I have decided to
“tackle” Revelation as the next step in my last days study. I do so as I keep in mind Alexander Pope’s
famous epigram: “Fools rush in where
angels fear to tread.” (This was
misquoted by another great wordsmith—Ricky Nelson: “Fools rush in where wise men never
go.”) I have observed that some people
begin their presentations on Revelation by referring to 1:3, which pronounces a
blessing on those who read and those who hear the prophecy. They take this as justification for entering
into a study of the book. I do not
dispute that, though I think the verse pronounces a blessing on simply reading
and hearing the book and not necessarily on interpreting it. Nevertheless, some interpretation is probably
going to happen.
As I have worked on this
book over the years (I have studied it over a period of about 15 years), I have
noted that is a rich book. Sometimes, in
our zeal to understand the intricacies of its organization, we miss much of its
power. If you are planning to “walk”
with me through this book, I hope that you will observe some of the following
aspects of the book:
book has been important in shaping our spiritual imagination. The visions give us word pictures of angels,
heaven, the Throne, hell (the Lake of Fire), the last judgment, the New Jerusalem,
the glorified Christ, prayers of the saints, the intermediate state, and so
book has given us vocabulary that shapes our language—the Apocalypse, the Lamb
of God, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the 144,000, the Dragon, That Old
Serpent, the Devil, the Beast, the False Prophet, the Grapes of Wrath,
Armageddon, Babylon, the Hallelujah Chorus, the Rider on the White Horse, the
Millennium, the Bottomless Pit, the Great White Throne Judgment, Hades, the Lake
of Fire, the New Jerusalem, the River of Life, the Crystal Sea, the Alpha and
Omega, Washed in the Blood of the Lamb, and Bright and Morning Star.
book can shape our understanding of what it is to be a Christian. There is mention of having a testimony of
Jesus, of washing our robes in the blood of the Lamb, of having our prayers
used as incense before the Lord, of fearing God, of not taking the mark of the
Beast, of having our deeds follow us into eternity, and of staying awake and
remaining clothed during the last days (spiritually).
book contrasts sharply the righteous and the unrighteous. See the previous item for something of what
it is to be righteous. The unrighteous
bear the mark of the Beast. They are
unrepentant of worshiping demons and idols, committing murder, being involved
in magic arts, committing sexual immorality, and stealing.
book features angels prominently. They
are involved in spiritual warfare, in dispensing judgments, in pronouncing new
developments in the program of God, in the worship of God and the Lamb, and in
being instruments to convey the visions of John.
book gives us a vision of Jesus that is not found in detail in any other
book. We see Him in His glorified
state. He shares the throne with the
Father. Yet, He is the Lamb who was
book deals with the church in ways not found in other books. Jesus is seen to be the Lord of the church
universal as well as the individual local churches. Each church that is addressed in chapters 2
and 3 is seen to have individual characteristics. The local churches are addressed as such and
each church is held accountable for its behavior and attitudes.
frightening images of enormous destruction are found in much of the book, it is
still a book about victory. The saints
overcome the devil by their testimony and determination. Jesus wins the victory over the Beast and the
devil. In the final vision, there is
tranquility and joy and life and healing.
One of the
characteristics of the book is the fantastic imagery. The question for us is how do we interpret
these images? Does a great star really
fall into the rivers and springs throughout the earth (8:10)? We know that our sun is mediocre among stars
of the universe and yet it is many times the size of the earth. So how could a star fall on even a river the
size of the Amazon? I take such images
to be word pictures of the visions that were seen by John. And I believe two things about such a
vision. First, it depicts truth. By that I mean, it depicts an event that will
really happen. Second, it depicts that
truth in a way that conveys that truth with dramatic imagery. By that I mean, the image is not a videotape
of the actual event, but rather it is an image that conveys the truth of that
For example, the
following is the description of the event that I referred to, as John saw the
The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from
heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the
springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became
wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter. (Revelation 8:11-12, English Standard Version
(ESV); all quotes from ESV unless stated otherwise)
From this I would infer that
one-third of the fresh water supplies of the world will be somehow
contaminated. Moreover, although there
may be a natural immediate cause for this contamination, the actual cause is
from the heavens—possibly either an angelic or demonic intervention. This latter John saw as a great star from the
“heaven” (NIV says “sky”—the two are indistinguishable in Greek). It is my belief that when this happens, no
one will see the “great star” that John saw; they will only experience the
contamination of the water. So, John saw
a vision of the truth that this event will happen. His vision of it was not a videotape of that
event, but rather it was a revelation of the event from a heavenly, spiritual
in the interpretation of a vision of John, we need to recognize what kind of
“natural” event is being depicted. Then,
we should recognize the spiritual dimension of that event, if that is also a
feature of the vision. Beyond those
features, we also may need to recognize the role that the event plays in the
context of the narrative. We should do
all this with caution and avoid extremes in any direction. We may try to be too “natural.” By that I mean, we may try to explain the
vision in natural, cause-and-effect terms beyond what the text warrants. We also may go in the other direction and try
to be so literal that we miss the message.
In other words, we may try to explain how a star from the sky or heaven
can enter every third stream and spring in the world.
addition to dealing with the images in terms of natural versus spiritual, we
also must be cautious in assigning modern-day terminology to components of the
visions. For example, we cannot say that
John was seeing modern tank or missile warfare and tried to explain what he saw
in first century terms. We have no
warrant for such conclusions. I believe
that someday those visions will become reality and that reality will feature
the technology that is extant when the visions come to pass. Considering how fast our technology changes
today, I would be foolish to assign the technology of December, 2013, to those
visions, since that technology will be obsolete in a matter of a few months or
of the favorite references that scholars and wanna-be’s like to make is to the
“apocalyptic” genre. To make the
statement that Revelation is an “apocalypse” or that is written in the
“apocalyptic genre” is a wave of the hand that is supposed to solve any
problems. Some writers use this reference to imply that we can pretty much
ignore all those fantastic images, because, after all, John was just using this
genre to convey his message.
