It is usual with the prophets, when they foretel the grievances of the church, to furnish it at the same time with proper antidotes, a remedy for every malady. And no relief is so sovereign, of such general application, so easily accommodated to every case, and of such powerful efficacy, as those that are fetched from Christ and the future state; thence the comforts here are fetched.
I. Jesus Christ shall appear his church’s patron and protector: At that time, when the persecution is at the hottest, Michael shall stand up, Dan. 12:1. The angel had told Daniel what a firm friend Michael was to the church, Dan. 10:21. He all along showed this friendship in the upper world; the angels knew it; but now Michael shall stand up in his providence, and work deliverance for the Jews, when he sees that their power is gone, Deut. 32:3. 6. Christ is that great prince, for he is the prince of the kings of the earth, Rev. 1:5. And, if he stand up for his church, who can be against it? But this is not all: At that time (that is, soon after) Michael shall stand up for the working out of our eternal salvation; the Son of God shall be incarnate, shall be manifested to destroy the works of the devil. Christ stood for the children of our people when he was made sin and a curse for them, stood in their stead as a sacrifice, bore the cure for them, to bear it from them. He stands for them in the intercession he ever lives to make within the veil, stands up for them, and stands their friend. And after the destruction of antichrist, of whom Antiochus was a type, Christ shall stand at the latter day upon the earth, shall appear for the complete redemption of all his.
II. When Christ appears he will recompense tribulation to those that trouble his people. There shall be a time of trouble, threatening to all, but ruining to all the implacable enemies of God’s kingdom among men, such trouble as never was since there was a nation. This is applicable. 1. To the destruction of Jerusalem, which Christ calls (perhaps with an eye to this prediction) such a great tribulation as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, Matt. 24:21. This the angel had spoken much of (Dan. 9:26, 27); and it happened about the same time that Christ set up the gospel-kingdom in the world, that Michael our prince stands up. Or, 2. To the judgment of the great day, that day that shall burn as an oven, and consume the proud and all that do wickedly; that will be such a day of trouble as never was to all those whom Michael our prince stands against.
III. He will work salvation for his people: “At that time thy people shall be delivered, delivered from the mischief and ruin designed them by Antiochus, even all those that were marked for preservation, that were written among the living,” Isa. 4:3. When Christ comes into the world he will save his spiritual Israel from sin and hell, and will, at his second coming, complete their salvation, even the salvation of as many as were given him, as many as have their names in the book of life, Rev. 20:15. They were written there before the world, and will be found written there at the end of the world, when the books shall be opened.
IV. There shall be a distinguishing resurrection of those that sleep in the dust, Dan. 12:2. 1. When God works deliverance for his people from persecution it is a kind of resurrection; so the Jews’ release out of Babylon was represented in vision (Ezek. 37:1-28) and so the deliverance of the Jews from Antiochus, and other restorations of the church to outward prosperity; they were as life from the dead. Many of those who had long slept in the dust of obscurity and calamity shall then awake, some to that life, and honour, and comfort which will be lasting, everlasting; but to others, who, when they return to their prosperity, will return to their iniquity, it will be a resurrection to shame and contempt, for the prosperity of fools will but expose them and destroy them. 2. When, upon the appearing of Michael our prince, his gospel is preached, many of those who sleep in the dust, both Jews and Gentiles, shall be awakened by it to take upon them a profession of religion, and shall rise out of their heathenism or Judaism; but, since there will be always a mixture of hypocrites with true saints, it is but some of those who are raised to life to whom the gospel is a savour of life unto life, but others will be raised by it to shame and contempt, to whom the gospel of Christ will be a savour of death unto death, and Christ himself set for their fall. The net of the gospel encloses both good and bad. But, 3. It must be meant of the general resurrection at the last day: The multitude of those that sleep in the dust shall awake, that is, all, which shall be a great many. Or, Of those that sleep in the dust many shall arise to life and many to shame. The Jews themselves understand this of the resurrection of the dead at the end of time; and Christ seems to have an eye to it when he speaks of the resurrection of life and the resurrection of damnation (John 5:29); and upon this the Jews are said by St. Paul to expect a resurrection of the dead both of the just and of the unjust, Acts 24:15. And nothing could come in more seasonably here, for, under Antiochus’s persecution, some basely betrayed their religion, others bravely adhered to it. Now it would be a trouble to them that, when the storm was over, they could neither reward the one nor punish the other; this therefore would be a satisfaction to them, that they would both be recompensed according to their works in the resurrection. And the apostle, speaking of the pious Jews that suffered martyrdom under Antiochus, tells us that though they were tortured yet they accepted not deliverance, because they hoped to obtain this better resurrection, Heb. 11:35.
