The second half of the book of Daniel is an apocalypse, much in the same way Revelation is an apocalypse, and we see things in this passage (Daniel 12:1-3) that we see in the New Testament, specifically the gospels, as to what happens to people at the judgment, the separation of the wheat from the chaff, the ones destined for everlasting life from the ones for everlasting "contempt," as verse 2 says.
Here in verse 3, we have a verse that claims that the wise will shine like the brightness of the sky. What does this mean? Does it mean that we will be like the angels, with a halo and harp, glowing like a firebrand? Will we have our own light source? The key word here is "like." Think of the brightest object in the night sky--the moon. It does not shine with its own light, but reflects the light of the sun. Likewise, we will reflect the light of the Son, Jesus Christ. He is our light source, and we reflect him. Jesus is wisdom, and at the judgment, the wise--those who followed Jesus--will reflect the Son's light purely, like the brightness of the sky. We don't have to wait for the judgment, however. We can reflect the light of the Son now, today, although, instead of being covered with pure, reflective moondust, we are covered with the dark rocks, mud, and filth of sin. However, we can still reflect the light somewhat.
The second part of this verse is equally puzzling. Who are "those who lead many to righteousness?" Does this verse mean that unless we are evangelists, converting many, we are doomed? That sounds like a lot of hard work that, frankly, many of us are not cut out for. Think about the fellow with a memorized script and a set of statements that are geared toward instigating a rapturous reaction for Jesus. Is it not the excitement that is appealing, not the Son himself? Think of this person converting a man named Steve, and at the judgment our evangelist faces our maker and states, "look at my list of converts! May I shine like the stars now? Take this man, Steve."
The Lord may well respond, "Well, about Steve: the week after you converted him, he met a woman, and they shacked up together, and it was exciting, too, and she was into witchcraft, and so he tried that, and it was exciting, and then she left him, and so he traveled to a Buddhist community in Australia, and he lived there for a time, because that was exciting, too!" We can't know what happens to these people, when we use "methods" to convert them. We can't have Steve handcuffed to us for the rest of his life to keep him in line.
I believe that "leading many to righteousness" is another way of saying, "offering our spiritual gifts." God has given each of us a spiritual gift, sometimes more than one, that we are to OFFER back to God. Sometimes we use our spiritual gifts for others, and then we get overworked and burned out. This is because we are taking our gifts and treating them like work. However, if we treat our gift as an offering to God, it won't feel like work. This is essentially true worship, and it is invigorating. We think that because we don't feel the spirit, we are just going through the motions, but in actuality, we are not offering our gift to God. God initiates, gives us the gift, we offer it BACK to him, and then he responds with an increase of spirit.
Each Sunday my offering is this sermon. I study and work on it all week, and now is this time for me to offer it to God. Everyone in this room happens to be hearing, and even though my offering is to God, everyone here is brought closer to righteousness because of it. Cathi plays flute each week for us, and before she got all the technicalities down, she thought of it as work, and it was not a worshipful experience. Now she is familiar with the weekly task and she now offers her flute playing to God each week. As a result, she feels that she is worshiping. We are all brought more into righteousness because of it. These gifts are offered to God, but they are also offered in public, so that we may lead many to righteousness.
What is your spiritual gift? Are you using it? Are you bogged down with other things that are not your gifts? If you are using your gift, are you using it as work or as an offering to God? Look at Luke 10:38-42:
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
What is Mary's gift? Learning. What is she doing with it? She's offering it to God. She is not going to run off to the far east and study under Buddha as soon as Jesus leaves the house. Her gift is solely offered to God, but this scene plays out in the gospel of Luke for our benefit. Many are made righteous from this passage, as they wish to model their lives after Mary. When Jesus scolds Martha, he is not telling her that she needs to put down her dishrag and sit at Jesus' feet, too. He is showing her that as Mary offers her learning to God, so Martha should, too, offer her gift of hospitality to God, and she wouldn't be worried and distracted anymore. Martha is not offering her gift to God. How many people are made righteous through Martha when reading this passage? I'd wager the number is zero.
The final offering is the big one: Jesus' offering on the cross. He didn't get an elated feeling when he did it. It wasn't a "mountaintop" experience. It was a "tomb" experience. Offering our gifts hurts, because it is sacrifice, the purest form of love there is--agape. Jesus may have suffered and died, but three days later he had risen, and he is risen. Sometimes our gifts hurt, and we don't get an elated feeling. But as long as we are offering them to God and are leading many to righteousness through them, we will continue to reflect the light of the Son in this life and the next. We gain everlasting life, and we shine like the stars, like the brightness of the sky.