VISIONS OF THE END Daniel 10–12
“He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things about the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed” (Dan. 11:36).Among the great movements of peoples and armies described in this chapter, the character of God’s opponents stands out.
Daniel’s persistent prayer was answered (10:1–21). He gained further revelations concerning future tribulations under Antiochus (11:1–35) and Antichrist (vv. 40–45). Daniel’s book concludes with a picture of the final Tribulation and triumph of God’s Old Testament people (12:1–13).
Understanding the Text
“Since the first day . . . your words were heard” Dan. 10:1–12. After 21 days of fasting, the aged Daniel’s prayer was answered by the appearance of an angelic messenger. Daniel was first complimented (vv. 10–11), and then encouraged. It had not taken 21 days for God to pay attention to Daniel’s prayer, nor had He delayed His answer. What a verse to hold on to when God seems to delay His answer to our prayers. As soon as our prayers are uttered, God does hear and answer. It may take time for that answer to arrive. But we need not doubt either the love of God, which moves Him to listen, or the power of God, which guarantees His ability to do whatever is best. “The prince of the Persian kingdom” Dan. 10:13–21. The angel who spoke to Daniel provided a fascinating insight into the unseen world. His mention of Michael makes it clear that the “princes” of this text are also angels of significant status. Even more can be deduced from the ability of the angelic “prince of Persia” to prevent the messenger from reaching Daniel until Michael intervened. The incident suggests, first, that angels are of different rank and power. Second, Satan’s fallen angels are actively opposing the intent of God. Third, an invisible war between angelic armies even now is taking place on hidden battlefields. Fourth, what happens in that warfare can and does have an impact on events here on earth. Yet the future is “written in the Book of Truth.” All the efforts of Satan’s minions will ultimately prove futile. How does all this relate to you and me? It reminds us of what the Book of Hebrews says about the role of angels. They are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Heb. 1:14). The prize in God’s invisible war with Satan is not just final victory. It is the good or harm done to persons whom God loves. And God’s angels, a great host, actively minister to you and me, guarding us from the harm that God’s great enemy and ours seeks to do. “I tell you the truth” Dan. 11:1–35. Daniel had been granted a vision of a terrible future war, and begged God for more information. The angel messenger was sent to explain. The Hebrew word for “truth” is rooted in the concepts of faithfulness and reality. What the angel revealed would surely come to pass, and be worked out in Daniel’s world of space and time. In outline, the angel briefly related what would happen from that time to the death of Alexander (vv. 1–4), described wars that would be fought between the Ptolemies of the south and the Selucids of the north (vv. 5–20), and then focused on the terrible persecution of the Jews to be conducted by Antiochus Epiphanes in the 160sB.C (vv. 21–35). All this is now past history. But the scene then shifts, as it frequently does in prophecy, to an analogy of Antiochus. Even as Antiochus persecuted the Jews, his end-times counterpart, the Antichrist, will ravage the final generation of Jews (vv. 36–39). But his initial triumph will end in rage and frustration, and “he will come to his end, and no one will help him” (vv. 40–45). “A time of distress such as has not happened” Dan. 12:1–13. The final chapter returns to the great end-time Tribulation (v. 1). Though many elements of the prophecy are “sealed” (not to be known or understood beforehand), the angel did go on to give a specific timetable. From the time the Antichrist sets up an abominable image (cf. Matt. 24:15–27) in a yet-to-be built Jerusalem temple, only 1,290 days (3 1/2 years by the Jewish lunar calendar) remain until the end. We play a little game in our family. While waiting to be served at a restaurant, we’ll say, “How long till the food gets here?” Each of us makes a guess, and we watch closely to see who’s right. Or we’ll be driving, and guess just how many miles it is to our destination. We announce our numbers, and then, because the best we can do is guess, we wait and see who comes closest. There’s no such hesitancy here. No guessing. Specific numbers are announced. God knows His numbers exactly. He knows what, and when. We may not understand the sealed elements of Daniel’s visions today. But we do know, from the very specificity of Scripture, that the future is known by God, and is securely in His hands. “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake” Dan. 12:2. This verse is one of the Old Testament’s clearest expressions of the hope of personal resurrection. The dead will rise, to meet their Maker and face judgment. Then some who awake will inherit “everlasting life,” and others “shame and everlasting contempt.” It is a characteristic of the Old Testament to focus on the plans of God as they relate to this earth and the earthly future of His Old Testament people. Thus the Old Testament prophets seem preoccupied with the culmination of history, with great battles to be resolved by the appearance of the Messiah, and to the blessings of a peaceful existence here in a world ruled at last by Israel’s God. On the other hand, the New Testament looks beyond this heaven and earth, and focuses our attention on an eternity in which individual believers experience personal transformation, and spend eternity with the Lord. In a way, Scripture’s visions of what will be are like a kaleidoscope. Each turn of that toy causes colored bits of glass to fall in a different way, constantly revealing complex new patterns. The view from one perspective may be different than the view from another. But each view is valid: Each shows another aspect of God’s complex and variegated purposes, and impresses us anew with the wisdom and awesome complexity of God’s eternal plan.
Successful, Until(Dan. 11)
Put in a nutshell, the theme of this chapter is the struggle of exceptional men to excel, at the cost of world peace. The theme is developed as God’s angel messenger traces for Daniel the intense competition to exist between the generals who divided up the lands conquered by Alexander the Great. Their drive to excel and that of their successors was marked by a fierce competition for territory, wealth, and glory. In describing the struggles of these ancient rulers, the biblical text gives us insights into the character of those whose goal in life is to “succeed,” no matter what the cost. Such men “stir up” their strength and courage to attack and compete with others. With “hearts bent on evil,” they lie and scheme. Using flattery or force, they corrupt others to gain their personal ends. The prime example of this kind of man is seen in verses 36–40. Driven by irresistible passions, this “king will do as he pleases,” exalting himself “above every god.” With no regard for deity or moral restraint, he “will exalt himself above them all.” It may seem strange, but something about such people seems to make for achievement. They are driven, yes. They use others, yes. They are amoral, yes. And these very traits give them an edge over those with less intense desires, greater consideration for others, and a habit of weighing choices morally. What troubles us is that while critical of such traits, all mankind seems to applaud their success. Most of history’s dictators were men like these; most business barons whose concern was solely the bottom line were like this too. For all too many people, success and sin seem to be twins, always found in each other’s company. Of course, there’s a footnote in Daniel 11’s portrait. It’s found in verse 36, and radically changes our evaluation of the man at the top. The verse says, “He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed.” Successful. Until. Yes, sin’s methods work for the man who is driven to achieve. But they only work for a time. They only work “until.” Until God intervenes. Until the day of His wrath appears. Then, at the completion of that day, the driven man’s success will crumble into dust, and all humankind will know that the truly successful person is that humble individual whose desire is to do God’s will, rather than to impose his own.
Measure success not by what a man achieves, but by how he achieves it.