We enter now upon the second great division of the book. The Spirit of God gives us here not merely the history or visions of heathen, such as Nebuchadnezzar or others, but communications from God to the prophet himself. Hence what related to the Jews as the object of God's special favour at that time, and more particularly what was in store for them in a blessed day that is coming, are the uppermost thoughts in the mind of the Spirit. Daniel was the fitting channel for such revelations. Accordingly, the Spirit again goes over the ground of the four great Gentile empires, as well as the fifth empire, the kingdom of heaven, to be introduced by the Lord Jesus. But all is presented, though of course with perfect consistency, from a different point of view. It is not now a great image beginning with that which was gorgeous, the gold and the silver, and descending, with evident deterioration of splendour, to the belly and thighs of brass, and the legs of iron and feet of clay. Here we have ravening wild beasts. The very same powers are meant, but it is another aspect of them. Most fitly was the figure of the image presented to the eye of the great head of Gentile empire, their changes and relations to each other; but it is now God's view of these same powers, and their relation to His people.
Thus we have in this simple consideration the key to the different way in which these powers are depicted. We shall find also in the details that wisdom which we may always look for in what comes from the mind of God.
The prophet, in the vision, sees a mass of waters, agitated by the winds of heaven. Out of this troubled sea four wild beasts emerge, successively I may add; for it is very plain that, as in the empires set forth by the metals, etc., in Dan. 2, so in the same powers here, we have to look at empires not contemporaneous, but succeeding each other in rule over the world under the providence of God. "The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings." There, beyond question, we have the empire of Babylon. Nor is it at all a novelty to find the Holy Spirit applying the figure of a lion to Nebuchadnezzar, nor of an eagle either. Jeremiah has already employed the same. "The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way." (Jer_4:7) Ezekiel, as well as Jeremiah, represented him also under the figure of an eagle. Indeed, he is mentioned both as the lion and the eagle in Jer_49:19-22. In the vision of Daniel the Holy Ghost combines the two figures in one symbol, in order fitly to represent what the Babylonish empire was in the mind of God.
But, besides these symbols of grandeur and rapidity of conquest, we have the sign of a remarkable change that was to pass over this beast, and one of which there was no appearance, humanly speaking, at that time But all was open to the eye of God, whose object in giving prophecy is, that His people should see beforehand what He sees. God has been pleased, in the perfect wisdom and goodness that belong to His nature, to impart such a measure of knowledge of the future as He sees to be for His own glory; and an obedient child hears and keeps the words of his Father.
Now He brought before the prophet the knowledge that the Babylonish empire was to be humbled. It was not to be absolutely destroyed as a nation, but completely put down as a ruling power in the world. This was what was signified by the wings being plucked, and the animal made to stand upon the feet as a man, which would of course destroy its strength. For however proper such an attitude may be to a man, it is plain that to a ravening beast it would be rather a humiliation. In accordance too with this, "a man's heart was given to it." There may be in this a sort of contrast with what was actually done in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, who had a beast's heart given to him. The proud king was not looking up to God, which clearly is the bounder duty of every soul of man. He is not properly a man who does not recognize the God that brought him into being, and that watches over him and abounds in beneficence towards him every day: the God that claims the allegiance of the conscience and that alone can convert the heart. In Nebuchadnezzar's case man was occupied with himself. The very gift of universal dominion from God was perverted by the power of Satan, so as to make self and not God the object of his thoughts. In the emphatic phrase of Scripture, his was not a man's heart which looks up, owning One above him, but a beast's that looks down in the gratification of itself and the pursuit of its own instincts. This was the case with Nebuchadnezzar, and therefore a most solemn and personal judgment was executed upon him. But the mercy of God interposed after a certain time of humiliation, and he was restored. This was a token of the condition to which the Gentile powers were to be brought from not recognizing the true God; but there was also the witness of their future blessing and restoration, when they shall own the kingdom of heaven by-and-bye. In the case before us, the lion was reduced from its power as a beast to a position of weakness. This actually took place when Babylon lost its supremacy in the world, which seems clearly the meaning of the latter part of the verse. We have first, Babylon, in the fulness of its power, and then the great change that occurred when it was stripped of the empire of the world.
