March 2, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XXIX: The End of The Line

We now enter the last chapter of Daniel.

“At that time” in verse 1 alludes to the period just described in 11:36–45. It is the Tribulation or Antichrist’s reign of terror in the end times. We see God has assigned a powerful angel to watch over and protect Daniel’s “people.” A “prince” or as we understand him, he is the archangel Michael (Jude 9: ἀρχάγγελος Μιχαὴλ).

Israel will experience “a time of distress” unlike anything the world has ever known. Daniel was predicts that at the end of the age there will be “a time of distress” unlike anything experienced in the history of the world. An archangel will be needed to help deliver Israel during this awful period. The assistance of such a mighty angel will also be needed because Antichrist will be galvanized by Satan himself as Satan realizes this is his endgame. Even Jesus referred to this period

“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.” ~Matthew 24:21

But Jesus also said:

“Immediately after the distress of those days” the peoples of the earth “will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” Matthew 24:29–30

According to Zechariah 13:8

"In the whole land, declares the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive."

This again must be tempered with the thought that although many saints will suffer and many will even die during the tribulation, the Lord will appear and rescue the faithful. The context is clear that this deliverance will take place at least mid-tribulation; Scripture elsewhere relates that believers in Israel will be rescued at this time (Joel 2:32). I used to be a die-hard pre-tribulation guy but reading the text closer in Daniel makes me wonder now. This doesn’t seem to support a Pretrib rapture at all. Even Pre-wrath is questionable in this context.

As always I am open to debate but the Pre-Trib position for me is weakening, this is especially true as the generation that saw the reforming of Israel as a nation in 1948 is passing away without Rapture, Antichrist or Armageddon as outlined in this text. Darby and Scofield are holding less and less water with me so to speak now and Dispensationalism in its strictest sense has fallen out of favor with me based in an honest interpretation of Scripture. Although I have not ruled this out totally, I will state (like John MacArthur) I would consider myself a “leaky dispensationalist”. The closer I come to my dying day…the more leaky I become.

All (Jews or Gentiles) who are in Jesus Christ and He is their Savior and Lord have their names written in the book of life. Those that are not in or are, “not found written in the book of life” will be, “thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15).

We then see the remarkable verses Daniel 12:2-4

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge”

Resurrection people!

The resurrected are called those “who sleep in the dust of the earth.” “Sleep” is a figure of speech used frequently in the Bible to designate physical death. This “sleep” refers to physical death only. According to this passage there is no intermediate state because it tells us plainly that when the spirit of the believer leaves the body it goes directly into the presence of the Lord. Those that are not saved head the opposite way. There is absolutely no mention of annihilation here (John Stott and Rob Bell please take note).

The use of sleep here is a metaphor or metonymy for physical death, therefore Resurrection in this context makes complete sense. Dust of the earth meaning the grave. Believers will be raised to reign with Jesus Christ, unbelievers will be raised to everlasting torment in a place that is absent of all but God’s wrath. The wicked will be ashamed and disgraced because of the gravity of their sin. The difference between them and believers is that a believer does this now and repents. An unbeliever never does it as they store up wrath for themselves and then are judged for it. Isaiah 66:24 also alludes to this state. The fate of the unbeliever will be so repulsive and shocking that those who look on and see them will need to turn their faces away in disgust. This disgust on them will be contempt and it will be forever….I feel like I need to vomit now. What a tragedy and loss of a souls.

So what we see is Daniel laying out the details and theology of “eternal life” and “eternal punishment.” (Take that Rob Bell!). Furthermore this is not a spiritual body or state but all people both believers and unbelievers will enter the eternal state in bodily form, hence the importance of the body in 1 Corinthians in Paul’s eschatology. The body is not just for food nor the food just for the body people!

At first glance it seems that the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked will occur simultaneously. Revelation 20:4–6 seems to distinguish two resurrections. The first is the resurrection of the saints who are raised immediately after the tribulation period and the second resurrection of the wicked occurring a thousand years later. The word וְרַבִּ֕ים “multitudes” or many denotes a huge number who will rise from the grave. I imagine this will be quite a spectacle and this would harmonize with pre-tribulation, which espouses that many believers will be resurrected before the tribulation while others will be raised at the end of the tribulation which is the time in view here in the context of the passage.

