SERIES: Integrity is No Accident: The Book of Daniel
Introduction: Today we will conclude our study of the book of Daniel. I don’t claim we will finish it, but we will conclude. I know we have two chapters left—11 and 12—and chapter 11 is a verylong chapter. But as I mentioned last week, I believe verses 1-35 are largely a reiteration of wars and rumors of wars involving Persia, Greece, the king of the South, the king of the North, and the Beautiful Land—the Land of Palestine. The bulk of this material is repetitive of what we have already studied in chapters 2, 7, and 8 in Daniel’s first three visions, though to prove that would take a lot of time and, I fear, would be quite tedious.
Instead, let me share with you the dominant thinking of conservative Biblical scholars that chapter 11 opens with the same messenger angel, whom we met in chapter 10, capsulizing the 200 years from the time of Daniel through the Persian Empire until the establishment of the Greek Empire by Alexander the Great. The first paragraph concludes with the division of the Greek Empire into four parts after his death.
The next five paragraphs, from verse 5-20, offer many details about two of the four branches of the Greek empire—the branches most concerned with the Holy Land—the Ptolemies in Egypt and the Seleucids in Syria and Palestine. This portion contains some of the most detailed predictions of an historical nature in all of the Word of God. Since subsequent history turned out to fit the predictions remarkably well, it is no wonder (as we have already noted several times) that liberal scholars, who deny the supernatural character of the Bible, uniformly insist that it must have been written after the history had transpired. But those who believe God is able to reveal the future before it happens have no trouble accepting this material as prophetic, especially since both the internal and external evidence point to the fact that Daniel indeed wrote the book long before the events occurred.
When we get to verse 21, we are introduced to “a contemptible person” who is generally understood to be Antiochus Epiphanes, whom we last met in chapter 8, where he was called “the little horn.” From verse 21-35 we are given further details about this wicked king of Syria, who viciously persecuted the Jews during the Maccabean period about 175-165 B.C.
Since we have already examined this entire period from Daniel to Antiochus in previous messages, I am not going to go back over it again, though we could certainly increase our understanding of the period were we to do so. Instead, however, I refer you to a commentary on Daniel by Leon Wood for one of the best treatments of this passage. It’s heavy reading and quite lengthy, but he does an excellent job explaining most of the details. That’s A Commentary on Daniel, by Leon Wood, published by Zondervan in 1973.
Now in my (NIV) Bible there is a new heading at verse 36, which reads, “The King Who Exalts Himself.” It is my opinion, and that of many others, that once again, as in chapter 8, we move here from Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C. to the final world dictator, of whom Antiochus was a precursor or a type. I’m not suggesting that Daniel himself understood that the prophecy concerned two different dictators separated by more than 2,000 years; in fact, I am rather sure he did not. But then, Old Testament prophets seem to have had little knowledge of the church age and little appreciation for the fact that the events they predicted would be telescoped over several millennia. It is here in verse 36 that I wish to begin today.
There will be a final time of distress initiated by the world dictator, Antichrist. (11:36-12:1)
“The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. 37 He will show no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all. 38 Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his ancestors he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. 39 He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him. He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price.
40 “At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood. 41 He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. 42 He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape. 43 He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Cushites in submission. 44 But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many. 45 He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.
12“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.
Now I would not pretend to know the meaning of all the details of this passage we have just read. However, I do believe one thing is clear—namely that there will be a final time of distress initiated by Antichrist. In verse 36 of chapter 11 we encounter a phrase, “the time of wrath.” In 12:1 it is called “a time of trouble.” These refer, most likely, to the time-period known as the Great Tribulation, or the last half of the seventieth week of Daniel 9:27.
The Great Tribulation. I believe this seven-year time of trouble is separated from the first 69 “weeks” of Daniel by the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church was not clearly foreseen in the Old Testament. It is a sort of divine parenthesis, inaugurated when the Jewish people rejected Jesus as their Messiah. By calling it a “parenthesis,” I do not at all mean to imply that it was not part of God’s eternal decree, but simply that God chose not to reveal it until the time of Israel’s rejection of Christ. That’s why Paul refers to it as a “mystery,” which means something previously unrevealed.
But despite the fact that Christ said, “I will build My church,” God is not yet finished with Israel, and He will once again bring that nation to center stage for a period of seven years, called the “seventieth week” of Daniel. Its purpose will be to bring about the conversion of the nation, but also to judge those who still refuse to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
The first half of the Tribulation, i.e., the first 3 1/2 years, will be a time of world-wide tension, as the final dictator works to consolidate his power and extend his control over more and more of the earth’s population and over more and more areas of people’s lives. Perhaps you have read dooms-day accounts about how a super-computer in Brussels is right now storing up identification codes to apply the mark of the Beast to everyone, making it possible to focus tremendous persecution upon the few who refuse to accept it. Frankly, I am quite skeptical about this report and most of those like it, but there is no doubt that the computer age introduces radical news ways of tracking people that make the “mark of the Beast” anything but fanciful.
