Introduction: Tonight is the 86th annual edition of the Academy Awards—the Oscars—some of us are less impressed than others. I tried to list all the different kinds of award shows we read about—like the Oscars and the Emmys and the Golden Globes and the People’s Choice Awards – but I ran out of paper. There are zillions of these kinds of programs. I don’t know how those people find the time to make movies. They’re too busy giving each other awards. How about some award shows for teachers and firefighters and servicemen and women. But it’s the glitter and glitz of Hollywood that creates the kind of narcissism that demands endless awards and rewards. So here is a bit of Oscar trivia from USA Today. You’ve heard the famous phrase, “May I have the envelope please?” Well, each one of those envelopes weighs a quarter-pound and costs about $200, just for the envelope. That’s really a bargain when you read about the envelope. Each one makes about 110 hours to make by hand. That’s what the newspaper said; I’m not sure I really believe it. But these Oscar envelopes are made of gold metallic paper with red lacquered accents featuring the Oscar statuette hand-stamped in satin gold leaf. They’re engineered to prevent any kind of problem in opening them and the sides are waxed so there’s no friction. The winners get to keep the envelopes. And the man who designed them explained it this way: “In this age of technology and tweeting and texting, this is the most low-tech thing possible, but the amount of emotion, spirit, heart and soul contained in that envelope will last a lifetime for the winner and will bring them back to that moment when their name was announced.”
Well, that almost sounds biblical. In fact, the way he views Oscar envelopes is the way I view the Word of God. In this age of technology and tweeting and texting, this is the most low-tech thing possible—just to open the Bible and read it—but the amount of emotion, spirit, heart, and soul contained in this Book will last a lifetime for those of us who are the true winners in life, for those of us who are followers of Jesus. At the heart of the Bible is prophetic prophecy, and Ground Zero for prophetic prophecy is the book of Daniel—the great Jewish statesman who became Prime Minister in the pagan empires of Babylon and Persia and whose writings provide the building blocks of our understanding of the future. Tonight we’re coming to the end of our studies through this book and to the last chapter – Daniel 12 – so it’s a good time to review and make sure everyone is caught up. On our map of Daniel, notice there are twelve chapters, and chapter 1 is introduction. Chapters 2 – 6 are a series of five stories that all end the same way—with the recognition that the Most High God is sovereign over human history. The last six chapters of the book are comprised of predictive prophecy, and it’s like a book that has overlays. With every succeeding vision, we have more details given. There’s the vision of the Four Beasts, the Ram and the Goat, the Seventy Weeks, and then we come to chapters 10 – 12, which is the massive overwhelming vision of the Great War.
So now let’s focus on chapters 10 through 12. Chapter 10 takes place in 536 B.C., when the aged statesman Daniel has a disturbing dream. He prays for an interpretation, and no answer arrives. After three weeks of praying and fasting, an angel shows up with a remarkable tale. He told Daniel, in effect, the moment you started praying three weeks ago the Lord issued the answer to your prayer. He sent me with the information and interpretation you sought. But I have been hindered for three weeks by demonic powers blocking my way. This is not information Satan wants you to know. The Evil One went to great lengths to try to keep you and your readers from having this information. Finally the archangel Michael was dispatched to aid in the conflict, and the angel managed to finally get through to Daniel. This passage – Daniel 10 – is stunning to me because it shows us how prayer is an engagement in spiritual conflict.
Well, now, in chapter 11 the angel begins to interpret Daniel’s dream about the Great War and we looked at this confusing passage last week and made some sense of it. In essence, here is the summary.
- Chapter 10 – Intro to the Great War Vision – Daniel’s Prayer and Answer
- Chapter 11 – Battles and Participants in the Great War (v. 2 – The Persian Empire; v. 3-4 – The Greek Empire; v. 5-35 – Intertestament Conflicts Between Syria and Egypt, culminating in the rise of Antiochus IV; v. 36-45 – The Coming Evil King)
The angel gives Daniel a detailed explanation of the conflicts that will occur over the next several hundred years between Syrian and Egypt, culminating in the rise of a very contemptible king named Antiochus IV Epiphenes, who will devastate and try to destroy the Jewish faith and the Jewish people. He will abolish the daily sacrifice, erect a pagan statue in the temple, and burn every copy of the Scriptures he can find, kill 80,000 people, take 40,000 slaves, and vent his wrath of the people of God. But verse 42 says, “Those who know their God will be strong and do exploits.” That literally happened in 167 B.C., when the family Maccabee led the nation of Israel in rebelling against Antiochus, and Israel regained his independence for the last time until the year 1948. But then we come to the last paragraph of Daniel 11, and we learn that the battles between Syria and Egypt in the days before the first coming of Christ are harbingers for the battles that will occur during the Great Tribulation before the second coming of Christ. And Antiochus himself is the biblical prototype of the antichrist. Daniel 11:36-45 flashes us into the future, into the Tribulation, and the action involves a day yet to come. The chapter ends with verse 45, with the antichrist threatening the city of Jerusalem and the buildup for the Battle of Armageddon. And that brings us to our Scripture tonight—Daniel 12, which wraps everything up very quickly and brings this remarkable book to a conclusion. Let’s begin with verse 1:
Verse 1: 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. In Matthew 24, Jesus borrows heavily from Daniel 11 and 12 to describe the Great Tribulation. Daniel 11 and 12 tell us, like Antiochus IV, the antichrist will set up in the rebuilt Jewish temple a false idol of some sort—an abomination that causes desolation. And when the Jews refuse to go along with it, there will be a period of distress such as the world has never before seen and will never see again. In Matthew 24 in His sermon on the signs of the times and the end of the age, Jesus said the antichrist will establish in the rebuilt Jewish temple the abomination of desolation and that will trigger a time of distress such as has never been seen before and will never be seen again. Against Israel will be the antichrist, and for Israel will be the archangel Michael. And the nation of Israel will be near annihilation.