“unpack” this term, I need to clarify two broad uses of the word
“apocalypse.” First, “The Apocalypse” is
often used as a synonym for “Revelation,” the last book in the Bible. This is a legitimate use of the word. “Apocalypse” is derived from the transliteration
of the Greek apocalupsis, which is
the first word of the book. The word
means “revelation” or “unveiling.” The
book begins: “Revelation of Jesus
Christ…” Sometimes “The Apocalypse of
John” is used to refer to the book.
These uses of the term carry no weight of additional connotation. On the other hand, “apocalypse” or
“apocalyptic” is often used in a way that implies a great deal about style and
were, during the period from somewhat before Christ to somewhat beyond the
first century, a number of books written that had a particular style that is
called “apocalyptic.” These include I
Enoch, II Baruch, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Ascension of Isaiah (Rist,
343). Many scholars assign Revelation to
that group. According to Rist, writing
in The Interpreter’s Bible, these
books were not only written in a particular literary genre, but they also
reflected a particular theology, which he calls “apocalypticism” and
which he defines as follows:
[It] may be defined as the eschatological belief that the
power of evil (Satan), who is now in control of this temporal and hopelessly
evil age of human history in which the righteous are afflicted by his demonic
and human agents, is soon to be overcome and his evil rule ended by the direct
intervention of God, who is the power of good, and who thereupon will create an
entirely new, perfect, and eternal age under his immediate control for the
everlasting enjoyment of his righteous followers from among the living and the
resurrected dead.” (Rist, 347)
He further elaborates on this
definition with the following features (Rist, 347-351):
is always eschatological—concerned with last things.
is always dualistic—a dualism of two opposing supernatural powers.
are two distinct ages—the present under the control of Satan and the one to
come, under God.
understood there are two distinct worlds.
is defined more in terms of loyalty than in terms of ethical and moral conduct.
is now transcendent on His throne, but He will soon come to rescue the
rescue will include a final cosmic struggle with Satan.
features a strong determinism.
is a simple pattern. However, complexity
is added by including secondary features that are not essential to a work’s
being classified as apocalyptic.
the secondary features that are commonly used are visions, pseudonymity of the
author, a Messiah, an Anti-Messiah or Antichrist, angels, demons, bizarre
Revelation as an apocalypse that reflects the apocalyptic theology and includes
many secondary features common to other apocalypses. He distinguishes the book from Old Testament
prophecies and from Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God. He maintains that the prophets and Jesus were
not dualistic and believed that God had not abandoned the earth to Satan, but
was very much in control (Rist, 348). He
also maintains that the apocalyptic viewpoint is that the faithful are to be
loyal to God and wait passively for God’s intervention, whereas the prophets
and Jesus called for people to exhibit the highest moral and ethical behavior
so that they can “assist in bringing the kingdom into realization here and
now.” (Rist, 349)
Another viewpoint of
Revelation and the apocalyptic is taken by Leon Morris. His definition of an apocalypse (Morris, 22)
is similar to Rist’s view, with some differences. He notes that Revelation shares with other
apocalypses symbolism, an expectation of the setting up of God’s kingdom, looking
to a new heaven and a new earth, and the mention of angels. (Morris 23)
He gives the following differences from the “typical apocalyptic”
claim to be a prophecy, in the Old Testament prophetic tradition
insistence on moral considerations
written under a pseudonym of an ancient person
optimistic; God has brought salvation in the present age; evil and Satanic
activity are depicted realistically
a recapitulation of history disguised as prophecy, but rather a prophecy of
things to come
from G. Eldon Ladd that highlights how the book holds in tension the present
and eschatology—specifically, Rome’s evils are a forerunner of the evils of the
Beast of the last days
employ an angel or God to explain bizarre visions; Revelation does this
sometimes, but often allows the vision to stand on its own.
look forward to the Messiah, who will solve the problems by his
intervention. Revelation understands
that the Messiah has already come and won a decisive victory (the Lamb who was
Ladd (Ladd, 10-11)
summarizes the views of the Preterists (see below) who assign to Revelation the
genre “apocalypse.” (He is referring to
liberal Preterists rather than evangelical Preterists.) An apocalypse expressed “the hopes of the
people whose culture produced them.” (emphasis added) Therefore, Revelation, as an apocalypse (in
the Preterist view, according to Ladd), “expresses the hopes of the early
Christians of Asia that they were about to be delivered from their troubles at
the hands of Rome.” Though John
predicted that God would intervene and Christ would come, this did not
happen. “But prophetic prediction is not
an element of the genre of the apocalyptic.
The book fulfilled its purpose in strengthening and encouraging the
first-century church. For those who
accept the claim of Revelation to be a prophecy, this view is quite
inadequate.” I agree with Ladd.
From this discussion,
we draw some observations. First, some
scholars, such as Rist, regard an apocalypse to be an expression of a
theology that they believe is quite contrary to the theology of the
Bible. When they assign Revelation among
the apocalypses, they are dismissing it as an inadequate book for
Christians. Read the conclusion of
These distinctive ideas of the writer [of Revelation] created
difficulties which would scarcely have arisen had Revelation remained outside
the canon; for then it would have been understood and interpreted with
reference to the historical situation which produced it and the purpose the
author had in its composition. In other
words, it would have been studied as objectively as uncanonical, nonscriptural
apocalypses like I Enoch, II Baruch, the Apocalypse of Peter, or the Ascension
of Isaiah are studied…But unfortunately, the canonical position of both
Revelation and Daniel, has been largely responsible for the artificial,
subjective, and arbitrary manner in which they have been treated, not only by
Christians in general but also by the majority of scholars down through the
centuries. (Rist, 353-354)
Others assign Revelation
to the genre, apocalyptic, without the theological implications that Rist
applies to the term. As Ladd explains,
in this use of the term, the genre serves the purpose of expression of hopes
without the power of a real promise from God (see above).