Recently I have read convincing accounts that the military could solve most crimes in the United States, if it weren’t for privacy concerns. Military satellites are so powerful that they can zoom in on virtually any crime scene and tell the police what cars were at that location at a given time. In fact, cameras are so powerful that some suggest facial recognition could be used to identify individuals on the ground from satellites.
Whereas fifty years ago it was almost unimaginable how the Antichrist could require every person to get a “mark,” it is not at all implausible today. Several weeks ago there was an article in the Wichita Eagle which reported that both Yahoo and Google have recognition software making it possible to snap a picture of anyone entering an establishment and instantly retrieve all their personal information. They aren’t using it yet, but only because of privacy concerns. If a demonic ruler achieves power over most of the world, and he will, according to the Scriptures, it’s certainly possible to see how he could control the vast majority of the population.
Something will happen after the first 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation that will make the last half stand out uniquely in human history as a time of distress. Apparently the Antichrist will turn against the Jews, with whom he had signed a covenant of peace, and he will unleash forces of anti-Semitism which will make the Holocaust pale into insignificance. When I visited Dachau, the terrible concentration camp outside Munich, I was stunned by the inhumanity of man. As you leave the camp there is a monument with the simple words inscribed, “Never again.” I wish I could assure my Jewish friends that it would indeed never happen again, but if I understand the prophetic Scriptures, that would be a false assurance. It will happen again, and this time it will be focused not only on the Jews but also all those who befriend the Jews.
The reason this time period is called the Great Tribulation is intimately connected to the character of the dictator, Antichrist. Among the traits revealed to us in the last two paragraphs of chapter 11 are these:
1. He will do as he pleases. (36) No plebiscite, no parliament, and no advisers will constrain him.
2. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god (36b-37). He will disregard the god of his fathers (some think this means he will be an apostate Jew himself, but I don’t think that’s certain) and “he will show no regard for the one beloved by women.” This is a strange phrase, and some have interpreted it to mean that he will reject the concept of Messiah, whom the Jewish women desired to bring into the world. Others translate it differently: “he will have no regard for the desire men normally have for women.” This raises an intriguing possibility in our day when homosexuality is becoming more widely accepted all the time. Even thirty years ago it was unthinkable that an avowed homosexual could become a world leader; but no one would discount that possibility today.
3. He will honor the gods of force and military strength. (38)
4. He will overthrow Palestine and many countries (including Egypt and Libya and Cush–Ethiopia or Sudan?) and put his own followers in charge. (39-43).
5. Rumors from the east and the North will trouble him, (verse 44), apparently suggesting revolts that he will seek to quell.
6. His headquarters will be Jerusalem. (45)
7. Yet he will come to his end, with no one to help him. (45b) Daniel 11 does not say howAntichrist’s destruction will take place at end of the Great Tribulation. But when we look at other passages, particularly Rev. 16 and 19, to fill in the gaps, we learn that there will be a great battle called the Battle of Armageddon.
The Battle of Armageddon. This battle takes its name from the area in Palestine where it will be fought. Armageddon is an area in north central Palestine, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean coast. It is also called “the hill of Megiddo” and “the valley of Jehoshaphat.” This area was the site of some of the great battles in Old Testament times, like the victory of Deborah and Barak over the Canaanites, that of Gideon over the Midianites, and the death of Saul in the invasion by the Philistines.
I have stood there on Mount Carmel overlooking that vast valley and trying to imagine armies of millions engaging one another. Some have scoffed and declared that modern methods of warfare would preclude the unprecedented numbers of ground troops as is described in Revelation. After all, with nuclear weapons and stealth fighters, who needs ground troops? Well, less than two decades ago several hundred thousand ground troops were gathered in Kuwait in an area smaller than Armageddon, and despite America’s far superior air power, huge tank battles were fought.
The armies that gather at Armageddon will initially come together to fight one another–Antichrist against the “king of the north” and the “king of the south”—with the Jews caught in the middle. But when the Second Coming occurs at the height of the battle, they turn all their fury toward Jesus Christ, perhaps trying to form a Devil’s “picket line” to prevent Messiah from entering Jerusalem. The heavens will reverberate with thunder; the lightning will flash violently; and the greatest earthquake of all time will shake the earth, according to Rev. 16.
