Does the Old Testament teach the doctrine of the resurrection of the body? When theologians have sought to answer this question they usually point to texts like Job 19:26, “And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God” and Isaiah 26:19, “Your dead shall live; Together with my dead body they shall arise.” But perhaps the most common prooftext is Daniel 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.” N.T. Wright says of Daniel 12:2, “virtually all scholars agree that it does indeed speak of bodily resurrection, and mean this in a concrete sense.”N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press, 2003), 109. Robert Alter calls this verse, “the first and only clear reference to the resurrection of the dead in the Hebrew Bible,” putting the other passages in the category of “hyperbole or metaphors for national restoration.”Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: Volume 3 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2019), 797. Although I disagree with Alter on Job and Isaiah, I agree with him that Daniel 12:2 is a key text that teaches a literal, physical resurrection of the body. However, in this essay I will argue that it does not refer to the general resurrection at the end of history, but instead refers to a 1st century resurrection around 70 AD. I should note here that “hyperpreterism” (denying a future and final resurrection of the body) is an abominable heresy, and the doctrine of a final resurrection can be established by many other passages in both testaments (see Ex. 3:6, Job. 19:25-27, Ps. 16:9-10, Ps. 71:20, Is. 25:8, Is. 26:19, Hos. 13:14, John 5:28-29, John 6:39-40, John 11:25-26, Rom. 8:11, 1 Cor. 6:14, 1 Cor. 15:51-52, Phil. 3:20-21, 1 Thess. 4:15-17, Heb. 11:35, and Rev. 20:4-6; also see my article on this subject here). In order to defend this position I will first give the contextual background and translation of the passage, then I will survey the various interpretations that have been offered throughout church history, and then conclude with my own exegesis and interpretation.
The Historical Context of Daniel
In 605 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and besieged it (Dan. 1:1). This was the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, and the twenty-third year of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry (Jer. 25:3). The northern kingdom of Israel had already fallen to Assyria in 722 BC, and now the southern kingdom of Judah is beginning to topple. In God’s providence, Daniel is sent to Babylon ahead of the other exiles (Ezekiel would arrive eight years later). Throughout the book, Daniel is presented as a new Joseph, an interpreter of dreams who ascends to the highest halls of power: “Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm” (Dan. 6:3).
As a young man, Daniel was taught the language and literature of the Chaldeans in preparation for service to the king. Chapters 1-6 describe this service to Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius the Mede. Chapters 7-12 describe a series of visions that Daniel has about the future. By the time we get to the final vision of the book, Daniel is an old man, Cyrus is king of Persia (Dan. 10:1), and 70 years have passed since Daniel was taken to Babylon. Our text of Daniel 12:1-3 is part of the conclusion of a section that begins in Daniel 10:1, and it is here that we are given a specific timestamp of his vision, “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia…on the twenty-fourth day of the first month” (Dan. 10:1, 4).
The year is 535 BCI agree with James B. Jordan’s chronology as described in Darius, Artaxerxes, and Ahasuerus In The Bible (Louisiana: Athanasius Press, 2014. and Daniel has been mourning for three weeks, “I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled” (Dan. 10:3). According to Ezra 1:1, “in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom.” This was a proclamation for the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. After building the sacrificial altar (Ezra 2) and laying the foundation (Ezra 3), opposition arose and the work was forcibly brought to a halt (Ezra 4-5). It is this interruption to the building of God’s temple that causes Daniel to fast and pray. James Jordan comments that, “Cambyses became co-regent with Cyrus again at the New Year Festival in the Spring of 535 BC, on the fourth day of the month. In Daniel 10:13 & 20, the angel tells Daniel that he had been fighting the chief of Persia for the 21 days of Daniel’s mourning.”James B. Jordan, The Handwriting On The Wall (Georgia: American Vision, 2007), 519-520. Calvin identifies this prince of Persia as CambysesJohn Calvin, Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Daniel. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010, and although I take this to refer to the angelic power behind Cambyses, the reason for Daniel’s mourning becomes clear. Daniel is concerned about the political opposition of Cambyses to Cyrus’ original decree. Jordan states that “Cyrus was off conquering new lands, and Cambyses, who was chief of Persia, was basically in charge.”Jordan, 519. And so the question lingering for the Jews was this: “When is God’s presence going to return to Jerusalem and the times of restoration begin?” It is within this historical context that Daniel sees a vision above the Tigris river (Dan. 10:4).