In other cases, there is
a somewhat middle ground between these first two uses of “apocalyptic.” For example, Hanegraaff criticizes the
“woodenly literal sense” in which Tim LaHaye interprets Revelation (Hanegraaff,
21-22). Instead, he advocates
consideration of the genre that is used by John to convey meaning:
LaHaye’s failure to consider form or genre not only leads to
unbridled speculation, but ultimately misses the underlying significance of
Revelation’s apocalyptic imagery. Far
from merely communicating that twenty-first-century Israel would be submerged
in a literal river of blood, John is using the apocalyptic language of the Old
Testament prophets to warn his hearers of the massive judgment and destruction
of the land of Israel that “must soon take place.” As Isaiah and Joel used the language of
sickles, winepresses, and blood to symbolize judgment against the enemies of
Israel’s God, so John now uses the language of the prophets to signify the impending
doom of apostate Israel. (Hanegraaff, 22)
Note that Hanegraaff is equating “extreme
and bizarre imagery” or “fantasy imagery” (emphasis added) (Hanegraaff, 33) with
“apocalyptic imagery.” This really
ignores the full definition of “apocalyptic” that Rist uses. Rist, in fact, would resist equating the Old
Testament prophets to Revelation, because he believes the apocalyptic theology
is quite different from the theology of most of the Old Testament. Hanegraaff, moreover, does not understand
“apocalyptic” as simply a vehicle to express hopes and dreams of an oppressed
people (as Ladd describes). He believes
that Revelation is a true prophecy. He
interprets that prophecy in the Preterist manner. So, his objection to Dispensationalists is
not in their recognition of Revelation as a prophecy. Rather, he rejects their interpretation of
the book as a prophecy of the end of the present order of existence. In his critique of Dispensationalism (he
focuses especially on LaHaye), he maintains that one of the reasons they fail
in their interpretation is because they do not recognize John’s use of
SCHOOLS OF INTERPRETATION
standard methods, approaches, or schools of interpretation of Revelation are
usually listed (see Morris, 16-18, and Ladd, 10-12).
or Preterism: There are two versions
One is the liberal
version. This version considers
Revelation to be an apocalypse that was written to encourage a group of
Christians. Its description of the
dramatic intervention of God—an intervention that did not happen—could be viewed
in one of two ways. Either the
prediction was an utter failure which must have disappointed its readers, or
the book was simply written in the genre of the apocalyptic with no real
promise of God’s intervention. In the
latter case, the books value to its readers was its encouragement to remain
faithful in the face of persecution (Ladd, 11).
The second version of
Preterism is the evangelical approach.
This approach does not believe that the book is a failure in its
prediction of God’s intervention.
Rather, these interpreters believe that the AD 70 destruction of
Jerusalem is being predicted by Revelation (Sproul, 137, Hanegraaff, 27, 136—although
Hanegraaff has a Futurist component to his interpretation). They believe Revelation was written before AD
70 and correctly predicted the destruction of Jerusalem.
Historicist: This approach assumes that Revelation is a
prophecy of human history from the time it was written until the Second Coming
of Christ. The two sources that I read
concerning this view had little praise for the Historical approach. First of all, it has generally concentrated
only on Western European history.
Second, it has generally been anti-Catholic (to the point that it has
been called the “Protestant view”).
Third, it has no firm guidelines of interpretation so that there have
been wide variations in the results.
Fourth, generally interpreters use the method to prove their generation
is the generation when Christ will return.
(Morris, 17, and Ladd, 11)
This approach understands Revelation to be a poetic means of presenting
certain principles by which God operates in history (Morris, 18). Ladd understands the approach to be a “symbolic
portrayal of the spiritual cosmic conflict between the Kingdom of God and the
powers of satanic evil.” (Ladd, 11) Though this method certainly reflects some of
the content of Revelation, both Morris and Ladd consider it unsatisfactory in
its absence of specifics in human history, either of the first century or the
end of the age.
This view considers that most of Revelation is concerned with the end of
the age. Ladd believes that
Dispensationalism is an extreme Futurist approach and considers his own
approach to be a moderate approach.
(Morris, 17-18, and Ladd, 12)
Most interpreters employ
more than one of these approaches. It
seems to me that one is unwise not to be open to more than one approach. An example is chapter 12, which would appeal
to the Idealist. Another example is the
content of the seven letters to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3. Dispensationalists actually employ a
Historicist approach to interpret the letters as an outline of church history
What seems most important
is to allow the book to speak for itself.
Nevertheless one most also recognize that it is a difficult book. I believe that consulting other commentators
can open one up to other possibilities and give one scholarly insight. What I hope to resist is to be so strongly
tied to a method of interpretation that I force an interpretation on a
Crossway Bibles (2009-04-09). ESV
Study Bible. Good News Publishers.
Hanegraaff, Hank. The
Apocalypse Code. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publ., 2007.
Ladd, G. Eldon. A
Commentary on the Revelation of John.
Grand Rapids: William B.
Publ. Co., 1972.
Morris, Leon. Tyndale
New Testament Commentaries. Vol.
20. The Revelation of St. John.
ed. R. V. G. Tasker. Grand Rapids:
William B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1980.
Rist, Martin. “Introduction” to “The Revelation of St. John
the Divine.” In The Interpreter’s
Vol. XII. Nashville: Abington Press, 1957.
Sproul, R. C. The
Last Days According to Jesus. Grand
Rapids: Baker Books, 1998.
THE LAST VISION OF DANIEL:
ANTIOCHUS IV EPIPHANES AND THE ANTICHRIST (CHAPTERS 10-12)
DANIEL’S EXPERIENCES AT THE BEGINNING OF THE
last vision of Daniel is long and complex.
It begins with Daniel’s experiences at the beginning of the vision. I shall not belabor that report (10:1-11:1). It is an important and fascinating account of
one of Daniel’s experiences with angels.
