|Daniel chapters 2, 7, 8, 9, 10-11, 12, overview||WhyProphets.com|
|Daniel chapter 12 - the Restoration of the Gospel||
"Knowledge shall be increased"
- a voice from the dust.
|Daniel 12 is perhaps the most important chapter in
all scripture, from the point of view of understanding
the last days. It concludes and summarizes the book of
Daniel, the book that contains more detail on the history
of the world than any other book of scripture.
The chapter contains no less than three key prophetic time spans, covering the period from the various wars of chapter 11 to the Second Coming of Jesus. And it starts with a powerful description of the work of the Saints of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days.
Introduction: a superficial reading of Daniel 12
When I first read Daniel chapter 12, like most people I assumed that it was simply about the Second Coming. Verse one seemed to refer to the coming of the "Ancient of days", verse two seemed to describe the resurrection, and the other verses seemed to describe the triumph of the saints in a general way. But that reading ignored some major problems. Note: in this page, as in others unless specified, I follow the King James Version, referring to a Hebrew Study Bible as needed.
Superficial readings in general
My previous reading of Daniel 12 reminds me of the time I was first at university (Stirling, 1988-91). For a time I joined the student Bible study group. It was not run by the LDS church, and I thought I might learn something. I certainly did! Every week, the group would read some great and powerful prophecy or wonderful description of the state of Israel. Then the leader of the group would interpret it in a "lowest common denominator" fashion. "This verse means Jesus is Lord" or "that verse was a minor event in ancient times".
I am probably over-simplifying, but that is how it came across to me. They would read some inspiring passage, full of glory and nuances, and say it just means "God loves us". It was like covering the scriptures with a gaussian blur. (PhotoShop users will know what I mean.) Of course they were right as far as the general message was concerned - Jesus is Lord, and God does love us, but they were missing all the detail! That is how I later approached Daniel 12. "It just says the saints will be blessed when Jesus comes" I thought. But there is so much more.
|Daniel 12:1 - the context|
Daniel 12:1 - the role of Michael
Michael, we learn here, is a great prince (the context suggests he is an angel) who helps God's people. Even though he may be the same as the Ancient of days, the speaker chooses not to call him that in this verse. So we should not assume that the events in verse one are the same as the appearance of the Ancient of days. Indeed, verse one describes a time of great trouble, not a triumphant meeting. So this is something else.
Daniel 12:1 - the time of trouble
A superficial reading might suggest that this "time of trouble" is the same as the 1260 "days". But the speaker is careful to make clear that this is a time when God's people are delivered. How is someone delivered? By a period of captivity ending. This verse, then, must refer to the end of the time the saints were "in the hand" of their enemies. Only one period of history fits that description - the end of the 1260 "days" of the horn (Daniel 7:25).
|"Awake and arise,
oh ye slumbering nations!"
(LDS Hymns, number 8)
Daniel 12:2 uses the familiar language of Isaiah 52:1-2:
"Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion . . . Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion."
(LDS readers will note a similar prophecy, in the same context, in 1 Nephi 14:7)
Daniel 12:2 - this is NOT the resurrection
It is common to interpret the phrase "many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake" as referring to the resurrection. But this has at least two major problems:
- First, that is not the usual meaning of such a phrase. The imagery has a well established, and quite different meaning.
- Second, this is not how the resurrection will occur, according to the Bible.
First let us look at the resurrection. Daniel 12:2 describes the awaking of the just AND the unjust when God's people are delivered, yet the Bible is clear that only the just will be resurrected when Jesus returns - the rest have to wait much longer. (See Revelation 20:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). We cannot argue that Daniel is referring to the entire series of resurrections, because that will include everybody, both just and unjust (Acts 24:15), yet Daniel says only "some" will awaken.
A further problem is what the awakened saints then do: they go and preach the Gospel (see commentary below). They would not do this if Jesus was in the process of returning, as then it would be too late for mankind to repent . Remember the parable of the wise and foolish virgins!
Does "sleeping" mean dead?
Nowhere in the Old Testament does the word translated as "sleeping" refer to death. It usually means literally sleeping, but occasionally means not being awake to God's call. For example, in Isaiah 5:27, of those who gather to the Lord's ensign in the last days, "none shall slumber or sleep". In Isaiah 51:9 to awaken is to begin to act. The symbolism is expanded in the New Testament in Romans 13:11; 1 Corinthians 15:34 and Ephesians 5:14.
What does "the dust of the earth" mean?
Although the phrase "dust of the earth" can mean "the place of death", but only in certain circumstances, that is not its usual meaning. The dust of the earth is often used in the Old Testament to represent what is very common, very cheap, or small, dirty, etc. For example, large numbers of people are compared to the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:16; 28:14; 2 Chronicles 1:9). At other times, items of low value are compared to the dust of the earth (Psalm 7:5; 44:25; Amos 2:7; Zechariah 9:3).
