Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth - This prophecy has been referred to the future restoration of the Jews. It will be also true of the state of mankind at the general judgment.
And many of them - The natural and obvious meaning of the word “many” (רבים rabı̂ym ) here is, that a large portion of the persons referred to would thus awake, but not all. So we should understand it if applied to other things, as in such expressions as these - “many of the people,” “many of the houses in a city,” “many of the trees in a forest,” “many of the rivers in a country,” etc. In the Scriptures, however, it is undeniable that the word is sometimes used to denote the whole considered as constituted of many, as in Romans 5:15-16, Romans 5:19. In these passages no one can well doubt that the word many is used to denote all, considered as composed of the “many” that make up the human race, or the “many” offences that man has committed. So if it were to be used respecting those who were to come forth from the caves and fastnesses where they had been driven by persecution, or those who sleep in their graves, and who will come forth in a general resurrection, it might be used of them considered as the many, and it might be said “the many” or “the multitude” comes forth.
Not a few interpreters, therefore, have understood this in the sense of all, considered as referring to a multitude, or as suggesting the idea of a multitude, or keeping up the idea that there would be great numbers. If this is the proper interpretation, the word “many” was used instead of the word “all” to suggest to the mind the idea that there would be a multitude, or that there would be a great number. Some, as Lengerke, apply it to all the Israelites who “were not written in the book” Daniel 12:1, that is, to a resurrection of all the Israelites who had died; some, as Porphyry, a coining forth of the multitudes out of the caves and fastnesses who had been driven there by persecution; and some, as Rosenmuller and Havernick, understand it as meaning all, as in Romans 5:15, Romans 5:19. The sum of all that can be said in regard to the meaning of the word, it seems to me, is, that it is so far ambiguous that it might be applied
(a) to “many” considered as a large portion of a number of persons or things;
(b) or, in an absolute sense, to the whole of any number of persons or things considered as a multitude or great number.
As used here in the visions of the future, it would seem to denote that the eye of the angel was fixed on a great multitude rising from the dust of the earth, without any particular or distinct reference to the question whether all arose. There would be a vast or general resurrection from the dust; so much so that the mind would be interested mainly in the contemplation of the great hosts who would thus come forth. Thus understood, the language might, of itself, apply either to a general arousing of the Hebrew people in the time of the Maccabees, or to a general resurrection of the dead in the last day.
That sleep - This expression is one that denotes either natural sleep, or anything that resembles sleep. In the latter sense it is often used to denote death, and especially the death of the pious - who calmly slumber in their graves in the hope of awaking in the morning of the resurrection. See the notes at 1 Thessalonians 4:14. It cannot be denied that it might be applied to those who, for any cause, were inactive, or whose energies were not aroused - as we often employ the word sleep or slumber - and that it might be tints used of those who seemed to slumber in the midst of the persecutions which raged, and the wrongs that were committed by Antiochus; but it would be most natural to understand it of those who were dead, and this idea would be particularly suggested in the connection in which it stands here.
In the dust of the earth - Hebrew, “In the ground, or earth of dust” - ארמת־עפר 'ademath ‛âphâr The language denotes the ground or earth considered as composed of dust, and would naturally refer to those who are dead and buried - considered as sleeping there with the hope of awaking in the resurrection.
Shall awake - This is language appropriate to those who are asleep, and to the dead considered as being asleep. It might, indeed, be applied to an arousing from a state of lethargy and inaction, but its most obvious, and its full meaning, would be to apply it to the resurrection of the dead, considered as an awaking to life of those who were slumbering in their graves.
Some - One portion of them. The relative number is not designated, but it is implied that there would be two classes. They would not all rise to the same destiny, or the same lot.
To everlasting life - So that they would live forever. This stands in contrast with their” sleeping in the dust of the earth,” or their being dead, and it implies that that state would not occur in regard to them again. Once they slept in the dust of the earth; now they would live for ever, or would die no more. Whether in this world or in another is not here said, and there is nothing in the passage which would enable one to determine this. The single idea is that of living forever, or never dying again. This is language which must have been derived from the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and of the future state, and which must imply the belief of that doctrine in whatever sense it may be used here. It is such as in subsequent times was employed by the sacred writers to denote the future state, and the rewards of the righteous. The most common term employed in the New Testament, perhaps, to describe true religion, is life, and the usual phrase to denote the condition of the righteous after the resurrection is eternal or everlasting life. Compare Matthew 25:46. This language, then, would most naturally be referred to that state, and covers all the subsequent revelations respecting the condition of the blessed.
