Daniel: A Deeper Look
The twelfth chapter of Daniel is among the most important prophetic texts in all the Word of God. It forms a critical part of a vision given to Daniel by a high-ranking angelic messenger in Chapters 10-12. Yet comparatively little has been written or preached on this important prophetic text. Far more attention has been given to Daniel Chapter 2 with the awesome image of a colossus, which depicts the course of Gentile world history.
Prophetic teachers frequently exegete Daniel Chapter 7 with particular attention paid to the fourth beast empire out of which the "little horn," or Antichrist, emerges. And few prophetic texts have been more carefully scrutinized than Daniel Chapter 9 with the seventy-week prophecy, often called the backbone of prophetic truth.
Not only has Daniel 12 been significantly neglected in prophetic discussion, but much that has been written, in this author's view, has missed the mark in understanding the most fundamental truths of this dynamically important passage.
With brevity of words and in compact style, Daniel 12 sets forth, in kernel form, many of the major events associated with the second coming of Christ and the end of the age. At the same time it gives substantiation and amplification to many New Testament prophetic texts.
Daniel was told by the angelic messenger:
"And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which 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" (Dan. 12:1).
The twelfth chapter of Daniel opens with this bold assertion: "And at that time shall Michael stand up." It is extremely important to understand when these events will occur. That will become conspicuous later in this article. The expression "and at that time" in Daniel 12:1 is a reference to the starting point of the Great Tribulation which commences at the midpoint of Daniel's seventieth week. Evidence for that assessment is based on the following salient facts:
First, the angelic messenger said to Daniel, "Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days" (Dan. 10:14). And Daniel is specifically told that these events will occur "at the time of the end" (Dan. 11:40). "The latter days" and "the time of the end" are terms for the end of the age, not some earlier time in history.
Second, the immediate context (Dan. 11:36-45) describes the activity of Antichrist at the end of the age, including his making Jerusalem his headquarters. The angel said, "And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain [Jerusalem]; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him" (Dan. 11:45). The Lord, in referring specifically to Daniel's prophecy, places the Great Tribulation at the midpoint of Daniel's seventieth week (Mt. 24:15, 21).
Third, Daniel refers to a three-and-one-half-year time period when the events described would occur (Dan. 12:7). This same time frame is mentioned in the Book of Revelation in connection with events that will occur at the end of the age (Rev. 11:3; 12:6; 13:5).
The angelic messenger said to Daniel, "And at that time shall Michael stand up." The Michael in view is, of course, the angel Michael. In the same discourse he had been spoken of as "Michael, one of the chief princes" (Dan. 10:13); and again, in reference to Daniel and his people, as "Michael your prince" (Dan. 10:21). In the Book of Jude he is referred to as "Michael the archangel" (Jude 9). And it is undoubtedly Michael who is called the archangel in his association with the Lord at His second coming (1 Th. 4:16).
No other angelic being - not even Gabriel - is designated an archangel in Scripture. It may well be that Michael the archangel is the most exultant and powerful being ever created by God. Even Satan will be defeated by him in a war that will take place in heaven (Rev. 12:7-10). Therefore, when Michael is brought into clear focus in the prophetic Scriptures, careful attention should be given to the role he fulfills.
Daniel was told that at the beginning of the Great Tribulation Michael would "stand up." But what is meant by "stand up"? Major prophetic portions of Scripture like 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 12 and 13 are greatly impacted by the answer given. The overwhelming majority of commentators suggest that "stand up" means that Michael, in "standing up," will come to Israel's defense. It is usually understood that the one against whom this defense will be made is the Antichrist, who oppresses Israel during the Great Tribulation.
A highly respected prophetic scholar commenting on Daniel 12:1 states the view this way: "In their distress, the children of Israel are especially aided by Michael, the archangel (Jude 9). As the head of the holy angels, Michael is given the special responsibility of protecting the children of Israel" (See Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation by John Walvoord, p. 283).
