What does it say?
If we have difficulty understanding this portion of Daniel’s prophecy, we should not be ashamed because Daniel himself is perplexed. He spends three weeks fasting and praying for understanding and God sends an angelic messenger to provide more details. Chapter 11 is an amazingly accurate prophetic account of what would occur in the future. Three more Persian kings will follow Darius (11:1-2). The mighty king (11:3) is fulfilled in Alexander the Great.
Upon Alexander’s premature death, his empire is divided into four parts. Two of these divisions are prominent, and the following verses (11:4-20) describe in some detail the ongoing conflict between the kingdoms of the Ptolomies (kings of the north) and Seleucids (kings of the south). Many see the little horn of 11:21-35 as Antiochus Epiphanes who rises to prominence as Syrian power declines and Rome rises. He is a picture of the little horn of chapter seven representing the Antichrist. By Daniel 11:36 we enter a section that has no fulfillment, partial or otherwise, in history and looks for fulfillment in the coming Antichrist.
The first four verses of chapter 12 continue the tribulation prophecy begun in chapter 11. But the last part of this brief chapter looks forward to the resurrection and restoration of all things.
What does it mean?
As in Daniel 6-8, this section of Daniel also provokes many questions for which there are no easy answers and plenty of disagreement among Bible-believing scholars. Don’t be discouraged that this all seems very mysterious and overwhelming. As you grow and have opportunity, passages like this will prove fascinating and educational, though we will never have all the answers. Daniel 12:4 promises that full understanding of this passage is simply not going to be available.
Instead, we should be overcome by the awesome sovereignty of God over kings, kingdoms and the course of world events. There is nothing that escapes his notice or happens without his permission. And all is rushing toward the completion of his mission to redeem and restore the peoples of the world that they might worship and praise him for eternity.
How will I respond?
Do I really live my life with the conviction that God is in control of current events? Do things beyond my control worry me? I will ask God for forgiveness for not trusting him to use current events to advance his mission and find my place in his mission.