Daniel 12:3’s wisdom includes the recognition of the truth of God and willingness to act upon it. Such persons will become the spiritual children of God and rise to take part in the coming kingdom. Through words and deeds God’s children lead others to understand the call of the sovereign Lord upon their lives, a call that involves a life of holiness since God is holy. The saints are described as shining like “the brightness of the heavens,” synonymous with “the stars” Jesus clearly had this passage in mind when He declared that at the end of the age “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” in Matthew 13:43.

In this present world many times believers are persecuted, our hope is that someday things will be different. The decision of believers to put Jesus and His kingdom first will be rewarded. People often ask me, “Is it worth being a slave to Christ?”

My emphatic reply is, “Yes, yes it is!!!”

Instructions to Preserve the Message (12:4)

In the ancient Near East the custom was to “seal” an important document by impressing upon it the identifying marks of the parties involved and the recording scribe. A sealed text was not to be tampered with or changed. Then the document was duplicated and “closed up”) in a safe place where it could be preserved. Daniel is instructed to preserve “the words of the scroll,” not merely this final vision but the whole book for those who will live at “the time of the end” when the message will be needed. It is to be preserved for the generation that will undergo the horrors of the tribulation and will need the precious promises contained in the Book of Daniel.

Another commonly misinterpreted passage also resides in Daniel 12:4, “Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.” Increase in travel toward the end of the age is not the idea of the phrase “will go here and there.” Zechariah 4:10’s “to go here and there” alludes to a search of a person or thing, and that is the meaning here. The purpose of this search will be “to increase knowledge.” Close, but no cigar. Furthermore, the passage is not predicting an increase in scientific or worldly “knowledge” either. There is a definite article attached to “knowledge” so it should be read “the knowledge”. Daniel is referring to a specific type of knowledge. Knowledge of what? What’s the context? It is the “when” and the “how” of how these prophecies will be fulfilled. As the time draws near, the “wise” will seek to comprehend these prophecies more precisely…and God will grant that understanding or “knowledge” to them for having sought it.

The prophecy now moves to a close. Two angels, standing on opposite banks of the Tigris River suddenly appeared to Daniel. In Daniel 12:6 the speaker is only mentioned as “and he said”. The “man clothed in linen” (Jesus) is reintroduced. He is described as standing in midair “above the waters of the river.” Two angels were on either bank of the river, the interpreting angel evidently was still standing before him, and the Lord was exalted above them all. Yeow! Gabriel addresses a question to “the man clothed in linen.” The fact that knowledge is requested from “the man in white” suggests his superiority. The question is not, how long will it be before these things take place but rather how long will they continue when they begin to occur? Daniel heard the response to the angel’s question.

To raise a hand in oath was the customary practice but raising both hands and swearing to keep the oath in the name of the eternal God is extraordinary. It adds emphasis to this scene. Especially considering it is Christ doing it. The phrase “a time, times and half a time” reveals the duration. Just like Daniel 7:25 we see the tribulation will last three and a half years, the time corresponding to the second half of the week mentioned in 9.27, or 1,260 days (if each month has 30 days).”

Thus the sovereign Lord of the universe is promising directly and emphatically that the Antichrist’s horrors (the “time of distress” of 12:1) perpetrated upon God’s people and the whole world will last but a brief time—three and a half years. A time allowed by a sovereign God. During these three and one-half years the power of the holy people will be broken or shattered.

Daniel still didn’t understand things about the vision. He asks for further information or “what is the outcome of all this?” Either Gabriel or Jesus reply, “Go your way, Daniel” To me this is God telling Daniel not to worry about and to “get on with his life”.

It is evident that even after many people undergo the horrors of the tribulation they will still refuse to repent. Even the chaos and calamities of the last days will not bring some persons to recognize their need for God. These people are those that have given themselves over completely to their sin. They never see the sign of the times and know the changing of the season by the leaves on the trees.

Verse 11 gives one further details concerning history’s final events. During the Great Tribulation, the Antichrist will abolishes worship and will set up “the Abomination that causes Desolation” in the Jerusalem temple. This happens immediately before Jesus’ return. What this abomination one knows. What we do know is that it will be appalling enough to cause desolation or worshippers to leave its presence.

In verse 13 God alludes to Daniel that no more revelations would be granted him. He is again told to go his own way. The prophet was not to be concerned, for he would be resurrected and receive an “allotted inheritance”—a great reward and a part in the kingdom of God (predicted in Daniel’s own prophecies) that will someday come upon the earth and then continue into the eternal state.

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[Thus ends the Daniel portion of this series. I will continue with Revelation soon. Right now I am extremely busy.]

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