According to this widely held view then, to "stand up" means that Michael will come to Israel's defense while she is experiencing the Great Tribulation.
With respect for those who champion this position, I nonetheless strongly suggest that the text is teaching precisely the exact opposite. Michael does not "stand up" to help Daniel's people during the Great Tribulation. He "stands still" or "desists" from his normal role as defender of Israel, thus permitting the Great Tribulation to occur.
In other words, the Great Tribulation is not the cause for Michael to come to Israel's defense. Rather, it is because he desists from defending her that the Great Tribulation occurs.
The expression "stand up" is the translation of the Hebrew word amad. Amad simply means to "stand." It does not mean to "stand up," and it does not mean to "stand still." It simply means to "stand." If a man seated and inactive were said to amad, he would "stand up." However, if a man already standing and active were said to amad, he would "stand still," or desist, in his activity.
Daniel had just been told by the angel who was sharing this prophetic vision with him that Michael was actively involved in the defense of Daniel's people. The angel said to Daniel, "But the prince [a fallen angel] of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me" (Dan. 10:13). Michael was actively engaged in helping Israel. And once again the angel said to Daniel, "But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince" (Dan. 10:21).
What does the word "holdeth" (Hebrew, chazaq) mean? According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, holdeth can mean "to bind" or "restrain." That means, in context, that the archangel Michael already had a hindering or restraining ministry against the forces of Satan on Israel's behalf. So when it is said that Michael will "stand," it means he will "stand still," "desist," or "cease" from defending Israel.
This, of course, would be in dramatic contrast to Michael's normal activity described in the words "which standeth [a present, continuous action] for the children of thy people" (Dan. 12:1). In other words, just prior to the Great Tribulation the archangel Michael will cease or desist from what was his historically ongoing responsibility of defending Israel.
It would make little sense to tell Daniel that Michael was defending his people in Chapter 12 when he had already clearly told him that fact, not once but twice, in Daniel, Chapter 10.
Rashi, one of Israel's greatest teachers, and a man whose Hebrew scholarship is unexcelled, understood "stand up" (Hebrew, amad) to literally mean "stand still" in Daniel 12:1. He wrote: "The Holy One [a Jewish designation for God], Blessed be He, said to Michael, 'You are silent? You do not defend my children.'"
Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible says that amad means "to stand, stand still or fast." And Strong's Concordance cites one of the root meanings of amad as "cease," and one of its definitions as "stand still." A biblical illustration of amad meaning "to be still or desist is, "they...stood still [desisted], and answered no more" (Job 32:16).
The Book of Revelation describes a war that will take place in heaven. The main combatants of the conflict are the archangel Michael and Satan. The time can be clearly identified as the midpoint of Daniel's seventieth week when the time of trouble (Great Tribulation) is to begin. The account is recorded this way: "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon [identified as Satan]; and the dragon fought and his [fallen] angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Rev. 12:7-9).
It is at this precise point, when cast out of heaven and no longer restrained by Michael, that it is said of Satan: "And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman [Israel] which brought forth the man child [Christ]" (Rev. 12:13). He could do so unhindered because Michael, at that time, had ceased his restraining ministry.
In the very next chapter, Satan - cast out of heaven to the earth and no longer restrained by Michael - will empower his progeny, the Antichrist, for precisely three and one-half years. The Bible records that event this way:
"And they [the unsaved world] worshipped the dragon [Satan] which gave power unto the beast [Antichrist]: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? [The answer to the rhetorical question, "Who is able to make war with him?" is, "No one," because the archangel Michael has ceased his restraining work.] And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great [wicked] things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months [three and one-half years]" (Rev. 13:4-5). At the return of Christ, Antichrist will be thrown into the abyss forever (Rev. 19), and Satan will be bound for a thousand years.
The question may be raised, Why would Michael, whose normal activity was to restrain satanic attacks against Israel, cease his restraining work? The Word of God gives specific reason for the cessation of the restrainer's work at precisely that point in time.
