Goldingay, p. 307.]

"The Bible never speaks of sleep in reference to the soul, for sleep is not an activity of the soul. Rather, the Bible always speaks of sleep as an activity of the body (see Matthew 9:18-25; Mark 5:35-42)." [Note: Feinberg, p. 181.]

Some of these Jews will enter into everlasting life, namely, those of them that will be believers. Others will experience disgrace and everlasting contempt, because they do not believe on Christ (cf. Matthew 25:46; John 5:28-29). Evidently, those martyred during the Tribulation and resurrected at this time, will reign with Christ during His millenial kingdom, which will begin with His return to earth at the end of the Tribulation (Revelation 20:4).

While this verse teaches that there will be a resurrection of the wicked, it does not say that this will occur at the end of the Tribulation. It only says that others will awake to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Revelation 20:12-14 make clear that the resurrection of the wicked will occur at the end of the Millennium, not at the end of the Tribulation. In the context of Daniel 12:2, the emphasis is on the hope of the Jews who will die in the Tribulation. The destiny of the wicked is brought in simply to clarify that they too will be raised, not to specify when.

This is the first mention in the Old Testament of a twofold resurrection. For this reason, and because this verse identifies the time of the physical resurrection of saved Jews (who lived outside the church age, cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16), this is an extremely important verse.

"Those who argue simply on the basis of the concept of ’lifetime’ or ’age’ for only an age-long punishment in hell rather than one of endless duration must reckon with the many passages in the OT that apply ’olam [everlasting] to the endless life and sovereignty of God himself. In other words, if hell is not eternal, neither is God; for the same Hebrew and Greek words are used for both in the Bible (cf. Revelation 4:10; Revelation 20:10; Revelation 21:8). The corresponding Greek word aion exactly parallels the Hebrew ’olam in connotation and semantic development." [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 152.]

This is the first occurrence of the expression "eternal life" in the Old Testament. [Note: Young, p. 256.]

Verse 3

The emphasis on hope for the Jews living during this time continues in this verse. Rewards will follow resurrection. Those Jews who have insight into the importance of remaining faithful to God, and who do so, will receive glory (cf. Daniel 11:33; Daniel 11:35). Those who lead others to do right will too. Their glory will be similar to the glory of the sky above, and to the stars (cf. Matthew 13:43). The angel expressed this blessing in a beautiful parallelism. Their glory will involve the privilege of reigning with Jesus Christ during His millennial kingdom, and from then on-forever (cf. Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27; Revelation 20:4).

"Verses 2-3, then, clearly affirm the doctrines of resurrection and of eternity beyond the grave. Even the most skeptical OT scholars concede the presence of these doctrines here . . ." [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 153.]

Other Old Testament verses that teach these doctrines include Job 19:26; Psalms 16:11; Psalms 17:15; Psalms 73:23-24; and Isaiah 25:8; Isaiah 26:19.

Verse 4

The end of the vision 12:4

In conclusion, the angel instructed Daniel to close the record of this revelation. In the ancient Near East, people wrote official documents and then, after making a copy for reference, deposited the original in a safe place. The phrase "conceal these words" does not mean that Daniel should keep them to himself, but that he should preserve this revelation because it was important (cf. Daniel 8:26). Also, it was customary for the scribe who recorded important documents, such as contractual promises, to run his cylinder-seal across the bottom to guarantee authenticity. [Note: Ibid., pp. 153-54.] That is what the angel instructed Daniel to do with this contractual promise. By sealing it, Daniel would certify that what stood written was exactly what God had revealed to him and had promised would happen (cf. Revelation 22:18-19).

Daniel was to preserve this revelation until the end of time (or the "time of the end," the last half of the Tribulation, [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 918.] ) because much of what God had revealed to him concerned the far distant future. He confessed that he did not understand much of it (Daniel 12:8), as we can appreciate, since most of it predicted things still future from his standpoint in history.

The last part of this verse probably refers to the attempts of people in the future to understand this revelation, in view of the context (cf. Amos 8:12). [Note: Calvin, 2:379; Leupold, p. 534.] Attempting to understand these prophecies, people would search around and try to discover what they meant. As time passed and knowledge increased, they would understand these things better than Daniel could.

