Many attempts have been made to interpret the books of Daniel and Revelation. No two commentaries seem to agree. Theories abound. It’s obvious they cannot all be correct! And if we enter the arena, can we hope to do any better? We are not claiming to have any or all the answers, but wish to share an understanding which we feel is important, especially at this time, when the Middle East powder keg seems ready to blow up in the faces of all mankind.
When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well (John 4) He made a statement which was to provide a key to all future history.“Woman, believe me, the hour comes when you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. – – But the hour comes, and now is when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such to worship Rim. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (Verses 21-24)
Note what the Master said. “Nor yet in Jerusalem.” How many times in commentaries do we find the LOCAL application of prophecy to take precedence over the SPIRITUAL. In reading Revelation do we not find that Jerusalem is now a heavenly city, made up of living stones, redeemed sinners, which grows downwards from heaven to earth? How is it then that so much emphasis is placed on the literal Jerusalem, and literal Jews, when the Lord has “broken down the middle wall of partition”, and stated categorically that worship will not be in literal Jerusalem? When there is now “neither Jew nor Greek” but “One new man in Christ”, why then should we expect the Lord to take a retrograde step in the future, and resume working with a single nation? Is not the light of revelation always expanding God’s love and grace?
Some will doubtless answer these questions by emphasising the literal wording of prophecy, and insist that this is the only sure way to interpret. But we feel that to do so is to introduce anachronisms that cannot be sustained. Malachi says that the Lord “will suddenly return to His temple.” The prophecy has to be future. Which temple does He return to? One which has yet to be built in Jerusalem? Should we not rather understand Malachi’s prophecy in the context of Jesus’ words to the woman at the well, and say that the temple must now represent the whole body of believers, as taught by Paul in the epistles? It can then be easily understood, and becomes the hope of the true church, that we are looking for the Lord’s return to His own people. Some may now classify us as “replacement theologians”, but we disagree. We are NOT replacing Israel with the Church, but saying that it is ONLY IN CHRIST that all the promises of God are Yea and Amen.
Based upon the example just given, we should like to share some thoughts from Daniel and Revelation, in the context of the actual time in which we are now living.
We shall divide our material into four headings, as follows. 1. The outer church. 2. The overcomers. 3. The little horn, alias the man of sin, alias the antichrist. 4. The Ancient of Days, the grand title of the Lord found in the book of Daniel. 2
1. THE OUTER CHURCH.
Just as Revelation depicts the Church in three companies, namely the manchild, (the overcomers), the woman, and the rest of her seed, so also the book of Daniel makes a distinction, though at that time there were only two companies. The outerchurch, and the overcomers.
The outer church is that vast company of believers who do not take their faith seriously enough, and hold on to their flesh as strongly as to their beliefs. Because of this they literally invite the Little Horn to take them over, deceive them, flatter them, and use them to his own ends. In Daniel 8:12 we read that it was because of their transgressions that the Horn received his power. In Rev.13:7 we find that the antichrist receives power to make war with the saints and overcome them. Hence there are basically two companies, the OVERCOMERS, and the OVERCOME. But Revelation divides the latter group into two parts.
Because of transgressions. What are transgressions? The word always has a reference to the LAWS of God. In the present climate of opinion in the churches, the law of God does not have a very good standing. Many books have been written showing that God’s laws do not operate today. Such dreadful misunderstandings abound. God’s law enlightens man about sin. Knowledge of sin enlivens the conscience. The conscience drives us to the cross in repentance, and we are cleansed. Take away the law, and this process is stopped at the first gate. Even if people allow the work of the law to do this INITIALLY, as a “schoolmaster to bring us to Christ”, then as soon as a commitment is made, they shoot the schoolmaster dead! Hence the Horn obtains much power over believers because they despise God’s laws. And the Devil knows that unless the flesh of man is progressively crucified, man has no power in the sight of God.
