“Daniel 12: The Certainty of Victory”—by R. J. Rushdoony1
The vast perspective of Daniel, historical and political prophecy with all time in purview, does not work, however, to the detriment of the personal perspective. Daniel’s very private grief at the setting aside of Israel as a nation, and the creation of a new non-racial Israel to be the people of God, is always in view. It comes into especially sharp focus in 12:1.
The last prophecy began (10:14) with Israel’s destiny and fall in view, and Daniel’s concern and relation thereto. Again, with reference to “that time,” the vision continues. Jesus’ citation of 12:1 (Matt. 24:21-22) with reference to the fall of Jerusalem (Matt. 24:21-22 is otherwise interpreted by some, however), is of significance here. The fall of Jerusalem, and the public rejection of physical Israel as the chosen people of God, meant also the deliverance of the true people of God, the church in Christ, the elect, out of the bondage to Israel and Jerusalem, “which were aspects of “the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8). Daniel is accordingly identified with the elect, and is to seek his identity therein, for “at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book” (12:1). This new people of God shall not be confused with the remnant of Daniel’s day; rather than a remnant, it is a multitude, ultimately the overwhelming majority, so that this description (12:2), setting forth salvation and pointing ahead to the general resurrection, can speak of the elect of God as the “many,” and the reprobate as “some.” Those who are wise or are teachers of the elect during the course of the oppression of the elect shall have all the greater reward and responsibility in the eternal kingdom (12:3).
Daniel’s prophecy was given the status and dignity of Scripture, and was stated to be valid throughout time, as a means of true knowledge for men. The pursuit of knowledge, earnest but vain in that God is bypassed, will characterize human history. As Young translates it, “many shall run to and fro, that knowledge may be increased” (12:4).2
The conclusion of Daniel, 12:5-13, itself introduces, as Deane and Young have both noted, a new symbol, “the river” of verses 5, 6, and 7, a word in the original which indicates reference to the Nile, although the actual river is the Tigris or Hiddekel.3 The double reference gives evidence of the generality of reference: every captivity of the elect, whether to Egypt, Babylon, or the organic or legalistic states, will be in its entirety in the hands of the Almighty, and will be used by Him for His own glorious purpose. God is on both sides of the river with His angels, and controls every aspect of every step of history (Rom. 8:28), so that no captivity can end in other than God’s glory and the destruction of the captors. Even as God miraculously delivered Israel from Egypt, and was about to use the Persian Empire to His glory, so in every age the wrath and treasures of men are made to serve Him.
The objective of all these events is the triumph of the saints, to be revealed with the collapse of the “little horn” at the end of “a time, times and an half’ (12:7; cf. 7:25). With that collapse, Christian society shall triumph in every realm; then the suffering shall “be finished,” that suffering which indeed is a cause for “wonders,” since it seems to indicate the helplessness of God’s people, and the failure of God to deliver (12:6-7).
This answer failed to satisfy Daniel, who “understood not” and accordingly asked, “O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?” The response is pointed: Drop the subject, go no further, for here the matter goes beyond your time and your concern, but it will be understood by those who need it, who are wise, redeemed, and mature in the Lord (12:8-10). Much as the suffering may seem to dominate the worldview, yet it is far from being the total picture. The daily newspaper may report fires, murders, and thefts, all in actuality far from depicting the day’s events, in the main made up of worship, work, rest, and play, but the abnormality dominates the stage. Even so, the tribulation of the elect seems to dominate the perspective, while far from representative of it. The persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes is compared to 1290 days, i.e., a little more than half of seven years, or the fullness of time, so that these grim days, not without their important revitalization of faith, can at best be said to represent the fact that the suffering of the true church, with every aspect thereof, will be only a circumscribed and limited element of history. Those who wait through these trials and attain their victories in Christ find the blessedness at the 1335 days, 45 days more than the earlier period. The two sums, 1290 and 1335, add up to more than seven years, and are not intended as proportionate representations of time and history. The first represents persecution; the second, blessing of a signal sort. History also has its eras of stagnation, development, groping, etc., and the depiction of these two periods as “days” indicates their limited nature in terms of the whole, and yet, by their relationship to seven years, their importance in terms of the meaning of the whole. Suffering or trial, and fulfillment, have both decisive roles in man’s life and history. The culminating word is one of triumph in history, in the “1335 days” (12:11-12).
The concluding word to Daniel is, “But go thou thy way till the end,” or, as Young has interpreted it, “Go on as thou art until the end of life,”4 and rest, and then “stand in thy lot at the end of the days,” i.e., receive your eternal inheritance in the Lord (12:13).
Daniel is political prophecy, and it is confident prophecy, declaring the certain victory of the kingdom of God (not to be confused with or limited to the institutional church, which is one manifestation thereof), in history. If the victory of Christ is to be eschatological only, and in terms only of an eternal order, then Daniel is a monstrous piece of irrelevance. The sorry tribulation-complex of a smug and self-satisfied church, surrounded by ease and luxury, is certainly an amazing fact, one surely indicative of a masochistic desire for self-atonement by means of suffering. But the whole of Scripture proclaims the certainty of God’s victory in time and in eternity, and the resurrection is the bold and uncompromising declaration of that victory in time. There can be no retreat from victory without a corresponding retreat from Christ. The Great Commission, with its confident command to make disciples of all nations (Matt, 28:19), was no mere hyperbole or vain expression of wistful hope, but the assured promise of Him who could say, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18), “Go ye therefore” (Matt. 28:19). Unhappily, since the day of Calvary, the church has all too often been concerned with embalming Christ, while His enemies, a little more realistically, have vainly sought to guard themselves from His power. It is high time to proclaim the power of His resurrection.
The resurrection is given in Daniel 12:2 as the keynote of the gospel age, i.e., of the latter days. The “day” or time of resurrection began with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, so that Christians live in the resurrection era. The age has its tribulations, its battles unto death, but its essence for the Christian is victory unto life. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it cannot be otherwise.
1) A chapter excerpt from R.J. Rushdoony, Thy Kingdom Come: Studies in Daniel and Revelation (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1970 and 1998). Used by permission of Chalcedon Foundation (http://chalcedon.edu).
2) Commentary, ad loc.
3) H. Deane, in Ellicott, Commentary on the Whole Bible, v. V. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 400; and Young Commentary, ad loc.
4) Commentary, ad loc.