There is something incomplete about prophecy. There’s something about prophecy that leaves us wanting more. It’s like a teaser – or maybe like a movie trailer. We get a glimpse, and it’s a good glimpse. But it’s not enough. We want more. That’s because prophecies are partial, and sometimes they are hard to understand.
All prophecies, in fact, are partial. Apparently, there is more to know that is left unsaid.
The apostle Paul said Christians – people full of the Holy Spirit – only prophesy “in part.” He said, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away” (1 Corinthians 13:9). It’s kind of like looking in a fogged over mirror. We can sort of make out the truth. It’s helpful – a good glimpse. But it’s not enough. We want more.
Daniel 12 – in fact, the whole book of Daniel – is a good glimpse that leaves us wanting more. We encounter things that we, as Christians, are quite familiar with. We see a glimpse of the end of all things. And we see an Old Testament picture of resurrection and of judgment. We see a man dressed in white who reminds us of other men who were dressed in white. There are some New Testament connections for us to pursue – Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 16:5; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
We see the angel Michael, and we remember his connection to the end of all things. From the Book of Revelation, “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon … ‘And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.’ …” (Revelation 12:7-12).
The Book of Revelation – like Daniel – is a book of prophecy. It teases us with truths about the future. It’s a good glimpse, but it leaves us wanting more. I think we never can be fully satisfied in our readings of these books. We can puzzle over the time, times, and half a time – and over two similar but different lengths of days. We can puzzle over the strange imagery. We can puzzle over unknown and intricate meanings of it all. We’re left wanting more.
So what’s the point of these types of books in our bibles? I think it is this: They give us hope. The Book of Daniel, like Revelation, is a book of hope. God remains in charge, even amid the chaos of this present world. Even as humanity spins in a relentless cycle of downward decay, God is in control. His end purposes will prevail.
We need hope today, just as Daniel needed hope in his day and the first readers of Revelation needed hope in their day. We need a word – a word that is sealed up and secure – about God’s firm grasp on a world that all too often seems out of anyone’s control.
Hope begins with a realistic look at the world. First, we understand that the world is bankrupt, and there is nothing we can do about it. There has been a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. Think, perhaps, of the cross of Christ! And we discover there is more trouble all around us. And despite our human efforts to change things, the decay only continues.
Daniel was told, “Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand.” A realistic look at the world understands this. Humanity is bankrupt. We cannot fix it, nor should we expect to do so. (The church is not here to fix the world. It is here to testify to the one who will.)
At the same time we take a realistic look at the world, we also understand that there are some unseen realities at play. The angels are at war. And a clock is ticking. Not everything is visible to us. Not everything can be heard by our ears. As we look realistically at our bankrupt world, we understand that more is going on in God’s creation beyond what we can see.
And then we put our hope in someone. And as yet, that someone has not yet been seen fully by us. We’d like to think we know it all, but we don’t. Remember, prophecy is only “in part.” The disciple John said, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
This someone is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the elect exiles of this world. Only Jesus can fix this bankrupt world. Only he can set it right.
And in Daniel 12, we have hope. The writer of Hebrews said, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” And we talk about faith, and we understand faith for what it is. Daniel gives us something to hope for – things we cannot see but hope to be true.
If there’s a day in my life to remember Daniel 12, it is today. Things in our nation aren’t as bad as they’ve ever been, but they are about as bad as I can remember. And I’m certain they will get worse. “The wicked shall act wickedly.” As Christians we look at this world realistically. We see the truth.
And we aren’t disheartened. We hope in Christ. Today, we know and prophesy “in part.” But the perfect is coming.