Again we read that the Horn “comes in unexpectedly and obtains the kingdom by flatteries.” (Dan.8:21) “In a day of careless security he destroys many” (Dan.8:25) and “those who violate the covenant he flatters and corrupts.”(Dan.11:32) What is the covenant referred to here? The word must relate to whatever covenant is in force when the prophecy comes to be fulfilled. At this present time, the covenant is that which was instituted by our Lord on the night of the last supper, when He said, “This is the New Covenant in my blood.” How does one violate the covenant today? Is it because believers do not break bread together? Not exactly. Breaking of bread is certainly important. But to break breadtogether, and not to allow the crucifixion of one’s own flesh is to deny the covenant in practice. It is good for the flock to break bread together. But the Lord wanted to keep in our minds not just what He did for us, but also what we must do for Him in the “putting to death the flesh” and walking in the newness of the spirit.
This is why these believers are of the outer church. They are truly “saints”, truly God’s people, but they have not allowed the Spirit of the Lord to bring them to the place of power in their lives. Hence they allow the Horn to get the better of them, and the power rests with him rather than with them. Paul speaks about the antichrist’s “lying wonders and deceit” and the“strong delusion” that is sent to them. (2 Thess.2:9-10)
Notice that in Rev.12, the Dragon stands before the woman, not to persecute her at this stage, because she does not represent a threat to him, but rather to devour the manchild when born. But after the birth of the manchild, a change takes place. A very dramatic change. The woman suddenly awakens to the true needs of her Saviour, and His claim on her life. Then the Dragon chases her into the wilderness. And when she has reached the position of security from attack (by going the way of the cross) then the Dragon turns his attention on “the rest of her seed who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
We believe it is not without significance that the bear in Daniel’s vision in chapter 7, had “three ribs in its mouth”. Now theChaldee word for RIB here is ALA, the equivalent of TSELA in the Hebrew of Genesis 2:21. Eve was the Bride figure. She was made from Adam’s rib. But here in Daniel we see THREE RIBS in the mouth of the bear. It had been told to “arise and devour much flesh”. And the three ribs represent the three phases of the elect church. The beast is satanic in its origin, but God has His way through the work of this beast, because it “devours much flesh” and so through the work of persecution and suffering, the flesh of believers is eaten away! Praise the Lord for His methods and workings. So the Devil again bites the dust. Whatever he essays to do, he finds himself ultimately forwarding the work of the Lord!
2. THE OVERCOMERS.
A smaller but quite significant company of God’s people are very active in the days of the Horn. They “prove themselves to be strong and work effectually” (Dan.11:32) They “overcome by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, not loving their lives unto death.” (Rev.12:11) Three certain ingredients. The blood of the Lamb is the basis of the New Covenant. The word of testimony cannot be gainsaid, even by the Devil. Satan may query our theology, but he cannot overturn what God has actually accomplished in our lives. Finally, to “not love one’s life unto death” is not per se a martyr’s end. Rather was it intended to amplify the Master’s words when He said, “Whosoever will save his soul shall lose it, but whosoever will lose his soul for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:24) To hold on to the soul-life is to cosset our own flesh. To lose it for Jesus’ sake is to recognise that “in me, that is in my flesh dwells no good thing”,and to put it to death. Once it is put to death, it cannot become a platform from which Satan can operate in our lives. In this sense, these people have reached the position of OVERCOMERS, because they have overcome the flesh, and hence overcome the power of Satan in their lives.
It is those “who know their God” who prove to be strong. (Dan.ll:32) The word “KNOW” here is the one which suggests an EXPERIMENTAL knowledge, rather than just a HEAD knowledge. By a life of faith, and by “taking up the cross daily” they had become strong. Paul tells us that we should take up the whole armour of God in Ephesians 6. He does not promise a mighty victory, but he does say that as a result, we may in the end “stand”. Yes, to stand, rather than to be knocked down, or swept away, is a great act and it comes from these three things mentioned in Rev.12:l1.