In the next verse (verse 5) there is a description given of the Persian empire, which had been represented in the great image as "the beast, etc., of silver." "And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side," - a remarkable feature, which, at first sight, might not be obvious, but which is soon explained. It was an empire not so uniform as the Babylonish. It consisted of two peoples joined under one head. Another remarkable feature is this: it was the inferior of the two kingdoms that prevailed. The Persian takes the upper hand of the Mede. Thus we saw in Dan. 5 that Darius the Median took the kingdom; but Cyrus soon followed, and from thence onward it was always the Persian that governed, and not the Median. We have in this circumstance a fresh instance that we do not really need history for the understanding of prophecy. Inattention to this plunges people into uncertainty. We may have recourse to history as a sort of homage paid to prophecy, but the historical confirmation of fulfilled prophecy is a very distinct thing from its interpretation. Prophecy, like all Scripture, is explained only by the Spirit of God; and He need not leave the written word for human help to explain what He has inspired: only He who is the author of Scripture is really capable of explaining it. I ought not to have to press this, as it is a first principle of truth; but we have to insist on first principles of truth quite as much now as ever.
Here then Scripture furnishes us with the evident fact, that while the second empire consisted of two parts, and while the Medes were the elder branch of the empire, yet it was Cyrus the Persian that was to be most prominent. This was the side that raised itself up. "It had three ribs in the mouth of it, between the teeth of it," clearly, I think, the sign of the extraordinary rapacity that would characterize the Persian empire. If we were to see presented to us, in a kind of panorama, different beasts, and if one of the animals were painted with a quantity of prey and actually devouring it, at once we should have the idea of a singularly voracious appetite. Such was the case with the Persians. There were frequent outbreaks which they had to encounter, because of their extortion and cruelty. It is true that God wrought providentially through them in behalf of the Jews; but this only made the contrast with their ordinary ways the more striking. For while the Persians were excessively hard upon others, there was leniency and favour shown towards Israel; but this was only the exception. In general, as depicting their character, a rapacious wild beast sets it forth. Hence the bear is said to have three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was in the very act of showing its ravening propensities. "And they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh." That was the explanation in words of the vision: it referred evidently to its predatory habits.
In the third case, we have a leopard, with some notable features about it, though we are not to look for the regularity of pictorial consistency. There are certain truths intended by every figure; but if men try to put all the particulars into a formal harmony, they will not hold together. In the present case there was nothing in nature like this leopard; but God takes from different things that existed in nature features that were necessary to give a combined idea of this new empire. Hence, while the leopard is remarkable for its agility in pursuing its prey, yet, in order to give something beyond nature, we hear that it had "upon the back of it four wings of a fowl." If ever there was a case in which impetuous courage in pursuing great designs and speed in achieving a succession of conquests were united, we find it in the history of Alexander the Great. The Macedonian or Grecian kingdom has a character of swiftness attached to it that no other empire ever had; and hence the leopard, on the one hand, and the four wings of the fowl on the other. But, besides that, "the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it." There you have not so much what was found in Alexander himself, but rather in his successors. The four heads refer to the division of his empire into four different parts after his death. It is not, therefore, merely a symbol of what the Greek empire was in its first origin, but it presents thus its future also. It is emphatically the empire that separated into four distinct divisions. Not that there were only four, because it is clear that at one time there was a sort of division among his generals, six of whom reigned over different parts, but they gradually subsided into four. This we know from the next chapter: there is no need to go to history for it. All facts, all science, must confirm the word of God; but the word of God does not need them to prove that itself is divine. If it did, what would become of those who understand nothing of science and history? Persons who dabble much in either one or other for the purpose of confirming the Scriptures, have never reaped anything but the scantiest gleanings, as far as the Scripture harvest is concerned. It is another thing if a person feeds upon the word, grows in the knowledge of the Scripture, and then is called on, in the course of duty, to take up what men say about it: he will find that there is nothing, even down to the most recent discoveries of science, that does not pay unwitting obeisance to Scripture. The man that takes his stand upon Scripture, looking up to God, and using whatever means are given through the word and Spirit of God, has the real vantage ground: his confidence is in God, and not in the discoveries or the thoughts of men. The man that is searching here below is subject to all the uncertainty and mists of this lower world. He who derives his light from the word of God has a sun brighter than that at noon-day; and, therefore, just as far as he is subject to it, he will not, cannot, stray. And the Spirit of God is able and willing to produce this subjection in us. We all do stray, more or less, as a fact; but the reason is not from any defect in the word of God, or any lack of power to teach on the part of the Holy Ghost. We err because we have not sufficiently simple faith in the perfectness of Scripture, and in the blessed guidance which the Spirit loves to exercise in leading us into all truth.
