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Daniel: A Final Look
From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion's Fire Magazine in September/October, 1999

In the exposition of Daniel 12:1-3, which appeared in a Zion's Fire article entitled "Daniel Chapter Twelve - A Deeper Look," four critically important facts were brought into clear focus.

FIRST, (at the midpoint of Daniel's seventieth week) the archangel Michael, whose normal, ongoing ministry is to restrain Satan in his attack against Israel, will cease his restraining work.

SECOND, as a direct result of Michael's inactivity on behalf of Israel, Satan, now unhindered, will empower the Antichrist, resulting in an unprecedented time of trouble called, in the Scriptures, both the "great tribulation" (Mt. 24:21) and "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:7).

THIRD, (as the first of a series of events associated with the coming of the Lord) the dead in Christ will be resurrected and the true Church will be raptured out of the great tribulation.

FOURTH, the wise, that is, those who understand through the prophetic Scriptures what is occurring, will, through their testimony, shine with the brilliance of the heavenly bodies and, as a result, turn many to righteousness.

And now the angelic messenger, who began this prophetic instruction to Daniel in Chapter 10, concludes the vision in Chapter 12 with these words: "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).

In commenting on the expression "shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end," The Ryrie Study Bible states:

"Not that its meaning was to be left unexplained, but that the book was to be kept intact so as to help those living in the future tribulation days."

But Daniel is not different from other prophetic books of Scripture. Therefore, it seems strange that only this book would contain such a peculiar instruction.

The Annotated Study Bible understands the text differently. It states:

"It was impossible to understand the significance of these prophecies in Daniel's own day, but God indicated that at the time of the end many would seek to understand these predictions and be able to do so."

In the light of what follows, it would appear that this second view is in keeping with the meaning of the text. The meaning of Daniel's prophecy would not be fully understood until the latter days.

The command to Daniel to "shut up the words" (referring to his book) meant to keep it safe for the appropriate future time. Frank Gaebelein's comment in The Expositor's Bible Commentary is helpful. He wrote:

"In the ancient Near East, important documents such as contracts, promissory notes, and deeds of conveyance were written out in duplicate. The original document was kept in a secure repository, safe ("closed up") from later tampering, in order to conserve the interests and rights of all parties to the transaction."

The duplicate copy could be available to the public while the original would remain secure and protected.

The command to Daniel to "seal the book" was intended to provide a second safeguard. It was to authenticate the truth of his prophecy. When Daniel was taken into captivity in 606 B.C., and in the centuries that followed, very few people could read or write. In the making of a will, title deed, or other official document, there was always the danger of deception. To prevent this problem, the practice of sealing an important document was instituted. A recording scribe would write down exactly what his client requested. And then an attesting scribe would read and confirm that everything was written as requested.

The document would then be sealed to prevent tampering and to attest to its accuracy. In the case of the prophet Daniel, he was to certify, by the sealing of the book, that it was an accurate transcript of what God had communicated to him.

In commanding Daniel to "shut up the words," God was guaranteeing its preservation. In commanding him to "seal the book," God was guaranteeing its accuracy - that it contained precisely what God wanted it to contain. This measure was taken so that those living during the latter days will have God's truth to warn and sustain them.

To have the Book of Daniel intact and uncorrupted is one thing - to understand its meaning is quite another matter. And so Daniel was told that at the time of the end "many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased."

Many commentators have noted a connection between the dramatic increase in world travel and the fulfillment of the words, "many shall run to and fro." These same teachers indicate a relationship between the astounding growth of informational and technological advances and the fulfillment of the statement "and knowledge shall be increased." This dramatic increase in travel and information is then cited as evidence that we are living at the end of the age.

Unfortunately, that view misses entirely the point of the text. The "running to and fro" is speaking of an increased interest in the study of the prophetic Word as we near the end of the age. In context, it is referring to the Book of Daniel. The "running to and fro" refers to a mental running and involves discovering the truth which has been hidden within the words that are "shut up" in the sealed book.

As a result of that intensified study at the end of time, "knowledge shall be increased." This increased knowledge is not of a general nature. It is not the accumulated facts of history or a giant step forward in the sciences. It is knowledge of the events of the end of the age as prophesied by Daniel.

These noble "many," because of the unfolding events of their day, will "run to and fro" in their urgent search for truth concerning the last days. And God will honor their diligence - "knowledge shall be increased."

This clearly implies that our insight into the Book of Daniel today is limited. We, as it were, "see through a glass darkly." All one need do is examine the myriad commentaries on the Book of Daniel. Apart from broad agreement on the part of some godly conservative commentators, interpretations vary on the meaning of every chapter and almost every verse in significant ways.

