Thoughts to Ponder: Chapter 27

Chapter 27: The End Times—Great Changes to Come ~ Daniel 12:1-13 

Q1 – Who will be delivered during this time of great distress? Does this mean no physical harm would come to them? (Daniel 12:1-4) Compare this scripture to Revelations 20:11-15.

A1 – Everyone whose names are found written in the book will be delivered, but that will be after the time of extreme distress. Will they be physically delivered alive, while on earth? Maybe some of them, but from the description of the persecutions that God’s people will endure, many will perish as well. With the time of distress being “… such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then” (Daniel 12:1, NIV), many will suffer and die.

Something that seems curious in Daniel 12:1 is the use of the phrase about names being found “written in the book.” It’s use here sounds like the eternal record book, the book of life. This book is spoken of more frequently in the New Testament, after the coming of Christ and the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom. But are there other similar Old Testament scriptures? Did the people who lived before Christ know about an eternal record book?

As early as Exodus 32:32-33 (NIV), such a record book is mentioned. When Moses took too long up on Mount Sinai receiving the 10 Commandments from God, the Israelites had Aaron make for them an idol to worship. Moses, in seeking atonement for the people, asked God to “please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” Moses was not the one who had sinned, so God replied, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.”

David also talks about the book of life. On numerous occasions, he had to flee from people trying to kill him, particularly King Saul. You can hear his anxiety as he talks about his tribulations in Psalm 69 (NIV). Then in verses 27-28 of that chapter he says this of his adversaries, “Charge them with crime upon crime; do not let them share in your salvation. May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.”

So while there are occasional Old Testament references to God’s eternal book of records or the book of life, it’s mentioned more frequently in the New Testament. In fact, much of the wording and tone of these first four verses in Daniel 12 sound very similar to various scriptures in the book of Revelation which talk about the afterlife, the judgement day and eternity (see Revelation 20:11-15).

We also know that after Jesus’s crucifixion many godly people who had already died were raised from the dead (see the accompanying lesson for this chapter and read Matthew 27:51-53). Whether this scripture in Daniel is referring to that time or to the end of times is not clear. What this scripture does let us know is that God will take care of whoever’s name is written in the book of life.

Q2 – What are the characteristics of those who will “shine like the brightness of the heavens” and “like the stars forever and ever”? (Daniel 11:33-35; 12:3; 12:10)

A2 – Actually, we can go back to Daniel 11:32 to begin the description of God’s people, who are the ones being spoken of in the above scriptures.

  • Daniel 11:32 – they will be people who know their God and will firmly resist the evil king.
  • Daniel 11:33 – they will be wise and will instruct many, even though they may be killed.
  • Daniel 11:35 – some of the wise will stumble (various versions say “fall” or “be defeated”). This will result in their being refined, purified and cleansed.
  • Daniel 12:3 – they will be wise (various versions say “have insight” or “are learned”). Because of this wisdom and insight, they will shine brightly like the heavens. They will lead many to righteousness.
  • Daniel 12:10 – “Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined by these trials” (NLT). This is an interesting scripture. Here’s the rest of that verse: “But the wicked will continue in their wickedness, and none of them will understand. Only those who are wise will know what it means.”

Evidently, the wicked will not understand the significance of the times that they will live through, or perhaps they will not understand why they should change their ways for the afterlife that is to come. But the wise will understand these things, and they will use the trials they endure to make them stronger in their faith. They know that this present world and its tribulations will not last. In eternity they will reap the rewards of their faithfulness, and there they will shine like the stars forever and ever.

Q3 – If wisdom is able to counter the forces of evil on this earth, how does one become wise? (James 1:5) Study further what James has to say about wisdom, particularly in James 1:2-7 and in James 3:13-18.

A3 – In the previous question, we saw that wisdom is a defining characteristic of God’s people. What exactly is wisdom? The Cambridge Dictionary states it’s “the ability to make good judgments based on what you have learned from your experience, or the knowledge and understanding that gives you this ability.”

However, you might argue that two people, faced with making the same judgment call, who are equipped with the same inputs—experiences, knowledge and understanding—could choose to make very different decisions. You may know of examples of this, perhaps siblings raised very similarly, yet one makes wise decisions while the other does not. So wisdom has to consist of more than these inputs.

Someone’s ability to make good judgments, whatever the inputs, also hinges on the desires and inclination of that person’s heart. People can just as easily be wise in the ways of the world, in being devious, or worse, in being treacherous.

Christians, whose hearts are turned toward God, search His word and pray for His guidance in using good judgment. James 1:5 (NIV) tells us, “ If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James goes on to say in verses 6-8 to ask in faith and not doubt, or else don’t expect to receive your request. He calls someone who asks of God and yet doubts God at the same time double minded and unstable.

James talks about wisdom further in 3:13-18 (NIV) and explains the difference between earthly wisdom and wisdom that is from above: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”