"Whether or not physical wandering and travel is involved, the implication is that attempts to understand the truth will require considerable effort." [Note: Walvoord, Daniel . . ., p. 292. Cf. Young, p. 258.]

Even though Daniel and his people did not understand this book’s prophecies as well as we do, simply because we have seen many of them fulfilled, these predictions did comfort them. They reassured them that Yahweh would ultimately deliver Israel from the hostile Gentiles, and thus fulfill His covenant promises.

Verses 5-6

The first question 12:5-6

Daniel now saw two other individuals, undoubtedly angels, besides the one who had been addressing him since Daniel 10:11, standing on either side of the Tigris River (cf. Daniel 10:4). One of these angels asked a question of the man (Son of Man) dressed in linen (cf. Daniel 10:5-6) who was above the river. He wanted to know how long it would be until the end of the events just related (cf. 1 Peter 1:10-12), namely, the things having to do with Israel’s final persecution and deliverance (Daniel 11:36 to Daniel 12:3).

Verses 5-13

4. The end of Israel’s trials 12:5-13

Daniel continued to view things in the vision that he began describing in Daniel 10:5. The book ends with a question and answer session.

Verse 7

The first answer 12:7

The "man" above the river swore by the eternal God that what he was about to say was true. Normally people who swore by God lifted one hand to heaven (cf. Deuteronomy 32:40). This Person lifted both hands, thus stressing the truthfulness of what He was about to reveal.

"There must be a reason for the choice of the word translated stream. As already indicated, it is the common designation for the Nile river. Possibly, it is deliberately employed here to remind Dan. that just as the Lord had once stood over Egypt, the world-nation which was hostile to God’s people, so now does He stand over the world kingdom, represented symbolically by the Nile stream, actually the Tigris, ready again to deliver His people." [Note: Ibid., p. 259.]

The meaning of "time, times, and half a time" is quite clearly three and one-half years (cf. Daniel 7:25). [Note: Montgomery, p. 475; et al.]

"The word for ’times’ may originally have been intended as a dual (mo’adayim, ’two years’)." [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 155.]

"Shattering" the power of "the holy people" refers to the terrible persecution of the Jews in the end times, previously revealed (Daniel 11:36-45). This was good news for Daniel and his people. Even though the future enemy of the Jews would be in control for one week (seven years, Daniel 9:27), intense persecution would only be the Jews’ lot for the last half of that period (cf. Zechariah 14:2-3).

Verse 8

The second question 12:8

Daniel continued having trouble comprehending this revelation, so he respectfully asked the messenger how everything would end. He may have been particularly interested in receiving more information about the resurrection and rewards that had been mentioned briefly before (Daniel 12:1-3).

Verse 9

The Lord reminded Daniel that much of what he had received would remain obscure until the end time (cf. Daniel 12:4). Then people will be able to look back, marvel at the total fulfillment of prophecy, and glorify the sovereign Most High God.

"God in His infinite wisdom has revealed to us only that which it is needful for us to have in order that we may know what He requires of us. He does not reveal that which does not directly contribute toward this end. Scripture is not a body of esoteric mystery given to satisfy idle curiosity. It is given that we ’might not sin against Thee’ (Psalms 119:11 b). It is a thoroughly practical Book." [Note: Young, pp. 260-61. Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17.]

Verses 9-13

The second answer 12:9-13

Verse 10

The troubles coming on the earth, and especially on the Jews, will cause many to turn to the Lord and experience spiritual purification through faith. The "wicked," however, will continue to "act wickedly," and will not understand what is happening (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14; Revelation 13:10). The wise, "who have insight" because they pay attention to divine revelation, will understand what is happening. In the Old Testament, and in Scripture generally, a wise person is one who lives in the light of divine revelation, and a fool is one who ignores it. This verse provides motivation to pay attention to what God has revealed and to study it carefully. It should also help us to avoid thinking, naïvely, that the passing of time and the fulfillment of prophecy will cause bad people to change their ways. Humankind will not get better and better, in spite of what postmillennialists and social evolutionists believe (2 Timothy 3:13).

Verse 11

Now the divine messenger conceded to Daniel’s request and provided a little more information. However, as these things were unclear to Daniel, many of them still are for most interpreters today, including myself.

