- Lesson 14 in the BaptistWay Press Connect360 unit “Faith Under Fire” focuses on Daniel 12:1-13.
As the book of Daniel closes, it portrays the ultimate climax of human history—the judgment of both the righteous and the wicked. Despite their present and future suffering, God’s people will shine brightly forever, while the wicked will fall in disgrace. Knowing this should be enough for Daniel, and now he must move forward with confidence in God’s protection.
Scripture tells us that in the last days (the period between the ascension of Christ and his return) tribulation for God’s people will intensify as history marches toward the final cosmic conflict. Christ himself, interestingly enough, refers to this very passage in Daniel when depicting both perilous times and his glorious return (Matthew 24:21-31). In the midst of this “distress” (v. 1), which exceeds all previous persecution (cf. Matthew 24:21), Daniel is told he should not be overwhelmed with despair because God will provide his people protection through the work of the archangel Michael. This deliverance of God’s people during a time of suffering already has been foreseen (7:25-27; 8:9-14, 24-26).
Those who are rescued have their names “written in the book” (v. 1). This “book” is referring to a registry that God himself writes—the book of life (not the book of truth found in 10:21, which describes how the epochs will unfold). Moses himself also refers to a record of heavenly citizenry: “Now Moses returned to the Lord, and said, ‘Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if you will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from your book which you have written!” (Exodus 32:31-32; cf. Psalm 69:28; Malachi 3:16).2 Old Testament scholar John Goldingay described this book of life as “the citizen list of the true Jerusalem.”
What the New Testament says
In the New Testament, John the Apostle said there was a sad fate for those whose names were not found in this book: “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). Those (Jew or Gentile) who follow the Christ—not the Antichrist—have their names recorded for safekeeping. Our resurrection—like the resurrection of Jesus—involves a bodily resurrection—“the dust of the ground will awake” (v. 2). The body itself is brought forth from the grave and infused with new life. This new body, moreover, is immortal—without end. Finally, the resurrected saints receive a great reward, while those who do not have their names in the book of life will experience grave punishment.
The book of Daniel prophetically presents a New Testament position concerning humankind’s ultimate judgment, asserting there will be vindication and reward for those who are righteous through Christ and punishment for those persist in their rebellion (Matthew 25:31-33; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:14-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:11-15).
Those who experience resurrection to life, “those who have insight,” will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of the heavens. Believers, moreover, not only are spiritually wise themselves, but also lead others through their life and witness. The saints are further described as shining “like the stars forever and ever.” This imagery mirrors Daniel’s previous use of stars as a figure for the saints (8:10). Did Christ himself not later say, “The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father” (Matthew 13:43)? While the time of tribulation will finally pass, our illuminated, blessed state will continue for ever and ever.
In some ways, chapter 12 is not simply a summary of this particular vision, but of the whole book of Daniel. At the end of all the cosmic visions and angelic visitations, Daniel is told to “go his way.” Like Daniel, we, too, can now go our way, having confidence that God is in control. Nations rise and fall; kings come and go; but God is bringing history to its ultimate end. This cosmic climax involves both the defeat of all that is evil—so often personified in Daniel in the actions of Antiochus—and the resurrection of God’s people to everlasting life. The book is sealed (v. 4), and now, as we wait with Daniel, we ponder, “How long will it be?” (v. 6).
Based on commentary written by Howard Batson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Amarillo, as condensed by Stan Granberry, marketing coordinator for BaptistWay Press.
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