The trouble, of which the prophet speaks, at the beginning of this chapter, is not a thing long after and distinct from the conflicts described at the end of the preceding one, but, as he says himself, "at that time." So that we have now really come, in looking at the closing events of Dan. 11, to the latest period that Daniel brings before us. For it has been often remarked, that Daniel never enters upon the reign of glory, but just brings us up to that point. He shows us that which will introduce it, gives us the execution of judgment previous to it, without furnishing many details, and tells us of the kingdom of heaven, that is to fill the whole earth, but he does not describe it. The "people of the saints of the Most High" (Dan_7:27), as he calls the Jews, shall have the whole kingdom under heaven. The truth is, that the Spirit of God had already by others most fully entered into the reign of the Messiah over Israel, and the blessedness of their portion; and He was about to predict the same subject by others subsequent to the captivity. And this last was of importance. Because He well knew that many would suppose that the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity was the accomplishment of the prophecy. Therefore great pains were taken in some of the latest prophecies, to show that nothing was farther from the fact, and that the blessing of Israel was yet future. They are described as being in a miserable condition after they return from Babylon; and the Spirit of God launches out into a distant future as the period when Israel are to be really delivered and blessed according to God's mind. The past return was only a pledge of the full restoration which God intended for them. But Daniel does not enter into this time of blessedness. He brings you up to the moment, and then closes. His peculiar object was "the times of the Gentiles." This accounts for the remarkable character of his prophecy. He is simply a prophet of the captivity, and of its end.
In Dan. 12, we have what takes place between the judgment of the Gentiles and the ushering of the Jews into their blessing. We have seen "the king" and his wickedness in the Holy Land, and have also heard of the kings from the north and from the south. Whatever may have appeared to be the temporary power of the great leader of the north against the Holy Land, "yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.'' Such was his miserable close.
But now comes an interesting question - What will be the condition of Israel at that time? The answer is given in these first verses: "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people." This was the people that Daniel was concerned about. He had no idea of what we call now a Christian people - no notion that there was a time coming, already settled in the counsels of God, when there should no longer be any distinction between Jews and Gentiles, and when both would be formed, by the faith of a crucified Christ, into one body by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. All this was unknown to Daniel, and the Lord never even gives him to anticipate such a state. Not one prophecy in Daniel, nor in any other, reveals it, though many intimate certain particulars which are now realized in it, as we see in Romans 9, 10, etc. "Thy people" means, simply and solely, the Jewish people. Daniel was rightly and deeply interested in them, as a true Israelite of God should be, that felt for the glory of God connected with His people. Accordingly, the Spirit of God communicates to him, that at that time there should be a turning-point in Israel's history. Instead of mere providential control - Michael resisting this prince or that, he will stand up for them, undertaking their case and putting down definitely their adversaries ; but, even then, not without a fearful struggle. Their defence was his habitual task. But now he shall stand up to complete the great earthly purposes of God in the deliverance of the Jews.
"And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." There we have the important information that at once distinguishes this standing up of Michael from all times that had ever been. So far from deliverance as yet, the trouble that fell upon the Jews under Titus was more terrible than that which had befallen them under Nebuchadnezzar. What follows then? That this time of trouble is yet to come. The Spirit of God is here describing that which, having had no answer in the past, must await the future. And, in fact, we have only to look at Jerusalem, and at the present condition of the Jews, to see that this is so. Are they delivered? On the contrary, there is not a country under the sun but what bears its witness, in one way or another, that they are degraded, and out of the land of their glory, where the Lord's eyes rest continually. But their misery ought to tell him who has ears to hear, that Jerusalem must yet be called the throne of Jehovah; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of Jehovah, to Jerusalem; when Gentiles shall walk no more after the stubbornness of their evil heart; and the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, both settled and united in peace and love in the land given of God for an inheritance to their fathers.
There are those who regard what is spoken of here as future, but who say, that it must be taken spiritually, and be interpreted of the Church, or God's people now. But, first, it is enough to answer that we have had a long prophecy which was ushered in by the angel to Daniel with the positive announcement that it was what should befall his people in the latter days. This excludes such ideas. Next, observe throughout the prophecy that none but Jews are spoken of as the objects of God's interest up to this time. The Holy Land was in question, and the conflicts of the north and south around it. Under Christianity, there is no such thing as a holy land. It is mere Judaism or heathenism to regard one place as more sacred than another, now that the full light of Christianity has come in. But if there be a land that is in God's purpose glorious, it is Israel's. Only it loses. that character during the Gentile calling. There is the revelation of heavenly things now - not of earthly. And therefore, whatever was holy before, in a mere earthly point of view, is passed away for the present, being eclipsed by something brighter. God has other counsels now in view. The ancient people proved themselves to be false and unholy in rejecting their own Messiah. And until they are brought as a nation to Jesus, or, in the words of the Revelation, to "keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" - until a remnant has got some sort of divine knowledge of Christ, God will not own them. Meanwhile, He has turned to another work, that of forming the Church, which is not referred to here. It is a blessed truth that God has gone out in rich mercy to the Gentiles; but what comfort would this be as to what lay so heavily upon the heart of the prophet? Whereas all is suitable and clear, if we see that his own people are described, and their passage through the terrible scene spoken of here, the eve of their deliverance, and this of God. "There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered," etc.
