In this essay we will complete the final vision of the book of Daniel. The last two essays have dealt with this final vision. As we have seen, it is a long vision, with three sub-visions within it. The first sub-vision was of a visitor by the Tigris River in chapter 10. The second sub-vision, in 11:1-39, was a prophecy of future events regarding coming kings. These events were revealed to Daniel by the Tigris River visitor. The third sub-vision, with which we are dealing in this essay, is found in 11:40-12:3. It is a vision of the end-time. The next essay will be the last in the series and will conclude our study of Daniel. In it we will study the end of the book in 12:5-13, and we will do an analysis of the parallel aspects of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2, and the visions given to Daniel in chapters 7-12.
All right, let us turn to 11:40-12:3, the vision of the end-time. As I mentioned in the last essay, some scholars believe that the typical leap to the end time that we have observed at the end of each of the visions in the book begins for this last vision at verse 36. But if it does not begin there, it certainly does at verse 40. You will notice that I have opted for verse 40.
First note that Verse 40 begins, “At the time of the end ….” There could be no clearer marker that we are now reading a prophecy of the end-time.
Second, there is no possibility that this section relates to Antiochus IV. It simply does not fit the historical situation of Antiochus IV. It has to do strictly with the end-time.
Let me give you some historical background, so that you can see that this part of the prophecy does not refer to Antiochus. As we noted in the last essay, Antiochus’ second campaign against Egypt took place in 168 B.C. The Romans frustrated him by telling him that an attack on Egypt would be an attack on them. Therefore he had to return without defeating Egypt. So on the way back, he took out his frustration on Israel.
Now from Antiochus’ point of view, he had good reasons to attack Israel. The Jews traditionally followed their unique religious ways, and their foreign rulers allowed them to do that. But Antiochus did not want to allow them to do it.
Therefore even before this Egyptian campaign, Antiochus had determined he was going to make the Jews conform to the Hellenistic religious culture. The Jews of course had resisted, and Antiochus did not like it.
So when Antiochus could not use his army against Egypt, he took advantage of the opportunity to force the Jews to toe the line. While he was returning home, he attacked Jerusalem; he killed many of the Jews; and profaned the Temple. In the latter case, he built an altar to Zeus in the Temple, and sacrificed swine on the altar. In the prophecy, at the historical level, this profaning of the temple was the “the abomination that makes desolate” of 11:31.
Now as we have seen, all of this was prophesied; and it all happened as prophesied. But that brings us to the end of the part of the prophecy that had a fulfillment at the historical level.
Now we have come to an important place in our understanding of this final vision. The next historical event of note was the so-called Maccabeean Revolt that began in the following year, 167. That came about because of Antiochus’ determination to make the Jews conform.
Antiochus decreed in 168, after his attack on and profanation of the temple, that all Jews had to participate in pagan sacrifices. In order to follow up and enforce his decrees, Antiochus sent representatives to various Jewish villages to oversee the process.
One of the representatives came to the village of Modin, which is near Jerusalem. He called everyone together and ordered the elderly priest of the town, whose name was Mattathias, to offer a sacrifice to one of the Hellenistic gods. Mattathias refused.
Another villager stepped forward and said he would do it. This made Mattathias so angry he killed both the willing villager and the representative of Antiochus.
Of course this made Mattathias an outlaw. He and his five sons fled to the hills with some sympathizers and began a gorilla war against the Seleucids that lasted for 25 years. And wonder of wonders, they won! Thus Israel gained her independence as a nation for the first time since 586 B.C.
None of that history is in this prophecy. Notice that verses 40ff. suggest another Egyptian campaign by the king of the North. For Antiochus, that would have been a third against Egypt. 1 Maccabees tells us (3:27ff) that after the events of the earlier portion of chapter 11, Antiochus split his army into two parts. He left one part to fight against the Maccabees, but Antiochus himself returned to Persia with the other part; and he died in Persia in 164 B.C.
Again none of that is here in the prophecy. This prophecy is about the end-time, not about Antiochus. Most evangelical interpreters believe that this end-time king of the north will be the end-time Antichrist.
At any rate, the end-time king of the North will conquer “the glorious land,” that is Israel. He also will conquer Edom, Moab and Egypt (vv. 41-42). Then he will press further south and conquer the Libyans and Ethiopians (v. 43). And finally he will take up residence in Israel, where he will be killed (v. 45).
None of this fits the historical events of Antiochus’ life. But it does fit the Old Testament prophecies about the end of the Antichrist (Ezek. 39:1-6; Joel 2:30-3:3; Zech. 14:1-3; cf. Rev. 19:11-21).
Now we come to chapter 12. Chapter 12 begins with another time reference, “At that time….” We must ask, “At what time”? It was at the time of the end, as indicated at the beginning of 11:40.
In 12:1-3, once again we get differing interpretations among evangelicals. All agree that the “time of trouble such as never has been seen” of verse one will be the Great Tribulation of the end-time. They also agree that verse two is speaking of end-time resurrections.
There are two major differing opinions among evangelical interpreters. There is the interpretation of the Dispensationalists, believe that the Church will be raptured from the earth prior to the Great Tribulation, and will be safe in heaven during that time of unparalleled suffering. Thus they believe that the people of God on the earth, who will be delivered by Michael, will be Daniel’s people in a literal sense. They will be Ethnic Israel.
Therefore the Dispensationalists believe that it is national Israel who, during the Great Tribulation, will be persecuted by the Antichrist and delivered when Christ destroys the Antichrist and his armies at Armageddon. And it is the Jews who die under the persecution of the Antichrist who will be resurrected “to everlasting life” when the Tribulation period ends, so that they can participate in the millennial reign of Christ.
It is not evident from Daniel, but those who are raised to “shame and everlasting contempt” are not raised at the same time as the others. Rev. 20: 4-5 shows that they will not be resurrected until after the Millennium.
The alternative evangelical interpretation that I call the traditional would deal with the passage a little differently. The traditional view believes that the second coming of Christ will not be in two phases, as the Dispensationalists suggest.
In other words the Church will not be raptured before the Tribulation. Rather, the rapture will occur after the Tribulation, during a single complex of events that will make up the second coming of Christ.
This means that the Church will be present on the earth during the Tribulation, rather than in heaven. It means that the Church (the New Israel) rather than Ethnic Israel will be the people of God who will endure the persecutions of the Antichrist, and who will be delivered by Michael and Christ.
The “many” who will be resurrected to “everlasting life” (Dan. 12:2) will be all of the believers who have died, whether they died before or during the Tribulation. They will participate in what the Revelation calls the “first resurrection” (Rev. 20:4, 6).
The traditional interpreters would agree with the dispensationalists that the resurrection of the dead unbelievers to “shame and everlasting contempt” will not take place until after the millennium. The vision given to Daniel did not show the millennium intervening between the resurrections. We learn that from the Revelation.