DANIEL CHAPTER 12

Greetings! This is the second post of our latest series on Daniel chapter 12. We’re going to study verses 2 and 3: verse two is about dead people, whereas verse three is about alive people. Verse two talks about a much neglected subject when it comes to dead people. We’re going to talk about the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead. The book of Hebrews says it’s a foundational doctrine to our faith. The author of Hebrews rebuked the believers for their lack of spiritual growth. He told them, “Therefore let us go on and get past the elementary stage in the teachings and doctrine of Christ.” And then he listed the doctrines that were elementary: “Let us not again be laying the foundation of repentance and abandonment of dead works (dead formalism) and of the faith [by which you turned] to God, with teachings about purifying, the laying on of hands, the resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment and punishment” (Heb. 6:1–2 Amp.). Hebrews says the resurrection of the dead is an elementary doctrine, essential to our Christian faith. Yet, in all my five decades of being a Christian, I have never heard anyone teach about this important foundational doctrine. It’s a fascinating subject! Keep reading! I promise, you’ll want to learn more.

DANIEL CHAPTER 12

Second in a Four-Part Series
By Karen Thompson

Resurrection for the Just and Unjust

Dan. 12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.

Let’s continue our study of Daniel chapter 12 by looking at the next verse. Verse two deals with an exciting subject—the resurrection of the dead! There is a lot of information packed into verse two, so we’re going to look at it phrase by phrase. It starts out saying, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth.” This is a unique way of saying, “those who have died.” The phrase “those who sleep in the dust of the earth” stems from the scripture in Genesis that says God made man from the dust of the earth, and when he dies, he will return to dust (Gen. 3:19). A modern rift of this phrase would be to say someone’s taking a “dirt nap.”

The Dead Will Be Resurrected

Now let’s look at the next two words in the phrase: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” They shall awake! It’s talking about the dead waking up! If we look at another instance when this same phraseology was used, it will help us understand what “shall awake” specifically means. Jesus used it when He spoke about His good friend, Lazarus. Jesus informed His disciples He wanted to go to Judea because, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up” (John 11:11 NIV). The disciples didn’t understand, so Jesus explained in plain words that Lazarus had died and He was going to “awake him out of sleep.” Meaning, He was going to resurrect Lazarus from the dead. And that’s exactly what happened. At Jesus’ command, Lazarus was resurrected from the dead. From this example, we can confirm that Daniel 12:2 is a reference to the resurrection of the dead.

The Jewish People Believed in the Resurrection

The Jewish people believed in the resurrection of the dead. Well… maybe not all of them. Certain of them did and certain of them didn’t. The apostle Paul used this division to his advantage. He had been arrested by the Jews for what they called teaching against the law (Acts 21:28). For this crime, they wanted to kill him, so they brought him before the high priest, Ananias. Paul saw a way to get the focus off of himself when he noticed that his accusers were both Sadducees and Pharisees. These two groups disagreed on the subject of the resurrection: the Pharisees believed in it but the Sadducees did not. Paul boldly announced that as a Pharisee, he believed in the hope and resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6). With that one comment, the Sadducees and Pharisees began to argue about the resurrection, which took the attention off of Paul… just like he knew it would.

The Resurrection Takes Place “at the Last Day”

I’d like to go back to when Jesus and the disciples went to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead. I want to focus on something his sister, Martha, said. By the time they arrived at Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days. Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died” (v. 21 NIV). Jesus said to her, “Thy brother shall rise again.” Mary said in response, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (v. 24.) Martha’s statement is important because she tells us “when” they believed the resurrection would take place. Notice Mary’s last four words: “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Martha was expecting her brother Lazarus to rise from the dead “at the last day.”

When does “at the last day” occur? By looking at other verses where the phrase “at the last day” is used, we’ll be able to ascertain what Martha meant by it. For instance, Acts 2:17 tells us that in the last days, God will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. Second Timothy 3:1 tells us perilous times shall come in the last days. Second Peter 3:3 tells us there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts. From these verses, it’s obvious that the phrase “last days” refers to the end times, the period of time right before the Second Coming of Jesus the Messiah. Daniel chapter 12 says there will be a resurrection of the dead in the last days, and Mary believed her brother, Lazarus, would be part of it. That’s what she meant when she said to Jesus, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Two Resurrections

Let’s go back and look at the last part of verse two: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel prophesied that there will be two groups of people resurrected. One group will be resurrected to “everlasting life.” The other group will be resurrected to “everlasting contempt.”

We see these two groups acknowledged in the New Testament. If you recall, the apostle Paul defended himself to Ananias the high priest by saying, “I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust (Acts 25:14–15 NKJV). Like the prophet Daniel, Paul said the resurrected dead will be divided into two groups: the just and the unjust.

