Sabbath School Lesson for March 21-27, 2020
Daniel’s final chapter brings a glorious conclusion to his readers. We see how the story ends and how it helps to answer these questions:
- Who is Michael, the great prince, and what does He do for us? (Sunday)
- What kind of book(s) are there in heaven, and why are they needed? (Monday)
- What does death mean for God’s children, and what can we expect from the promised resurrection? (Tuesday)
- Why was the book of Daniel sealed until a certain time, and how will it benefit those in the last days? (Wednesday)
- How do we understand the different dates for our prophetic timetable at the end of the chapter, and how do they add to our faith that Jesus will return soon? (Thursday)
Daniel 12 provides a summation of all the information Daniel received in the form of visions and dreams throughout his life of captivity in Babylon. His time spent in a foreign land had not been wasted and was not in vain.
There is much scriptural evidence for Michael being the Son of God; and if this is so, we are able to see Him both in His priestly role and as commander of the heavenly hosts. Through our study of Daniel, we are given the most complete picture of the Messiah in heaven that is possible for us to have.
To focus only on Jesus’ earthly ministry, as revealed in the New Testament gospels, does not give us a full picture of what the third person of the godhead can do for us. Understanding what He can and is doing for us now and will do for us in the future is an important factor in building our faith and trust in our heavenly Savior.
Memory Text: “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” Daniel 12:3 NKJV
Those who are wise and who share their godly wisdom with others, causing people to turn to Christ’s righteousness, will find their life of faith rewarded eternally. As the stars in heaven shine for both beauty and guidance, the whole universe will be blessed from their experiences here on earth and be guided to worship the Creator more fully.
Sunday: Michael, Our Prince
Every other chapter in Daniel mentions a pagan ruler in its first verse to give us the time setting for its contents. Chapter 12, however, begins with a mention of Michael, the great prince. We know instantly then that the setting for this chapter will involve the final eternal Kingdom of God.
Michael, unlike every other ruler we’ve seen so far, rightly holds both a priestly and a military position in the heavenly realm. His saving mission to our planet involves…
- forgiving our confessed sins (His priestly duties),
- protecting and bringing us through this great conflict with Satan, His archenemy (His military duties).
Christ is indeed our loving Advocate, as well as our fair Judge. How can we not want to be part of His glorious Kingdom, which is eternally characterized by love and justice, our God’s most noteworthy traits.
Read Daniel 12:1, 3:25, and Isaiah 43:2. What is Michael’s purpose for watching over us? Why will this be needed even more in the last days of earth’s history?
Read Daniel 12:1, Jeremiah 30:7, and Genesis 32:24, 28-30. What was the meaning of this reference to a time of trouble? What was the purpose of Jacob’s struggle with God? To what did it lead?
Read Matthew 24:21, 22. Is God still watching out for us, even during the dreadful time of trouble, as Jesus warned us here?
Monday: Written in the Book
A “book” is mentioned several times in the Bible, usually in reference to the judgment. We know from Daniel 12:1 that those who are delivered during the time of trouble are in the “book”, but who might we also find there? It does seem rather important to know.
The Bible actually reveals two kinds of heavenly “books”. The one that includes the names of those who are saved and belong to God is called “the book of life”, and is most likely the one Daniel refers to in chapter 12. See also Exodus 32:32 (it seems possible for names to be blotted out), Psalm 69:28 (names of the righteous), Luke 10:20 (a book of names), Philippians 4:3 (calls it the “Book of Life”), and Revelation 17:8 (has existed from the foundation of the world).
In addition, there appears to be a book that contains the words and deeds of all of us. In Malachi 3:16 it’s called a book of remembrance. But other references to it are found in Psalm 56:8 and Daniel 7:10 (uses the plural word “books”). It makes sense for there to be a record of our lives, in order for a fair, transparent judgment to be conducted in the heavenly courts, and for our sentences and rewards to be fairly measured out.
It looks like we will all be in one of the books; but by accepting Christ and living by His word, we can easily find ourselves in the Book of Life. Becoming a friend of the Judge definitely makes a difference in the our final sentence.
Read Daniel 7:10, Philippians 4:3, and Malachi 3:16. What two books are opened in the courts of heaven?
Read Luke 10:20, Psalm 69:28, and Revelation 17:8. What is written in the book of life? Whose names are in this book? How long have these names been recorded in this book?
Read Psalm 56:8. Besides our deeds and words, what else does God remember about us?
Tuesday: The Resurrection
The next two verses, 2 and 3, of Daniel 12 describe a time after our deliverance from the time of trouble, when the righteous will be joined by those who “sleep in the dust of the earth”. This glorious resurrection allows them to join those still living when Michael, the prince, comes. The righteous will become like bright, shining stars, to begin their eternal life with the Lord. (Stars, by the way, are known for their beauty and their ability to guide us.)
In order to appreciate fully the magnificence of this resurrection event, the state of the dead must be understood in the light of Scripture. The understanding that death is an unconscious sleep, as it’s referred to many times in the Bible, takes away much fear about what really happens after we die.
The erroneous belief that we continue to live in some spiritual state, either in heaven or in hell, immediately after death counters with many verses that indicate otherwise. Daniel 12:2 clearly reminds us that those who die “sleep in the dust of the earth”.
Revelation 20 speaks of a “first resurrection” (Revelation 20:6). This would happen at what we call Christ’s Second Coming. After the thousand years are over (a time when the righteous are in heaven with Jesus, assisting the judicial process there), the Holy City descends from heaven.
