Read the Text: Daniel 12
As we noted in the previous chapter, Daniel’s vision that began in chapter 10 of this book has dual fulfillment. While the vision largely concerns events that would transpire before the end of the Old Testament era, as the vision progresses it becomes increasingly about events that are in the future, even today. The last section of this vision, which is recorded in Dan. 12:1–3, seems to be entirely prophecy about the future. In this passage we learn that in the end times, when evil appears to overthrow all good, the angel Michael will be sent to deliver God’s people—specifically, those whose names are “found written in the book” (Dan. 12:1). Note that this book of names of the redeemed is mentioned by John numerous times in the book of Revelation (cf. 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27), as well as by Jesus at Luke 10:20 where he said, “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
In Dan. 12:2–3 Daniel writes about the resurrection of mankind at the end of time, when Christ returns and all mankind faces judgment. Jesus spoke of this resurrection during His so-called Olivet Discourse at Matt. 25:31–46. Christ taught, “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:32). John refers to this event as the great white throne judgment in Rev. 20:11–15. John taught, “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works” (Rev. 20:13). Here in Dan. 12:2, Daniel refers to some who are raised “to everlasting life” and others who are raised to “everlasting contempt.” Note that this is the first use of the phrase “everlasting life” in the Bible.
The prophetic revelation that Daniel received, beginning in Daniel 10, comes to a conclusion at Dan. 12:3. Next, in Dan. 12:4 Daniel is told, “Shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” The “words” refers to the vision of Dan. 10:2–12:3 and the “book” likely refers to the entire book of Daniel. Observe that the command to shut up the words and book is not a directive to hide or to conceal this book. Rather, this instruction to Daniel seems to be a command to protect and to archive the book, so it is available for future generations. The idea here is that in times of persecution—both that of Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century BC and in the present time—God’s people will look for an explanation of their suffering. The book of Daniel can help in this regard, as it shows God’s sovereignty.
In Dan. 12:5–8 the prophet further describes his context, noting that he saw an angel on each side of the Tigris River, with Christ “above the waters of the river” (Dan. 12:6; cf. Matt. 14:22–33). Next Daniel hears one of the angels ask Jesus, “How long shall the fulfillment of these wonders be?” (Dan. 12:6). Undoubtedly, like us, Daniel himself was wanting to ask this question. In response, Daniel hears Christ say, “It shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered all these things shall be finished” (Dan. 12:7). This phrase “time, times, and half a time” was also used back in Dan. 7:25 and is used again at Rev. 12:14. The meaning of this phrase seems to be a time-frame referring to a fixed amount of time, which re-occurs, and then comes to an abrupt halt in the middle of a third re-occurrence.
Since Christ’s answer to the angel’s inquiry was unclear to Daniel, he asked, “My Lord, what shall be the end of these things?” (Dan. 12:9). Jesus’ response is interesting, as He essentially tells Daniel that it is okay that he does not understand (cf. Dan. 12:10). Two times Christ instructs Daniel to “go your way” (Dan. 12:9, 13). Further, Jesus tells Daniel that the righteous will be saved, the wicked will act wickedly, and “the wise shall understand” (Dan. 12:10). In short, Christ instructs Daniel to continue on with his calling and ministry with the knowledge that God’s sovereign plan is unfolding and that those who need to understand the visions and prophecies will have such knowledge. Note the reference to 1,290 days is equal to 3.5 years, which is a reiteration of the time, times, and half a time from Dan. 7:25; 12:7 (cf. 1 Kings 18:1; Jas. 5:17).
- Are you encouraged by the notion that God is aware of and sovereignly over the battle between good and evil in the world?
- What is the basis for the judgment described in this prophecy? What separates the sheep from the goats?
- How has your knowledge of and relationship with God aided you in past times of trial and suffering?
- Why do you think Christ is not more specific in answering the angel’s question about the fulfillment of prophesy?
- What would have been the reaction of those who first received the book of Daniel?