Sealing the Book
The angel concludes his message to the prophet in Daniel 12:4, saying,
4 But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time [eth]; many will go back and forth [shuwt], and knowledge will increase.
Daniel was told to keep this word secret. It is likely, then, that he committed this revelation to the safekeeping of a trusted friend, who may have passed it down to more than one succeeding generation before it was actually published. I believe it was entrusted ultimately to Ezra while he was compiling the sacred writings that would become what we call the Old Testament.
The End of Time
The NASB translation makes it appear that the book was to be sealed “until the end of time,” that is, until time itself comes to an end. But the word translated “time” is eth, which means “a fit time, a season of opportunity.” The Concordant Version translates it “era,” that is, the end of the era of concealment. The angel was not referring to time itself, but to an era. It is self-evident that seals on prophecy end with its fulfillment.
When Daniel’s book was first published, men only had a limited understanding of its meaning. The prophecies of the Greek empire would not be understood until they were fulfilled, beginning two centuries later with the rise of Alexander the Great and extending to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes another 150 years later.
Perhaps we are to picture the people in Dan. 12:4 running to and fro throughout the land in search of truth. Others suggest that this is a Hebrew metaphor that pictures one’s eyes going to and fro while reading and studying the scroll. We see this in the words of Hanani, the Seer, who tells King Asa of Judah in 2 Chron. 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth.” The metaphor pictures God “reading” the hearts of men as if they were scrolls.
So it seems to me that this view is more likely what the angel was conveying in word pictures. Knowledge was to increase as men’s eyes searched for answers in Daniel’s book. Men’s discernment and understanding of these prophecies were to unfold in time. I believe that these are the discerning ones in the previous verse, which says: “those who have insight will shine brightly.”
Many prophecy teachers have pulled Dan. 12:4 out of its context and flow. They interpret it to mean that the book of Daniel was to be sealed until just before or after the second coming of Christ. Further, they say that scientific knowledge will increase, rather than the understanding of Daniel’s sealed prophecy. Thus, they use Dan. 12:4 as a sign of Christ’s second coming, which largely misses the point.
The Remnant and the Blind Majority
The majority of the people were too blind to understand divine revelation—even after reading the words on the scroll. Paul says in Rom. 11:7, 8,
7 What then? That which Israel is seeking for, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened [or blinded]; 8 just as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not and ears to hear not, down to this very day.”
Running to and fro [shuwt], seeking the understanding of the word, bears fruit for the remnant of grace, but not for the blind majority. For the remnant, “knowledge will increase,” because they have the eyes of the Lord which run to and fro (shuwt) throughout the earth. But as for the majority, we read in Amos 8:11, 12,
11 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord. 12 And people will stagger from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro [shuwt] to seek the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.”
Three Angelic Beings
Daniel 12:5, 6 continues,
5 Then I, Daniel, looked and behold, two others were standing, one on this bank of the river, and the other on that bank of the river. 6 And one said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be until the end [qets] of these wonders [pele]?”
Recall from Dan. 10:4 that the prophet was “by the bank of the great river, that is, the Tigris” when the golden angel (Peniel) appeared to give him this revelation. Daniel “fell into a deep sleep” (Dan. 10:9), but the angel touched him to strengthen him. In Dan. 10:16 he touched Daniel’s lips so that he could speak. In Dan. 10:18 the angel touched him again to strengthen him.
Then, while the angel was giving his message, we read no more about the angel’s position or location until Dan. 12:6, where we find him situated over the Tigris River, flanked on either side by angels on the two banks of the river.
The two additional angels are not identified, but one of them asked the golden angel, “How long will it be until the end of these wonders?” Perhaps the angel expressed the question that Daniel was formulating in his own mind. Perhaps the angel did not know the answer and was intensely interested in learning the answer. We are not told.
The “wonders,” of course, were the marvelous revelations that the angel had just given to Daniel. The “end” of the wonders refers to the fulfillment of these prophecies. In other words, how long will it take to fulfill these prophecies? How will all of this “end”?