It reminds us of the unseen world, what Paul calls “rulers,”
“authorities,”“powers of this dark world and…spiritual forces of evil in the
heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
EVENTS LEADING TO THE PTOLEMIES AND
11:2-4, Daniel is told about various kings of the Persian Empire, about
Alexander the Great, and about the successors to Alexander. The vision does not include all of the
Persian emperors. Perhaps this is
because it is introducing the empire of Alexander and his successors, so it
only refers to three kings and then to a very wealthy king who would attempt to
invade Greece (Xerxes I). So, the focus
is on Greece. Then, Alexander and his
successors are referred to. These
successors set the stage for the two lines of rulers that are of most interest
to those in the Holy Land—the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of
Syria. The remaining material focuses on
these two ruling families.
THE PTOLEMIES AND SELEUCIDS
11:5-20 describe a whole series of wars, successions of rulers, marriages, and
intrigues of the Ptolemies and the Seleucids.
These prophecies are so detailed that one is left with one of two
conclusions. Either these prophecies are
really history that is disguised as prophecy, or they are some of the most
remarkable forecasts of all time. In the
first article of this series, I have gone through the evidence that, indeed,
Daniel was written in the 6th Century BC. I believe that evidence is convincing. When I add that to my conviction of the
inspiration of Scripture, I am left awed by these prophecies. I shall not go over them in detail and leave
the reader to consult a Bible with detailed study notes to follow through these
twists and turns of history that were predicted beforehand.
ANTIOCHUS IV EPIPHANES AND THE
11:21, a particular ruler is focused on, and this ruler is the focus of verses
11:21-35. This person is called “a
contemptible person” (11:21). The full
description of his activities confirms that he is Antiochus IV Epiphanes. I shall rely on the notes of the ESV Study
Bible (ESVSB) and NIV Study Bible (NIVSB) as well as on Miller’s comments.
of the most powerful of the Seleucids was Antiochus III, called “the
Great.” His older son, Seleucus IV
Philopator succeeded him, but was murdered in a palace intrigue. Seleucus’ son, who would later rule as
Demetrius I, was not able to rule at Seleucus’ death. NIVSB states that he was too young, and
Miller and ESVSB state that he was imprisoned in Rome. Demetrius’ uncle, the younger son of Antiochus
III seized power. (11:21) He would become Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the
in Egypt, two Ptolemies were struggling for power. Ptolemy VI attacked the forces of Antiochus
IV in order to regain control of Palestine and Phoenicia. Antiochus defeated the Egyptians and
imprisoned Ptolemy VI. His brother,
Ptolemy VII, took over Egypt. Antiochus
made a pact with Ptolemy VI, and the two of them defeated Ptolemy VII. Later, the two brothers reunited to expel the
forces of Antiochus from Egypt.
Antiochus then waged a successful campaign to invade and conquer various
Egyptian holdings, including Palestine.
He divided the spoils of war with his followers. He was successful, but God had put limits on
that success. (11:22-27)
returned from his victories in Egypt and passed through the Holy Land. He found that the Jews were rebelling. He massacred 80,000 Jews in defeating the
rebels. Furthermore, he looted the
Temple and began a campaign of persecution (169 BC). Thus, his heart was “set against the holy
covenant.” (11:28) This set off the Maccabean rebellion.
a year later, in 168 BC, Antiochus attacked Egypt (11:29-30). However, the Romans sent a fleet of ships to
meet him. These are called the “ships of
Kittim” (ESV, NIV: “ships of the western
coast”) in 11:30. The Romans ordered him
out of Egypt, and he complied. He was
“enraged” and took it out on the Jews.
His representative killed many Jews and showed favor to Jewish
apex of Antiochus’ malevolence is reached in the actions that are described in
11:31. The verse describes developments
that took place mostly in 167 BC. The
following commentary is the entry for this verse in Miller (301-302):
The temple is spoken of here as a “fortress” [NIV] either
because it was a place of spiritual strength or more likely because it was used
as a military citadel. Later, in 167
B.C., the suppression of the Jewish religion began on a grand scale (1 Macc
1:41-50; 2 Macc 6:1-6). All Jewish
religious practices such as circumcision, possessing the Scriptures, sacrifices,
and feast days were forbidden on penalty of death (1 Macc 1:50, 63); and the
imperial cult was introduced.
Desecration of the Jewish religion reached its climax on 15 Chislev
(December) 167 B.C. (1 Macc 1:54) when an altar or idol-statue devoted to Olympian
Zeus (Jupiter) was erected in the temple (“the abomination that causes
desolation”), and on 25 Chislev sacrifices, probably including swine (cf. 1
Macc 1:47; 2 Macc 6:4-5), were offered on the altar (cf Macc 1:54, 59). In this manner the temple was desecrated and
rendered empty of Yahweh worshipers.
The “abomination that makes desolate”
is referred to by Jesus in Matthew 24:15.
It is the forerunner or “type” of an abomination that will bring about
desolation at some point in the future.
(Some have related it to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. I have written articles concerning that
viewpoint.) This is very likely the
event that is referred to in II Thessalonians 2:4 and Revelation 13:14-15, when
the Antichrist/Beast exalts himself to the status of a god.
Jews, at the time of this desecration of the Temple and onslaught against their
religion, either were corrupted by Antiochus and his minions or took action. (11:32) The latter group was led by the
Maccabees, who led a revolt that eventually liberated Judea. The Temple was cleansed and rededicated on
December 14, 164 [or 165] BC (Miller, 302).
[The dates of the ancient world have at least two different systems so
that comments from sources sometimes differ by a year.]
11:33-35 describes the period of the Maccabean revolt, especially in terms of
the moral strength of the rebels and the suffering that took place. Some identify the “wise” as the Hasidim, a
Jewish sect that joined with the Maccabees, while others identify the “wise” as
the faithful true believers of all sects at the time. They would instruct people and pay a price
for their convictions. The faithful
would be led at first by the small band of rebels (“a little help”), but
eventually many, not out of conviction but of expediency would join them (“with
flattery”). The wise will
“stumble”: this probably refers to their
persecution, which is understood as their purification. The “end” is identified by some as the end of
Antiochus or the success of the rebels, or both. Others identify it with the end of this
present order of existence, which is yet future to us.