Cities around the world will be left in shambles, as islands disappear in the terrible cosmic upheavals, and mountains will fall. To make matters worse, huge hailstones will descend from the heavens in crushing force. The end result will be that one-third of the earth’s population will die and Christ will emerge victorious. More on that in a few moments.
The divine timetable. (12:5-11) Now the question uppermost in most of our minds is probably, “When will these things happen?” And we aren’t alone; even Jesus’ disciples asked that question on many occasions, generally receiving the answer that the exact time was not for them to know, but signs would be given when the time was near. However, in Daniel 12:5-11, we are given some insight into the matter of timing of these events. We are informed that two additional angels join the messenger angel who is delivering the vision to Daniel, and one of them asks, “How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?” The messenger angel responds, “It will be for a time, times and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished.”
Obviously, this is not a complete answer. What Daniel wants to know is whether the end will come in 10 years, 1000 years or 10,000 years, and all he is told is that it will come at the end of a period of 3 1/2 years, but no hint is given as to when that 3 1/2 years begins. However, this 3 1/2 years is surely the last half of the Tribulation period. That is when the persecution of the Jews reaches its zenith, and the nation would be completely wiped out except for the intervention of Messiah.
The angel elaborates a bit more in verses 11 and 12 when he offers this insight: “And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1290 days. Blessed is he who waits and arrives at the 1335 days.” I wish I knew exactly what these periods represent. Obviously, both of them are close to 3 1/2 years (which is 1260 days if a lunar calendar is used, and 1277 otherwise), and it seems apparent that both refer to the last half of the Tribulation, for, as we have already seen, the setting up of the abomination of desolation is the point in the middle of the Tribulation when Antichrist breaks his covenant with the Jewish people and turns against them with all his fury. Apparently from that point to the Battle of Armageddon will be 1290 days.
Perhaps the battle itself will last 55 days, bringing us to the Second Coming after 1335 days. If we don’t understand all we would like too, we shouldn’t feel alone. Daniel himself writes in verse 8, “I heard but I did not understand.”
Now up to this point we have considered the final time of distress initiated by the world dictator, Antichrist. And we have hinted at the victorious outcome when Christ returns. But now I want us to focus on the fact that …
There will be a final deliverance for the people of God by the Son of God. (12:1)
We return to the first four verses of chapter 12.
Believers who are alive will find deliverance in the Second Coming of Christ. Look with me at chapter 12, verse 1:
“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. 4But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”
Now let’s stop there for a moment and analyze the situation. What we learn is this: the unprecedented time of distress, which we have identified as The Great Tribulation, will come to an end when Michael the Archangel intervenes. Michael is the prince of the Jewish people, and it is their deliverance which the angel has particularly in mind (indicated also by the mention of “your people,” which to Daniel could only mean the Jewish people).
However, not every Jewish person is promised deliverance—only those whose names are found written in the book. This is undoubtedly the Book of Life, which we first came across back in 7:10. But I do not believe that Jews are the only ones who will be delivered, because the angel specifically says that everyone whose name is in the book will be delivered. I believe this includes Christians still living, as well as Jewish converts.
How do we know that the deliverance spoken of here in Daniel 12 is connected to the Second Coming? Turn with me to the Olivet Discourse which Jesus gave in Matt. 24. In this discourse Jesus’ disciples want to know when the end will come. He gives them signs to watch for and warns them of terrible persecution to come. Then in verse 15 he refers to Daniel:
“So when you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
Verse 21: “Then there will be great distress unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.”
Then Jesus warns them about the many false messiahs who will try to deceive God’s people during the Great Tribulation, apparently offering them relief from the persecution. But how will they know the true one? Verse 27:
“For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
Verse 29: “Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels (there’s a reference to Michael’s role in Daniel 12:1) with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”
So, the deliverance of believers will be at the Second Coming of Christ in power and great glory. But what about those who have been martyred? Or, for that matter, what about believers who have died down through the centuries? Daniel 12:2 answers these questions: “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.” In other words,…
Believers who have already died will be delivered by resurrection. (2) I believe this fits the promise given to us in 1 Thes. 4:13ff:
“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. (In other words, we do not have to worry about our dead friends and relatives being left behind, if they were believers). For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel (there’s Michael again!) and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”
If one takes the pre-tribulation rapture view, of course, he has to assume there is an entirely different resurrection seven years prior to this–a resurrection of church saints at the time of a secret rapture. If that is the case, then the resurrection of Daniel 12:2 would only apply to martyrs during the Tribulation period. But the language used seems to be more universal than that: “everyone whose name is found …. many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth.” As I have taught before, I think the post-tribulation rapture view is much more plausible, with the rapture and the Second Coming occurring at the same time.