The next verse (ver. 7) is the opening of another vision. For, properly speaking, from the first verse down to the seventh is one section or vision, each being introduced by the words, "I saw in the night visions." Daniel first beheld the four beasts in a general way; if any were particularly specified, it was the first three. But the fourth beast was evidently that which more peculiarly occupied the mind of the Holy Spirit, and the prophet, therefore, gets a fresh view of it. "After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth." Here is, clearly, a prophetic figuration of the fourth or Roman empire. I will not now enter into the many proofs of it. Hardly any person who reads these pages is likely to combat the thought, that in the four well-known empires we have the statue of Dan. 2, and the beasts of Dan. 7. Some have denied this, but it is such an eccentricity that one need say no more about it.
Admitting this, then, we have in the fourth beast the Roman empire plainly set forth. What marks it politically is all-overcoming strength. It is represented by a monster to which nothing in nature can be found to answer. We have a fuller account of it in the Revelation; because the Roman empire, being then established, and its future destiny carrying us on to the end of the age, it became the exclusive object of attention - the beast. Accordingly we have a description of it in Rev. 13, where we find it represented as a leopard, the "feet as those of a bear, and its mouth as that of a lion." And this composite creature is further distinguished (verse 1) by having seven heads and ten horns, and upon its horns ten crowns. That was the power under which John was at that very time suffering in the isle of Patmos; and as greater sufferings were in reserve for God's people, and blasphemy against God, we need not wonder that we have a minute account of it.
Here it is seen as "a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it." That is, there was unexampled power of conquest and aggrandizement, and what it did not incorporate into its own substance, it stamped upon and thus spoiled for others. "And it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it." It was an empire that maintained a strong feeling of the will of man - of the people. It combined certain republican elements with as iron a despotism as ever ruled in this world. These two things were brought into distinct, but apparently harmonious play. Besides this, there is another and most distinctive mark: "it had ten horns." In other empires it was not so. The Greek empire gradually devolved, after its founder's death, into four heads; but the peculiarity of the Roman is the possession of ten horns. Yet we are not to look for the actual development of history in this vision. Had this been the case, it is clear that the ten horns would not have been seen in the Roman beast, when it first met the eyes of the prophet. In fact, it was not until hundreds of years after Rome had existed as an empire, that it had more than one ruler. The Spirit of God clearly brings into the very first view the features that would be found at the close, and not at the beginning. It was strong and fierce; it was one that devoured; it stamped the residue with its feet; it was diverse from all others. Rome may have been all this during the time of the Caesars; but it had not then ten horns. There can be no possible pretence for such a notion until the empire was broken up; and after that, properly speaking, the Roman empire ceased to exist. There might be the keeping up of the name and title of emperor, but it was the emptiest thing possible. How, then, could this prophecy be accomplished if, as long as there was an undivided empire, there were no horns; and if, on the other hand, the empire, as such, expired when once broken up into separate kingdoms? How are we to put these two facts together? Because it is clear from what is given us here, that a beast is a totally different thing from a horn. A beast represents imperial unity. But in Rome, as long as the empire subsisted, there were no "ten horns": and when the divided kingdoms sprang up, there was no such thing then as imperial unity.