Translation of Daniel 12:1-3
Hebrew Text (BHS)
1 וּבָעֵ֣ת הַהִיא֩ יַעֲמֹ֨ד מִֽיכָאֵ֜ל הַשַּׂ֣ר הַגָּד֗וֹל הָעֹמֵד֮ עַל־בְּנֵ֣י עַמֶּךָ֒ וְהָיְתָה֙ עֵ֣ת צָרָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־נִהְיְתָה֙ מִֽהְי֣וֹת גּ֔וֹי עַ֖ד הָעֵ֣ת הַהִ֑יא וּבָעֵ֤ת הַהִיא֙ יִמָּלֵ֣ט עַמְּךָ֔ כָּל־הַנִּמְצָ֖א כָּת֥וּב בַּסֵּֽפֶר׃
2 וְרַבִּ֕ים מִיְּשֵׁנֵ֥י אַדְמַת־עָפָ֖ר יָקִ֑יצוּ אֵ֚לֶּה לְחַיֵּ֣י עוֹלָ֔ם וְאֵ֥לֶּה לַחֲרָפ֖וֹת לְדִרְא֥וֹן עוֹלָֽם׃ ס
3 וְהַ֨מַּשְׂכִּלִ֔ים יַזְהִ֖רוּ כְּזֹ֣הַר הָרָקִ֑יעַ וּמַצְדִּיקֵי֙ הָֽרַבִּ֔ים כַּכּוֹכָבִ֖ים לְעוֹלָ֥ם וָעֶֽד׃ פ
1And in that time Michael will stand up,
The great prince who stands over the sons of your people.
And it will be a time of distress such as has not been since there was a nation until that time.
And in that time your people will escape, all those who are found written in the book.
2And many of those sleeping in the dust of the ground will awake,
Some to life everlasting and some to disgrace and to everlasting contempt.
3And those made wise will shine like the glowing of the firmament,
And those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars, forever and ever.In this translation I have tried to retain the Hebrew word order where possible (ie. life everlasting in vs. 2 rather than everlasting life). In verse 1, I chose the phrase “such as has not been … Continue reading
A Survey of Interpretive Options of Daniel 12:1-3
We now come to the challenge of interpreting these three verses within the broader context of Daniel itself and the rest of Scripture. Since Daniel is in many ways an Old Testament book of Revelation, it is no surprise that we have a diversity of opinions as to the timing and fulfillment of these verses. Since our focus is on the timing and nature of the resurrection in verse 2, I am going to summarize each interpretation based on how it answers the following two questions:
- What is the nature of the resurrection in verse 2?
- When does this resurrection take place?
Option 1: Bodily Resurrection of Everyone at the End of History
This is the probably the most common position among evangelicals today. It was also the position of Augustine (354-430 AD) who interprets Daniel 12:2 in light of John 5:28 saying, “Nor is there any real contradiction between John’s “all who are in the tombs” and Daniel’s “many” in place of “all.”Augustine, City of God – Fathers of the Church: A New Translation (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1947), 20.23. Theodoret of Cyr (393-466 AD) argues against a fulfillment in the intertestamental period saying, “Let those who try to apply these things to Antiochus tell us who was resurrected in his day—with some obtaining eternal life and others reaping the fruit of reproach and eternal shame…let us leave behind those old wives’ tales and learn about the common resurrection of the dead and the judgment that will take place after the resurrection.”Kenneth Stevenson and Michael Gluerup, eds., Ezekiel, Daniel, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 304.