Since the calling of Abraham, Satan has been obsessed with destroying the Jewish people. He wanted to destroy them in Old Testament and Inter-testament days to keep the Messiah from coming the first time. He has wanted to destroy them in subsequent human history and during the Great Tribulation to keep Christ from coming the Second Time. The Lord Jesus, in both His first and second comings, does so within the context of the promises made to Abraham. This is the only explanation for the relentless attempts through history to exterminate the Jewish race, and the final great attempt to destroy every Jewish person on earth will occur during the Great Tribulation. The antichrist will be on the verge of achieving his goal when Christ will return a shout and with the voice of an archangel. The only archangel we know about in the Bible is Michael. He’s called an archangel in the New Testament book of Jude. The verse goes on to say:
But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.
According to the book of Zechariah, the nation of Israel will finally experience spiritual salvation and spiritual revival just before Christ comes again. The book of Zechariah says, “On that day… I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child… On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity” (Selected verses in Zechariah 12-13).
The apostle Paul said, “Thus all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). Many Jews will die at that time and during the Tribulation, but at the moment Christ returns they will be resurrected. Verse 2 is talking about the Tribulation resurrection.
Verse 2: Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake; some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
The message here is simply giving us the bare-bones outline. Just as the Jewish nation is on the verge of extinction, Jesus will come and everything changes. And the great hope for His people is the resurrection. I do not believe this is a specific reference to the resurrection of the believers that will occur at the Rapture of the church. That event will have taken place at least seven years earlier. This is the Tribulation rapture of those slain during the Tribulation. The Bible gives us several resurrections. The resurrection is not simply a one-moment event; it is a series of events, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15. I think maybe this verse is telling is in general terms that the resurrection is coming—both of the saved and of the unsaved. There will be the resurrection of the dead at the time of the rapture of the church, according to 1 Thessalonians 4. There will be the resurrection of tribulation believers when Jesus comes at the Second Coming. There will be the resurrection of the unbelievers at the 1000-year reign of Christ. This verse is simply saying the coming resurrection or resurrections is a reality.
Verse 3: Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
That’s a description of the eternal state. I take this verse with some literalness. I think we’ll actually visibly glow in eternity, like the face of Moses in the book of Exodus or the countenance of Christ at the Transfiguration. The entire city of New Jerusalem has a luminescent quality to it—even the gold and the building materials. The Bible says about God’s people: They looked to Him and were radiant. Jesus said, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43).
So here’s the way it all ends. We have had successive empires come and go in human history—Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, and so many others. But one day something’s going to happen and a great superman of evil will arise on the scene. He may be alive right now. He will be in the likeness of the Syrian dictator Antiochus IV. There will be a series of battles in the Last Days like the battles between Egypt and Syria in the days of the Antiochus, and then something will happen that will propel a great political figure to the forefront of history. Somehow the Jewish Temple will be rebuilt, but when he tries to place his image in the temple it triggers a time of Great Tribulation. Only the intervention of Jesus Christ, accompanied by his great angels, including the great archangel Michael will save the Jewish people. But at the last moment they will be saved, and through the process of resurrection one day the eternal state will begin and all of us will glow and twinkle and shine like stars in the universe.
Verse 4: But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.
In other words, file this information away for future reference. People who study the subject of biblical prophecy will be able to understand more and more as time goes by.
Verse 5: Then I, Daniel, looked and there before me stood two others, one of this bank of the river and the other on the opposite bank.
These are two other angels.
Verse 6: One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?”
The Bible teaches us that the angels are interested and eager to learn what God has planned for His people.
Verse 7: The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.”
Whoever the mysterious figure — the reincarnate Christ? — suspended above the Tigris River says that all of these things will be over in three-and-a-half years (time, times and half a time). Just when the nation of Israel has faced apparent defeat at the hands of the antichrist, at that moment the Messiah will break through and save them.
Verse 8: I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, ‘My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?”
Now Daniel asks a question very much like the one just asked by the angel. But the Lord doesn’t give him any more details.
Verse 9-10: He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
But the Lord does offer us one final clue:
Verse 11: From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.
This is three-and-a-half years, plus thirty days, perhaps for mopping up time.
Verse 12: Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.
Again, this is approximately three-and-a-half years. Why the slight variation of the numbers? I don’t know. This is three-and-a-half years, plus seventy-five days. Perhaps this marks the day when the Millennium will officially begin.
Verse 13: As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”
Conclusion: The New Testament picks up this theme of inheritance all the way from Matthew to 1 Peter. See: Matthew 25:34; Acts 20:32; Ephesians 1:14 & 18; Colossians 1:12 & 3:24; 1 Peter 1:4. There was an article in the newspaper this week about the Fast and Furious actor Paul Walker, who died in a terrible car wreck. He was worth $25 million. One of the entertainment outlets obtained a copy of his will and found out he left the entire estate to his fifteen-year-old daughter, Meadow. But she’s too young to be in control of the estate yet, so other family members are overseeing it until she’s old enough to take possession of it. We’ll see how that turns out. The Bible says that Jesus died, and we have inherited His estate. He left it to us. He rose again, so He will share it with us, and us to Him. But that’s why the Bible frequently describes our future in terms of an inheritance. Daniel came to the end of his life, but not really. The end was only a beginning, and when we’re in heaven together we can ask Daniel all about the parts of his book we still don’t understand, and we’ll enjoy our inheritance together. For the people who know their God will be strong and do exploits.