And we also learn that during the days of trial, these overcomers “turn many to righteousness” through their “wisdom“, and they are said to shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars for ever and ever. (Dan.12:3) As the proverb declares, “The path of the just is as a shining light that shines more and more unto the perfect day.” (4:18)And as Jesus said, “The righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.” (Matt.13:43) And Paul,“There is one glory of the sun, another of the moon, and another of the stars, and star differs from star in glory.” (1 Cor.15:41) Yes, this is in resurrection, when the manchild “is caught up to God and to His throne.” For this is the Overcomers’ crown, the “prize of the calling on high in Christ Jesus” that Paul earnestly strove after. And Jesus promised the Overcomers that they should be seated with Him in His throne, even as He overcame and was seated with His Father. (Rev.3:21)
This first group of God’s elect, who are called up to meet the Lord in resurrection before the rest, are in essence the FIRSTBORN COMPANY, because it will be their work in resurrection to enable the rest of God’s elect to endure the hardships of the tribulation and “make their robes white in the blood of the Lamb.” Notice the order of things in Zechariah 12, when God makes Jerusalem “a cup of trembling to all people round about” and a “burdensome stone”which lacerates all those who try to lift it and get it out of the way. Why, at this moment it is beginning to happen IN TYPE in Jerusalem in Israel, though we must not allow this to detract us from the spiritual truth, lest we deny the words of our Lord to the woman at the well. In this chapter in Zechariah, we find that the enemy is conquered first of all, and then the Lord moves among His people until they mourn and truly repent. The overcomers are like a fire-pot among the sheaves of corn, (v.6) and even the feeble ones in the company will be like David of old, (v.8) and they will overcome the enemy and bring a great victory. But the rest of the elect are then dealt with, purged, and purified. The same truth is shown in Malachi 3, where the Lord, AFTER returning to His temple, says, “who can abide the day of His coming, because He is like a refiner’s fire and a fuller’s sope.”
3. THE LITTLE HORN.
We have already seen how the Horn obtains his power, the power of Satan, but achieved by the transgressions and covenant-breaking of God’s own people. In Dan 11:31 we are told that “he takes away the daily sacrifice” and places an abomination in its place. Our Lord was insistent that we should not MISunderstand what this meant. The daily sacrifice in the O.T. days was an institution of the ceremonial law, whereby each morning and afternoon a lamb was slain, and the equivalent of bread and wine used. Jesus said that from the last supper His followers were to take the bread and wine as symbols of His body and blood. The lamb became His own sacrifice for the sins of the world. Hence in understanding the meaning of Dan.11:3l, we must see that the Horn tries to take away the true spiritual meaning of the ”daily sacrifice” by diverting the minds of God’s elect from the necessity of “taking up the cross DAILY”
When does this Horn act? Theories abound. But John tells us that the antichrist spirit was already at work in his day, and that many antichrists were about. And so through all the Church age there has been a spirit of antichrist. But during the last 200 years, the concentration of evil has been getting progressively worse. And during the last 20 years it has been reaching vast proportions. We do not need to provide dates. And certainly we do not need to start counting days (up to 1260 or 2300 or even 2520) because our Lord told us not to. “No man knows the day or the hour” of His return, and therefore no one knows the beginning or end of these mystical sequences. Furthermore, we are told that “except those days be shortened, no flesh could be saved.” Taking these words at face value, it destroys all credibility in the various counting techniques. Let us rather use our spiritual vision and perceive that all things are nearing their climax, and the end is in sight, and all the more reason to “purify ourselves” from all that would be offensive to our Lord and Master.