This was also the position of John Calvin (1509-1564 AD) and the commentators of the Geneva Study Bible (1560 AD).Geneva Bible: Notes, vol. 1 (Geneva: Rovland Hall, 1560), 364. In seeking to reconcile the apparent time gaps between verses 1 and 2, Calvin says, “For why does he pass over the intermediate time during which many events might be the subject of prophecy? He unites these two subjects very fitly and properly, connecting the salvation of the Church with the final resurrection and with the second coming of Christ.”John Calvin and Thomas Myers, Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Daniel, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 373–374. So Calvin acknowledges the timestamp in verse 1 (“at that time”) but denies that it applies to verse 2, attempting to unite the passage thematically rather than chronologically.
There are two major problems with this view. First, contra Augustine, “many” cannot mean “all” without bending the Hebrew text beyond its limits. Keil and Delitzsch state,
“If we consider this course of thought, then we shall find it necessary neither to obtrude upon רַבִּים the meaning of all,—a meaning which it has not and cannot have, for the universality of the resurrection is removed by the particle מִן, which makes it impossible that רַבִּים = הָרַבִּים, οἱ πολλοί = πάντες; for this conclusion can only be drawn from the misapprehension of the course of thought here presented, that this verse contains a general statement of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, an idea which is foreign to the connection.”Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 9 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 816.
Thus the min מִן preposition in מִיְּשֵׁנֵ֥י makes a universal resurrection grammatically impossible according to Keil and Delitzsch. Augustine, who could not read Hebrew, attempts to get around this by citing Genesis 17:5 as a counter-example saying, “As an illustration of this, notice how, in one place, God said to Abraham, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’ and in another, ‘In your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.’”Augustine, 20.23. But the “many” in Genesis 17:5 is the word הֲמ֥וֹן hamor and can mean “multitude,” “crowd,” or “abundance.”Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 250. This is a completely different vocabulary and construction than what we have in Daniel 12:2 and can hardly serve as a prooftext for Augustine’s argument.
The second major problem with this view is that this resurrection is said to take place in the “latter days.” We are told in Daniel 10:14, that this vision concerns things that “will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.” These “latter days” are defined earlier in Daniel 2:28 and refer to the time from Nebuchadnezzar (605 BC) until the coming of the Messiah’s kingdom (30-70 AD). Phillip Kayser has examined every usage of this phrase “last days” or “latter days” and demonstrates that it can refer to a time period as early as 1400 BC (Genesis 49), but primarily refers to the period of 605 BC to 70 AD.Phillip Kayser, When Do the Last days Begin? https://kaysercommentary.com/Blogs/Last%20Days%20BeginBC.md (accessed September 2, 2021 This harmonizes with Jesus’ reference to the “abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet” (Matt. 24:15) and his assurance that “this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Matt. 24:34). So I find Calvin’s attempt to solve this problem to be essentially the same as those who posit a gap of millions of years in between the days of creation in Genesis 1. It is unwarranted given the context of the vision, especially since chapters 10 and 11 present the wars between the king of the South and the king of the North in a very careful historical sequence.
Option 2: Bodily Resurrection of Jesus In Anticipation of Future General Resurrection
James Jordan summarizes N.T. Wright’s view that, “verse 2 is a promise of eventual resurrection, placed here because Jesus’ own resurrection involves the eventual resurrection of all mankind to blessing or judgment. That is, the physical resurrection of all mankind is part of the reality brought by ‘Michael,’ and so it is mentioned here, thought it only happened to Jesus Himself at this time.”Jordan, 616. Wright points to Isaiah 26:19 and Isaiah 52-53 as “strongly present to the writer of Daniel 12:2-3.”Wright, 116. Christ as the suffering servant, dies and rises again, and in him the nation of Israel dies and rises as well. There is both individual resurrection and national restoration in the same event. “The resurrection of God’s people is the form that national restoration takes. This is the real end of the deepest exile of all.”Ibid. While this is a creative attempt to solve the timing problem—seeing Christ’s resurrection as an anticipatory sign of the future general resurrection, it still fails to deal adequately with a 1st century bodily resurrection of the wicked.
