Secrets to Success from the Book of Daniel, Part 12: The End of Conflict

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Secrets to Success from the Book of Daniel, Part 12: The End of Conflict

The Conflict of the End is the End of Conflict. And this end of conflict is a message of hope. Conflicts of any nature, from small household disagreements to nuclear threats across continents are less-than-ideal situations, to say the least, and can amount to serious threats to the value of human existence. No one likes conflict. But conflict doesn’t usually just disappear. It needs to be dealt with in some way or another. And when the forces involved in it insist on intensifying their sway of power, the only possible end is that the strongest one will prevail. But if the strongest power is not also a good power, the conflict has ended in the lease hopeful way. So, an end to conflict is not in and of itself good news, unless the winning power is a good power. Then and then alone is the new beginning a reason to rejoice. Thankfully, that is just what is happening in the last verses of the Book of Daniel.

 

The Final Conflict (Daniel 11:40-12:13)

In the previous article of this series, I referenced East-West conflicts between Persia and Greece (11:1-4) and North-South conflicts between the King of the South and the King of the North (11: 5-39). As shown there, parallels between chapters 8 and 11 suggest that the conflicts between the King of the North and the King of the South overlap with the activity of the little horn, which will take place in the last phase of human history, just before God returns to establish His everlasting kingdom. Additionally, several features describe both the King of the North and the little horn, indicating that they symbolize the same power and therefore have the same outcome—complete and irreversible destruction. The King of the North—which symbolizes a religious power that will seek to usurp God—and the King of the South—which symbolizes secularism and a rejection of God[1]—will engage in conflicts and alliances in the time of the end, suggesting that conflicts, as well as compromises between religious powers and secularism, will take place in the last stage of human history.[2]

 

The last and final conflict depicted in Daniel is between the king of the North and several groups: the king of the South, the “Beautiful Land” and “many countries” (which are subsequently rescued from its dominion), Egypt, and God’s people. Let’s take a look at the account in Daniel 11:40-12:13

                                                                             

11:40 At the end time the king of the South will collide with him, and the king of the North will storm against him with chariots, with horsemen and with many ships; and he will enter countries, overflow them and pass through. 41 He will also enter the Beautiful Land, and many countries will fall; but these will be rescued out of his hand: Edom, Moab and the foremost of the sons of Ammon. 42 Then he will stretch out his hand against other countries, and the land of Egypt will not escape. 43 But he will gain control over the hidden treasures of gold and silver and over all the precious things of Egypt; and Libyans and Ethiopians will follow at his heels. 44 But rumors from the East and from the North will disturb him, and he will go forth with great wrath to destroy and annihilate many. 45 He will pitch the tents of his royal pavilion between the seas and the beautiful Holy Mountain; yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him. 12:1“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.” Then I, Daniel, looked and behold, two others were standing, one on this bank of the river and the other on that bank of the river. And one said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be until the end of these wonders?” I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed. As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, “My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?” He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time10 Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand. 11 From the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days13 But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age.”

 

You may notice that I bolded some expressions having to do with time. These temporal markers provide pivotal points in the narrative and are worth paying attention to, so I will structure this concluding article around some of these key temporal markers to show how the timeline provided by the unfolding story helps us draw meaning out of the text. The main protagonists of the closing lines in Daniel, highlighted in red, are the king of the North, Michael, Daniel’s people (who are mostly passive, but still a key character since these events concern them), and the man dressed in linen.

 

At the end time

The first pivotal temporal marker is “at the end time” and indicates a specific period in the human history that the prophet Daniel has labeled “the end time.” This expression suggests an end to time as we know it; that is, an end to human history as we know it. In other words, the events described here will take place in the last phase of this sinful world’s history. The first action recorded as taking place in the end times is a conflict between the king of the South (representing, as we saw in previous articles, secularism), and the king of the North (representing religious powers seeking to usurp God). The extensive conquest of the king of the North is recorded, even though some people are rescued from his dominion. The temporal marker “then” points to the king of the North’s thirst for domination, as he redirects his efforts in a different geographical direction where his victory is overwhelming. The last sentence of chapter 11 announces the outcome of this king: yet he [the king of the North] will come to his end, and no one will help him (11: 45). No alliance can rescue this pompous power from its self-destructive trajectory.

 

“At that time

This expression introduces a dramatic change in the story as a new character enters the conflict scene: Michael, Israel’s protector, will arise. Immediately after follows “a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. (12:1) The nature of this distress is not revealed in the text. What we learn, though, is that no precedent comes close, an idea echoed by Matthew in chapter 24, verses 15 and 21. Doukhan notes that, in Jeremiah, the expression “time of distress” is used in the context of Israel’s exile.[3] In the end times, as the conflict intensifies, a cumulus of economic, political, spiritual, and emotional “infrastructure” collapse gives way to a life in “exile.” But exile always comes to an end—one way or another. As Israel’s exile was foretold by Jeremiah (Jer. 30:7), the exile of the last humans to experience this sinful world’s history, announces Daniel, will come to an end with Jesus’ return (Matt. 24:29, 30). And with Jesus’ return, the exile of all humans who ever lived on this sinful earth comes to an end, too. It is time to go home. Amidst many symbols that time alone can fully unlock, Daniel 12 provides assurance in clear terms anyone can understand:

 

at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. (12:1)

 

Rescue is the portion of those whose names are found in the book—an echo to the judgment scene in Daniel 7:10. If there the judgment concerns primarily the acquittal of the Lamb and the just condemnation of His archenemy; in Daniel 12 we learn of the effect of this verdict upon human beings. At the end of time, concrete events reveal fully the outcome of our choices to serve either God or Satan.