How, then, are the two things put together in the prophecy? The Spirit of God was, I believe, looking onward to the last stage of the Roman empire, when both features shall reappear, and that together. This last stage ends in a divine judgment; as it is written a little after, "I beheld till the thrones were set up" (for so it ought to be, instead of "cast down"; and this is not merely my opinion, but the uniform way in which it is understood in the best ancient and modern translations of Scripture), "I beheld till the thrones were set up, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire." There you have evidently a figure of the divine glory in judgment, not some mere providential dealing on the earth, but the process of judgment that God Himself will institute. "A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened." At whatever time this may be supposed to take place, it is manifest that it is a divine judgment. "I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame." The horn alluded to here is the eleventh one, the one that came up among the ten. And it was this little horn that began with small beginnings, that, by some means or another, managed to root up three of the first horns, and that subsequently became the guide and governor of the whole beast. "I beheld because of the great words which the horn spake," not "till the horn was put down," but "till the beast was slain," so that it is implied that this little horn had managed to govern the entire beast. This verse shows that there was to be a divine judgment that would deal with the little horn and with the beast, and destroy them. Has that taken place? Clearly not.
It is plain, that whatever has fallen upon the Roman empire in past times, has been the ordinary course and decline of a great nation. Barbarian hordes tore it up, and separate kingdoms were formed. But prophecy tells us of another thing altogether. It warns of a judgment that disposes of the beast in a totally different way, and in contrast with the others. "I beheld till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time." That is, the remains of the Chaldeans, or of the races that were called so, we have still. Persia abides a kingdom, and the Greeks have lately become one. They exist, therefore, though not as imperial powers. We have these races of men, more or less, representing those powers; smaller, it is true, and no longer having dominion as empires. This is the meaning of ver. 12. Their dominion was taken away as rulers of the world, but "their lives were prolonged for a season and time." In this last empire, when the hour of its judgment comes, the fact is far otherwise. In the case of the first three beasts, they lost their imperial dignity, but themselves might be said to exist. But in the case of the fourth empire, the hour when its dominion is destroyed is the same hour in which it is itself destroyed. "The beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame." Who can doubt that this is the same scene that we have alluded to in Rev. 19, where we are told, "And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army"? The prophet had come to the last beast. Further back in divine revelation we had the other three beasts; they had had their day, and there only remained the last. Consequently, when John says "the beast," we are to understand the Roman empire. This beast, then, and the kings of the earth, are warring against the Lord. "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both [mark] were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone." Now, this is very remarkable; because here we have the lake of fire, which answers to the judgment of the burning flame in Daniel: only it is a fuller statement. It was not a mere control of circumstances, but a divine power that casts straight into hell without the necessity of a previous judgment. For it was perfectly plain what they were about. They were found in open antagonism to the Lord of glory, and were cast into the flames. Has that ever been verified in the Roman empire? Clearly not. What then follows? The Roman empire has passed away; for the last thousand years and more it has had no existence, except as an unmeaning title, which has been the object of contention among ambitious men. Separate kingdoms have taken the place of the undivided Roman empire.