Option 3: Symbolic for the Conversion of Jews As They Are United to Christ (Romans 11)
A fourth option would be to take this resurrection as symbolic for the conversion of the Jews spoken of in Romans 11:15, “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” There are at least two challenges here. The first is to account for the resurrection of the wicked, which could refer to Jewish branches that are broken off, or Gentiles who are grafted in and then removed because of their pride.
The second challenge is reconciling the timing with whatever one’s view is of the fulfillment of Romans 11. If this is a 1st century ingrafting such as the sealing and redemption of the 144,000 (Rev. 7, Rev. 14), then the timing problem can be solved. However, if this is an ongoing ingrafting throughout the church age or a final ingrafting towards the end of history, then we face the same issue with accounting for the “latter days” language in which this is supposed to be fulfilled.
Option 4: Spiritual Resurrection of Israel During the Ministry of Jesus
This is the view of James Jordan who argues that just as Ezekiel 37 prophesies of a national resurrection in very literal sounding terms, “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel” (Ezk. 37:12), so also this resurrection in Daniel 12:2 is a national resurrection of Israel through the ministry of the Messiah. Jordan points to the Parable of the Soils in Matthew 13:3-23 as an example of how “three different kinds of people come to life, but only one of the three kinds is awakened to persevering, everlasting life.”Ibid., 618. So Jesus, who identifies himself as the Son of Man (a reference to Ezekiel) brings healing, restoration, and even literally raises the dead through his ministry. Jordan identifies this as the corporate resurrection of the nation. The righteous are those who hear the gospel, receive it by faith and persevere unto everlasting life. The wicked are those who hear the word and reject it, having been “raised” only to go to everlasting shame and contempt.
One of the weaknesses of Jordan’s view is that it requires him to take Daniel 12:1-3 in “reverse historical order, though in an important thematic order.”Ibid., 620. So the national resurrection in verse 2 (30-33 AD) takes place prior to the tribulation and deliverance of verse 1 (66-70 AD). The stars in the firmament in verse 3 are the saints who “shine as lights in the world” during the New Testament period (Phil. 2:15, Rev, 1:20).Ibid., 621. Although this is certainly a possible reading of the text, I think a chronological interpretation of verses 1-3 makes more sense, which I will demonstrate below.
Option 5: Bodily Resurrection Around AD 70
This is my tentative position which integrates various elements of the preceding five views but with some significant modifications. Here I will give my complete exegesis of Daniel 12:1-3 and address some of the challenges and possible solutions to this view.
Verse 1a: And in that time Michael will stand up, The great prince who stands over the sons of your people.
The “that time” referred to here refers us back to the end of Daniel 11, which describes the rise of the Herodian kings in the days of Jesus, thus placing us in a 1st century context.
Michael, literally means “Who is like God,” and may refer either to an angelic power or the preincarnate Son of God. Those who say Michael is merely an angelic being point to Daniel 10:13 where he is called, “one of the chief princes,” which they take as suggesting that Michael is just one among other equally powerful angelic beings.This is the view of Phillip Kayser who surprisingly does not deal with Jude’s quotation of Zechariah 3:2. The Dragon’s War With Heaven, … Continue reading However, Jude 9 quotes Zechariah 3:2 and places the words, “The LORD rebuke You,” in the mouth of Michael the archangel. The one speaking these words in Zechariah 3:2 is the LORD (YHWH) himself. So Jude appears to be identifying YHWH and Michael the archangel as one and the same. This favors identifying Michael as the preincarnate Son of God.
Throughout the book of Daniel, to “stand up” refers to the rise of a king or kingdom. So I take the rising of Michael to refer to the coming of Christ (his resurrection and ascension) and the subsequent warfare he wages against the devil. Revelation 12:7 describes a war that breaks out in heaven (I believe this took place in 66 AD), where “Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.” It is this casting out of Satan from heaven that brings about the great tribulation on earth, “Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child” (Rev. 12:13). This is what the next phrase of verse 1 describes: And it will be a time of distress such as has not been since there was a nation until that time (1b). I mentioned earlier that Jesus references this verse in the Olivet Discourse, which confirms that the time here spoken of is the great tribulation leading to the destruction of Herod’s temple (66-70 AD). And in that time your people will escape, all those who are found written in the book (1c). Those who escape are those who heeded Christ’s warning to “flee to the mountains” (Matt. 24:16). These are the same believers who refused to worship the beast because their names where written “in the Book of Life” (Rev. 13:8).