For example, the authorship of Daniel is questioned. The time in which the Book was written is questioned. The identification of the beast empires is questioned. The parallel track of the image of Daniel 2 and the four beasts of Daniel 7 is questioned. The prophetic significance of Daniel's three friends in the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lion's den is questioned. The starting point of the decree of Daniel 9 is questioned. The chronology of the seventieth week is questioned. Which texts were fulfilled in Antiochus Epiphanes and which texts will be fulfilled in the Antichrist is questioned. The nation from which the Antichrist will spring is questioned. And on and on it goes.

It is hard to recommend one specific commentary on the Book of Daniel. Some, of course, are much better than others. But the Book of Daniel, as a comprehensive whole, has been slow to reveal all of its precious treasure. It has, by divine design, been "shut up and sealed until the time of the end."

Perhaps it will be the unfolding events of the last days which will fully unlock the Book to pious examination. Perhaps the Holy Spirit of God himself will illumine the minds of those who diligently seek Him in that day.

John Walvoord, commenting on Daniel 12:3 in his helpful commentary, DANIEL: the Key to Prophetic Revelation, has written: "No doubt, those living in the time of the end will have far greater understanding of these things than is possible today."

In the interim, we must descend and dig in the Book of Daniel for nuggets of truth concerning the last days which God in His grace may reveal to us. The "mother lode" will continue to elude us until a future day, which may not be too far into the future.

As Daniel looked, he beheld two angels (Dan. 12:5). They stood, each on the opposite shores of the Tigris River, a wide body of water - which indicated that these angels were far apart. One almost gets the sense of two choirs singing antiphonally. Between the two angels, a third angel was suspended above the river. Higher in rank than the other two, this angel was the one who was responsible for giving the prophetic vision to Daniel (Dan. 10:1-12:4).

One of the two angels on the riverbank inquired, "How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?" (Dan. 12:6). He was not asking "How long will it be until these wonders begin?" but "How long will they last once they commence?" The superior angel situated above the water lifted his right hand and his left toward heaven and took a solemn oath (v. 7). Concerning this oath, one commentator has written:

"Whereas it was usual to lift one's hand (singular) in taking an oath (Gen. 14:22; Ex. 6:8; Ezek. 20:5), here the heavenly messenger raised both his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, as the more complete guarantee of the truth of what is about to be affirmed."

This majestic angel solemnly swore in the name of the eternal God that the events of the prophecy will last "for a time, times, and an half [time]," or three and one-half years (Dan. 12:7). This, of course, corresponds to the second half of Daniel's seventieth week, or what is commonly (even if erroneously) called the Great Tribulation - a period of time when the Antichrist will be empowered by Satan and will persecute God's elect (Rev. 13:5-7). Daniel was told that this will provide the Antichrist with time for the breaking up of "the power of the holy people" (Dan. 12:7). Commenting on this phrase, one writer has said:

"The angel thus revealed the reason for God's permitting the Antichrist to bring his persecution, namely, to break the power of the Jews. As parallel passages indicate, this power and resulting self-sufficiency [of the Jews] will need to be broken so that the Jews will be willing to accept Christ as their own rightful king."

This observation provides perfect logic for the view expressed in the earlier Zion's Fire article, "Daniel Chapter Twelve - A Deeper Look," that on this occasion and for this purpose, Michael will stand still - he will abstain, he will not fight for Israel.

But Daniel did not fully comprehend the ultimate outcome of the matter. The power of his beloved people would be broken by the Antichrist - but what then? Was that to be the ignominious end of his nation? And so it is recorded of Daniel, "And I heard, but I understood not. Then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?" (Dan. 12:8). The response was quick in coming from the angel: "And he said, Go thy way, Daniel." The idea is, desist from any further inquiry into the matter. And then the reason is given: "for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" (v. 9).

Daniel was reminded again that the words of his prophecy were shut up (locked in the vault of God's omnipotence) and sealed (recorded exactly as God had given them to him) until the time of the end (Dan. 12:4). The message would be faithfully preserved for his brethren who will desperately need it during the last days. It will become their map and compass - their very lifeline to eternal life.

Daniel was not given all the answers he sought. But his beloved people, for whose welfare he was greatly concerned, would have the benefit of the truth, which he helped bequeath to them and which is doubtless expanded upon in the Book of Revelation.

But the angel's explanation concerning "the time of the end" was not yet complete. He added these words: "Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand" (Dan. 12:10).