Since Israel refused God's truth and rejected her true Christ, God will send on them strong delusion so that they will believe the lie. The lie in view is that Antichrist is the Messiah and Deliverer. Paul put it this way: "They received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe [the] lie, that they all might be [judged] who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Th. 2:10-12).
The strong delusion comes from God. It is His purifying judgment on Israel. That is why Michael will no longer hinder or hold down the wicked one. My people have rejected the Son of God for two thousand years. And not only so, but they have severely and unjustly persecuted those from among their own flock who have seen in Jesus the one of whom Moses and the prophets of Israel wrote. Their God, in what can only be described as "holy love," will give them an unhindered dose of Antichrist. As a result - on their backs, cut off, with no human deliverance possible - they will at last look up, and they will see - in the altogether lovely face of Jesus - their long-rejected Messiah.
This observation provides perfect logic for the view that on this occasion and for this purpose Michael will "stand still" - he will abstain, he will not fight for Israel. When Michael ceases to defend Israel, "the time of Jacob's troubles" or the "Great Tribulation" will commence.
Daniel wrote of Michael, the restrainer, this way: "And at that time shall Michael stand up [literally, stand still or desist from helping Israel], the great prince which standeth [whose normal and continued ministry had been to help Israel]" (Dan. 12:1); and Paul wrote of the restrainer this way: "He who now letteth [restrains] will let [continue his normal restraining ministry], until he be taken out of the way [ceases his normal ministry of restraining]" (2 Th. 2:7). The parallel between the two is conspicuous.
The apostle Paul clearly had Daniel 12:1 in mind when he wrote 2 Thessalonians 2:7. The clear and compelling allusion to Daniel 12 would indicate that the restrainer is the archangel Michael.1
Daniel was told, "And at that time [the midpoint of Daniel's seventieth week] shall Michael stand up [cease or desist from defending Israel], the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people [whose normal activity had been to defend them]: and [as a direct result of Michael's lack of restraint] there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time" (Dan. 12:1).
The "time of trouble" to which the angel refers is elsewhere called "the time of Jacob's [Israel's] troubles."
Jeremiah describes that period of time this way: "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it" (Jer. 30:7).
The Lord Jesus Christ, in speaking of the same time frame and same event, called it "the Great Tribulation." He warned, "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened ["amputated" or lessened in duration], there should no flesh [in context, believing flesh] be saved [i.e., delivered]: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" (Mt. 24:21-22).
Daniel is then told that, "at that time thy people shall be delivered." "That time" has already been identified as the Great Tribulation which commences at the midpoint of Daniel's seventieth week. Exactly how long the Great Tribulation will last we are not told. But we are told by the Lord that it will be "cut short" or "amputated" (Mt. 24:21-22). It is less than three and one-half years in duration and corresponds to the fifth seal of Revelation 6:9-11.
It is clear that the seventieth week of Daniel is not shortened - it is "determined" (Dan. 9:24); and the last three and one-half years is not shortened - its duration is referred to repeatedly (Rev. 11:3; 12:6; 13:5). What is shortened is the Great Tribulation.
The sixth seal depicts cosmic disturbance (Rev. 6:12-17). It immediately follows the Great Tribulation and is the prelude to "the Day of the Lord" when the righteous will be delivered by rapture and the judgment of the wicked will commence.
The angelic messenger, however, is careful to note that not all will be delivered. There is a clear caveat. He qualifies his statement concerning deliverance by restricting it to "every one that shall be found written in the book" (Dan. 12:1). "The book" is evidently a reference to the "book of life" (Mal. 3:16-17; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 20:12; Rev. 21:27).
It is important to note the repeated theme of "deliverance" out of the Great Tribulation.
Jeremiah wrote: "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved [delivered] out of it" (Jer. 30:7 - italics added).
Daniel was told, "There shall be a time of trouble...and at that time thy people shall be delivered" (Dan. 12:1 - italics added).
