The story of Daniel cannot end with the destruction of antichrist because the mighty works of God do not end there. The climax is doxology. The Book of Revelation ends with a choir singing praise to God. It is not enough that the enemy of God is conquered. What is creaturely power before omnipotence ? What other outcome could there be ? You do not magnify God by saying he succeeded in crushing a worm. The Book of Daniel ends with the cosmic triumph of Christ over death itself, and the last chapter of Daniel contains a message of new covenant hope. “But at that time your people – everyone whose name is found written in the book – will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake …” (12:1 & 2). This will occur “at that time” (12:1), that is, when antichrist is destroyed then resurrection glory begins. That deliverance does not come by the heroic courage of men but by an act of God. The Lord of Hosts, and with him all his holy angels led by Michael the great prince, “will arise” (12:1). That is how the 12th chapter commences.
The hosts of heaven have waited long for “that time” – the angels poised on the ramparts of heaven, their weapons ready, waiting on their Lord’s sign, that they may come in their legions and deliver God’s people and assist in the raising of the dead. They are grieved at all they have witnessed. The innumerable company of heaven have longed for the trumpet blast to sound the attack. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Psalm 34:7). In our day Christendom is worshipping angels. Angelolatry is one of the heresies of the age. We do not react against that by ignoring what the Bible says about these servants of God who are ministering spirits to the church. We experience something of the fulfilment of the promise, “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone” Psalm 91:11 & 12).I remember putting a tiny grandson on a sledge on a slippery slope and letting him go off. To my horror he went like lightning, towards an opening where there were cars going back and forth, myself running in slow motion behind him, crying from my heart that God would spare him. The sledge veered off the path into a post, leaving him with a black eye, and myself with a broken spirit. God sent his angel to protect him. How many dangers have we been delivered from ? There was One who refused the help of angels when he hung on the tree, in order that we might have their unseen support and ministry day by day. He struggled with demons so that we could be surrounded by angels.
Who is it that are going to be delivered ? “Everyone whose name is found written in the book” (12:1). This Lamb’s Book of Life records all that the Father gave to the Son in a donation of grace and love before the foundation of the world. Those also have their names written on the palms of Christ’s hands in marks of indelible grace. The same names were on his heart when he refused to end the enfleshment and come down from the cruel Cross. Some people have a singular obsession that their names are recorded in somebody’s will. The Christian has learned that he cannot serve God and mammon and his hope is that he is a true believer, because his name is written in the book. The Christian cannot read that volume while he is in the world, but there is another book that the Christian may read and that is the Bible. Every place where the Christian sees ‘sinner’ and ‘ungodly’ then he reads his own name there. Every time he sees a description of a believer, what a believer believes, and how a believer lives, he prays, “O enable me to believe this. Enable me to live like this.” That is the principal means of attaining the assurance that our names are recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
There was once a Christian Welshman called Cadwaladr Jenkins, and Cadwaladr Jenkins had no assurance of salvation. This went on for months and even years, and that he was not saved was his constant fear. Then one night he had the most wonderful dream. He was caught up into heaven and he entered a great hall of glory where he saw a table on which lay a huge book. He walked up to the book and opened it, turning the pages to the letter J. He went down with his finger past the James’s to the Jenkins’s and there, finally, in letters of gold he read the name “Cadwaladr Jenkins.” His own name recorded there. He woke up the next morning overwhelmed with joy and walked on air all the morning. At noon the doorbell went and at the door there stood a stranger who when he spoke to him had an Australian accent. Cadwaladr asked, “Yes, what can I do for you ?” The stranger said, “Do you remember many decades ago your father’s younger brother emigrated to Australia ? ” “Yes, I do remember him telling me that,” said Cadwaladr. “Well, I am his son, and your cousin.” “My cousin ?” said a dumb struck Cadwaladr. “I’ve come back for the first time to meet my family here.” “Come in. Come in,” said Cadwaladr, “what’s your name ?” “Well,” his cousin said shyly, “my father loved your name so much that he called me Cadwaladr Jenkins too.” With that knowledge all the joy and assurance the dream had given the Welshman evaporated in a moment.