And some to shame - Another portion in such a way that they shall have only shame or dishonor. The Hebrew word means reproach, scorn, contumely; and it may be applied to the reproach which one casts on another, Job 16:10; Psalm 39:8 (9); Psalm 79:12; or to the reproach which rests on anyone, Joshua 5:9; Isaiah 54:4. Here the word means the reproach or dishonor which would rest on them for their sins, their misconduct, their evil deeds. The word itself would apply to any persons who were subjected to disgrace for their former misconduct. If it be understood here as having a reference to those who would be aroused from their apathy, and summoned from their retreats in the times of the Maccabees, the meaning is, that they would be called forth to public shame on account of their apostasy, and their conformity to pagan customs; if it be interpreted as applying to the resurrection of the dead, it means that the wicked would rise to reproach and shame before the universe for their folly and vileness. As a matter of fact, one of the bitterest ingredients in the doom of the wicked will be the shame and confusion with which they will be overwhelmed in the great day on account of the sins and follies of their course in this world.
And everlasting contempt - The word “everlasting” in this place is the same which in the former part of the verse is applied to the other portion that would awake, and like that properly denotes eternal; as in Matthew 25:46, the word translated “everlasting” (punishment) is the same which is rendered “eternal” (life), and means what is to endure forever. So the Greek here, where the same word occurs, as in Matthew 25:46 - “some to everlasting life,” εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον eis zōēn aiōnion “and some to everlasting contempt,” εἰς αἰσχύνην αἰώνιον eis aischunēn aiōnion - is one which would denote a strict and proper eternity. The word “contempt” (דראון derâ'ôn ) means, properly, a repulse; and then aversion, abhorrence. The meaning here is aversion or abhorrence - the feeling with which we turn away from what is loathsome, disgusting, or hateful. Then it denotes the state of mind with which we contemplate the vile and the abandoned; and in this respect expresses the emotion with which the wicked will be viewed on the final trial. The word everlasting completes the image, meaning that this feeling of loathing and abhorrence would continue forever. In a subordinate sense this language might be used to denote the feelings with which cowards, ingrates, and apostates are regarded on earth; but it cannot be doubted that it will receive its most perfect fulfillment in the future world - in that aversion with which the lost will be viewed by all holy beings in the world to come.
This verse also shows how momentous a period is introduced by the standing up of Michael, or the commencement of the reign of Christ, as set forth in the first verse of this chapter; for the event here described in explicit terms is a resurrection of the dead. Is this the general resurrection which takes place at the second coming of Christ? or is there to intervene between Christ's reception of the kingdom and his revelation to earth in all his advent glory (Luke 19:12) a special resurrection answering to the description here given? One of these it must be; for every declaration of Scripture will be fulfilled.DAR 297.2
Why may it not be the former, or the resurrection which occurs at the last trump? Answer: Because only the righteous, to the exclusion of all the wicked, have part in that resurrection. Those who sleep in Christ then come forth; but they only, for the rest of the dead live not again for a thousand years. Revelation 20:5. So then the general resurrection of the whole race is comprised in two grand divisions, first, of the righteous exclusively, at the coming of Christ; secondly, of the wicked exclusively, a thousand years thereafter. The general resurrection is not a mixed resurrection. The righteous and the wicked do not come up promiscuously at the same time. But each of these two classes is set off by itself, and the time which elapses between their respective resurrections is plainly stated to be a thousand years.DAR 298.1
But in the resurrection brought to view in the verse before us, many of both righteous and wicked come up together. It cannot therefore be the first resurrection, which includes the righteous only, nor the second resurrection, which is as distinctly confined to the wicked. If the text read, Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake to everlasting life, then the âmanyâ might be interpreted as including all the righteous, and the resurrection be that of the just at the second coming of Christ. But the fact that some of the many are wicked, and rise to shame and everlasting contempt, bars the way to such an application.DAR 298.2
It may be objected that this text does not affirm the awakening of any but the righteous, according to the translation of Bush and Whiting; namely, âAnd many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, these to everlasting life, and those to shame and everlasting contempt.â It will be noticed, first of all, that this translation (which is not by any means above criticism) proves nothing till the evident ellipsis is supplied. This ellipsis some therefore undertake to supply as follows: âAnd many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, these [the awakened ones] to everlasting life, and those [the unawakened ones] to shame and everlasting contempt.â It will be noticed, again, that this does not supply the ellipses, but only adds a comment, which is a very different thing. To supply the ellipsis is simply to insert those words which are necessary to complete the sentence. âMany of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,â is a complete sentence. The subject and predicate are both expressed. The next member, âSome [or these] to everlasting life,â is not complete. What is wanted to complete it? Not a comment, giving some one's opinion as to who are intended by âthese,â but a verb of which these shall be the subject. What verb shall it be? This must be determined by the preceding portion of the sentence, which is complete, where the verb shall awake is used. This, then, is the predicate to be supplied: âSome [or these] shall awake to everlasting life.â Applying the same rule to the next member, âSome [or those] to shame and everlasting contempt,â which is not in itself a complete sentence, we find ourselves obliged to supply the same words, and read it, âSome [or those] shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt.â Anything less than this will not complete the sense, and anything different will pervert the text; for a predicate to be supplied cannot go beyond one already expressed. The affirmation made in the text pertains only to the many who awake. Nothing is affirmed of the rest who do not then awake. And to say that the expression âto shame and everlasting contemptâ applies to them, when nothing is affirmed of them, is not only to outrage the sense of the passage, but the laws of language as well. And of the many who awake, some come forth to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt, which further proves a resurrection to consciousness for these also; for while contempt may be felt and manifested by others toward those who are guilty, shame can be felt and manifested only by the guilty parties themselves. This resurrection, therefore, as already shown, comprises some of both righteous and wicked, and cannot be the general resurrection at the last day.DAR 298.3