Verse 2: And many of those sleeping in the dust of the ground will awake, Some to life everlasting and some to disgrace and to everlasting contempt.
“Sleeping in the dust of the ground” is a metaphor for the death of the body. There are numerous examples in the New Testament that identifies “sleep” with physical death (John 11:11-13, 1 Cor. 11:30, 15:5, 1 Thess. 4:14, 5:6-10, etc.). We are told in Matthew 27:52-53 that at Christ’s resurrection, “the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” Matthew describes what is clearly a physical resurrection in AD 30, and I agree with the majority of the Christian tradition which says that these saints retained their resurrected bodies and ascended to heaven. We know also from various passages (Luke 23:43, 1 Pet. 3:19-20, Eph. 4:8-9, 2 Cor. 12:4) that after Christ’s resurrection, the souls of believers which used to go down to Sheol (Luke 16, Ps. 16), now ascend to Heaven where Christ is. For these reasons, I believe that to “awake” in Daniel 12:2 must refer primarily to the resurrection of the physical body, since the souls of the dead are already “awake” in either Sheol or Heaven.
Two counter examples where sleep is used metaphorically are Romans 13:11, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” and Ephesians 5:12, “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” Ephesians 5:12 appears to be a quote from Isaiah 26:19 and Isaiah 60:1. But Romans 13:11 may be a reference to Daniel 12:1-3, note especially the language of immanence, “knowing the time…[is] now,” and deliverance, “salvation is nearer.” This could suggest Paul is encouraging the Romans to metaphorically “awake out of sleep” because a literal awakening from the dead is drawing near.
In Acts 24:15, Paul says, αναστασιν μελλειν εσεσθαι νεκρων δικαιων τε και αδικων, “there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” Most commentators take this to refer to the end of history, however the Greek word translated “will” is μελλειν (present active infinitive of the root μέλλω) and overwhelmingly refers to something that is soon to take place (various forms of μέλλω appear 110 times in the NT). Of the seven times that μελλειν is used (all in Acts), the event referred to is something that is about to happen. For example, in Acts 11:27 Agabus prophesies, “that there was going to be a great famine (λιμον μεγαν μελλειν εσεσθαι) throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.” Acts 25:4 says, “But Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself was (μελλειν) going there shortly.” So perhaps a better translation of Acts 24:15 is, “there is about to be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” What resurrection is Paul talking about? The resurrection of Daniel 12:2.
So I take the bodily resurrection in Matthew 27:52-53 to be a first fruits resurrection of “those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20), which implies that the rest of the harvest is soon to come (see festival pattern in Lev 23:9-22). It is also noteworthy that in Numbers 19, the purification law for those who touched a dead body required a baptismal cleansing “on the third day and on the seventh day, then he will be clean” (Num. 19:12). This could be a symbolic foreshadowing of Israel’s two resurrections, one takes place on the “third day” of history (30 AD along with Christ), and another on the “seventh day” of history (70 AD when Christs executes final judgment on the old Israel). This seventh day baptism is the corporate putting off of the old man (Adam/apostate Israel), and putting on of the new man (Christ/New Jerusalem).
The most definitive text that teaches a bodily resurrection around 70 AD is Revelation 20:4-6. A full defense of my interpretation of this passage is beyond the scope of this essay,Phillip Kayser, The Two Resurrections. https://kaysercommentary.com/Sermons/New%20Testament/Revelation/Revelation%2020/Revelation%2020_4-6.md (accessed September 6, 2021 but I will briefly summarize why I believe the “first resurrection” is physical and not a reference to spiritual regeneration or a strictly figurative “resurrection” of the church:
- The first resurrection is said to take place after these saints have been faithful witnesses. This is contrary to what we believe about regeneration, which takes place at the beginning of the Christian life.