But what have we here? The Roman empire reappearing. And this exactly agrees with other parts of the word of God. For there is a remarkable expression in the Revelation, that has been alluded to more than once. It is Rev_17:8, etc., "The beast that was, and is not, and shall be present." I do not know how persons could have used the expression, "and yet is." It is not even sense, and the real thought is particularly simple. No enigma is meant here. The Roman empire was to have three stages. The first is its original imperial form, when John suffered under the last of the Caesars. Then next is its condition of non-existence, from about the fifth century, when the Goths, and Vandals, etc., broke it up; in that condition it is now. But then there is a third stage, and it is in that last condition that it is to be found in open opposition to God and the Lamb. This is the future of the Roman empire. It is to be reorganized, it is to come out again as an empire, and in this last phase it will fight against God to its ruin. And mark how this leaves room for the point which I wished to illustrate. We could not in the past have had ten horns as well as the beast; in the future we can, and that is what the scene in Rev. 17 shows. "The ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet." But it is added, "They shall receive power as kings one hour with the beast." So that when the beast should make its reappearance, there would be this singular feature: that while there would be a great head of imperial unity, it would not be to the exclusion of separate kings. There would still be the kings of France, Spain, etc. Let none suppose that to say this is prophesying. The true way to be kept out of that presumption is to study prophecy. In the one case you are learning what God says; in the other you are but giving out your own thoughts. In this passage the point is, not an empire alone without the ten kings, nor the ten kings without the empire, but the union of these two things. There is the imperial unity, which answers to the beast; at the same time there are these separate kings. It is their co-existence which will mark the Roman empire in its last phase. To that everything is tending now.
The prophet saw the last condition of this empire with its ten horns. "I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things." (Verse 8) Men used to apply all this to the pope. No doubt the Roman pontiff was extremely obnoxious to every one that valued the word of God. But we must always take care, when we read Scripture, not to be too anxious about applying the word of God to what is in our way, or to what we may think extremely evil - as no doubt the pope and popery are. But we must seek to understand what God means by His word. Granted that there is a remarkable analogy between the papacy and the little horn. It may have been intended to be applied by the children of God in different ages, who were suffering through the papacy, for their help and encouragement. The changing of times and laws (verse 25), as well as his great words and persecution of the saints, may have been accomplished in its canons, bulls, and political influence. But it remains to be inquired, Is that the full meaning and the proper design of the prophecy? Take an example from Matt. 24. There was the beginning of sorrows; then the abomination of desolation set up in the holy place, and a warning to flee from Jerusalem; unexampled tribulation, etc. I can understand all this having a measure of application to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. But who will say that this is the end of all, and that the full meaning is realized there? It is impossible that any one can think so who examines it attentively. When God gives a prophecy, He very often allows that there should be a sort of earnest in the accomplishment of it; but we are never to take that as the full thing. The Roman Empire has fallen, and, out of the fall of that empire, a new and singular power, with divine claims, has started up and set itself against God. But to say that this is the full accomplishment of the prophecy, would be as great a mistake as to suppose that God never alluded to it at all. There was to be Mahommedanism in the east, and the papacy in the west; but still the question recurs, Is that all that the Holy Ghost meant? I say, No, for the reason already given - that if the history of the papacy be looked at, the beast was gone, properly, when the pope took his place.
More than that. The pope has never acquired three of the ten kingdoms. He might receive Peter's patrimony, but it has always been a petty power politically, of no consequence as to territory. Instead of acquiring three of the ten kingdoms, all its weight has arisen from its spiritual delusion over the souls of men. Clearly, then, a power, small in its beginnings, is to rise and put down three of these greater powers, acquiring all their dominion. The pope never has done any such thing. So that, although there has been a measure of likeness, there is enough difference to make their distinction quite plain.
The empire is in full force at the time that these ten horns and the little horn appear. This last subsequently aggrandizes itself, and rules the whole beast. Instead of this, the pope has long lost almost the half of his influence in Europe, and has been of late stripped of the chief part of his dominions in Italy; and what may be the end of agencies now at work no man can say.
We have here a most vigorous power, that has the ten horns in subjection to itself. The Revelation tells us that all the ten kings conspired to give their power and strength unto the beast. God has given all up, because it is the time when there shall be strong delusion, and men will believe a lie. I gather from that, not that this has no bearing upon the papacy, but that its full accomplishment is in the future. Scripture is explicit that the Roman Empire, which has ceased to exist, will be reorganized, and will be the instrument, under the direction of the false prophet, for carrying out the last great effort of Satan against the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Daniel we find that this little horn overthrows three powers. Then we have its moral characteristics. It has eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things. It is marked by immense intelligence - not by brute force. The description of it contrasts with that of the Lord, the Lamb that was slain, who is characterized as having seven horns and seven eyes - that is, the perfection of intelligence and of power. In this case it is not so. The power outwardly looks much greater. It has ten horns instead of seven - a monster instead of perfection. The result is a sort of grotesque exaggeration of the power and wisdom of Christ that wretched man, energized of Satan, will arrogate to himself. Then comes the overthrow (verse 11) because of its fearful blasphemy against God.