Is there, then, any place for a special or limited resurrection, or elsewhere any intimation of such an event, before the Lord appears? The resurrection here predicted takes place when God's people are delivered from the great time of trouble with which the history of this world terminates; and it seems from Revelation 22:11 that this deliverance is given before the Lord appears. The awful moment arrives when he that is filthy and unjust is pronounced unjust still, and he that is righteous and holy is pronounced holy still. Then the cases of all are forever decided. And when this sentence is pronounced upon the righteous, it must be deliverance to them; for then they are placed beyond all reach of danger or fear of evil. But the Lord has not at that time made his appearance; for he immediately adds, âAnd, behold, I come quickly.â The utterance of this solemn fiat which seals the righteous to everlasting life, and the wicked to eternal death, is supposed to be synchronous with the great voice which is heard from the throne in the temple of heaven, saying, It is done! Revelation 16:17. And this is evidently the voice of God, so often alluded to in descriptions of the scenes connected with the last day. Joel speaks of it, and says (chapter 3:16): âThe Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.â The margin reads instead of âhope,â âplace of repair, or harbor.â Then, at this time, when God's voice is heard from heaven, just previous to the coming of the Son of man, God is a harbor for his people, or, which is the same thing, provides them deliverance. Here, then, at the voice of God, when the decisions of eternity are pronounced upon the race, and the last stupendous scene is just to open upon a doomed world, God gives to the astonished nations another evidence and pledge of his power, and raises from the dead a multitude who have long slept in the dust of the earth.DAR 299.1
Thus we see that there is a time and place for the resurrection of Daniel 12:2. We now add that a passage in the book of Revelation makes it necessary to suppose a resurrection of this kind to take place. Revelation 1:7 reads: âBehold, he cometh with clouds [this is unquestionably the second advent]; and every eye shall see him [of the nations then living on the earth], and they also which pierced him [those who took an active part in the terrible work of his crucifixion]; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.â Those who crucified the Lord, would, unless there was an exception made in their cases, remain in their graves till the end of the thousand years, and come up in the general assembly of the wicked at that time. But here it is stated that they behold the Lord at his second advent. They must therefore have a special resurrection for that purpose.DAR 300.1
And it is certainly most appropriate that some who were eminent in holiness, who labored and suffered for their hope of a coming Saviour, but died without the sight, should be raised a little before, to witness the scenes attending his glorious epiphany; as, in like manner, a goodly company came out of their graves after his resurrection, to behold his risen glory (Matthew 27:52, 53), and to escort him in triumph to the right hand of the throne of the majesty on high (Ephesians 4:8, margin); and also that some, eminent in wickedness, who have done most to reproach the name of Christ and injure his cause, and especially those who secured his cruel death upon the cross, and mocked and derided him in his dying agonies, should be raised, as part of their judicial punishment, to behold his return in the clouds of heaven, a celestial victor, in, to them, unendurable majesty and splendor.DAR 301.1
One more remark upon this text before passing on. What is here said is supposed by some to furnish good evidence of the eternal conscious suffering of the wicked, because those of this character who are spoken of, come forth to shame and everlasting contempt. How can they forever suffer these, unless they are forever conscious? It has already been stated that shame implies their consciousness; but it will be noticed that this is not said to be everlasting. This qualifying word is not inserted till we come to the contempt, which is an emotion felt by others toward the guilty parties, and does not render necessary the consciousness of those against whom it is directed. And so some read the passage: âSome to shame, and the everlasting contempt of their companions.â And so it will be. Shame for their wickedness and corruption will burn into their very souls, so long as they have conscious being. And when they pass away, consumed for their iniquities, their loathsome characters and their guilty deeds excite only contempt on the part of all the righteous, unmodified and unabated so long as they hold them in remembrance at all. The text therefore furnishes no proof of the eternal suffering of the wicked.DAR 301.2
We cannot appreciate our Redeemer in the highest sense until we can see Him by the eye of faith reaching to the very depths of human wretchedness, taking upon Himself the nature of man, the capacity to suffer, and by suffering putting forth His divine power to save and lift sinners up to companionship with Himself. O why have we so little sense of sin? Why so little penitence? It is because we do not come nearer the cross of Christ. Conscience becomes hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, because we remain away from Christ. Consider the Captain of our salvation. He suffered shame for us that we might not suffer everlasting shame and contempt. He suffered on the cross, that mercy might be granted to fallen man. God's justice is preserved, and guilty man is pardoned. Jesus dies that the sinner might live. Shame is borne by the Son of the Highest for the sake of poor sinners, that they might be ransomed and crowned with eternal glory.... TMK 287.3Read in context »