I will show that this is not the testimony of one sacred writer only, but of several. Take the sorrowing prophet Jeremiah, Jer. 30. There we have a clear reference to Jacob's great trouble, followed by his mighty deliverance. "These are the words that the Lord spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah." Who will contest the meaning of that? "Thus saith the Lord, We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? Wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness?" It is a state of things beyond all that is ordinarily reasonable. Men filled with the deepest anguish, depicted even in their faces, and their courage fled in presence of fearful trouble. The seventh verse explains it. "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it." As in Daniel, it is a time unprecedented. "It is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it." Jacob, "that worm Jacob," is the name used for the people regarded in their weakness, as Israel is their name of power. It is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. So far it is the same train of thought, in the mind of the Spirit, as we have in Daniel. We have Israel and Judah in question, called by the name that expresses their weakness as exposed to every kind of calamity from without. It is a day of unparalleled trouble, and the Israel of that day are to be delivered out of it.
If I were to look through Isaiah, I might show, from the beginning to the end of the book, the same thing, only more diffused. I need not dwell upon passages so well known. (Isa. 1, 2, 10, 14, 17, 22, 24-35, 49-66)
But it may be asked, if there be anything from the New Testament to bring forward. I have been producing passages from the Old Testament. Can I show you something from the New, giving the increased and full light of God through His beloved Son? The thought might arise, as it has indeed, that Christianity sets aside the Jews altogether, not merely during the present economy, but for ever; so that we are to read "the people" merely as the type of those whom God is now forming for His praise. Our Lord Himself decides that question in Matthew 24. He shows us that there is a destiny of Israel which Daniel brings before us and which is not to be applied to any other people under the sun. It is their own portion, both in its sorrows and deliverances. The disciples had said (verse 3), "Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age?" Observe here that the end of "the age" is the only proper meaning. It has no reference to the last catastrophe of the world as a material system, but to a certain dispensation running out its course in the world, from which the term aeon is totally distinct. The Lord warns them that they were in danger of being deceived; that persons were to come pretending to be Christ; that there were to be outward troubles; that His testimony was in no way to change the ordinary current of human affairs, for nation is to rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and, as regarded the physical state of the world, there would be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes. He is there only preparing them for a fearful crisis that was coming. "All these are the beginning of sorrows." "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for My name's sake." Up to verse 15, we have general statements. Then He at once narrows the scene to Jerusalem and to the land of Judæa. He does not continue the account of the gospel of the kingdom traversing the whole world, but shuts up His view to that strip of ground, where God's people dwelt, and to that city near which He then pronounced this very prophecy. "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand)," etc. Here we have positive direction to look at the very book that we are examining. The Lord in this part of His discourse was speaking about the same things that Daniel predicted in his prophecy. "Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains."
I ask, Can there be a question as to the meaning of these verses? Does any one doubt what "the holy place" means? Is it ever used in any other sense than the sanctuary of God at Jerusalem? The holy place, as a spot on earth, is invariably, in Scripture, the Jewish centre for worshipping God. "The abomination of desolation" means an idol which should bring in desolation upon the Jews. When this, then, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stands in the temple, those who heed Christ are to flee. There is not a word about Gentiles here - not a hint about the Church of God as such. Godly people, but Jews, in their own city, are warned, when they see this idol, to flee to the mountains of Judea in the vicinity. "And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day." It is not at all a Christian, but a Jewish scene. The Lord's day is that which Christians observe. It is the great symbol of our recognition of Christ risen, and of our blessing in Him; but the Sabbath was a sign between God and Israel.