The only three occasions in the Old Testament when "dust of the earth" is clearly in the context of death are when the writers wish to emphasize dust-like views of death: Job 7:21 is in the context of great pessimism and suffering (Job 7:15-21). Ecclesiastes 12:7 is in the context of people being brought low (verses 3-5), in a generally pessimistic view. Isaiah 26:19 mentions death in the context of those who have been humbled to the dust (Isaiah 26:5-6). These three are exceptions, not the rule. Generally "death" is simply called "death".
In conclusion, the phrase "dust of the earth" in the Old Testament refers to that which is common or low (or literally the dust). It occasionally means "death", but not usually.
Note to LDS readers: I have just written that Daniel 12:2 is not about the resurrection. Yet the LDS edition of the Bible has a footnote that refers the user to the Topical Guide, under "Resurrection". But the footnotes, like the Bible Dictionary and maps, are for convenience only. They are not scripture. As the preface to the LDS Bible Dictionary states, when something is said in the dictionary it is "not intended as an official or revealed endorsement" by the church, and is "subject to reevaluation based on new research". As an example of this, my 1979 LDS edition of the Bible includes a map of "The Exodus" (Map 3), which follows traditional Christian views, but does not follow the Bible. It shows the route of the Exodus, not according to Exodus 14:1-22, but avoiding the Red Sea! Clearly the LDS study helps can be very helpful, but they are not scripture.
Daniel 12:2 - "shame and everlasting contempt"
As for Daniel's comment about "some to shame and everlasting contempt, this may refer to how people feel who awaken to the gospel, then reject it. I do not believe that it is the saints who feel the shame and contempt, but these feelings are in the heart of the apostates. When you awaken to the truth of the gospel, you leave neutral ground forever. The worst enemies of the church are always those who were once members (see 1 John 2:18-19).
Daniel 12:3 - how do the wise shine?
The word translated as "shine" is usually translated as "teach". Verse three is all about missionary work! Jesus used the same imagery later, when he said "ye are the light of the world".
The meaning of verse three is powerful and inspiring. Those who turn people to righteousness are doing a great and noble work. They shine like the stars. They are, as Obadiah 1:21 says, "saviors on mount Zion".
Daniel 12:4 - another confirmation of this interpretation
Daniel 12:1-4 will sound familiar to anyone who has studied Isaiah 29. The saints had been brought down to the dust (Isaiah 29:3-4). They were asleep (Isaiah 29:10). Their scriptures are sealed (Isaiah 29:11). Isaiah 29 adds extra detail about the sealed book of Daniel 12:4.
It seems from Daniel 12:4 that the book is Daniel's own prophecy. But we have seen elsewhere how Daniel's book and the Book of Revelation say much the same thing. Indeed, all prophets say similar things, so it is fair to say that the sealed book of Daniel and the sealed book of Isaiah both represent sacred prophecy in general.
Isaiah 29 shows that the books of prophecy are central to the great awakening of the last days (Isaiah 29:11- "the vision of all" is sometimes translated "every vision"). Verse 14 promises a marvelous work and a wonder. Whereas the sealed book could not be read in verse 11, by verse 18 even the spiritually deaf and blind could read it.
The restoration of a book of prophecy is the key to the awakening.
|The visions of wonders|
Daniel 12: 6,7 - "the wonders"
Daniel asks for a time frame. Why would he do that? The obvious answer is to find out how long his people are going to suffer - "when is it going to end?". The end of the vision is the great awakening of verses 1-3, so the answer should tell us when the awakening was due to start.
If you look for every occurrence of the word translated as "wonder" in the Old Testament, you will find that they refer to the mighty acts of God. These include God's control of history. So it seems fair to suppose that "the wonders" relates to the events of chapter 11, with the awakening of chapter 12 as their conclusion.
Daniel is not asking about the Second Coming, or the duration of 12: 1-3
Some might say, "Daniel is asking about the events of verses 1-3.", or "he is asking about the end of the world". Some people think a final three and a half years of tribulation before the Second Coming is what Daniel meant. But a little thought shows we must reject these ideas:
How long are those "wonders"?
Although the question was about the wonders in general, the one who answered (Daniel 12:7) chose to be quite specific - referring only to the time when the holy people are scattered. This seems to be the important period - three and a half "times" or 1260 "days". This period apparently does not cover the entire period covered by Daniel 11, because it is only in verses 28-31 of chapter 11 that the saints start being under unusual pressure.
This repetition of what Daniel already knew about the "little horn" obviously did not satisfy him, as he then asked the same question again (verse 8). This time, the answer covered a greater time - the whole period of the vision, including the worst part of the "time of trouble". I have discussed the "1290" prophecy and the "1335" prophecy elsewhere, so shall leave it at that.
the bottom line
Daniel 12 appears to be a great prophecy of the work of the Latter Day Saints!