The Hope of a Tomorrow Daniel 12
There is a Jewish tradition that asks, “Why is Israel likened unto an olive? Because as the olive does not yield its oil until it is pressed, so the people of Israel do not repent until they are afflicted” (Talmud Menahot 53b). Tribulation! Affliction! Sufferings! Nobody wants them. Yet sometimes they are the only way to get our attention.
According to the Word of God, a time is coming when the Lord will get the attention of the nation of Israel by pressing it through unprecedented suffering. And when that time is ended, Israel will shine with faith like the noonday sun to enjoy a future that is wonderful, forever sure, and full of God’s promised blessings. Daniel chapter 12 reveals what will happen during this time referred to as the last days.
While exiled in Babylon, the prophet Daniel received a vision that distressed him greatly. Since it concerned the destiny of his nation, Israel, he desperately wanted to know its meaning. God assured him that though the immediate future would be dismal, Israel will have a glorious tomorrow; and He consoled him with three important truths: There will be a tribulation for the nations; there will be a resurrection of the dead; and there will be a glorification of all who lead others to righteousness.
Tribulation for the Proud
Daniel was told in an earlier vision (9:24-27) that seven years of tribulation will come upon Israel:
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week [prophetic time comprised of seven years] he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate (9:27).
Thus the “week” will start when a future world ruler known as Antichrist confirms a seven-year peace covenant with Israel. (See Randall Price’s article, p. 20.) The period is divided into two parts of three and one-half years each. The first half, referred to as the “beginning of sorrows,” is compared to the early labor birth pains of a woman (Mt. 24:8). The second half is called the “great tribulation” (Mt. 24:21). Although Israel will enjoy peace for a while, it tragically will turn out to be a false peace.
There are some distinguishing features associated with the Great Tribulation.
And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days (12:11).
The first feature comprises three specific events that will occur in the middle of the seven years, causing the peace to end abruptly and ushering in the Great Tribulation. The first event will be the desecration of the Temple, probably by the setting up of an idol. The Bible clearly teaches that a Temple will exist in Jerusalem during this seven-year Tribulation period. Next will be the order to stop the animal sacrifices offered at the Temple. The third event, according to 12:1, involves the archangel Michael, who will stand up to protect Israel from the persecution of the Antichrist and his cohorts:
And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people, and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book (12:1).
Those three events will start the time clock for Israel’s last three and one-half years of great and unparalleled trouble.
The next feature is a strict time frame consisting of 1,260 days. According to Bible scholars, the calendar in biblical times was based on a lunar system having 360 days rather than the 365 we have today. Using the lunar calendar, 1,260 days equals three and one-half years.
Amazingly, Daniel heard why all this suffering will be allowed to afflict his beloved people. He is told in 12:7 that the purpose is to break Israel’s hard heart: “and when he shall have accomplished the breaking up [scattering] of the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.” The verb for “breaking up” is the same verb used in Psalm 2:9, which explains how the heathen nations are like pottery vessels being dashed into pieces. Over the centuries, unbelieving Israel has displayed a self-sufficiency by trusting in itself for righteousness, national protection, and life in the hereafter. An old Jewish axiom states that “there is no suffering without iniquity.” While this is not always true, it suits this situation regarding Israel. Daniel was told that the purpose for the Great Tribulation is to break Israel’s pride—a trait that constitutes rebellion against God. Once this rebellion is removed, the nation’s suffering will end, and God’s purpose will have been fulfilled:
Many shall be purified, and made white, and tested, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand (12:10).
Thus Daniel is told in verse 10 that Israel’s suffering will have a two fold effect: It will purify some hearts and harden others against God. Many Jewish people will be purged and purified by their suffering. Others will refuse to believe and will not understand why God would do this to them.
Certainly nobody wants tribulation, but mankind is often too stubborn to come to God for redemption without it. Unfortunately, many people need to have their hearts broken in the sight of God before their knees will bend before Him. The ancient rabbis wrote in the Talmud that “the people of Israel do not repent until they are afflicted.” Indeed, the Lord will do what it takes to get His people to cease trusting in their own works of righteousness and to accept the righteousness provided through Jesus, the Messiah.