V. There shall be a glorious reward conferred on those who, in the day of trouble and distress, being themselves wise, did instruct many. Such were taken particular notice of in the prophecy of the persecution (Dan. 11:33), that they should do eminent service, and yet should fall by the sword and by flame; now, if there were not another life after this, they would be of all men most miserable, and therefore we are here assured that they shall be recompensed in the resurrection of the just (Dan. 12:3): Those that are wise (that are teachers, so some read it, for teachers have need of wisdom, and those that have wisdom themselves should communicate it to others) shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, shall shine in glory, heavenly glory, the glory of the upper world; and those that by the wisdom they have, and the instructions they give, are instrumental to turn any, especially to turn many to righteousness, shall shine as the stars for ever and ever. Note, 1. There is a glory reserved for all the saints in the future state, for all that are wise, wise for their souls and eternity. A man’s wisdom now makes his face to shine (Eccl. 8:1), but much more will it do so in that state where its power shall be perfected and its services rewarded. 2. The more good any do in this world, especially to the souls of men, the greater will be their glory and reward in the other world. Those that turn men to righteousness, that turn sinners from the errors of their ways and help to save their souls from death (Jas. 5:20), will share in the glory of those they have helped to heaven, which will be a great addition to their own glory. 3. Ministers of Christ, who have obtained mercy of him to be faithful and successful, and so are made burning and shining lights in this world, shall shine very brightly in the other world, shall shine as the stars. Christ is the sun, the fountain, of the lights both of grace and glory; ministers, as stars, shine in both, with a light derived from him, and a diminutive light in comparison of him; yet to those that are earthen vessels it will be a glory infinitely transcending their deserts. They shall shine as the stars of different magnitudes, some in less, others in greater lustre; but, whereas the day is coming when the stars shall fall from heaven as leaves in autumn, these stars shall shine for ever and ever, shall never set, never be eclipsed.
VI. That this prophecy of those times, though sealed up now, would be of great use to those that should live then, Dan. 12:4. Daniel must now shut up the words and seal the book because the time would be long ere these things would be accomplished: and it was some comfort that the Jewish nation, though, in the infancy of their return from Babylon, while they were few and weak, they met with obstructions in their work, were not persecuted for their religion till a long time after, when they had grown to some strength and maturity. He must seal the book because it would not be understood, and therefore would not be regarded, till the things contained in it were accomplished; but he must keep it safely, as a treasure of great value, laid up for the ages to come, to whom it would be of great service; for many shall then run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. Then this hidden treasure shall be opened, and many shall search into it, and dig for the knowledge of it, as for silver. They shall run to and fro, to enquire out copies of it, shall collate them, and see that they be true and authentic. They shall read it over and over, shall meditate upon it, and run it over in their minds; discurrent—they shall discourse of it, and talk it over among themselves, and compare notes about it, if by any means they may sift out the meaning of it; and thus knowledge shall be increased. By consulting this prophecy on this occasion they shall be led to search other scriptures, which shall contribute much to their advancement in useful knowledge; for then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord, Hos. 6:3. Those that would have their knowledge increased must take pains, must not sit still in slothfulness and bare wishes but run to and fro, must make use of all the means of knowledge and improve all opportunities of getting their mistakes rectified, their doubts resolved, and their acquaintance with the things of God improved, to know more and to know better what they do know. And let us here see reason to hope that, 1. Those things of God which are now dark and obscure will hereafter be made clear, and easy to be understood. Truth is the daughter of time. Scripture prophecies will be expounded by the accomplishment of them; therefore they are given, and for that explication they are reserved. Therefore they are told us before, that, when they do come to pass, we may believe. 2. Those things of God which are despised and neglected, and thrown by as useless, shall be brought into reputation, shall be found to be of great service, and be brought into request; for divine revelation, however slighted for a time, shall be magnified and made honourable, and, above all, in the judgment of the great day, when the books shall be opened, and that book among the rest.