Season of Tribulation

A “tribulation” was coming upon the saints, the “indignation,” such as the people of God had never experienced - Daniel 12:1-13

Stormy Waves - Photo by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash
The final vision concludes with a description of the terrible “
tribulation” that would befall the Jewish nation, one more severe than any preceding trial in the history of Israel. When interpreting the passage, we must remember that there were no chapter divisions in the original document penned by Daniel. Contextually, chapter 12 is the continuation of the vision from chapters 10 and 11 - [Photo by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash].

The “season of tribulation” refers to the persecution of the “saints” by the “arrogant king of the north,” the “indignation” that was to continue “until the time of the end.”
  • (Daniel 12:1-4) – “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who stands for the children of your people; and there shall be a season of tribulation, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro… and knowledge shall be increased.
At that time” refers to the time when the saints found themselves persecuted by the “arrogant king,” the “season of tribulation” that would endure “until the time of the end,” but not beyond the “time appointed,” for in the providence of God, it would end:
  • (Daniel 11:34-35) – “And some of them that are wise shall fall, to refine them, and to purify, and to make them white, even to the time of the end; because it is yet for the time appointed. And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods; and he shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that which is determined shall be done.
The passage concerns persecution by the “arrogant king,” the “little horn,” and not necessarily the end of history, of the world order, or of the present age. The “indignation” could only continue until “that which is determined was done” – (Daniel 8:17).

The paragraph includes verbal links to the earlier visions of the book. For example, the “season of tribulation” echoes the assault by the “little horn” against the “saints.” That figure prevailed against themuntil the ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints.” He succeeded at overcoming the saints, but only for the time allotted, the “season, seasons, and part of a season” – (Daniel 7:21-25).

Likewise, in the vision of the ram and the goat, the saints and the sanctuary were given over to the “little horn,” but only until the completion of the “two thousand and three hundred evenings-mornings.” In the interpretation, the “king of fierce countenance” corrupted the saints of God and magnified himself, but only until he was “broken without hand” – (Daniel 8:9-14, 8:23-25).

So, also, in the prophecy of the “seventy weeks,” Jerusalem was rebuilt, but in “in troublous times.” The coming “leader” corrupted the people and the city, defiled the altar, and desolated the sanctuary, but only until the end of the final “week,” then he himself would be “desolated” – (Daniel 9:24-27).

Michael will stand up for the children of your people.” This refers to the same reality as the “judgment made for the saints” by the Ancient of Days, the time when they “possessed the kingdom.” Then, the “king of fierce countenance” was “broken without hand.” Likewise, in chapter 11, the “arrogant king…came to his end, and none helped him.”

Such as never was since there was a nation.” The statement echoes the earlier words of Daniel in his prayer of repentance, which, in turn, affirmed the promised judgment on the nation for its disobedience. The full weight of Moses’ warning fell on this generation - (Leviticus 26:14-46, Deuteronomy 28:15-68):
  • (Daniel 9:12) – “And he has confirmed his words, which he spoke against usby bringing upon us a great evil; for under the whole heaven hath not been done as has been done upon Jerusalem. As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us.”
And many that sleep in the dust of the earth will awake.” In its original context, the description is figurative and refers to the rise of faithful Jews who stood firm for their faith, as if they had been raised from the “dust of the earth,” the “wise” men who turned “many to righteousness.” This is the same group as the “wise” from the preceding chapter who “fell,” but only to be “refined and purified…even to the time of the end.” Thus, they appeared to rise from the “dusty ground,” and they “instructed many” among the people of Israel – (Daniel 11:33-34).
This understanding of the “resurrection” of the “wise” is confirmed in the concluding verses of the book. It also echoes the actions of the “little horn” that cast some of “the host of heaven to the ground and trampled upon them.” Yet, at the time “Michael stood,” many of them “rose from the ground” to shine “as the brightness of the firmament” - (Daniel 8:10, 12:10).

Some to everlasting life… some to shame and everlasting contempt.” This describes the same two groups contrasted in the previous chapter; Jews who stood firm in the faith versus those corrupted by the “arrogant king”:
  • And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flattery; but the people that know their God shall be strong and do exploits.” – (Daniel 11:32).
The passage describes a limited “resurrection,” not the general resurrection of the dead at the end of the age. Only “some” were raised. And those who compromised with the “beast,” suffered everlasting “contempt and shame” for their betrayal of the covenant.

Seal the book.” The command is not to conceal the visions of Daniel. The problem was not that the book was sealed shut, but instead, that the significance of its contents remained uncertain. The same idea was noted at the end of the visions of the “four beasts,” and of the “ram and the goat.” And this understanding is confirmed at the end of the book:
  • (Daniel 7:28) – “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts much troubled me, and my countenance was changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.”
  • (Daniel 8:27) – “And I, Daniel, fainted, and was sick certain days; then I rose up, and did the king's business: and I wondered at the vision, but none understood it.”
  • (Daniel 12:8-9) – And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my lord, what shall be the issue of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel; for the words are shut up and sealed till the time of the end.
And knowledge shall be increased.” The book was sealed, “even to the time of the end.” The clause does not refer to any increase in general human knowledge, but instead, to the correct understanding of the vision. Its true significance would remain “sealed” until the time of fulfillment, and then, only the “wise” would understand it.

In the Book of Revelation, the same verse is applied to the “revelation of Jesus Christ.” With his Death and Resurrection, what was once veiled was now revealed. Those who heard and read the words of the prophecy were “blessed… For the season is at hand.” Thus, John was instructed to “write what he saw,” and to send it to the churches of Asia. Unlike Daniel, he was commanded NOT to “seal the book, for the season is at hand” – (Revelation 1:1-3, 1:11, 22:10).




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