A Prophetic Timeline
- First 69 Weeks of Daniel 9
- The Crucifixtion
- The Church Age
- The Rapture
- Tribulation Period 70<sup>th</sup> week, week of Daniel
- The second coming
- The Millennium 1,000 Years
- White Throne Judgment
- New Heaven and new Earth
Resurrection of the Dead
Daniel was told of the tumultuous storm that will soon come upon Israel. All this bad news would make even the strongest in faith flounder and question God. God loved His prophet, Daniel. So in chapter 12, He assured him of the hope of a physical resurrection of the dead.
During Jesus’ time on earth there was a Jewish sect called the Sadducees. Among their distinct beliefs was the denial of the resurrection. They claimed that the soul became extinct when the body died, and death was the final end for human beings. The truth of the matter, however, is that the hope of the resurrection is predicted in passages of the Old Testament such as Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37:13, 14; and, most specifically, in Daniel 12:2:
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12:2).
Here Daniel is told that many will awake to life, while others will rise to shame and contempt. Quite simply, this means that some will rise from the dead and be with God, and others will rise and will not be in His presence. During the Great Tribulation many of the righteous will suffer and even die because of their faith in God and their obedience to Him. Daniel is told that for justice to be served, the dead must be raised so that all men can receive their just reward. However, each group will rise at different times. It is taught that the righteous will rise at the end of the Great Tribulation, and the wicked will rise at least 1000 years later to stand before God in judgment (Rev. 20:5, 11-15).
For now, Daniel was told in verse 1 that God promises deliverance (either in life or through death) to His people, whose names are found in the book: “and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (12:1b). There is a tradition associated with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah (Israel’s civil New Year). It states that on Rosh Hashanah, God opens three books in heaven: one for the wicked, one for the semirighteous, and one for the righteous. Exodus 32:32 mentions that there is a book in heaven in which names are recorded. The New Testament is more specific and calls it the “book of life” (Rev. 20:15). During the Great Tribulation many Jewish people will accept Jesus as their Messiah and Savior and will become martyrs because of their faith. Therefore, Daniel was encouraged with the fact that the saved will have their names recorded in the book of life.
Glorification for the Wise
Daniel must have wondered how all this would end. The final words of the vision revealed that faithfulness will be rewarded for eternity. Two groups will be recognized: those who are wise (literally, “the teachers”) and those who witness, who turn many to righteousness:
And they that be wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever (12:3).
During the Great Tribulation some Jewish people will understand the message of salvation in the Messiah, Jesus, and will share it with others. Because of their steadfast faithfulness to the Lord in the dark days of persecution and opposition, God will grant them the privilege of shining forth the glory of God like the stars forever and ever (Mt. 13:43).
But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased (Dan. 12:4).
The angel that had been showing Daniel these things then turned away from the subject of the righteous and wicked of the Great Tribulation to address the prophet Daniel himself. At this point Daniel was old and had lived through many difficult times. Yet the angel assured him that he need not worry about the fate of his beloved people, Israel. God will fulfill His divine purpose and, in faithfulness, watch over Israel.
Daniel is instructed to “seal the book, even to the time of the end” (v. 4). This meant that this final vision completed the revelation of the book of Daniel. His responsibility was to preserve it for future generations. He was told that as the seven-year period approaches, many subsequent generations will study the vision and understand more of its meaning.
Finally, God told Daniel, “But go thou thy way till the end be; for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days” (12:13). He was to go his way, to his work and walk of life, without further inquiry. These events were to occur after his death. Daniel was not to worry, because the vision ended with the consummating truth of the hope of the resurrection from the dead.
Though the people of Israel are destined to experience great future trauma, the sovereign God of the universe will give them a glorious tomorrow. There will be a Tribulation, but its design to purge Israel will be accomplished. Then there will be a resurrection of the dead, and the righteous, like Daniel, will be rewarded with glory, because God is faithful. The practical side of these three truths is a motivation to godly living, even when godliness brings persecution.