THE END TIMES (11:36-12:3)
scholars, especially dispensationalists, believe that 11:36 (some say 11:35)
marks a turning point in this last vision.
Antiochus Epiphanes is no longer in view, and another king who will “do
as he wills” is focused on. This person
is the Antichrist/Beast of II Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13. Others interpretations have also been
offered. These include that Antiochus
Epiphanes remains the subject, that the Roman Empire is the “king,” that
Constantine is in view, or that Herod is focused upon (Miller 305). The reasons scholars believe the “king” is
the last-days ruler known as the Antichrist or Beast include the following
(ESVSB and NIVSB and Miller, 304-306):
Epiphanes (“Antiochus” below) did not abandon the gods of his own culture
(verse 11:37), but worshiped various Greek gods, especially Zeus.
died in Persia, not in Palestine, as verse 11:45 indicates.
11:40 refers to “the time of the end,” which is likely a reference to the last
days of the present order of existence.
This is not consistent with the days of Antiochus.
12:1 describes “a time of trouble” that is unprecedented. Though the period of persecution under
Antiochus was very bad, it probably would not compare with the Babylonian
invasions of the 6th Century BC nor the Roman wars of the 1st
Century AD, nor to that terrible time of trouble predicted by Jesus that is yet
to come (Matthew 24:21).
12:2 predicts a phenomenon that is yet to come—except that the firstfruits were
displayed in the resurrection of Jesus.
This phenomenon is the Resurrection.
Such an event cannot be ascribed to the time of Antiochus.
Following the line of
reasoning that I just presented, I shall assume that the content of these
verses refers to the Antichrist/Beast (“Beast”). When we project upon this passage our image
of the Beast, what we read is greatly magnified. He will “do as he wills.” That is true of a lot of people, but the
Beast is the archetypical egoist. So,
also, many “exalt” themselves, but not many declare themselves above every god
(II Thessalonians 2:4). Though his
self-exaltation will “prosper” for a while, his end will come when God pours
out His indignation (ESV, NIV: wrath)
upon him. (11:36)
Though the Beast
eventually declares himself to be god, his religious belief or lack of belief
are described: he abandons the gods of
his fathers. Some have interpreted this
to mean that he will abandon the God of Israel and will be an apostate
Jew. Others believe that, since he comes
from the Roman Empire and its later manifestations, he will be an apostate Christian. (Miller, 307)
The “one beloved by women” is interpreted by some to be the
Messiah. (11:37) I think that the Beast
is depicted as coming from the fourth beast of Daniel 7. I agree with Miller that this would make him
a Gentile, most likely. There is one
possible wrinkle to this. If we remember
that Palestine was a part of the Roman Empire, we could conceive that the Beast
will arise in that area and, indeed, be a Jew.
If he claims to be the Messiah, as some believe that he will, then it is
difficult to imagine the Jews accepting anyone other than a Jew as their
Both Miller and ESVSB
advocate that the “god of fortresses” (11:38) is an expression for military
power. Thus, they believe that the Beast
will literally worship warfare and military power rather than any god. He will be willing to spend enormous wealth
to achieve military success. One is
reminded of the arms race of the last half of the twentieth century and of the
continued lavish expenditures on military might by the United States, China,
Russia, and countries of the Middle East.
I do have to question the interpretation the “god of fortresses” as
military power and warfare. The
expression seems to point to an actual god rather than simply to be a metaphor
for certain behavior. Since we see in II
Thessalonians 2:9 and Revelation 13:3-4 that the Beast is empowered by Satan
and inspires worship of Satan, it is possible that the “god of fortresses” is
Satan or some manifestation of Satan.
The Beast is described
as successful militarily. He will be
empowered by his god (previous verse). A
powerful, successful ruler has the prerogative to give out favors to those who
“acknowledge” him. Building an empire
involves selecting those who can be trusted to govern. That the Beast takes acknowledgment of
himself to an extreme is expanded in II Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13. (11:39)
Verse 11:40a is read by commentators in one of
two ways. Some (ESVSB) understand that
two enemies of the Beast are mentioned—the king of the south and the king of
the north. Others (Miller, 309)
understand the first part of the sentence to describe an attack from the south
and then the second part to describe the Beast’s response. The Beast is called the “king
of the north.” When one considers 11:40b, one should accept
the latter interpretation. In the
material in 11:5-35, the king of the north is one of the Seleucids of Syria,
and the king of the north is one of the Ptolemies of Egypt. Neither of those identities may apply in
verse 11:40. This is because we have
made a case that the material beginning at verse 11:36 applies to the Beast.
In verse 11:40b-11:42,
the Beast enters various lands, including the “glorious land” (ESV, NIV: “Beautiful Land”). NIV uses “invade” rather than “enter,” but
most other translations use “enter.”
However, invasion is the effect of his entering, since many people
“fall.” A military force “enters” a
country either as an ally or to subdue it.
Verse 11:41c states that certain countries—Edom, Moab, and Ammon—will be
spared. These are countries that were known
to the ancient world. They would be
represented by the country of Jordan today.
However, Egypt does not escape (11:42).
The scope of the Beast’s
conquests includes “Libyans and Cushites.” (11:43) The former would be equivalent to Libyan and
other North African countries. The
latter would include Ethiopia and Sudan.
(Miller, 311) Along with these territories would come great wealth. Miller conjectures that this wealth comes
The next phase of the
Beast’s military maneuvers is described in verses 11:44-45. This campaign begins with “news from the east
and the north.” This news alarms him and
he reacts in “fury” with the intent of destroying many. He pitches his tents (“palatial” or “royal”
tents) “between the sea and the glorious holy mountain.” NIV renders this: “between the seas at the beautiful holy
mountain.” The versions are divided
between these two ways of translating the phrase. If the ESV is accepted, then the Beast would
be somewhere between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean. If the NIV is accepted, the Beast’s
headquarters would be on the Temple Mount (Miller, 312). The final end of the Beast is summed up in a
brief sentence in 11:45b “Yet he shall
come to his end, with none to help him.”
