Exposition of Daniel 12:1-13 Yahweh delivers the righteous, both living and dead

Daniel 12:1-13

1 At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people everyone whose name is found written in the book will be delivered. 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 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. 4 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.

5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. 6 One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?

7 The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.

8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?

9 He replied, Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.

11 From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.

13 As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.


Recall that Daniel was an old man by the time he received this vision. He had faithfully served God, and, as we saw in his prayer in Daniel 9, he was deeply concerned about the fate of his people. In that prayer he hadn’t made excuses for their disobedience, but instead asked for mercy. He knew the Scriptures, and so he understood the promises God had made to Abraham, Moses and David. Daniel was standing firm because he trusted in the character of Yahweh. Because Yahweh keeps his Word, deliverance will eventually come for those who truly worship God.

The paragraph break for chapter 12 is unfortunate, because the angels vision of the future continues through Daniel 12:4. Further, verse 1 can be wrongly understood to refer to a point in time such as the moment that the Antichrist reaches his end (verse 45), but that is not correct. Wood translates During that time Michael … will stand up in order to make clear that Michael was fighting all during the tribulation for those under his care, the Jewish people.[1] Miller agrees that the time reference includes verses Dan. 11:36-45.[2] That difference in time will be vital to those involved.

The horrors of this period are called distress (Dan. 12:1), but need and helplessness bring out some other aspects of the final set of seven years that complete the enhanced punishment. When Jesus declared this time to be the greatest suffering in the entire history of Israel (Matt. 24:21), he was undoubtedly thinking of this verse. Only those inscribed in the Yahweh’s book will be delivered. As Paul tells the Romans, A person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code (Rom. 2:29). Merely being a Jew will not ensure deliverance!

Verse 2 is an astounding statement by the angelic messenger, who proclaims both the resurrection of the dead and everlasting punishment or reward for those who are raised. Here again we see the frequent biblical metaphor of sleep in relation to those who are physically dead (John 11:11-14). Multitudes will wake to enter everlasting life, the Old Testament counterpart to the eternal life mentioned in such New Testament verses as John 3:16. This verse stands in complete refutation of those whether atheists or adherents of naturalism who say that at death we simply cease to exist.

However, many others will wake to enter everlasting abhorrence,[3] a Hebrew word used only here and in Isaiah 66:24. Miller explains the gravity of this state by saying: Isaiah’s use of the term appears to explain the significance of the expression in Dan. 12:2. So shocking will be the fate of the lost that onlookers must turn their faces away in horror (or disgust).[4] The cost for clinging to rebellion against Yahweh is not only high, it lasts forever!

Verse 3 has an unusual verb that deserves attention. The phrase “those who lead many to righteousness” is based on a verb that is also used to describe the Messiah in Isa. 53:11b, which says: “by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” This beautiful Messianic prophecy says that Jesus will justify many by using his knowledge, or insight, to point them toward righteousness. Daniel 12:3 says that we can and should do the same thing! The part only Jesus can do is: “he will bear their iniquities” (Isa. 53:11b), which is what he did for us all at the cross.

NIV does an exceptional job with verse 4. So does Miller when he explains what the angel wants done with the scroll:

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 original document was duplicated and placed (closed up) in a safe place where it could be preserved.[5]

The angel knows that those enduring the events at the end will make an anxious and desperate search for both the prophecy and its interpretation, just as Nebuchadnezzar (chapter 2), Belshazzar (chapter 5) and Daniel (chapter 9) had done when confronted with events that urgently required a word from heaven. That is the meaning of verse 4b. May God grant them the understanding they need in that day!

Final instructions

At this time Daniel suddenly finds that angels stand on either side of the Tigris, and one has a question for the man clothed in linen (verse 6) who stands above the waters of the river: How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled? (verse 6b). Miller notes: “The fact that this knowledge is requested from the man in white suggests his superiority over the angels. . . . The angel’s question indicates that he was curious about these future events. It is interesting to observe there are things that even angels do not know but desire to learn (cf., 1 Pet. 1:12).”[6]

The angel’s question to Christ, as Miller[7] correctly identifies him, brings an amazing response: an oath is made by Christ concerning the answer (verse 7). Why does the answer come with an oath? A divine oath makes the following prophetic declaration unalterable.[8] What is that declaration? It is that three and a half years will be required for the Antichrist to break the power of the Jews. That time will bring an end to the rebellion of the Jews against God (Dan. 9:24) and end the seventieth seven-of-years.

Ever curious, Daniel asks, “What will happen after these things?” (verse 8b NET). We all wish that question had been answered! Yet, some cryptic yet important revelations remain. Not so cryptic is the statement that while some will be refined, others will continue their wickedness (verse 10a; see Rev. 9:20-21; 16:9, 11).

Difficult is the unraveling of the various time periods: 1260 days, 1290 days, and 1335 days. Since we already know that the last half of the seventieth seven-of-years lasts 3 and a half years (42 months of 30 days each = 1260 days), the difficulty lies in figuring out the other two numbers. We accept Wood’s suggestion: “A clue to as to [the additional 30 days that result in the total 1290 days] is found in Matthew 25:31-46, which describes a time of judgment by Christ immediately after he comes in power . . . . The purpose of the judgment is to determine those who will be permitted to enter into and enjoy the blessedness of the millennial period.”[9] The millennial period is a period of 1,000 years during which Christ rules on the earth as king (Rev. 20:2-3).

What then of the 1335 days (verse 12)? Miller suggests: “It has been reasonably suggested that this date is the official inauguration of the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth. Wood thinks the additional forty-five days are needed to set up the millennial government.”[10]

In the final verse of the book, the promised resurrection is applied personally to Daniel (verse 13). It is my opinion that Daniel will rise to be posted as an administrator in the world-spanning government of the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 19:17, 26a) during the millennium.

As for us, may we be faithful servants until we too join with Jesus, who said, “I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Fathers kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). Amen.

Copyright 2015 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Leon Wood, A Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973)315.

[2] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1994)313.

[3] HALOT, deraon, abhorrence, q.v.

[4] Miller, Daniel, 317.

[5] Miller, Daniel, 320.

[6] Miller, Daniel, 322-3.

[7] Miller, Daniel, 323.

[8] Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., “Does God Change His Mind?,”Bibliotheca Sacra 152 (October-December 1995), 387-99.

[9] Wood, Daniel, 328.

[10] Miller, Daniel, 326.

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!