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THE KINGS OF THE SOUTH AND NORTH, PART 6

 

THE TIME OF THE END

 

At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. 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 12:1–3

 

Chapter 12 of the Book of Daniel is the subject of much disagreement among Bible scholars. Without going into too much detail, it is enough to say that some see in this chapter a future antichrist being destroyed by Christ at the end of time while others see a future restoration of the Jewish state, the rebuilding of the temple, and the reestablishment of the Mosaic ritual. However, these perspectives violate the first principle of Daniel’s prophecies.

Chapter 12 is a continuation of the prophecy of the Kings of the South and North, but some of its subject matter overlaps the prophecy of the 70 Weeks. The fact that some of the material deals in part with the gospel does not violate the first principle because the first principle includes the ministry of Messiah and His setting up the Kingdom of God at His first advent. The gospel produced the church and the church will continue to the literal end of time, but this prophecy has nothing to do with the history of the church.

 

MICHAEL

 

The chapter opens with a vision of Michael. Michael has appeared in other of the prophecies and it has been seen that this angel is one-in-the same as Christ. As Michael He is the guardian angel of the Old Testament Jews, protecting them  and leading them into the truth of the coming Messiah. In verses 1–3 he is seen working out the deliverance of the Jews.

At this point in the prophecy of the Kings of the South and North Antiochus Epiphanes has died and the Roman Empire has overthrown the Macedonian Empire. It is during the time of the Roman Empire that Michael stands up and is revealed to be the savior of the Jews. However, he is their savior, not in a political sense as they expected, but in a true, spiritual sense. He is the Savior from sin and spiritual death.

 

A TIME OF TROUBLE

 

The prophecy says there will be “a time of trouble as never was since there was a nation.” The first time nations are mentioned in the Bible is Genesis 10:5, which is after the great flood and the people separated to their nations according to their languages and families. If the creation took place in 4004 b.c., the forming of nations began in about 2218 b.c. The world saw much trouble in the 1600 years from that time to the time of Daniel. However, Michael is said to “watch over the sons of your people” and it is “your people,” the Jews, who constitute the nation mentioned by Michael.

The Jews experienced much trouble during their history but they always kept their homeland given them by God. Yes, there were times when they were invaded by outsiders and the land occupied by foreigners; and there were times when they were taken out of their land and held in bondage in foreign lands; but, God always delivered them and brought them back.

Israel experienced serious trouble after the death of King Solomon in 931 b.c. His son Rehoboam  became king and created just a political stir of which Jeroboam took advantage to divide the nation in 930 b.c., the northern ten tribes under his rule being called Israel, and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin under the rule of Rehoboam being called Judah. The divided kingdoms lasted until 720 b.c. when the northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians. Judah continued long after the demise of Israel even though it suffered much in the way of invasions and foreign domination.

The trouble prophesied here is trouble as the Jews had never yet experienced. The trouble is the siege of Jerusalem under Titus which led to the dissolution of the Jewish state in 70 a.d. By this time, Messiah had come and completed His work as Savior. The Jews as a nation rejected Christ and their rejection culminated in the final destruction of their nation.

But, with this dire prophecy is a promise; the promise that at this very time, and in spite of the coming trouble, the Jews will be delivered. However, the deliverance will not be at the hand of a saving army led by Messiah; the deliverance promised is to “everyone who is found written in the book.” How strange is it that with the destruction of Jerusalem and the loss of their country, the Jews could be delivered by a book? What book is this? In Revelation 20:15 it is called the lamb’s book of life. This title is based on what John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets, called Jesus when he met Him, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

It was a the time of Roman rule in Palestine that Christ made atonement for the sin of the Jews, and that of all people who ever were or ever will be, making salvation possible for all mankind that would receive it, Jew and Gentile.

 

THOSE WHO SLEEP IN THE DUST OF THE EARTH

 

With Messiah bringing the gospel of salvation from sin, the prophecy says that the Jews will respond in two ways. The first truth the gospel did was to awaken them to the awareness of their need to be saved from their sins. Sleeping in the dust of the earth refers to the condition of original sin that plagues all mankind, Jews included. The Jews were acutely aware of the nature of sin that plagued their lives. They had the sacrifices of the temple that made atonement for their sins. They experienced God’s forgiveness but they never found a power and grace to keep them from sinning. Year after year they found it necessary to sacrifice the lives and blood of innocent animals to atone for the sins the continually committed.

Some awoke to everlasting life; that is, they responded to the gospel Christ brought and were saved from their sins and from the very power of sin in their lives. Romans 13:11 warns, “. . . now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” In Ephesians 5:14 the Apostle alludes to Isaiah 26:19 where he writes, “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Their Messiah spoke to them while they slept in the dust of the earth, awakening them to their need of salvation from sin, a need far greater than a deliverance from the rule of the Roman Empire. The blood of Christ not only purchased forgiveness of sin, but cleansing from all sin as the Apostle John wrote in 1 John 1:7. This cleansing made possible this deliverance, a deliverance from the bondage of sin. “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” (1 John 3:8–9). Jesus had much to say about everlasting life, the simplest of which is “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47).