A new vision follows (verses 13, 14,) in contrast with the powers that were represented by ravening beasts. The new and prominent object is "one like the Son of man." Just as in the second chapter it was an insignificant stone that struck the great image, and all crumbled to pieces from head to foot. Here the Son of man "came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him." The Ancient of days represents God as such, "the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity."
In the Revelation the two glories are both united in the Person of Christ. Rev. 1 shows us one like the Son of man: but when we find the description of Him, some of the features are exactly the same as are attributed here to the Ancient of days, whose garment is said to be as white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool, etc. The Jewish prophet sees Christ simply as man. The Christian prophet sees Him as man, but as God withal.
"And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." There will be no such thing as its being taken from Him, or as another power succeeding Him. It will be everlasting in the sense of as long as the world shall endure. But, strictly, this is not an eternal scene. The Jewish prophets show you the millennium; but they do not unfold, as the New Testament does, that when all things are subdued to God, even the Father, God shall be all in all. This was reserved for another day; and the Revelation follows it up in the most blessed manner, in Rev_21:1-8.
Just mark, by the way, a feature of some importance. The latter part of the chapter consists of explanations; but we are never to suppose that the explanations of Scripture merely refer to what has already been given. This is the case in human writings, but in God's explanations there is always further truth brought out. This is of moment. Through not understanding it, the kingdom of Christ has been supposed to be merely the ascendancy of His saints. There will be the kingdom of the Son of man and the kingdom of His people, but we are assuredly not to suppose that thereby is meant the reigning of the saints in a figurative way to the exclusion of the Son of man. The explanation brings out the saints, which the vision does not. It is no less than denying the personality of the reign of Christ, if you make the explanation merely tantamount to the vision. But the principle is false, and so is the deduction.
In verse 17, the person to whom the prophet appeals tells him, "These great beasts, which are four, are four kings which shall arise out of the earth." Their origin was purely earthly. There is no contradiction at all between this and the fact that we are told in verse 2 that they came up from the sea. The reason why they are said to rise thence is that the sea represents a mass of men in a state of political anarchy. It is out of this troubled state of peoples that empires arise. Take the French Empire for example. A revolution broke up the old system of government. Then followed a state of confusion, like the sea torn with the winds, and out of it all emerged an empire. From such a state of things in the world the four great empires arose. It was, too, very much about the same time that the beginnings of the four great empires were laid. There was an immense difference in the degree of development in the East as compared with the West. The Western powers were comparatively only in the cradle; but the beginning of these various powers was traceable to much the same date and the same state of confusion and anarchy. That seems to be what is meant by their coming up out of the sea. But in verse 17 they are said to arise out of the earth. They have not a heavenly origin. The force of the sea was merely to show that it is out of a previously troubled state of society that they grew. Such was their providential origin. But here their moral origin is looked at as being purely earthly, in contrast with the Son of man, who comes in the clouds of heaven.
