Daniel the prophet warns us of terrible end-time events that will affect the entire world! But he also provides wonderful hope for those who submit to God.
Prophecy of end-time events
This final chapter of the book of Daniel focuses on end-time prophecy—events that will occur just before and after Jesus Christ returns to earth.
Satan had tried to keep Daniel from understanding the visions he had received and thus prevent God’s truth from being revealed!
Earlier, an angel had told Daniel: “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia [a powerful evil spirit] withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, [the archangel] Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come” (Daniel 10:13-14, emphasis added throughout).
Daniel 11 provides a very long and detailed prophecy of events that would occur from the time of the Medo-Persian Empire through the end time. Verse 40 speaks of this “time of the end” when “the king of the South” will attack “the king of the North.” The latter will enter the “Glorious Land” (the Holy Land) and overthrow many of the surrounding countries (verse 41).
A time of trouble is coming
Daniel 12 is a continuation of the angel’s words to Daniel. It begins: “At that time [the time of the end and the incursion of the king of the North into the Middle East] Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation” (verse 1).
This “time of trouble” corresponds with the one spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah: “Why do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor, and all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it” (Jeremiah 30:6-7).
This yet-to-be-fulfilled end-time prophecy will first be directed toward the modern descendants of the ancient Israelites, many of whom today reside in the United States, Britain and related countries. (For additional study, see the article “Jacob’s Trouble” and the section “12 Tribes of Israel.”)
Jesus Himself also referred to this time in His Olivet Prophecy saying, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22).
Signs of Christ’s return
As for exactly when Jesus Christ will return, the Bible tells us that no man may know the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36). However, we are also told that when certain signs appear, we will know that it is imminent, that it is “at the doors” (verse 33).
Regarding this end-time prophecy, Jesus told His disciples (and us today) that in the time leading up to His second coming (verses 3-7) there would be:
- Religious deception.
Since these events have been ongoing problems of mankind, Jesus referred to them as the “beginning of sorrows” (verse 8). In the time leading up to Christ’s return, these events will increase in intensity.
Then Jesus listed these signs:
- False prophets will arise to deceive many (verse 5).
- Many of God’s people will be hated, hunted and killed (verse 9).
- Lawlessness shall abound (verse 12).
- And even as these tragic sorrows intensify, “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come” (verse 14).
The gospel of the Kingdom must be preached
Jesus tells us that the gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the end times. It is the good news that Jesus is going to return to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. This is the message Jesus preached when He lived on earth as a human.
Mark documents this, writing: “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15).
Other key components of the end time include the “great tribulation” (Daniel 12:7; Revelation 12:14; Matthew 24:21-22) and the Day of the Lord, which includes the return of Jesus Christ to rule the earth.
Resurrections: some to everlasting life
The angel then told Daniel: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth [those already dead] shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt [those who have rejected God and turned their backs on Him]” (Daniel 12:2). These awakenings refer to resurrections—God’s process of bringing people who are dead back to life.
Then the angel revealed: “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (verse 3). These people are ones who will be part of the first resurrection.
Those in the first resurrection will be changed into spirit as they rise from their graves to meet Christ in the air when He returns to earth (1 Thessalonians 4:15-16; 1 Corinthians 15:50-52). God’s people who are alive at this momentous time will also be changed into spirit and likewise rise to meet Christ at His return.
As Paul explained, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Saints who are changed into immortal beings in the first resurrection will then rule the earth with Christ for 1,000 years. “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6).
For further study, see “What Are the Resurrections?”
How do we know Daniel 12 refers to the future?
Verse 4 of Daniel 12 then reads: “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end.” What this means is that Daniel’s prophecies would not be fully understandable until the end times prior to Christ’s return.
Previously, Daniel had told King Nebuchadnezzar that “there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets” (Daniel 2:28). In spite of Satan’s attacks, Daniel was able to record these key concepts for people living in the tumultuous time before Christ’s return.
The end time of Daniel 12:4 is described as a time when “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Certainly over the last 100 years methods of travel have been developed that make it possible for men to journey across the world in a short time, and the number of people visiting other countries has mushroomed.