We see the same thing in John chapter five when Jesus said, “…the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28–29 NKJV). Those in graves will hear His voice and come forth, meaning they will be resurrected from the dead. Then just like Daniel, the Lord divided the dead into two groups. Those who have done good will receive a resurrection of life. Those who have done evil will receive a resurrection of condemnation.

The Two Resurrections Do Not Occur Simultaneously

The book of Revelation reveals another interesting fact about the resurrection of these two groups of dead people—they do not occur at the same time! Revelation chapter 20 tells us there is a thousand years between the resurrections of these two groups. The first group to be resurrected is the righteous dead. The apostle John described to us how Satan is bound with chains and then thrown into the bottomless pit for a thousand years. Then he talks about the righteous dead.

And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had refused to worship the beast or his image, and had not accepted his mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead [the non-believers] did not come to life again until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed (happy, prosperous, to be admired) and holy is the person who takes part in the first resurrection; over these the second death [which is eternal separation from God, the lake of fire] has no power or authority, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and they will reign with Him a thousand years (Rev. 20:4–6 Amp.).

We are told about the believers who lost their lives during the great tribulation. It says they will reign with Christ for a thousand years. Verse five tells us “This is the first resurrection.” (This first resurrection is not limited to just those who died during the great tribulation; it is made up of all the righteous dead.) But the rest of the dead, the unjust, won’t be resurrected until after a thousand years. Verse six tells us that those who are part of the first resurrection are blessed and holy. For those in the first resurrection, the second death will have no power over them.

After one thousand years, the unjust dead are resurrected. Revelation 20:13 describes the resurrection of the unjust: “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.” Verse 15 tells us their fate: “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” That is the second death.

The Resurrection Is the Event We Call the Rapture

Have you made the connection yet that the resurrection these verses of scripture are talking about is actually the event we refer to as the rapture? After all, what is the rapture? It’s when those who have died shall be raised from the dead. Let’s look at how 1st Thessalonians describes that event.

13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:13–17).

This portion of scripture talking about the rapture uses the same language as Daniel did when he described the dead as “asleep.” Those who sleep will be resurrected in the last days. That is what Martha believed about her dead brother, Lazarus. The resurrection of the dead that the Jewish people in the New Testament were waiting for is the exact same resurrection of the dead for which we present-day Christians are also waiting. We just call it the rapture.

It’s unfortunate that modern Christians started calling this event the rapture. It already had a name—the resurrection! At some point, believers in the 19th century oddly began to refer to the resurrection event as the rapture. The reason it’s odd is because the word rapture isn’t even found in the English translation of the Bible. So why did Christians start referring to the resurrection event as the rapture? The answer is in the Latin translation of the Bible. For centuries, Latin was the only language in which the Bible was translated, so Bible scholars frequently referred to it. In Latin, the words “caught up” in the phrase “we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together” are translated as “rapturo.” This Latin word “rapturo” is where we get the English word rapture.

For some reason, Bible scholars began to use the Latin word for this event. This is troublesome. Calling the resurrection event “the rapture” has warped the way we think about it. Here’s what I mean. Our emphasis is on the act of being “caught up in the air” when, instead, it should have been on the act of being resurrected. Our emphasis is on what happens to the people who are alive, when it should be on what happens to the people who are dead.

Why does this matter? Consider this: In all the five decades I’ve been a Christian, I have never once heard any minister use these resurrection verses when they were teaching about the rapture. Our emphasis on what happens to the living rather than what happens to the dead has caused us to not include these important verses of scripture that talk about the resurrection. This has caused our ability to rightly divide the word of truth on this subject to be stifled. As a result, we have failed to get the whole picture on this event.

Believers Who Are Alive During the Last Days

Now let’s look at verse three: “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” The subject of verse two was about dead people who will be resurrected during the last days, whereas verse three is about people who will be alive during the last days.

Verse three starts out, “Those who are wise….” The Amplified Bible describes the wise people as teachers: “And the teachers and those who are wise….” What do teachers do? They teach. How do they teach? They impart their wisdom through speaking.

The verse goes on to describe what kind of wisdom these teachers will impart: “those who turn many to righteousness (to uprightness and right standing with God)….” This verse is talking about those who will lead others to salvation. Proverbs 11:30 says, “He who wins souls is wise” (NKJV). This verse is talking about people who will be soul winners for the Lord in the last days.

The rest of the verse describes how the Lord sees these soul winners: it says they “shall shine like the brightness of the firmament.” The firmament is the vast “vault of heaven.” Then they are described as “stars forever and ever.” What is the vault of heaven filled up with? Stars that shine forever and ever.

Essentially, verse three is talking about believers who win souls for God during the end times and how God sees them as shining stars in the heavens above—shining with the light of His Word!

In the next post, we will discuss verse four—the verse that points to the time when the tribulation takes place.

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