"For then" (our Lord says) "shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." Many, I am aware, apply this to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, and to the great calamities that then broke up the Jews. But there is one essential point of difference that ought not to be overlooked. The Jewish people were not delivered then. Whereas, when Daniel's prophecy is accomplished, they are, and must be, delivered - not at a subsequent epoch, but at that time. If Daniel is a true prophet (and no one who reveres the Lord, and rightly weighs His words, will question it), it is not that his prophecy failed, but that it remains to be fulfilled. Our Lord distinctly and positively quotes from that prophecy, and from the very chapter (Dan. 12) we are considering. And what does He connect with Israel's deliverance? His own coming as the Son of man from heaven. Who can say that this has been? The Romans, instead of being broken down in the time of Titus, were allowed to enslave the Jews. These were not then delivered, nor, up to the present moment, have they ever been the masters of their own temple, nor allowed to be in their own land, even as ordinary men. If there is one race more peculiarly proscribed in the Holy Land, it is the Jewish. The Turks, the present possessors of it, have held it for many a long year; and all, whether Crusaders or Saracens, have agreed to shut out the Jews. So that there has been nothing like the Son of man coming to deliver Israel. Michael has not stood up for them in that sense yet.
Thus, what I have shown from the Old Testament is amply confirmed by the New. Prophet after prophet, all distinctly furnish the same outline, i.e. a time of trouble, such as never was before, followed immediately by a deliverance such as Israel has never yet enjoyed. It is perfectly plain, as we all believe, that these prophecies are of God, that it is only a question of waiting God's time for Himself to accomplish them to the very letter. As our Lord says in this same chap. 24 of Matthew, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away." It is not only that the general strain is true, but not one jot nor one tittle shall pass till all be fulfilled. The notion that God has cast away His people, Israel, because He is now in mercy filling up the blank season of their rebellion against the Lord Jesus and the gospel, is distinctly treated in Romans 11, as the offspring of Gentile conceit. For not only is God able to graft the natural branches into their own olive tree, but when the fulness of the Gentiles is come in, all Israel shall be saved according to clear prophecy. They are to become objects of divine saving mercy at the end, as we now; only in their case it will be in their land. "And the Redeemer shall come to Zion," etc.
If this be so, we have an important key to the prophecy of Daniel. Although the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans was so near, yet the Lord distinctly looks onward to another time. And what makes it the more remarkable is, that one evangelist does give us the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, but also distinguishes it from this future time of trouble. In Luke 21 is the chief reference of a positively prophetic kind to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. And mark the difference of the language: "And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed about with armies." Not a word about the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place. Luke passes over this entirely, and introduces what Matthew does not mention - Jerusalem encompassed with armies. "When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out," etc. That is, the Lord prescribes exactly the same course to be taken by the Jews in Jerusalem, whether at the approaching sack of the city by the Romans (as in Luke), or at the future desolation that should fall upon it (as in Matthew). So far there was an analogy between the two things: the godly were to flee away; they were not to trust to vain hopes of deliverance through some pretended Messiah, but were to know from the lips of the Lord Himself, that Jerusalem was to fall under the hand of the Gentiles. If any wanted to escape, it must be outside Jerusalem. "And let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto." No matter what people may say of the necessity of any keeping their feast, their path of safety is to avoid Jerusalem. There is no deliverance for Israel yet. "For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled."
Luke, it will be observed, does not say, This is the time of trouble, such as was not since the beginning of the world. There is the most surprising perfectness of expression. Luke takes up first the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, and Matthew nothing but the last siege, before the Jews are delivered. "For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! For there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations." This was not, therefore, the time of Jacob's trouble, when he should be delivered. At the time spoken of by Luke, instead of deliverance, they only fell into the trouble of a captivity, after the trouble of the war. "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." That is accomplishing to the present hour. "The times of the Gentiles" are going on still. The Gentiles have always lorded it as yet. The Jews have not got a land or a city that they can call their own on the face of the earth. Who has their city and their land? The Gentiles. "The times of the Gentiles" are not expired. "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." They are its masters, and, as such, they will tread it down till the allotted times are fulfilled - not for ever. Nowhere is it said that this is to go on till the end of time. On the contrary, Gentile dominion over the Jews is soon to close. We have this in the next verse.
We have already seen a most regular, orderly setting forth of the troubles that were to befall Jerusalem. And the times of the Gentiles have been running on ever since the days of Titus to the present moment. But in verse 25 begins the closing scene, which is the only thing mentioned in Matthew 24, from verse 15 and onwards - and this, because of the question put by the disciples, "What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age?" But in Luke they simply ask, "What sign will there be when these things [i.e. the overthrow of the temple] come to pass?" Accordingly, the Lord gives them the coming up of the Romans; and then He goes on, down the Gentile stream of time, till the end. But Matthew confines himself to the close in answer to the question which he records. This is the simple reason, and nothing can be more beautiful than the way in which the truth comes out. After this in Luke we have the great events when the times of the Gentiles close. "There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity . . . . men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things that are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." All this is kept distinct from the past siege.