What makes this still plainer is that in the next verse (verse 18) it is said, "But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever." The margin says, the saints of the "high ones." It is the origin of the expression in the New Testament, "heavenly places." The phrase is the same whether applied to our blessings, "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ," in Eph. 1, or to the foes in "high places," in Eph. 6. The saints of the heavenly places (that is, probably, of God in connection with the heavenly places) "shall take the kingdom." This gives the contrast. As for these four great powers, the best that could be said of them, if you look at their political origin, was that they arose out of a confused and tumultuous state of things in the world; or, if at their moral origin, it was not from heaven. If, on the other hand, you look at the saints of the heavenly places, they are those destined to take the kingdom, which they possess for evermore. This adds an important truth to the fact of the Son of man's getting the kingdom. When dominion is given Him, He will not take it alone. All that have ever waited for this kingdom, in all ages, will come along with Him. It will be the time when He will manifest His risen ones, when Abraham, Enoch, David, no matter who they may be that have known Him by faith, will be there in their changed and glorified bodies, and will reign along with Him. "Know ye not," the apostle says, "that we shall judge the world?" That clearly must mean in this kingdom of the Son of man. Because if it were merely a question of going to heaven to be with Christ, that is not judging the world. So that, while it is true that we are to go up to heaven, it is not all. "Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" If we have not known it, how comes it to pass? Some truth has been let slip, if we have not looked for such things. And mark the practical importance of it. The very fact that you do not know it proves that you lack something that God makes a great deal of. And how does God use it in the Epistle to the Corinthians? It was to reproach those saints for carrying their questions before the world. Do you not know, he reasons with them, that you are called to this place of dignity? It is not merely that you will have it by-and-bye; but God makes it known and true to faith now. Just as the heir to the kingdom is instructed and fitted for the throne that he is to occupy, so God is educating His saints now to share the kingdom of the world which is to belong to Christ. It is a revealed truth of God that the kingdoms of the world shall become that of our Lord and of His Christ; but when He does reign, the saints will reign also. The saints of the heavenly places - who are they? Those whose hearts are with Christ above, those who will be converted before Christ comes, and will govern a people gathered upon the earth; those who have in past ages died in Christ, or who are now waiting for Christ; those too who will pass through the great tribulation: all these are saints of the Most High. They are in contrast with others. For there will also be saints when Christ comes to reign, who will be blessed upon the earth. There will be a great harvest there. The Lord will bring those saints into all the promised blessings of His kingdom. But we are chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and shall reign over the earth. That is distinguished from the kingdom and dominion under the whole heaven. There are certain saints that are in the heavens; but there is another class spoken of that is here below. The kingdom shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High. Those are some of the persons that the saints will reign over. "Know ye not," urges Paul, "that the saints shall judge the world?" Accordingly, here we have "the people of the saints of the Most High" as a distinct class.
There are many details in this chapter that I have not entered into. But there is a description of the evil conduct of the little horn that I must say a few words upon, although a little out of order. It is said (verse 20) that "it had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom." Then, in the further account, it is said (verse 25) that this little horn "shall speak great words against the Most High' and shall wear out the saints of the Most High [referring to his persecutions], and think to change times and laws; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time." It is necessary to understand what the little horn will do. The meaning is, that he will destroy the Jewish worship, at that time carried on upon the earth. By the "times" is meant their festivals or feast-days. He will interfere with these as Jeroboam did; "and they shall be given into his hand," etc. It has been often supposed that "they" means the saints. But this is a total mistake. It is "the times and laws" that are to be given into his hand, for a certain limited period of time. God will allow him to have his way. He shall think to do it. And the fact that they are to be given into his hands shows that he succeeds for a time in carrying out his desires. But God will never give His saints into the hands of His enemies, even for a time ever so short. He always keeps them in His own hands. Job was never more in the hands of God than when Satan desired to have him that he might sift him as wheat. The sheep are in the hands of the Father and the Son, and none shall ever be able to pluck them thence. There is no such thought in the word as God leaving or forsaking them. Here it is simply the outward arrangements of worship, of which the Jews will be the representatives on the earth ; and they will be allowed for a time to fall under his power. For it is plain that at that time there will be Jewish saints owning God and Jesus, too, in a measure: as it is said (Rev. 14), "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." These saints will be in a very peculiar position. There will be a sort of combination of the law with a recognition of Jesus to a certain extent. During this state of things, they will come under the power of the little horn, "for a time, times, and the dividing of time" - that is, for three years and a half, closed by the coming of Christ in judgment.