The Lord measured the time between the end, presumably the end of the Tribulation, and the time that the Antichrist will terminate Jewish sacrifices and desecrate the temple (cf. Matthew 24:15). It will be 1,290 days. This is 30 days longer than the three and one-half years previously mentioned (Daniel 12:7; cf. Daniel 7:25; Revelation 11:2; Revelation 12:6; Revelation 12:14; Revelation 13:5). Consequently, the extra month must involve time before the three and one-half years, after it, or both.

Perhaps Antichrist will terminate the sacrifices and desecrate the temple 30 days before the middle of the seventieth "week." This interpretation, which I prefer, views the explanation in this verse as more specific and the one in Daniel 9:27 as a general description. [Note: Cf. Archer, "Daniel," p. 156.] A similar view is that the Antichrist may announce the termination of sacrifices and the setting up of the abomination 30 days before he carries out those acts. [Note: Pentecost, "Daniel," p. 1374.] Another option is that there will be a 30-day period between the time when Antichrist abolishes the regular sacrifice and the time when he sets up the abomination of desolation. A fourth possibility is that the 30 days will extend beyond the last three and one-half years. [Note: Walvoord, Daniel . . ., p. 295; Showers, pp. 57-58; Feinberg, pp. 186-87; Whitcomb, p. 168; Campbell, p. 142; Ironside, pp. 235-36; Dyer, in The Old . . ., p. 720; and Culver, "Daniel," p. 799.] It will include the cleansing of the temple and possibly the judgments of Israel and the nations that Christ will execute when He returns (Ezekiel 20:34-38; Matthew 25:31-46).

Verse 12

The Lord said that those people will be blessed who keep waiting, presumably for God to rescue them (Daniel 12:1), and attain to the 1,335 days. Why did he mention this particular number of days, and when will this period end?

The 1,335-day period is 45 days (one and a half months) longer than the 1,290-day period just mentioned (Daniel 12:11). Evidently this period will end after the Tribulation has ended, namely, after the millennial reign of Christ has begun or at least after He has returned to earth. We can only speculate about what these 45 days following the Tribulation will hold for people living on the earth then. One view is that Jesus Christ will appear in the clouds at the end of the Tribulation (Matthew 24:30), and 45 days later He will descend to the earth. [Note: Pentecost, "Daniel," p. 1374.] A better option, I think, is that it may take 45 days for Jesus Christ to accomplish the necessary judgments and set up His kingdom after returning to the earth. [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 156; Walvoord, Daniel . . ., pp. 295-96; Showers, p. 58; Feinberg, p. 187; Whitcomb, p. 168; Campbell, p. 143; Wood, A Commentary . . ., pp. 328-29; Culver, "Daniel," p. 799.] Some interpreters favor the view that these 30 and 45-day periods reflect the use of different calendars from the one that earlier prescribed the length of the three and one-half years as a period of 1,260 days. [Note: Goldingay, pp. 309-10.] Young took the numbers symbolically depicting a limited period of trouble. [Note: Young, p. 263.] Whatever the explanation, clearly this verse will encourage believers living during the Tribulation to remain faithful to the Lord. It encourages us likewise.

Verse 13

The Lord then dismissed the aged prophet. He was to go his way to the end. The Lord may have had the end of Daniel’s life in mind, or He may have meant that he should continue with his affairs, including dying, until the end of the age would come. The first option seems preferable since the Lord appears to have been viewing Daniel’s life in sequence. First he would rest, in death, then he would rise again (cf. Daniel 12:2), and then he would receive his reward from God (cf. Daniel 12:3). His resurrection and recognition would occur at the end of the age, namely, at the end of the times of the Gentiles.

Thus this great book closes with a reminder that the present age of Gentile domination is not all that God has in store for humankind. There is another age coming, beyond the present one, in which Jesus Christ will reign in righteousness and holiness on the earth (cf. Isaiah 11:9; Zechariah 9:10). Christians should look forward to the beginning of this Messianic age and pray for its coming (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2).

Whereas this book would have encouraged the Jews of Daniel’s day, it has become increasingly encouraging to God’s people as history has unfolded. Today we can see, as never before, how God has fulfilled His predictions exactly in the past. This gives us great confidence as we anticipate His faithfulness to those promises that still remain unfulfilled.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Daniel 12". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.