For many years this author's understanding of the expression "Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried" was that it referred to "people;" that many "people" would be "purified, and made white, and tried" during the last days. Through further study, I have become convinced that it is referring to "things," not "people." Many "things" (the prophecies of Daniel) shall be purified (clarified) and made white (plain) and tried (refined). Not only does the Hebrew text permit such an interpretation, but Jewish Hebrew scholars have for centuries understood it that way. More importantly, it fits the context of both the preceding verse and the statement that follows. Daniel had just been told that the words of his prophecy would be closed up and sealed until the time of the end. (Dan. 12:9). It logically follows that at the time of the end, these prophecies would be purified (clarified) and made white (made plain) and tried (refined) (Dan. 12:10). And then he is told, "...but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand [the prophecies]; but the wise shall understand [the prophecies].

" Daniel's prophecies, which at the end of the age will be clarified, made plain, and refined, will be of great help to the wise (see Dan. 12:3), but they will not be understood by the wicked. The wicked will go on doing wickedly.

The Lord spoke of the wicked in the last days this way: "But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Mt. 24:37-39). The wicked will not know, they will be oblivious to the prophetic Scriptures, and totally caught off guard at the Lord's coming.

The apostle Paul, speaking of the wicked in the last days, wrote: "For when they [the unsaved] shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them [the unsaved], as travail upon a woman with child; and they [the unsaved] shall not escape" (1 Th. 5:3).

In contrast, concerning believers, Paul wrote: "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day [the Day of the Lord] should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober" (1 Th. 5:4-6). Precisely because they understand the prophetic Scriptures, believers will not be caught off guard at the end of the age, and the Lord's coming will not overtake them as a thief in the night.

The angel had already told Daniel that the Antichrist would persecute his people and that he would have power for three and one-half years, or 1,260 days, based on the Hebrew calendar (Dan. 12:7; Rev. 13:5-7). And now the angel adds an additional thirty days to the 1,260. He told Daniel, "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 [1,290] days" (Dan. 12:11). The translation of the Hebrew of the above verse is awkward and difficult. But the meaning of the text is clear. At the midpoint of the seventieth week, the Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel and cause the reinstituted sacrifices at the Temple on Mount Moriah to cease. In its place, he will institute idolatrous worship of himself. This will be an abomination to God. This abomination will last for three and one-half years, that is, 1,260 days plus an additional 30 days, or a total of 1,290 days. At that point in time, the desolator will himself be slain and consigned by God to the eternal lake of fire.

In this regard, compare Daniel 9:27: "And he [Antichrist] shall confirm the covenant with many [of the Jews] for one week [seven years]: and in the midst of the week [after three and one-half years] he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation [offering] to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations [the introduction of idolatry] he shall make it [the Temple] desolate, even until the consummation [the end], and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate [desolator]." This slaying of the Antichrist will happen exactly 30 days after the seventieth week, or 1,290 days from the midpoint of the seventieth week.

The Son of God will return to the earth at the seventh trumpet, at the precise end of the seventieth week. "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 11:15; see also Rev. 11:18).

During the extension of thirty days following the Lord's physical return, four major events will take place: (1) the remnant of Jews who have survived will be brought back to the holy land; (2) the outpouring, in rapid succession, of the seven bowl judgments of Revelation will occur; (3) the battle of Armageddon, centered in the Jezreel Valley, will be fought; and (4) Antichrist will be slain.

There is yet one final expansion of time. Forty-five days are added to the thirty, making a total of seventy-five days beyond the three and one-half years, or 1,260 days. The angel said, "Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days [1,335]" (Dan. 12:12). This additional period of forty-five days appears to be for the purpose of preparing and dedicating the millennial Temple.

It is perhaps of more than passing interest that there are seventy-five days between the Jewish holidays of "the Day of Atonement" and "Hanukkah." On the Day of Atonement, the high priest would offer a sacrifice for the nation, foreshadowing the spiritual rebirth of the Jewish people at Christ's second coming. Hanukkah depicted the rededication of the Temple to God after it was desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes, who is set forth in Scripture as a type of Antichrist.

The final words to Daniel by the angel are these: "But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days" (Dan. 12:13).

Daniel was not to write about a future day in which he would have no part. The expression "thou shalt...stand in thy lot at the end of the days" meant that he would be resurrected to participate in all the glory associated with Christ's triumph and the millennial Kingdom. Daniel prophesied of the Babylonians, Medo-Persians, Greeks, Romans, and the kingdom of Antichrist, all of which would rule over his people. But in the end, it will be the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Son of David, who will rule as King of all kings and Lord of all lords. And Daniel will be there to see that great day. "Thou shalt...stand in thy lot at the end of the days."

Daniel: A Final Look
From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion's Fire Magazine in September/October, 1999