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Originally, the Scriptures were not divided into chapters and verses. While it appears that Daniel 12 moves on to a different topic, it is actually a continuation of the previous chapter. The angel giving Daniel this revelation continues to speak until Dan. 12:4.
Daniel 12:1 says,
1 Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress [tsarah] such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.
We have already shown how Michael was the Prince of Israel. He was actually the angel who replaced Peniel after the golden calf incident in Exodus 32:34. Whereas Peniel might have led Israel into the Promised Land from the southern route, Michael was called to lead them from the east across the Jordan.
The Jordan River signifies death and resurrection (baptism). By extension, it also signifies distress or tribulation that is endured in the dying process. So also Israel had to fight giants on the east side of Jordan even before crossing the river. At that time, Michael stood up to help Israel defeat and kill off most of the oppressive giants.
Recall that those giants were descendants of the angels that sinned by leaving their former estate (Jude 6). Gen. 6:2 calls them “sons of God,” which I believe was what they called themselves. They were counterfeits of the true Sons of God. They understood enough about the divine plan to know that Christ and His Sons would be manifested in the earth as both Son of God and Son of Man—a combination of heaven and earth. So these “sons of God” in Gen. 6:2 tried to become manifested sons of God in an unlawful manner. Michael fought against their offspring—the giant Nephilim—and destroyed them.
Many years later, Michael again stood up to defeat the oppressor, Antiochus Epiphanes (“God Manifest”). He too pretended to be a manifested son of God by the same spirit that inspired the “sons of God” in Gen. 6:2. Counterfeit “sons of God” always reveal themselves by their character. They oppress others, whereas the true Sons of God are liberators who fulfill the Law of Jubilee.
We should also take note that Aaron, the high priest of Israel, was the one who made the golden calf for the people (Exodus 32:24). The high priest’s sin was the cause of Peniel’s withdrawal and Michael’s call to replace him. Later, the high priest, Onias, who sat in Aaron’s seat, conspired with Antiochus Epiphanes to turn the people away from the law of God and to worship Greek gods. This was the cause of tribulation once again, until Michael stood up to deliver the people. He did not deliver them from tribulation, but through it.
The “time of distress” (Dan. 12:1) was severe from 168-163 B.C., a period of about five years. It was not a seven-year tribulation that might support the common view in the Church today. Likewise, the distress brought about by Antiochus was described as being “such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time.” It was different, because never before had a king attempted to eradicate the law of God and to convert the whole nation to worship another god.
On account of Judea’s corrupt high priest, God raised up Antiochus Epiphanes to bring about Judea’s first great tribulation. This became the pattern for the second tribulation from 66-73 A.D., during the Roman War that destroyed Jerusalem and the second temple. Once again, the corrupt high priest (Caiaphas), who led the Judeans to reject Jesus as the Messiah, brought the nation into lawlessness. Jesus prophesied that Jerusalem and the temple would be desolated as a result of their rejection of the law and prophets which foretold of His coming.
There is yet a third fulfillment of this time of distress, based upon the same problem as before. The religious leaders of the Jews still persist in rejecting Jesus as Messiah. Hence, once again, the city of Jerusalem will be destroyed—this time permanently, as prophesied in Jer. 19:10, 11.
Whereas the House of Israel was a flawed jar (Jer. 18:4) made of wet clay that was to be made into another vessel, the House of Judah and Jerusalem was pictured as an old jar (Jer. 19:1) that was to be cast into gehenna and broken. God said through the prophet, “Just so shall I break this people and this city, even as one breaks a potter’s vessel which cannot again be repaired” (Jer. 19:11).
The contrast between the two vessels is striking. The lost House of Israel was to be remade into another vessel; the House of Judah (Jews) and Jerusalem were to be broken in such complete fashion that they would never again be repaired. Many do not understand this, mostly because they see no distinction between Israel and Judah. Hence, they are blind to the difference between the two jars in the prophecies of Jeremiah.
Jesus made it clear, however, that the cursed fig tree of Judah would never again bear fruit unto God (Matt. 21:19). He prophesied later that this cursed fig tree would return to life and bear leaves (Matt. 24:32), but He says nothing about it bearing fruit. The fig tree in question had no problem bringing forth leaves, but Jesus was looking for fruit.
The leaves present a show of righteousness, but one cannot eat fig leaves. Therefore, it is plain that Jerusalem and the Jewish state which men today call “Israel” is the cursed fig tree coming back to life. If it brings forth fruit, as many prophecy teachers tell us, then Jesus’ prophecy in Matt. 21:19 will be proven false. If false, then Judaism in its current form, would be vindicated, and the Age to come would have a different Messiah. The Old Covenant would then be re-established, and animal sacrifices would be resumed.