The king who does as he pleases and exalts himself above all gods is
quickly disposed of.
Using various other
Scripture passages, Miller (311-313) correlates the military campaigns of
verses 11:44-45 with the Battle of Armageddon.
He believes that the events of these verses are the same as the battle
that is described in Ezekiel 38-39, the Battle of Armageddon in Revelation
16:16 and 19:11-21, and the destruction of the Beast in II Thessalonians 2:8
and Daniel 2:44 and 7:11.
The first three verses
of Daniel 12 are quite remarkable in content.
It is difficult to isolate these verses and ask ourselves how a person
of Daniel’s time or how a person two or three hundred years later would
understand these verses. We have the
advantage of other Scriptures and historical context so that we have a
framework to read these verses. At the
same time, we have to be careful and not read into them more than is
Verse 12:1 has three
sentences. The first two have some
direct New Testament connections.
Sentence 1 assures that
Michael will arise. He is the “great
prince” who protects Daniel’s people. Michael
is mentioned in 10:13 and 10:21 as the partner in warfare with the unnamed
angel who reveals the material of chapters 11 and 12. This latter angel is probably Gabriel
(Miller, 279-284). Michael is also described
in Revelation 12:7-9 as the leader in warfare with Satan (the “Dragon”). Michael will arise “at that time.” Exactly how this relates to the events that
are described in 11:36-45 is not immediately clear. However, when the second sentence is
considered, the time element is somewhat clarified.
Sentence 2 predicts “a
time of trouble.” The Greek version of
“trouble” or “distress” is thlipsis. It is the word that is used by Jesus in
Matthew 24:21: “For then there will be
great tribulation, such as has not
been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.”
(emphasis added) The word thlipsis means trouble, distress,
suffering, etc. It is related a verb
that can mean to press hard or crush. In other words, this is the kind of trouble
or distress that becomes a crushing weight.
I have heard my parents speak of the Great Depression. That was a time of trouble that weighed
people down, crushing their spirits, threatening to break them. This is the thlipsis that Jesus spoke of.
He used language that echoes this very sentence in Daniel. This is the time when Michael will arise.
Sentence 3 assures
Daniel that “your people” will be delivered “at that time.” It further defines “your people” as ”everyone
whose name shall be found written in the book.”
If we relate these
sentences to other passages of Scripture, we can gain insight into what is
meant by “at that time.” The other
mention of Michael’s being involved in warfare (other than in Daniel 10) is
Revelation 12. In that chapter the
following are highpoints:
woman, a cosmic-mythological being who appears to represent Israel, gives birth
to Christ. In opposition to her and her
Son is a great red Dragon (Satan), who has a huge following (fallen angels,
demons). (Revelation 12:1-6)
heavenly war takes place between Michael and the Dragon. Its earthly counterpart is the warfare of the
“brothers” who, in conjunction with Michael and through the blood of the Lamb,
defeat the Dragon. (Revelation 12:7-12)
Dragon attempts to defeat the woman, but he is frustrated because she is given
a hiding place and the earth keeps the flood out of the Dragon’s mouth from
overwhelming her. Then the Dragon turns
his anger on the offspring of the woman, those who keep God’s commands and
testify about Jesus. (Revelation 12:13-17)
At the conclusion of
these events of Revelation 12, the Antichrist/Beast arises—a development that
is described in Revelation 13. It is
obvious that chapter 12 gives the spiritual setting for the role of the
Beast. He is inspired by Satan, who is
the archenemy of Christ. If we relate
these developments in Revelation to Daniel 12:1, we see some strong
correlations. The role of Michael is to
conduct heavenly warfare against Satan (Daniel 12:1a, Revelation 12:7). The Beast carries out the extension of the
Dragon’s warfare on earth against the saints (Revelation 12:17, 13:7). This intense time is that period known as the
Great Tribulation (Daniel 12:1b, Matthew 24:21). Eventually, there is deliverance (Daniel
12:1c) of Daniel’s people. These people
are defined simply as those whose names are written in the book. The following is Miller’s (315-316) comment
on this expression:
The “book” is a common figure of speech in the Scriptures and
alludes to the “book of life” in which the names of all saints are written (cf.
Exod 32:33; Ps 69:28; Mal 3:16; Luke 10:20; Rev 3:5; 20:12). Evidently this figure comes from the practice
of keeping a record of all the citizens of a town. Those whose names were listed enjoyed the
blessings of community membership, whereas the names of those who were
excommunicated from fellowship were blotted out. All (Jews or Gentiles) who have trusted Jesus
Christ as their Savior and Lord have their names written in the book of life. Golgingay designates this as “the citizen
list of the true Jerusalem.” John the
apostle related the sad fate of those at the final judgment whose names are not
found recorded in this book, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the
book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15).
12:2 introduces a new event that is, by implication, associated with “that
time.” It is not necessarily tightly
associated with the developments of verse 12:1.
This verse explicitly teaches a future resurrection. In fact, it teaches two types of resurrections,
one to everlasting life and one to everlasting contempt. The fact that the verse immediately follows
12:1 implies that 12:1 is a depiction of last day events. This is evidence that the material that
starts at 11:36 is also concerned with last day events. This verse (12:2) is the most explicit
teaching about the resurrection in the Old Testament. It is very similar to Jesus’ statement in
John 5:28-29, which predicts that both the righteous and unrighteous will be
resurrected to experience their eternal destinies.
12:3 appears to carry the fate of the righteous beyond the resurrection. The “wise” have a destiny to shine. When I consult Young’s concordance, the
“wise” are those who understand or cause to understand. The word is different from the “wise” in
chapters 2, 4, and 5 where the “wise” men of Babylon are referred to. The difference may not be significant as to
the meaning, but the selection of different words probably does differentiate
these “wise” ones from the wise of Babylon.