The additional information offered in Daniel 12 (as opposed to 1 Thess 4) is that there will be two resurrections—one to everlasting life and another to everlasting judgment. This, of course, is in line with what we read in Revelation 20, except that Rev. 20 tells us that the two resurrections will be separated by the Millennial reign of Christ. In other words, the dead in Christ will be raised to reign with Him for a thousand years (called the first resurrection). Then after the Millennium the rest of the dead will be raised, will be judged at the Great White Throne, and then will be cast into the lake of fire.
There is a final prophetic challenge given to us by the prophet. (12:3, 10, 13)
In fact, there are three of them. First,
We must live wisely and evangelistically. (3) Look at chapter 12:3: “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” This verse comes immediately after the mention of a second resurrection, one to shame and everlasting contempt. This tragic result, namely that multitudes of people will spend eternity without the joy of knowing God, causes the messenger angel to challenge us in two areas. The first is wise living. I believe this is a reference to the wisdom of acknowledging God and surrendering our hearts and lives to Him. Those who do so will shine like the brightness of the heavens.
But there is a second area where we should be motivated to act, and that is in encouraging others to become disciples of Jesus Christ and to walk closer with Him, for “those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”
Stop and think about that for a moment. Every one of us has a drive to be significant. We want our lives to count. Let me ask you, “What will be your crowning achievement in life? What will be your epitaph?” Lots of us are settling for being privates when we could possibly become five-star generals in God’s forever army. We are willing to be assembly-line workers when we could be CEO’s. What does it take? A commitment to lead others to righteousness. By the way, I don’t think that’s talking only about evangelism. It also includes edification.
We must allow persecution to purify, not harden, our hearts. (10) Turn to verse 8, where Daniel tells us, “I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, ‘O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?’” The messenger angel answered, “Go your way Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the end of the time. Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.”
Fire, you know, can either destroy or purify—It all depends upon the characteristics of that which is submitted to the fire. Wood, hay and stubble are burned up by fire; gold and silver are refined. Persecution has always faced the true church, but one of these days it will be worse than ever before. I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but the conservative election victory of last November does not reflect a permanent turning to godly values in this country. Don’t ever think that we will establish God’s kingdom here on earth through any political party or any economic policy. What we see right now may be a pleasant blip on the radar screen, as the ship of world politics and religion and morality continues its inexorable progress toward destruction on the rocks of God’s wrath.
While we are here, we should live responsibly and do our best to apply biblical principles to the culture. We should leave it in the best shape possible for our children. But someday this world willself-destruct, and we will be sorry if all our dreams and security are tied to it. When persecution comes, we should be ready for it, and we should ask God to use it to purify us. The alternative is the hardening of our hearts.
We must rest confident in the promises of God. (13) The last verse of the book of Daniel finds the messenger angel speaking to the prophet, “But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.” The message seems to be this: live obediently, pursue God’s revealed will, but leave the results with Him. If you die before the end arrives, you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance. The inheritance of the Christian, of course, is to live and reign with Christ, and to worship and serve God for all of eternity. God has promised it, and we should rest confidently in the fact that He will deliver.
Now consider these three prophetic challenges from Daniel 12 once again, only this time think of them as a summary of this entire marvelous book of the Old Testament. Daniel is the quintessential example of one who lived wisely and evangelistically. From the moment of his captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar, through the reigns of seven monarchs in two different empires, he remained true to God and an amazing witness of the power of God to his culture.
Daniel is also the quintessential example of one who allowed persecution to purify, not harden, his heart. Through his capture and exile, his refusal to compromise to the ways of the Babylonians, to his experience in the den of lions, he refused to allow intimidation, pain and suffering to challenge his faith in God. Instead that faith was purified.
And Daniel is the quintessential example of one who learned to rest confidently in the promises of God. By resting I do not mean to imply that he as apathetic or lazy. Rather he had absolute faith that God would meet his needs. He lived the same way his three Hebrew friends lived: “The God we serve is able to save us, and he will rescue us. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Conclusion. In conclusion, I turn your attention to Daniel 11:32. Speaking prophetically of the wicked Antiochus Epiphanes (and by extension, the Antichrist), the NIV says, “With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.” The ESV reads, “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” The NASB reads, “The people who know their God will display strength and take action.” The KJV reads, “The people who know their God shall be strong and do exploits.” I believe that is as true today as it was 2500 years ago.
DATE: November 13, 1994