The Old Testament text for this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Daniel. The text is Daniel 12:1-3 and arguably contains the clearest teaching concerning the bodily resurrection from the dead in the Old Testament. Explicit texts on the resurrection, especially bodily resurrection, are not that common in the Old Testament. The most familiar and explicit are Job 19; Isaiah 25, 26; and Ezekiel 37 along with our text for today. It is important to note that this bodily resurrection is universal in nature. In other words, all people will be raised from the dead bodily—some to eternal life and others to eternal damnation—but all will be raised. Daniel is quite clear about this in our text, as is the New Testament in Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:28-29; I Corinthians 15:52; and Revelation 20:12-15. It is important to focus on the reality of the BODILY resurrection because there are many conflicting messages out there—some even in our own churches.
The identity of “Michael, the great prince” is significant and should be understood as Michael, the archangel—the warrior angel who leads the hosts of heaven against Satan. Some have suggested a “judicial” role for Michael, but that is not in keeping with the context of our text. This pericope is most certainly in an eschatological context. It is describing the end times when Christ shall return, and the dead shall rise, again, some to eternal life, some to eternal damnation. Notice how this follows a time of trouble and distress, “such as never has been since...” The book referenced in verse one should be associated with the “Book of Life” of Exodus 32:32-33; Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 7:10 and Psalm 69:28, and not the “Book of Truth” of Daniel 10:21. (see also the Lutheran Confessions, F.C. Ept. Art. XI, 6).
In verse 2, the “sleep” referred to is the sleep of death as is common in both Old and New Testaments. The connection with “dust” reminds us of Genesis 3 as well as Isaiah 26. Finally, a thank you to Andrew Steinmann and his work on Daniel in the Concordia Commentary Series.
12:1 יַעֲמֹד root: עמד Qal: “to stand; to arise” In this context, “arise” is preferable.
הָעֹמֵד Participle form: “the one who stands”
צָרָה “need; distress; anxiety; dire straits”
יִמָּלֵט root: מלט Niphal: “to be delivered; to flee to safe haven”
12:2 וְרַבִּים> While this is usually translated as “many” it does not mean that any are excluded from this awakening. Perhaps a better translation would be “multitudes” because the context indicates a reference to all people.
מִיְּשֵׁנֵי from: ישן “sleeping; asleep; sleep of death; sleep of the departed” (Ps. 13:4)
מִיְּשֵׁנֵי אַדְמַת-עָפָר Literally, “from sleepers of earth of dust”. Steinmann argues for the translation “those sleeping in the dusty earth”.
יָקִיצוּ root: קיץ Hiphil: “to wake up; awake” Steinmann notes that this can be for awakening from ordinary sleep or from the sleep of death; ie. bodily resurrection (Isaiah 26:19; Psalm 17:15).
וְאֵלֶּה>ii …..אֵלֶּה “these…and those” This indicates two separate groups with two separate outcomes.
לְחַיֵּי עוֹלָם>; “eternal life; everlasting life” This is the only place in the Old Testament where this precise term is used. Certainly the idea is delivered with other phrases.
לַחֲרָפוֹת; from: חרפת, “disgrace; reproach; shame”
לְדִרְאוֹן . from: דִרְאוֹןE “abhorrence; contempt” This is used here and in Isaiah 66:24 exclusively. The idea of horror and aversion is conveyed—the horror of eternal death and damnation experienced by the unbelievers.
12:3 וְהַמַּשְׂכִּלִים> root: שׂכל Hiphil, participle: “to have insight; to give insight; to teach; cause to consider” “Those who have insight”
יַזְהִרוּ root: זהר Hiphil: “to shine; send out light”
כְּזֹהַר. from: זֹהר “to give off light; glow; shining light” Found only here and in Ezekiel 8:2.
הָרָקִיעַ “firmament; expanse”
וּמַצְדִּיקֵי root: צדק Hiphil participle: “to be justified; to reckon as righteous; to make righteous; to obtain rights for” “Bring (the many) to righteousness” Not that these believers justify others, rather, they proclaim righteousness (Gospel) to many.
הָרַבִּים “The many”
לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד. “Forever and ever” “lasting future time; perpetuity”
I intend to preach this text in reference to Genesis 2 and 3. Creation from the dust, return to the dust (Fall), and finally being raised from the dusty earth on the last day. Following is an illustration I intend to use as an introduction:
One day, a little boy sat in the pew at church listening attentively as the Pastor preached a strong sermon on the realities of the Fall into sin. His eyes grew wide as the Pastor’s voice raised while he quoted from the Book of Genesis: “You are dust and to dust you shall return!” An impression was made. Later that same day this little boy’s mother heard a yell from her son’s bedroom. She went running up the stairs and he met her halfway. “Mom,” he said with great concern, “do you remember that the Pastor said we are dust and to dust we shall return? I just looked under my bed and someone is either coming or going!” …but which is it? Coming or going?
Concordia Theology: Various resources for preaching Daniel 12:1-3 from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO.
Jesus in the Lion’s Den? Preaching Christ from Daniel: Helpful thoughts on preaching Christ in Daniel from Matt Smethurst at the Gospel Coalition.