 

“We now realize that everything that ever happened was meaningful, that every event had implications. Everything was recorded and is being evaluated now. Judgment separates the wise from the wicked, life from death. Only radical change can clear the way for a new life. And only the eradication of death will make this new life possible. The judgment is cosmic and definite. Salvation will touch everything and will occur at a definite moment in history.”[4]

 

The event is described succinctly but beautifully in verses 2 and 3:

 

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

 

But until then, “until the end of time,” Daniel was to “conceal the words and seal up the book (12:4).” It may seem a strange thing that the receiver and writer of such an important message be left baffled about its meaning. While the reasons for God’s choice are not revealed to us, human experience has taught us a common-sense truth: knowledge is power. And while knowledge may be used well in the hands of the righteous, it may also be misused by many. In some situations, vagueness is a quality, and divine mystery will always place limits on our finite minds, even for the wise who are in tune with God and can discern better His plans from Scripture.

 

A Concluding Conversation

The Book of Daniel, as well as the series of visions recorded by the prophet, concludes with a conversation that takes place between two heavenly Beings on the banks of the river. One of the dialogue partners asks the man dressed in linen, who reappears here from  chapter 10: How long will it be until the end of these wonders?” (12:6) This question echoes a relentless human concern. We have learned of a better place. We long for a better place. And we wonder how long we will have to endure the effects of sin that permeate every single aspect of our lives. Every single relationship. Every single goal, and every single success.

 

Three time periods are given in response, all to be interpreted prophetically, according to which one prophetic day represents a literal year:

 

  • “a time, times, and half a time” mirrors the expression used in chapter 7 and refers to the time allowed the little horn to use his power oppressively. The end of that period is 1798.[5]
  • “1,290 days” and “1,335 days” overlap, with the latter extending further historically. As

 

Doukhan notes,

 

“If the 1290 days and the 1335 days have the same starting point (when the daily sacrifice is abolished), the first period would end after 1 290 days, while the other would continue until the completion of 1335 days. The final destination is then 1335 days. The last period mentioned…occurs in answer to the question ‘How long?’. We remember this question from chapter 8. … the being who states the question is none other than the high priest officiating at Kippur, one of the key themes of chapter 8. Indeed, the two visions speak of the same event. The 1335 days and the 2300 evenings and mornings answer the same question, ‘How long?’ and consequently lead to the same time of the end, that is, 1844.”[6]

 

The 2300 evenings and morning vision speaks about the cleansing of the heavenly Sanctuary, which began in 1844. The period of 1335 days that Daniel sees in the concluding vision, is “the same period of time, only he is now looking to the earth, to the person on it who ‘reaches the end’ and whose happiness lies in waiting… (12:12).”[7] From 1844 onward, a new phase of awaiting the fulfillment of history has been unfolding.

 

Secrets of Success: Understanding and Waiting

Both Understanding and Waiting are the portion of the righteous at the end of time. Waiting is not possible without understanding; one only awaits something the reality and importance of which she has grasped. Understanding, in turn, results in active and hopeful waiting.

 

 10 Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand. ….. 13 But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age.”

 

As Daniel is told, waiting is a blessing (12 How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days!). We often feel like waiting is rather a curse but waiting can indeed be a blessing when we have grasped the vision of the future. This vision enables us to live day by day in progression towards it. This vision entices us to walk towards its fulfillment in an attitude of expectation and rejoicing. We know the victory is God’s, and it is a privilege to witness the unfolding of history that proves the veracity of God’s Word–even if this witnessing involves temporary suffering. This perspective of eternity can act as a guiding light in a dark tunnel.

 

Our waiting is also a blessing because it is rooted in a certainty that transcends the human condition, a certainty concerning the course of human history rooted in God’s self-revelation through Scripture. This is the truth sworn by God:

 

7 the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river… raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed.

 

And the course of human history includes not just a trajectory, but an actual beginning and an actual end. The beginning was one of promising sinlessness but broken trust. The end will be an eradication of evil that will preclude any future sinfulness. Not because God’s creatures will ever lose the freedom to choose—freedom is a fundamental dimension of humanity that will simply never again be used to rebel against the Creator. God’s character has been grasped by everyone. Satan’s accusations have been proven false. Humanity will have the chance to start over and remain by the side of the only real Divinity, the only God who can impart life and truth because God IS Life and Truth.

Read the rest of Adelina’s series on the book of Daniel.

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Notes.

[1] Jacques Doukhan, Secrets of Daniel (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2000), 173.

[2] Doukhan, Secrets of Daniel, 174-175.

[3] Doukhan, Secrets of Daniel, 184.

[4] Doukhan, Secrets of Daniel, 186.

[5] Doukhan, Secrets of Daniel, 186-187.

[6] Doukhan, Secrets of Daniel, 187. Details on calculations are included in the referenced book.

[7] Doukhan, Secrets of Daniel, 187.

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Adelina Alexe is a Ph.D. student in systematic theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. She loves God and enjoys nature, arts, and meaningful conversation. Her special research interests are narrative theology and hermeneutics.