People who apply Matthew 24 in a figurative way to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, are obliged to make out that the coming of the Son of man from heaven is a mere figure, representing the providential acting of God through Titus to put down the Jews. But Luke 21 gives a complete refutation to this idea. For here the Spirit of God shows that Jerusalem has been taken, and the Gentile times run on: when they are about to expire, the Son of man comes in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory - hundreds of years after Titus. The closing scene is brought in as finishing up, or consequent on, the times of the Gentiles.
But there is more. "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." And then, a little further on (verse 32), we find this remarkable expression, "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled." It is a misuse of this term which has led to a good deal of the confusion on the subject. When does the phrase "this generation" come in? After the Son of man has already come in power and glory - not when they saw Jerusalem compassed with armies. That is an important point to help in determining its true meaning. If "this generation" really meant a man's lifetime, such a place in the prophecy would be incongruous. The vulgar notion might have been reasonable if the phrase occurred just at the compassing of Jerusalem with armies. But it has no sense if put in after the times of the Gentiles are accomplished. So that "this generation," if taken temporally, must plainly embrace a scope of eighteen centuries at the least. What then, is its true force? It means - what it does very often in Scripture - this Christ-rejecting race of Israel, and not a mere period of time. It is used in a moral sense to describe a race acting after a particular way, good or evil. Moses, reproaching them, says, "They have corrupted themselves .... they are a perverse and crooked generation. .... And He said, I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation." (Deut. 32) Here, most clearly, their moral condition as a people is meant, and not the time in which this was manifested. In the Psalms we have a further key to the proper meaning. Thus, in Psalm 12, "Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, Thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever." If by "generation" were merely meant a term of thirty or forty years, what sense would there be in the words "for ever"? This refers, not at all to a course of a few years, but to the moral state of a people, and that of the people of Israel. In like manner, the force of the words in Luke is quite plain. "This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled." The race of Israel still going on in unbelief and rejection of Christ is what the Lord means. He is saying, as it were, I will prepare you for the terrible truth, that this Christ-rejecting generation is to continue till all these things are fulfilled. Apart from prophecy, how could such an issue have been anticipated? For it might have been supposed that, while Christianity was going over the whole earth, and making conquests everywhere, if one nation more than another was to be brought under the power of Christ, it must be Israel loved for the fathers' sake. But no. The Jews are to proceed in the same unbelief. There might be a line of faithful ones among them, but the wicked generation which Christ then denounced shall not pass away till all is fulfilled. And what will follow? Even as the Psalms say, "the generation to come." Israel will be born again - will have a new heart given them. Then are they to be the people that shall praise the Lord.
This, I must add, entirely falls in with the rest of Scripture. For the Lord; under the figure of a fruitless fig-tree, had set forth the then Israel. On that tree He consequently pronounced a curse. When it is said in one of the Gospels that the time of figs was not yet, it means the season of their ripeness or of their ingathering was not yet arrived. Hence the figs could not have been taken from the tree. Had it borne any, they must have been there. It was merely when the figs were still unripe, that our Lord came to seek fruit; but there was not one. There was plentiful profession - leaves, but no fruit. Therefore said He, "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever!" Such, in figure, is "this generation." But how is that to be reconciled with Israel's being to the praise of the Lord by-and-bye? Israel must be born again. "This generation" will never produce fruit for the Lord. It is to be destroyed under the judgment of God; and a new race will be born. The type of the past makes room for a striking figure of the future.
From these prophecies that we have looked at, two out of the Old and two out of the New Testament, it is clear that the time of trouble of which Daniel speaks, is entirely future; and that Luke distinguishes expressly the time of great distress just about to fall, and which, in fact, has fallen on Jerusalem, from a closing time of far more intense trouble which is yet to come. We now return to Daniel, with the clear light of other scriptures from both Testaments, showing God's word to be positive and precise, that Israel must pass through an unheard-of sea of trouble, but out of that they are to be delivered. It is, in fact, the precursor of their great salvation from God.
Still there was another question unanswered. However important Daniel might feel it to know that his countrymen would infallibly be delivered, yet there was another question: What will be the condition of the Jews who are not in the land? What will become of those not in Jerusalem or in Judaea, who consequently are not the immediate objects of the great deliverance wrought there? The second verse of this chapter answers it. "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." The verse is constantly applied to the resurrection of the body; and it is true that the Spirit founds the figure, which is here used to foreshadow the revival of Israel, upon that resurrection. But it can be shown that it has not the least reference to a bodily resurrection either of us or of Israel. As this may seem difficult to some, I am bound to produce evidence from Scripture that the Holy Spirit uses resurrection as a figure of a blessed restoration from ruin.