The thought is extended in the second part of the verse. Those who “turn many to righteousness” will
shine like stars. So, those who are in
the business of understanding and who direct people toward righteousness have
an eternal inheritance of shining like the stars. In Philippians 2:15, the saints of Philippi
were distinguished by their blamelessness among a crooked generation. Thus, they shone “like lights in the world.” Jesus also predicted that, in the Kingdom,
the righteous will “shine like the sun.”
FINAL WORDS TO DANIEL (12:4-13)
Miller (320ff) treats
the material in 12:4-13 as the end of the “vision proper.” There is some truth to that, in that the
style of this last section is more a conversation with Daniel than a straightforward
revelation. It should be remembered that
it is still a part of the vision that began in chapter 10. The same angelic beings, along with some new
Verse 12:4 is often
misunderstood. Daniel is instructed to
seal the book (scroll). This is to
preserve its contents, not to hide them.
The contents were to be preserved “until the time of the end,” which is
when they would be needed. The second
sentence uses an idiom, “run to and fro” to refer to people searching for
something, in this case, understanding and knowledge of the issues that are
pointed to by the revelations of Daniel.
There is a difference of opinion as to the full import of the
sentence. Some understand to “run to and
fro” as an act of futility. Others
understand it as a positive undertaking that results in knowledge. Whatever the exact meaning, at least some
people will experience an increase in knowledge. This knowledge is understanding and insight
into the prophecies of Daniel and others concerning the last days (not a
general increase of secular knowledge).
In other words, God is promising that we can experience deepened
understanding for the last days. I am
grateful to ESVSB and Miller (320-321) for these insights.
Verses 12:5-12 form a
unit and focuses on specifics of time.
There are several characters in this brief drama, as follows:
of course, is observing and hearing all that takes place.
are “two others”—from the context, one would assume they were angelic beings—standing
on each side of “the stream,” which is most likely the Tigris River (compare
chapter 10). These never seem to say
is “someone” who speaks. This could be
one of the two beings by the river, or it could be the “interpreting angel”
Gabriel (so Miller believes, 322), who also speaks to Daniel throughout
is a man clothed in linen and standing above the waters of “the stream.” This identifies the person as the same being
that is described in chapter 10. Some
believe that this is a “theophany,” an appearance of God to Daniel. More specifically, it is understood to be the
Second Person of the Trinity, the pre-incarnate Christ. The description in 10:5-6 is similar to John’s
vision of Christ in Revelation 1:13-15.
The person gives an answer in a very dramatic way, as He swears by the
One who lives forever. One is reminded
that God cannot swear by anyone higher than Himself (Hebrews 6:13). We might speculate that Christ willingly
submitted to the Father and thus swore by Him (the Father) and not Himself.
A question is asked by an unidentified
person. The question is directed to the
man clothed in linen (12:6). It asks how
long until the end of the “wonders.” The
question could be understood to ask:
“How long will it be from now (Daniel’s day) until all of this takes
could also be understood to ask: “What will be the duration of these
events?” The nature of the answer (in
12:7) gives us the clue that the second understanding is the correct one. The
answer, which is sworn to, as I discuss above, is somewhat mysterious: for “a time, times, and half a time.” 7:25 rev 12:14 This expression is also found
in Daniel 7:25. That verse refers to the
Antichrist/Beast who will seek to “wear out” the saints for “a time, times, and
half a time.” The same expression is
used in Revelation 12:14. In that
passage, the woman who is representative of Israel is protected from the Dragon
for “a time, times, and half a time.” If
one interprets the phrase to be “a year, years, and half a year” (and assumes
that “years” represent two years), then the phrase equals three and a half
years. This is to be the period of time
during which something takes place. The
second half of the answer gives us some clue what that “something” is: “…when the shattering of the power of the
holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished.” In verse 12:1 it is stated that there would
be “a time of trouble.” This period is
called the Great Tribulation. It is a
time that will shatter the “power of the holy people.” The duration of that Great Tribulation would
be three and a half years.
in Daniel, we observe a series of revelations concerning the last days, each
one correlating with the others and adding layers of information.
fourth kingdom of the statue of metals that was seen by Nebuchadnezzar is
represented by ten toes made of iron and clay—partly strong and partly
brittle. That kingdom will be destroyed
when the rock cut from a mountain by no human hand strikes down the statue
representing the world empires. (chapter
fourth beast will have ten horns, or ten kings, coming from it. One of these will be a little horn king who
will persecute the saints for a time, times, and half a time. He will meet his end, and the “Son of Man”
will receive an everlasting dominion for the saints. (chapter 7)
will be a period of sixty-nine weeks of years (483 years) from the decree to
rebuild Jerusalem until the time of the Messiah. Later, the final seven-year period will be
fulfilled when a ruler will covenant with the people for seven years. In the middle of that period, he will set up
an abomination that makes desolate. He
will then meet his end at the end of the seven years. (chapter 9)
king will arise in the last days who exalts himself above all gods. He will be successful militarily and will
fight his final battle in the holy land.
(chapter 11) There will be a
terrible time of trouble at that time.
It will last for three and a half years (half of the seven-year
period). (chapter 12)
It seems reasonable to associate
these various prophecies together to make a coherent whole. I am following the line of interpretation
that many have advocated over the years in creating the following scenario from
the book of Daniel: There were four
world empires in the ancient Middle East.
