“And many.” Daniel 12:2 is one of the clear statements in the Old Testament that there is a resurrection from the dead. However, the reference to “many” has been confusing for scholars because there are other verses that indicate that everyone is resurrected and judged by God. There are several ways this verse has been explained.
Some commentators note that there are times when “many” can be a type of tapeinosis (understatement) for “all.” However, that has not generally been an accepted explanation because the following preposition (the Hebrew min) is most naturally used in a partitive sense, meaning only some people will awake.
Some commentators see the verse as referring to two groups who awake to different fates. In that case, “many” (the NIV has “multitudes”) people awake from the dead; that is, there are multitudes who have died since Adam and Eve, and some of them have life while others have shame.
Other commentators see the verse as saying that “many” get up from the dead, while other people remain dead. That is a possibility. God is a righteous and just God, and there seems to be little point in raising someone from the dead who never had a chance to believe or be saved. For example, if the Nephilim were who many people believe they were, that is, genetically modified “humans” that were not able to believe, then there would be no point for God to raise them from the dead. They are already dead, so why raise them just so they could die again when they could not have believed and been saved in the first place? They are wicked and not saved, but not due to any freewill guilt of their own. In fact, that may be the meaning of Isaiah 26:14 (NIV84), “They are now dead, they live no more; those departed spirits [Hebrew is “rapha,” likely a progenitor of the Rephaim, a group of the Nephilim] do not rise. You punished them and brought them to ruin; you wiped out all memory of them.” Commentators such as E. W. Bullinger say that the statement that they “do not rise” indicates they will not be in the resurrection.
Despite some ambiguity in understanding the verse, the Bible is clear that in general every person who has ever lived will be raised and judged for their thoughts and actions.
“who sleep in the dust of the earth.” The people being referred to are not in heaven, they are sleeping in the dust of the earth. They are not alive in heaven awaiting the resurrection of their dead body, they are in the ground “sleeping,” that is, dead. The reference to “dust” is likely a deliberate allusion to Genesis 3:19, where God tells Adam that he is dust and will return to dust. [For more information on the dead being dead, see Appendix 4, “The Dead are Dead”].
“will awake.” The Old Testament has a number of verses about God raising the dead (cp. Deut. 32:39; Job. 19:25-27; Ps. 71:20; Isa. 26:19; 66:14; Ezek. 37:12-14; Dan. 12:2, 13; and Hos. 13:14).
“some to everlasting life.” Daniel 12:2 is one of the verses in the Bible that mentions the two future resurrections, the Resurrection of the Righteous and the Resurrection of the Unrighteous, as if they were occurring at the same time. However, we learn from the New Testament, from the Book of Revelation, that the two resurrections are separated by 1,000 years (Rev. 20:4-6). During the 1,000-year period that separates the two resurrections, Jesus Christ reigns on earth in his Millennial Kingdom. [For more about Christ’s reign on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].
“shame.” Most people who are raised in the Resurrection of the Unrighteous, the Second Resurrection, will be thrown into the Lake of Fire and eventually be completely consumed. However, before they die they will experience shame, and there will be “sobbing and gnashing of teeth.” [For more on the “sobbing and gnashing of teeth, see commentary on Matt. 8:12. For more on the resurrections, see commentary on Acts 24:15. For more about the unsaved being annihilated in the Lake of Fire and not burning forever, see Appendix 5: “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire.”].
“everlasting contempt.” This phrase does not prove that people burn forever in the Lake of Fire. For one thing, the Hebrew word translated “everlasting” does not have to mean “forever,” but can refer to a long time. However, that is not likely its meaning here because it is contrasted with “everlasting life,” which does go on forever. Although the unsaved do not burn forever, the “contempt” (abhorrence) that God, angels, and the righteous have for them does go on forever. They were wicked when alive, and that memory of wickedness is always associated with them.