The Lord taught: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect [for deliverance] from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Mt. 24:29-31 - italics added).
John testified that: "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;...And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What [better, "Who"] are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation [deliverance], and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev. 7:9; 13-14 - italics added).
Ezekiel, Daniel, the Lord, and John each stated that deliverance follows the Great Tribulation. The deliverance itself will be by rapture. Nothing could be clearer than the Lord's teaching that the deliverance occurs "Immediately after the tribulation of those days" (Mt. 24:29).
There is only one second coming of Christ. It is a process covering a period of time and a number of crucial events. It commences immediately "after" the Great Tribulation. Matthew 24:29-31 is the clearest text in the Bible for the timing of Christ's coming and the deliverance of those who have placed their faith in Him.
There are those who would like to exclude Church believers from the deliverance following the Great Tribulation based on their belief in a Pretribulation Rapture. They remind us that the angelic messenger was speaking of "Daniel's people" (the Jews) who would be delivered out of great tribulation (Dan. 12:1). But such an exclusion cannot be sustained by the Scriptures.
The Bible is divided into two parts. One part is called the Old Testament; the other part is called the New Testament. The word translated "testament" is also the word for "covenant." The old covenant or "Mosaic Law" was made with Israel. The new covenant, or "grace," was also made with Israel. The Lord told the prophet Jeremiah: "Behold, the days come...that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah" (Jer. 31:31).
In the Upper Room, only hours before His crucifixion, the Lord instituted the new covenant of which Jeremiah spoke. He took the cup of juice from the Passover table and said, "For this is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many [Jews and Gentiles] for the remission of sins" (Mt. 26:28).
In the Old Testament, covenants were "cut," or ratified, with the shedding of the blood of an animal. In this instance, the new covenant was "cut," or ratified, through the blood of the Lamb of God.
· The covenant was made with Israel.
· It was instituted on the Jewish holiday of Passover.
· It was done in the presence of eleven Jewish disciples.
· It took place in the Jewish capital of Jerusalem.
And yet, every spiritual blessing which the largely Gentile Church enjoys, including redemption itself, comes out of this covenant which God made with the nation of Israel. The entire redemptive career of Christ - beginning with His death on Calvary as the Passover Lamb and ending with His second coming when He will dwell (tabernacle) among His people, wipe away every tear, and establish His millennial Kingdom - was set forth in the seven holidays which God gave to Israel (Lev. 23).
There is no justification for the view that when a believing remnant of Israel is being persecuted by Antichrist that the Church cannot partake of the same persecution. If the Church can share Israel's blessing, the Church can share her persecution.
To be sure, there are promises which were given to Israel which will be literally fulfilled in a believing remnant of Jews at the end of the age. Those whose theology equates the Church with Israel and incorporates for the Church the divine promises given to Israel are guilty of perverting the Scriptures. However, those realities do not infringe on the fact that prophecies related to the believing remnant within Israel at the end of the age can have direct bearing on the Church.
Biblically, there are three kinds of Israelites or seeds of Abraham.
1. There are physical Israelites - Jews who are descendants of Abraham through Jacob and who have not exhibited faith in the Savior (Rom. 8:8). I have many Jewish friends in this category.
2. There are physical/spiritual Israelites - Jewish descendants of Abraham through Jacob who have seen in Jesus of Nazareth the promised Redeemer and have placed their faith in Him (Phil. 3:3-9). They are called messianic Jews, fulfilled Jews, completed Jews, biblical Jews, or Hebrew Christians. I am, by God's grace, in this category.
3. There are spiritual Israelites - Gentiles who are descendants of Abraham through faith (Gal. 6:16). Abraham is the preeminent example in Scripture of justification by faith. He is the patriarch of all who believe, Jew or Gentile, male or female, rich or poor (Rom. 4:16). If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, you are in this category.