Also over the last 100 years, the rate of accumulation of new knowledge has exponentially increased. World-changing inventions like penicillin, the atomic bomb, heart transplants, travel to the moon, and the Internet have seemingly arrived almost together. So now the meaning of the book of Daniel is becoming clearer to us!
How long will the Great Tribulation last?
Daniel 12:5-6 continues: “Then I, Daniel, looked; and there stood two others. … And one said to the man clothed in linen, … ‘How long shall the fulfilment of these wonders be?’” Here, one angel asks another how long these final wonders (including the “time of trouble” spoken of in verse 1) will last.
The answer follows in verse 7: “It shall be for a time, times, and half a time [“three and one-half years,” Nelson Study Bible]; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.” For further explanation of this 3½-year period, see the article “Great Tribulation.”
The wise shall understand
Although Daniel apparently understood part of what he was inspired to write (Daniel 10:14), he was curious to know the final outcome. “Then I said, ‘My lord, what shall be the end of these things?’ And he said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end’” (Daniel 12:8-9).
Then the angel continued: “Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand” (verse 10). The “wicked” are those who break and ignore God’s law. The “wise” are those living at the end of the age, who humbly obey God’s commands. These people are promised understanding by God.
Beware the abomination of desolation!
Daniel 12:11 describes two simultaneous events that apparently begin just before the start of the 3½ years of tribulation. The passage states that “from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days.”
The first part of this verse is clear: In order for animal sacrifices to be stopped, sacrifices must have resumed by this time. But what is this “abomination of desolation”?
Jesus Christ spoke of this sign of the end of this age and His imminent return saying, “‘Therefore when you see the “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place’ (whoever reads, let him understand)” (Matthew 24:15).
This passage indicates that the sign is something that we will be able to literally see and that it can be understood by those who read this prophecy. For additional study, see “What Is the Abomination of Desolation?”
Jesus spoke of another event that will occur at the same time: “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near” (Luke 21:20).
As these prophesied events begin to unfold, God’s people need to remember that Daniel was also told: “And at that time [this time of the end] your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1).Now Daniel 12:12 offers a blessing: “Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days.” God places great emphasis on patient endurance at the end of this age of man. This is similar to Jesus’ instruction: “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
Although it remains to be seen exactly when the 1,290 days and the 1,335 days will begin and end, these end-time events all seem to culminate at the time of the return of Jesus Christ. The point is: God’s people will need to endure until these times are fulfilled.
Daniel prophesied the deliverance of God’s people in the end times
As these prophesied events begin to unfold, God’s people need to remember that Daniel was also told: “And at that time [this time of the end] your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1).
In the broadest sense, the return of Jesus Christ will bring deliverance not only to the Jewish people, but also to the people of God (who are now of all nationalities and backgrounds) and the whole world. Yet when we specifically consider what will happen to the people of God, the Bible has some important explanations and advice.
Regarding people who have their names “written in the book,” this phrase seems to be referring to the “Book of Life”—a document containing the names of God’s faithful people (Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; 22:19). A careful study of the passages speaking of the “Book of Life” reveals that those whose names will be included in this book will be obedient to the instructions found in the Bible (especially note Revelation 3:5 and 20:12).
Protection for God’s people during the end times
God said to Church members in Philadelphia, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10). Although we are not given every detail as to how God will protect His people during the end time, we do find two components of this protection.
First, Christ spoke of a time when Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies, which would be a sign for the people of God to flee that area. “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her” (Luke 21:20-21).
In type this occurred when the Roman army marched into Judea and surrounded the city of Jerusalem beginning around A.D. 66. (Jerusalem fell in A.D. 70.) The final fulfillment of this sign will take place again at the time of the end.
Why is fleeing Jerusalem necessary? Because “these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled” and because “there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people” (verses 22-23).
During this time, the Church, which comprises God’s people, will be gathered “to her place,” where she will be nourished for 3½ years “from the presence of the serpent” (Revelation 12:14). For additional study, see “Place of Safety.”
The really good news
The prophecy in Daniel 12 is not only about a future “time of trouble” that will occur at the end of this “present evil age” (Daniel 12:1; Galatians 1:4). It is also about people being “delivered”—which is the greatest news in the Bible!
Jesus Christ is going to return and establish the Kingdom of God. As Daniel had explained to King Nebuchadnezzar, this Kingdom will eventually “break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).