Others would awaken, but instead of accepting the gospel and the Messiah Jesus actually was, they rejected the gift of salvation and the deliverance from sin Christ brought through the atonement. They awoke, not to everlasting life, but to shame and everlasting contempt. Jesus said to the Jews, including those who would reject Him, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice  and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (John 5:28–29). Those who rejected Christ and the gospel chose a future of shame and contempt. Jesus spoke of it in this way, “Then He will say to those on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” (Matthew 25:41), an eternity separated from God in a place fit for only evil and perpetual destruction.

The promised deliverance goes far beyond just the forgiveness of sin; the promise says those who are wise will shine. Jesus spoke of both classes in parable of the virgins in Matthew 25, where he says that some were wise, and some were foolish. The wise took oil in their vessels so that their lamps would not burn out; the foolish did not. Matthew Henry speaks thus of the oil and the wisdom it reflects:

 

It was the wisdom of the wise virgins, that they took oil in their vessels with their lamps, v. 4. They had a good principle within, which would maintain and keep up their profession. 1. The heart is the vessel, which it is our wisdom to get furnished; for, out of a good treasure there, good things must be brought; but if that root be rottenness, the blossom will be dust. 2. Grace is the oil which we must have in this vessel; in the tabernacle there was constant provision made of oil for the light, Exodus 35:14. Our light must shine before men in good works, but this cannot be, or not long, unless there be a fixed active principle in the heart, of faith in Christ, and love to God and our brethren, from which we must act in every thing we do in religion, with an eye to what is before us. They that took oil in their vessels, did it upon supposition that perhaps the bridegroom might tarry. Note, In looking forward it is good to prepare for the worst, to lay in for a long siege. But remember that this oil which keeps the lamps burning, is derived to the candlestick from Jesus Christ, the great and good Olive, by the golden pipes of the ordinances, as it is represented in that vision (Zechariah 4:2, 3, 12), which is explained John 1:16, Of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

 

The fullness of Christ and the grace that brings grace is the Holy Spirit of God, which is essential to our salvation and entrance into the Kingdom of God. Jesus said it was necessary to be born again to see the Kingdom of God and in being born again, we are born of the Holy Spirit. (John 3:3, 5). Without the presence of the Holy Spirit the work of salvation is not complete: “But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11). It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that causes the spiritual transformation to take place in the life of those who accept and believe the gospel: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The Apostle Paul states emphatically that it is only through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit that we can live out what the Apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:9, “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” This appears to be impossible to those that sleep in the dust, but Paul writes in Galatians 5:16, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” John says that it is only by the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives can we keep God’s commands, 1 John 3:24.

Verses 1–3 reveal that at the time of the Romans, Messiah will come bringing a real salvation from sin and, with His advent, the literal kingdom of God as once contained in the nation of Israel is moved to the real and true kingdom of God, which is spiritual.

 

SEAL THE BOOK

 

But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase. (Daniel 12:4)

 

Daniel is required to close and seal the prophecy until the end of time. The prophecies have mentioned the time of the end, and we learned that we are not to confuse that expression with the end of time. We now encounter the end of time. This does not necessarily mean the last day of time, but the time that will exist at the end of this creation, however long that may last. Christians generally agree that we now are living in the last days, so it appears that the prophecy is to be opened and understood centuries, if not millennia, from the days of Daniel.

The Living Bible makes an interesting paraphrase of this verse: “But Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal it up so that it will not be understood until the end times, when travel and education shall be vastly increased.” Daniel’s prophecies were a mystery, a secret that was not revealed to the people of his time. Undoubtedly Daniel understood some things about these prophecies and felt distress over what he learned; but it is doubtful that he comprehended everything about them. Certainly, others in his days had no idea of what the prophecies were about. What is curious about the paraphrase is that it implies the understanding will come at a time when travel and education increases. Travel and education may have something to do with gaining the understanding, but the meaning of “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” is more concomitant with the contents of the prophecy, specifically the first principle of the prophecies.

Matthew Henry understands verse four to mean that after the prophecy is sealed, many over time will research the prophecy and, as they research it, they will gain the understanding of it. In other words, this prophecy cannot be understood looking forward from Daniel’s time; it can be understood only by looking back from a future time. He writes:

 

Those things of God which are now dark and obscure will hereafter be made clear, and easy to be understood. Truth is the daughter of time. Scripture prophecies will be expounded by the accomplishment of them; therefore they are given, and for that explication they are reserved. Therefore they are told us before, that, when they do come to pass, we may believe.

 

The Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance awakened our desire for learning. We dug out the Classics and were inspired by them to dig further and deeper into history to learn the lessons of times past. With that learning, learned men wrote books about what they found and with that learning light began to break on the prophecies of Daniel. Matthew Henry was among the first to expound the prophecies of Daniel in the light of history. Since his time, others have followed suit and yet others have been diverted down a trail of millennial eschatology, missing much of the most critical parts of these prophecies.

In Daniel’s time, the Jews were exiled from their homeland and held captive in Babylon. Daniel’s prophecies look forward in time from their captivity through the Persian and Greek Empires to the time of the Romans. The real purpose of the prophecies is not so much give a history, which they do, but to reveal the time and purpose for the coming of Messiah. The prophecies reveal that Messiah would come during the time of the Roman Empire, specifically at the end of the life of Herod the Great, and that Messiah will minister for 3½ years and be cut off, referring to the crucifixion of Jesus.

The opening of chapter 12 reveals the work Messiah comes to do is not a work of national political deliverance; it is not even a work of revival of spirituality among the Jews; it is the work of salvation from sin.