Final Resurrection and Reward
“Many … who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (vv. 2–3).- Daniel 12
Apocalyptic literature often sees events in the near term as anticipations of similar events to come. Jesus shows us this phenomenon when He predicts the “abomination of desolation” in the Jerusalem temple in AD 70, namely, the Roman standards that General Titus set in place as objects of worship just before he had the armies of Rome burn the temple to the ground (Mark 13:14–23). Our Lord was recalling Daniel 11:31, where Daniel foresaw the “abomination that makes desolate”—the idols Antiochus IV Epiphanes set up in the Jerusalem temple in the second century BC. Christ foresaw Titus’ standards as a long-term fulfillment of a vision that had a shorter-term fulfillment centuries earlier.
When we come to the end of Daniel 11, which is actually one unit with Daniel 12, we find a prediction of longer-term events alongside a prediction of events occurring prior to the coming of the Messiah. In 11:36, it appears that the prophet moves from Antiochus as a figure in history to Antiochus as a type of the final enemy to come. We draw this conclusion mainly based on the exalted language applied to the king in verses 36–45, the reference to the “time of the end” (v. 40), and the fact that the final resurrection foreseen in Daniel 12 seems to happen immediately after the ruler in 11:36–45 is defeated. Given the symbolism of the passage, this interpretation is tentative, but it seems to fit the figure whom theologians have traditionally regarded as the Antichrist, the ultimate embodiment of the “spirit of antichrist” who has always stood against the Lord and His people (see 1 John 4:3).
This final enemy “shall come to his end” in a time of great trouble, but the people of God will be preserved (11:45–12:1). At that point, there will be a physical resurrection of the dead, both the righteous and the unrighteous. The former will be rewarded, but the latter will find “everlasting contempt” and destruction because they are the Lord’s impenitent enemies (12:2–3). Despite the sufferings of God’s people in exile, as described in Daniel 1–6 and foreseen in 7–12, those who persevere in faithfulness, trusting in God alone for deliverance, will be victorious in the long term even though they endure pain in the near term.
That is the message of Daniel for us today. As God’s people, we remain physically exiled from paradise, awaiting the full restoration of all things. Spiritually, however, the restoration has begun, which means suffering for our faith until the consummation. But all who endure to the end will be saved (Matt. 10:22).
God’s elect will most certainly persevere until the end, and the elect know that they are elect only as they persevere (Phil. 1:6). Daniel shows us how those who truly know the Lord are faithful to Him when they face opposition, be it minor or great. It is a call for us to be faithful to Him all the days of our lives, to persevere to the end that we might receive a great reward. Let us press on in faith and repentance, never losing hope in the final salvation of our God.
Passages for Further Study
Daniel 1; 6