They were represented by the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter
2 and by the four beasts in Daniel’s vision in chapter 7. The fourth of these beasts (though unknown to
Daniel) was the Roman Empire. Out of it
will eventually come a ten-kingdom empire that is represented by the ten toes
of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue and the ten horns of the beast in chapter 7. The little horn that comes up among those horns
represents the Beast, who will dominate that final empire. He will make a covenant with the people of
God for seven years and then break that covenant at the midpoint. He will desolate the worship of God through
an abomination. Following that, the
final 3 ½ years of the seven-year period will be the Great Tribulation, a time
of great trouble. The Antichrist/Beast
will meet his end at the end of the period in a battle in the Holy Land.
of the scenario that I have described can be inferred directly from
Daniel. However, that inference is
strongly shaped by other Scriptures, including Matthew 24, II Thessalonians 2,
and Revelation 12, 13, 17, and 18.
inquires about the “outcome of these things.”
(12:8) He is not given an answer, but simply a gentle encouragement to
go his way—to go on with his life. The
words are sealed until the “time of the end.”
(12:9) These prophecies were not for Daniel and his generation. They are preserved for a future
In verse 10, two groups
of people are identified: those who
purify themselves and the wicked. The
wicked will not understand any of the issues discussed in the prophecies, but the
wise will. From the earlier part of the
verse, it is to be inferred that the wise are they who purify themselves. They are wise because they have availed
themselves of purification (through God’s redemption), and, because they have
been purified through redemption, they are wise. Miller takes this purification to be through
the persecutions of the Great Tribulation (Miller, 324-325). I am not sure there is a basis for that
conclusion. Notice that those who come
out of the Great Tribulation are those who have washed their robes in the blood
of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:13-14) So, in the direct context of the Great
Tribulation, purity comes about through the redemption that is in Christ. In Revelation there is a consistent contrast
throughout the book between those who are righteous in Christ and the
wicked. Despite the plagues on the
earth, most will not repent of their sins (Revelation 9:20-21). In Revelation 22:11, the perpetual evil of
those who are evil is contrasted with the continuing righteousness of those who
ESVSB connects the “wise”
of verse 12:10 to an understanding of the revelation of verse 12:11. In other words, the wicked will not
understand what is going on during the Great Tribulation—not fathom the
spiritual significance of the times.
However, the spiritually wise will understand. Verse 11 returns to the duration of the Great
Tribulation. It posits its beginning to
be a combination of events: the daily
sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up. From that combination will be a period of
1290 days. Following this is an
additional time frame: a blessing on the
one who “waits and arrives at 1335 days.” (12:12)
These accounting of days
have induced head scratching. The 3 ½ years
in verse 7 would equal 1260 days if a year is 360 days (30-day months). (It would equal 1277.5 for 365-day years.) So, where do the 1290 days come from? Miller gives two possible explanations. One is that 3 ½ years is an approximation and
1290 is the exact number of days. A
second explanation is that the extra 30 days is needed for Christ to judge the
nations (Matthew 25:31-46). Miller
favors the latter (325-326). The second
number of days—1335—is also a “puzzling number.” (Miller, 326)
He refers to those who believe that the additional time is needed to “set
up the millennial government” before the “official inauguration of the thousand
year-reign of Christ on earth.” (Miller,
Miller (326) admits that
dogmatism in these matters is not “proper.”
In fact, much of this material is murky and should be approached with
I have omitted one
feature of verse 12:11, which is the reference to the cessation of the “regular
burnt offering.” This implies that such
an offering is being offered at the time that the Abomination of Desolation
takes place. Dispensationalists are
adamant that a Jewish Temple will be in use at the time of the Beast. (Walvoord, 194-195) They believe that verse
2:4 of II Thessalonians refers to a Jewish Temple that is functional and is
desecrated by the Antichrist/Beast. This
is also implied by Daniel 9:27 and 12:11 as well as Matthew 24:15. Many believe that the Temple described in
Ezekiel 40-43 is the Millennial Temple (Pentecost, 512-546), but it is not to
be equated with the Temple of the Tribulation (Seventieth Week) period
(Walvoord 194-195). These concepts are
ones that I struggle with. My concern is
that a new way of experiencing God in worship has been inaugurated through
Christ. This new way has displaced the
Old Testament form and function of worship (see Hebrew 10:1-25). I admit the use of “Temple of God” in II
Thessalonians 2:4 and the expression “regular burnt offering” in Daniel 12:11
indicate a functional Jewish system at the time of the Antichrist/Beast. I shall attempt to deal with this issue in
In verse 12:13, Daniel is
again told to “go your way” (see 12:9).
It is not a dismissal, but an encouragement not to be overwrought by all
that he has seen. He is to go his way “until
the end.” Obviously, Daniel would not
see the “end.” He would only see his own
personal “end.” He is given a promise,
however, that he would have a place “at the end of the days.” The resurrection that is promised in 12:2
would bring about a new day for Daniel.
The last vision of
Daniel, which is described in chapters 10-12, is full of amazing prophecies. They include details of the wars between the
Seleucids and Ptolomies, the career of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and a brief
overview of the career of the Antichrist/Beast.
They also give the promise of the resurrection of the dead and
everlasting life. They give additional
details to material in previous visions.
The little horn beast (chapter 7) and the king who exalts himself above
all gods appear to be the same person.
The last half of the Seventieth Week (9:27) and the 3 ½ years or 1290
days all seem to be the same period.
As I complete this
survey of Daniel, I am struck by the background and framework that is provided
by Daniel for study of New Testament prophecy.
Many of our concepts are shaped by study of Daniel. One recognizes that scholars have debated
fiercely the shape of the framework in Daniel.
Nevertheless, I find that, for the most part, the Dispensationalist understanding
of the prophecies of Daniel seem most consistent and follow closely each of
Daniel’s prophecies. I disagree with
some concepts of the Dispensationalists, but I find myself largely in agreement
with them in their interpretation of Daniel.
Crossway Bibles (2009-04-09). ESV Study Bible. Good News Publishers.
Miller, Stephen R. The New
American Commentary. Vol. 18. Daniel.
Nashville: Broadman &
J. Dwight. Things to Come. Grand
Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publ. Co., 1958.
Walvoord, John F. (2011-09-01). Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain
(Kindle edition) Colorado Springs:
David C. Cook Publ., 2011.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publ., 2002