No mortal can ever read the Lamb’s Book of Life before he enters the dwelling place of the King, but as he reads this Bible day by day every true Christian will say, “Now that is what I believe by grace, and that is how I want to live.” God will help us, and on the basis of this testimony of the Word of God a growing confidence will be ours. The Spirit by the Word will bear witness with our own spirits that we are children of God.
What will happen when the angels come at the trumpet of God ? “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life” (12:2). Their sleep is over and in the twinkling of an eye they will be changed at the last trump. This corruptible must put on incorruption, this mortal must put on immortality. The logic of the resurrection of the Lord Christ demands it. “Awake … to everlasting life !” But there is another resurrection – “others to shame and everlasting contempt” (12:2). Many of those men and women had indulged their bodies, giving in to every desire. They filled themselves with alcohol. They gorged themselves with food. They injected themselves with drugs which they snorted, smoked, chewed, inhaled and swallowed. They pampered and besotted their bodies. Their god was their belly, and in the end they hated their bodies with all their lusts, passions and cravings. They sighed in their dark night and thought it would be good to be dead. “Welcome sweet sleep We will be glad to finish with these insatiable bodies for ever.” But when God comes on that tremendous day, and all his holy angels with him, their bodies will rise again – the addict’s body and the drunkard’s body. Casanova’s body will rise again, and what hateful bodies they will be in that day, rising to shame and everlasting contempt: monstrous and misshapen bodies manifest with all the ugliness of sin, unchecked by God’s common grace: revolting bodies ! All that is of the divine image, all the restraints of God’s goodness to all people, removed for ever. Christ said it will be so. He who cannot lie declared it. “Marvel not that I say unto you, the hour is coming, in 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” (John 5:28 & 29). The God who cannot lie said those words.
Those in the Lamb’s Book of Life will enjoy everlasting life. “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens” (12:3). A footnote in the NIV suggests the alternative translation, “those who impart wisdom.” Not only are they wise but they commend it to others. What is wisdom? To fear the Lord is its beginning, and in the treasures of the Bible it is sustained. Its embodiment is found in the Word who became flesh. That wisdom is theirs and that is what they impart, impressing it upon their children and all over whom they have any influence. Their concern is for people to be wise. We have all met men who obviously spend a great deal on their personal appearance. Their hair is cut in a certain way, their jewellery, the lotions they put on themselves, the expensive clothes that they wear, the shoes that they wear, and even the body piercing, are all careful self-promotion. But the appearance is to no avail because when you meet them they are characterised by folly. They are ignorant about the ABC of life. Who am I ? What is man’s chief end ? What is the good life ? Who is God ? How can I be saved ? What is death ? What lies beyond ? The unwise cannot answer those questions: they have nothing to give. It is “those who impart wisdom who will shine like the brightness of the heavens” (12:3). These are the people who can “lead many to righteousness” (12:3). So those whose names are in the Lamb’s Book of Life are passionately concerned about other people. The definition of the goal of evangelism here is leading dying sinners to righteousness. Those who will be raised to everlasting life will shine like the stars for ever and ever.
The church always has such luminaries. No Christian has any lack of them. I have always had ‘stars’ in my firmament. Over 40 years ago when grace first changed my life I began to discover them, an Inter Schools Christian Fellowship worker, some fellow pupils, a much teased teacher, camp officers, students at Cardiff University, professors at Westminster Seminary, and even some preachers ! Today a number lead the church where I am pastor. They’ll never know they were my heroes and everything I’d like to be. So I fly higher than an eagle: they are the wind beneath my wings. Every Christian can think of a cluster of stars, beaming away constantly serving God in Kenya or Sicily or Cyprus. It is a tough vocation, but they shine like stars in the universe as they hold out the word of life (Phils.2:15). How dark our world would be without them. How tough it would be to steer a straight course without such reference points
This long revelation from the Holy One is finally coming to an end. “Close up and seal the words of the scroll,” (12:4) he says to Daniel. So this panorama of history that began at the end of chapter 10 finishes. When Daniel has heard it all he is conscious of two others, perhaps two divine witness confirming the truth of what has been said, have also been listening intently. One of them now speaks up and the question he asks is, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled ?” (12:6) It is the same question Daniel’s predecessor Isaiah asked when he received his tough commission, “For how long, O Lord ?” (Isaiah 6:11). It is the question of many of the psalmists, “How long will it be ?” (Psalm 90:13). My vocation from God may be to serve him in a barren place and the future is full of trials, but I know that this is exactly where God has put me, so I am not going to complain. I have learned in whatsoever state I am to be content. I am allowed to ask, how long?