At the very outset of the Great Tribulation, Antichrist, ruling from Jerusalem, will seek to kill Jewish believers who refuse to take his mark and give him their allegiance. They will flee to the wilderness and be protected by God (Rev. 12:13-16). Frustrated in his attempt to get at these Jewish believers, Antichrist will "make war with the remnant of her seed [Gentile believers], which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 12:17).
The Church will be delivered by rapture immediately after the Great Tribulation, but before the Day of the Lord commences. She is not exempted from the persecution of Antichrist any more than the first-century believers were exempted from the persecutions of the Caesars of Rome or twentieth-century believers were exempted from the Communist leaders of Russia. But she is exempted from the wrath of the Lamb, which will be poured out during "the day of the Lord."
Having spoken of those who would be delivered immediately after the Great Tribulation but before the outpouring of God's wrath during the Day of the Lord, the angelic messenger now turns his attention to those who have, through the centuries, died in faith. He told Daniel: "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Dan. 12:2).
Death is a reality that nobody debates. God has decreed that "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27).
Daniel was told that many who sleep (have died) will awake (experience resurrection): "some to everlasting life." The word "some" is referring to those who "awake" at Christ's coming - they will experience "everlasting life."
There is a second group of people in view who do not awake at Christ's coming. They are described this way: "and some [those who keep sleeping at Christ's coming] to shame and everlasting contempt."
Putting it all together, the angelic messenger informs Daniel that at Christ's coming "many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some [those who awake] to everlasting life, and some [those who keep sleeping] to shame and everlasting contempt" (Dan. 12:2).
Revelation 20:4-6 is the precise parallel text to Daniel 12:2. It sets forth two resurrections - one unto life, the other unto death. It provides the additional information that the first resurrection is before the Millennium, and the second is at the end of the Millennium. That means that those who keep "sleeping" at Christ's coming sleep for a thousand years before they will be resurrected, judged at the great white throne, and consigned to eternal separation from God in hell (Rev. 20:15).
The Lord Jesus taught: "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (Jn. 5:28-29 - italics added).
There are two resurrections: the first unto eternal life; the second unto eternal damnation.
What the angel told Daniel is that the righteous who are living will be delivered, and the righteous who have died through the ages will be resurrected at Christ's coming.
That is precisely what the apostle Paul taught the Thessalonians. He wrote: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ [the righteous dead of the ages] shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds [rapture], to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord [deliverance]" (1 Th. 4:16-17).
Resurrection or rapture following the Great Tribulation, but before the Day of the God's wrath, has always been the believer's blessed and certain hope.
The angelic messenger concludes his lengthy message to Daniel with these words: "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" (Dan. 12:3).
The Hebrew word for wise is sâkal. It means to be circumspect, to possess understanding. In context, it is speaking of understanding in the last days, of understanding what is going on when Antichrist steps onto the stage of history. Of such men and women it is said that they "shall shine as the brightness of the firmament" - that is, they will shine like the visible expanse of the sky.
However, understanding requires action. And so the angel promises, "And they that turn many to righteousness [will shine] as the stars for ever and ever."
I have given a great deal of thought to the role of believers during the Great Tribulation. I am aware that the Lord warns a believing remnant of Jews to flee Jerusalem at the beginning of the Great Tribulation, but I do not think that all believers worldwide will attempt to go into concealment. There will be those who will be "wise" who will recognize the Antichrist for who he is and who will understand that the coming of the Lord is near. They will stand their ground and courageously "turn many to righteousness." To be sure, it will be an unprecedented time of difficulty, but it will also be a time of great revival - right in Antichrist's face. Some will have the privilege of martyrdom. It is to such that the Lord says, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev. 2:10).
It is these who are the wise. It is these who will turn many to righteousness. It is these who will shine as the brightness of the firmament - and as the stars forever and ever.
The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Those who are wise (understand the times) and turn many to righteousness (exhibit evangelistic zeal) will wondrously fulfill that highest of all callings.
Daniel: A Deeper Look