But the Israeli state and the earthly Jerusalem are not fulfilling the prophecy of the wet clay in Jeremiah 18, but are fulfilling the hardened clay jar of Jeremiah 19. Jesus’ words will not fail. The New Covenant has replaced the Old Covenant. The law and the prophets will be vindicated.
The first round of “distress” under the Greek empire of Syria took about five years (168-163 B.C.). The second under Rome took seven years (66-73 A.D.). Without a specific pattern of timing, it is difficult to know how long the third time of distress will take. Most prophecy teachers believe it will be seven years, but their view is based on many false premises taken from their views of the book of Revelation. It may turn out to be seven years, of course, but we ought to keep an open mind on this question.
Rev. 12:7 speaks of Michael standing up once again to make war against “the dragon.” This should be understood in light of past precedents, where Moses fought against the giants and where the Maccabees fought against the Syrians. Both wars of the past were successful on account of Michael’s assistance.
Based upon that success in the past, the Jews in the first century thought that God would give them victory over the Romans. Even when their situation became dire, they held on to their false hope to the bitter end. The main problem was that they did not realize that the priests of the temple were already playing the role of antichrist by the same spirit that inspired Absalom and Antiochus Epiphanes. Hence, the destruction of Jerusalem was God’s deliverance of His people—not the Jews, but believers in Christ, or “everyone who is found written in the book” (Dan. 12:1).
The same is true today. The Jews as a whole will not be delivered when Michael stands up. He will take God’s side in the final destruction of Jerusalem. The actual siege of Jerusalem (under the prophetic name, “Ariel”) is prophesied in Isaiah 29:1-8, where God says, “I will bring distress to Ariel” (29:2), and again, “I will raise up battle towers against you” (29:3).
The reason for this divine siege is that Ariel-Jerusalem was being occupied by her “enemies.” Most have assumed that these enemies are foreigners (non-Jews), but the divine law defines enemies as those who are hostile to Him—including Israelites. See Lev. 26:40-42 and compare it with Isaiah 63:10. The fact is, God addresses the city itself, telling Jerusalem that the “enemies” inhabiting it will be destroyed. The description is very likely that of a nuclear explosion.
This is how God brings “distress to Ariel” (Isaiah 29:2).
The Hebrew word translated “distress” in Dan. 12:1, is tsarah. Gesenius Lexicon says the word means “pressure, tightness,” but its primary meaning is “a female adversary, enemy, rival.”
This is an interesting nuance, because this forms the background for the entire book of Revelation, where we see the rivalry between the true Bride and the Harlot counterfeit. In Revelation 12 Michael overthrows the dragon in order to help the true Bride, who is described as “a woman clothed with the sun” (Rev. 12:1).
The true Bride gives birth “to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations” (Rev. 12:5). The counterfeit Harlot bride has no such son. Only the true Bride can fulfill the prophecies of the manifested Sons of God. Whereas some argue that the true Bride is a race of people, based on genealogy from Abraham, Paul makes it clear that children of the flesh are not the sons who inherit the Kingdom. One must be begotten with imperishable (immortal) seed from the Heavenly Father (1 Peter 1:23-25). Those who are begotten merely by corruptible, perishable seed from the first Adam are the rivals of the true Bride.
This rivalry is what brings about the “distress,” or “tribulation.” In prophetic terms, it is the rivalry between the two Jerusalems—earthly and heavenly. In order to resolve this conflict, it is necessary, Paul says, to “cast out the bondwoman and her son” (Gal. 4:30). Both Isaiah and Jeremiah indicate that the earthly Jerusalem will be cast out when God destroys the city. In this way, the New Jerusalem, the true Bride, will be vindicated, and men will cease to consider the old Jerusalem as their spiritual “mother.”
Dan. 12:1, then, transitions us from the time of Antiochus to the end of the age. The transition is established by three historical fulfillments of the prophecies of the time of distress, first under the Greek empire, secondly under Rome, and finally at the end when Jerusalem is destroyed as the potter’s vessel that cannot again be repaired.
Finally, the interruption of the Greek empire from 163-63 B.C. made it imperative that the Prince of Greece would arise in 1914-1917 to finish his course on the earth to make up for that lost century. It appears that we are now approaching the time of distress at the end of the Age. This time will end when the bondwoman (Jerusalem) is cast out, and when the true Bride brings forth the New Creation Man in the manifestation of the Sons of God.