The strange answer is that “It will be for a time, times and half a time” (12:7). We wonder if Daniel was satisfied with that? Who would be contented with that answer ? Daniel is told more, something he did not ask. “When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed” (12:7). Holy people have power. They are energised by an indwelling Saviour. They have unlimited access to Omnipotence. They can do all things through Christ who strengthens them. They can feed their enemies when they hunger; they can forgive 70 times 7; they can go the second mile; they can keep their marriage vows; they can love one another with pure hearts fervently. Those among them who are strong can bear the burdens of the weak. Each one of them deems the other better than himself. Christians are so strong that they will inherit the earth. The focus of the Spirit Wars is to destroy such strengths. Perilous times come when they are under attack. Jesus asks when the Son of Man comes will he find such faith that that is powerful on the earth?
“How long will it be ?” The answer was for a time, times and half a time. Daniel did not understand the reply. It has not been given to the church to know the time of the end because it is not important for us to know it. The logic is that in an hour that you think not the Son of Man will come, so be always ready. Daniel is told “a time” – a time when another antichrist establishes his kingdom: and “times” – double the affliction; twice the intensity of grief and the fiery furnace, when the church desperately looks for deliverance: and “half a time” – even worse, when the power of God’s people is finally broken, and the love of many grows cold – then deliverance comes. “Half a time” was the period when one antichrist said he had set up a Reich that would last a thousand years: it lasted twelve. He comes. The Lord Jesus is coming. When the church is at its weakest, and congregations think “He will not come for us because we are so weak … how we let him down … how unprofitable we are … he wouldn’t come for me,” it is exactly then that he comes for us.
Daniel tells us, “I heard, but I did not understand” (12:9). He had walked with God all his life. He had the charisma of prophecy, and could interpret great mysteries with the fullest accuracy and authority, but he was also a man of like passions as ourselves. There were truths that came to him from God and however much he exercised his mind about them he ultimately shook his head in ignorance before them. Isn’t that encouraging to everyone ? There is this Book with its great profundities and we sometimes feel like Sir Isaac Newton as if we were standing before a vast ocean picking up one or two pebbles.
God says to him, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end” (12:9) The Word of God is settled and complete. Heaven and earth may go out of fashion but this Book will never become passé. All that it records is going to be accomplished, but as for the actual time of that, no man needs to know. “None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand” (12:10). “Go your way Daniel,” God says (12:9) Then he repeats that exhortation, “As for you, go your way till the end” (12:13). God is exhorting Daniel not to worry about the times and the seasons but to go on his way through life as a servant of God. It is the greatest blessing to have found this way. Many never find the way, living lives without purpose and without shape. They are guided by their own feelings into spontaneous actions that are frequently destructive. They have relationships at whim, and religion at whim, employment at whim, and all their behaviour at a whim. They expect preternatural nudges and hunches to accompany them always, and they will be persuaded that they are from the living God. But Daniel had a way on which he had travelled from youth, and now as an old man God is saying to him, “Carry on.” He found the way and never left it. It was leading him to life. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the way.” That way is explained in the Word of God. There can be no greater fulfilment in life that to find that way and then to go on it until the end. “Go your way !”
How long did Antiochus Epiphanes dominate Jerusalem ? Between 1,290 and 1,335 days, (12:11 & 12), that is, about three and a half years. It was just a matter of days. Not decades or centuries – just some days and that frightening evil was overthrown. Satan’s little season is quickly gone. “Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the days” (12:13). Let’s keep going on our way, though it sometimes leads through Vanity Fair, into the Valley of the Shadow, across Enchanted Ground and up Hill Difficulty, because that is the way God has prescribed. It is a good way and holy way and the weariness we experience on it is much to be preferred to the sloth of the sluggard. “You will rest,” Daniel is assured (12:13) “and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance” (12:13). That is where the way ends, with an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled and that fades not away reserved in heaven for us. That allotted span is quickly over, and it were a well spent journey though 7 deaths lay before us. It will be all over in the twinkling of an eye: we shall soon be meeting at Jesus’ feet. Let all who read these words make sure they are found in Christ and ready in that great day.