In Isaiah 26 you have what I suppose will not be questioned: an account of Israel's trouble - their trouble under Gentile lords. In verse 13, it is said, "O Lord our God, other lords beside Thee have had dominion over us: but by Thee only will we make mention of Thy name." That is not said by or about the Church, though it may be applied to us ever so frequently. We have not got other lords over us - the Jews have. They have had masters over them for thousands of years, and they have still. "But by Thee only will we make mention of Thy name. They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise." These lords who had dominion over them are gone: they are dead - they shall not rise. Can these words be about literal resurrection? If it were meant, they must rise like others. It is clearly said of their perishing in this world. That is, the figure of the resurrection is applied. They are gone and shall not be lords over Israel any more. "Therefore hast Thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish. Thou hast increased the nation, O Lord, Thou hast increased the nation: Thou art glorified." Who can doubt that the passage speaks of Israel only? "Thou hadst removed it far unto all the ends of the earth." Could that be said about the Church? When the gospel extends itself all over the world, it is the power of love in men - the activity of God's grace going out everywhere. Not so with Israel. They have a central city, where, had they been faithful, God would have maintained them; - so that their removal to the ends of the earth was a divine judgment upon them, not a mission of love. "Lord, in trouble have they visited Thee, they poured out a prayer when Thy chastening was upon them." That was the effect of it. Israel humbles himself. He that had waxed fat and kicked, was now penitent; and the Lord listens to his confession, and looks on his anguish. "Like as a woman with child, that draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and crieth out in her pangs; so have we been in Thy sight, O Lord." And then in verse 19, the Lord answers. "Thy dead men shall live, my dead body shall they arise." He claims them as His own, even though they had so sinned and were in that deplorable, degraded condition. "My dead body shall they arise." Mark that expression as connected with Daniel. "Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead."
Can it be questioned by any one who has followed the reasons already advanced, that the Spirit is not speaking about the Church there, but about Israel, in contrast with their Gentile lords now prostrate, never to domineer again? Israel, on the contrary, though in the most dismal condition, was only as the dead body which the Lord claims as His own, and as pertaining to Him they shall arise. The resurrection of the body, of the dead, is a blessed and fundamental truth which underlies and is assumed in the prophetic imagery. But the passage speaks of the nation as yet to arise according to God spiritually, but withal as a nation, too, as the next chapter (Isaiah 27), which is the conclusion of the strain, makes yet more evident. Use, enjoy, apply this scripture as you will, but deny not its strict and primary force.
Turning to Daniel, now, see what a light is thrown upon the passage. Not only will there be deliverance for the Jews in the Holy Land, who have witnessed all the conflicts between Antichrist and the king of the north, but for many that sleep (that is, many who had not yet come forward, who had been apart from the troubles of their nation, who had been in total obscurity, as it were sleeping in the dust of the earth). "Many of them. . . shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." The text shows plainly that it is not the resurrection of the just; because when this takes place, nobody rises to shame and everlasting contempt. The passage has no direct reference to a bodily resurrection, which simply furnishes a figure for the national revival of Israel, who are described as sleeping in the dust, to express the greatness of their degradation. Now they were to awake and sing, according to Isaiah.
But we must turn to another passage - the clearest, perhaps, of any upon the subject. It is in the prophecy of Ezekiel, where, in a most plain prediction of the restoration of Israel, the same figure is used. Isaiah called them a dead body, and spoke of them as dwelling in the dust, from which they were to awake. Daniel also called it an awaking out of their sleep in the dust. Ezekiel goes yet farther, and speaks of them as not only dead, but buried in their graves. Now, if it can be proved that this does not refer to a literal bodily resurrection, but to a national restoration of Israel, the chain of evidence will be complete. That it is so, I doubt not; for in this prophecy we are not left to gather from the context what the meaning is, but there is a divine interpretation. We have not only the prophecy, but the prophecy explained. And the explanation of the prophecy given to and by Ezekiel shuts out every other thought save the one I have been endeavouring to set before you. In the beginning of Ezekiel 37 we find an open valley full of dry bones. "And He said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, Thou knowest. Again He said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them." Can any one seriously think this is the way in which the Church will rise from the dead? Is there a soul so deluded as to take this for a description of the order in which our bodies are to be raised? Bones coming together first; then the flesh and skin covering; and then breath put into them? Can it be with sobriety maintained that this is primarily intended as a figure of the work of the gospel in giving life to souls? If so, what is the meaning of the bones first, etc.?
