As Daniel prayed and fasted, an angel appeared to him in a vision and proceeded to bless Daniel with the most detailed prophecy of all time, rich with specific information about hundreds of years of coming history.
We have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. We can look back and see how every aspect of the historic portion of the vision was actually fulfilled. But when it comes to things that are still in the future, we are in the same boat Daniel was. We can only guess at the details such as who is involved and which nations are meant.
The twelfth and final chapter of Daniel's book is a continuation of this vision. We have now moved into an area that remains entirely in the future for us. A coming world leader will arise through deceit and political maneuvering. He will enforce a treaty with Israel, ensuring that they can fulfil the Jewish religious observances. Then suddenly, after three and a half years, he will invade Israel, disallow the sacrifice, and desecrate the temple by placing an idol in the Holy of Holies or in some other key place.
At that time Michael will arise, the great prince who protects your people. There will be a time of trouble such as never was since the beginning of nations until then. And at that time your people will be delivered, everyone whose name is found written in the book.
Daniel is told about the Great Tribulation, with words almost identical to those shared by Jesus in the Olivet sermon: a time of distress such as has not happened since the beginning of the world. Jesus may even be quoting Daniel.
Michael is described as the prince who protects the Jews. At that time he will spring into his most serious action. The reference to him arising could mean that he will be revealed visibly to those he is protecting, but that's conjecture.
Imagine the setting as the bowls of wrath described in the book of Revelation pour out their various stages of devastation. One third of the ships at sea will be destroyed. Large numbers will die from drinking Wormwood-poisoned water. The remaining population will wish for death during the torment inflicted by satanic locusts. Another third of mankind will be destroyed by them. Everything builds to a crescendo at the Battle of Armageddon.
Yet notice the wonderful hope presented so clearly: everyone (not just some) whose name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life will be delivered. Every person who accepts that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah -- the Jewish Mashiach Nagid -- and follows him will be given eternal life. Have you made a decision for Christ, or are you sitting on the fence? If you are a Christian, are you truly living as a believer, obeying the Word of God?
Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
This points to a bodily resurrection and judgement after the return of Christ. They will then enter the next phase of existence, according to what they believe. Those whose names are not written in the Lamb's Book of Life will be exposed to shame and contempt before the whole tribunal of heavenly hosts and men (Revelation 20:11-15) when all their sins will be exposed to view and they are led off to everlasting torment.
Rather than judgement and contempt, those who are true followers of Jesus will receive everlasting life in the presence of God.
It is fascinating that the Bible refers to "many" rather than "all" who sleep in the temporary state we call death. This indicates that others who were dead are already risen, supporting the view of a "rapture" of believers who will be raised into the clouds before the final "day of the Lord."
Those who are wise will shine as the brightness of the heavens; and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars for ever and ever.
Jesus shared these words with his disciples:
"Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear."
Believers often forget about the rewards promised to us by Jesus Christ for righteousness. We focus on the fact that we are saved, but forget that there are specific rewards for the things we do in Christ. The apostle Paul went into detail about the results of how we live as Christians:
"If any man builds on this foundation [of salvation in Christ] using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."
Though all believers will be eligible for a reward, only certain believers will receive something beyond eternal life, because it is based on what we have done with our faith. Things you did for the wrong motives will be burned up. If you offered a homeless person a meal, but only because someone important was looking, your effort will be like "straw" in the fire of judgement and will disappear. Only those things done with a motive of genuine love, compassion and faith will be blessed.
But you, Daniel, close up the words and seal the book until the time of the end. Many will roam here and there, and knowledge will be increased."
Knowledge has increased exponentially, both intellectually and spiritually over the past centuries. Since Jerome's first ground-breaking Bible commentary was published around AD400 we have seen an overwhelming quantity of information to help us better understand the Scriptures.
Once again we see Daniel told to "seal up" the details of the rest of his vision. Scholars are divided on what this means. Some believe this suggests that future documents written by Daniel may eventually come to light at the appointed time. Others say that it only means that the book is to be closed by writing it down and that God will reveal it as appropriate over time. Still others say that there are things within the book that may suddenly be revealed or discovered at a later date, such as the recent discoveries of the so-called "Bible Codes" of equidistant letter sequences.
It is interesting that Daniel was shown a state of the world in which "knowledge will be increased." For centuries knowledge remained relatively stable, ramping up slightly during the Age of Enlightenment. However, in the past century our knowledge has grown so dramatically it now doubles every 18 months. Some say this passage refers to spiritual knowledge, meaning the growth in commentaries and books about details of Scripture. While there is some truth to that, it seems that the vast majority of recent "new" discoveries are in fact heresy or teachings that work against the traditional view of the Bible as being the perfect, innerant Word of God.