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What does Daniel 12 mean?

“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. 

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting [an indeterminate period of time] contempt [judgment]. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” Daniel 12:1-3 

Michael (which signifies “who is God,” or one representing God), we believe, is the name here applied to our great Redeemer, Jesus. 

The words “shall Michael stand up” refer to our glorified Lord Jesus who takes the reins of power at the end of this time period in order to establish his Messianic kingdom on earth. The expression “stand up” is also found in Daniel 11:2, 3, 7, 20, and 21 and refers to taking authority or a position of authority. 

Who are the delivered people whose names are found written in the book? What is the book and when will these people be delivered? Daniel was told that Michael would stand “for the children of thy people.” 

The “children of thy people” are the Lord’s people, whether they are natural Israelites or spiritual Israelites. They would be those who express faith in God and his promises. 

The expression “every one shall be written in the book” is most likely a metaphor, or figure of speech, which Daniel would have been familiar from Moses’ conversation with God in Exodus 32:32-33. To be “written in the book” is, therefore, a general symbol of those considered worthy by God. 

When will they be delivered? In the context of Daniel 12:1 they (the spiritual and earthly classes) will be delivered from the troubles and distress of nations that will occur during the close of the time period and the beginning of the Millennial Age. 

Who the wise were in verse 3 and when they would shine as the brightness of the firmament (the sun)? We believe that the wise are spiritual Israel, the “little flock” or the completed bride of Christ in glory. They have been resurrected to “everlasting life” (verse 2) because they submitted their wills to God since the time of Jesus’ death and were found worthy to be part of the heavenly bride of Christ. 

When will they shine (admonish or teach)? They will shine after the time of trouble when the multitudes that are asleep in death will awaken on earth to a period of judgment. 

Who will turn many to righteousness and shine like the stars forever and ever. The “stars” that would turn many to righteousness could be a second symbol for the saints or bride of Christ (the wise that shine like the brightness of the firmament) mentioned above, or the stars could be the earthly “ancient worthy” class mentioned in Hebrews 11, who will lead the world toward righteousness in the kingdom with direction from the saints above. 

To learn more about the prophecies in the book of Daniel listen to, “Are We Living in the ‘End Times’?” and “Why Do Historians Dislike Daniel So Much?”