"Then said He unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then He said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel." What more simple than the explanation God gives of the vision? He applies it to the whole house of Israel, though, no doubt, it was the vision of a resurrection. Ezekiel saw the bones live, and the men stand on their feet. But, then, we have God giving us the real meaning and proper application of it. The resurrection of the body we have most fully elsewhere, as in the New Testament, and in Job also. In the Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles, and the Revelation, we have the resurrection, both of the just and of the unjust - a blessed resurrection for the one, and another resurrection that will have awful consequences of sorrow for those involved. But here we have the same God, using the figure of resurrection to describe the blessing that He is to confer upon the people of Israel. Similarly the figure is applied in Luke 15 to the conversion of the prodigal son: "This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found." Paul gives us the blessing that will result to the world by-and-bye through the restoration of Israel under the same figure: "What shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" (Rom_11:15) I maintain, then, that no other interpretation of this passage bears the stamp of the Spirit of God. People may preach the gospel from it, or apply it figuratively: I am not objecting to such an employment of it. But the word of God gives us both the vision and the interpretation. And I have no more reason to believe the one than the other. God says it means the house of Israel; therefore it does not mean the resurrection of the body. When men are raised from the dead in proper physical sense, there will be no such thing as the house of Israel among those so raised. Resurrection terminates all relations of time and the world. Hence, what we have here is simply a figure taken from resurrection, and applied to the future blessing of Israel - then to be a holy nation, but a nation still.
"These bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O My people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel." Nothing can be plainer. All the evidence of the chapter confirms the same thing. But more than that: "And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put My Spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord." The next portion throws yet more light upon it. We have another vision connected with this. Two sticks are taken and joined in one, presenting another aspect of the blessing in store for Israel. If all Israel were to be brought out of their graves, the twelve tribes might still have formed two separate parties as in earlier days. But now comes in a new condition, to show that, when the resuscitation of Israel takes place, their once-divided interests will coalesce. That does not refer to the Church, nor to our condition when raised from the dead. We shall not be planted in the land of Israel under David as our king. Even if we take David as a type of Christ, yet this is not our relationship. We are Christ's body and bride - not a people merely, reigned over by a king.
Thus, by comparing these different portions of the word of God, we have strong proof that the passage in Daniel refers solely to Israel. And as the first verse shows us the deliverance of the Jews in their land at the time of their sorest trouble, the second verse shows us that which is the key to so many of the prophecies - the coming out of the race of Israel from their hiding-places and deep degradation, set forth under the figure of sleeping in the dust, and being raised up out of it. But whether it be those in the land or those who come out of the dust of the earth, or from among the Gentiles, none will be delivered except those that are the objects of the counsels of God, i.e. "found written in the book." Some of them may awake, as the figure expresses it, to take their part in the great struggle at the close; but not being registered in God's book, they shall be abandoned to shame and everlasting contempt. For the rest it is not a mere national deliverance, but much more. Those that are delivered will be truly born of God. A spiritual character will attach to their rise, as well as a national one.
But let us pursue the rest of the chapter briefly. The Spirit of God shows us that some among them will have a remarkable maturity. They are those who are said to be "wise." "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament.'' These have been distinguished in a time of trouble among the Jews. "And they that instruct the many in righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." We are obliged thus to change the version, because the expression that is used here - "turn many to righteousness" - is unhappy. The real sense is "they that teach righteousness to the many." It is not a question of their success - whether they actually turn them to righteousness, or not, is not the point; but "they that instruct the many," or the mass of the Jews, are thus promised the blessing. They might, perhaps, have scanty results; but the question is, whether they are labouring for God, and maintaining the authority of His truth. The same Hebrew word is used in other parts of the Scripture, where it no doubt means to justify. The English translators - judging, with good reason, that "justify" would not suit in a clause which describes the action of men, whereas justification certainly belongs to God - have changed it into "turn to righteousness.'' But I take the liberty of preferring the version already mentioned - "instructing in righteousness." Thus it would appear, that there are certain of the Jews that will have shown comparatively a great degree of intelligence in the mind of God. They are called "the wise." But besides the intelligent, others go out in spiritual energy, as we have seen, to teach the mass of the Jews, who then were, or afterwards fell under the power of Antichrist. "The many" is a technical phrase in Daniel for the faithless mass or those that are lost. They that instruct the many in righteousness are to shine as the stars for ever and ever.