- Those who participate in the first resurrection are said to reign for the entire millennium. This would necessarily exclude those who are regenerated during the church age (millennium).
- The Greek word for resurrection (αναστασει) is never used for regeneration anywhere else in the NT and a physical resurrection is the most natural meaning of the word.
- Everyone agrees that in verse 5, the “coming to life again” (ανεζησαν) after the millennium refers to a physical resurrection. The same Greek word (εζησαν) is used in verse 4 to refer to the first resurrection.
- Verse 5 says that “the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.” Whatever interpretation one takes of the first resurrection, “the rest of the dead” do not participate in it until the end of the millennium. If it is regeneration, than nobody else would be regenerated until the end the millennium. If it is a symbolic resurrection of the church, then the rest of the church is not symbolically raised until the end of the millennium. Neither of these make any sense. A physical resurrection of some saints at the start of the millennium, and a second resurrection at the end of the millennium fits best with verse 5.
- The “souls” (vs. 4) of the righteous do not die and therefore the coming to life again of the soul must refer to the resurrection of the body, where soul and body are reunited. There is simply no other explanation for how a soul can experience resurrection apart from the body.
So if the millennium began around AD 70 as most partial-preterists agree, then we should expect to find other passages in Scripture that place a resurrection at this point in history. My suggestion is that passages like Daniel 12:2, Acts 24:15, Romans 8:18, and others, refer to this physical resurrection at the end of the last days.
Verse 3: And those made wise will shine like the glowing of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars, forever and ever.
Jesus says that during the great tribulation, “the stars of heaven will fall” (Mark 13:25). These stars who ruled the old creation are now replaced in the firmament by the wise and righteous saints of Daniel 12:3. The book of Revelation describes this change in the cosmic order, and Paul anticipates this change in 1 Corinthians 6:3 when he says that “we shall judge angels.” In the old creation, angels ruled the world and Michael was chief amongst them. But now that a Man sits upon the throne of heaven, it is the righteous sons of men who take their place in the firmament, shining like stars, forever and ever.
Some Problems & Solutions
The biggest problem with my view is accounting for the resurrection of the wicked. There are two question that need to be answered.
- What happened to the resurrected bodies of the wicked?
- How do we reconcile a resurrection of the wicked with Revelation 20:4-6, which appears to limit the first resurrection to “those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands,” and then goes on to say that “the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished”?
In answer to the first question, I believe the resurrected bodies of the wicked were simply thrown into the lake of fire. I would point to Revelation 19:19 where, “the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.” The beast and false prophet are then captured and “cast alive into the lake of fire.” We know from Revelation 21:8 that “the lake which burns with fire and brimstone…is the second death.” So it appears that these enemies of Christ were physically killed (the first death), and then were resurrected so they could be “cast alive into the lake of fire” (the second death). So just as some of the saints received resurrected bodies and ascended to heaven before the rest of us (Matt. 27:52-53. 1 Cor. 15:23), so also some of the wicked received resurrected bodies ahead of the final judgment and were cast into the lake of fire.
As to the second question of harmonizing with Revelation 20:4-6, there are at least two possible solutions. One is to place the resurrection of Daniel 12:2 just prior to the “first resurrection” in Revelation 20. There is already precedent for this based on Matthew 27:52-53, and it is possible that the Daniel 12:2 resurrection is not identical with the “first resurrection” of Revelation 20. This would also allow Daniel to receive a resurrected body despite living hundreds of years prior to the great tribulation, and not falling into the category of those described in Revelation 20:4. Under this solution, the wicked dead would already have been raised and cast into the lake of fire before the first resurrection takes place (perhaps this is what Revelation 19 refers to?).
A second possible solution is to take the souls of those who participate in the first resurrection to be representative of all the old covenant saints who died prior to 70 AD and to treat it as summarizing the entire harvest of the faithful up to that point. We could then take “the rest of the dead” in verse 5 to refer not to the wicked or dead in general, but specifically to the rest of the faithful who die in Christ during the millennium.
