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Written by Ángel Manuel Rodríguez
Some Adventists are interpreting the time periods mentioned in Daniel 12:5-13 literally, as future events. What is your reaction?
Some Adventists are indeed applying Daniel 12:5-13 to future events that will take place after Michael arises (verse 1). Accordingly, the prophetic periods mentioned in those verses (the 1260, 1290, and 1335 days), are taken to be literal days still in the future. Using the historicist method of interpretation, Adventists have traditionally taken the time periods to be symbols for years. Any attempt to merge futurism and historicism by introducing a double fulfillment of apocalyptic prophecies will undermine our system of prophetic interpretation. These new proposals cannot be supported from the context or from the book of Daniel. Here’s why:
1. Structure of the vision: The vision introduced in Daniel 10 covers Daniel 11:1-12:4, and ends with a conclusion, Daniel 12:5-13. The introduction consists of a conversation between Daniel and two heavenly beings. The conclusion to the vision describes the same conversation between Daniel and two heavenly beings. It is a single literary unit.
2. Location of the time periods: The time periods in Daniel’s prophecies are located at the end of the visions. In Daniel 7 the vision is described in verses 1-14; the time period is given in verse 25. The vision of Daniel 8:1-12 is followed by the time period in verse 14. This implies that the time periods in Daniel 12:5-13 are directly related to the vision in Daniel 11.
3. Daniel 7 and the 1260 days: The three and a half times/1260-day prophetic period is introduced for the first time in Daniel 7:25, in a context that is clearly symbolic. There is no reason to interpret the same prophetic period literally in chapter 12:7. Such an approach invalidates the year/day principle because of the lack of consistency in its application. Besides, in Daniel 12:7 the time period during which God’s enemy persecutes the “holy people” perfectly parallels Daniel 7.
4. Linguistic connections between Daniel 11 and 12: The phrase “the end of the astonishing things/wonders” (Dan. 12:6) refers back to Daniel 11:36, where the same Hebrew root, pala, is used to describe the words of the enemy spoken against God (cf. Dan. 8:24). Both passages indicate that this evil power will be successful for a period of time. Daniel 11 deals with the specific time during which this phenomenon takes place and points out that it will come to an end after the enemy breaks the power of “the holy people” (Dan. 12:7). This same event is described in Daniel 7:25 and 8:24, where the same terminology designates God’s servants. Other connections include references to “the wicked” (Dan. 11:32; 12:10), the verbs “to understand” (Dan. 11:33; 12:10), “to refine,” “to purify,” and “to make spotless” (Dan. 11:35; 12:10).
In Daniel 11:31 and 12:11 the word “daily” is used together with the verb “to abolish/remove.” They both use the phrase “the abomination that causes desolation” in conjunction with the verb “to set up.” There is no ground to argue that these two passages are dealing with different events. By using the same terminology the writer is telling us that the reference is to the same event. Therefore, the time periods mentioned in Daniel 12:11, 12 (1290 days and 1335 days) are to be applied to the events described in Daniel 11:31. Daniel 12:7 describes the time of persecution mentioned in chapter 11:32-35.
Defining the historical fulfillment of the 1290 days and the 1335 days is not difficult. First, the 1290 days are associated with the work of God’s enemy, mentioned elsewhere. Daniel 7 indicates that the control exercised by that religious/political power over God’s people came to an end in 1798. That date provides the end for the 1290 years; its starting point would then be A.D. 508, when the Franks defeated the Arian Visigoths. Second, the 1335 days are an extension of the 1290 days, thus indicating that they start at the same time. This means that the 1335 years ended in 1843/1844.
For a more comprehensive treatment of prophetic interpretation, I suggest that you study the commentary by William Shea, Daniel 1-7 and Daniel 7-12 (Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1996).