And, further, I must take the opportunity of saying that this is the true meaning of a verse in Isaiah 53, that has amazingly perplexed the critics: "By His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many." No doubt many Christians have connected it with "by His obedience shall many be made righteous." But there is no connection whatever between the two thoughts. Take it as has been suggested in the passage before us, and all is plain. Nor have I the least doubt that such is its true meaning. It is to instruct in righteousness; justification is not the point there. In the Lord's case the instruction of course will be perfect; but even there the object is "many" (not "the many," as in Daniel). Here we find that these godly souls among the Jews have a certain knowledge of divine truth, and they instruct the mass in righteousness. It will not be a question of showing and preaching grace at that day. They will instruct them in righteousness. They may bring out the blessed thoughts of God in connection with Israel; but it will be instruction in righteousness. The sense of "justify" would not be true, if we look either at the subjects or the objects of the action. We could understand, perhaps, that of the Lord in Isaiah 53. But even so; ask any person, what is the meaning of His justifying many through His knowledge, and he will have to travel far enough for a probable answer. Some advocates for it may try to understand, "by the knowledge of Him," but that will not stand. The true meaning is that the Lord would use His knowledge as the means of instructing many. In Isaiah and Daniel, it refers to instructing in righteousness, not justifying nor turning to righteousness.
In the next verse comes an important principle, upon which a few words must be said, "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." Daniel is here informed that the things which he had seen, and the communications which he had heard, though they were, no doubt, of God, were not to be turned to use for the present. All was to be a sealed book until a distant day; in a word, until the time of the end. In a later verse, Daniel puts the question, "What shall be the end of these things!'' And the answer is, "Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand." Thus clearly are we shown that the understanding of the words of God is a spiritual thing, and not a matter of mere intellect. If it were so, then the wicked might understand as much as the righteous. It is expressly said, that "none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand." That is, these intelligent ones, of whom we have heard before. Mark the importance of this. In the last chapter of the Apocalypse, we have the prophet John addressed at the close of his prophecy. The contrast is most striking. In the last of Daniel, he is told that all is to be closed up and sealed until the time of the end. In the last chapter of the Revelation, John is told not to seal "the sayings of the prophecy of this hook: for the time is at hand." In other words, there is an exact contrast between the injunction given to the two prophets. To the Jewish prophet all is sealed till the time of the end. To the Christian prophet nothing is sealed: all is open. How comes this? The answer is, that the Church - the Christian - is always supposed to be at the time of the end. The gift of the Holy Ghost has changed everything. From that time nothing has been sealed to the Christian. All the mind, the affections, the counsels of God, yea, and His secrets about the world, in the Scriptures of truth, are opened to him by the power of God.
The Christian, even if you take the weak and ignorant, has the Holy Ghost dwelling in him. Therefore, in writing to the babes, does John say, "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things." All the learning in the world can never make a man understand the Bible; whereas, if a soul is born of God, he is capable of understanding anything that God reveals: he only requires to be led on, and more perfectly instructed. The apostle is not speaking of the actual requirements of the babe, which might be very slight. In whom, then, do we boast, and ought we to boast? In God, who has given us such an amazing privilege. Whoever has the Spirit of God, has therein a divine capacity of entering into the things of God. He only wants to be in proper circumstances, dependent on God, and valuing His word, and what is of God will be manifest and proved to be divine. This is connected with the fact, that the Spirit of God is given to the Church, in a special sense, which not even the prophets knew. For although they had the Spirit to inspire them, as we, of course, have not, yet we have the Holy Ghost always dwelling in us; one consequence of which is, that we have spiritual intelligence, "the mind of Christ," which they had not. And therefore, as you may remember, the Spirit of God in 1 Peter 1 contrasts the condition of the Christian now with that of the saints, yea, of the prophets themselves, under the Old Testament. He shows us that they were "searching what and what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed that, not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven." That is, we stand in the present knowledge and enjoyment of things which, they were told, did not concern them but us of the New Testament. This is very important. They had the promise, and it was salvation to them. But we have much more: we have positive, accomplished blessing - redemption not merely promised, but effected. And the Christian now, relieved by grace from all question about his sins, is free to enter into the blessed things of God.
God accordingly says now, You are not to seal the book. The time of the end is that in which we are contemplated, the end morally being come. And therefore we are waiting for the Lord to come at any time. Where the Jewish thought prevails, people are always looking out for an antecedent time of great trouble. They do not see that God has a purpose about Israel, as well as about the Church; that, when He has removed us to our own proper place in heavenly glory, He will again take up the Jews; and that they, not we, must go through the great tribulation, and see the appointed signs which herald the approach of the Son of man to the earth.