We now have to see another aspect of the work of the Horn, which is usually overlooked, or completely misunderstood. In Dan.8:10 we read, “And the horn waxed great even to the host of heaven, and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground and trampled them underfoot.” Who are the host of heaven, represented by stars? None other than the angelic host. But commentators are usually shy of making this assertion, because of the consequences. However, there can be no doubt about it. In Rev.12:4 we read that the tail of the dragon cast one third of the stars to the earth.Even those expositors who see that these must be angels, choose rather to believe that they were Lucifer’s own host, thrown out of heaven in the beginning. But this cannot be the case. Lucifer’s host are still in the heavenlies in verses 7-9, at which time they are cast out into the earth by Michael’s victorious warfare. Hence, these angels, these stars, that the Horn casts to the ground and tramples underfoot, are indeed part of the angelic host of the Lord, and this event has only been happening during recent years of this century. That is why the crisis is looming up so ominously. Furthermore, the Horn magnified himself to the prince of the host and took away from him the daily sacrifice and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. This refers to Michael, and the angelic tabernacle in heaven, where the worship from earth is received on behalf of the Lord. This is indeed part of the work of the angelic host. In Rev.8:3 we read of an angel with a golden censer of incense, to offer it with the prayers of the saints on the golden altar before the throne. It may seem strange to suggest that Michael and his angels were initially overcome and cast down to the earth, but this is an indication of the power the Horn obtains from transgression and covenant-breaking of God’s people, and should alert us to the UNSEEN end of all our actions, and drive us to a life of greater obedience.
In due course, these angels, now living on earth, overcome the Devil by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, not loving their lives unto death. As for the saints, so also for the angels born of women.
(Please do not be offended by this exposition. It was clearly understood in ancient days that some of God’s angels came down to earth by this means. One such example was John the Baptist, the “Messenger” sent by God. The Hebrew word for messenger is angel. Likewise in the N.T. the word is ANGELOS in Greek, even though translated messenger. If the A.V. translators had used the word ‘angel’ it might have helped us a lot in later exposition.)
In Daniel 8:24 we even read that the Horn “destroys some of the mighty ones” and finally even stands up against “the Prince of princes (i.e. the Lord Himself)” but there he meets his match, for we are told that he is broken “without hand”.(In other words without human instrumentality.) This final war is indeed a supernatural war, even though we see only the visible part of it operating on earth. Likewise this Horn “scatters the power of the holy ones” (Dan.12:7) In other words, the saints. These are the ones who cannot stand at that stage, and get demolished by the Horn. They do not lose their faith, but have no staying power. “Having done all” still they cannot “stand” because the flesh still reigns within them. This Horn is elsewhare called the Man of Lawlessness, and is a very good title, seeing that the removal of God’s laws was his first and foremost objective.
4. THE ANCIENT OF DAYS.
“The Lord suddenly returns to His temple”. Also quite suddenly, the Horn is destroyed, “without hands”. The “stone cut from the mountain side without hands” is cast at the image’s feet, and the whole image is destroyed. This happens when the “Judge takes His seat” and vindicates the people of the saints of the Most High, who then receive the Kingdom, and begin to rule. It is during this rule, the rule of the Overcomers, that the rest of God’s people are brought to the place of refinement, and purification from the works of the flesh. When all are called in from the three companies, then the Lord Himself will appear visibly, and the rest of the world will enter into judgment. Thus will the Ancient of Days “cleanse the sanctuary” (Dan.8:14) and call up the firstfruit elect, as the manchild, and establish an enduring Kingdom that shall not be overthrown. The stone cut from the mountains (the Overcomers in resurrection) will then proceed to grow and fill the earth.(Dan.2:36) All this will happen as Isaiah foresaw (11:4) “He shall smite the oppressor (the Horn) with the rod of His mouth, and with the blast of His lips shall He slay the lawless one.”
Can anyone see into the next dimension to know just how far advanced this process is? No one. Can we therefore know just when our Lord may intervene to raise His manchild? We cannot. This day is one that has been kept secret from mankind, and if for no other reason, it certainly keeps us on our toes, (as our title declared) and gives us not one moment’s relaxation in presenting ourselves before the Lord, that we may be “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto the Lord, which is our reasonable service” and that “we should not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, to know what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom.12:1-2)
We address these words to “all those who love His appearing”, who with Paul are striving for the “calling on high”, and who seek to be God’s Overcomers, who “worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and HAVE NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH.” (Phil.3:3)