At this time the wicked dead are raised, and with Satan as their commander, they surround the city (Revelation 20:9). Fire then comes down and destroys them all. Sin will never raise its ugly head again in the universe (Malachi 4:1). This is called the second death (Revelation 20:14).
Read Daniel 12:2 and Genesis 3:19. What are we said to be doing after we die? Why is an understanding of the state of the dead important as we look at prophecies pointing to the Second Coming? If we are already in heaven, what is the purpose of the Second Coming? Why would Satan encourage false beliefs about what happens when we die?
Read Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17, and Hebrews 2:14, 15. Why does suffering and even death hold no fear for those who are Christian?
Read Daniel 12:3, Matthew 26:63, 64, Revelation 1:7, and Matthew 27:50-53. Although the verse in Daniel speaks of the general resurrection of the righteous dead, which happens at the Second Coming, what purpose might there be for these other special resurrections, both at the time when Jesus died, and at His Second Coming?
Wednesday: The Sealed Book
In Daniel 12:4, Daniel is told to shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end. The second half of the verse indicates that many will be searching, running to and fro, and that knowledge shall increase.
There have been various ways to interpret this prediction. Certainly, in these last days, knowledge of all kinds has increased at a rapid rate, and people are searching to fill their emptiness and despair with something of value.
But, read honestly, in context, it seems that these activities pertain primarily to the book of Daniel that he was just told to seal. Since the Protestant Reformation, Bible scholars have been struggling to understand the words of Daniel and Revelation, its New Testament counterpart. And their knowledge of past events has increased their knowledge of what the portrayed events must have represented.
As these prophecies continue to unfold, and especially as we get closer to the end of earth’s history, the book of Daniel will be more and more understood, unsealed. We may never fully grasp every prophetic utterance totally till the Second Coming is here, but the Lord will mercifully reveal to us as much as we need to know, when we need to know it.
Read Daniel 12:4, 9. For how long will these prophecies be sealed?
Read Amos 8:12. Why are people running to and fro? What are they looking for, and why?
Read John 14:29. Why are we given prophecies? How do they make us believe, and what does that do for our faith?
Thursday: The Waiting Time
Many people who study prophecy become comfortable with the 70-weeks and the 2,300-day prophecies, spoken of by Daniel and other prophets. But the two time prophecies at the end of chapter 12 are not as well known or understood by the average Bible student.
Some theologians have taken a futurist approach and attributed all these time periods as actual days, not years, and placed them sometime in the future. But, when seen in the light of history, they become much more meaningful to us today, assuring us that
- God has already fulfilled many of these prophecies.
- We are now truly at the end of earth’s history. (The longest time period, the 2,300 days expired in 1844.)
We find that the 1,290 and 1,335 days (or years), spoken of in Daniel 12:11, 12, seem to have a different starting date, however, than our 2,300-year prophecy (Daniel 8:14). Instead of the time of the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25), this time it says, “from the time the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up”.
Our study of Daniel 8 showed us that the “daily” refers to the continual intercession of Christ for our sins (symbolized by the daily sacrifices offered in the earthly sanctuary). We have seen that the Roman papal power, which was responsible for setting up an apostate system of worship during the Middle Ages, ended in 1798 A.D., when the pope was taken captive by one of Napoleon’s generals.
This event ended the papacy’s hold on both religious and political power in Europe. Going back 1,290 years would bring us to 508 A.D., the year Clovis, king of France, converted to Catholicism, cementing ties between religious and secular powers, a pattern followed by other European countries.
Using the same 508 A.D. date for the beginning of our time reckoning, we add 1,335 years and find that it ends in 1843 A.D. The year which brings us right to when the 2,300-year prophecy ended in 1844, signalling the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, and the beginning of “the time of the end”.
Read Daniel 12:11 and 9:25. What makes us believe we are talking about two different beginning dates from these two verses? Why is it important to know either the beginning or the end date of a prophecy?
Read Daniel 12:12 and Revelation 14:13. Why are those who were waiting for the Lord in 1844 considered blessed? What kind of works did the Adventist pioneers have? Why was their work so difficult, and how were they rewarded for it?
Read Daniel 8:11-13. How does the papal worship system alter true worship, as set forth in God’s word? Why is this issue central to understanding these prophecies?
Our biggest takeaway from studying the book of Daniel might be the fact that God wins in the end. As simple as that may appear on the surface, when we really see the end approach, we’ll find ourselves struggling to remember that victory is just around the corner. It will be easy to feel all is lost, when the world is crashing down around us and there seems to be no escape from the chaos and pain.
Christ in His heavenly position, interceding and protecting His saints, and preparing to rescue them from this sinful planet, will be an image we will not want to forget as we face any and all trials that may be in our future.
Nearly all the prophecies that Daniel brought to us have been fulfilled. We have only to wait for that glorious, eternal, final outcome that will mean an end to all our pain and suffering in this present world. Families and loved ones, particularly during this current pandemic, are experiencing an altered existence like no other in our lifetime.
We can either continue our selfish, greedy behaviors, or come together and help each other survive the onslaught, both medical and economic, that is surely ahead around the world. Once again, God leaves the choice to us.
It may seem we are being held captive by an evil force, and it will be easy to focus on that. But, at the same time, we are given the opportunity to look above for our deliverance, and find peace and comfort in our coming Lord.
There are many ways this unfortunate turmoil could play out. And, as Christians, we don’t know the end from the beginning, any more than our neighbors. We only know that the final ending will be good for those who have put their faith and trust in God.
That’s what Daniel has taught us…and, thankfully, just in time.
Next Week’s Lesson: The Uniqueness of the Bible
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
Other Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/