This also serves to explain how it is that we can understand these prophecies. Daniel could not: as he says here, "And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end." Then comes in Christianity, and not one of the words is sealed - not one shut up. They are all open. To us the end is always nigh; we are said to be in the end of the world: as it is written in 1Co_10:11, "These things were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the age are come." And it is always so. "Christ is said. to have appeared once in the end of the world, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." The Church is ever supposed to be in the end, and, by virtue of the Spirit, anticipating the godly, intelligent remnant. Indeed, the Church began with a remnant of Jews that had faith in their Messiah. Thus Pentecost began with that which will be true again after we are removed to heaven. For when God has translated the saints, and the time of the end is literally come, there will once more be a remnant of faithful Jews. "But the wise shall understand." The Church is always supposed to be standing in these privileges, and is essentially above the mere discoveries or progress of the age.
As to the "days" spoken of in the close of the chapter, what is their meaning? In verse 11, it is said, "From the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days." It had been previously said in verse 7, by the man clothed in linen, that it should be "for a time, times, and an half" - that is, for 1260 days. Verse 11 adds thirty days, or one month more, to the 1260 days. Then, in verse 12, we find a further epoch: "Blessed is he that waiteth and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days." That is, a month and a half are added still. So that we have, first of all, 1260 days; then 1290 days; then 1335 days. What, we may ask, is the meaning of this? and from what time are we to reckon these days? The answer is, "From the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up."
And now I would make a remark of some importance, as linking together all which had been said, and yielding a conclusive proof of the true interpretation of this prophecy. It is the very verse that our Lord quoted in Matthew 24: "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand!) then let them which are in Judea flee into the mountains." The question is, Where does Daniel speak of this? I answer, in verse 11 of this chapter. It is the only verse that properly answers to the one in Matthew.
We are told that from that time there are to be 1290 days; next, a further period of 45 days, and then full blessing. Has that been the case? If you apply it to anything past, as for instance, to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus; when you reckon 1335 days from the time when the Romans took Jerusalem, is the blessing really come? It matters little how you take the days. Let them be conceived to be 1335 years from that destruction of Jerusalem: still have you got the blessing of the Jews and the saint's blessing according to the word of God here? Nothing of the sort. What then follows? That you have dated it from a wrong epoch. "The abomination that maketh desolate" is not yet come; when it does come, in the sense of which our Lord speaks, 1335 days follow, and then will be the full blessing.
But now another word as to these differences: first the 1260, then the 1290, and then, lastly, the 1335 days. I think the reason is, because the blessing of Israel will not be brought in at once. The first great turning-point will be the destruction of "the king." That takes place when the 1260 days expire. But as we saw in Daniel 11, the king of the north has to be disposed of, after "the king." Accordingly, there is another period of delay. But whether that will coincide with the thirty days more (or 1290), or with the subsequent 45 days (1335), I am not prepared to say. Of this, however, we may be assured, that the last of them bring us down to the accomplishment of the whole work: and I am inclined to think that the destruction of the king of the north is rather one of the latest, if not the last, of these acts of judgment before the epoch of blessing begins. In Isa_10:12, it is said, "When the Lord hath performed His whole work upon Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks." Does not this seem to indicate that it is the last act of the Lord in judgment connected with the blessing of Israel? Thus we have a brief interval or two after the destruction of Antichrist, during which the Lord is still putting down His and Israel's enemies. "Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days."
I now close the book, praying the Lord to make it of real profit as well as interest. One of the most important points of profit will have been this - to deliver God's children from the idea that the Church is everything. That is not a true system. It is to fall into the same sort of mistake that the old astronomers used to make, when they viewed the world as the centre of the solar system, because it was the place where they were living. This always spoils man. He makes himself the centre of everything. The same error is made in theology. The Church, because we are in it, has been made the centre of Scripture, whereas Christ is the true one. He is the centre of heavenly blessedness, and the Church circles around Him; He is the centre of Jewish blessing, and the Jews circle around Him. Therefore, whether in heaven or earth, Christ is the kernel of all God's thoughts of blessing. And when our hearts are fixed in Him, there is peace, progress, and blessing. The reason why souls very often have not peace, is because they are occupied with themselves; for they do not find what they think ought to be in a Christian. Whereas, if I am looking at Christ, there is no difficulty. The question then becomes: Does Christ deserve that such a one as I am should be saved? Can I deny it? The effect of this is that I am happy, and God can use me in His service. But if I am troubled about the salvation of my own soul, how can I be occupied in the service of others? The great question of self never will be settled till Christ is the centre of everything to us. May it be so! He is the centre for all God's thoughts of love and righteousness as well as of glory.