26 April 2014Daniel 12:1-13
“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (vv. 2-3)
At the end of Easter Week, having begun with the resurrection of Jesus we now finish with the last chapter of Daniel and a vision of resurrection.
There are few other references to the resurrection in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament): three read as resurrection of the nation (eg Ezekiel 37:13-14); there are many references to Sheol - a dark place where the dead are separated both from the living and God, although God is seen as having power over Sheol (eg Psalm 139:8). However, there are no others in the Hebrew Scriptures that come close to a Christian understanding of Resurrection as we see in Jesus.
So in Daniel, this late book in the Hebrew Scriptures, we see a development in the understanding of death and God's kingdom, one that includes new life after death. New is life not for all - of those who awake for some it is good (everlasting life) and for others bad (shame and everlasting contempt). This matches quite closely what we see in John 5:25, 29.
Resurrection is clearly developed a great deal in the New Testament. Jesus talks about it, he raises three people (Jairus' daughter (Luke 8:41-56), the widow's son (Luke 7:11-17) and Lazarus (John 11:38-44)) and is then raised himself, as he said he would be, "on the third day" (Mark 8:31). Paul explores resurrection in great theological detail and in recent years Tom Wright has been one the leading theologians taking a new perspective on Paul and resurrection.
Therefore when we read Daniel we do so with much prior knowledge and expectation regarding resurrection. What then can we take from Daniel on resurrection? The beginning of verse 12 seems to be key "Happy are those who persevere" - it fits with many of the visions in Daniel as well as the events in the narrative. Is the message from Daniel for us today that our goal is to persevere though whatever comes our way? God may bring new life while we persevere, but even if not, God still has the ultimate in hand and so we live in hope.
- Does a call to persevere feel helpful and/or relevant for you? Why?
- Where does the balance between resurrection now and after death lie for you?
- How does your understanding of resurrection help you persevere and live with hope?
- How do people you know generally understand resurrection? How might you together explore different understandings?