The Time of Tribulation

An angel pronounces a coming time of indignation upon the people of God such as they have never experienced. Daniel’s final vision concludes with the description of a period of intense “tribulation” that would befall the Jewish nation, one more severe than any preceding trial in its history. There are no chapter divisions in the original Hebrew text, and contextually, Chapter 12 is the continuation of the vision of Chapters 10 and 11.

Stormy Beach - Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
[Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash]

The term “
season of tribulation” refers to the time when the “saints” are persecuted by the “arrogant king of the north,” the “indignation” that would continue “until the time of the end,” but not beyond the “time appointed” since in the providence of God it ends at a point predetermined by Him - (Daniel 11:34-35).

  • (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, every one that shall be found written in the Scroll. 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 forever and ever. But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the Scroll, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro… and knowledge shall be increased.

The passage concerns the persecution of God’s people by the “arrogant king,” namely, the “Little Horn.” It is not necessarily about the end of the present age. The “indignation” would only continue until “that which is determined is accomplished” – (Daniel 8:17).

The paragraph includes verbal links to the Book’s preceding visionsFor example, the “season of tribulation” echoes the assault by the “Little Horn” against the “saints… until judgment was given for them.” This persecutor succeeded only for the time allotted by God - the “season, seasons, and part of a season” – (Daniel 7:21-25).

Likewise, in the vision of the Ram and the Goat, the Sanctuary was given over to the “Little Horn” until the completion of the “two thousand and three hundred evenings-mornings.”

In the interpretation of that vision, the “king of fierce countenance” corrupted the saints of God and magnified himself until he was “broken without hand” – (Daniel 8:9-14, 8:23-25).

So, also, in the prophecy of the “Seventy Sevens,” Jerusalem was rebuilt but in “troublous times.” The coming “leader” would corrupt the people, defile the altar, and desolate the Sanctuary until the end of the final “week” when he himself would be “desolated” – (Daniel 9:24-27).

At the “time of tribulation,” 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” for them to “possess the kingdom.” That is the time when the “king of fierce countenance” was “broken without hand.” Likewise, in Chapter 11, the “arrogant king…came to his end, and none helped him.”

The clause rendered, “Such as never was since there was a nation,” echoes the earlier words of Daniel in his prayer of repentance in Chapter 9, which, in turn, affirmed the promised judgment on the nation for its disobedience. The full weight of Moses’ warning fell on that generation - (Leviticus 26:14-46, Deuteronomy 28:15-68, Daniel 9:3-19).


  • (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.”

In its original context, the description of the many who “slept in the ground” is figurative and portrays the rise of faithful Jews who stood firm in their faith as if they had been raised from the “dust of the earth,” namely, the “wise” men who turned “many to righteousness.”

This describes 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 appear to rise from the “dusty ground” to “instruct many” among the people of Israel – (Daniel 11:33-34).

This understanding 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” - (Daniel 8:10, 12:10).

Some to everlasting life… some to shame and everlasting contempt.” This section describes the same two groups that were contrasted in the previous chapter - Jews who stood firm in the faith and those who were corrupted by the “arrogant king”:

  • And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries; but the people that know their God shall be strong and do exploits.” – (Daniel 11:32).

Thus, at least initially, the passage describes a limited “resurrection,” not the general resurrection of the dead at the end of the age. Only “some” are raised. But those who compromised with the “Little Horn, the “arrogant king,” suffered everlasting “contempt and shame” for their betrayal of the covenant.


Daniel is commanded to “seal the Scroll.” This is not to conceal his visions, but their significance would remain uncertain until a future time. The same idea was noted at the end of the visions of the “four beasts” in Chapter 7, and that of the “Ram and the Goat” in Chapter 8. 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 your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed till the time of the end.

However, one day “knowledge will be increased.” The Book is sealed “even to the time of the end.” This statement refers not to increases in general human knowledge but 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” in its very first verse. With his death and resurrection, what was once veiled was being unveiled to his “servants,” the “Seven Assemblies of Asia” – (Revelation 1:1).

Those men and women who hear and read the words of the prophecy in Revelation are pronounced “Blessed… For the season is here.” Thus, John was instructed to “write what he saw,” and send it to the congregations of Asia. The time had come for the contents of the “Sealed Scroll” to be revealed to the saints. Unlike Daniel, John was commanded NOT to “seal the Scroll, for the season is at hand.”

Moreover, John found himself exiled to the Isle of Patmos for the “Testimony of Jesus,” and he described himself as a “fellow participant in THE tribulation.” For the Assemblies of Asia, the “time of tribulation” had commenced.



Destruction of Babylon

Gog and Magog