To summarize my position then: I believe that Daniel 12:2 refers to a physical resurrection of some of the righteous (either all the Old Covenant saints, or just 1st century martyrs) and some of the wicked (possibly apostate Israel or those mentioned in Rev. 19). The bodies of the righteous ascended to heaven and are currently reigning with Christ throughout the millennium. The bodies of the wicked were either cast back into Sheol or into the lake of fire. This bodily resurrection signifies the end of the Jewish exile, the “resurrection” of New Israel (now composed of Jew and Gentile), and confirms that there will be a future and final resurrection and judgment.
My hope is that this study has revealed just how difficult it is to interpret Daniel 12:2. The interpreter is forced to wrestle with some of the most controversial passages in the Bible (like Revelation 20 and Romans 11) and harmonize the entire biblical witness about resurrection without doing violence to each original text. While there are still many questions that need to be addressed as to the timing and nature of each passage that mentions resurrection, my prayer is that God will give to his church, just as he gave to Daniel, the “skill to understand” (Dan. 9:20). In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
|↑1||N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press, 2003), 109.|
|↑2||Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: Volume 3 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2019), 797.|
|↑3||I agree with James B. Jordan’s chronology as described in Darius, Artaxerxes, and Ahasuerus In The Bible (Louisiana: Athanasius Press, 2014.|
|↑4||James B. Jordan, The Handwriting On The Wall (Georgia: American Vision, 2007), 519-520.|
|↑5||John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Daniel. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010|
|↑7||In this translation I have tried to retain the Hebrew word order where possible (ie. life everlasting in vs. 2 rather than everlasting life). In verse 1, I chose the phrase “such as has not been since there was a nation until that time” borrowing from the NKJV rendering of Christ’s words in Matthew 24:21, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Verses 2 and 3 contain multiple allusions to the opening chapters of Genesis. The language of Daniel 12:2 אַדְמַת־עָפָ֖ר, adamat-aphar points us back to the עָפָר֙ מִן־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה, aphar min-haadamah of Genesis 2:7, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” The image of resurrection here is one of re-creation from the dust. Verse 3 then calls our attention to the stars in the firmament (רָקִיעַ) which are created on the fourth day of creation “to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth” (Gen. 1:14-15). Daniel 12:3 likens the wise (שׂכל ) who have been given skill to understand (Dan. 9:22) with these stars in the firmament which “rule over the day and over the night and divide the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:18). In Scripture, wisdom is this kingly ability to make distinctions and divisions (see Solomon’s “division” of the baby and the women in 1 Kings 3). So just as the stars rule and divide between darkness and light, so the wise are to rule and divide between the righteous and the wicked. The promise here is that not only will those who sleep in the dust awake to everlasting life, they will also “arise to an inheritance at the end of the days” (Dan. 12:13) becoming glorified lights in the firmament.|
|↑8||Augustine, City of God – Fathers of the Church: A New Translation (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1947), 20.23.|
|↑9||Kenneth Stevenson and Michael Gluerup, eds., Ezekiel, Daniel, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 304.|
|↑10||Geneva Bible: Notes, vol. 1 (Geneva: Rovland Hall, 1560), 364.|
|↑11||John Calvin and Thomas Myers, Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Daniel, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 373–374.|
|↑12||Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 9 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 816.|
|↑14||Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 250.|
|↑15||Phillip Kayser, When Do the Last days Begin? https://kaysercommentary.com/Blogs/Last%20Days%20BeginBC.md (accessed September 2, 2021|
|↑22||This is the view of Phillip Kayser who surprisingly does not deal with Jude’s quotation of Zechariah 3:2. The Dragon’s War With Heaven, https://kaysercommentary.com/Sermons/New%20Testament/Revelation/Revelation%2012/Revelation%2012_7-9.md (accessed September 6, 2021|
|↑23||Phillip Kayser, The Two Resurrections. https://kaysercommentary.com/Sermons/New%20Testament/Revelation/Revelation%2020/Revelation%2020_4-6.md (accessed September 6, 2021|